Observing and Sketching Focus November 26th and November 29th, 2013

Sometimes I find I have to take advantage of cool fall nights where the temperature here in Utah is not in the single digits to low teens at night. Such was the night of Tuesday, November 26th 2013 and Friday, November 29th, 2013.  The skies were clear, the temperature was mild, in the low 40's and though no one could go with me, I loaded up the Outback and headed out to the West Desert.  I set up with the sun still up, though heading toward sunset.  The coyote packs came out and howled several times, and yipped.  On the 26th of November I played a podcast from Richard Pogge while observing to keep me company.  It was a wonderful night on on this night I went after a few galaxies in Perseus and a couple of other fainter objects.  Seeing was wonderful that night, with not a lot of twinkling in the stars at zenith, and only a slight twinkle down below 30 degrees.  Here is what I did on November 26th, 2013.

1. NGC 1491 Emission Nebula in Perseus; November 26th, 2013; 10:45p.m. MDT/04:45 UT; FR006, Antoniadi II; 14" Dob; 10mm & 14mm Pentax XW;  OIII and Ultrablock NB Filter.

Wonderful bright emission nebula, roundish in shape, and the OIII shows the best view with a varying surface brightness.  It seems that the mag 10.5 to 11 mag star is illuminating the nebula.  It is diffused on the edges and there seems to be a dark area or node surrounding the star somewhat, though it is not complete. A very fun object to observe and to sketch.

2. NGC 1579 Northern Trifed; Reflection Nebula;  November 26th, 2013; FR 006; Antoniadi II; 14" Dob, 10mm, 14mm Pentax XW; OIII & Ultrablock NB Filter.

A rather bright and rather small nebula.  Filters bring out a contrast that shows some structure and a hint of dark lanes. Nebula appears brighter on the edge.

3. NGC 1579 Reflection Nebula ie Northern Trifed in Perseus.  November 16th, 2013, FR006; Antoniadi II; Malicam; 14" with 5mm and 3.5mm Pentax XW.

This magnification brought out about a 5-6' in diameter with elongated central region.  The outer haze is irregular in shape. Nebulosity extends W-SW of central mass.  Very faint piece to the south and dark lanes are easily evident.

4. NTC 210 Spiral Galaxy in Cetus; 11/29/2013;  09:30pm MST; Antoniadi II; FR006 Site 1; 14" Dob; 5mm & 7mm Pentax XW;

Fairly bright and small spiral galaxy.  Very bright inner core with a stellar nucleus with a mag 11 star near the W-SW from the core.  Slight hint of structure in it so I included that in the sketch.

5. Messier 31 & 32, Spiral Galaxies in Andromeda. Sketch was done on the nights of November 26th and November 29th, 2013; FR 006 Sites 1 & 2.  Antoniadi II; 14" Dob with 17.3mm Delos; 20mm Pentax XW and 27mm Panoptic;  Total Time: 4 hours at the eyepiece.

I have wanted to resketch Messier 31 as I find it a hard object to capture because of its size. I am not totally happy with this sketch as I find it too wide and the core didn't come off like I wanted (the ink from the pen spread out for the stellar core).  I do like the dark lanes and the HII region and some of the globulars I captured. I need to make a label for this sketch. Overall, a worthy start though it is still on my list to do another one.

6. Abell Galaxy Cluster 426 in Perseus; November 29th, 2013; Antoniadi II; 2 hours of sketching time at the eyepiece from 10:15pm to 12:15am MDT or 04:15 to 06:15 UT;  14" Dob, 20mm Pentax XW; ES 24mm 68 degree; 30mm ES 82 degree;

This galaxy cluster is centered around NGC 1275, 1272, 1277, 1278, 1279, 1270, 1269 and several more NGC and IC galaxies.  This is my favorite sketch of the ones I have done and I felt I captured it extremely well.  Again, this is one I need to do a label on the sketch and include it and perhaps I'll have time for that over the winter break.


ISON: Peek a Boo Edit: The Experts Got it Right Basically

Well as an educator I have been fascinated by Comet ISON. Countless websites and astronomy magazines have proclaimed "much ado about nothing" stating it could be or would be the "Comet of the Century" as these websites show:

The Great Comet of 2013 LINK

June 2013 Assessment of Comet ISON LINK

Photos of Comet ISON Potentially a Great Comet LINK

Comet Ison: daylight sighting of 'once in a lifetime' event possible LINK

Most of those writing about ISON admit that it could have been a great comet or a dud or something in between. Why? Because comets are like cats and just do there own thing even when we as humans think they are predictable. I like the analogy of comets being like teenagers having raised two, they are just unpredictable. Just when you think you figure out what is going on they surprise you!

