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Topics - Marko

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Observing Reports / Eclipse 2017 from just north of Salem Oregon
« on: August 21, 2017, 10:42:04 PM »
Have had a wonderful visit with my brother inlaw and his sister (my wife of course).
Have been all about to many great places and today was our main course, the eclipse.

Having zero experience unlike many other TACos I will say that it has been an unforgetable experience to be remembered due to it is so unlike our normal experiences and I suspect there is some primal wonder having to do with our sun and what is 'normal' for it perhaps.

Viewed just north of Salem with a clear sky that I suspect had some smoke but it was not something that one could detect easily if at all when looking up where the sun was placed. Traffic in getting there was quite easy starting at 5:30am from 5 miles south of Portland to site by 6:30  but the way back had several accidents from extra eclipse crowd so delayed 1.5 hours longer than un-cluttered.

I had setup a small scope to be a sort of projector onto a tripod holding a flat white stiff board.  This made us rather popular at this site where we had maybe 15 onlookers at this simple rig.  There were perhaps 30 cars on a great big field where it was $10 per person for a ticket to Antique Powerland AND we got admission to see old steam engines and machines included.   The optics of my 'projector' were not offering a crisp telescopic view but one could see the 3 sunspots well into the disk and lots of people were taking pics of the 3" dia image of the sun prior to totality (nothing on this in totality as all eyes were to the sky and loads of 'oohs' and 'ahhs' and claping in totality.

Here are the distinct things that make this unique in my book
- The darkening of the sky was extremely gradual as it is with partial eclipse then within a minute of totality you could detect the darkening at a very quick rate.
- It got colder with no sun as the sun became a thin sliver.  This is of course obvious but I had not thought about it before.
- In totality the direct vision of the eclipse was not easily explained but was just like the photos one sees with a great deal of corona radiating outward from a very thin but crisp ring with black in the middle.  What was spectacular was the dynamic range of dark to light which was shocking because much like viewing the double double in a telescope the great range of light to dark in a bright cluster is more spectacular at the eyepiece  than on any  picture or monitor since a picture or monitor image  cannot replicate the real optical range of brightness our eyes can appreciate.
- Rather by accident we saw the smaller spots of light shining through a tree onto our dark car prior to and after totality made each spot of light into a crescent.  That was rather cool and again, not expected.
- The sky was not as dark as I had thought it would be
- It was over so fast I never got to looking for the planets or even Orion which I thought would be nice.   Lol.

Unforgetable just the same.

I kept this a fully visual experience and tried to soak it all in best I could as the time in totality flies by far faster than you would like it to last.

I thank Joe-Bob and James (T) and several others for giving me a nudge to do this trip as it is about as easy of a trip that can be done for an eclipse plus have a great visit with brother in law.

Observing Intents / Eclipse 2017: Planets in a row for eclipse
« on: August 20, 2017, 10:08:27 PM »
Just a reminder to those that do get to a location with totality.   There is one quick observation of 5 points of interest on a near line in totality.   The sun/moon will be next to Regulus and then below and to the left will be Mercury at lower left of this long line going up and to the right.  Mercury is always a lousy view as we see crescent only and super low.  Tomorrow is a time where it will be a sphere but only mag 3.8 but there is little time to really view it so just bino spot it fast.   if anyone is lucky enough to notice and it is really tiny but same brightness as the star 47 Leo at mag 3.8 that will be around 5 deg above Mercury (relative to horizon)    Anyway, besides that we have Mars at bright 1.7 or so and up and to the right 45 deg of sun/moon/Regulus also by about 10 deg.  As if not enough, continue on about 12 deg to beehive about on this same line which is a naked eye huge open cluster, M44. Finally  Venus 15 degrees farther which will be the brightest thing besides sun on this long line.
Clear Skies,   
Marko on 'The Oregon Eclipse Trail'

Observing Intents / Observing at Montebello on Wed July 19
« on: July 17, 2017, 04:38:07 PM »
There looks to be one of the largest crowds complete with a few special guest TACos  heading up to Montebello this Wed.
This just may be an epic get together for good old Montebello gravel crunchin astro fun

Thanks to Casey for his continued efforts in keeping Montebello Wed events going.  I am but a messenger to this board.

Montebello is not the darkest of sites but it certainly is quite convenient and wonderful for summer with the center of our galaxy due south in the darkest part of the Montebello skies.

There is an active TACo permit going on so you don't need to have any special clearance from the Open Space Preserve for this gathering.


Observing Reports / OR: Dino Sat Jan 28 - A grouping of fellow TACOs
« on: February 07, 2017, 02:21:31 AM »
Went out to the Dino partial gathering of the TACo tribe on Jan 28.

Well worth the trip for the skies and several TACos i had not seen for a very long time.

All friendly faces including Joe Bob and Jamie as gatekeepers (I belive) and David C, Peter N, George F, Tony H and myself and I hope I have not forgotten any other but all were well known TACos.

Skies were very fair Dino Winter skies and with both my SQM meters of no value anymore I will just say that the skies were just dark enough to detect mag 15.5 to 16.0 small galaxies in Persius cluster in my 18" which is rather good basically.   Seeing in the later hours after 11pm was extremely good so extinction was the only issue and a mild one at that.

