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3/17/2013

Excel Spreadsheet to Record Observations/SQM L and the Waxing Moon

I like to keep notes and records of my observations.  I use to use paper to record and write down my observations.  However, as time has gone by I moved from the paper system to a digital record. I record using a digital recorder and then upload the observations to my iTunes on my computer. I then listen and would fill out the observing sheets during full moon or cloudy nights. However, I've changed. I know that Starry Night Pro and other programs allow the recording of information in their program, but I didn't want to be going back and forth. So instead I simply made up an observing record in Excel to record the various programs I am doing or have done in the past. I haven't put all of the programs on there, but there are enough to get started.  Here is what it looks like: Link  The link is to the document and I uploaded it to my SkyDrive so you can go and download it if you want. I've started entering some of my Messier objects from when I got serious in 2008 about observing them.  So let me know what you think and if you like it feel free to use it.  I find using technology a great way to aid in observing.  It allows me to record my observation, to study my object and then to sketch it.  The result is I believe I see more than someone who doesn't take the time to do something like this.

Not sure if the first link will work.  Here is the actual link and the form is public.

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=5C5457D5545A3695!108

Link 2

I recently had to get a new SQM so I ordered the SQM L which narrows the field. It came last week so last Monday I took some readings from my backyard and had the follow information:

March 11th 2013         19.77
March 12th 2013         19.81
March 17th  2013      
                 at zenith      18.81 (waxing crescent moon was out)
                 near moon   17.73

I have conditions and the Antoniadi down but I'll just share that. My backyard isn't bad for a suburban area. What was interesting to me was the full point degrade at zenith with the 6 day old waxing crescent moon at 36% illuminated.  When pointed not at the moon but in its general direction the degrade was about 2 full points on the meter.  I am going to keep this going through the waning gibbous and perhaps crescent phase just to see the impact.  I think it will be a fun little experiment to do.

Next up on the blog will be the counterweights and a few other mods on my on going dobstuff scope.

3/09/2013

Red Dog Down

Last Monday here in northern Utah was beautiful! The transparency was just incredible. My friend Mat had sent out an email that he was heading out and I had every intention to join him. I had to finish a paper for a class and I did that and prep for the next day of teaching when BAM, it hit.  I have Celiac disease and I had one of my students break my classroom rule of no food (I have another student that suffers from life threatening food allergies) and as a result, I got very, very sick.  To make a long and unpleasant evening short, I'll say that after the first hour and a half, my body was worn out and as the intestinal issues reside, the joint cramps and foggy thinking (see, I have a reason I can blame for foggy thinking besides age!) settled in, so did the severe fatigue. So at around 10:20 as I was settling into bed, the phone rang. On the other end was another good friend who had tried to meet Mat but felt it was too muddy and went out to the Pit.  The main dirt road to the Pit was good, but the side dirt road as full of deep ruts causes by trucks or ATV's that had been out in the area.  One set of ruts was deep, ice covered and on the way in, our friend was okay but on the way out, the ice broke and his two rear tires were mired and stuck in the mud.  I let him know I would be coming out and got my son who is almost 19 to go with me.

We loaded up some essentials in the back of the Pathfinder, a regular shovel, my small shovel, kitty litter, some wood and carpet. One always should have some spare carpet around when going to areas  that are wet as it makes a good gripping source for tires.  The one thing missing was a tow cable as I couldn't find mine.

On the drive out, it was great to spend time with Nathan. For those who don't know Nathan is leaving on March 20th for 2 years to be in Italy. During this time we won't see him and we'll have email weekly and talk to him several times a year but his focus will be on what he is doing over there. So I am trying to soak up as much time with him as possible.  One of the things Nathan and I did when he was younger on long driving trips was to pretend the car was a plane and I was the pilot (driver) and he was the co-pilot. To keep him occupied I came up with pretend tasks for him to do.  Yeah, admit it, if your a Dad, I sure hope you did something similar with your boy(s) because its something my Dad did with me and that I passed on to my son. So this night was we were driving Nathan and I talked about how the black Pathfinder could be a B2 and we were heading into enemy territory. Why? Because Red Dog 3 as we called our stuck friend was down.

I asked Nathan if I should stop and check if Mat was there, and Nathan felt we should go directly to Red Dog 3.  I didn't so I pulled over at Five Mile Pass where the dirt road ran south to where Mat and I now observe in the winter.  I started honking the horn because I was tired and poor Mat. He heard the horn, saw the lights and thought I'm sure what Wazoo is coming down the road drunk on a Monday night at just after 11:30pm or so.  Well, it was me and luckily Mat had just finished packing up, and he had a tow cable with him. We then went together, Red Dog 1 and 2 to the Pit n Pole.

At the Pit, I stopped where we turn off the main dirt road and walked down to where Red Dog 3 was. Mat followed me and we saw that the road wasn't that muddy, but just had water filled ruts.  I pulled the Pathfinder up to Red Dog 3's car and we hooked up the Pathfinder and I tried pulling him out. Nothing but a smell of a burning clutch. We stopped, and Red Dog 3 and Mat dug the mud out in front of the tires, we put the 2x4 under one tire and the carpet under the tires and then I went back and started to pull him out. Slowly, ever so slowly Red Dog 3's car pulled forward and cleared the rut filled mud and water and became free.

