On Saturday, August 4th I believe, my friend Mat and I met Carl and Chuck off of I-15 and transferred some mirrors from Carl to Nova Optical owned by Steve Dodds here in Herriman, Utah.  Nova is about 10 minutes from my home.  After delivering them, Mat and I drove out, Steve was gone or busy but we picked up the mirror, saw a wonderful item that was being developed out on Steve's property which is amazing, and then I took the mirror home.

At home, Mat and I opened up the package and inspected the mirror and coating. Both looked wonderful.  I noticed a hair on the mirror and with a bulb, blew it off.  I then noticed a speck of dust and Mat burst out laughing as I blew that off before putting the mirror back in the box.  Mat laughed because once you open a mirror from the coater, you will never, never have it pristine again.  So since then the mirror has sat in the box per the image above,  as I have had my back to school meetings, school started and I have my own classes which started last week and this Monday.  Needless to say, I have been swamped and thus nothing has gotten done.

This Saturday we'll swap out mirrors, and then adjust the 14 and I'll observe with it on Saturday evening for the first time. After that I am going to build a new structure for the 14 inch mirror that will be an improvement on the XX14i.  I am excited about that project and will keep every up to date on that. It may mean for September that I go back to using the 10 inch dob I have until I get the other project completed.


Outreach at the Herriman Library

I just wanted to throw a note in on the outreach event we did at the Herriman Library last night.  It was the end of the summer reading program and the library was open late when my son Nathan and I arrived to set up the 10 inch and 14 inch dobs.  As we were setting up one family, then another and then another and then more and more came over.  I got set up but had no time to even collimate each scope. Luckily a quick star test later that night showed that they had held collimation quite well though they probably should have been tweaked a little.

We showed the moon, and both Nathan and I were swamped when my friend Mat showed up which was very gracious since he had been having a barbecue with his family for his daughter and son who are off to college.  We also then shared some poor views of Saturn as it was so low but the families didn't mind, they LOVED to see Saturn and its rings. There were three middle school age girls that just loved the views of Saturn and they and their mother stayed until 10:00pm to take in all the objects we showed.  Later Jeff showed up with his beautiful refractor and by then it was dark enough that we were showing Alberio and Mizar and Alcor, the Ring Nebula M57 (Mat was showing that) and I plugged in the intelliscope because of the extreme ambient light (the library uses top notch light pollution lights but that doesn't help when your under them) and I showed the Swan Nebula, M17 and M13 the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules.

One thing I really believe in doing at a Star Party or outreach event is to teach people how to use one of the scopes I have and have them find two or three easy objects as I walk them through what to do using the Telrad, the finderscope and the eyepiece.  I did that with a few adults last night and then after everyone had left, a Mom and her 14 or 15 year old son showed up and she asked if they were too late. They weren't as we hadn't started to tear down so each of us, Jeff, Mat, Nathan and myself showed them several objects. I then brought the boy over to the 14 inch dob and pointed out where Mizar and Alcor was and had him use the Telrad, finderscope and eyepiece to go to this double star.  I then had him describe what he was seeing.  His mother was extremely nervous at first about letting him do this but I assured her it was fine, he couldn't hurt the scope and after he had found the object and she was looking at it herself, her pride in her son's first use of a telescope beamed.  More importantly, this quiet and reserved young man got really excited about doing it and when I asked if he liked doing it, an enthusiastic "Yes" was the reply, one his mother was amazing since he is usually reserved.  I think between us all, we instilled a desire in four or five individuals to really take up or at least look up and get interested in the hobby in our community.  It was a rewarding experience for all involved I do believe.

Afterwards, we packed up and stopped by Mat's house to look at the F6 8inch dob he had just finished for his daughter who is going away to college today.  Mat worked feverishly this week to get it done, and his daughter had painted the dob (it's black and she used stensils to put stars, star trails and "glitter" on the scope) and it gave a good view of the moon.  Mat will finish figuring the mirror next summer and then get it coated but it is good enough for her to use on the moon and the planets (Jupiter) while she is at college.


Skunked in August

Just a quick update from me for the August new moon period.  We got the right weather pattern, dry air circulating in from the north-west BUT there were major fires in northeastern Nevada, southern Idaho and eastern Oregon that blew their smoke and haze right into the Beehive State.  It was enough to impact transparency and seeing that in my opinion, it wasn't worth taking a scope out and viewing based on conditions and wanting to maximize detail in one's observing.

On another note, I have been swamped as I am back to work right now and my own advance education is back on, thus the reason for the slow posts when combined with no observing.  There is an outreach at the Herriman Library on Friday night where a XT6 is being given away for their summer reading program after being donated by the Clark Planetarium.  If you live in the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley and want to join us by bringing a scope, there should be a rather large crowd that evening.

I received my 14 inch Zambuto mirror so I will be sharing some pictures of that and the mods of the 14 to make that work.  I have looked at it and all seems fine with it but haven't had any more time than that to do anything with it.

