Astronomy Christmas 2016 and New Moon Bust November 2016

     Well, the best observing day was Thanksgiving Night for me, but of course, I did not go out. Sorry, family is first for me. I had my Mom who will be 78 in December, my wife and two adult kids home for Thanksgiving so that is the most important of course, to spend time with them.

I may get out this coming week IF the weather turns, but for now the forecast is not good. We are getting an inch of snow on Sunday and another inch of snow on Monday. New Moon is Tuesday and as you can see from the National Weather Service Forecast for my home and observing area:

I might get out on Sunday, December 4th, or maybe Wednesday November 30th through Friday December 2nd but I am not counting on it. It may be this month I miss new moon and will have to do some observing from my back porch or take my 4" refractor for a short drive during the early waxing crescent moon phase.  Oh well, can't control the weather. I hope December opens up for me.

I know many will be wondering what to get for the Holiday's so I am going to offer some suggestions from across the board and with a wide range of prices. I will state up front I am not going to get anything astronomy related this Christmas. There is nothing I need.

1. Red Light. LRI FMR Photon Freedom LED Keychain Micro-Light, Red Beam Cost $11.35 at Amazon LINK.  This is what I use to sketch with and I like it because I can darken it with its adjustable brightness, put on some red brake repair tape on it to darken it more and it is small and easy to use. I keep one on a lanyard around my neck for use at the scope and another on a cell phone holder over my sketching pad.  Combine with with an eye patch and it works great!

2. Lenovo - IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Laptop / Intel Atom Z3735F/ 2GB Memory / 32GB eMMC Flash Memory / Webcam / Windows 10- Red Amazon LINK. Cost: $176.   Earlier this year I purchased 5 different laptops or ThinkPads as I call this item to see which would load up Sky Tools 3, which allowed me to darken them to the put to use in the field so I could stop printing off charts from Sky Tools 3.  This item, the Lenovo 100s IdeaPad has been the best. I have two of them and the work wonderfully. Sky Tools 3 runs terrific with them and I use a SD Card to store my data on.  I don't put any other products on them and they are dedicated for field use. I did purchase a clear red acrylic cover from Scopestuff to go over each screen, and several layers of rubylith from Scopestuff. Between using them on their lowest brightest setting, turning on red night mode on Sky Tools 3, and using the material from Scopestuff and an eye patch over my observing eye, maintaining night vision is not an issue. These are small enough, light enough that I often pull my observing chair over, put the IdeaPad on the chair to use while on my step ladder. Works nicely, or I can hold it while observing also.
Note, if you put the items from Scopestuff on using their thick, black rubber bands the IdeaPad will tilt over so the screen is laying down if you don't prop it up. Oh, these have a 9 hour battery life and in the field I have run them for 7 hours in the summer and in the fall (down to 15 degrees F) and gotten that battery life out of them.

3. Dew Heater Power and material.

I use a Thousand Oaks Dew Heater controller with connecting items for the Telrad, Focuser, Eyepiece (either 1 1/4" or 2") and my secondary heater. I use to use a portable battery jumper with a 9 volt but I have traded it in for the following.

a) First thing you need is a battery. I will use this one from Amazon but any that match the characteristics will work.

 ML35-12 - 12V 35AH U1 Deep Cycle AGM Solar Battery LINK. I have two similar batteries that I use to run my CPAP for one of them, and this battery will run my CPAP for 3 to 4 days in the field and then in the fall and winter is the only time dew my come up so then I will put the other battery in to run my dew control.

With the battery you need a battery tender to charge it. Here is the one I own and it has worked wonderfully.

Battery Tender 021-0156 Battery Tender Plus 12V Battery Charger True Gel Cell Model
LINK to Amazon.

You will also need this to hook up to the charged battery.

Battery Tender 081-0069-6 Ring Terminal Harness with Black Fused 2-Pin Quick Disconnect Plug
Link to Amazon. This lets you power your items off the battery.

To run your 12v items you will need this to adapt in to the cord I posted for the Ring Terminal.
Battery Tender 081-0069-8 Female Cigarette Adaptor for Quick Disconnect
LINK to Amazon.

