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5/28/2012

Two more Sketches from 5/19/2012 Pit n Pole

While, I finally processed the last two sketches from my May 19th, 2012 observing trip to Pit n Pole.  Here they are and I'll just offer a few comments on them.



NGC 4826 or Messier 64, The Black Eye Galaxy;  May 19, 2012, Pit n Pole, UT; Antoniadi II, clear and cold; XX14i with 10mm, 7mm and 3.5mm Pentax XW. 
Notes:
Large oval shape with a bright core region and an almost stellar nucleus.  Dark patch or the "black eye" West is just above the upper left corner, with north toward the bottom left corner.  The galaxy lies WNW to ESE (sorry the cardinal directions did not come out in the photo).  The first image is a photo I took of the sketch with the light on overhead.  I did correct the bright major star on the bottom but left the others alone.  The second sketch was taken with no lights but a background light in place and I like it better in that it conveys what I saw at the eyepiece more clearly, minus the fainter part of the galaxy that I drew is not present as much. You can decide which you like better. I will also state on both galaxies here, I much prefer the actual sketch to the photos taken of any of them that I present here.







 NGC 4826 or Messier 64 The Black Eye Galaxy Photo of sketch 2.









 NGC 4725 Spiral Galaxy in Coma Bernices.  Size: 10.7' x 7.6'; Mag. 9.9; May 19th, 2012; Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; XX14i with 10mm, 7mm and 3.5mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr;
Notes:
Another one that Charles Messier missed and is a very impressive galaxy.  The galaxy has a large halo, with a small bright core region with a stellar nucleus. North is to the lower left corner (just above it) and spiral arms are seen in the NW portion with possible structure in the SE corner of the galaxy.  One that I would see again. 





5/26/2012

Review of Stargazing Log by CWE Software for my Galaxy II Phone

I know that many people are looking for reviews of apps online from the fact that my iPad app reviews generate hits on a pretty regular basis.  You can see that by my most popular hits to the right I believe.  Anyway, I got a new phone a month or so ago, a Galaxy II that I overall have really enjoyed.  While looking for some new free apps to add to it I came along this one called Stargazing Log by CWE Software.  So I downloaded it and began to use it to see what I thought of it.  So here is my review with screen shots taken from my Galaxy II.  I did not put the screen shots at the highest quality to save room on my Mac's hard drive. 





After downloading the app, when you open it, this is the main screen that greets you.  From here you can add a log sightings (an observation), browse your old records, manage your equipment which includes the telescope, eyepieces and other equipment you may have.  Finally, the app has a built in red flashlight that allows you to control the brightness of the light coming out. On the bottom here you will see that under Popular Sightings it lists that there are 5 Messier that there are 5 Messier objects up for viewing and that are up for viewing this week.  This month there are 13 Messier that are in a prime viewing location and then it lists which planets can be seen this month. 

One thing I do not like up front on this program is that there is no brightness control for the main screen, only for the flashlight.  I tried to control the brightness through my phones brightness setting and that didn't work either.  It is red, which is a good thing, but it is far to bright at a dark site in my opinion. I'd like to control how bright the main displays are. 







I'm not going to follow the sequential order that is on the main screen but I thought I would review by how I had to use the program.  The first thing I noticed after seeing if I could add an observation was that I had to have my equipment in.  So off to the manage equipment button and that took me to the screen above.  From here I clicked on Add Equipment and went to this screen.





From here I could pick which piece of equipment to add, be it eyepieces, telescope or misc. The back button is to return you to the previous screen.




I started by adding one of my scopes to the menu first by touching telescope.  This took me to the screen above.  I am entering my 14 inch dob which is a reflector so I touched that one. 




That took me to this screen.  It allowed me to enter a name for the Telescope; I chose to enter XX14i since I don't have an official name for my 14 inch.  It is a Reflector but you can choose Refractor, Catadioptric or Binocular.  I entered next the Optical Diameter in mm and then the focal length of the dob.  From here I entered Save and I had my first scope in.