I was on 'casual mode' with a few tricky objects thrown in to keep it interesting but mostly I was there for the great binding of TACo  astro-buddies.

Started the night due to a prior OR from 3-4 of these same folk for the prior Thursday night who discussed Hind's Crimson Star.  This star I have found is best found with telrad as the 4th star in a rather dim line of stars that goes direct N to S on the 5 hour Right A line and starts with 'top' star at dec -6 or so.  Keep going south and bingo the deep red Crimsom star is unmistakable in an 18" scope (need a bit of photons to get colors).

Next George brought to my attention Ngc2022 which was a donut PN with faint center dropout for a ring ratio of 1/3 so the donut width was 1/3 of diameter.   Non distinct but clear where the PN dropped off.    Best view was my NPB at near 278x. 

As i was then taking my first meridian view of Orion for this hear assorted voices rose around me to voice a great Horsehead Nebula, B33, view that Tony had pulled up in 18" F4.2 with 24mm.  So I used 17.4 delos with H-Beta for a fine view and it still was present but not as distinct in 11mm with NPB.  The horsehead is nicely found by dropping south 2.4 degrees from  the trailing Orion belt star to find 2 rather bright stars and one trailing which sports Ngc2023 reflection nebula (a dim grey glow).  So on the leading 2 stars imagine you can drop south to a 3rd point of an equilateral triangle and that is where horsehead resides.    A difficult object but can be had in as low as 10 scope with care and always H-Beta filter and not too narrow of a field.

A quick view of flame nebula, Ngc2024, was caught while in the area of Horsehead but with no filter.

So after more inspection of M42 where I like to view it using NPB and no filter but also an r' filter to better detect the very faint stars behind the nebula I was happy with Orion Nebula ... for now.   There was an easy 6 stars later in the night and with the r' I sort of felt I 'may' have seen more but it was not conclusive so not claiming more.

I viewed many 'classics' here such as the M38, M36, M37 brought to attention as I like them, especially the more yellow star or jewel at the center of M37 which makes M37 rate very high in 'monster clusters' in my book.   Jamie first started the Auriga Cluster Fest by the way.  (NOTE:  I did say  'fest' here ...).  The smaller clusters close to these giants such as Ngc1907 by M38 and Ngc1931 semi-close to M36 were also noted.

It was then off to M33 as it will be going bye-bye soon so a brief view and the ultra bright active region of Ngc604 was as always so very bright.   I did not spend time to track down the several other bright active areas here but have done that in the past as a project I recommend for fair sized scopes of 11" or better range.

Somewhere around this time the classic Ngc7789 (Caroline's Cluster) which I always visit in CAS was viewed as was M35 with its find older cluster of Ngc2158 of course had to be visited.

And speaking of 'pups' we had some great views through Peter N. scope with the rather large separation these days of 'the pup' which is a white dwarf near our northern brightest star of Serious (intentional misspelling there for Sirius)

I heard Jamie discussing 'the reggae star', Beta Mon, but did not view this time.  It is  a fun winter object ... 'mon'.

So we are off to a more serious target now and went for the 4 main galaxy asterisms in the Perseus cluster where Ngc1275 rules as 'king' on the SW point of the main 4 galaxies that form the distinctive parallelogram.   Then I like to look for the 'perseus cluster keystone' which is made up of Ngc 1277, Ngc1274 and then Ic 1907 and the most difficult PGC12430 at mag 15.5 so just visible in my 18" using 241 or 282x.   After that which is a 'standard candle' for transparency by the way, move west to a sort of  E-W elongated cross with Ngc1270 at the far east.   There are some other easy ones near the core of what we TACos sometimes call  'Albert's Birthday Cluster' and so you may look for PGC12448 SE of monster Ngc1275.    I like to look for 3 rather broad spaced galaxies that cap off the main core where Ngc1264 is at north then CGCG 540-85 south and then hook to SE to close the chevron at CGCG 540-87.   There are boatload more but for quick views I stop here.

Next or somewhere along the line later in the night a view of M47 and trailing sister cluster of M46 are generally viewed in winter and check out that darling donut planetary of Ngc2438 that is apparently within M46 from our point in space.   

Another challenge object was the 'peanut nebula' in GEM or better known as Ngc2371/2372.   This object is small but with enough aperture and generally NPB filter with 8mm for 243x it is possible to detect at least one of the 'wings' of this object but they are very faint.  There are two 'wings' and in excellent skies with 24" or sometimes 18" scope you can see them both.  This night I felt I only saw the stronger wing for sure but 'imagined' i saw the weaker one (does not 'count').

Around this time George was taking a peek at Hickson 44, one of the brightest ones, which has some interesting galaxies with Ngc3190 as a centerpiece flanked by Ngc3193 and Ngc3185.  The tough one in this quad group is Ngc3187 that is near Ngc3190 and in a similar elongation.

it was then off to another Messier-Shoulda-Been,  Ngc2903 which is an enjoyable and large object for a non Messier.  Too bad he did not nix M40 and sort dup numbers use Ngc2903 or Ngc7789 instead for Messier 40 and Messier 102 but so be it, cannot re-write history.  Anyway, Ngc2903 is a wonderful galaxy in my book.

