Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005... a cloudy memory

2005 was a disappointing year for monthly events.

Of the 23 telescope observing events during 2005... only 11 nights we saw stars!
Four of these eleven were outreach events set at schools

"Event Postponed" or "Event Cancelled" were repeated a dozen times.

Where is the blame? Global Warming? With 296 Million people in these United States its a wonder there isn't a thick layer of gaseous air continuely massed over us 24/7.

Clear Skies for 2006?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Meteors... seen through the eye piece

Have you ever been surprised by a flash of light, streaking across your field of view, while viewing an object through the telescope? The experts call these Telescopic meteors.

The IMO [International Meteor Organiztion] says: It is a often-quoted fallacy that observing meteors through telescopes and binoculars is a waste of time. Authors cite the narrow field of view as not conducive to viewing meteors. Not only can watching telescopic meteors be fun, but the technique has some advantages and complements visual observing. The telescopic observer sees meteors fainter than those recorded by the unaided eye, and can plot meteor paths more accurately. These in turn open up new areas of research. The knowledge that can accrue is explained in Science from Telescopic Meteors.

The IMO Telescopic Commission collates and analyses telescopic data obtained worldwide; its reports appear in WGN. The Commission offers plotting charts, information and advice for potential and active observers. I have had a few opportunities to see these lines of light. I happen to catch one while observing the Galaxy M101 in Ursa Major while on line with the Slooh Robotic Telescope the night of September 8 this year. I did not see the line until I took the shot.
Keep observing, the more time you spend under the canopy of stars, the more chance of seeing a Telescopic Meteor or other unique Celestial phenomenon.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Last Event of 2005

30 miles NE as the Raven flies is a darker site.

Star Log**051203

Tonight: Increasing clouds, with a low around 56. North northwest wind between 5 and 10 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high around 58. North northeast wind around 15 mph.

Arrived at 5:15 pm, Several workers(elves?) inside putting up Santa’s workshop . They requested I not set the alarm when we leave. Called and confirmed.

Cool with some clouds on the Horizon, glow from those areas were worsened by low clouds there.
Aligned LX-90 with Vega and Altair

Venus and crescent moon in WNW just above the building, nice sight just after sunset, more earthshine after dark, the moon set at 7:35

Started with a swing to Polaris
M1- below hill early, M81- too much glow, few wisp clouds DNS,
M31- Great, seeing more of spiral clouds, core bright, The core was bright and the disk was sharp and distinct,using a 24mm eyepiece. This Galaxy has been reported to be 3 times larger than first measured! [220,000 light years across ]I found myself going back to it several times and taking in the area, including the Satellite Galaxies. Always a fine Celestial target, even with Binoculars.
HST- flyby started at 6:37
Visitor: Mike H, asking Question has 3 kids, bring them to the meeting in January
M2- sharp/clear, Almach-dbl, NGC 457, M36, M37, M38, Albeirio, M81 again, dim in glow
M82 again, dim in glow, M15- nice, clear/crisp shot, M27-large and clean M57- ring not as sharp, NGC 253- saw no bright core, Gamma Del- nice sharp dbl, Eta Cas- nice sharp dbl
NGC 7009- not too sharp in glow, M42- still low in glow not as distinct
Mu Ceph- sharp and reddish orange tonight.

And Larry said: "For my part, the Double Cluster in Perseus stood out as the finest object of this night. The sky to our high northeast was clear and dark, and the 9th-magnitude “h and x” bundles of suns looked truly brilliant and filled our field-of-view to the brim. As did all of that Alpha Persei Cluster area. I was using my 26-mm Meade Series 4000 Super-Plössl eyepiece all evening, and it convinced me: If you had to choose just one eyepiece, but no zooms or Ultra-Wides included, what would be the very best all-around choice? This one, I’m confident, is it."

Around 9:30pm the clouds started a slow movement into our sky. Dew began to cover the equipment.

They asked me not to set alarm when I locked up at 9:45pm.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Last Quarter Moon

Have you ever observed the moon during the Day?

This is great time to look! Cool October air and crisp blue skies.

This morning after 10 am in the SSW sky was our Last Quarter moon floating in a sharp blue contrast.

I took this shot through a four inch refractor with a Digital SLR.

Following the Moon day and night.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Moon event

I saw the full moon in the West around dawn this morning and a small dark shadow!
The umbra around 7:03. The partial eclipse ended for me at 7:15, as the moon began to set behind the buildings from my viewing position. I swept the surface with binoculars one more time. If you slept in or did not look up, there are several good photos on the web. A good link is The photo from a fellow in Iowa is close to the way it looked here. There was some off color due to clouds in the atmosphere for a while, but it cleared.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

View through the Slooh Telescope

Wednesday night was warm and humid again. I decided to view the night sky from the Canary Islands. I was up until 5 am their time, viewing Galaxies, Nebulas, Clusters, Asteroids and three Planets. Mars, Saturn and Uranus.