I went back to the equipment main screen and chose to enter eyepiece and the following screen came up.  Here I entered a name for my first eyepiece, the 27mm Pan or 27 Pan and I entered the focal length in mm as 27.  No field of view was asked for as this is a log and doesn't show a star field of the object.  Hit save and then I added my other eyepieces one at a time.


7




Next, I decided to test out how adding an observation would work.  I went back to the main screen and then touched the Log Sightings tab and came to the screen below.  The first thing I had to do was to change the date as the observation did not happen on 5/24/2012 (the date I took the screen shots).  By touching the Change . . . on the upper right I went to the next image below and using the + or the - I could adjust the date to match the actual record.  This way if I enter an observation after I record it another way I can still enter my data.  Next I touch the Type of object.  It allows you to choose Messier, New General Catalog (NGC), Planet, Moon, Other.  I would like to see some additions like IC, Double Stars added as well, at least Double Star as that is another very popular observation.  I then clicked on Select Telescope, selected my XX14i and the eyepiece, the 10mm Pentax XW and that was it.  I then clicked on Notes and typed in on the phone's keypad the actual observation. You can see that below the date image below.











How to change the date on an observation:






Here is my actual observation for NGC 4535 that I observed on May 19, 2012.  Another thing that needs to be added is the time of the observation. 






After you've entered an observation if you go back to the main screen and click on Browse Records, this screen comes up and you can click on the observation to view the details.  It is a nice way to keep your observations in one place and it allows you to sort in several ways as seen in the next image.  Quick stats shows how many Messier, NGC Objects and Planets you've observed and your favorite telescope to observe with is and your favorite eyepiece is.  See the image below for Quick Stats view.

The recent button takes you to the most recent observations you've had.  By date lets you see what you observed on a specific date and by object lets you enter the Messier, NGC, Planet, Moon or other object that you observed.





This is what recent, by date and by object will pull up if you search for an entry that way.







The Quick Stat page per my notes above.







Is this a perfect app for logging your observations? No, it isn't as the red light is too bright and you have no way to control the brightness in the logs and other such screens.  It lacks a double star entry which is annoying to me as I like doubles, and for 2 weeks out of the month they are my main observing object.  It also needs a time stamp for the observations so you can adjust the time like the date as time is an important part of the observation, though you can add that in the notes if you want. 

What I like is that it covers many of the main deep sky objects in terms of Messier and NGC.  I also like that the planets and the moon is included.  The flashlight is a nice feature if you don't have an adjustable light as the flashlights brightness is controllable.  I like that your observations are in one place and the stats are a nice addition.  One thing to watch is battery life on your phone, make sure it can hold a charge long enough for your observing period.  Here are my ratings for this app.

Ease of Use: ***** (Five Stars)
Field Use: *** (three stars, screen is too bright for me at a dark site)
Keeping Observations organized: ****  (I still like my digital recorder and if this app could tie in a digital recorder that would make it awesome).
Overall Rating: ****  (four out of five stars).

I think many will find this app very serviceable for them for keeping records of their observations and I think that CWE has a winner here.  With a few refinements it could be an outstanding 5 star app.  If the brightness issue could be worked out I would personally use it more in the field, especially if a digital voice recorder could be added in.  I'd pay for that if they made it an advance feature. For a free app this is a very good start. 

5/24/2012

SN 2012cg in NGC 4424 in Virgo findercharts




 NGC 4424 from the DSS.



If you have followed my blog over the last year, you'll find that I enjoy observing and sketching supernova that are visible. Well, another Type Ia supernova has gone off and it is in a position that those with a good scope can take a good look at it.  NGC 4424 is a Spiral Galaxy with a visual magnitude of 12.3.  It's surface brightness is at 13.4 so I would go after this with a 10 inch dob or bigger (though smaller scopes should work and might provide a challenge).  Here is an image by Juan-Luis Glez Carballo:






This  supernova is very bright and increasing in brightness.  Here are a couple of finder charts from Starry Night Pro to help you find this SN.



