Visual Observations - Page 5

From time to time I will add visual observations here that I did not make a sketch of but may still be of interest to observers.

Click here to see page 4 of Visual Observations Click here to see page 6 of Visual Observations


1) Deep-Sky observations, August 5th, 2006

2) Persied meteor shower and Lunar observations, August 12th, 2006

3) Saturn occultation of star 28 Sagittarii, July 3rd, 1989

4) Comet C/2006 M4 SWAN observing report, October 16th, 2006

5) Comet C/2006 M4 SWAN observing report, October 25th, 2006

6) Saturn observing report, December 29th, 2006.

7) Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught observing report, January 12th, 2007

8) Total eclipse of the Moon, March 3rd, 2007

9) Jupiter and deep-sky observing report, April 22nd, 2007

10) Venus, Saturn and deep-sky observing report, May 6th, 2007

11) Deep-sky and Jupiter observing report, May 13th - 14th, 2007

12) Observing report of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Atlantis, June 20th, 2007


1) Deep-Sky observations, August 5th, 2006

With the nights growing longer this time of year it is possible to observe deep-sky objects from the summer, fall, and winter in the early morning hours before dawn. So after the Moon set I brought out the TMB 105mm f/6.2 apochromatic refractor on an alt-az mount to observe some old favorites.

It was a clear and cool night, with the limiting magnitude around 5.6 to 5.7. The Milky Way was visible through Perseus, Cassiopeia, and Cygnus, as was the dark rift running through Cygnus. I noted that Chi Cygni, a Mira-type variable star located in Cygnus, seemed usually bright. It is located near Albireo, and usually peaks about magnitude 5.2, however it seemed a little brighter than 4.0.

The first deep-sky object I observed was the North America Nebula, NGC 7000, which is a bright emission nebula located in Cygnus near Deneb. The size of the nebula is approximately 120'x30' and it has a magnitude of 4.0. It is roughly 3000 light years away.

William Herschel discovered the North America Nebula on October 24th 1786 using his 18.7" aperture reflecting telescope that had a focal length of 20 feet. In addition to the NGC number, the nebula has the designation H V 37: H for Herschel; V for the fifth class (Very large nebula) that he came up with to describe the 2500 deep-sky objects he discovered; and 37 represents the 37th object in that class. He described it as "Very large diffused nebulosity. Brighter in the middle, 7' or 8' a little 6' brighter and losing itself very gradually and imperceptibly."

Nearby the North America Nebula is the Pelican Nebula (IC 5067-5070), which is also an emission nebula. It is approximately 60'x50' in size, and has a magnitude of 8.0.

Without filters the North American Nebula and the Pelican Nebula were visible through the telescope at 27x. I decided to try a comparison between a couple of OIII filters, a Baader O-III filter and a Lumicon O-III filter, to see which one worked best at bringing out the finer detail. I found that for exit pupils over 3mm, the Baader O-III filter did a better job in bringing out mottling in the North American Nebula, and detail in the Pelican Nebula, including its beak. Also the sky background was darker. For exit pupils less than 3mm the Baader seemed a little strong so the Lumicon filter worked better.

The next object I observed was the Veil Nebula, which is a supernova remnant also located in the constellation of Cygnus. There are two parts to the Veil: NGC 6960, which is the western part centered on the star 52 Cygni, a magnitude of 7.0, and a size of 210'x160'; and NGC 6992-6995, which compose the eastern part of the Veil. Both NGC 6992-6995 have a magnitude of 7.0, with NGC 6992 having a size of 12', while NGC 6995 has a size of 60'x8'. The Veil Nebula is approximately 1500 light years away.

William Herschel discovered the Veil Nebula on September 5th 1784 using his 18.7" aperture reflecting telescope. He described the western part of the Veil (H V 15) as "Extended; passes thro' 52 Cygni... near 2 degree in length." Of the eastern part (H V 14) he noted "Branching nebulosity... The following part divides into several streams uniting again towards the south."

