New video from Alexander Massey on the Mellish Method of Sketching

If you haven't seen or viewed Alexander Massey's sketching tutorial on YouTube, you should do that ASAP.  Alex gives a wonderful presentation and your able to watch as he demonastrates the techniques he uses to obtain such faboulous sketches. One thing I learned is I over think my sketching and need to think in more simple terms. Anyway, here is his video and check out his blog at  Here is the LINK to his blog.  Below is the video if you want to view it!

Also, if you haven't had a chance, take a look at Gondwana Telescopes at this LINK. Alex has some wonderful dob designs and other items that are terrific and I recommend checking out. If you ATM you may get a few ideas or if your in the market for a scope, he may interest you (if your down under but you could contact him if your in the States I am sure).  

Observing November 13th, 2015 FR006 Site 1 & October 11th & 12th, 2015; Cool . . . . Emergency Field Repairs to my DobStuff 17.5

     Well, I took the 13th of November off of work as the weather was clear and the conditions were looking great.  I loaded up the 17.5" scope, (I have the feeling to take the 14" but didn't) and drove out to FR006 Site 1.  We had had a storm come through earlier in the week and there were some patches of snow still about.  Here are some pics of the area:

This is on the drive out. By the time I got out there it was around 4:30 p.m. and the Sun was beginning to set.  The Sheeprock Mountains have their first covering of snow for the season. The drive out was fine, but as I turned up FR006 I could see snow to the side of the road in patches and the road was fine, but a little muddy . . . enough for a Subaru Outback to have some fun!

At the site, there was snow in patches as I have described, but there were enough dry areas next to where snow had melted and made the dirt there a little muddy.

The above picture is one of my favorite to take from the site. The Sheeprock Mountains to the west have a beautiful view and remind us that though we are in a desert, there are other habitats also.  You can see the patches of snow here. 

Looking to the south here on the edge of the observing field. 

Yes, the Belt of Venus starting to show to the southeast and yes, it was cold about 44 degrees F when I pulled into the site and took these pics. 

Looking south from the site. A little snow is nothing! 

The view above, vs the first one in this set of images, is more realistic of what the view is actually like of the Sheeprock Mountains. I truly live a wonderful and diverse part of the country! 

Looking southeast from the site. 

 One of the secrets of this site is that the elevation is around 6800 feet so you have elevation to get above the haze and the views are wide open.  This southern view is tremendous year round! 

Well after taking these pictures, I put down my ground cover, talked with my friend Jeff and his son Nathan (my son is also Nathan but Jeff's Nathan I REALLY like when he comes out. He really helps out and he is so positive and cheerful that he reminds me of my Nathan and he simply brightens the mood of all around!) and then brought out the equipment cases and the scope. I assembled the scope rather quickly and everything was going good. After assembly I brought out the Howie Glatter Laser and TuBlug and got to task of collimating my scope. I was rather excited because since August when I gave it a good all around collimation using my Catseye tools and my Howie Glatter tools the scope had been holding collimation with only a minor tweak needed each session. Last session though the scope for the first time had a problem holding collimation down low and when I put in the Glatter 635n laser, it was all over the place. I assumed I had a major issue, so I called my friend Jeff over to help. No, collimation was holding but the screw that attached the curved spider to the bracket on the ring, had fallen out.  The spider was now loose. 

We looked for the missing bolt (I found it the next day in the back of the Outback when I unloaded) but no luck. I was actually pretty downcast. Then a red SUV pulled up with two club members, Denise and Marlene and Marlene's husband Larry.  Marlene saved me by having an extra allen socket bolt that fit into the spider allowing me to secure the spider and to gain and hold collimation. I then inspected the scope and especially the upper ring in detail, and found that the upper ring and the spider were connected via a bracket and a wood screw that went into the upper ring. Well the wood screws did not hold the weight of the Destiny Observatory grade spider.  So the next day I tried a fix and now I have fixed the scope. I'll post more on that in a few days but basically I moved the spider six inches and then drilled a hole and put in 1/32nd bolts and used a washer and a nut to secure them to the ring. Firm as can be, steady and I will now simply check the nut and bolt to ensure that they remain tight prior to leaving for a session.  Here are some pics. 

