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7/29/2015

Perfect Time of the Year to Observe "Methuselah star" or HD 140283 / HIP 76976


     Last September, Phil Pliat over at the Bad Astronomer had a good article on the newest oldest star to be given the oldest title or "The Methuselah Star."  Here is a LINK to his incredible explanation of the star, far better then the wack job I am going to put together here.  I will provide several links so you can learn more about this star.

      This truly isn't anything new, James Kaler in his book, Extreme Stars at the Edge of Creation covers this star on page 208 of his book. The book originally came out in the year 2001, reprinted in 2002 and the first paperback edition was released in 2010.  So this star has been known about for around the last 14 to 15 years if not longer. A paper LINK was released about it though I believe in 2014. For a really in depth explanation of the star and why it is so old, please read Phil Pliat's article above. To summarize Dr. Kaler he simply explains that this is a binocular object, so binoculars and telescopes can easily capture it.  Dr. Kaler also explains that the iron content of this star is less than most globular clusters which are naturally metal poor (metal poor being elements higher than helium). Most globular clusters are very old, so old that most if not all O B stars are no longer seen there. In addition, the metal content of those stars in globular clusters are not as enriched in heavy metals as are stars that formed later in the disk of the galaxy. We know the globular clusters are also old because the exist in the halo of the galaxy, and that the halo was formed before the disks were formed.  We know that based on the spectra of the stars in those locations and the degrees of metals heavier than helium found there, which is metal and iron poor since those metal poor stars in the globular clusters. Stars in the disk of the galaxy have far more metals in them above helium than those in the halo of the galaxy.

      HD 140283 thus is poor in metals and iron, making it via spectra one of the oldest stars known. How old? The universe is 13.82 billion years and the age of HD140283 is estimated to be 14.3 by (older than the universe so not right) but with a +/-.8 by.  So best guess is that HD 140283 is about 13.5 billion years old. Dr. James Kaler to quote him states "When you look at the darkened sky, you are looking at one of the oldest single stars in the Galaxy and are looking back to a time shortly after the Galaxy began!" It is also cool as Phil Pliat points out that we are capable of understanding the galaxy and universe around us via science.  So if sometime in the next month you are out in the backyard, or at a dark site, point your scope for a minute to Libra and go to HD 140283 and look at the star and contemplate how old it is. 13.5 billion years, the beginning of our galaxy! That is indeed worthy of a few minutes of your time to look at this object in my opinion! I'll be doing it.

Here are some additional links for this object and a finder chart for it that I created. The hop starts with Beta Libra or Zubeneschamali and you can follow the arrows to HD 140283. The linkes and chart should make this an interesting object to take a look at if you haven't already. Good hunting!

Sky-Map.org Info and Star Chart

NASA March 7th, 2013 Article 

Space.com March 7th Article 

January 10th, 2013 Nature Article (Great Piece!)









7/28/2015

Bias, Sky Safari 4 and A Visual Observer's Review



     Bias. Everyone has bias' and the key to having them is to admitting them upfront to others and being as honest as we can about it. In this hobby I see a LOT of bias, bias toward eyepiece or telescope brands, bias toward equipment used, bias to the purpose of an astronomy club, bias to programs used in the hobby.  Even I have bias' and I openly admit them. I am bias in what I think of outreach. I do outreach from time to time, and I show objects and let people view them and tell them about them. To me though, true outreach is teaching people how to use an atlas, to manipulate a telescope to find an object and then to see it in the eyepiece. THAT is how you grow this hobby, doing things like that. So yes, I have a bias, a huge bias on that and I will never lose that bias. I have a bias towards telescopes. I love my Dobstuff telescopes and will put them up to any premium telescope out there. Yes, I do some extra work on my scopes each season to get them where I want to be for the conditions of that season (I have four seasons here in Utah, each with their own requirement on my equipment) but I am content.  I own a 24" so called premium scope that I also enjoy and is also fantastic. Sure cost me a LOT more.  So yeah, my bias has been and is that you can get into this hobby and use decent to premium equipment and find enjoyment, fulfillment and excitement IF your USING what you have and own on a regular basis.  I would take someone's opinion and recommendation on objects who are observing with a 12" Zhumell dob observing 2 to 5 times a month, and really observing over someone with a Teeter, or StarStructure, Obsession, Dobstuff etc. dob who only really observe deep once every few months and the rest of the time look at the eye candy objects of that season. Nothing is wrong with either, but if I am wanting someone to confirm what I am seeing, I want that observer who is practicing on a regular basis to confirm.