Well yesterday, Comet ISON approached perihelion, which is the point an object comes closet to the Sun.  As ISON approached the Sun, it seemingly disappeared. At that point many of the professional astronomers proclaimed that ISON had broken up and was no longer a comet. I was following this on NASA's Google Hangout and even posted such on a couple of message boards. While just like that teenager, or perhaps more like Fawke's, Dumbledore's phoenix by late yesterday afternoon early evening, ISON had come back to life!

Now, the experts are letting us know that basically they are not sure what happen to Comet ISON. Karl Battams, one of the leading astrophysicists on Comet ISON has a wonderful blog entry that explains what has happen so far.  It can be found at this link. Karl on his twitter feed Sungrazer Comets has shared the following on Comet ISON. These are from his latest to oldest:

"Seems maybe something is still producing dust but whether it's a coherent nucleus or a dust ball, we don't know."

"One thing we can be certain of is that #ISON's nucleus (if there is one) will be significantly smaller now. Lot of mass will have been lost!"

"Comet #ISON's orbit will NOT have changed appreciably during perihelion. Perhaps a *tiny* nudge but absolutely nothing to worry about."

"For those asking, we really are not comfortable in speculating on naked eye visibility or not. Just give us a few more days! We're on it..."

Some may ask why scientists who know so much about comets and how they work could declare ISON dead, then a few hours latter, that something was left of it due to the images SOHO was providing? SOHO is the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory launched in 1995 to observe the Sun. Anyway, SOHO has a great observation of ISON going into perihelion and out of it. Here is a movie of that. However before I do that, one thing I have to say for Comet ISON. Whether we see it visually or not, whether it is considered just another comet, it has provided amateurs and those who followed it a wonderful opportunity to see how science works in action. That science is a quest for knowledge and as new things come up, scientists respond by trying to gather new information and make new knowledge based on more evidence. As astronomer and PhD Andy Puckett stated in a tweet, "Science is a process, and it takes time and effort to achieve accurate results."  So lets enjoy the ride of Comet ISON, what we have to learn from it scientifically and personally, and if the opportunity presents itself again, to have a visual or telescopic view of it.  Here is the link to that movie.

Here is ISON going in. The white circle is the sun, the darker blue smaller circle is another telescope.

Here is what is left of ISON emerging 

Here is ISON remnants and a new tail developing.  


Well Comet ISON did NOT survive perihelion and broke up. In the images above your seeing the dust cloud intensify and follow the gravitational path of the what had been the comet. To surmise what happen it is probably best to use these posts from the Yahoo Group on Comet's Mailing List found at this link:
Hello all,

to who is interested in science here without access to CBET telegrams,
here is a latest CBET 3731 about comet ISON.

Best regards,
Jakub Cerny

Electronic Telegram No. 3731
Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams
CBAT Director: Daniel W. E. Green; Hoffman Lab 209; Harvard University;
20 Oxford St.; Cambridge, MA 02138; U.S.A.
e-mail:cbatiau@... (alternatecbat@...)
Prepared using the Tamkin Foundation Computer Network

The comet's nucleus apparently disrupted near perihelion, with the
comet's head fading from perhaps a peak brightness of visual mag -2 some
hours before perihelion to well below mag +1 before perihelion. M.
Knight, Lowell Observatory, finds that the comet peaked around visual
mag -2.0 around Nov. 28.1 UT, adding that the brightest feature in the
coma of the comet faded steadily after perihelion from about mag 3.1 in
a 95"-radius aperture when the comet first appeared from behind the SOHO
coronagraph occulting disk on Nov. 28.92 to about mag 6.5 on Nov.
29.98. K. Battams, Naval Research Laboratory, writes that, based on the
most recent LASCO C3 images (Nov. 30.912 UT), there is no visible
nucleus or central condensation; what remains is very diffuse, largely
transparent to background stars, and fading; it appears that basically a
cloud of dust remains from the nucleus. S. Nakano, Sumoto, Japan,
writes that he measured the comet's total magnitude in a 27' photometric
aperture from the SOHO C3 camera images to be as follows: Nov. 29.383,
0.5; 29.755, 1.4; 30.013, 2.0; 30.496, 3.0; 30.883, 5.4.