Above you can see the bolt that I used to put through the hold I drilled and then secured it on the other side with a washer and a bolt. I kept the wood circle between the bolt and upper ring. Easy fix, one I don't think I should have had to do. Then again, a dob is always a work in progress. 

Above you can see the bolt sticking through, the nut and the washer is hard to see but is there. A much more secure version that what I will show below. 

Above is the wood screw that Dennis used to secure the spider to the upper ring. The problem on a large size dob like this is that the observatory grade curved spider from Destiny is too heavy to remain secure with just a wood screw with continued use. I shared this with Dennis and he is making the adjustment moving forward, so if you get a dob from Dennis, just make sure of this.  You can also see the black screw that holds the spider to the L bracket here and I had to replace that. The bolt is inexpensive and I have a few extra just to be save but check the tightness of your bolts from time to time, probably every three to six months. 

A better view of the L bracket holding the spider to the upper ring with a wood screw and the 1/4 inch wooden circle under the wood screw.  I kept the wooden circle under each for spacing but the bolt system above is one that is well used.  When I moved the spider and reattached it, I removed the secondary and then reattached it and gave the scope a great collimation job again using the Catseye and the Howie Glatter. 

So there you go. A fix in the field, one that after a year I was disappointed to have happen, a temporary fix that let the observing occur and then a permanent fix and the scope is probably in better shape now. I would have simply drilled through each of the current holes for the wood screws, but the one in the last two images would go through the Moonlite Focuser plate and I didn't want that.  So a simple moved is what I did.

    In the field that night I had the opportunity to really have some fun. One of the most wonderful things that night was to listen to Marlene and Denise who are relatively new share their excitement about observing. They probably didn't realize how much I enjoyed hearing them say "Andromeda, that's it, I'm done for the night. Awesome!"  As they discovered and looked at what for me were old time "eye candy" M31, the Double Cluster, M57 etc., their excitement enhanced mine.  As I came across and sketched my objects, I found that my enjoyment was enhanced by remembering how wonderful it was to be out here, observing.  I loaned Marlene my 20mm and 9mm 100 degree ES eyepieces, and tried to loan her a 12mm Delos to use also, but she was busy with what she had.  Next time Marlene, I will loan you the Delos so you can see them.  Perhaps the 11mm 82 degree ES eyepiece also.  So I have to say thank you to them for coming out and observing that evening and sharing their enthusiasm and excitement! I would welcome them anytime to come back!

At this event it was also nice to have my good friend Jeff and his son Nathan. Nathan went to the dar to read after a while but his positiveness and cheery disposition always makes an observing session an improved experience when he is with us. Jeff I believe had a good night using his 17.5 inch StarStructure to observe and got back into the swing of star hopping for those faint fuzzies.  Daniel was also along helping out, using his binoculars and seeing many more things through them then I at once thought possible. Daniel has made me use my 4 inch refractor more and more to see and discover how far I can push my observing both at a dark site and at home.

So what did I observe this night? A variety of objects and I tried some new things out sketching wise. Here are my sketches of some of the objects I observed this night.

 1. NGC 1060, NGC 1066, NGC 1067, NGC 1057 galaxies in Triangulum. November 13th, 2015; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; 08:11pm MST/0211 UT on 11/14/15; Antoniadi II, clear, cool, 38 degrees F; 17.5" dob; 10mm, 14mm & 20mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr; 

1066                                         1060
1067      UGC 2201                        1057 

I have tried to label the galaxies I observed in the field above. NGC 1060 is a rather bright but small galaxy with round edges that are firm and well defined.  Makes for a nice contrast with surrounding galaxies. 
NGC 1066 is rather faint, small and roundish though somewhat slightly elongated N-S; It is about the same size as NGC 1060 with a touch fainter halo but with a concentrated and bright inner core. 
NGC 1067 is very faint, very small and found with a low surface brightness.  UGC 2201 is barely visible and seen best with averted vision as a faint smudge.  
NGC 1061 is round with even surface brightness and very small.  It is about 2.5' N of NGC 1060.  NGC 1057 was not seen in this grouping. 

2. NGC 881 & NGC 883 Galaxies in Triangulum; November 13th, 2015; 10:39 MST/0439 UT on 11/14/15; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; 17.5" Dob; 10mm, 14mm, 20mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr; Antoniadi II; Clear, cool, temperature 37 degrees F.