Late in the night I could not resist a quick view of the Leo Triplet with Messier pair M66 and M65 joined by the dimmer but more interesting Ngc3628.

Closed out the night with a big fat cigar, M82 and then we all packed it in about 12:30

Major fun night and the company could not be better!

Thanks to GateKeepers Jamie and Joe-Bob!


Rants and Off Topic / Several Decades Later ... Re-Watching Star Trek
« on: November 10, 2016, 02:18:26 AM »
Having quite a blast watching Star Trek from the pilot onwards after decades and after I know something of astronomy and engineering.

Have had my engineering schooling and fairly deep astronomy hobby and then a couple decades since I last watched Star Trek.    Am loving it big time.  It's a brand new perspective where only I and the times have changed but the shows remain as they were so long ago.

Too much to discuss but at a high level all sorts of pictures of astronomical objects grace the sets and a lot of discussion of astronomical object types and so on come up.  Last time through I knew nothing of these matters.

The episode where a civilization does all the war on computers is about 8 or 9 episodes in and that is described to be in 'Star Cluster Ngc321' at the very start.   Your homework is to determine what is wrong with that claim.

The 1st Khan episode comes up and earth history is often mentioned with things like 1990 having world war 3 and so on which is classic for future space shows and movies to so greatly miss how long it will really take to get to some level of space exploration and so on.    Think 2001 for example.  Won't happen for many decades if ever for example.

Loving it overall, a real treat


Observing Reports / CalStar 2016 Rocked
« on: October 04, 2016, 04:25:00 PM »
Each night of discouraging seeing predictions was I'm happy to say put to rest this year.

Attendance for myself was Thursday, Friday, Saturday and I'll sum it up to say ... well worth the trek.

Mucho thanks to Dan of 'Chez Dan' and his great team including Casey on Omelette creation team  (OCT).   Mornings were so very much a highlight in my book.

Unless stated otherwise, all observations in 18" StarMaster scope, Bertha (she is one of the 'butt' sistahs).
I was camped next to Carter and Jamie, a fine set of observing buddies to be sure.

Transparency on Friday and Saturday both started with 'bright' skies around SQM 21.3 range and improved to 21.4 to 21.5 ranges each night by 12-1am range.    Both nights were quite acceptable including fair to good seeing after 12-1am.    Best night IMHO was Thursday overall where seeing was very good and even low objects like Ngc55 were a surprise to see such minimal extinction.     Friday and Saturday low level extenction were off from Thursday.

So what the heck did I look at?   Here is a summary from my more or less casual revisiting of favorites.

But first ... I had a wonderful time with an odd binocular called WideBino28 all through CalStar which is made by Japanese Kasai and hard to find online except through European distributors.  It is very similar to Vixen wide short bino and each has it's advantages with WideBino28 offering around a 40mm threaded frontend for adapter to 48mm filter.  I like both of these with about 40mm aperature and 'Joe' at CalStar had the much more available (at OPT) Vixens but both fill same need of getting you closer with a 28 degree piece of sky that frames Orion or CAS for example in one view.  Quite fun.

Thursday:   Night of Globs then favorites
Started off the night with the token M22 just after sunset observation to see red giants, it did not diappoint.
Once dark did the lower SAG Glob-fest with M54, M70, Ngc6652, M69 along the bottom.
Then skipping over a few right to Ngc6522 aqnd Ngc6528 closely spaced lower intensity globs at tip of teapot 'spout'
Next on to InkSpot with B86 tiny yet dark nebula and Ngc6520 open cluster which is a well known 'two fer' suitable for most any scope.  Next it was on to M13 and the 'overshadowed by M13'  M92 which is still on it's own a very substantial globular.  Next it was on to M71 in Sagita, a tiny medium concentration glob.  Next moving south to M72 and then M75 farther south.     A quick view of M27 was 'required' to divert from glob-fest and did not disappoint with it's two large lobes and a whole lotta stuff going on in this showpiece.   

The required viewing of the Ngc7331 'Dearlick Cluster' and nearby Ngc7320, Stephans Quintett, was required with the 4 'fleas' or tiny galaxies near Ngc7331 including the tough one of Ngc7336 all showing up nicely this night of the 3 nights. 

Droping below Cetus were Ngc247 and then an AMAZING veiw of Ngc253 with stunning texture and a whole lot going on!   Never disappoints.    Then within a few degrees to Ngc288 Globular which is a wonderful example of a low concentration globular that forms an even blanket of similar mag stars and is IMHO a treat as it is so different from most higher concentration globs.

Then a true highlight of CalStar overall droping down to Ngc55 on Thursday this was the very best view I have seen as transparency was unexpectedly very good this night.   Ngc55 showed off a double knot or elongated bright area or something that is separated from the core by I think a dusty gap.   Then on farther east along major axis is another clear 'clump' of brightness following a dark area.    On the western side of the core is yet another 'clump' of brighter area well out from the core and off of the major axis.   This was a view to remember.   Friday and Sat did not offer this level of very low south transparency.

Later on  the very busy AGC194 cluster which features Ngc47/Ngc45 and Ngc541, Ngc535 and farther on to Ngc530 has a slew of dimmer galaxies a bit north of Cetus was viewed as I noted Carter was having a load of fun with this group.  Good call Carter!

