Friday, September 15, 2006

A Site for sore eyes

After poor turn out and events not happening at the other site, the event person found a different site down the road. A bit more south from the lake. A place where folks can drop by at the site; view the stars and take a look through a scope.

The Journey continues...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I will not miss Pluto… as a Planet.

Since Astronomers started discovering larger objects past Neptune, Pluto as a planet has been discussed, reviewed and debated. The first IAU resolution adding three additional planets did not pass.
New definitions and requirements for Planets passed on August 24, 2006 by the International Astronomical Union. We now have eight Planets plus other Objects like Ceres and “Xena” have been redefined as Dwarf Planets, with Pluto as the proto-type of a new class of Trans-Neptunian Objects. More Dwarfs will be classified and listed in the near future. This means new Solar System Charts, Maps and Books with new information on the demotion of Pluto and should be in schools and stores by the year 2010. To me, Pluto has never stood out as a distinguished “Planet”. It was always a dim, cold and distant rock. Three billion miles away placed Pluto on the bottom of my planet viewing list. In my scope, this object is just a small white dot, like one of many Asteroids. Bright Venus and Jupiter or the yellow Saturn and the red Mars can be seen with naked eye. Small Mercury can be visually seen in the sky without equipment. Even Uranus and Neptune will stand out as a colored orb in the night sky through a scope.Larry mentions Pluto in our current newsletter, in the September 16 evening sky. Pluto is a possible search target for medium-to-large telescopes. “Throughout September,” says Astronomy, “Pluto lies less than 1 degree southwest of the magnitude 3.5 star Xi Serpentis. This convenient marker will make finding Pluto, which glows dimly at mag. 13.9, a little less challenging.”I am sure the debate will continue, but for now, I accept the new definitions and look forward to other topics and items discovered in the Cosmos the IAU will focus on …

Saturday, August 12, 2006

No equipment required... Perseid Meteor Shower

Skywatching for a meteor shower requires only looking at the sky from a comfortable lawn chair. Last night's Perseid event would have yielded a better count if the moon was not as bright. My field of view is restricted somewhat because of the trees.I started looking around 9:30 pm, before the moon came up.

One good meteor and a few weak streaks were all I logged for the hour or so I was out. I left my post for refreshments and a rest in a cooler room before going back out around 3 am. No flashlight needed to find my viewing spot. The moon was bright and flooded the sky and ground with it's reflective photons. I did see several weak meteors in a partly cloudy sky. This shower must have been more impressive....Somewhere. I am sure someone saw more than I did.What keeps me interested in skywatching during these meteor events? The November 1998 Leonids! It was a cold November dark sky night with no moon. That meteor shower event had Bolides and Smokers! Short Trains and Long ones! The count was one every two minutes for several hours. It was not a Meteor Storm, but it was a memorable event. Once you have seen a "Show" like that one, you do not want to miss the next " Meteor Shower." Even though last night was not the best event, it could have been. Every night sky is different... be there and be part of that sky even for a little while.
When does the next meteor shower peak? Here is a link I use for meteor events:

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Skywatching from my backyard

Talking about the stars in the cosmos for the past couple of weeks compelled me to finally try and look up at them from my backyard last night. It has been a couple of months since I set up a scope and according to the Calendar, this was the last night in July for a dark sky. I struggled with my 10" Dobsonian scope, but with Elaine's help, we placed it in the driveway.

The quality of the sky was not perfect, looked a little hazy.

The evening was not quite dark enough when I started, but the six day Moon, almost at first quarter, was above the tree line with Spica close by. I focused the scope on the Terminator, using a moon filter. I moved slowly up and down, steering in and out of the craters and mountains along the edge of darkness. The bright crescent moon was moving down quickly and was not above the trees for long. But was a great view while it lasted. Here is a link I have used to review moon targets seen.

Jupiter was easy to spot with the eye and in the scope, 3 moons aligned on one side. One dim moon was trailing close behind the large gas Planet. Targets were not as sharp, so viewing was a bit poor.