Z. Sekanina, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, reports that, from the
position of the northeastern boundary of the comet's fan-shaped tail in
three images taken with the C3 coronagraph onboard the SOHO spacecraft
between 0.7 and 1.9 days after perihelion (Nov. 29.46 to 30.66 UT), he
finds that the comet's production of dust terminated about 3 hours
before perihelion. Although this result is preliminary, it is unlikely
to be significantly in error, because the position angles of a
perihelion emission are off in the three images by 14-22 deg, and those
of post-perihelion emissions still more. The peak radiation-pressure
accelerations derived from the tail boundary's angular lengths
(estimated at 1.8-2.5 deg) are about 0.1-0.2 the solar gravitational
acceleration, implying the presence of micron-sized particles. The
estimated time of terminated activity is consistent with the absence of
any feature that could be interpreted as a condensation around an active
nucleus in the 20 or so images taken with the C2 coronagraph on Nov.
28.8-29.0 UT (0.8 to 5.4 hr after perihelion) and with the appearance of
a very sharp tip (replacing a rounded head) at the comet's sunward end
in the C2 images starting about 4 hr before perihelion and continuing
until its disappearance behind the occulting disc around Nov. 28.74 UT
(or some 50 minutes before perihelion). The time of terminated activity
is here interpreted as the end of nuclear fragmentation, a process that
is likely to have begun shortly before a sudden surge of brightness that
peaked nearly 12 hr prior to perihelion. Fine dust particles released
before perihelion moved in hyperbolic orbits with perihelion distances
greater than is the comet's, thus helping some of them survive. The
post-perihelion tail's southern, sunward-pointing boundary consists of
dust ejected during the pre-perihelion brightening. However, the
streamer of massive grains ejected at extremely large heliocentric
distances, so prominently seen trailing the nucleus along the orbit
before perihelion (cf.CBET 3722), completely disappeared. The dust
located inside the fan, between both boundaries, was released in
intervening times, mostly during the last two days before perihelion.
The strong forward-scattering effect (phase angles near 120-130 deg) has
tempered the rate of post-perihelion fading of the comet, but the
merciless inverse-square power law of increasing heliocentric distance
is necessarily the dominant factor in the comet's forthcoming gradual

H. Boehnhardt, J. B. Vincent, C. Chifu, B. Inhester, N. Oklay, B.
Podlipnik, C. Snodgrass, and C. Tubiana, Max Planck Institute for Solar
System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, reports that two diffuse tail
structures were analyzed in post-perihelion images obtained by the
LASCO-C3 corongraph onboard the SOHO spacecraft between Nov. 29.60 and
29.81 UT. The southward tail extended toward p.a. about 167 deg to
about 0.4 deg distance from the central brightness peak. The eastward
tail had an approximate position angle of 68 deg and extended to at
least 1.2 deg distance. By Finson-Probstein simulations, the eastward
tail can best be interpretated as being caused by a dust release about 1
hr around perihelion. The maximum beta value in the eastward tail
reaches values up to 1.5, typical for graphite or metallic grains of
about 0.1 micron radius. No indications are found for a continuation of
the release of similar dust after 2 hr post-perihelion. The shorter
southward tail may be a relict of heavier grains released about 1-2 days
before perihelion passage. Diffuse cometary material is noticeable in
the p.a. range covered by the two dust tails. The match of the
synchrone pattern for the eastward tail is not optimal, which may
indicate secondary effects to the dust grains involved.

NOTE: These 'Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams' are sometimes
superseded by text appearing later in the printed IAU Circulars.


Betelgeuse explosion From West Desert

I was out observing and was messing around with my DSLR taking images of the constellations when Betelgeuse went Supernova, and I captures it! Just incredible. IF you haven't seen it get out and take a look, Orion will never be the same as a constellation. Ruined the rest of the observing trip but what wonderful observations of the new supernova were had.


In truth I found this fun animation on YouTube, posted by the maker rytsm, and though I haven't seen a supernova go, and don't expect to see a visual one in my life, I thought this was a fun way to share this work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 


Observing November 6th 2013

On the evening of November 6th, 2013, I was able to get out for a bit of observing. Not long as it was a work night but I wanted to take advantage of the fact that a young crescent moon was disappearing at 8:30p.m. and would let me have several hours to accomplish my goals of sketching for the night.

I set up easily enough and did some lunar observing, and then some double star observing as I waited for the moon to set.  I also looked at some eye candy (Messier) objects in the summer triangle one last time, a good-bye to summer. M13 again, M17, M11, M57 etc.

Well, I started the evening as the moon was gone up in M31, the Andromeda galaxy.  I used the article out of Sky & Telescope's November issue on Exploring Andromeda by Alan Whitman, to do just that, explore Andromeda. I made what I think is a find sketch of M31, and a sketch of some of the globular and open clusters, including NGC 206.  However, as you will see in a moment, I am having trouble with my camera taking pictures tonight so those sketches will have to wait until I can resolve.