Prices are around $5 to $10 for the cords, $60 for the battery.  You can also power USB devices or other devices by buying this cord:
NOCO ISCC2 5-Way SAE Adapter Connector LINK to Amazon and then buying another 8 Female Cigarette lighter or this device:
Battery Tender 081-0158 Black Quick Disconnect Plug with USB Charger LINK to Amazon.

For Dew Strips and Controls you can go to Agena Astro and look over their selection at this LINK.

I will be upfront that on my CPAP I have a 12V that fits from the power adapter in the back of the unit to the 12V Lighter and that is all I need to run my machine when camping.  Like I said I can also run my Dew Control System on this with no problem and it works better for me than a battery jumper. 

4. Hand Warmer for Cold Nights. This goes to Zippo Hand Warmer and you can get them at Aamzon, I've seen them at Walmart also.  Here is the Amazon LINK. You'll need Zippo Lighter Fluid with them also but these work extremely well if you get cold hands or want to keep them warm during the winter. 

5. Telrad 2" or 4" riser. Use a Telrad? Ever have neck strain? This is a simply and wonderful tool you can purchase to end that neck strain from using a Telrad. Most go for the 2" though some of us, myself included, prefer the 4". Your choice. 

6. Far Point UHC Filter. LINK.  I have both the 1 1/4 inch and 2 inch UHC filter and I have to say, I REALLY like this filter. I own the DGM, and 1000 Oaks equivalent filters, and the Far Point really seems to provide just a touch more contrast over the other two. However, I think the 1000 Oaks and the DGM UHC filters are really really close. So if your looking for a premium or near premium UHC filter, give FarPoint or DGM or 1000 Oaks a try. 

7. Want something different? How about a meteorite? Yep, you can buy them from around $20 to over $100 or more at Meteorites for Sale LINK. It provides whoever you give it to as a gift the opportunity to own something that came from above! For example you can own or gift a piece of the Chelyabinsk Meteorite that exploded in Russia on February 15th, 2013.  Here is a LINK to that. Prices are from around $35 to $115 for these small pieces. 

8. Finally, have a reader? I recommend the Willmann-Bell site for books. The Annuals of the Deep Sky are new books that are excellent reading and great for planning observing sessions in a given constellation. Need an all encompassing deep sky atlas? I highly recommend the Uranometria 2000.0, Atlas from Willmann-Bell. There are other selections so perhaps ask the person you want to gift or who will buy you a gift what they would want or what you would want and write it down. 

There are some suggestions. It's snowing tonight, on Monday November 28th, 2016 so I am sure I am not getting out observing! Oh well, perhaps later in the week or later in the month. 


DSLR Photos of the Full Moon (or near) November 13th, 2016 from my backyard

Just was goofing off in my backyard tonight with the full moon. I am actually happy though I got a few things left to figure out. Some are off centered and to the right, on purpose, to avoid a tree. One thing this has made me really want to get back to is to sketch the moon which I will start doing come December.  If the moon is dark in these pictures, there were clouds going in front of Luna.


Okay, I am going to do this again with a Google Form for a Survey to see which sketching method, digital sketching based on field sketches made in GIMP or the Mellish Method Sketches made at the eyepiece that you prefer seeing. I am going to allow for comments based on my moderation. Personal attacks will be deleted but constructive input is welcome.

1. NGC 12 

     a) NGC 12 Mellish

     b) NGC 12 GIMP 

2. NGC 14

a) NGC 14 Mellish 

   b) NGC 14 GIMP 

3. NGC 16

     a) Mellish Method 

     b) GIMP 

4. NGC 23 

      a) Mellish Method

     b) GIMP

5. NGC 36 

     a) Mellish Method

     b) GIMP

 6. NGC 52 

     a) Mellish

     b) GIMP 

7. NGC 57

     a) Mellish 

     b) GIMP

8. NGC 95 

     a) Mellish 

     b) GIMP 

10. NGC 125 & NGC 130

     a) Mellish 

     b) GIMP 

11. NGC 198 & NGC 200 

     a) Mellish 

     b) GIMP

12. NGC 137 

     a) Mellish

     b) GIMP

14. NGC 315

     a) Mellish 

     b) GIMP

15. Pisces Cloud

     a) Mellish 

     b) GIMP 

16. NGC 7042

     a) Mellish 

      b) GIMP 

17. NGC 7317

     a) Mellish

     b) GIMP

18. NGC 7157

     a) Mellish

     b) GIMP 

19. NGC 7177 

     a) Mellish

     b) GIMP 

 Okay, I am very tired, its 1:00 am and I have to get up in 5 hours and have had trouble sleeping for the last week so there are mistakes. Yep, messed up the count order but left it alone. Typos, sure. Oh well.

