2001 Observing Sessions

January to March Generally terrible weather with lots of snow. We had several major snowfalls starting in Dec. 2000 and continuing into January and February 2001. We had constant snowcover until mid-March. A foot or more of snow was always present in my backyard, which made observing impossible (the snow had become hard like ice, so I could not even shovel it away). It was a pretty bad winter.

March 4 Bought a used 10-inch LX200 f/10! Sold my 10-inch LX6 f/6.3 a couple of weeks after that.

March 9
Time: 22:00 - 23:00 EST
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Testing

Set up the LX200 for the first time for testing. Raymond Li came over to my place to give me an overview of the telescope controls. We had partly cloudy skies, so we were limited on what we could look at, however I was very impressed by how easy it was to align the scope (alt-az mode) and getting the GOTO functionality going. Great telescope!

I had to dig out a circle in the snow so I could set up the scope on solid ground. Still about one foot of snow in the backyard!

March 10
Time: 22:30 - 00:00 EST
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Testing

Set up the LX200 for more testing. Optically the scope seems great, mirror shift is negligible, and the pointing accuracy is pretty good, but it varies. Some times the object is right in the center, at other times it is at the edge of the field of view. Perhaps I have to level and star-align more carefully. The set up was in alt-az mode. Slewing is loud but fast! Still amazed with what this telescope can do!

March 11
Time: 22:00 - 23:30 EST
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Testing

This time I set up the LX200 in equatorial mode using the standard wedge from my LX6. The scope is not very sturdy on the standard wedge. Alignment was a little more complex but still easy. I spent a little extra time on alignment and I also used a 12mm reticle eyepiece. Pointing accuracy was on avarage around 5 arc minutes without the use of Hight Precision Pointing. I am quite pleased with its performance.

March 22
Time: 22:30 - 00:00 EST
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky, Double Stars

Set up the scope in Altazimuth mode since I no longer have the standard wedge from my old scope. It was quite clear, the temperature is just above zero, but the seeing is poor. I decided to observe some double stars in Canis Minor in order to check the optics of the telescope. I found that splitting a double star with a separation of 4.6 arc-seconds was quite easy at just 96x.

In a matter of minutes I observed the following Messier objects (using GOTO):
M35, M36, M37, M38, M104, M90, M89, M87, M49, M3, M13. Quite pleased with the views despite the light pollution!

April 13/14
Time: 21:30 - 02:00 EDT
Location: Kendal Recreation Area
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

First time out to a dark sky in 2001. Also, this is the first time back at Kendal Recreation Area since July 20, 1996! The site is the same as 5 years ago, nothing has changed, including the crater-sized pot holes leading to the parking lot! Also present were Stephen Keefer, Raymond Li, and Wayne Wu. I arrived on site at 21:10, it was very clear, cool, and windy. The wind later died down and we had some dew. Aurora was expected, however there was absolutely no sign of it. Left the site at 02:10. I set up the scope in altazimuth mode because I still had no wedge. I found star hopping to be more difficult when not equatorially mounted. Also, I am still adjusting to the narrower field of view of the f/10 scope, compared to my previous f/6.3 instrument.

As a "warm-up" exercise, I observed M3, M51 (amazing!), M65 and M66 (huge & bright!), M95 and M96, M13 (excellent!), and M57 (large & bright!).

I observed a total of 9 "new" objects, all galaxies in Leo and Coma Bernices: NGC 2939, NGC 2919, NGC 2911, NGC 2894, NGC 2906, NGC 4158, NGC 4147, NGC 4064, NGC 4032.

May 4 Today I received confirmation from Starfest organizers that I will be presenting at Starfest 2001. My presentation will be about "Maintaining an Observing Logbook" on Friday Aug. 17 at 3:30 pm. See here for more http://www.nyaa-starfest.com/starfest/2000s/2001/speakers/markov.htm

May 12/13
Time: 23:00 - 01:00 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Quite clear, cool, a little windy. Set up the LX200 using the Super Wedge for the first time - polar aligning the scope with the Super Wedge is quite simple and easy. The seeing appears to very good, with well focused pinpoint star images. I can see diffraction rings around Arcturus. I took some time and carefuly observed the following Messier objects: M3, M51, M49, M58, M60, M84, M86, M87, M89, M90, M104, M13 (and NGC 6207!), M57, M9, M10. Also saw Mars, but it was still low in the sky, thus the image was poor.

I also accurately measured the actual field of view of my Konig 32mm eyepiece at 0.5 degrees (I believe this eyepiece has an apparent field of view of 52 degrees). This does not quite agree with the theoretical value of 0.67 degrees (calculated by AFOV / power, ie 52/78).

I also observed once again an interesting asterism in Hercules. This asterism may become known as "Markov 1". See a picture and read about it here.