Friday:    A night of gradually Improving Conditions, best after 12 or so

Here the night started not so strong and got to very good after 12-1 am

Ngc6510 was viewed early (the Turtle Nebula) which is a very bright and visually green tending elongated planetary that resembles a turtle depending on your level of intoxication ... LOL

Messier 27 and then M57 were viewed around 11

Next I took the liberty of observing Uranus (excuse me!)  which showed off a faint blue-green tint and was clearly a disk and not a stellar object.

Neptune which is spaced quite far from Uranus was also viewed and appearted dimmer yet still disk-like with hints of a blue tint in the light.

After 12 M33 was viewed with Ngc604 bright region and quite a few other knots showing up well in 8mm Delos.

Tried out H-Beta filter in my 65mm scope that by day was using DayStar solar filter but at this time was able to show CA nebula even in tiny 65mm AstroTech scope so that was fun.  Then off to unfiltered Triple-cave or  'Barnards E' near Auquila which requires wider view.  On my 65mm I had used each night 8-24mm Televue zoom for quick fun views of wide objects.

After 2am it was off to Ngc6946/Ngc6939 which is the 'Fireworks Galaxy' and nearby cluster (another two-fer).   Quite a few of the knots stood out so this is always a fun view for 300x range.

On this night as I was using WideBinos I came to realize something  I'll call    'Sagitta Major' which is a far larger and uncanny Sagitta looking star formation with same parallel direction and same 4 major stars of the 'real' Sagitta.  This parallel yet much larger Sagitta Major is at least 20 to 30 degrees more or less south of Sagitta and is very obvious and made up of I think many stars from the Aquarius area but charts do not help me identify it well just now.  The night sky makes it very obvious.    This was shared with many TACos for a fun diversion.

Later this night the Auriga cluster-treo of M38 with it's tiny neighbor Ngc1907, M36, M37 and double cluster and of course the 'Monster' M31 and friends (M32 and M110)  and assorted other goodies were all gobbled up here and there in the great skies after 12am.  Well later we had a visit to M35 and it's tiny 'twofer' companion of Ngc2158 which I always try to visit when viewable.   

Closed the night out with Orion Nebula which is as we know, a showpiece when viewable.

Saturday:   A constantly improving night with gracious views in Rick's 32" later on

This night I made a point to re-visit Ngc6745 or the Bird's Beak galaxy which is a very pecular and 'pointed' galaxy.

Then well low down to the fat tire planetary in Grus which is IC5148 with views in my scope and also Steve Gottlieb's 24 inch shows this 1/3 aspect ratio PN.  I call it 1/3 because the rim is about 1/3 the diameter of the donut ring on this object.   There were in this southern view three stars of note where one is above (south) and a dimmer one at 4pm and another dim one near 7:30 so these remind one of a peace sign as all there are on the outside of the rim

Next views of IC10 in Jamies scope and my own scope and maybe Steve's scope were a fun re-visit of this dim but nearby dwarf that has a couple bright regions but is otherwise a fairly difficult object in that it does not just jump out in a casual view.

Next I was treated to views in Rick Linden's 32" Webster.  I guessed as I walked by that it was in the Ngc246 area and sure enough it was so got a view of that greatly mottled PN which is always a treat but in 32" much more so.
A bit later Rick was gracious enough to accept a request for Ngc7479 which is a very unique bared galaxy with very strong arm CCW off of the south end and a much weaker CCW arm off of the north end.   This I had viewed in my 18" earlier so was happy to get a view in Ricks 32" which brought out even the weaker arm so the separation lane on the east side was apparent in that monster scope.   We did a shootout between 10mm Delos and Ricks Zeiss 10mm api and due to lacking sky conditions I don't think a good conclusion can be reached from this one quick view but it can be said that the 10mm Delos held ground.   Thanks Rick!

Later in the night I was over in the 'Turley/Dan/Casey etc Camp' and we had some fun on down to Ngc253 again and then on to the nice Ngc288 glob. Lots of chattin it up as well and a fun time in 'camp Turley'.

Late it was a good time for Ngc891 which had it's dust lane grealy defined and then a bit later same view in Steve Gottlieb's 24 with of course even more of a fine view than my 18".   

Orion was up so it was time to view the 'hole in Ngc1999' which is a triangular dark area that apparently was determined to be a 'hole' and not some sort of dark nebula activity.  Very curious.

To close out CalStar I was yet again treated to a view in Ricks 32" with this time it was first the Ngc1999 triangular 'hole' and then on toi the Horsehead.  There was some confustion over the proper filter but it is indeed the H-Beta that is the recommened filter.   Thanks to Paul for his prompt finding of this dark nebula AKA B33 which lies within IC434 and forms the third 'point' in a regular triangle formed by the two west most stars in a line of 3 stars a half degree south of the east most belt star of Orion.

It was past 3am and time to close out CalStar so one nice closing view of Orion which IMHO never gets old and off to bed with visions of astro-stuff in my head.   