I moved the scope more to the south and sighted the heart of Scorpius, the red star Antares. The hooked tail of Scorpius was below the tree line. Sagittarius, it's signature Teapot, was not high enough yet, still skimming the the tree line. I found Cygnus and targeted Albireo, I spotted the duel bright colored double star at the head of the "Swan". I then edged toward Vega and found the Ring Nebula. It was still where I remembered, trapped like a buoy, floating at the edge of the Harp. During my search, three long and bright meteors streaked through Cygnus. I believe these could be the beginning of this month's Perseids! Elaine spotted a couple of slow moving Satellites, at Zenith, traveling from South to North in the night sky.
Clouds were beginning to roll in and I wanted to catch the Globular M13. I looked up and saw what I thought was the "Keystone". But I had moved to quickly and after scrolling the scope up and down between four stars, I discovered I was in the head of Draco. I did catch a nice view of a double star, that looked like eyes glaring back at me. By then the clouds were consuming large areas of the night sky. It was a warm night with lots of flying little things buzzing around. I was ready to recover from the past couple of hours. We put the scope into sleep mode. I plan to put M13 at the front of my next target list. I know the stars will be there, waiting for me, the next time I step out in the backyard at night with a scope or binoculars and a clear sky. Take time to step out in your backyard and start star searching!You will find them there most nights waiting for you... to discover and explore.

Monday, March 20, 2006

No longer Sloohing the night sky.... On line

As of this week I have cancelled my membership to the Great Slooh Robotic Telescope in the Canary Islands. The latest upgrade on the software program to their website looks great! Plays music while the target is loading plus many added features. Unfortunately the telescope targets never loaded and filled the screen for me to view. I did get a 10 second look at Saturn. Thought I had a great photo. But when I checked the mission log file, later....Nothing was there. My dial-up mode just cannot catchup with their new system and keep up with their programs megabytes any longer. I was always patient with the program they ran this past year. I would wait the full 5 or 10 minute time frame, per object, for the photons to accumulate and sometimes got a chance to take a clear photo. I did manage to gather a view shots in my download file. Like a wide view of Omega Centauri, NGC 5139. One of the last photos filed before they changed to the Slooh 2.0 system program. It was a great way to spend a cloudy evening. Following the targets set by a team stationed at that robotic telescope for an evening at my desk, with my three volumes of Burnham's Celestial Handbooks, learning more about each Celestial target. Until I can acquire a High Speed link, I will use my Burnham's Hanbooks as reference and call up my file photos to review any line.So, if you have a High Speed modem and want to spend a cloudy evening slewing from a home computer, go to and sign up. The Commander membership will give you a year's worth of dark sky site seeing from the Canary Islands.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cloudy Night Skies!

Only two nights with Stars during the past three months!
The Group has only set up twice this year. Both at Elementary School outings. Rebecca Creek on February 13 and Hoffmann Lane on March 9. I have only set up in my backyard once this year!

Weather forecasting and planning with clouds can be tricky to determine the best chances to catch a starry night. Weather forecasting has come a long way. With NOAA satellites and computers, today's science of weather forecasting brings us a faster technological predicting machine. But a lot still depends on Old Mother Nature and Luck. A Clear sky is what we look far, but there are partly cloudy nights.
What % of the sky is covered when you want to see the stars?
Here are some of the defined sky conditions set by the NWS:
Mostly Clear When the predominant/average sky condition is covered 1/8 to 2/8 with opaque (not transparent) clouds. Sometimes referred to as Mostly Sunny if this condition is present during daylight hours.
Mostly Cloudy When the predominant/average sky condition is covered by more than half, but not completely covered by opaque (not transparent) clouds. In other words, 5/8 to 7/8 of the sky is covered by opaque clouds. Same as Considerable Cloudiness.
Overcast(Abbrev. OVC)- An official sky cover classification for aviation weather observations, when the sky is completely covered by an obscuring phenomenon. This is applied only when obscuring phenomenon aloft are present--that is, not when obscuring phenomenon are surface-based, such as fog.
Partly Cloudy When the predominant/average sky condition is covered 3/8 to 4/8 with opaque (not transparent) clouds. Same as Partly Sunny. Even a Mostly Clear sky forecast could have some clouds. A partly cloudy sky could have 50% cloud cover.
Planning a Sky Watching event in the night sky with clouds can be a Stargazers' dilemma.
This next weekend has clouds in the forecast. The best way to predict is to step outside in your backyard at night, when you look up in the night sky and see an ocean of stars , set up, align then begin to explore the night sky. Good luck forecasting your next backyard event,

Friday, March 10, 2006

No more monthly events

At a time of year that usually brings a rash of star gazers, monthly events were suspended.

Disappointed in past turn out and participation, the person scheduleing the events decided to suspend all monthly events off the calendar.

