1996 Observing Sessions

March 16/17
Time: 20:00 - 05:30 EST
Location: Garden Hill, Ontario
Telescope: Meade 8-inch LX2 SCT
Activity: Messier Marathon

For my second Messier Marathon we chose a site about 20 minutes north of Port Hope, close to the village of Garden Hill. The site is called Richardson's Lookout Conservation Area and is right on top of a big hill. Arrived on site at about 19:20 with Guy Nason and Stephen Keefer. Sal Merola and Bruce Weber also joined us for the first few hours. The temperature got as low as minus 7 deg. C, and there was a sharp easterly wind both in the evening, and in the early morning. We were lucky to have clear skies all night.

This site (which I picked) was terrible. We had to lug our heavy equipment up a slope for at least 100 metres, and there were a few bright flood lights for neighbouring homes.

Although the lights were far away, they were still bothersome. There were two very important favourable aspects to this site - dark sky and great horizon.

At around 23:30 we saw Come Hyakutake without optical aid. I described it as "large, bright, and a bit brighter than M44".

I ended up seeing 103 Messier objects, plus another 27 "new" deep sky objects, for a total of 130 objects in one night! For a complete article detailing our adventure click here. (opens in a new window)

By 05:00 the sky was starting to get quite bright, so by 05:15 we officially ended the marathon. We left the site at 06:20 and the Sun rose just 10 minutes later.
  Here I am at Richardson's Lookout
the week prior to the Marathon,
scouting for a suitable site.
March 23
Time: 20:00 - 22:00 EST
Location: Long Sault Conservation Area
Telescope: Meade 8-inch LX2 SCT
Activity: Comet Hyakutake

Went to Long Sault to photograph Comet Hyakutake. Seeing it from a dark sky was unbelievable! The tail stretched out for about 30 degrees and it was long and narrow. This was my first "spectacular comet". I believe Steve Spinney also came out on this night, but I am not sure because I did not record it in my log.

July 20/21
Time: 23:00 - 02:30 EDT
Location: Kendal Recreation Area
Telescope: Meade 8-inch LX2 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Arrived on site at about 22:30. Stephen Keefer was there. On the other side of the field (about 300 meters away) Bill Barker and Bob (last name?) also set up. It was good clear night, with no bugs, no dew, but it was windy and cold. Left the site at 03:00.

I observed 11 "new" objects which were: NGC 5962, NGC 5970, IC 1276, NGC 63, NGC 95, NGC 125, NGC 128, NGC 470, NGC 474, NGC 520, NGC 488.

At 23:25 I saw Comet Hale-Bopp, which was easy to see in the finder, and probably around 6th magnitude. In the telescope it showed a round diffuse coma, with a slightly brighter nucleus. In my 8-inch I could not see a tail, but in Stephen's 16-inch there was a small tail visible.

At 23:39 I also saw Comet Kopff, which was much fainter and appeared to have no nucleus, and just a round fuzzy coma. Looked like a faint face-on galaxy. Unfortunately I did not estimate its magnitude.

August 8/9

Starfest '96

Time: 22:30 - 03:00 EDT
Location: Mount Forest, Ontario
Telescope: Meade 8-inch LX2 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Started observing under a clear and transparent sky at 22:30 and quit at 03:00 because the moon was rising. Observed 14 "new" deep sky objects. The objects were: NGC 5838, NGC 5846, NGC 5850, NGC 5831, NGC 5813, NGC 5806, NGC 5746, NGC 5740, NGC 5854, NGC 5864, NGC 6925, NGC 7174, NGC 1931, NGC 7635.

August 9/10

Starfest '96

Time: 22:00 - 01:30 EDT
Location: Mount Forest, Ontario
Telescope: Meade 8-inch LX2 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

The evening started out fine, but it got progressively damp with dew and fog. Eventually around 02:00 the entire campground was engulfed in fog! Even though it was still clear, there was so much fog that observing was impossible.

Observed 6 "new" deep sky objects, which were: Up 1, NGC 4414, NGC 5994, NGC 5996, NGC 380, IC 1727.

August 10/11

Starfest '96

Time: 22:00 - 04:00 EDT
Location: Mount Forest, Ontario
Telescope: Meade 8-inch LX2 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Observed Comet Brewington and Comet Hale-Bopp before getting into deep sky viewing. Comet Brewington was easy to find and easily visible in the finder. It had a large coma with no tail, and I estimated it to be about 8th magnitude. Comet Hale-Bopp was smaller than Brewington, but brighter, and had a small stubby fan tail.

Observed 13 "new" deep sky objects, which were: NGC 5921, NGC 5936, NGC 5953, NGC 5956, NGC 1275, IC 1396, King 19, Mrk 50, NGC 7510, NGC 7226, Berk 94, NGC 7160, NGC 7142.

Year End Stats
No. of observing sessions 6
Approx. telescope time 29 hours
"New" deep sky objects found 71
No. of comets seen 4
No. of auroral displays seen 0
Total deep sky objects observed by end of '96 661
Observing Frequency
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
0 0 2 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 0

Final Comments: A good year for observing, even though I was out only 6 times. I was lucky the sky was clear for all of Starfest. I guess I can call this "the year of the comet" for me since I observed 4 different comets.