May 18/19
Time: 23:00 - 01:00
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Started observing around 11 PM. It's clear but hazy and mild (13 deg C), with no wind. Later in the observing session the haze went away and it was rather clear. I spent quite a bit of time doing the "interative" method of polar aligning, plus I checked the pointing accuracy on serveral targets. The pointing test below was done with a 12mm reticle eyepiece, however I am making a big assumption - the field of view of the 12 mm eyepiece is 11.5 arc-minutes in diameter (this is a calculated field of view, as I have not had the chance to measure the actual field of view).

Arcturus to Spica - 5 arc-minutes
Arcturus to Regulus - 10 arc-minutes
Arcturus to M3 - 2 arc-minutes
M3 to Spica - 5 arc-minutes
Spica to Vega - 16 arc-minutes
Vega to M13 - 6 arc-minutes

I suspect that the actual field of view of the 12 mm reticle eyepiece is less than 11.5 arc-minutes, therefore the figures above may be a little less than shown.

Did some deep sky observing: saw M64, M53, NGC 4725, M57, Epsilon Lyrae was split, but still "tight" even at 167x, saw NGC 6207 again (mag. 11.6!!), and Mars (still low in the sky, therefore poor view).

May 29
Time: 22:30 - 23:30
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Moon photography

Took a few shots of the moon at prime focus (f10) and one shot with the f6.3 focal reducer. I was not able to focus the shots properly while the exposures were about right. Once concern is that part of the moon is in focus while another part is out of focus; perhaps my camera has a problem! I also had focusing problems with this camera for regular daylight shots. I had to pack it in early because clouds rolled in.

May 31 Today I received confirmation from the editor of the Observer's Handbook (of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) that my section called "The Observing Logbook" will be included in the 2002 edition!

June 6/7
Time: 22:30 - 00:30 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Pointing Accuracy Testing

With a partly cloudy sky and a full moon, there was not much to observe, so I tested the pointing accuracy to the LX200. Click HERE for the results.

I also did some rough measurements of the actual field of view of my eyepieces and these are the results:
(See June 8 for precise measurements)

Eyepiece with 2500mm F.L. scope Actual Field of View
Meade 40mm SWA 2-inch 58 arc-min
University Optics 32mm Konig 1.25-inch 34 arc-min
Meade 26mm Super Plossl 1.25-inch 28 arc-min
Tele-Vue 15mm Plossl 1.25-inch 18 arc-min
Meade 12mm MA illum. reticle 1.25-inch 12 arc-min

Before packing it in, I tried my new Meade 40mm Super Wide Angle 2-inch on M39 and the view is very nice! The huge field of view is perfect for large open clusters. However focus at the edges of the field is poor, with stars looking like "seagulls". Still, it's a great eyepiece!

And finally I had a quick look at Mars. At 96X I could clearly see a dark triangular marking right in the centre of the disk - I suppose it was Sirtis Major. Pretty neat stuff!

June 8/9
Time: 23:00 - 02:00 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Pointing Accuracy Testing

Quite warm, some wind, clear, 18 deg C. By 2 am it was partly cloudy but still warm.
Prior to testing the pointing accuracy of my telescope, I did an accurate measurement of each eyepiece's filed of view. I did this by aiming the telescope on a star close to the meridian at zero declination. With the telescope drive off, I timed how long it took a star to cross the field of view. The number of seconds divided by 240 gives the field of view in degrees. To convert to arc-minutes, multiply degrees by 60. Here are the results:

Eyepiece with 2500mm F.L. 10-inch f10 Actual Field of View in 10-inch f10
Meade 40mm SWA 2-inch 55.5 arc-min
University Optics 32mm Konig 1.25-inch 30.75 arc-min
Meade 26mm Super Plossl 1.25-inch 27.25 arc-min
Tele-Vue 15mm Plossl 1.25-inch 15.25 arc-min
Meade 12mm MA illum. reticle 1.25-inch 10.5 arc-min

I set up the LX200 in equatorial mode with the Meade Superwedge and did some pointing accuracy testing. Click HERE for the results.

June 11
Time: 22:30 - 00:00 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Pointing Accuracy Testing

Hot, hazy and humid, partly cloudy - a good night for testing the pointing accuracy. The purpose of this session was to identify if the pointing error was consisently in any one particular direction / axis. NOTE: for this set of tests, I did not compensate for the three potential issues noted just above.

I will not list the pointing error as before since the results were quite similar to the June 8 results. The important thing to note is that there was no commonality in the centering errors - the error was all over the place - too far north, south, east, or west. The only thing in common that I could notice is that if I did a GOTO to the east, the scope would always go a little too far east, and if I did a GOTO west, the scope would always go a little too far west (although this was not always true a 100% of the time).