NGC 881 is very bright, has a stellar nucleus and a bright inner core region. It is the bottom right galaxy in the sketch.
NGC 883 is small, round and diffused, with no hint of a core system. It is the upper galaxy in the sketch.

3. NGC 750 & 751 Galaxies in Triangulum; November 13th, 2015; 08:37 MST or 0237 UT on 11/14/2015; Antoniadi II, clear, cool; 17.5" dob with 10mm & 20mm Pentax XW in Type II Paracorr.

NGC 750 is sitting W-E and is elongated with a bright inner core region.
NGC 751 is more roundish and has a slight brightening at the inner core with some possible hints of structure, some unevenness in the surface brightness is apparent. Both are faint.

I captured a few other faint NGC/Herschel 2500 galaxies and then I decided to have some fun with sketching. In the following attempts, I applied the pastel chalk directly to the black sketching paper and then attempted to even it out with the brush.  I then added layers using the brush. Much happier with Messier 74 result than the M31 result, but for the cold and dark, both came out pretty good.
I will also say that I again fell in love with the 35mm Panoptic, even more than the 30mm Explore Scientific 82 degree,  which I still love, just love the 35mm Panoptic a little more.

4. Messier 31; Messier 32 (small ball on left); Messier 110 (elongated galaxy on right). 11:00pm on 11/13/2015 or 0500 11/14/2015 UT;  Antoniadi I, clear and cool, 35 degrees F, Relative Humidity 64%; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; 17.5" dob, 35mm Panoptic; 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;

Not happy totally with how the camera captured the sketch. I think it looks better in person but oh well.  Not bad for such a large object.  I have to say by this time of night, no ambient light was around at all except for the star light and the Milky Way and M31 and friends were position extremely well.  One of the best views of M31 I have ever had was out on this night (to echo an earlier comment from Denise).  Not a bad effort for a cold late fall night.  I need to spread out the chalk more and make it more fuzzy but the basic concept I like here.

5. Messier 74 or NGC 628 in Pisces, Face On Spiral Galaxy.  10:30pm MST or 0430 on 11/14/2015 UT.  FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi I clear and cool, temperature 35 degrees with 64% RH; 17.5" dob with 20mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;

One of the best views ever for me of this wonderful eye candy galaxy from Charles Messier's catalog. Bright stellar nuclear with bright inner core was easily viewed Both spiral arms could be discern in the eyepiece with the fuzziness of the galaxy in apparent in the background as well. Just an awesome view. Best view of the night and in my opinion, best sketch (and I am getting the camera figured out here).  WOW! is all I can say.

That was it for this night. I packed up with Jeff around 11:30pm after 4 to 5 hours of fall observing, with winter rising quickly to the east. I realized as I stood looking at the constellations in the sky how quickly the seasons change. It seems like September was just here and then October with the approach of Halloween and now November is here with Thanksgiving in a few days. The winter constellations by midnight are up in the sky and the signal that fall is giving way to winter, for me, is the rising of the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.

OCTOBER 11th & 12th, 2015

I did get a dark sky session in during October, actually a couple of them but will combine them for space.  Actually the last two sessions have had fun occurrences to them. In October, about 1:30a.m. local time, I was taking a break from observing but looking at the sky when I noticed a flash of light that to me, at first, looked like a Nova going off. It was a short, intense, bright light that flared up and then faded away.  We started to see more and more as we looked up. Well being rational, I began to think and the idea that F16's out of Hill were over the test range at high altitude and were engaged in maneuvers against each other and were dropping chaff, then I changed my mind to flares. Some may disagree with my outlook since we were relatively close to Dugway, but I really believed we were seeing USAF F16's on maneuver at high altitude letting off flares. It looked like this video somewhat, but we never saw multiple flares in sequence, just what I would suppose were some floating backwards from their launch point creating multiple effects.