I also received some new eyepieces that I'll be reviewing here so those should be coming up after I can observe with them.  So lots to do, just got to find the time and the skies to do it all.  Hope your August deep sky observing during the new moon period was better than mine.


Come Observe the Perseid Meteor Shower near Salt Lake City on August 11th to 12th, 2012

Looking for something to do this Saturday night? This Saturday night into Sunday morning early, say from 10:00pm through sunrise on Sunday morning the Perseid Meteor shower is scheduled to appear in force. What are these shooting stars? In August each year, our planet, Earth  passes through the debris of the comet Swift-Turtle. As we pass through the debris, dust particles light up as they enter our atmosphere and burn up. The meteor shower appears to come from the constellation of Perseus and thus their name.  The best place to view these are not near the city lights or the light dome of Salt Lake City and its outer neighbors, but out in the desert in the dark. There is a group right now that is going to head out to observe these at the Pit n Pole observing location.

If you have followed my blog, you know about the Pit n Pole location but I know some will say,  Pit n Pole?  It is a location  in the West Desert down from 5 Mile Pass.  Think I-15 to SR-73 in Lehi and go west on SR-73 pass Eagle Mountain, pass Cedar Fort, over 5 Mile Pass, turning left on the Pony Express road and driving for 4 miles or so down there (see the instructions).  This will be a fun night of observing with the scopes and to sit back, enjoy each other's company and watch for the meteors as they fly by. It's a great time to learn the constellations as well.   Sounds boring for some, but it is really quite fun.  This link will give you directions and I have them on my blog at this link with pictures to help get you there.  We'll have an area for telescopes and an area to set up and sit down and observe from.

  For this event if your not using a telescope (and you won't need one, just a few of us want to do some observing prior to sitting down and watching the show in the sky)  please bring something to sit on  like a blanket etc. (it will get dusty from the desert), or a lawn chair or an outdoor chair to sit on.  A few reminders. Since some of us will be observing with telescopes, please no white light. I'll have some extra red flashlights you can use. Second, ask if you would like to see what the person using the scope is viewing and I'm sure you'll get a view.  Last, there are no restrooms out there so bring toilet paper  if you need it (you can go off down one road and there are bushes to hide you).   Feel free to bring your favorite non-alcoholic beverage (yes, there will be families here with youngsters here) and a snack or to to munch on.  It should be a lot of fun.


A Sketch of Messier 17 The Swan and Messier 16 The Eagle Nebula (updated)

Here is a copy of Messier 17 that I did, the Swan Nebula out at Vernon, Utah.  It was done at high magnification, using a 10mm, 7mm and a 5mm Pentax XW.  I also barlowed the 7mm but the view wasn't great.  Best views were at 7mm and 5mm (the 10mm was nice, but not as large).  Done the week of July 17th, 2012. I did round a few stars out on this after getting back from the field.  Antoniadi was I to II on those nights when I sketched.  I focused mainly on the Swan and not on the area underneath the Swan.  Overall I am very happy with how it came out.  I was considering submitting it to Astronomy Sketch of the Day but they ran a Swan Sketch that I also really liked on July 4th, 2012, see this link.  So to avoid being redundant I didn't submit it.

Before my back was out too bad I did make another sketch of Messier 17 from my backyard and once my house is back together from the carpet and floor install, I'll process that and put it on here to contrast views from a dark zone (gray to black) to an orange zone which is light polluted for me.  I have mixed feelings about this month's new moon phase. It will be the last one I have before going back to teaching and school full time.  That cuts into my viewing time which is okay, because I have a life away from astronomy, it just means I have to hope for clear skies when I can get out! We've had an active monsoon this year and I am hoping that by mid August it lessens or moves east.  It's been good for the yard and garden though (and the weeds)!

As promised, I actually got two sketches process, one is Messier 17 The Swan under light pollution.  That is the first one.  In comparing the light pollution version vs the dark sky one you will see that the dark sky version has more stars visible, has more structure detail visible and the surrounding halo is visible in the sketch.  The light pollution one lacks detail and the distinctions that are in the dark sky one above.  There is some definition, but not much and I had to work for the definition I saw.  This was done on July 27th, 2012 at around 11:00pm MDT in Herriman, Utah with an Antoniadi III sky using my 14 inch dob with a 7mm Pentax XW and a 5mm.  I also had to use my Orion Ultrablock NB filter and my OIII filter.  Please remember that on both sketches these were initially upside down, much like Jeremy Perez capture but I re-oriented them so they would be more easily viewed.

Lastly, here is my version of Messier 16, the Eagle Nebula.  The fingers of creation are evident as is most of the nebula.  For some reason my camera cut off the top part of the sketch and I may later take a new one to include that but for now this one will have to do.  Overall I am very happy with it.  It was done the week of July 17th, 2012 at Forest Road 006 Site 1 with Antoniadi I and using my 14 inch dob with a 10mm and 7mm and 14mm Pentax XW with a Type 1 2008 Paracorr (laser etched emblem).  I used no filter, and an OIII and Orion Narrowband Ultrablock filter.