After completing the testing I re-synched on Vega and did some general observing of Messier objects with a 32 mm eyepiece (FOV is 30 arc-min, therefore center-to-edge is 15 arc-min). All the following objects were within the field of view of this eyepiece: M57, M13, M27, M3, M97, M10, and M92. For some of the longer slews (such as M3 and M97) the objects were right on the edge of the field of view, indicating a pointing accuracy of 15 arc-min.

June 23
Time: 22:30 - 00:00 EDT
Location: DRAACO
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: None - cloudy!

Went out to a new site (privately owned land) just east of Orono and west of Starkville with Mike Cook and Mike D'Angelo. The forecast said it would clear in the evening. We stayed on site till midnight hoping it would clear, but it never did!

July 2 and July 6
Time: n/a
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: None - cloudy!

Both nights I set up in the backyard as it was clear at sunset. It then clouded over and no observing was possible, despite the forecast calling for clear skies!

July 8
Time: 23:00 - 00:15 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Pointing Accuracy Testing

Clear, no wind, quite warm (23 degrees C). The moon rose at 23:40. I set up the LX200 in equatorial mode with the Meade Superwedge and did some pointing accuracy testing. Click HERE for the results.

July 11
Time: 23:50 - 00:00 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: 16 x 50 binoculars
Activity: Comet LINEAR A2

I took a very quick look at Comet LINEAR A2 with my old & cheap 16 x 50 binoculars from my light-polluted backyard. I held the binoculars without any support, so the view was not very steady. The comet was rather dim, but fairly large. It was similar in apperance to M22 in Sagittarius - about the same size and same magnitude. Keep in mind the above observation was very rough. It was not far from Markab in Pegasus.

July 21
Time: 00:20 - 01:20 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: LX200 Pointing Accuracy Testing

Hot and very hazy, can only see stars to mag. 2. I set up the LX200 alt-az mode and did some pointing accuracy testing. Click HERE for the results.


August 11/12
Time: 22:00 - 00:30
Location: DRAACO
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

After the "star-b-que" held by the Durham Region Astronomical Association (DRAA) several of us headed up to our new observing site - DRAACO (DRAA Centre for Observing). Arrived on site at 21:20 (already dark) under a clear sky with mild temperatures and no mosquitoes. 12 people were there so it turned out to be a mini star party. Because of all the people around I was not able to hunt down any new objects, so instead we just looked a variety of good deep sky objects like: M13, M27, the Veil Nebula, the Saturn Nebula, the Helix Nebula. Also looked at Uranus and Neptune. All objects found with GOTO. Just for fun I did a GOTO to NGC 1 in Pegasus - it was barely visible due to some thin clouds.

I tried out the OIII filter for the first time on my 10-inch LX200 f10 and was not too impressed. I was happier with the views I got through my 10-inch LX6 f6.3. In the f10 scope the views were quite dark - I suspect the slower f-ratio on the LX200 was the problem. Next time I'll drop in the f6.3 focal reducer and see if the images are more pleasing. I looked at both parts of the Veil Nebula with the OIII filter and as noted above the view was quite dark, making it difficult to see anything, including the nebula itself.

At 22:45 I did a GOTO to Comet LINEAR A2 - it was large, diffuse and no tail. Perhaps the slight elongation I saw was due to a very small tail. I estimated the coma to be about 5 arc-min in size. I also saw this comet through Tony Ward's 15-inch Dobsonian and it was not much better than my 10-inch (I still could not see a distinct tail).

Tonight was the peak of the Perseids meteor shower, except the moon rose around midnight. I inadvertently saw several meteors while doing my deep sky observing. None were spectacular, however many were bright. Around 23:00 clouds started moving in and by midnight most of the sky was covered by clouds. I left the site around 01:00.

August 16 - 19
Starfest 2001 - my 18th consecutive year!


Arrived on site on Thursday Aug. 16 at about 16:30 - rain. The sky remained cloudy in the evening and showers developed throughout the night. No observing.

Friday, Aug. 17 - Cool, cloudy with rain on & off all day. I presented in the Small Tent on "The Observing Logbook". The sky remained cloudy throughout the night, however I was told there was a brief period of clearing around 3 am. No observing.

Saturday, Aug. 18 - Warm, cloudy with sunny periods. Between 20:00 and 22:00 the sky cleared but most people were in the Big Tent for the Twilight Talk. By the time everyone came out, the sky clouded over completely. I suppose a few people did a little observing, however most did not even bother to set up their telescopes. Overnight showers developed and the rain continued until about 10:00 on Sunday morning. I left the site at 11:30 on Sunday morning and encountered more rain on the way home.