I am going to post my other two explorations.

1. NGC 7635, Sharpless 162 or The Bubble Nebula.  Constellation: Cassiopeia; Date: November 6th, 2013; Time: 10:07p.m. MDT or 04:07 UT;  West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi III; Equipment: 14" Dob with 14mm, 10mm &7mm Pentax XW; OIII and Ultrablock Filter.

Notes: The Bubble is at its brightest near the mag. 8.4 star near to it.  To the NE there appears to be some dark lanes evident, north of the nebulosity also. There is fainter nebulosity to the north side of the lane.  Main part of the Bubble hooks around the mag. 8.4 star, SAO 20575.  The Wolf Rayet Star is causing the brightening here as it heats up the Bubble with its stellar winds. The sketch here is fine, I like it in person a lot but I am not happy with the image so I intend to re-shoot it and replace this one.

2. Cassiopeia-A, Supernova Remnant in Cassiopeia.  Constellation: Cassiopeia; Date: November 6th, 2013; Time: 11:21p.m. MDT or 05:21 UT; Location: West Desert, Utah; SQM: 21.71; Conditions: Clear, cool, Antoniadi III; Equipment: 14" Dob, Zambuto Mirror; 20mm & 14mm Pentax XW; 17.3 Delos; 27mm Pantoptic; OIII Filter.

Notes.  What got me going on this was Sue French's Deep Sky Wonders article in December where she discusses going after this object.  In addition I know there are several threads over on Cloudy Nights about amateurs observing this object. So tonight, I took my turn.  Sure enough using the finder charts I got off of Cloudy Nights I was able to see this supernova remnant. It is not a hard object to find, if you have the finder charts for it.  There is a triangle pointing to the bright remnant and it is basically a broadening band with knots of brightening at both ends.  More of a straight line in between with some mottling.  I hinted at a possible branch below it with averted vision. The OIII filter helped the most.


Observing for October 26th and November 1st, 2013

I can't believe it! I actually got out twice in a new moon period! Let's hope that is a trend that continues and the storms hit the mountains here hard to replenish our water and leave the valley's dry unlike last year when the opposite happen.

Anyway, on October 26th, I went to Pit n Pole to observe for the last time this season. It was unseasonably mild, actually warm and no dew was in the forecast.  I met my friend Jeff out there with his Orion XX12i with a Protostar secondary and Zambuto primary and set up.  This night I had what has to be a wonderful night of observing. Both nights ended up that way.  I have had periods this year where my health (I am struggling with a health condition right now that I hope is starting to clear up) has impacted my observing. I have become fatigued easily or my bowls, already impacted by my Celiac disease act up and I have aches in my legs.  The result is I haven't planned as well as I should have and I have to say that for me, if I don't have a plan to work, observing becomes a chore.  I have no problem star hopping as I do not have go to and I love the star hop as part of my experience.  For once, this night felt like a renewal.  Everything came together. My scope is a year old now and has its clinks worked out and is a joy to use.  Hopefully I have more observing sessions that these two coming than what I've had in the pass.  Observing to me is enjoyment, relaxation and a time to connect to the universe, both locally and in the expanse of our sky.

So this night I had a plan and I worked my plan. I no longer cared about trying to get through a list. I am close to completing the H400 II but in truth, I am using Mark Bratton's Complete Guide to the Herschel Objects to pick a constellation and go through the objects in that constellation. I really like working two or three constellations and planning to hit one early in the evening as it is at zenith, the next one as it moves toward zenith and the last one as it is rising.  Anyway so this night was just outstanding. I rated it as an Antoniadi I since even the stars below say 20 degrees, and this was Arcturus, Capella were barely twinkling when low in the atmosphere.  I hit a few more objects then I sketched, and I am not going to list everything tonight but will come back next weekend to update the list. Here are my sketched items.

1. NGC 7042 Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus and NGC 7043 (the fainter one) a galaxy in Pegasus.  October 26th, 2013, 10:55 p.m. MDT/ 04:55 UT;  Pit n Pole UT; 14" Dob w/7mm & 5mm Pentax XW.  SQM 22.64.

This one was fun to find, it took me retracing my hop twice to find it.  At low power 7043 is a faint fuzzy but since the night allowed high magnification to come into play, I used the 7mm and 5mm Pentax XW.  The core was bright, with diffusion around it.  NGC 7042 is the larger one in the field, with a bright core region and a stellar nucleus and there was a hint of structure. W I believe is to the bottom left corner in the sketch.  The arm l sketched on the eastern side is an error, it is suppose to be mottling with brightness both on the NE and SW sides of the galaxy.