This finder chart starts at Vindemiatrix, and then I would hop to the inverted Y asterism and then move to the next finder chart.









Here the inverted Y astertism is to the far left, and from there I would hop to the 3 bright stars that are just off being north to south and go to the bottom star. From here I would follow the west to east run of stars to the bright double that is sitting out a little from this run of stars.  Now move to the next chart.







 That bright star is a double star and is in the upper left corner and has two fainter stars curving underneath it.  I would follow those two stars down and then work my way via the stars over to NGC 4424.  The supernova should be easy to see in the eyepiece.









Here is a finder chart from AAVSO site that shows magnitude of surrounding stars (add the decimal which is not included so to not confuse the number with stars). 











I hope the charts help someone and that you enjoy hunting down this supernova.  For a good review of how a supernova mechanics work I recommend going to Lecture 18 from Richard Pogge's Astronomy 162 which can be found at this link. I think it enhances the experience of observing an object if we have some understanding of what is going on.  This things to me are simply amazing, and remember, as we observe this we are seeing creation in the process as the heavy elements created in the supernova are sent out into space to seed new stars, new planets and perhaps, new life.






5/23/2012

Observing Report May 19th to May 20th, 2012; Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah

This new moon coincided with the annular eclipse and due to weather, I only was able to get one night out under the stars.  So last Saturday, May 19th, after driving for 5 hours on a round trip trip for a family event, I then took a one hour nap, loaded up the Pathfinder and headed out to Pit n Pole.  After setting up and getting collimated, I enjoyed the companionship of my friend Mat and my friend Jorge. Mat was using his 16 inch truss dob and Jorge was doing astrophotography.  I had the steady 14 inch XX14i with me. 

I should have known right from the start that something wasn't working right.  I have to admit that about an hour into observing, I stopped, looked up at the sky and just started chuckling at myself.  I had made a very novice and rookie mistake with star hopping.  I wasn't finding any of the objects I was after, though I did find some and sketch them.  I'll include them in this report.  What I realized is that I was using the wrong set up.  Here is an image from Starry Night Pro to help explain it:






I had begun the night looking at Venus which was a lovely crescent and very thin, and then moving over to Arcturus to do a final star test for collimation and then over to Saturn.  Here is where my fatigue hit me.  I never moved off of Saturn.  Instead of focusing on the Porrima, Auva and Vindemiatrix three stars in a row, I used Spica, Saturn and Heze as my three stars in a row.  I really needed to be working off of Vindemiatrix and as soon as I got done laughing at my own mistake (at least I realized it!), I moved the scope and got right on to the objects I had wanted to see.  I ended up with 16 objects, many NGC and Herschel items and those I'll not put down here.  I will include the faint NGC's I found and sketched in my wandering this night, and the Herschel 400's I sketched.  So, if your tired and not finding stuff visually as you move around the sky, remember to always make sure you are where you really should be.  I shared that with Mat who was gracious and with Jorge but I sure felt very foolish at that time.  On the other side if you hear someone being frustrated, give them a gentle reminder to make sure  they are in the right part of the sky and as Mat told me, take a break.  Taking a break when frustrated at anything is good advice, in terms of star hopping it can be great advice.  Mat's advice help me to realize what I was doing wrong and is advice I usually heed to myself. This night I was tired and felt rush because I didn't want to be out too late with having to drive to see the eclipse the next day.

1.   (ARP 240): NGC 5257 a spiral galaxy in Virgo (it is the fainter of the two); Mag. 12.9; Size: 1.8' x 0.9'; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Antoniadi II, clear, cool; Date: 5/19/2012: Time 10:20pm MDT or 5/20/12 @ 0420UT;  XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW and Type I Paracorr;
Notes:
This is a very faint galaxy, really a smudge with a low surface brightness and no other details evident.  It is interacting with NGC 5258 though.  Both NGC 5258 and 5257 are distorted by the gravitational interaction with each other, and both are connected by a tidal bridge which is not evident at the eyepiece, though in the image it is.  Visually, we are just seeing the brighter portions of the galaxies.