In terms of weather, this was the worst Starfest I've attended in the past 18 years! The scope remained in the van throughout the whole event.

Sept. 11 Nothing to do with astronomy, but this tragedy took my mind off astronomy for weeks..

World Trade Centre destroyed by hijacked airliners

October 7/8
Time: 22:15 - 01:00 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Started polar aligning under partly cloudy skies, but by 23:00 it cleared-up completely. Cool, some wind, fairly transparent skies, temperature is zero Celsius. A waning gibbous moon "lit up" the sky considerably.

Had a fun time "object hopping" to several un-impressive open clusters in Cygnus. I observed a total of 7 "new" deep sky objects: DoDz10, Do36, Do43, Ru173, Ru175, DoDz11, all in Cygnus, and DoDz1 in Aries.
Also took a quick look at Saturn (saw 6 of its moons), Jupiter, M36, M37, M38. For the first time I used the f6.3 focal reducer with the Meade 40mm SuperWide Angle (2-inch) to give an actual field of view of nearly two degrees, however, there is severe vignetting.

October 8
Time: 22:30 - 23:30 EDT
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Second night in a row! Quite clear, some moisture in the air, no wind, cool, zero Celsius. A waning gibbous moon rose at about 23:00 but it did not interfere with my observations.

Did not have as much fun as last night because the objects were "less than impressive"! Still, I was "object hopping" because all these objects were within a few degrees of each other.
I observed a total of 6 "new" deep sky objects, all open clusters in Cygnus: Do42, Do41, Do40, Do39, Do3, Do4. Had to pack it in early because it's a week night!

November 17/18
Time: 22:00 - 00:30 EST
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Set up the scope around 21:30 under clear skies, but lots of moisture in the air. Clear, no wind, just above freezing. The scope and table were covered in dew. The peak of the much anticipated Leonid meteor shower was at 5 am on Nov. 18. This year there is no moon light interference and the peak favours North America.

Quickly found
Comet LINEAR C/2000 WM1 with the 40mm eyepiece (62x). Round, no tail visible from the city, diffuse with no central condensation. Using the 26mm eyepiece (96x) the nucleus is a little more pronounced. I estimated its size to be about 2 arc-minutes. I did a GOTO the Crab Nebula (M1) but I cannot say I saw it for sure. If it was there, it was next to impossible to see, even with the OIII filter.

During this session
I observed a total of 7 "new" deep sky objects, all open clusters in Taurus and Orion: DoDz 4, DoDz 3, Do14, DoDz 2, Do 21, Do 17, Do 19. Also looked at some favourite Messier objects, such as M42 with the OIII filter (which improves the view considerably).

As I started packing away my equipment around 00:30, clouds rolled in quickly and within 5 minutes the entire neighbourhood was engulfed in thick fog! (I later found out that many areas of southern Ontario were also plagued by clouds and thick fog, so only people located at higher elevations had clear skies for the Leonid peak). While observing from my backyard I did not see any Leonid meteors, probably because I was not looking in particular, and also because the activity was due to start later in the night. Reports pegged this year's Leonid meteor shows as spectacular with a maximum rate well about 1000 meteors per hour (many said that it was impossible to keep an accurate count because there were just too many!). I was unable to join any of the observing groups in the early hours of Sunday morning because I had promised my son to take him to the Christmas Parade in downtown Toronto later that same morning.

December 9
Time: 22:45 - 23:45 EST
Location: My Backyard
Telescope: Meade 10-inch LX200 SCT
Activity: Deep Sky Observing

Set up around 18:00 but did not make it out of the house till around 22:30! Clear sky, good transparency, no moon, cool temp about minus 2 C. Just for fun I did a GOTO the Crab Nebula (M1) and it was very hard (almost impossible) to see! Tried 96x and 125x and looked for several minutes and it was just a "ghost" image. Hard to believe that even with a 10-inch it's so hard to see from the city.

During this session
I observed a total of 2 "new" deep sky objects, both unimpressive open clusters in Andromeda: NGC 272 and Av-Hunter 1. I also tried NGC 812 (mag. galaxy in Andromeda) but I could not see it. Finally I had some great views of Jupiter and Saturn, which were both high overhead.

Year End Stats

No. of observing sessions 19
Approx. telescope time 24 hours
"New" deep sky objects found 31
No. of comets seen 2
No. of auroral displays seen 1
Total deep sky objects observed 857
   
Observing Frequency
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
0 0 4 1 3 4 2 1 0 2 1 1
Final Comments:
A rather poor year for observing. I "wasted" lots of time fiddling with the LX200 (ie pointing accuracy tests) and also Starfest was completely clouded over (that's where I get lots of observing done!). The only highlight was the acquisition of a used 10-inch LX200.

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