2. NGC 7814 Edge on Galaxy in Pegasus, "Little Sombero";  October 26th, 2013; 08:48pm MDT or 02:48 UT;  Pit n Pole, UT;  14" Dob with 5mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi I;  SQM 21.62;

This is a relatively bright galaxy with a very bright core region and a non-stellar nucleus.  The dust lane is detectable at high magnification, and is probably over emphasized in this sketch. It was more of a mottled appearance in my notes and not so steady a line as I sketched here.  Over a fun object to observe.

3. NGC 23 a galaxy in Pegasus.  October 26th, 2013, 09:45pm MDT or 03:45 UT;  Pit n Pole, UT; 14" Dob w/ 7mm & 10mm Pentax XW; SQM 21.62.

This is a small but bright galaxy with a star on the SE edge of it, making it look like a double core.  Cool. Nebulosity is easily seen with a brightening around the core and a stellar nucleus.

4. NGC 7619, NGC 7626, NGC 7631, NGC 7623, NGC 7622, IC 5309 in Pegasus.  October 25th, 2013; 10:32pm MDT or 04:32 UT; Pit n Pole, UT; 14" Dob with 10mm & 14mm Pentax XW; also known as the Pegasus Galaxy Cluster 1; SQM; 21.68; 

NGC 7619 is roundish and is the brightest of all the galaxies with a large and right core.  NGC 7626 is the largest but not the brightest of the galaxies, being more diffused due to its size.  It still has a bright inner core region.  NGC 7619 is dimmer and smaller with a brightening at the core region, it is also elongated in appearance.  NGC 7623 is small, round and diffused.  IC 5309 is very small and very diffused. Last NGC 7611 is elongated and diffused as well. 

Again, I saw about 12 objects that night but did not sketch the rest.  I picked these to do and overall I am pretty content as I think they give a decent impression of what one can see through the eyepiece. 

November 1st, 2013

1. NGC 7457 is a Lenticular (?) galaxy in Pegasus.  November 1st, 2013; 11:26pm MDT / 05:26 UT; FR 006 Site 1, Owl's Roost; Antoniadi I; 14" dob w 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW;  

This is a bright oval shape galaxy with a brighter inner core region.  It shows a larger view with averted vision in my opinion.  Possible to detect the oval, an inner tapered shape and then the bright core region.  Fun object to observe. 

1. NGC 7332 & NGC 7339 Lenticular and Spiral Galaxies in Pegasus; November 1st, 2013; 11:04pm MDT / 05:04 UT; Location: FR 006 Site 1, Owl's Roost; Antoniadi I; 14" dob with 10mm Pentax XW;

NGC 7332 has a bright core region.  NGC 7339 is very diffused and very bright, elongated to points with a bright core region visible.

3. NGC 7177 Galaxy in Pegasus.  Date: November 1st, 2013;  Location: FR 006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Time: 10:11pm MDT / 04:11 UT;  Equipment: 14" Dob with 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi I

Rather bright galaxy that is diffused and has a mottled outer region.  Bright inner core that is offset from the galaxy E-W orientation. Bright stellar core is easily seen.  Structure is evident in the SW side.  An object worth the time if you don't mind non-huge Messier galaxies and like to tease details out of a galaxy.

4. NGC 7656 Face on Spiral Galaxy; Constellation: Pegasus; Location: FR 006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Date: November 1st, 2013; Time: 09:26pm MDT or 03:26 UT; Equipment: 14" dob with 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Conditions: Clear, cool but not cold, Antoniadi I. 

This is a faint galaxy with mottling and one arm that appears to wrap from the SW to the NE, wrapping around the brightening of the core region. Non-stellar nucleus.  