Some I had logged before, but each night is different. Atmospheric affects, Moon light and dark sky play a big roll. Sometimes in the wide view the object is closer than the last time viewed. Different power used on the Alpha or Beta Telescope will cause this. As the night's program moved from Star to Planet during the night, I reviewed descriptions from my Burnham's Celestial Handbook, made notes and took a few snap shots for my reference file.
The Galaxy NGC 253 in Sculptor is huge! I have viewed this "Silver Coin" in my 8".
The view through the 14" Telescope from the Teide Observatory is impressive.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Our aging sun's activity

An Observation on the our nearest Star

I have mentioned the influence of Solar Activity on our weather/climate. Apparently a couple of Duke Universtiy Physicists have been studing this for some time and report: "Sun's direct role in global warming may be underestimated".
An article about their study came out October 2. Nicola Scafetta, an associate research scientist working at Duke's physics department, and Bruce West, a Duke adjunct physics professor, published their findings online Sept. 28, 2005, in the research journal Geophysical Research Letters. According to Scafetta, records of sunspot activity suggest that solar output has been rising slightly for about 100 years. However, only measurements of what is known as total solar irradiance gathered by satellites orbiting since 1978 are considered scientifically reliable, he said.

Stay tuned Skywatchers... in time that formula I spoke of will be written and understood.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Quarter moon and Venus

30 miles NE as the Raven flies is a darker site.

We set up telescopes about sunset; welcomed a few new guests then discussed a few cosmic topics before aligning stars. It was a clear sky with a breeze. We were glad the cloudy forecast was off the mark for the night. The Great Milky Way cut a path across the top of the sky. The other stargazer pointed out the Andromeda Galaxy without aide of Binoculars or his glasses.

Star Log**051001

Aligned LX90 to Arcturus and Alioth also had the 10"Dob on hand

Sloohed to: M15, M31, ngc457, M82, M57, M25-with the 10"-Venus and Qtr Moon, Albireo

the double Cluster ngc869, Pleiades

Venus was low and past the buildings' right wall. Our sister planet was bright and large in the Western Sky before she set behind the dam. We saw Stars close up, Nebulas, Clusters of Stars, Planets and Galaxies. And we got a glimpse of the Red Planet before we packed up and left. The clear sky gave us a great night of viewing the stars.

locked up at 11 pm

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Stargazing from the Rift

StarLog ^*^0510##

This observation was filed in a October 2005 file, site unknown

A note at the bottom of the page indicated my battery was low and I shut down...must have been with the LX90

Aligned with Formahaut and Alphertz
swung to Mirack and Almack/dbl
Tried to view Mars/cloud in that location
sloohed to NGC 457/cluster was clear and crisp
went to Mars again/blue top-yellow and blurry/darker feature in south central part of globe

Battery Low/shut down and rebooted / aligned with Vega and Altair:
M57/the ring
M31/sharp and bright

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mars...bigger and brighter

Rita is finally out of the gulf, and heading NorthEast. She left our area with Triple digit temps and a lot of people on the roads. I am ready for cooler days and nights! The moon finally shows up later and gives us a chance to view Mars and other targets in darker skies.
Reviewed charts and planisphere, before setting up with my 10" Dob in the front yard.

The past couple of nights I have been viewing the SW sky first, before Mars comes up over the trees in the East. Sagittarius is still high enough. Venus is still bright in the West and Cygnus over head. And a quick swing to the North East I can view Cassiopeia and Pegasus. Focusing on Mars you will see a bright yellow orange globe. With the 9mm eyepiece I can still pick out some grey, not too sharp, features. Blue haze along the north rim. I did not see the SPC this last time. After taking notes with a sketch of mars I shifted to the Pleiades, then to the Twenty four day old moon. Saturn was near but not above the trees at 4 am.
Moving along the Moon's terminator, there were several Craters and a mountain range in great contrast . Copernicus was the largest crater with a view of mountains nearby. Another clear night tonight! The weather for this weekend looks a bit on the "CLOUDS MAY ROLL IN" side. And there is another soon- to- be Depression churning in the Atlantic.
I have a theory about out current weather patterns that has to do with our Solar Activity and the age of the sun. We have had continued Solar activity past the 12 year cycle into the rest period. Add Global warming plus plate shifting, plus changes in our Magnetic input/output.... we have more numerous Atlantic activity and stronger storms. There must be a formula in there somewhere!
Mars should be with us, in good viewing position for 90 more days. Still on top of my target list.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Sky after the meeting

After our meeting, a few of us stopped and observered the Moon, Antares and Venus from the parking lot.

