Bye Bye Old Card Folding Table Hello It's Replacment

Today is my birthday so as we were out and about, my wife and I were looking at some beach chairs to take  on our trip to California in June to the beach to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  Well at Sam's club after the chairs were loaded I noticed a folding Sport's Even Table/Lawn Furniture.  I have wanted to replace the old green card table I've been using in the field for something more compact to save on space while loading. Doh! I had never considered a folding Sport Event Table. Here is the label.  What I really like about it is that it folds up and goes into a bag like a folding chair you sit on while camping or at a sports event.

Below you can see it on the green folding table (forgive my garage. It was clean until we have to move my mother-in-law to long term care recently. Now we have her hospital bed and other items in garage until we have a garage sale come May or June).  Here I have pulled the table and the bag out about half way.

In this image you can see the folding table is out of the bag, the bad is in the background and I am ready to unfold the table. The yellow stickers tell you which leg to pull out first, and then second. It will go back in the opposite of who it folds out.

Here you can see the table folded out, one set of legs first which are the ones on the right, the left ones folded out second.  The legs snap into place with a metal push button that you can see below.

Below you can see the close up of a couple of features I feel I can use. The cup holders will of course, hold a cup or a water bottle, but I have cup holders that are solid and fit perfectly into these. I can then use them to put the three or four eyepieces I am using until I need them.  I like that notion.  I also LOVE that the table has pockets on the side.  Notice the large zipper pocket. Can I say sketching materials storage! I can place my zip lock bags that hold my pastel chalks, the bag that holds my white pencils and pens and eraser and other items, and my brushes.  I can't wait! The other I can use to store an extra red flashlight or other materials I use frequently.  This means keeping the table top clear of all these items.

 In this next picture you can get a feel for how high this table is. It is about a 1/2 inch shorter than my old folding green card table.  The actual measurements for this table when opened is 42.4"L x 27.4"W x 27.4"H.

Here you can see the top of the table here, folded out and the main area you can use for putting stuff on it.  I think it is longer than my card table but maybe just a tad not as wide.

In this shot you can see that I have put out my Sky Atlas 2000.00 and fully opened it.  It fits easily on the table though I have it sitting off of it.

 Here I have folded the Sky Atlas 2000 in half and laid it on the table. Now it REALLY fits perfectly!  Since I use printed charts from my Megastar or Starry Night Pro and I place them in clear sheet protectors and then in a binder, my binder will open up just great on this table! I am very excited with this. Now some may ask what about sketching. I never sketch on my table. I have an artist clipboard I use at the eyepiece.  I will store items though on the table though.

Here is the Sky Atlas on the table so you can see how it fits.

One more shot of the atlas on the table from a little higher up.

Here you can see where the table folds down and locks on a push button.  It locks the table in place and when ready to take the table down, you push the buttons in and push down, starting on the first side, then the second side until the table is folded.  Works like a charm!

Here is a better view of the side pockets.  The center on will zip up while the other two just hold whatever you want to put in them.

Here I have released this pin/button by pushing it in and moving the leg down. Notice that the pin/button now sticks out pretty good.

Here you can see me folding up the chair.  It folds together easily.

It took me about 5 minutes today to get the table in the bag. I am sure as I get more comfortable it will go faster.

Now that its back in the bag, with its shoulder strap, I put it where I can get it when I get to go observing next if the weather improves for new moon. Total cost at Sam's Club was $29.95 at Sam's Club.  I am VERY excited about the space savings of this table over the other tables I have used.  A bonus is since its made of durable fabric top dew shouldn't be an issue as it has been on the card table.  So if your looking for a rather inexpensive table that folds up to save storage in the car, check out this folding table that I found at Sam's Club. The table comes in blue or red. I choose red, I just liked it better.


Excel Observing Log Book

Well, I got out with my friend Mat one night and the forecast didn't call for clouds until around 12:00a.m. Sure enough, at 10:30a.m. the clouds arrived.  Oh well, perhaps a new moon in the future will be good. I do have a theory that with the new moon phase moving to the first part of the month it seems to hit a pattern where in Utah we get more storms during that cycle so that means less observing. That and its been a rough year. I'll be glad to see the summer high pressure move in and block all the storms soon.

I have also spent time developing an Observing Log using Excel for the observing programs I've done and am doing. I haven't finished putting it together but thought I would post it for those who would like to use it.  So here is the link so my Google Docs so you can get it.  Hope it helps someone.  I use a digital recorder with a laminated 3x5 card with the key information I want recorded from the observation. I have most of it memorized but still look at the card from time to time to ensure I capture everything. Here is some of the key parts I try to record:  I tried to send a photo of the card but it didn't come through.  So here is the info so I know I covered the information on my digital recorder and I add it later. I also tend to write some of this on the back of the objects I sketch so I have it there also.

