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.


Mike Clement: Mr. Seventy (his 70 inch Reflector is fully operational).

I feel like I am sharing the news about the completion of the Death Star, but Mike Clements, Mr. Seventy has his 70 inch reflector up and fully operational!

This last weekend we had a blast at the Utah Star Party but that will be for another post. Mike Clements came out on Saturday and invited us to come out on Sunday night to view through his functioning 70inch Reflector that is out on Steve Dodd's property (of Nova Optical).  Well Sunday came and after returning home, that afternoon I got very sick and could not go out. My friend Mat took his family out there and he told me that the view of M31 and M17 were mind blowing, incredible and just WOW!  I am hoping to get out a take a look myself and take some pictures. Mike said that the bottom carriage is a green color now that he painted it.  I can't wait to see this but yes, Mike Clement is now known as Mr. Seventy.  It is a fully visual scope wow!