One day short of full, the moon's glare hid a lot of the stars. The Moon is always a great target.
I have taken several Moon photos following this cold satellite that wonders our through our sky.

The night sky has not been clear as of late. Mars is a prime target on my list.
The Group's next event is on October 1 at the lake.

Waiting for next chance to set up and observe our night sky.

ISS pass tonight, look at Mars before Rita hits the coast.

Last night's ISS run was bright and long. It arced across a moonless sky starting at 7:57 pm. After the station disappeared behind some trees, I scanned for Andromeda and a few other targets with Binoculars. The ISS will make one more pass in our area tonight. Then will alter it's position on the daily trek around the globe. The County Fair is on for the rest of the week, so I have to contend with Search Lights breaking the view all night. We do have two more clear nights forecast, before Rita's Rage brings us clouds and rain for a few days. Mars is still in moonlight, but it is getting bigger and brighter. The Moon's Terminator is always interesting viewing along the line between night and day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

ISS short run,Venus, an Asterism, a dim Galaxy

Last night was another very warm humid night in Texas. Binoculars in hand I turned off the football game and went out to the backyard. Venus was bright, just below my treeline in the West. At 9:08:30 pm the Station came up above the trees in the West, then disappeared at 9:09:30. Glad I didn't blink. A longer and Higher/Brighter run is due Tuesday night. Then one last run Wednesday night. Looking straight up, the Summer Triangle was still there. I got horizontal and moved the Binoculars from Altair toward Albireo. About one third the way is the Coat HangerAsterism. I moved to the front yard for a better look at our nearest Galaxy M31. Scanned and found Cassiopeia, then moved East. Tried viewing with the Binoculars. In the glow of the Moon light was the Box of Pegasus. Just wasn't dark enough to go up the twin lines to see Andromeda. I will try again Tuesday night, moon rise is 9:55. That gives a little more time to find our nearest Galaxy before Moon shine dominates the sky.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Another ISS Sighting - Expedition 11

The ISS made a short run through our sky last night (9/18/05) starting at 8:42 pm low in the NNW. A not to bright Station ran up the side of the Big Dipper then moved under Polaris. Expedition 11 then moved to the NE and at 8:44:38 pm, just passing Cassiopeia, the 2 man crew slipped silently into a darkening sky and disappeared. I usually position myself several minutes before the run starts with the best view over or through the trees. No Horizon at my house. Allowing time for my eyes to adjust to the night shadows. At one minute before it is due, I focus on the area of the flyby. I have been in areas where there is a Horizon. It is a unique event, to catch this dim moving star/object suddenly appearing out of the atmosphere, climbing and getting brighter as it arcs across the sky, to then suddenly disappear into the darkness. I have sighted / logged the station off and on, since the first unmanned Russian Zarya Control Module started circling the planet in 1999. The next Expedition 12 crew goes up from Russia this Month, September 30. With a commercial paying $$ passanger added there will be 5 on board for about 10 days after docking, before the Expedition 11 Crew comes home.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A closer look at Mars

StarLog^^050917~Humid and hot, moonlit night/Using the 10" Dob, Observed the red planet
Moon in Aquarius/ Mars Magnitude -1.4
StarLog^^050926~Using the 10" Dob, Observed the red planet@ 23:00/ did multiple sketches
StarLog^^050927~Using the 10" Dob, Observed the red planet @4:30 am/multiple sketches

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mars after midnight

First off I checked in with Slooh Robotic Telescope @ 4pm our time. All the missions were scrubbed! The Canary Islands get clouds too! It appears Clouds are a Global Problem.
Around midnight last night the Moon light filled the sky, Mars was finally high enough above the trees to view. There were a few scattered small clouds that moved in and out. In the 10" Dob, our fourth planet was bright golden yellow with a blue haze on the lower edge ( north). I did see a small bright white area on the top the globe, the South Polar Cap. Just below was a patch of dark area that took up about 1/3 of the top portion of the globe. In reviewing the Sky and Telescope's on-line feature guide, I am guessing this was Sytrus Major, or part of it. I will double check this again, when I log my visit. I started out with a 8mm-24mm zoom eyepiece. Tried a blue filter(which did not help). Finally went to a 7 mm Nagler eye piece. I did see more detail after my eye adjusted to the view, following the globe in the lens. I thought I could get a glimpse of Hellas Basin. I could not distinguish that feature. Need a darker sky for picking up more detail. I made a few sketches with notes plus, I did take a peek at Orion and the Seven Sisters before I covered the Dob and went in for the night/morning. I did not view the moon, way too bright.
I would have seen extra spots on the surface of Mars.
No telling what I would have thought they were!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Five is a crowd

30 miles NE as the Raven flies... a darker site

Star Log**050730

@ 7:30-clouds, and more clouds
Opened the building around 9:30, cat was inside, he came out later
The clouds would not leave, it was sticky, warm with no breeze

Three of our folks plus Two from Wimberly; they heard about us / found us through the GVTC site, one has a 9.6 Celestron goto. They had been out at the Fisher site with a group. Invited them to the event in September.