     I have software bias' also.  I use to love using Starry Night Pro 6 to print and track my observations.  I tried Starry Night Pro 7 and as I have stated here, it was such a major disappointment that I began looking for alternatives. If found it in Sky Tools 3 and LOVE that program! In this case one bias, and a building of disappointments led me to a new bias and a new piece of software that I use weekly and enjoy to the max.!

     There are other bias' that I have, because like you, I am a complex and dynamic individual whose past life and current life experience have forged me to be who I am right now. Perhaps the last bias I will mention is on the use of technology versus paper. I will state up front I LOVE technology. As a professional educator I have used and use technology to teach and to get students to inquiry and discover how to use technology to learn and show how they have learned. That is my career right now. to help other educators to do that. Having said that, I LOVE books, I love paper that you read. My father, rest his soul, gave to each of his children a vast love of books and reading. That has stuck with me all my life and is a bias. I read electronically (books, magazines, articles) but if I really want to get my teeth into something, I get a printed copy.  So in the hobby of astronomy, I have used and own a variety of atlases to help me star hop on my telescopes. It is why I have Sky Tools 3 (one reason) to print off star charts or use a laptop to show me how to hop to an object in the field. I have taken that experience now, and translated it to my observing in another way.

     Sky Safari 4 is a program I own both for my Apple devices, and for my Android Nexus and HTC phone I have. Sky Safari is owned by Simulation Curriculum, the same company now that owns Starry Night.  That worries me because of the mess of Starry Night Pro that I went through.  However, I have to say that for now I am quite happy with Sky Safari 4 and using it in the backyard when I observe there. I have yet to muster the courage to use it when observing deep sky in the field. I still have either my charts or Sky Tools 3 on my protected laptop though I admit, you'll find me with a printed chart in a binder probably ninety-percent of the time. I may take the leap this next trip out in August if weather permits for trip.

     So in this review of Sky Safari 4 and the screen shots I took of the program on my iPod Mini, I am stating up front I am not going to cover ALL the features of this program. I am at current, a visual observer only and thus I am going to cover the parts of the program that I feel touch on visual observing. If your an imager or looking to use the program to control your telescope, I apologize, I won't be covering those aspects and several other.

     


   I'll begin above with a view of the Help Screen. The help screen is accessed on the menu bar which is located at the bottom of the screen. I have turned my iPad mini so that I have more of a horizontal view to the screen, rather then the vertical view.  Once in the help menu you can cover a wide amount of material from Sky Chart Help, to Search Help, to Observing Lists Help etc. You can see in the image what is available. Why start with help? As someone who teaches adults how to use technology, one of the most often looked over parts of any software is the help menu. I would estimate that 70% or more of most issues that arise in a software, are answered in the help. So don't be afraid to use the help! This is also where you can see the version which on my iPad Mini is Version 4.4.1.98.




The next area I want to touch from the menu, is the search function, all the way on the left part of my screen on the bottom. Here you can look for objects and it narrows it down to Tonight's Best, a great function for an unplanned observing night in the backyard or in the field! I love this feature because it allows someone like me, who plans out each observing night, the chance to be spontaneous and to just go for a fun evening! You can search by category or by subject, like Messier, Deep Sky, Double Stars or Variable Stars etc.  A fun way to both plan a night or be spontaneous as I said and just go have a fun night!