Date:    Time:     Activity/Program:     Location:   Conditions (Time, Temp. Humidity, Cloud Cover):    Antoniadi Scale:     Limiting Visual Magnitude or SQM Reading:         Constellation:       R.A.       Dec.    DSO Type:            Visual Magnitude:               Size:                   Filter:                     Instrument/Scope:         Eyepiece(s):                                Observing Notes:

I record this information into my digital recorder.  Some items if your new that you may want to focus on are depending on DSO type of object are:

Open Cluster: What is its shape? Is there more star concentration in a specific part of the cluster? Is it fully resolved into its component stars, or are there any unresolved stars causing the cluster to appear nebulous? How many stars can you see (only if reasonable to count them)? Are there any bright stars within the cluster? What is your estimated size of the cluster (based on the field of view of your particular eyepieces)? Is there a variety of colors seen in the stars of the cluster?

Globular Cluster: What is the degree of the cluster star concentration ie the number of stars visible in the glob (high, medium, low)? How many of the stars can be resolved in its component stars (none, outer edges, middle, down to the core)? What is your estimated size of the cluster (based on the field of view of your particular eyepieces)?

Galaxy: What is the shape of the galaxy? Does it have a bright nucleus (the area around the core)? Does the galaxy have the same brightness (uniform) across it? Is the core diffused (looks like a nebula) or is it stellar (like a star)?  Can any details like spiral structure, arms, dust lanes or mottling be observed? Can these items  be seen with direct vision or is averted vision required? Are parts seen with direct vision and other parts only seen with averted vision (looking just off the object to see more)?

Emission or Reflection Nebula: What is the shape of the nebula? Is the brightness of the nebula even or are there brighter/darker areas? Are the edges of the nebula well defined (sharp edges) or are they faded? Are there any stars within the nebula?

Planetary Nebula: What is the shape of the nebula? Is color visible? Is it stellar (star like)  in appearance or can a disk be seen? Are the edges well defined or diffuse? Are there any brighter/darker areas? Can a central star be seen?

One you are done with the Messier Catalogue and well into the Herschel 400, the New General Catalog items or NGC or several other lists, you will reach a point where the vast majority of the objects you view will be near to or at the limit of your telescopes light grasp ability. At this point most deep sky objects begin to look like they have poor detail and are just a faint fuzzy.  At this point don't quite recording, press forward, use all the skill you have developed and you'll pull detail out of even the most faintest objects, or you should be able to. That is the challenge of this hobby and for me, makes it so enjoyable.

If after looking at the Google Docs you would like me to email you the actual Excel file just email me at Jay dot Eads at Yahoo dot com and I'll email you a copy.  I only check that email a couple of times a week so please be patient.  That and I have had health issues the last two weeks (better now) and am in the middle of finals until next Tuesday.


Observing April 3rd, 2013, Forest Road 006 Site 1 Owl's Roost

Well, after a fun weekend where I stayed overnight in the hospital, to find out I have an issue with a symptom called Floppy Eye Syndrome and luckily not a stroke or MS (that scared me when they thought I might have the beginnings of MS) I thought I would focus on my observing session from April 3rd, 2013 out at Forest Road 006 site 1.  Now for those who know of my family the floppy eye syndrome is not a big thing, some drops in the eye at night are fixing that and losing more weight will help also.

So on the afternoon of April 3rd, 2013, I loaded up with what was suppose to be clear skies but in reality were partly cloudy skies learning towards cloudy.  All weather reports showed that it would be clear that night.  My friends Jeff, Mat, Alan and Jorge were going to be coming out as was a friend of Jeff's named Nate.  As I drove out toward the desert locations, the one location we thought we'd go for was overcast and raining. Yes, Five Mile Pass at that point just didn't cut it.  So I proceeded to go to see what the area of Pit n Pole was like and if necessary, go to a site south of that site.  However there was a large thunderstorm over that area as I got out so I looked south toward the Forest Road area and saw it was sunny, clear with just a hint of cirrius clouds over the Sheeprock Mountains. I talked with Jeff on the phone and decided that for me, I would go to the Forest Road.

As I arrived out at the Forest Land I found a nice green grass area and good skies so I confirmed that for me, I had made the right choice. It was why I had left a little earlier that day so I would have this option. I took pictures that I'll share that wll show the beauty and the sky conditions at the time.

Looking south to south-west:

Looking east to north-east

Looking west at the Sheeprock Mountains.

Looking west again toward the Sheeprock Mountains.

Looking east to south-east.