Till next year,

Observing Reports / Summary of 4 ORs and Flat Galaxy List Completion
« on: July 31, 2016, 02:23:06 AM »
Well there is no excuse, I have simply been neglecting catching up on my ORs.  This is bad because as I have written up 4 ORs from my trusty field recorder I can honestly say no images remain in my brain for these tapes.  When I used to write up the ORs the next day the images were fairly clear still and the observations thus better but there you have it.     I place this here as a lesson on how to NOT do your field notes after up to a year of delay.

First Off I came to realize last full moon (morning after) that I had actually finished the required 50 objects for the 'standard' requirement for the Astronomical League Flat Galaxy list which is a form of masochistic ultra dim objects that took a few years to complete.    It does serve as a way to really push your observing ability and curb your frustration as some of them I had to just give up on.  So you do the list by scanning the list of 200 or so available and making tick marks on the ones that are most likely such as never below 50 degrees then note the ones that are never below 30 degrees.  For the ones below that I suggest you 'pass' as they are highly frustrating.

Anyway, here is ultra short combo-OR for 4 sessions and sadly I took lousy notes but had a great time at CalStar 2015 and that was the only OR I have posted so I leave that one off this summary.  Only highlights are presented as a way to suggest targets for future sessions you may have.

2-16-2015   Session at private property 3000 feet dark site South East of Hollister.
Steve Gottlieb, Mark Wagner, myself preset.
Minkowsky 1-64 is a curious deep space challange object but is a really odd beast and worth the visit if 16 or more inches of scope is available.  A curious non-symetrical donut with some level of fame.

Geminii Abel 21 is a 'must visit' called the Medusa Nebula and a fun target using OIII or NPB filter (my favorite filter)

Comet Lovejoy was 'strutin it's stuff' but it is gone now so just an honerable mention.

Ngc2903 is a 'should have been Messier' wonderful galaxy in Leo well worth visiting every year.

Leo Triplet is 3 fairly bright galaxies with M65 and M66.

I visited many flat galaxy objects this night but there are not very 'exciting'. 

Next we have 6-13-2015 where quite a few Tacos including Mark Wagner, Richard Navarette, Jamie Dillon, Peter Nascher, David Cooper and host Kevin Ritchel had quite a group located near CalStar traditional and current sites.

Spent a lot of time enjoying M108,  M97 Owl Nebula, M106 (a truely grand galaxy) before going to more obscure flat galaxy list objects.

The night also include a true classic group of the monster 'should have been Messier'  Ngc7331 and it's 4 'fleas' that sit on top of it.   Then always I visit the more difficult but very interesting Stephans Quintet or Ngc7320 AKA Hickson 92 but this is not very interesting in under 16" of aperture.

Next we have two nights at the most wonderful Mount Lassen starting on 8-12-2015
Here we had gotten several camping spots and David Cooper & son Nathanial,  Carter Scholz, Jamie Dillon and myself for a 2-night observing session, where David and maybe Carter stayed longer, I don't really recall.

We enjoyed Sharpless Sh2-71 that Jamie got us interested in and is a most curious PN as it is odd shaped.

Spent some time looking at Cats Eye Nebula but with a focus on looking for IC4677 which requires 16" aperature but is a bright segment of the much broader shell of the Cat's Eye that you might imagine.

On the second night I had a blast examining Fireworks Galaxy highlighted in Steve Gottliebs fine exploration of this showpiece 'should be Messier' object,  Ngc6946.  Steve in July 2013 Sky and Telescope discusses 8 or so knots to track down so I made that a project to identify the bright spots and arms.   

Also took a fairly close look in detail at the Helix nebula, Ngc7293, and really spent some quality time in looking at ande describing it best I could.   It is as we know a showpiece of a nebula.

6-4-2016 was another night at 3000 feet at a dark site south east of holister.
Here my company was Steve Gottlieb, Mark Wagner, Mark McCarthy. 

We started out with views of recent SuperNova in Ngc4125.

Steve was on a project to observe NGC galaxy pairs that were basically 'doubles' so assorted views in his high quality 24" scope were a pleasure and thanks Steve.

I took on an assortment of Hickson clusters as there were several 'keepers'.
If you have 16" or better I recommend for June or so    Hickson 61 called   'The Box' one of it's member is in fact an AL Flat Galaxy list member to it was a  'two-for-1'  in my book.   Hickson 57 which is an amazing group of 7 or 8 and is at top of my list in Hicksons for sure with 3-4 others.   Hickson 51 which is a sort of double group of 3 each treat.  An then Hickson 58 which is a broader and much brighter group viewable in many sized dobs.

Viewed many flat galaxies this night as well.

Wonderful views of the fabulous Veil Nebula segments as well as M27 Dumbell nebula were enjoyed as well.

Finally 7-2-2016 wraps up the summary OR list.

here we had  a   'Mark Cubed' night with Mark Wagner, Mark McCarthy and myself (confusing?   Yes!)

This was also at the 3000 foot sight in dark skies south east of Holister.

Most of this night was Astronomical League Flat Galaxy list object and as I mentioned, this night completed my requirements for the 'standard list'.  I'm thinking I'm stoping that list at this time as it's slow going.

Later in the night the core of the Milky way rose up and the amazing globulars toward the center of our galaxy as well as the amazing   Lagoon and Trifid and Eagle and Swan nebulas were must sees for my first study of them this year.