Robert Burnham, Jr., in his classic book Burnham's Celestial Handbook refers to it as the "Bridal Veil Nebula"... resembling frost patterns or fine lace".

Walter Scott Houston note said of the Veil Nebula: "It is an excellent nebula for training the eye, perhaps the most important observing "accessory", to help us get the most out of the telescope we are using."

Through the telescope at 27x and 33x NGC 6960, the western part of the Veil was smaller and dimmer than the eastern part. In addition the western part had somewhat of a witches broom appearance to it, with curved handle and a feathered look to one end. NGC 6992-6995, the eastern part had more of a boomer rang appearance to it, and showed finer detail, including mottling and brighter areas. Additional comparisons with the two OIII filters yielded the same results as before.

M 31 (NGC 224), the Andromeda Galaxy, was next on my list. According to Walter Scott Houston and Robert Burnham, Jr., the Great Andromeda Nebula (as it was called before it was realized it was a separate galaxy) has been known at least as far back as 905 A.D., and was mentioned by the Persian astronomer Al Sufi in the 10th century. The first telescopic observation of M 31 was credited it to Simon Marius in 1611 or 1612, who compared the soft glow of the galaxy to "the light of a candle shining through horn".

The Andromeda Galaxy is around 2.3 million light years away. Through the telescope at 33x the galaxy filled most of the field of view of the eyepiece (2.4). Some reference books list its diameter as 3 degrees although George Phillips Bond was able to trace it to over 4 in 1847 using a 15" refractor. In the TMB 105mm the galaxy had a brighter central region that fades out to a fainter outer region where there were hints of two dust lanes. It was a pretty island universe. Two satellite galaxies, M 32 (NGC 221) and M 110 (NGC 205), were visible nearby. M 32 had a oval shape and appeared relatively bright, while M110 appeared elongated and larger than M 32.

After observing M 31 I swung the telescope over to M 33 (NGC 598), which is a spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Triangulum. Like M 31, M 33 is around 2.3 million light years away, and it has a diameter of 71'x42'. Through the 105mm refractor it appears large and elongated with a light gray-green color to it at 33x. It had slightly brighter central region and some was mottling visible.

The Double Cluster (NGC 869 & NGC 884) are open clusters located in the constellation of Perseus and were next on my list. They are both around 30.0' in diameter and are around 7300 light years away. Sky watchers have known them since antiquity, although William Herschel is given credit for discovering these objects were star clusters. He observed them on November 1st, 1787, and he placed them both in his sixth class, Very compressed and rich clusters of stars. Of NGC 869 (H VI 33) he wrote: "A very beautiful and brilliant cluster of large stars very rich, the middle contains a vacancy." Of NGC 884 (H VI 34) he wrote: "A very beautiful, brilliant cluster of large stars irregularly round, very rich, near half degree in diameter. " Through the 105mm the clusters were very pretty, nicely resolved into a mix of brighter and fainter stars with some red stars mixed in. The view reminded me of pinpricks of light on a black velvety background.

Looking towards the eastern sky I noted that M 45 was rising above the trees so swung the telescope over to it. M 45 is an open cluster with nebulosity located in the constellation of Taurus. It is around 407 light years away and around 2 in diameter. Through the telescope the cluster was very pretty at 33x, reminding me of glittering diamonds on a black velvety background. There appeared to be nebulosity visible around some of the stars including Merope, Maia, and Electra.

After observing M 45 I noted that astronomical twilight was beginning to set in, and that Orion was rising above the eastern horizon. So I decided to take a quick look at M 42. Through the telescope at 33x I was able to resolve the Trapezium into four stars and see some nebulosity around them. Later, Venus began peaking through the trees as it rose.