The ride home was uneventful except for the conversation between a son and his Dad. It was enjoyable. While out I noticed how beautiful the open sky was out there and loved viewing the stars and constellations open eye. I also realized how much the weather this year has robbed me of viewing so many winter objects. The moral here I guess is to be very careful when using a car in the desert in winter with melting snow and ruts. But if you are stuck, to call those who will help you out without hesitation and to me, the fact that Red Dog 3 knew they could call and I would come out made me feel very comfortable inside.  The fact that Mat was equally willing without hesitation to do the same speaks to his quality (and I already have a very high opinion of Mat as he is one of the highest quality people I know). Its that bonding and friendship that makes those who share this hobby a unique and wonderful class of people. Luckily, the Celiac issue had run its course.  Bed time now became about 1:30a.m.  As I came to bed after getting back my wife Lynda stated, "Too bad you were sick because this is just like you had gone observing"

3/03/2013

Friday March 1st, 2013; A Humid Experience

How often I read of people back east wishing for the dryness of the west! Well let me tell you, that dryness isn't always here. On Friday, my friend Mat and I took our 16" (Mat's) and 14" (mine) dobs out to the West Desert by Five Mile Pass for what we hoped would be three to four hours of good observing. The skies were clear, some clouds but there was still plenty of snow on the ground. That snow on the ground would prove to be our undoing this time.

We were not going to the Pit n Pole this time. Instead we went south of the Five Mile Pass. If you look on My Google Astronomy Map you can find Five Mile Pass Site 1 South and see where we were. The site was somewhat muddy from the snow melt but we set up where it was dry.  During set up Mat saw a Sun pillar and I was able to capture several shots of it. Here they are. The white line up against the mountains in the west is a ground fog that is already starting to form.






 Well, set up went real well and after I collimated I realized that I hadn't put the strings on so I attached the strings, re-collimated and was ready to align and go for a good night of observing. I had deployed all of my dew strips because the dew was starting to form.  However, this night my 9x50 RACI finder was not aligning.  I took it on and off several times trying to adjust it and then Mat looked and noticed that the dovetail wasn't aligned. That helped but I still was a degree or two off and it was very frustrating.  I finally decided to accept this and if needed to use the Telrad and the eyepiece as my finder.  My first object was an item that I put down about a year ago as NGC 1587 which I can say now isn't. My sketch below reflects NGC 1587 and NGC 1588 which was a pretty easy star hop this night. It showed up in my ES 20mm 68 degree eyepiece and magnified in my 10mm Pentax XW.  Here are my sketches of these two galaxies in Taurus.  NGC 1587 is a bright compact galaxy that at first looked round by was elongated SW to NE.  The galaxy has a very bright core.  Above it in this sketch is NGC 1588. Antoniadi III, Mag. 12.1; Size: 1.7' x 1.5'; 14" Dob, 20mm ES 68 as finder; 10mm Pentax XW as sketching eyepiece.





My next object was also a rather easy star hop.  NGC 1514 a PN in Taurus. Mag. 10.9; Size: 2.3' x 2.0'; 8:40pm MDT/02:40 UT; 14" Dob; 20mm ES 68 degree finder EP; 10mm Pentax XW sketching EP; OIII Filter, Orion Ultrablock; Antoniadi III.



After this we took a break to eat and I found out I had brought my hot chocolate but had left my meal at home. Then as conditions continued to degrade we both decided to go after eye candy. Looking up Leo was up so I went after the Leo Triplet. I switched out eyepieces at this time as I had left the Panoptic 27mm in without the dew strap to it and it was frosted over. So I took it out and put in the 24mm Explore Scientific 82 degree, putting the dew strip around it. The 24mm showed the M65, M64 and NGC 3628 in a wonderful field of view.  Structure was evident somewhat and it was nice to see this old friends again. From here I went over and observed NGC 3593 which was quite bright and showed a nice elongated core and a sharp nucleus.  I then went over to M105, NGC 3384 and NGC 3412.

M105 showed its bright core and was slightly elongated.  NGC 3384 is bright with a stellar nucleus and elongated NW to SE.  NGC 3412 was bright, elongated with a very bright core that holds a bright stellar core.

Next I went to M95 and M96 which showed their roundish shapes with bright cores.  A nice view but I have seen them better.  After this I visited M42 again (had seen it earlier that night) and then went over to Jupiter. After this I began packing up as everything was dewy and frosted over.

So from this trip I learned that I really need the snow to melt and the ground to dry a little in order to reduce the humidity in the desert under the dark skies that the desert offers.  Any night is better than no night but I just want a really decent night to observe. A storm is coming in on Thursday and not leaving til Saturday night so I doubt there will be a good night to observe under new moon again this month.  That is the other thing I wish. I did some checking and confirmed that when new moon is more in the mid to mid/late part of the month the weather is better.  Oh well, it is what it is. Good luck in observing. I'll be posting on Wednesday a copy of my observing tracker for my observations.