I also just cannot get enough of the M24 star cloud and the Barnard dark nebula all around that southern sky including the huge pipe nubula and so much more going on towards our galaxy core.

Hope you saw some objects that may be fun to go for on your future trips out to the night skies


Last night, Tuesday May 31 a large croud of TACos met at Montebello where Casey and Dan Wright and Philip Manela brought  food (thanks!).  Phil brought some really nice cheese where materials were donated by a cow he personally knows!  (The cow was unable to attend!)  Great stuff thanks Guys!

It was about average Montebello conditions with better than expected seeing and a fine group of fellow astro-Folk to make the overall meet-up most excellent.

Most notable was that Peter McKone made it but missing were James Turley who felt a bit out of sorts and David  Kingsley who had a school event to attend.  Most of the usual suspects showed up and even Marek and Jeff Crilly were present so a large turnout.  Stephen Migol had a tripod mounted scope and Phill had an 'Albert scope' of around 12".  Dan had his monster SCT and Casey with his 11" sct.  Sorry if I missed somebody as I did not write it down last night.

I brought up Bertha, my 18", as conditions seemed to warrant a fair amount of aperture.  I was near one end of the line and Marek had his 18" on the other side of the line of 6 or more scopes.   Great night for Bino views as well.

I failed to locate Jupiter well before sunset  but it soon showed itself at dusk of course.

We did the token Omega Cen mega-glob viewing in 'the gap' dead south of the site early in the night.   Later on we viewed assorted other globs such as M3, M53, M13, M92 and so on.  We ended a bit early for the wealth of globs towards Sag but was a great and fun night just the same.

We missed first Ir Flare around 9:15 but had it together for the 11:something flare that passed very near Deneb as it flared.

Galaxy views were tougher of course from that site but we pulled in a few such as M51 and Leo triplet.

We tried to find reported possible supernova in M66 but it was just too dim IMHO.  One or two folks thought they 'may' have seen it.   I had been sure of  a steller point from time to time but in chart checking today I think it was the faint star that is close but slightly SE and half way along the line between the core of M66 and mag 13.3 GSC 8661:553.   That was my only confirmed stellar object I would detect. Keep in mind Montebello is not too dark. On Aladin this shows up as SDSS SDSS J112022.89+130145.0   (yes, that is a very faint star indeed). this star was for sure present if you waited for it but it seems it is not where the SuperNova is supposed to be so no joy.  Stephen felt that was near but not near enough to SN position.  Stephen Migol felt he just barely detected it then again, he has 'younger eyes' so nice job.

Planets were the most observed targets overall.   Seeing was better than I had expected.  Features even on Mars which is close to oposition were present and a treat.  Saturn with it almost 'cartoon drawing' sharp outlines exposed significant detail and was looking very good.  On Mars we tried a few non-standard filters and I think the best views were the Slone 'r filter and the Omega NPB filter which is a nebula filter but allows enough of the red from mars to sneak through to see features like caps and mottled areas where Mars has darker areas.

Plenty of Astro and non-astro discussions rounded out the night.

Fun times on the 'crunchy gravel'
Till next time,  Enjoy!

This is a stub left over from sale of a AstroTech Voyager alt-az mount

I am unable to remove the post as it is the first one so hopefully it can be removed by someone with more ability.

TAC Visual / National Geographic Guide to the Night Sky on sale till mid Nov
« on: September 16, 2015, 12:29:39 AM »
I chanced on seeing the cover of this NG special edition and picked it up to take a look in the store.   I ended up buying it mostly because it is a very nice collection of a large number of astro topics I have seen in magazines but this is almost like a scaled down yet very current look at a large number of astro topics.

If you see it in a store, take a peek.  You or maybe your kids if applicable may enjoy it's quality.

Observing Reports / OR: First night at CalStar 2015 at Wisper Canyon
« on: September 13, 2015, 02:54:34 AM »
Hats off in a HUGE salute to Charlie and the others who found the CalStar site for 2015.
The site is superior in so very many ways with the only restriction being limited admission due to site size.
That limit is a big deal but in light of LSA being closed this was a truely wonderful site for CalStar to happen at all.

Wisper Canyon site has Real toilets, nuff said.    There was large steel sink with water, refrigeration for Chez Dan.   A very large common area with wood roof and even a mister were setup.  Approximately 10 or more full picnic tables in good painted shape.   Showers.   Just so very fine a place.

The host and hostess wandered about and were very friendly and interested.

I was only there for the first night and spent most of my time visiting the very many wonderful friends I have come to know some of whom I only see at CalStar but here is a summary of the Thursday night from my perspective.
You get what you get as far as weather so we were unfortunate to have a large system degrade skies but the company and get together was wonderful IMHO.

The 1-night OR for myself:
Acceptable seeing with limited transparency due to perhaps fires or moisture which produced a usable sky but not a sky to write home about.   Sky was workable above 30 degrees up till around 12:30 or 1am when the thin clouds that were always present to the south and west decided to start moving across.   

Early on in the night I said fair thee well to M24 and the goodies it holds early on which is like parting with a friend that you feel you will see next summer much like several of the people I see at CalStar.