This is a sample of tonight's best which I took on July 27th, 2015 from my home location. Here you can see the object, and you can click on it and gather information about it.  In the left hand bottom you can click Center which will then center Sky Safari 4 on the object. Objects in white bold are available to view currently, and the objects that are grey and not in bold are not observable at this time.


Above is the settings menu where you can go in and adjust your formats for date and time, chagne the appearance, put in a horizon or remove it, and go through the objects listed to have the program put out on the screen the objects you've selected for display.  In the Constellation you can pick a modern view or a traditional Ray's view or put the classic art on them.  It is here you add your equipment as well.  There is much in the menu part of the program to play with, to adjust and ensure that the program works as you want it to.  In Display you are able to control the brightness of the screen, both in normal and in red light. Even at its dimmest settings you may want to consider putting some red barrier over it to dim it a little more as I feel it is still light enough to impact night vision.



To give an example here you can see the Blinking Planetary Nebula in Cygnus in normal mode. You can also see the menu at the bottom of the screen and the subjects covered there. If you are connected, the Sky & Telescope Feature is most helpful, but in the field I would lose that.  Help is to the far right and then comes the moon or Night which turns on the red screen, then compass which allows you when on and connected to the internet to point the iPad or your device to the sky and have it reflected in the screen. Turn off compass for manual manipulation of the screen.   Orbit puts in orbit around the earth with no horizon.  Scope connects your device to your scope for control purposes. Time lets you select now, a month or week or day from now etc. Settings I covered above and Center allows you to center an object you have selected by tapping your finger on it. Here is a negative for me. I have short, fat fingers and it is hard for me to use my finger to "tap" on a target. I have a stylus that works just fine though but it means taking it in the field and not losing it there.  A small negative! Info I will cover shortly and then the search.  On the far left and right are a - on the left and a + on the right. This allows you to zoon in or out.



Here you can see the same screen as the image right above, but with it now in the red light.  This is around 50% brightness.  I will be going back on objects to normal and red view so you can see the differences.




Above is the finder chart I would use for this night for going after the Blinking Planetary Nebula. Then as I approached I would zoom in with my fingers on my device until I had the previous two images and then hop to the object.  This feature is fantastic for star hopping and using visually.



Above you can see a rather large field of view of the Milky Way and of Scorpius and Sagittarius. I have it set up to show the planets and you can see the location of Pluto here as well as the major stars. This is a major benefit as a planisphere is no longer needed, and you can now use your device to learn the constellations and the stars in the constellations if your so inclined. If not, you can now figure out right in the backyard or field how to star hop to an object and zoom in on it. Cool!




Here I have zoomed into Scorpius and you can see Antares and M4 off to the left, and other stars and objects here. I love the convenience of zooming in and out and then really getting into the objects you want to see. There is more than just the eye candy here, and you really can get down to some faint objects. However, there are limits and still, there are objects like Sharpless 2-091 (see below) that just are not going to show up in this program. Ablerio and it's companion show up nicely, but go up to 9 Cygni and no SNR will be visible.






This is a closer zoom in view of Hercules and specifically I am going after M13 here. This also shows something I need to go in and figure out how to work with or eliminate and that is I had tapped on the screen and captured a star, TYC etc. instead of M13.  No biggie as I will take my two fingers and just zoom in.



Bam! As I zoomed in I can see M13 coming into view at about 33% of brightness.


A few more zooms and I am there, M13 starring right back at me! I can see this as a great way to show someone what it is your going after, and as I will show, share some information about the object and then have them actually look at the object in the eyepiece. It is a great way if possible to share information at a star party while people are waiting at the eyepiece. Again, the more we can get them to discover and learn, the better off they are and the more excited they become!