Zoom of the Sheeprock Mountains to the West.

Looking west again with a zoom of the Sheeprock Mountains.

Observing area looking south. Nice green grass for spring, it will turn brown by June.

I took SQM data at this site twice during the night and I'll share the last reading I took. Time is approximate.

Location FR006 Site 1 Owl Roost 
Date: April 4th, 2013. 
Time: 1:40a.m. MDT 
Conditions: Clear, cold. 
Temperature: 41 degrees F 
Humidity: 21%
SQM Readings: 
Zenith: 1. 21.69 2. 21.74 3. 21.77
Polaris: 1. 21.51 2.21.55 3. 21.54 (Polaris is impacted by the Tooele Army Weapon Depot LP)
Southern Sky: 1. 21.68 2. 21.70 3. 21.69

The highest reading for that night was 21.77 and using Don Pensak's formula of NELM = [(SQM-8.89)/2] + 0.5 so the NELM reading off the formula would be around 6.94 and I was seeing stars at mag. 7.0to 7.2  so via charts so this was pretty close. One thing it does show is the impact of light pollution on various parts of the sky.  The light domes from Salt Lake City and Tooele do have an impact on the amount of light. Conditions this night also made the sky brighter I believe as there was moisture in the air and that moisture enhanced the brightness of the sky.  I know I've had darker readings at this site and it will be fun to document it online now. 

That night I figured out one thing that I had struggled with with my DobStuff, well a couple of things. First, the glassboard and the teflon pads on the azmuith bearing needed some tweaking. So I made the teflon circles that Dennis had put on smaller, and then applied a coat of Sailkoat spray to the glassboard and that made an ENORMOUS difference! Now instead of sticking when it had been stationary, the asmuith motions are now so buttery smooth that it works wonders.  I have also applied the Sailkoat to the altitude bearings and they work even better now.  

The other item was the RACI finder.  Dennis had taken the dovetail, attached it to a wooden ring to go around strut via a bolt. The issue is the bolt doesn't stop the dovetail from moving. So instead of trying to adjust the finder using the two knobs, I found that if I move the finder, I am close to the object and then can use the tw knobs to align the finder with the eyepiece and Telrad.  Then I just have to make sure not to bump the finder during the night but I never lost alignment and it helped me.  Now to figure out how to secure the dovetail so it doesn't move and I have an idea for that.  More on that later after I try it. 

So this night everything was working perfectly and for me, the use of what I still consider a new scope since I have only had it out to a dark site four or five times.  This night I spent time on some of the Heschel 400 II, then I went into Virgo using the 30mm ES 82 degree EP and had a light bulb experience. I found as I will soon see that many of the Herschel 400 II are faint galaxies and many, not all, but many lack structure that is observable in a 14 inch Zambuto mirror.  Using the 30mm ES 82 in Virgo I had the idea of perhaps not sketching all the H400 II (I have now sketched each object in the H400 and this summer will try to put that together on line). but only those that I see structure in or that I feel make me want to sketch the object. Then to liven it up as I have stated I'll use Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders book or objects that I just want to sketch.  Either next week or in May I will return to sketch multiple galaxies in Virgo in the same field of view. So yes, this was for me an excellent night. I got 10 H400 II items, and then revisited 18 other old friends, sketching some of them and enjoyed my night.  Here are my sketches, my notes are under the sketch and the DSS image for each object. 

DSS Image:

1. Here is NGC 4045 a Spiral Galaxy in Virgo; Mag. 11.9; Size: 2.7'x1.9'; Antoniadi II; FR006 Site 1; 14" Dobstuff with Zambuto.  10mm Pentax XW;  Description: This is a small galaxy, with a lot of diffused adn is elongated W to E. No real structure is evident.  The galaxy has a nice stellar core and it sits under an asterism that reminded me a the boot like in Italy so I called this Nathan's Galaxy since my son Nathan is in Italy for the next two years.

Here is the DSS image:

2. NGC 3162 Spiral Galaxy in Leo.  FR006 Site 1: Antoniadi II; Mag. 13.0; 14" Dobstuff with Zambuto and 10mm Pentax XW.  Notes: Sits above 2 bright stars and at first is very diffused and like other Herschel 400 II just a faint fuzz ball.  Then I kept looking and my observing eye noticed contrast on the object (Thank You Carl!) and in that contrast I detected what I thought was an arm, and yes, it was an arm! I looks to me that it started in the western portion and wrapped around to the south then south east. I also felt I could detect where on the east side an arm wrapped around to the north.  By far this observation and sketch and then follow up confirmed to me that despite the weather not being friendly for the last six months, I hadn't lost my observing skill.