On Friday night I observed the following. M31 which I had intended to sketch but a good interruption delayed that for another night. I also saw M32 and M110 and the dark lanes that night in M31 were just outstanding.  I observed M33 as it got to zenith both in my scope and in my friend's Jeff Starstucture 17.5 and it was the best view I have ever seen of the Triangulum Galaxy. Beautiful bright inner core, surrounded by brightening around the core. The spiral arms just sat there as did the HII regions and the globular clusters there.  I took a gander at the Helix and it shown wonderfully that night too, first without a filter and then with my OIII filter which just simply enhanced the details there. I laid down on the ground for a while and watched Orion as he was rising in the east and began to soar up into the night sky.  Watching M42, Rigel, NGC 1981 a wonderful naked eye object, NGC 1977, Collinder 70, Collinder 69 and Betelgeuse rise. I wondered if Betelgeuse has already exploded as a supernova with its light streaking towards us and if I will see it in my life. I decided this night to lay that to rest. Nope, it may have or it may not have exploded, but it has the next million years to do so and reach us by all estimates. That is a short period in terms of stellar time but I will be LONG gone by the time that star's light reaches us.  I ended the night looking at Jupiter and found that the atmosphere had gone from a complete stable Antoniadi I to a boiling Antoniadi III to IV.  M42 did not show well and even at high magnification I could not get the E and F stars to show.  So that was my signal to pack up and head home.  Oh, Mat showed me a wonderful field of two galaxies with a third right next to it.  I need to get the designation from him on those three. Here are some pictures of the set up of that night. 

The next two pictures show looking south-east and east and reveal a wonderful Belt of Venus which was observable that night. The pink was bright and wonderful and the Earth's shadow was equally inspiring. 

Here you can see my set up with my 14" and my observing chair and portable table. Behind it is Mat's 16 inch F 5.6 (I believe, Mat can correct me on that) scope that he made from the mirror on up. Mat is currently selling that scope to fund his 21 inch if anyone is interested. Leave me an email and I will forward it to Mat. His ladder has half steps for him to go up (or us)! 

Again, the 14" with my observing chair, table and new Outback.  Love the ride when I go off road in the new care! 

A close up of Mat's 16 inch scope that he has for sale. 

My 14" strut reflector/dob collimated and ready to go! 

Here is the back of my Outback at the observing site. Just need to figure out how to turn off the front door side lights.  

I posted about my new eyepiece case but at the time I hadn't put any eyepieces in it. Saif left a comment asking for some so here it is. I laid most of my eyepieces down except a few that I stood up.  The larger Pentax XW and Delos don't sit so well standing up.  In here from the left bottom working right then up and back to the top left: Pentax XW 10mm, Baader Ortho 6mm; 7mm Pentax XW, 5mm Pentax XW, 3.5 Pentax XW; 10mm Baader Ortho; 20mm Pentax XW, old 2x barlow (never use it); 14m Pentax XW; 17.3mm Delos; 27mm Panoptic TV. Saif, hope that helps in some way! So that was the end of a wonderful night of observing. 


LOVIN my Subaru Outback

Well a couple of photos.  A week ago Saturday, my wife Lynda and I went for a drive to look around and ended up at Bear Lake, which we had planned on doing. We spent time looking around and at property and I took some shots that I have included here. Bear Lake in northern Utah is a wonderful place and the water is almost a turquoise color, especially from the air.  The first is a panaroma of one area we were looking near (this is from a rest stop not too far away).  Then another area closer to the lake. We saw some homes and cabins for sale also so we may decide to look up that way for a get away place.

Now to the good stuff. I sold my 2001 Nissan Pathfinder and purchased a 2012 Subaru Outback. Here is all my gear loaded into it and I have to say, I packed rather loose and I had far more room in the car to put more if I needed it. The other GREAT news is on the highway I am getting an average of 30mpg on the highway, 25 mpg in the city so that sure kills the 18mpg to 20mpg the Pathfinder got!

Below isa close up of the scope and all my equipment loaded to one side or in front of the scope. Plenty more room to use if I need it! 

From the left passenger door. 

From the rear right passenger door. 

With everything locked up.  I have to admit, I was glad to get my favorite color on the car also! 


Friday Night Observing 5 Mile Pass

Sun sets around 6:40 p.m. on Friday and moon rises around 12:30a.m. out at Five Mile Pass. Mat and I are heading out there on Friday night for an evening of observing.  If you want to come out for four hours of wonderful fall observing and perhaps find out why fall is called "Galaxy Season" come on out.  I am also going after the PN in M15 in Pegasus again.  Should make for a wonderful evening.  If you need directions email me.



Observing is the word but too many don't do that . . . observe.

As an amateur astronomer, and as one having a degree in English from college, I am fascinated with the word observe.  In the hobby there is certainly a lot of math that can be done to determine the quality of optics, how well the structure of a scope works or the magnification given in a certain scope when a certain eyepiece is used.  However, as much as these and many other concepts are important, in the end, the hobby comes down to what you observe in the eyepiece.  It is observing, that determines the full enjoyment in the hobby. defines observe in this sense as "to watch, view, or note for a scientific, official, or other special purpose."  Observe also means to "scrutinize what is before you carefully. Infer is the conclusion you draw from what you have observed."  Here in lies one of the major problems in the hobby I see.  It is that too few amateurs learn to observe, and even fewer then do the research needed to infer from their observation what it is they are seeing.