The two images above show what happens when on a object and hitting the info button on the menu for that object. You get more data than you probably want about that object. However, if your smart, you'll take a note or two on the most important elements and share them with others and yourself. There are a couple of apps that would allow you to capture the key information and put it down if your want to do that. Again, a TON of information is located here. This is an excellent feature of the software.




 Having said that, the Veiil Nebula shows up nicely in the progam and can be useful when trying to observe some of the fainter portions of this wonderful SNR.







One last hop. We zoom in on Cygnus and from Deneb hop down to Sadr.  From here we can zoon in and see the star hop to a wonderful object, the Crescent Nebula, NGC 6888, an emission nebula coming from stellar winds from Wolf Rayet Star 136.







So there. I said I wouldn't be covering all the features and I haven't. I have shared enough of the program though to get my mind thinking and I know that this is a wonderful tool to supplement (okay, I can say it, maybe, re p  NO, yes I can repl, no! replace, there I said it) an atlas IF your going for the eye candy to the medium faint objects.  There is enough here to keep you busy if you have a 10" or larger scope for a very LONG time. I love its potential to be used at Outreach because even though some of us love to remember details on so many of these objects, in the world we live in, and in the world that is evolving often it is not important to have the fact, rather to be able to access the facts. Sky Safari 4 does that quite well. 

My verdict? It is a wonderful tool that does go on sale from time to time, so if you can nab it on sale, go for it. I have the Pro version and it works quite well for me. I need to start bringing my observing up into the 21st century and this is a wonderful tool to do so. I could see that if I combined this with say Sky Commander, I just might not need an atlas again and I would spend more time on my objects and less time finding them. I like the hunt, and doubt I will ever give it up, and even when I had a goto system, I didn't use it a lot, but there are times when you only have a short time that it can prove useful. Sky Safari 4 is similar and can help reduce clutter in your car when you go to observe, won't fly away or fly open in a slight breeze, and really is an excellent tool to use. I just hope that it stays this way by Simulation Curriculum in the future. If not, there will be a hole to fill by someone who wants to design an excellent app and put it out there. I hope that doesn't happen. 

Next Blog Entry: A Look Back, A Look Forward: Jay's Sketching. 




7/27/2015

Orthos, Orthos, Orthos vs Wide Field Eyepieces of the Explore Scientific


     This post upfront has no visuals. Sorry for that.  It has no math, no actual science. It is a review of something that I have seen twice in the last week conducting outreach.  Last Thursday I had the opportunity to do some outreach with my local club and then again on Saturday. On Thursday I took my XT10 out for a spin and on Saturday, I took the 17.5 out to the club's outreach site in Stansbury Park.  The first outreach event was in a bright library parking lot that really drowned out the night sky.  Around 10:00pm the lights went out and that transformed the site to a outward suburban site. The club's outreach site in Stansbury Park is a decent site, not a dark site but good for outreach, and definitely better than the Salt Lake Valley that is heavily urbanized and light polluted. Conditions are both nights were transparency very good, seeing below average increasing as the night went on to average. There, you have the conditions

Okay, I lied, I am going to put in two images of SPOC, the home of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society and a copy of the light pollution map from 2014 that shows LP conditions at the site. I have to say that conditions at SPOC in terms of Light Pollution have decreased slightly over the last 3 years and more so over the last 10. Then again, when I look at my home it is going from a yellow zone, to orange zone and red is creeping in as my city expands its development without care to the night sky LINK to LP Maps and SQM data. The good news is my dark sites are staying dark and LP is NOT creeping into them yet. I am sure that will change over the next 25 years.


Above is a Google Map of SPOC. I've labeled where the telescopes are set up by club members for outreach and where the 3 telescopes in the complex are located. 



Here is the light pollution map (above) for Stansbury Park and SPOC is the orange dot.  Light pollution impacts the site though you can get some decent views for the public at an outreach event there. 