My 18" dob sought targets mostly above 45 degrees where I found nice views of Dumbell nebula and Veil nebula and assorted globulars such as M10,M12, M14.  the more challenging targets such as 7331 with it's 4-fleas were a bit extinguished but viewable and Stephan's quintet is always a nice nearby yet challenging group to move over and take look.   

One of the more obscure yet fun targets was to re-visit the long string of galaxies in Pieces that has at its center Ngc383 and Ngc382 that form a long line of around  9 galaxies.  Arp331 is in Ngc379 and is one of the brighter members of this  long string which Steve Gottlieb mentioned was well-known group which I think he said was called 'The Pisces chain' or Pisces group.   

Shared a few views in Steve's 24" of some deeper galaxy groups such as a treo with Ngc7475 which I suspect Steve may report on later.   Steve will discuss a chance find he ran across of a Pegasus double double very similar to Epsilon Lyra that was of note so watch for that report on this interesting Struve catalog member.

Had a fun time checking out the PacMan Nebula, Ngc281 in CAS with assorted lenses and Debbie Alsing produced a 17mm delos too for that view mostly using NPB nebula filter.    I would like a 17mm Delos someday but it must wait.  Very fun object and large too.

It was a relaxed casual night of observing and wonderful conversations.   

Till next year!   


TAC Visual / Kudos to Joe-Bob on Herschel II Observing Program Award
« on: June 10, 2015, 03:37:07 PM »
The June issue of Reflector lists Robert 'Joe-Bob' Jardine as No. 89 for this award which requires observing and making notes on 400 of the objects discovered by the Herschel family members long ago.  (They seem to have left off the  'Joe-Bob' nickname ... lol).  This list II is the second group of 400 objects taken from the extensive list of objects discovered/cataloged by the Herschel family.   The Herschel I list is a different award often obtained prior to this second list so you can imagine most all the 'brighter' ones were in the first list.   List II still has many surprises while at the same time is loaded with often difficult to identify dim open clusters  or objects that many would consider quite a challange.

Bob has been our TAC-AL contact for the Astronomical Awards for some time now by the way.

Well done Robert 'Joe-Bob' Jardine!

Observing Reports / OR: A Montebello Gathering To Be Remembered
« on: April 19, 2015, 02:17:36 PM »
OR: Montebello   4-18-2015    A dark night by MB standards ranging from 20.3 to 20.7 at closing time.

Last night we had a great turnout mostly 'hosted' by Casey, Dan and James with a large turnout of many TACos.
The night was comfortable temperatures, excellent seeing, and very good darkness for Montebello assisted by an overcast bay area.   In looking over my ORs from the past this does happen when the marine layer assists us and last night was dark enough to see mag 13 galaxies in a 12" or to translate, it ranged from 20.4 and a final 20.7 just as I left.  The seeing was the real 'star' of the show as views of Jupiter were amazingly quiet and very little star 'twinkling' naked eye.

There were about 5 dobs mostly in 10-12" range and Dans most excellent mondo-SCT.  We even had a 'guest appearance' from David Cooper with his fine APO refractor (a top knotch rig).  My rig was my trusty 12" Meade LightBridge that really showed it's stuff last night.   It is a temperamental rig mechanically but optically is wonderful.

In order of appearance in assorted scopes as I had viewed and shared were these objects:

M46 and M47 low in the south yielding the nice donut planetary of Ngc2438 with M46 just available naked eye.

M104 was viewed early on as a 'request' and then later as it rose far higher.   The Sombrero effect from the dust lane was present in this fine southern galaxy in Virgo although I always find it off of Corvus and then noting a cute arrow that points right to it that is about 25' mostly west of M104.

Moving on to Leo we enjoyed the Leo Triplet with M65 and M66, one of my favorites and of course the more ellusive yet very interesting featured Ngc3628 to complete the triplet.

Casey noted one of his 'stops' in Leo so we visited a tight pair of galaxies that is nicely placed which was Ngc3607 and Ngc3608.  There are two more much dimmer galaxies also in that field but not having brought up a chart I had not spent the extra few seconds to hunt for them although I have seen them all in the past in my larger dob.

Next it was off to a standard stop of note in Leo that displays it's major members as M105, M96 and M95 appearing as a 135 degree chevron with 45' sides where M96 is in the center in this SE pointing chevron.  I like to do a very easy find of M105 first which is very nicely placed midway between two mag 5.3 stars.   M105 forms a tight treo of the similar brightness Ngc3384 and then the very dim Ngc3389 at mag 12.4.  I felt that the Mag 12.4 member was easily viewable to the trained eye in my 12" dob and this was my first indication that the valley must be foging over and it just kept getting darker from this point on (around 11pm).

No visit to Leo is complete without visiting the 'Messier Quality' fine Ngc2903 on the leading side of Leo.  This is a fine galaxy and on the larger side so it's available in many scopes.

We viewed the mega-globular cluster Omega Cen starting from when it cleared the northern trees and later as it reached meridian for the better skies.   Low down the transparency suffered a bit so Omega Cen was only hinting at sugary texture in my 12".    This is the season to catch this beast for the deep south.