Time to re-evaluate group participation and events.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Saturn Night Live at the Scobee Planetarium

Saturday evening we arrived around Sunset at the Scobee Planetarium parking lot. Already 100 plus people milling around waiting to catch sight of a star.
Telescopes poised at the ready and some already stationary on the Moon at first quarter. We could finally see Orion and lines were starting to form at the variety of scopes placed stratigacally throughout the parking lot. Some of the pole lights in the parking lot went black.

A NASA film on the Cassini Mission started and a large group of kids and parents positioned themselves in front of the screen. As it got darker I was trying to orient myself and find Saturn. While I was reviewing the sky with Elaine and chart in hand this large fellow, a star gazer in line, went out of his way to get one of the Club members at a scope to come over with pointer in hand and positioned me to the correct direction to look and pointed out Saturn. She asked me "Do you want to see the Ringed Planet in a scope?" Of course I accepted her offer and stood in line at her scope. An 8" Dob. She patiently showed each person how to adjust the eyepiece and view the planet. I saw at least 2 moons and the rings were sharp and clear. The scope lines were getting longer and more people were moving into the scope area of the parking lot. It was 7:30 pm. We left soon after. We saw the Moon several times in different scopes and the features along the Terminator are still Awsome! A 3" Refractor and a 12" Schmidt/Cassegrain, a 10" Dob. Scores of other sizes and shapes to view from. There were lots of questions being answered by all the Club members at each scope. Usually two people posted at each scope. One kept the object in view while the other kept the line straight and answered questions. Where is Mars? Is that cluster the 7 Sisters? What is that star?Earlier we found and said hello to Don Baker of the SA club. In reviewing the site I questioned the restoration in the Observatory and when the new scope might be operational? He introduced me to Brian Snow. Brian is the Planetarium Coordiantor. The scope he was setting up that night in the parking lot was the original one used in the Observatory. A 12 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain. Pictured above is Brian aligning a target the with the large scope during the Satrun Night Live event.Here is the scoop on the new Scope and a remodled Observatory: Construction will seriously begin in April.To hopefully be complete by August of 2006. The new scope will be a 12" Refractor.Elaine and I enjoyed our outing that evening. The San Antonio Astronomy group puts on a Super Star Party out there. It is an informitive and active star/planet/ skywatching event. We are looking forward to the next Scobee event. Even if it is just to a Friday evening show in the Planetarium. Brian mentioned to let him know when our N.B. group decides to come out to one of the Friday shows.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Road Trip to the H.A.S. Observatory

Saturday, January 21, 2006 1:50 pm
It was cloudy and cold, but our one hour and thrity five minute trip to the site near Columbus was uneventful. Larry piloted the two of us and we met Linda and her daughter at the site. Thanks to Warren and the H.A.S Picnic staff for inviting us and giving us a warm welcome to the event, we all had a great time. The chili was warm going down on a cold day. The Observatory is roomy with three large scopes. They will teach you to use them and the site is well kept. They have conctrete pads in the field below the Observatory for individual scope set up. The entire Group wished for a chance to view the stars that night but the clouds won another round. The Picnic broke up early due to the weather, we left for home before 5pm. After seeing and touring the H.A.S. site, we invisioned an Observatory on some obscure out of the way[of light pollution]Hill Country Site to call our own.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Change in Observing

My Observing schedule and event participation took a big hit in January 2006.
I was DXd with a Neurological Disorder, with problems in my long weak legs and clumsy feet. This has really slowed me down a bunch. Wearing Braces[AFOs] hinder my movements and in doing a lot of things. I have had to back out of setting up scopes and participating in nightly group events. No more packing up and heading to a site... no more events.

My plan is to observe and explore when I can and continue to record what I see from my backyard.

The Journey continues...

Tuesday, January 3, 2006


New year brought a clear night/set up in the backyard
Aligned the Lx90 @ 7:50pm with Capella and Rigel
Scanned Orion/Betelgeuse
sloohed to M31, M37, M36, M38, found M1/faint in an urban sky
gamma and/dbl, back to M35, swung to NGC 457/ dragon fly, The double cluster was sharp tonight, M44, used binoculars to view the hyades/caldwell 41, swung to M42, viewed Mintaka then swung to Nait al saif/dbl star, viewed Saturn @ 9:48
shut down at 1am

went back out at 5am to catch the Quantrid meteor shower: count of 6 in and out of the big dipper/bright blue, 3 long and 3 short