Light pollution though is not the subject of this post. It is only in the sense that light domed outreach is going to impact the views I had. Combine these light polluted skies with conditions will determine the overall quality of the image one observes in the eyepiece, when combined with the quality of the optics, but I personally put the impact of light pollution and sky conditions over the quality of the optics until one gets into a dark enough location to where light pollution has no impact and sky conditions and the quality of one's optics can come into play to determine the quality of the image in the eyepiece.

My XT10 then is just a XT10 and I didn't expect anything speculator that Thursday night at outreach. I took it for convenience. Base in the back, tube in the back, eyepiece case, collimation tools and I'm off with a small cooler filled with water.  At the library I set up the XT10 quickly and did my collimation check.  Love the XT10 as it only needed a very slight correction to be collimated. The mirror was pretty acclimated and I had brought not my Pentax XW's or TeleVue Delos, but my Explore Scientific eyepieces and my Orthos, a Baader Planetarium Classic Ortho 10 mm Eyepiece 1.25" and 6mm, and the University Orthos HD Abbe II 12mm, 6mm & 4mm.  In the Explore Scientific I had the 11mm, 24mm & 30mm 82 degrees, and the 9mm and 20mm 100 degree eyepieces. I also had my Paracorr Type I and Type 2.  I didn't use the Paracorr on Thursday night in the XT10 (and I had the same eyepieces with the 17.5" dob on Saturday but I did use the Paracorr Type II that night).  I began by using the 11mm 82 degree ES to show the moon and received good images, though with a decent amount of coma on the outer edge.  Saturn also showed well with the 11mm 82degree ES.  I then popped in a 12mm University Ortho and it was like BANG! No coma of course, and the image of Saturn was clear, crisp, and sharp with a clear view of Cassani.  The public didn't know the difference but I did.

My friend Jeff Porter was there with his modified XX12i with a Zambuto mirror in the primary and using the Ortho's was very eye opening for him. His scope showed a wonderful view with the Orthos.  Clear, sharp and crisp.  I would speak for myself, and I think Jeff would agree, that indeed less glass was more this night.

I have to plug this again. My thrill this night was letting kids from about age 8 and up learn to find the moon and Saturn using the XT10.  They walked away feeling proud and really that enhanced their experience. If nothing else, they will remember not only seeing the moon and Saturn that night, but using the telescope to find those objects for themselves. Powerful outreach when done that way!

On Saturday as I stated, I took and set up the 17.5, collimating it full tilt with the Catseye tools and confirming with Howie Glatter's 2" laser collimator and TuBlug. I love when the match! I ran a fan for about an hour to cool and then shut it down to  observe. I had a wonderful evening showing the moon, Saturn, the Lagoon Nebula, The Swan Nebula, M51 and NGC 5395, and then the night was over. I used the 100 degree eyepieces and the 11mm 82 degree eyepiece a lot this night but I also used the Ortho's, mainly the 12mm University and the 10mm Baader because that is what conditions allowed.  Again, in my opinion, the views were crisper, cleaner, and sharper than in the Explore Scientific eyepieces. The Light Pollution had a part in that of course, but still, the Orthos were just fantastic.

My take away again, is that I need to remember that as much as I love that 70 to 72 degree experience, and as much as using the 100 degree eyepieces by Explore Scientific are a treat (with a Paracorr which is needed for me) I have to remember to put in the Ortho's to eek out every ounce of detail I can from the objects I am observing and sketching. I do myself a dis-service if I don't do that in my observing experience. Your mileage may vary from mine, your opinion may be different, but for me, I am putting the Ortho's into the viewing plan from now on.  Keep being amazed by all that is above and lets all remember to be just a little more kind, a little more caring, and a little more generous to those around us.

New Feature I am kinda of going to try which is to announce what my next post will be about. I have a review of SkySafari3 and will be reviewing SkySafarri4 in my next post in a new days.