Here is the LINK to the Google Form Survey to hit which sketch you like for each object and a short answer form at the end if you wish to leave a written response on why you prefer one over the other. Not a required question though. I will moderate the answers so if any are personal attacks, they will be removed. Not asking for a critique of my sketching, I'm average at best but I want to know which method you prefer for the end product and the reasons why. Thanks!

Google Form URL:


Observing Nights of November 2nd and 3rd, 2016 Galaxies in Pegasus and Pisces

I took 3 days off work and spent two of them observing.  One day was spent with my son and I had a blast doing some target shooting and spending father/son time together (he's 22 now).  The days were absoluetly beautiful and the nights ended up that way also, minus some dew. I have never really dwelt with dew issues out at my observing location on Forest Road 006.  By around 11:00pm I had to deploy my dew heaters for the 1 1/4" or 2" eyepieces, the Telrad, the finderscope and the secondary mirror. I did not have dew on the secondary but I did not want to risk it.  Luckily with this time of the year, I was observing between 6:30pm to 7:00pm and went to around 12:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. when I packed up and went home to my bed.  My summer days of having to sleep over because you don't start doing serious observing until 10:30pm or so and observing until 3:00 a.m. or later are over.  Fall is in full swing and I love that I can go to my favorite dark site, drive home, park in the locked garage and go to bed and unload in the morning!

Here are some pictures I took at the site from both days.

Driving out to the site on the Pony Express Road

Above and below: Looking south from the observing site. Notice how brown the hills/mountains and area is after a long, hot and dry summer. Awesome sky and no, at this location if the sky is like this it stays this way unless a front comes through. 

Above: Looking south per the last note


Looking north  to Juniper Grove that blocks the 3 lights from Vernon and from any car driving on SR 36.

Looking NE.  My home is on the other side of those mountains to the left center in the picture. 

Zoomed in view of the previous image. 

Looking west to northwest from the site. 

I add the two shots above of jetliners flying over or near the site. The first one shows a very short contrail and the second jet shows no contrail. I have often been told that short contrails show excellent to outstanding transparency and that has always held true. Long contrails ensure poor transparency since the sublimation process is slow, causing more ice to form to the contrail and attracting other particulates to it in the air. That reduces transparency (I am assuming).  Low humidity means that the warmer air from the engine quickly goes through sublimation and  thus ice crystals do not add to the contrail and it fades away. It means particles up top are not clinging or freezing to each other and thus transparency should be improved since conditions are set for overall better transparency or clarity in the atmosphere. True, false, leave a comment to expand on that if you wish. 

Above: Shadows of Night Begin to Arrive; or here comes twilight! 

Above (two images) Not pollution, the Belt of Venus 

The Moon and Venus (Venus is on the left side 2/3 up on the side)

Above: The 17.5" Star Catcher f/4.4 cooling with collimation with Catseye Tools done, waiting for tweak with Howie Glatter System. Yep, time for the hunting bibs and parka, that when combined with the right layers kept me warm and secure each night! The bibs and parka can be seen on the step ladder.  Below each sketch I am placing the dss image that I am retrieving from The Digitized Sky Survey at LINK. In case you follow my blog I am orientating my sketches now with North up, and west to the right. 

1. NGC 16 Galaxy in Pegasus; November 2nd, 2016; 8:30pm; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi II, cold 44 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 22mm Nagler T4 & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II

Faint galaxy that is larger than it first appears using both averted and direct vision.  Bright inner core region with a stellar nucleus. 

2. NGC 14 Galaxy in Pegasus; FR006 Juniper Grove; November 2nd, 2016; 07:55pm MDT; v mag. 12.1, size 2.8 x 2.1; 22mm Nagler T4; 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II; Antoniadi I, clear cold, 50 degrees F; 

Faint galaxy that lays NNE-SSW. Brighter near the core with soft edge and hint of extensions on the NNE and SSW ends. 