The sky cleared briefly
Since clouds hid Polaris…. I guessed-
I powered up /aligned around 10pm
Arcturus and Altair
Sloohed to: M10, M12, M8-nebula undefined due to ground light and clouds
M13 still awesome in not so dark sky
Jupiter, Albireo, Polaris, M22, M21, Used the pointer for the triangle-scorpius-sagittarius
Found the coat-hanger, Several targets: Galaxies as well as open clusters hidden by clouds

Dew alert around 11 pm

Closed down and left around midnight
I locked the building

Lots of sounds and activity at the joint down the road:
Music- a fire- smoke-fire trucks-police

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Too many clouds...

The area 30 miles NE as the Raven flies.

Star Log**050709

Seeing was not good.

For those who did not venture to the site Saturday night…we did not see a lot of stars. There were stars there, but most were hiding behind clouds. The clouds went from thin to thick. The clouds would break up at times, but then pull together and cover most of the sky.

For the two hours we were there with conversation was interesting and coffee was great and the evening was pleasant.

Mark your calendars... we will try for a clear night on a different date.

Monday, June 13, 2005

After many cloudy nights....Stars

30 miles NE as the Raven flies is a darker site

Star Log**050611

Finally... we saw stars Saturday night!
Just three of us Set up at 9pm

After several previous nights of clouds, we set up and slewed to our favorite Galaxies, Clusters, nebulas and Stars. A slight breeze kept the bugs away. The humidity was high, but sharpened the view of the planets. Venus was bright and high in the West. The GRS was a great addition to Jupiter and its’ moons. We still caught the "Lord of the Rings" as it drifted toward the western horizon. Our Moon was a spectacular five day old crescent in the Western sky, with deep Craters and mountains highlighted along the Terminator!

Sky not the best

Opened the bldg, no problem, the office was unlocked

Aligned at 8:50 Vega/Spica

5 day crescent moon, Venus, Saturn,Jupiter- 2 moons * GRS 9:34** Io close in left, Callisto far out left-Distance=5.06 au/ mag -2.7
M13, Astroid Pallas, M82, M81, Temple comet-could not find
Jupiter again 4 moons 10:43 Callisto far left, Io closer in Left—Europa and Gaynemeade close together on the right.
M4, M5 great, M6 butterfly, M22 dimmed/filtered light, M7 bright cluster,M20 dimmed
Moon again11:45

Shut down
locked the bldg, no problem, lights out

If you were not missed some great sites!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Stars in a Spring Net

Moved NE 30 miles as the Raven flies. It was darker and to some a better site, when there were no other events going on.

Star Log**050312

Event going on....person left and was locking up as I caught her and asked not to lock up
Just a handfull at the event

Double Star Xi Ursa Majoris-ξ
M81 galaxy, M82 galaxy, M101 galaxy, Dbl star-Gamma Leonis γ
Open Cluster Melotte 111-comae Berenices, M64 galaxy, M44 Beehive cluster
Dbl star Iota Cancri- blue/yellow ί
Dbl star Zeta Cancri- -right of beehive, Open cluster M48 Hydra
Pn NGC 3242 ghost of Jupiter- Hydra
Jupiter, Saturn, M83 galaxy in Hydra’s tail, M51 whirlpool galaxy- Canes Venatici
M3 G cluster- Canes Venatici, Dbl star Nu Bootis ν
Dbl star Kappa Bootis κ

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Darker nights...

Moved 30 miles NE as the Raven flies. It was a darker place and to some a better site, when there are no other events going on.

Star Log**050115

Arrived before dark...5:45
There was a man flying a model airplane in field below the site, gate open at road. One of the regulars arrived, I unlocked the door and we set up,

Clear and cold, seeing 7-8, Cold, very cold, no gloves-A couple visited, two others came by

LX90-Could not sight the North star at first
Aligned again, Swung the scope to: Saturn, Moon, Q2-Comet, 2232 and 2243 in Monocerus,
M44, M42, M35, Double cluster, Gamma Andromeda, Gamma leporis, Betelgeuse, Saturn again
2 very bright and long meteorites

No coffee, wind picked up around 9pm
Shut down 10pm-Alarm on , lights off, locked the back door—no alarm

Loaded up... left,
Locked the road gate.