1b.   NGC 5258 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Same conditions, location, and instrument as NGC 5257.  Mag. 12.9; Size: 1.7' x 1.1';
Notes:
This is the brighter of the two galaxies and is still pretty faint and small.  Elongated in a SSW to NNE direction.  It has a slightly higher surface brightness than NGC 5257.















2.  NGC 5184 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo; Size: 1.9' x 1.1';  Mag. 12.6; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Date: May 19th, 2012 @ 10:40pm MDT or 5/20/12 @ 0440 UT;  Antoniadi II with clear and cool conditions; XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW and Type I Paracorr;
Notes: 
This is a rather faint galaxy though it is rather large.  In the eyepiece it looks like a smudge or a faint fuzzy object.  No other details.

NGC 5183 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo;  Size: 1.9' x 0.8';  mag. 12.7; Same conditions, location, and instruments as NGC 5184.
Notes
Faint galaxy with a diffused halo and a brightening of the core region.  No nucleus observed. 
















3. NGC 4866 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Date: May 20th, 2012; Time: 12:50 a.m. MDT or 0650 UT; Size: 6.3' x 1.3'; Mag. 11.2; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II clear and cold; XX14i with 27mm Panoptic with Type I Paracorr;
Notes:
Elongated west to east and it is bright and rather large.  Bright core region with a stellar nucleus.  Nucleus appears offset somewhat. 



















4. NGC 4698 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo; Size: 3.9' x 2.6'; Mag: 10.6; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi I, clear and cold; Date: 5/20/12 @ 12:35am MDT or 0635 UT;  XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr I;
Notes:
Very bright galaxy and it is irregular in its roundness.  Mottling of a possible arm on the NW side.  Bright core region with a stellar nucleus.   West is to the upper left corner.





















5. NGC 4535  Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Size: 6.8' x 5.0'; Mag. 10.0; Date: 5/20/2012; Time: 01:20am MDT or 0720 UT; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi I with clear and cold conditions; XX14i with 14mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr.
Notes:
This by far was my favorite observation and sketch of the night.  It gave more detail while observing it than any of the other objects this night.  I used a combination of averted vision, direct vision and a couple of magnifications to get the details to come out.  This is a large and somewhat faint galaxy at first, that brightens over time observing it.  It has a bright nucleus and that is followed by diffusion that is fainter then that brightens.  This is the space between the arms.  Mottling of the arms is present and averted vision will pop the arm with good conditions.  There are stars embedded within the galaxy.  A worthy object of study for an observer in the area.
















6. NGC 4526 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Date: 5/20/2012; Time: 01:30am MDT or 0730 UT; Size: 7.2' x 2.4'; Mag. 9.7; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi I with clear and cold conditions; XX14i with 14mm Pentax XW and Type I Paracorr;
Notes:
Bright galaxy with a bright core region and a stellar nucleus.  Elongated and WNW to ESE. This galaxy is another that if your in the area you want to take the time to take a look.

















7. NGC 4570 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo;  Date: May 20th, 2012 @ 01:45am MDT or 0745 UT; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II clear and cold conditions; Size: 3.8' x 1.2'; Mag. 10.4; XX14i with 14mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr;
Notes:
Elongated galaxy NNW to SSE and rather large.  Pretty bright overall with a brightening in the core region and a stellar nucleus.  Worth a stop by. 















I only sketched 7 items so that is what I will share here.  I had wanted to sketch the Black Eye Galaxy but that may have to wait.  One thing that I noticed is how quickly the summer constellations and Milky Way are coming out.  I am done teaching as of Friday for this school year, and though I have volunteered to take 5 days of a class with my grade level peers, I am excited about all the observing opportunities I hope to have if the weather cooperates.  I am planning on several camp overs for multiple days at some extended sites. 