3. NGC 23 Galaxy in Pegasus; November 2nd, 2016; FR006 Juniper Grove; SQM 21.7; 08:10pm MDT; Antoniadi I, clear, cool 48 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 22mm Nagler T4 and 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II. 

4. NGC 52 Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus; November 2nd, 2016; 08:20pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cool, 48 degrees F; SQM 21.7; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 22mm Nagler T4 & 10mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr. 

NGC 52 appears to be an edge on spiral and images show a strong dust lane in the middle. Visually it is a edge on spiral but with a constant surface brightness with no brightening across it. It is more retangular/box like in shape. 

5. NGC 7042 (the large face on spiral galaxy in the middle) & NGC 7043 (smaller galaxy in the upper left).  November 2nd, 2016. 08:25pm MDT.  FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cool, 45 degrees F; SQM 21.7; 17.5" dob, Star Catcher f/4.4; 22mm Nagler T4, 7mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II. 

NGC 7042 is a face on spiral galaxy that is moderately bright, large and round.  This galaxy has brightening at the core.  
NGC 7043 is smaller and fainter and round. Bright core. 

7. NGC 7137 Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus; November 2nd, 2016; 08:55pm MDT; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 42 degrees F; FR006 Juniper Grove; SQM-L 21.7; 17.5" dob Star Catcher, f/4.4; 22mm Nagler T4, 7mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II. 

This is a rather bright face on spiral galaxy. It is large and oval in shape that has a slight brightening to the core with a mottled appearance. Hints of structure possible arms? 

8. NGC 7156 Galaxy in Pegasus Sc Class; November 2nd, 2016; FR006 Juniper Grove; 09:20pm MDT; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 40 degrees F; SQM-L 21.7; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 22mm T4 Nagler, 5mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II.

Rather small galaxy, my sketch is larger than it is. Pretty faint surface brightness in the outer halo. Inner halo is brighter and the shape is round to slightly oval.  Well defined edges and appears mottled with some hints of structure.

9. NGC 7177 Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus, SbII; November 2nd, 2016, 9:40pm, FR006 Juniper Grove; Clear, Cold, 38 degrees F, dew rising now over 70%-75%; SQM-L 21.8. 17.5" dob Star Catcher, f/4.4; 22mm T4 Nagler; 7mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II. 

Rather large and rather bright galaxy that is elongated east to west.  Right inner core region that is not on the main axis but lays off the main axis at a 45 degree angle.  Stellar nucleus easily seen with hints of irregular surface brightness in the outer halo. 

November 3rd, 2016 (observing night 2) 

1. NGC 198 & NGC 200 Spiral Galaxies in Pisces; November 3rd, 2016; 09:05pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cold 46 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 22mm T4 Nagler, 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II 

NGC 198 is a face on spiral (in the middle of both the sketch and the image) and is almost perfectly round with a faint outer halo and a opaque inner core. 

NGC 200 is in the upper left and is a face on spiral that is rather faint, small, and laying NNW to SSE. There is a weak concentration here with a bright core and faint extensions on the NNW and SSE ends that are hinting at structure, arms. 

2. NGC 315 Elliptical Galaxy in Pisces.  09:25pm November 3rd, 2016; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 42 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 22mm T4 Nagler, 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II 

Oval shaped elliptical galaxy laying ENE-WSW. Has a diffused halo and a bright inner core. Possible stellar nucleus but could be more brightening in the central core region also. 

3. NGC 12 Spiral Galaxy in Pisces; November 3rd, 2016; 09:40pm; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cold 40 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher, f/4.4; 20mm Pentax XW, 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II.  

Small, faint and round spiral galaxy with a bright inner core region, with a stellar nucleus.  Need averted vision as it helps to hold the interior region. 

It was with this observation that though I prefer the 22mm T4 Nagler to use as my finder and in some cases, observe with it, when it is getting really cold and in the case of these two nights, somewhat dewy, enough that I hooked up my dew equipment for the first time in observing at this location, switching back and forth between a 2" eyepiece and a 1 1/4" eyepiece is hard to do.  So I went with the 20mm Pentax XW in the Type II Paracorr and the 10mm or 7mm Pentax XW.  Staying at the same barrel size made it easier to observe. 