7/21/2015

Observing July 16th, 2015 Forest Road 006 Site 1



     I packed up the Outback and loaded the 17.5" dob up and drove out to the Forest Land south of Vernon, Utah for a night of observing. I went to Site 1 on Forest Road 006 and set up.  While there I figured I was going to be alone on this one, as I am about fifty percent of the time now.  I find that I enjoy observing with others, but I also enjoy observing alone.  It was in the upper 80's when I got out there around 6:00p.m. and was greeted by these skies:


This is the drive out to Vernon and the Forest Land there. You can see the Sheeprock Mountains in the distance (behind and just to the right of the sign).  That is the turn to go out on the Pony Express Trail over Lookout Pass to another good observing site I found up in the mountains there, and from there over towards Simpson Springs and some really really dark skies there.



The picture above I took and it is on the dirt road that your drive down leading to the T junction where you turn left to go to the Vernon Reservoir, or right and then left to Forest Road 006.  There were a few clouds over the mountains as they always are at this time of the year but the sky was incredible!




Now as you turn right off the main road above and head west toward Forest Road 006 this wonderful sign was hanging up. The land immediately next to the Forest Land is now for sale for grazing or star gazing.  My wife and I have been purchasing and investing over the last year and had a wedding in May, but we are looking into the possibility of trying to get this land for a private observing area, and leasing it out part of it not being used for star gazing for cattle grazing. We'll see, but is enough and the location is perfect that I am hoping to do all I can to hopefully secure it. Like I said, it will depend on timing but this would be the site to do it at!


The picture above and immediately below capture the view south from the observing site. The ground has become really dry now, the grasses and bushes are extremely dry (not like the green I shared a few posts ago in June or May when I was there) but the sky was that blue. A slight breeze blew but it was just gorgeous! John Muir has two quotes that for me are captured here.  The first is what I love when I arrive where I am going to observe. This is how I feel:  “Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”


 This image (below) reminds me with the two above of another favorite quote by John Muir. He said  “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.”  Indeed, I once thought locations like this were just ugly deserts. No, they are beautiful, wild, rugged for now, the handiwork of creation indeed, and provide me with the release of my cares, inspire me to be active in my chosen hobby, and more importantly in life, and they inspire me to action.


As I enjoyed the views, I did get to work setting up the 17.5" dob and getting it ready for the coming evening.  Here the tubes are assembled, the top ring is on, the Telrad and Finderscope are ready to be aligned and I am now ready to collimate. I used my Catseye Collimating tools since I was out so early with more than adequate time before dark.  Worked like a charm! You can see in the second picture that to the north, there were clouds. That is often the case and why I enjoy these sites down by Vernon. More often than not if a system lies to the north clouds will impact Tooele north to the Lakeside site. Often this site is clear or clears rapidly after sunset and the heating of the day ends.  There are times when a front or the monsoon comes from the south clouds impact this site leaving sites in Skull Valley that I have been using or at Lakeside clear. It is knowing how to use the weather sites, ALL of them to ensure which one to go to. I love Vernon so more often than not, you will find me here.






Okay, I have to share more of what this site is like. I have done that a ton, but I really believe part of observing is connecting not only with the sky, but to the earth and land.  Our planet is indeed precious, and we I feel have a stewardship to care for it. I am not saying we don't use the land, but we must be wise in how we use the land. There has to be a balance maintained so that we gain what we need, and so that there are wild places to go and enjoy.


     Above is the view to the west with the Sun behind a cloud and the Juniper Trees being cast dark in the camera lens.  This is looking west from the observing site.



This is one of my favorite views from this site . The Sheeprock Mountains, nestled to the southwest here and standing tall and firm.  This is the entrance as well to site 1 with Forest Road 006 seen in the middle right of the picture.

      The Sheeprocks again looking more south to southwest.  I sketched the last two views when I was here in June. I just love this place. It is magical when there aren't a lot of people around. Even when there are RV campers out here, they are asleep early at dark and I have never been disturbed in my observing.


