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
|March 4||Bought a used 10-inch LX200 f/10! Sold my 10-inch LX6
f/6.3 a couple of weeks after that.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
|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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Quite warm, some wind, clear, 18 deg C. By 2 am it was
partly cloudy but still warm.
I set up the LX200 in equatorial mode with the Meade
Superwedge and did some pointing accuracy testing. Click HERE
for the results.
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.
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||
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!
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.
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
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.
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||
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
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
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.
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
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.
|Year End Stats
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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