3. NGC 4073 Galaxy in Virgo.  Ma. 11.2; FR006 Site 1: Antonaidi II; 14" Dobstuff with Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW; Notes: Yet another real gaint galaxy that has a hint of a stellar core.  No structure. I did not detect but I did not look for the other galaxies in the DSS image.

4. NGC 3177 Spiral Galaxy in Leo;  FR 006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; Size: 1.4' x 1.2'; Mag. 12.3; 14" Dobstuuf with Zambuto; Notes:  Smal galaxy, bright stellar core, diffused around small bright core. No structure evident.

 5. NGC 3301 Spiral Galaxy in Leo;  FR 006 Site 1; Antoniadi II;  Size: 3.5' x 1.0'; Mag. 11.5; 14" Dobstuff with Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW;  Notes: Very elongated galaxy SW to NE.  Very bright stellar core with a small and bright stellar nucleus.  On the north side there is a nice isosceles triangle.  If conditions how allowed I would have brought more magnification on this object.

6. Messier 101 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major;  Mag. 7.5; Size: 28.8' x 26.9'; 14" Dobstuff Dob; 10mm & 14mm Pentax XW (Paracorr); 20mm ES 68 degree;  Notes: Very bright core easily seen, faint, spread out with low surface brightness but with patience and time was able to detect the spiral arms and several of the brighter NGC regions. Overall a nice view.

7. Messier 51 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major; Mag 8.5; Size 11' x 7.8'; 4/4/2013; FR 006 Site 1; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW & 14mm Pentax XW (Paracorr);  Notes: Very bright inner core, arm structure easily seen with two distinct arms with darkness between them. On arm bends around and reaches out to NGC 5195.

8. Messier 82 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major; Mag. 8.9; Size: 11' x 4.6'; April 4th, 2013; FR 006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto mirror; 7mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Notes: Very bright core, irregular in shape, dark dust lane cut through the axis at different angles.  Mottling evident. Wonderful view.

9. Messier 64 The Black Eye Galaxy a spiral galaxy in Coma Berenices; Mag. 8.4; Size: 10' x 5.4''; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW; FR006 Site 1; Very bright very large oval galaxy. Small bright care and a nucleus that is stellar.  Dark eye patch is easily seen and NE of the core.

10. MEssier 104 Sombrero Galaxy; Mag. 7.9; Size: 8.7' x 3.5'; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW; 4/3/2012;  Notes; Very bright, very long and the galaxy is divided by a dark dust lane.  Core is bright.  Decent sketch of this object. I'll have to compare it to the one I did a year ago.  Still not perfect.  

So one other thing I wanted to review is how to get ready and then to hold an observing session. Here are some hints that might help. 

1. Plan what you are going to observed. Make a list of 20 to 30 items, less if you sketch that you want to really observe.  An alternative is to pick a constellation in the sky that is up and work the Deep Sky Ojbects in that constellation.  Review where they are on a computer program or atlas so you know kinda of where you hopping to.  My friend Jeff had a wonderful idea to use tabs in the Sky Atlas (or you can do the same in the Sky Atlas 2000) so you know which constellation your working or which ones for that night. You could mark each constellation as well.  

2. Always try to use a red light that is dim. A variable light helps as well.  There is a wonderful post that I took from CloudyNights over on the Astronomy in Utah forums under equipment or ATMing that shows how to modify a head lamp to make the light really dim. 

3.  Wear sunglasses the day you are going to observe and minimize exposure to bright sunlight. The bright sunlight can make it harder to dark adapt and make your eyes tired at night leading to fatigue. 

4. When observing deep sky objects use high magnification after finding it. Study the object at various powers reveals details that are often overlooked by someone using the same power all the time.  You discover new details at different magnification and bringing power to an object helps you to discern this. It's one of the ways that really experience observers maximize what details they detect over more casual observers. Don't rush your list, take your time to see the object and I advise sketching the object.  Use a digital recorder to record your observations and then put them into a log. I'll be posting an Excel Log this week that can be used to enter your observations from your recorder into the Excel sheet. 

5. Be comfortable. Use a chair to observe with if at all possible or take a break after 45 minutes.  Drink water, lots of water to keep yourself hydrated even in the cool or cold of the night. The body needs the hydration to keep your body and your eyes functioning properly. A snack later in the night can help also, something that is light but will provide a boost to you without falling off from eating something high in sugar. Fruit I have found is good. 

6. Keep an equipment log. If something doesn't work right, keep a log so on a cloudy day or at an ATM session you have something to work on. Perhaps you notice an eyepiece or filter needs to be cleaned or the primary does. I keep noticing I need to put on my new secondary and watch the motions on my new dob to get them where I want them. 

So I hope this helps.