     Standing on Forest Road 006 looking south partially southwest at the Sheeprock Mountains again.


     This is Forest Road 006 looking north (a front to the north).  It is also the entrance to the observing area, Site 1 and you can see my Outback's tire marks as I turned left into the site (I was heading south).


     This is what Observing Site 1 off of Forest Road 006 looks like if you arrive in the day.  Yep, that is my Green Outback back there and I am set up behind it.  No tent this trip though I could have, as I decided to sleep in the back of the Outback.  I have a wonderful large size tent (10 people) and a wonderful Cabela's XL Cot that with a sleeping pad and memory foam on it is incredible to sleep on.  More than enough room for others to join me if they can put up with my Sleep Apena machine (I have that set up to run when in the field and I'll share that sometime).


    Looking North from the observing site to the Oquirrh Mountains in the far distance to the right and Tooele to the near center.  The hills in the middle right are the Vernon Hills.



     The picture above and below actually reflect what the Sheeprock Mountains look like from the observing area.  I have to admit that for a LONG time I missed California. I grew up there and I use to bicycle LONG before it was really popular with friends to areas 100 miles or so away from home, sometimes by myself. We would go hiking, fishing, and backpacking in the Sierra's.  Then there was always the ocean to go to so we could surf, body surf, swim and relax.  This year in February I believe we went back to California and I found that nostalgia really wasn't that great. The freeways and roads were in horrible condition.  Roads and Freeways and locations were far more crowded then when I left there 22 years ago. Dark skies, well, they do not have the dark skies in northern California that I have such easy access too here in Utah.  I have to say, though like with anywhere, there are things about Utah I do not like, there is a LOT to like.  I love our wilderness, our availability of dark skies for now, and the great variety we have here. Winter I am not a huge fan but I operate and observe in it.  Could be worse. I could live in Minnesota where my mother's family is and REALLY freeze there! I am very lucky to live where I do.




     Sheeprocks at Sunset with some clouds that built up over them and then went away after sunset.



If you have never seen the belt of Venus here it is. Below you can see the pinkish glow of the Belt of Venus.  The Belt of Venus is a rosy pinkish arch visible long after sunset or long before sunrise by back scattering of refracted sunlight due to fine dust particles high up in the atmosphere. It extends roughly 10°–20° above the horizon.  If you look even more carefully, you can see a dark ray of sunlight caused by the sun's light going through a mountain pass.



     As I confirmed by collimation by using Howie Glatter's laser and TuBlug, I noticed in the eastern sky a ray of light that extended from a point on the horizon and up into the sky.  Soon it was joined by several others as you can see in the pictures below. I had internet access and was posting some of these images to the Salt Lake Astronomical Club's Facebook page (LINK) and asked what they were as I had never seen them in 20 years of observing. I learned that hey are anti crepuscular rays. Anti crepuscular rays are near-parallel, but appear to converge at the anti solar point because of linear perspective.They come from either clouds and the light coming through the clouds, or light coming through mountains as is the case here. Although anti crepuscular rays appear to converge onto a point opposite the sun, the convergence is actually an illusion. The rays are in fact (almost) parallel, and their apparent convergence is to the vanishing point at infinity. I felt they were cool and chalked them up to a good omen in you believe in that.




     Now it was time to observe and the 17.5 was ready for an awesome evening and so was I! How lucky I was to have had the experience I have had so far.



      My goal tonight was open clusters in Cygnus, a few nebula in Cygnus, maybe a look at the "other supernova remnant in Cygnus down by Alberio, Sharpless 2-091 (Sky & Telescope LINK), galaxies in Serpens C., Planetary Nebula in Delphinus, and Aquila etc.  Ambitious and I knew I would have to take what the sky would give me. I want to get some more galaxies in Hercules but Hercules is at zenith and I really dislike observing at zenith. So I'll wait for another month to hit those.