5/21/2012

Observing the May 20th, Annular Solar Eclipse

Well, after a night of observing on Saturday, and I'll post about that later this week, I awoke today and my 19 year old daughter Kendra and my 18 year old son Nathan and I made a get away to southern Utah to view the eclipse.  We loaded up a picnic made at home by my wife (she stayed home as the drive is not good for her back) and a nice cooler of cold drinks and headed south.

The drive south was uneventful for the most part.  I had a wonderful time talking with Kendra and Nathan and enjoying their company.  My daughter, who usually always claims the front seat, sat in the back seat in the Pathfinder so that Nathan, who is much taller and bigger than her 5 foot 2 inch frame could have the passenger seat.  We gassed the Pathfinder up in Fillmore, and I tried to decide if I wanted to stay in Fillmore, go to Cove Fort or go to Beaver.  I went for Beaver and that made the journey eventful.  As we exited in Beaver, I got rear ended by a gold Lexus.  We pulled over, exchanged information and though very disappointed, the other party admitted fault and graciously promised to ensure that my car will be repaired this week (he builds race cars and fixes up cars to sell).  So tomorrow morning I'll have to call the insurance company and then get that going.  The car was fine to drive though luckily and though the bumper and its supports will need to be repaired and replaced, like I said, we could continue.  On top of that, neither my son or my daughter or myself, or the driver, his spouse and their two kids were hurt in any way.

After getting through that event, the kids and I headed out to Minersville Reservation Recreation Reservoir, to the west of Beaver Utah.  It wasn't the center line but I was just fine with that.  I felt this location gave me a good view of the ring of fire, and would allow me to get home one to two hours earlier than going farther south.  Now that I am home, I made the right choice.  I also confirmed what an outstanding place Minersville Reservation Rec. Area could be for observing.  The campground is to the north of the parking lot and there is a large open area to the south of the parking lot for observing.  There are hills around the site but there is enough area that if one wanted to be out of the campground area to observe, that is very possible as the land around the reservoir is public land.  Here you can see my son Nathan fiddling with something and the solar scope set up as we waited for the beginning.  There were two men there photographing the eclipse, a couple of families in the camping area and then one older family like mine with kids in roughly the same age range, perhaps just a little older that hung out with us.







Here is the solar scope looking west on the open lot.  








Looking north.  The campgrounds are where those large trees are in the background, and the parking lot is between them.  That is my daughter Kendra on the rock reading her Nook.  I'm glad she is such a veracious reader, who reads and reads because she enjoys it. 






Looking south with lots of open space here. 








Looking south-west over the reservoir with the open area.  








 Go to the third picture above and this one continues that shot but more to the north west.  At the end of the parking lot is the boat launch.





 My first snap shot of the eclipse through the eyepiece of the solar scope.  Yep, the moon is taking a slice out of it.







My attempted shot right before the one I took above.  Too light.  






 Probably the best shot of all of them that I got.  I like this one!








 Moon keeps eating more of the sun.  Not bad.








I held the camera at the wrong angle so it was a little brighter than I wanted, but that is a nice crescent. 









Nice crescent here, taken before the one above.  











More from the beginning.  No order to these, just posting them up for others to enjoy or be critical of.  They aren't the best, but they worked for what I was doing. 








 That blue dot of light kept following my shot around!








This cut off image is the only one I got of the ring of fire. It was a little off but to the eye in the glasses and in the eyepiece it was pretty hard to see it this way.  This was just after the annular stage.











The one thing that I really appreciated about this day, was despite it being a bummer getting rear ended,  I had a wonderful time spending time with my two kids.  Also, the man and his two adult children and one of their boyfriends (?) who hung out with us and shared our views and our glasses made the experience that much more enjoyable.  We looked and talked, and connected.  At the end, we said good-bye but for a moment, an astronomical event connected us as human beings.  It wasn't scheduled, wasn't planned, it just occurred because we were both in the right spot at that right time.  It amazes me how often aspects of this hobby can allow us to have an instant connection with others.  We need more of that in the world I think.  Hope you had a safe and fun time observing the eclipse.