As I watched M 45 rise above the trees in the eastern sky I was reminded of another observing session I made back in August 1980 as I also watched M 45 rise above the trees. At the time I recently purchased a C8, and it was going to be my first real observing session with it. I got home from my job around 1:30 AM and as it was a clear and cool night with no Moon I decided to set the telescope up. I observed many of the same objects during that observing session as I did during this one, including the Double Cluster, M 31, M 32, M 110, M 42, M 45, and Venus. I was impressed by the additional detail visible in the deep-sky objects in the C8 when compared with the smaller aperture telescopes I had used in the 1970's. As the observing sessions were similar in August 1980 and August 2006 I began to think about how amateur astronomy has changed in the past 26 years.

In 1980 the Dobsonian revolution was in its beginning stages. Coulter Optical introduced a line of inexpensive alt-az reflectors. Also in the early 1980's many amateurs began building their own Dobsonian reflectors, with help from articles in the old Telescope Making Magazine. Meade introduced a 4" f/10 SCT and 8" f/10 SCT in 1980 to compete with Celestron SCT's. Also in 1980 Al Nagler introduced his line of high quality Plossl eyepieces, and a couple of years later the revolutionary 13mm Nagler. Apochromatic refractors, which are common today, started becoming available from Tele-Vue and Astro-Physics in the early 1980's. And in 1981 the IBM PC was introduced. Many telescopes now have or use computers, and where astro-imaging was once done mostly with film these days it is mostly done with CCD cameras, digital cameras, and webcams.

It will be interesting to see the changes that take place in amateur astronomy during the next 26 years...


2) Perseid meteor shower and Lunar observations, August 12th 2006

It was not the best year for the Perseid meteor shower. The Moon, a few days past full at 82% phase, was due to rise before astronomical twilight ended, so the sky would never become fully dark. Still, as it was a clear night I decided to see how many meteors I could see. The limiting magnitude was around 5.1 before the Moon rose too high, and the Milky Way looked nice as it extended from Sagittarius, through Cygnus and towards Cassiopeia.

So I pulled up a comfortable chair and during the next 50 minutes I observed 8 meteors, 5 of them Perseids and three sporadic. The Perseids had a light yellow color and most had long trains. For example the first Perseid was visible from near the northeastern horizon to almost overhead, and was around magnitude -0.5. Other Perseids had shorter trains and varied in magnitude from around 3.0 to 0.5. One of the brightest meteors I observed was a sporadic that was visible from the eastern sky to the northeastern sky. It peaked at around magnitude -1.5 and had an orange-green color to it as it burned up in the atmosphere.

While observing the meteor shower I wondered what the Native Americans that use to inhabit this area would have thought of the Perseid meteor shower. A few hundred years ago they may have sat and watched the Milky Way, constellations, and meteor shower from the same observing site as I was doing on this night. On our time scale a few hundred years seems like a long time, yet on a cosmic time scale it would only be in a blink of an eye.

As the Moon got higher in the sky and washed out the Milky Way and meteors, I decided to get some lunar observing in. So I set the TMB 130mm f/9.25 up on its alt-az mount and began observing features in and around Mare Serenitatis, Mare Tranquillitatis, and Mare Nectaris. A number of wrinkle ridges and shallow rills were visible in Mare Serenitatis (Rukl maps #23 & #24). Wrinkle ridges were visible in Mare Tranquillitatis (Rukl maps #35 & #36) as well, as were lunar domes, and Rima (rille) Cauchy and Rupes (scarp) Cauchy. In Mare Nectaris (Rukl maps #46, #57 & #58) the flooded crater Fracastorius and the crater Piccolomini were prominent, as were the craters Theophilus, Cyrillus, and Catharina to the west of the mare. Interesting detail was visible in the Montes Alpes (Rukl maps #4 & #12) region as well.

Despite the meteor shower being cut short by the bright moonlight it was nice to be out under the starry skies again.


3) Saturn occultation of star 28 Sagittarii, July 3rd, 1989

I was reading through one of my old astronomy log books recently and came across an observation I made of Saturn occulting a bright star on July 3rd, 1989 and thought it might be of interest to other observers. So I decided to post it here. If I come across other past observations from time to time that might be of interest to others I'll post them here also.