For example. NGC 2392 or what is also known as the Eskimo Nebula or the Eskimo Planetary Nebula in Gemni is a well known object to most amateurs.  I have observed it many times, have sketched it several times and have enjoyed the view from various magnifications.  I had one of my best views of it back in February 2013 which I captured in a color sketch.  It stood out along with the filaments at a good size magnification. I sketch because I find it slows me down in my observing so I can scrutinize what I am seeing and to train my eye how to see very specific and fine details that most causal observers miss. In scrutinizing my sketches and review my recorded observations I have found I even have more room to grow as a sketcher (I have always had plenty of room) to capture more of what I am seeing.

My observation last February (2013) led me to follow this object and in July of 2013, Chandra announced that the increased levels of X-Rays near the core of the white dwarf, indicates that there is a binary companion located next to the white dwarf. Hubble and Chandra found this as a study was looking at NGC 2392 (Eskimo), IC 418 and NGC 6826 to identify why the X-Ray levels are what they are in each of these PN.  At this link you can read: "This composite image of NGC 2392 contains X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple showing the location of million-degree gas near the center of the planetary nebula. Data from the Hubble Space Telescope show — colored red, green, and blue — the intricate pattern of the outer layers of the star that have been ejected. The comet-shaped filaments form when the faster wind and radiation from the central star interact with cooler shells of dust and gas that were already ejected by the star.

The observations of NGC 2392 were part of a study of three planetary nebulas with hot gas in their center. The Chandra data show that NGC 2392 has unusually high levels of X-ray emission compared to the other two. This leads researchers to deduce that there is an unseen companion to the hot central star in NGC 2392. The interaction between a pair of binary stars could explain the elevated X-ray emission found there." You can read the study at this link

Now I hear the uproar by many, I don't care about a companion (you should, it could mean a Type I SN one of these days) I just want to observe it and move on. Why go back? Why? To see if you can see the filaments talked about which result from a faster wind and radiation from the white dwarf interacts with the cooler shells of just and gas that were already ejected and sent out by the star? Can you imagine a companion star near the white dwarf perhaps shedding mass onto it or their orbits so close that at some point the Chandrasaakar limit is passed and a Type 1a SN occurs?  See the observation, the sketch led me to investigate or scrutinize what my mind is seeing and the result is that I really did learn a whole lot more from this observation then I ever imagine.

So no matter the scope or the size of the scope, learn to observe, to train the eye, to scrutinize what you are viewing until you see more detail, maximizing your view and more importantly, training the eye to see.  I am 48 and my eyes are still relatively good, actually, I'll brag, I think and know they are better than most.  Why? Because I train my eye and maximize what I observe.  I infer often that I want to learn about what I am seeing and I take the time then to investigate and learn.  That is what I love about this hobby.  I can always continue to learn and link, even on objects I may think as not being worthy of my time. Often I am amazed at the detail and amazed at what I learn about those objects.  Your journey is not my journey, and you may not like learning about the objects like I do.  No problem. However, I do challenge you to observe, take your time on objects, see what you can see and then see if you can see more. Be careful of invented imagination. It does pop up so have some good friends to observe with and some others online to give you a reality check.  Check your observations. It is okay to make a mistake if you learn from it.  I once drew M51 with arms in the wrong direction.  I was too excited to sketch it that I failed to note what directions I was doing.  I think I even added an arm as I was learning. No biggie as I did learn from that.  I learned to verify what I see and sketch, to mark directions.  Anyway, that is my rant for now.  Friday should be a great observing night and I am heading out.  I can't wait to load up the new Outback with my gear (it fits, I've tried it) and head out to the Desert for an evening of observing.  Hope your skies are clear and mild the next couple of weekends as we move into new moon.


Utah Star Party

Well, it's been in the books for two weeks and with a four day weekend for fall break, I need to catch up my blog.  I've been using Dicken's It was the best of times, it was the coldest of times to describe this star party.

On Thursday,  our friends Mark and his wife Sally got out to the site first with their trailer and set up at the site. All the comforts of home with a good dark site! Mat left before I did and got out second. It took me a while to load up the Pathfinder and I had it filled to the rim! I had to use my mirrors to see out.  I got out there third and the weather was very cloudy and cool.  Mat and I set up our tents, unloaded what we needed and then left our equipment in the car.