     I will state up front as I finished my official count, I ended up with 24 objects this night, and sketched 10. That is a great night for me, I am use to getting about 12 to 15 on a great night but it just worked out well for me tonight. I am not going to post my open clusters tonight or in this blog, but will in another entry in the next few days.  Here are the sketches I am sharing and observations. Order is mixed up as usual in regards to time.




Above is Hickson 74 with NGC 5910 being the target.  In truth though this sketch isn't perhaps the most impressive, it is my favorite because of what it shows.  July 16th, 2015, 11:00pm MDT/05:00 UT July 17th, 2015; Antoniadi III; mild wind, warm; 17.5" Dob; 10mm  Pentax XW, Type 2 Paracorr.

NGC 5910 is part of Hickson 74.  At 248x the galaxies appeared as smudges of fuzziness, and seemed to be part of one uneven group of fuzziness.  Averted vision with direct vision and breathing resolved these into three separate  galaxies/components of Hickson 74 into individual knots. HGC 74A, the largest one had some mottling in evidence.  HGC 74B was faint and in the SSW but discernible and I could hold it.  NGC 74D was also observed, though it came and went using averted vision.  There are 5 components and I was able to get 3 of them.



July 17th 2015: 12:15am MDT/06:16 UT.  FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi III slight breeze mild temperature; 17.5" Dob, 7mm Pentax XW SQM-L reading at 12:17a.m. 21.77 to south and zenith.  Surface Brightness 12.8: Type 2 Paracorr.

Rather small face on sprial galaxy that is very round in appearance.  Also rather bright with a stellar nucleus that is evident. Bright inner core region then the outer halo is diffused. Some possible structure is hinted at with averted vision. Fun galaxy to tease out detail.




NGC 5993 (larger one) NGC 5992 Galaxies in Bootes  July 16th, 2015, 10:40pm/ 4:40 UT July 17th, 2015; 17.5" Dob; 7mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi III w/Type 2 Paracorr.

NGC 5992 is the smaller and has the higher surface brightness at 12.6 mag.  Inner core region is bright.  NGC 5993 is the larger and fainter galaxy due to its size at 13.3 mag for surface brightness.  It is a faint oval with a slightly brighter core region that is not as bright as NGC 5992's core.


NGC 6070 Spiral Galaxy in Serpens Caput.  July 17th, 2015 1;45a.m. MDT/ 7:45 UT;  FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; 17.5" dob with 7mm Pentax XW & Type 2 Paracorr.

Some observers call the galaxy dim and others bright. For me it is both. The outer halo is dim, but the inner core region is bright.  At 300x plus the galaxy is how I described it and elongated.  Outer halo with averted vision hints of structure which I sketched in where I felt the structure could be seen.  Large galaxy in terms of size.  Wonderful object to see and capture.  Often passed over and forgotten by imagers but it really shouldn't be and if you image, this is one to capture. If your visual and in the area, well worth the view.




NGC 6905 The Blueflash Planetary Nebula in Dephinus.  July 17th, 2015 12;45a.m. MDT/06:45 UT; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi III; slight breeze, mild temperature i.e. low 60's; 17.5" dob: 5mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Type 2 Paracorr; DGM NB and DGM OIII 1 1/4".  

Beautiful planetary nebula in Delphinus.  285x in the 7mm showed an elongated shape and a central star that is easily seen.  At 400x plus in the 5mm the central star is still easily seen and held with direct vision, and the shape is at first circular and then fainter elongations will come out.  At the higher power the region around the central star appears mottled, with brighter and darker regions.  This Planetary Nebula really sucks up magnification and if conditions allow, you can really crank it on this. Wonderful one to see!

There you go! I will post the other sketches in a few days as I am really busy with the new job. I did want to share this and remind you that this hobby is one to really enjoy in all aspects. Its a microcosm of how I feel we need to approach life; with awe, wonderment, humility, gratitude, commitment, and amazement. Keep being amazed!