4. NGC 36 Spiral Galaxy in Pisces; November 3rd, 2016, 09:55pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear & cold 38 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher, f/4.4; 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II 

Small faint oval galaxy lying almost directly north to south, just off a tad.  Diffused halo, brighter core with a bright stellar nucleus.  A 14 mag star lies east of the galaxy. 

5. NGC 57 Elliptical Galaxy in Pisces; November 3rd, 2016; 10:10pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cold 36 degrees F; SQM-L 21.83; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 10mm & 20mm Pentax XW, Type II Paracorr. 

Rather bright elliptical galaxy yet small, adding to the concentration of surface brightness, roundish in shape. Bright core region.  

6. NGC 95 Spiral Galaxy in Pisces; November 3rd, 2016; 10:30pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I; clear, cold 34 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 10mm & 20mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II. 

Rather bright and large galaxy, roundish in shape, diffused outer halo with bright inner core region, perhaps a faint stellar nucleus. 

7. NGC 125, NGC 128, 130, 127, 126.  Galaxies in Pisces.  November 3rd, 2016, 11:00pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I; clear, cold 32 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 10mm & 20mm Pentax, 26mm T5 Nagler, Paracorr Type II. 

NGC 125 is the round central galaxy in both the sketch and the image.  It is round, small galaxy that has a bright inner core surrounded by a diffused halo. Mag 12/13 double star is to the SE of the galaxy. 

NGC 127 is the faint galaxy to the west (right) of the elongated galaxy on the left side. It is very faint, small, and round galaxy just to the west of NGC 128.  Needed averted vision to see it. 

NGC 128 is the elongated and large galaxy on the upper left of the sketch and image. It is rather bright, large, elongated North to South.  It has a very bright inner core that increases in brightness to a stellar nucleus. The north and south extensions come and go though averted vision helps to hold them. 

NGC 130 is the very faint and very small galaxy to the east (left) of NGC 128. It has a small/tiny core. 

NGC 126 is the lone wolf in the lower left central portion of the sketch and image.  It is VERY faint, small, and you need averted vision to acquire it. Oval in shape at first, then perhaps slightly elongated WNW to ESE. 

FUN group and challenges exit in observing this group! 

8. NGC 137 Galaxy in Pisces; November 3rd, 2016; 11:30pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 28 degrees F; SQM 21.86; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 10mm & 20mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II. 

Faint and small galaxy. Uneven edges, tries to be round but not quite.  Small bright core with a small stellar nucleus. 

9. NGC 379,380,383,382,385,384,375, 373, 386,388 galaxies in Pisces, also known as the Pisces Cloud;  NGC 379 is the top most galaxy, 380 is below that, 383 is the large central galaxy, 382 is below 383 on the right; 385 is the first of the larger two galaxies below 383, 384 is below 385, 386 is to the east of 383; 388 is to the east of 385 & 384; 375 is to the west of 385 & 384, 373 is in the lower right corner. 
November 3rd, 2016, 11:55pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 24 degrees F; 17.5" dob Star Catcher f/4.4; 26mm T5 Nagerl, 22mm T4 Nagler, 7mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II. 

NGC 383 is the largest and rightest of the NGC 383 cluster or Pisces Cloud.  Pretty bright, moderately large, concentrated halo. NGC 383 forms a double system with NGC 383.

NGC 382 is next to NGC 383, is faint, extremely small, round in shape and a faint stellar nucleus.  SN2000dk was in this galaxy. 

NGC 379 is top galaxy, and is faint, small, elongated north to south with even surface brightness. 

NGC 380 is below NGC 379, faint, small, round with a bright core and stellar nucleus. 

NGC 385 is below NGC 383 and is faint, small, with a bright core and a little elongated. 

NGC 384 is below NGC 385 and is faint, with a bright core, somewhat elongated. 

NGC 386 is east of NGC 383 and a little lower, is very faint, and very small and round in shape. Bright core. 

NGC 388 is far left bottom, is extremely faint, and small and round. 

NGC 375 is west of NGC 385 and is extremely extremely FAINT and small and round. 

NGC 373 is far right and is also very very faint and small. 

On both nights when I was done with my sketches and observations I spent another hour just observing and then breaking down and going home.  I love observing with it getting darker sooner as I can observe until midnight and then pack up, go home, park in my garage which is locked and go to bed. I then can unload the next morning.  Great two days!