That first evening the sky did clear and Mat used his 8 inch dob and I used my 4 inch refractor to do some viewing. I looked at M31 and its companions; the Double Cluster and M13.  I wanted to look at the Veil but it clouded up and I put my equipment away.  At this point we retired for the night and I read 2001 A Space Odyssey in the tent. I was warm that night but man, the cold drained the drink out of me and a couple of times I got up and had to relieve myself. The first time it was snowing! The next time was late at night or very early in the morning and Orion and Canis Major were beautifully up in the southern sky with Jupiter near Zenith! Here are some pictures.

Here is my Pathfinder with a dusting of snow.  

My shadow (I'm bundled up pretty good) with my tent site. The dusting of snow has melted. 

Looking west from the camp site to the Sheeprock Mountains. 

Mat's van showing the dusting of snow on the front of the van. 

A closer look looking west to the Sheeprock Mountains on Friday morning. 

Looking south to south-east with a slight dusting melting off quickly. 

Above is looking west to south-west towards the Sheeprock Mountains on Friday morning. 

Looking south-west to the Sheeprocks again with clouds down low on Friday morning. 

Forest Road 006 looking north. 

 Here is Mark's trailer and my tent.  Math is beyond this behind the Pathfinder. 

Friday night Mark and Sally and Mat and I headed to the Silver Sage in Vernon so they could get something to eat.  I just got a drink and enjoyed the atmosphere.  Seems the Silver Sage hamburgers were the best to eat.  That night, the sky cleared off wonderfully and a night of observing occurred.  
The next day I drove the 4 miles from the observing site to the Vernon Reservoir to see if the bathrooms were open. They were and the reservoir was very low due to the on going drought we have here in Utah (though we sure are getting a lot of clouds and storm this year!).  

Vernon Reservoir Above

There is this wonderful open field (here looking west) at the camp site at Vernon Reservoir. Lots of people use the sites and they are first come first serve but a decent star party could be held there if enough people got out to take up the camp sites on this side of the reservoir. 

Forest Road 6 looking north as I drove back to the observing site. 

Saturday night as you can see here was clear and wonderful.  I got three sketches in and some good observing.  I was fatigued by the third night and found I couldn't observe that late into the night. By 1:30a.m. I was breaking down and loading up and getting ready to head home on Sunday morning.  On Saturday night by SQM reading at the site (average of 4 taken) was 21.69. I left the site about 9:00a.m. on Sunday and got home around 10:20a.m. I unloaded, showered and rested the rest of the day. I think next year we are planning to hold the 2nd Utah Star Party on September 26th and 27th, a Friday and Saturday, right after new moon. We may return to Vernon or we may look at going out by Notch Peak which is one of the darkest sites in Utah. The Wedge Overlook may be another area to consider due to the darkness of the site. I'd like to be near enough to Salt Lake so people will come out, but I'd like to introduce others to some other dark sites here in Utah.  Anyway, we had a great time, we got to know each other better and met new people, and saw some great sites! Not a bad 1st annual Utah Star Party. 

New Eyepiece Case

A couple of weeks ago I was in Wally World, not a place I frequent but I needed some camping supplied for the Utah Star Party and that was the closet location.  Well there I noticed they had a new Plano Pistol case with four sturdy clamps, two that lock (the front two).  It is deeper and bigger than the old Plano cases I had been using and more trusting in holding my Pentax and Televue eyepieces.  So I picked it up.  The price tag said $24.99 but it rang up for $41.99, the regular price. However since it was marked that way, they gave it to me for the $24.99 price, lucky me!  So here is a review of it before I put the eyepieces in it. 

Above you can see the case on an old observing chair that has been relegated to use with my refractor.  You can see the locking front clamps here and the nice yellow handle.

Here you can see the one of the two side clamping locks.  The upper clamp has to fit correctly, and then you can snap the bottom yellow one in place. To release you hit the yellow button, pull down and then up.  Very sturdy, very strong.

Here is the other side, the right one with the other clamp that locks securely into place.

I have undone the side locks in the above picture and am starting to undo the front ones.

Here is the case open up.  The egg carton foam is in the top and there are two layers of pluck foam. I only needed one so I have kept the other to use. 

Here you can see the two pluck foams in the above shot.

This is how I used the case now.  One pluck foam and the egg cartoon foam.  This case now holds my Pentax 20mm, 14mm, 10mm, 7mm, 5mm XW eyepieces. It also holds my 17mm and 12mm Televue Delos and my 27mm Panoptic.  Is it perfect? Probably not but it is sturdy, locks really well in place, is a good size and holds my important eyepieces. So if you want a cheaper alternative to more expensive cases check this out at your local Walmart. Warning. This will go away when hunting season ends.