The star that Saturn was going to occult was 28 Sagittarii, which has a magnitude of 5.37 and is located in the constellation of Sagittarius. The star was due to traverse behind the A-Ring, B-Ring, C-Ring or Crepe Ring, and the globe of Saturn. The occultation begin around 5:57 UT when Saturn had an elevation of 23 and ended around 7:00 UT when Saturn had an elevation of 18. At the time Saturn was just past opposition and had an equatorial diameter of 18.34" and a polar diameter of 16.37".

I used an AP 7" f/9 refractor with magnifications of 152x and 243x. The observation was handicapped somewhat by the seeing as it was quite variable, sometimes settling down to good, and other times becoming so poor that the globe of Saturn and the rings appeared to merge into one blurry image. In addition the local mosquito population was extremely hungry, in spite of the copious amounts of bug repellant that I applied.

I set up early and watched as the star grew closer to Saturn. As the star entered and traversed behind the A-Ring I was surprised to note that its brightness seemed to vary in intensity a number of times, as well as disappear behind the ring several times. This indicated that there were differences in ring thickness or density in the A-Ring.

The star was a striking sight as it shown brightly in the Cassini Division.

As the star entered and traversed behind the B-Ring its brightness varied in intensity a number of times as well, but it seemed to disappear more often than when it traversed behind the A-Ring, suggesting that the B-Ring was more dense than the A-Ring. Recent data from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn indicates that the B-Ring is the densest ring.

As the star entered and traversed behind the C-Ring or Crepe Ring its light varied in intensity, but I did not note it disappearing as it did in the A-Ring or B-Ring.

Finally as the star reached the edge of the globe it seemed to dim and brighten several times before disappearing. This indicates different belts, zones, or layers of Saturn's atmosphere.

Overall it was a very memorable observation and it helped me to learn about Saturn's ring structure and its atmosphere.


4) Comet C/2006 M4 SWAN observing report, October 16th, 2006.

With the Moon out of the evening sky I decided to observe Comet C/2006 M4 SWAN. The limiting magnitude was around 4.9. The comet was located near gamma Bootis and through a pair of Oberwerk 11x70mm binoculars the comet had a slight green-blue color to it with a hint of a tail.

Through the TMB 105mm f/6.2 apochromatic refractor at 16x the color was more pronounced. Also the comet showed a prominent psuedonucleus with an inner coma and outer coma. A faint tail was visible and by gently rocking the telescope back and forth I was able to note that it extended about 2 degrees in length. In addition I had the impression that the tail near the coma was somewhat fan-shaped. At 21x I was able to discern that the fan-shaped tail became more steamed-lined as it extended further away from the coma.

After observing the comet I noted that the Summer Milky Way was setting in the southwestern sky so I decided to observe a few deep-sky objects. Through the telescope at 16x magnification M 24, M 17, and M 18 fit within the same field of view, and at 21x the Swan shape of M 17 became more prominent.


5) Comet C/2006 M4 SWAN observing report, October 25th, 2006

It has recently been reported that Comet C/2006 M4 SWAN has undergone an outburst and brightened noticeably. So I set up the TMB 105mm f/6.2 apochromatic refractor on its alt-az mount to observe it. The comet was located in Corona Borealis. There were some clouds and haze and the limiting magnitude was around 4.8. In addition the comet was only around 18 in elevation, so I found that while I could see it with the unaided eye using averted vision I could not see it using direct vision. Under better observing conditions I would expect that the comet would be visible using direct vision.

The comet showed impressive detail through the 11x70mm binoculars. For example the pseudonucleas appeared stellar, a small inner coma was visible and the outer coma was quite large. Also the tail appeared to be split into two. The tail extended approximately 4 degrees in length.

Through the TMB 105mm f/6.2 apochromatic refractor at 16x and 33x the pseudonucleas, inner and outer coma had more of a blue-green color to them. In previous observation the color was more green-blue. Also, several tails were visible. One was fan-shaped and extended off to one side of the coma. It had a striated appearance. A second tail extended straight back from the coma and appeared thicker and more streamlined. It was the longest of the three tails. There appeared to be a brighter and seperate section and of this tail near the top of the field of view, as if it had disconnected from the main tail. The third tail extended off from the other side of the coma at a 45-degree angle. It too appeared striated and was the second longest tail.