The next one was the missile test from the USS Kentucky launching an unarmed Titan II missle. The Kentucky has come out of refit and after refit they test their missile system to make sure it is working right (among other tests).  I had seen another similar incidence back in 1982 in the Bay Area when Vandenberg AFB had launched a Minuteman II missile.  Daniel was there and we talked about it and he had seen that Minuteman Missile test in the early 1980's as well, and we both were confident that is what it was. We were right. It provided a break from our observing that night. I did view in the 17.5 the missle as in the 27mm Panoptic we could track it and this YouTube movie captures what I saw with 4 others in the eyepiece. In the later stages the missile would S warp after having a single cone of exhaust followed by a double cone of exhaust from each end the the spiral S pattern. This video covers what we saw until it fell below the horizon. My friend Jeff was there as was his son and two other observers.  Nathan, Jeff's son saw this event and did a great job tracking it in my 17.5" telescope. I am very impressed with Nathan's skills with a telescope for being only 14 years old! Nathan even confirmed what we were all seeing.

So two rather cool events! Haven't had that much excitement in a LONG time out observing but it was fun. Made for a good experience.

So I am just going to list the items and sketches I did from these nights of observing (October 11th, 12th, November 7th).

1. NGC 949 Galaxy in Triangulum. October 9th, 2015; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi III; 11:29 pm MDT or 0529 on 10/10/2015 UT; 17.5" dob; 27mm Panoptic Finder; 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr.

Small, relatively bright galaxy that lays NW to SE. It has a dull outer edge yet magnification will pull out a brighter inner core region. This is a one time visit.

2. NGC 925 Galaxy in Triangulum.  October 11th, 2015 11:45pm MDT (545 UT on 10/12/15); Antoniadi I, clear, cool temperature 28 degrees F, RH 48%; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Type II Paracorr on both sketches.  Top sketch was with a 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW and the bottom sketch was with the 14mm, 20mm Pentax XW and the 27mm Panoptic eyepiece. Thus the differences in appearances. 

This is a wonderful galaxy to observe in the mid to late fall with the constellation Triangulum positioned well for an easy observation later in the evening.  The galaxy is easily seen in the 20mm Pentax XW and the 27mm Panoptic eyepieces. The galaxy lays in both sketches ESE-WNW and does not have a stellar nucleus, yet has brightening in the inner core region. The galaxy is ill defined at the outer edges and at the low magnification range has hints of spiral structure at the extremities. With higher magnification that hint of structure begins to refine itself a little more. 

3. NGC 890 galaxy in Triangulum. October 10th, 2015 10:36pm MDT or 0436 on 10/11/15 UT; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi III to IV, wind gusts to 20mph steady at 7mph to 10 mph; 17.5" dob; 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr. 

This was the nights of the flares from the planes. Conditions got worse as the night came on and shortly after this I called it a night as the scope was vibrating in the wind as the gusts continued to rise as a dry cold front was getting ready to pass by thus increasing those south winds.  

This is an elongated galaxy laying SW to NE.  Bright inner core region with ill defined outer edge. It's a fun galaxy to take a look at and easy to star hop too. Triangulum has a lot more to offer besides M33, which is still wonderful, but there are many other galaxies in the constellation to observe! 

4. NGC 784 Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum.  October 12th, 2015, 12:40am MDT or 0640 UT; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi I, clear, cool, 26 degrees; 17.5" Dob; 10mm, 14mm, 20mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II; 

Wonderful galaxy to view and it is fairly bright, no concentration at the core but there is mottling and uneven surface brightness near the core, combined with brightening at the core.  Elongated N to S. Another fun galaxy to observe, tease detail out with and to see. 

5. Constellation Auriga, naked eye sketch. October 12th, 2015, 1:19am MDT or 0719 UT; Antoniadi I.  

I have decided that I want to include a naked eye sketch of the major constellations and this is the first of that effort. The camera has removed some of the nebulosity that I saw in the constellation, especially around the bottom four stars and in the center.  Overall it is a decent representation of what I saw. Next up is the mighty hunter Orion as I think that will occupy me and give me some challenges. I will do that when I take the 4 inch refractor out with me to sketch and capture Barnard's Loop visually soon. Also, with this sketch I will soon upload and label it and then repost so someone wanting to poke around in Auriga can see where some of the objects are in it as a reference. 

Well there you go. A couple of exciting events, a field fix followed by a major repair that improved my 17.5" dob and some great time under dark skies in Utah's West Desert under the shadow of the Sheeprock Mountains.  Here's hoping to more of that in December and January!