2004 Observing Sessions
2004 is off to a very cold start: In January we had
several nights where the temperature was around minus 27
deg C. February was not much better!
Spotted Venus in the daytime just 4 degrees away from
a very thin crescent Moon. I first saw it with 10 x 50
binoculars, then with the unaided eye. I actually looked
from inside the house through an open window. Being
inside a room help a lot in reducing glare and blocking
For the first
time I tried some digital photography
thru my 10-inch Dobsonian with the Canon A60. The photos
were taken afocally by hand-holding the camera up to the
eyepiece! With a little practice and some image
processing I should be able to get much better planetary
Set up on the deck in my backyard with the Celestron
NexStar 114GT with my young son. The sky was clear, temp
was a cool zero deg. C
I drove to Long Sault Conservation Area, one of my
usual observing sites, but when I arrived the entire site
was taken over by Search & Rescue training
exercises!! The parking lot where we usually set up was
turned into a central command post with a diesel
generator and bright floodlight! I asked how long they
would be there and was told till morning - that was my
cue to leave and go find another place to observe. In my
twenty years of using Long Sault Conservation Area this
has never happened!
A freak heat wave hit Toronto for two days and the
temperature soared to plus 25C.
I also tested the sky on M65 and M66: These were barely visible in the 10-inch at 86X. I could not see the nearby galaxy NGC3628. Increasing the power to 120X did not improve the views. On the other hand, M51 and its companion galaxy NGC5195 were more obvious at 86X with each galaxy's nucleus clearly visible with even a hint of spiral arms around M51. Lastly I looked at M13 but this time I could not see the galaxy NGC6207 located less than one degree north.
Set up in the backyard, clear, no wind, temperature is
8'C at the start, later fell to 6'C, first quarter moon
is lighting up the sky.
Set up in my backyard to observe the first Venus
transit in 122 years. Used my 10-inch SkyWatcher
Dobsonian and my Canon A60 digital camera to take the
photos below using the afocal method. The filter was a
Thousand Oaks Type II. The angular size of Venus against
the Sun was impressive and so was the roundness of the
planet I was able to observe the "black drop"
effect, however I viewed it through the digital camera's
LCD display, which is rather small and not very crisp.
This observing session was totally unplanned and I wish I
had done more homework on my equipment setup well before
the event. For example, I found focusing using the
camera's LCD display to be difficult so I ended up with
many out-of-focus photos.
Drove on back country roads (instead of on Hwy 401) and arrived after 1 hr and 20 min (the distance is 77 km). Took a bit longer because of a couple of missed turns, and not being able to find a dirt road (not marked with any signs, other than "not open to traffic"!!). That section of road is Henry Rd., just south of Tauton Rd. - definitely not a recommended route!!
On site were Mike Cook, Len Benschop, Dieter, Marty Utton, John Ruta, Stephen Keefer and a few others. It was very windy and cold (temp was 10 deg C), but the wind chill made it much colder. The wind did not subside till I packed up for the night around 3:30 am. I was wearing my full winter gear, including snow pants - the wind was terrible! No mosquitoes and no dew at all (no big surprise there!). The sky was excellent, and other than light pollution from Oshawa and Toronto to the west, the sky was comparable to a Starfest sky.
With 10x50 binoculars I could see stars just one degree about the southern horizon (looking over Lake Ontario), and I could also see stars in Corona Australis with the unaided eye.
During evening twilight I saw Comet NEAT C/2001 Q4 through the 10-inch telescope. It was about 5th magnitude with no tail and it looked similar to a globular cluster. Through the night I used binoculars to look at several Messier Objects, including M33, the North American Nebula, and Markov 1
Earlier in the evening I did a quick comparison between my Lumicon OIII filter and my Orion UltraBlock filter. Both produced nice views, with the UltraBlock giving slightly brighter images, but it's hard to decide which one is better when looking at M27.
I observed 13 new objects: NGC 4346, NGC 4217, NGC 4220, NGC 4242, NGC 4389, NGC 4460, NGC 4138, NGC 4143, IC 750, NGC 4051, NGC 4013, NGC 3938, NGC 3917. All are galaxies in Canes Venatici and Ursa Minor
I quit observing at 3:10 am, left the site at 3:40 am and got home at 4:45 am. I was in bed by 5:00 am. It typically takes me about 2 hours from the time I stop observing to the time I get to bed - how I wish I lived under dark country skies!!
Sky & Telescope featured this on-line logbook, including a couple of screen shots! See the "Astronomy On-line" section on page 120 of the July 2004 issue.
|August 19 August 22||
Arrived on site at 4:15 pm on Thursday Aug. 19. As previous years, I set up the minivan to be my "home" for 3 days. I slept comfortably on a real mattress, however, even in the van it still got quite cold at night. Camped with Raymond Li and Walter MacDonald just a few meters south of the Main Tent. I presented for the fourth year in a row - the topic this year was "Doing Real Science from your Backyard", presented on Saturday afternoon in the small tent. I left the site on Sunday morning around 11 am.
Thursday was sunny and cool all day (19' C). Set up the Meade 10-inch LX200 and the Celestron NexStar 114GT (for my son). At sunset clouds started to roll in, quite cool (9' C) with some dew. Partly cloudy throughout the evening, so I did some casual observing (ie saw many Messier objects). My six year old son had a blast with the GOTO NexStar telescope! I also looked through Raymond Li's new Meade 10-inch LX200 GPS scope and it produces very nice views (the optics appear to be very good!). Stopped observing at 1:15 am and was sleeping by 1:45 am.
Friday was overcast and cool (20' C) but the wind made it feel much cooler so I had to wear a jacket! Night time was mostly cloudy with very few sucker holes. No observing.
Setup in the backyard under a seemingly clear sky, however a thin layer of clouds blanketed the sky. No wind, 8'C, cool. Most of the clouds dissipated around 23:00.
Arrived on site at 21:15 after 1hr 5min travel time (81 km). Many people already on site - Steven Keefer, Jeff Dutton, ,Brent, Dan Hilt, Marty Utton, and others. Clear, cool, not very transparent, lots of dew at first, but then the wind picked up and dew was not a problem. As a "warm up" I observed several Messier objects, as well as the Helix Nebula. As the night progressed the temperature dipped to 4'C and it was uncomfortably windy.
I observed 9 new objects: NGC 6967, NGC 6964, NGC 6962, NGC 7184, NGC 7180, NGC 7185, NGC 7183, NGC 2024, NGC 1964
The highlight of the night was Jeff Dutton showing me the North American Nebula through his 10-inch Dob with a Lumicon UHC filter and a 2-inch 30mm wide-scan (Magellan) eyepiece. I could clearly see the entire shape of the nebula - an amazing sight!
Extremely cold night at minus 24 deg C. !! Observed from the backyard for about 15 minutes. Comet Machholz is very easy to see in the 10x50 binoculars and is located about 14 deg west of Rigel (about 2 fields of view). Compared to the open clusters in Auriga (M36, M37, M38) and M35 in Gemini, the comet is much brighter and somewhat larger.
|Year End Stats||
|Final Comments||An average year in
terms of number of observing sessions, telescope time, and new deep sky
objects. The highlight was definitely the Venus Transit in June. I was
hoping to get to 1000 deep sky objects this year, but I'm still 27
objects short. It should be no problem in 2005!
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