Dan who enjoys tracking down Geosynchronous satellites had shared a few fine views of these guys where he had either 2 or at one point 3 in the same view.  You then stop the drive motor (if you have one) and what happens is the stars drift by the stellar looking satellites creating an odd problem for your mind to decide just what dots are moving and which are steady.  Hint:  The ones that remain in the same place in the field are the satellites.

It was time to move on to 'Downtown Virgo' and walk what I like to call the 'Paisley Trail' or paisley loop if you like.  I recommend this 'trip' to all those with 10" or larger scope as it's a real treat so I explain at the end of this OR but only in modest detail so get a chart and check it out.  Downtown Virgo is a galaxy hunters mega-treat but I'll just say before the tour that we have 6 bright Messier objects and as many dimmer ones as you want here in downtown. 
Casey and I shared this in our pair of 12" dobs so

Next it was off to the very faint Coma Berenices area with the naked eye Mel111 cluster where we can use two of its bright stars to move that spacing to the east to find super-elongated Ngc4565.   There are many other galaxies in this area available in galaxy season.

If you enjoy globular clusters, move on over to M53 which is an easy find off of the more southern Alpha ComaB.  A much more obvious globular, M3, is also just to the east of Beta ComaB and was a nice treat in a 12" or smaller scope.

We also viewed the Nova that was mentioned and found on a chart by StevenM which is a naked eye viewable object seen in the late-rising Sag 'teapot'.  about half way between the two sides of the teapot 'lid' is the 'extra star' or rather far brighter than normal Nova.

By the time I left all of the summer triangle was present in the sky and basically 'too many objects, too little time, too little sleep'.   It was time to go but was a wonderful night both socially and astronomically.

Marko  (stay tuned for a trip on the Paisley Trail if you like)

Here is the 'tour guide' where you should have a star chart to follow this path that is oriented with N to 7pm.
Find M86 and M84 monster galaxies half way between a line connecting Leo's Denebola 'point star' and Epison Virgo, Vindemiatrix.   Do this with a 50' field of view and you can see 9 galaxies all in one view by placing M86 near center M84 will but up and to it's left (West).   In a 12" one can locate CW from M84  Ngc4388, the dimmer Ngc4413, Slightly brighter Ngc4425 then the pair of 'eyes' of Ngc4438/Ngc4435 and then back to N of M86 for Ngc4402.  Now the very dim Ngc4387 is a limiting object for us this night and is above M86 (WSW) by 11'.  Now we will 'walk' the rest of Markarian's chain by going back to Ngc4438 to lower right of M86 (East of M86) and continue on to M4461/M4458 dim pair.  Next drop down (NE) to Ngc4473 and then down NNE to 4477 (extra credit to spot mag 13.4 Ngc4479 if you are at very dark site, we did not go for it but should have).  To complete the 'J' part of the chain move NNW to Ngc4459.   Now you can stop here OR move along to the broad other part of the 'Paisley Trail' that will loop down and cup to the left then swing back to the point of the 'paisley' from M87.    Here we go.
Using chart as mentioned with North to 7pm, Drop to 5pm to bright M88 then on at 4:30 from there (E) to M91. Now 3pm to mag 11.8 Ngc4571 then a long jump to 1pm from here or straight south to M90 (thats 1.1 deg so a bit of a hop).  Now straight 'up' (SW) to bright M89 and you may take a 'side hop' off the trail to the dim pair of Ngc4551/Ngc4550 then back to M89.   From M89 we go due west 1.2 degrees or to 10pm to find the monster M87 and a few close neighbors of much lower mag but several viewable with 12".  Finally cut to 9pm (NW) 1.2 degrees and you are back the the central wheel with hub of M86.

I hope you enjoyed the tour and please watch your step as you exit the bus from Downtown Virgo

TAC Visual / Lick Observatory gets 1 million from Google
« on: February 10, 2015, 01:16:20 PM »
For those who participate in Lick Observatory events ...
I found today that Google is giving a million to Lick for keeping it going for a while.
Excuse the slightly off topic post but it has not nice home to post and does impact many of us.

A few weeks ago I began to publish a freeware application that is quite unique and I use it all the time for astro as well as all sorts of picture uses.   It is free and is in Java so at this time I have it with an installer easy for Windows but am very close to having an easier to install Mac OS X version hopefully by next new moon.

Get it free  at my PicMapTool page.

Above link has much more detail on this powerful tool and a couple demo videos.   

My astro uses for this (not highlighted on my freeware pages much) are:
- Allows capture of some DSS image on your desktop then rotate and re-size to match how you see/saw it
- Draws Telrad patterns with or without grids handy for making finder from some random DSS you find.
- Draws lines to scale over desktop DSS image and can show position angle easily which I also use a lot.
- Allows orientation of a grid and very easy calibration to your chart program say for 'minutes' then simple drawing of following lines directly shows distance (in this case, minutes).  Use this a LOT for my ORs
- Allows grab of say megastar or other star atlas image on your desktop then making it transparent so you can rotate and resize this to then be on top of some DSS image and as such have great chart.
- Easily overlays over picture on your desktop  crop guide boxes (aspect ratio boxes) for figuring out where to crop some picture to have it print nicely on standard picture paper sizes.

This is right now on CNET ( and in a couple days will be on and FileForum as well then a Mac version that is easier to install than the current 'executable jar file' is almost read too.

I hope this helps folks

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