I was surprised by the amount of detail visible tonight through the binoculars and 105mm. I had observed the comet four days ago using binoculars as well as a 175mm-aperture telescope and the amount of additional detail visible tonight was very impressive. I hope other observers get the chance to observe this comet soon.


6) Saturn observing report, December 29th, 2006.

After finishing up some deep-sky observing with the TMB 130mm f/9.25 apo refractor on its alt-az mount I noted that Saturn was well placed in the eastern sky so I swung the scope over to observe it. Saturn rises around 8:00 PM now and will continue to rise earlier as it heads towards opposition on February 10th, 2007. The seeing conditions for Saturn were good at first and I was able to employ magnifications of 227x - 292x with a Baader binocular viewer. However high clouds obscured the view as time went on and reduced amount of detail visible.

The northern portion of the globe had a medium blue cast to it. The Equatorial Zone (EZ) was light yellow in color. The South Equatorial Belt (SEB) was light brown and divided into the South Equatorial Belt south (SEBs) and South Equatorial Belt north (SEBn) by the Equatorial Belt Zone which was white in color. The southern portion of the globe had a green color to it.

Saturn's rings cast a shadow onto the northern portion of the globe. This, in combination with the Crepe Ring being visible in front of the EZ, gave the rings a 3-dimensional appearance. The shadow of the globe on the rings gave the planet a 3-dimensional appearance as well. The Cassini Division was visible on the sides of the rings or ansae (the Latin word for handles), as well as in front of the globe. The Crepe Ring was visible on both sides of the globe also.

Titan, Rhea, and Tethys were visible near Saturn.


7) Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught observing report, January 12th, 2007

A Comet's Tail

I tried observing Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught a number of times during the first couple of weeks of January but due to cloudy skies and long hours at work was unable to.

Then when leaving work shortly after sunset on January 12th I looked up and was surprised to see that the skies were mostly clear. The forecast had been for overcast conditions so I didn't have my binoculars handy. Looking to the southwestern skies I could see Venus above a cloudbank, so headed to top 4th floor of a parking garage to see if I could locate the comet.

Unfortunately there was another cloudbank along the horizon where the comet should have been located, but a clear area between the two cloudbanks. Using Venus as a reference on where to locate the comet I carefully looked for it with the unaided eye. Several times there appeared to be an arch of light between the two clouds banks that did not look like a cloud. It appeared brighter than the orange tinged colored clouds above and below it. Not being able to see the head of the comet I wasn't sure if this was the tail of the comet or not. Shortly after this a bright green-colored meteor left a trail as flashed below Venus. A few days later I came across an image of the comet on the web. It showed clouds banks above and below the comet, but it showed the head as well as its tail. It looked exactly like what I observed except for the head, so I realized that I had indeed seen Comet McNaught, or at least its tail. Even though I didn't see the head of the comet it was neat to observe anyway and quite bright.


8) Total Eclipse of the Moon, March 3rd, 2007.

Although this total eclipse of the Moon favored observers in Europe and Africa, it was visible in some portions here in the States. By the time it rose above the horizon at my observing site and cleared some clouds totality had ended. So I was only able to view the partial phases but it was still a pretty sight. To the unaided eye the eclipsed portion of the Moon in the umbra had an orange color to it, while the penumbra portion was gray in color. Through a pair of Oberwerk 11x70mm binoculars the colors were more pronounced and it was interesting to watch as the Earth's shadow moved across the lunar landscape. There will be another total lunar eclipse on August 28th of this year, and on February 21st 2008.


9) Jupiter and deep-sky observing report, April 22nd, 2007

The summer constellations are well placed in the morning skies before dawn these days, so I decided to get up early and observe some old summertime favorites as well as Jupiter. As I set up my TMB 130mm f/9.25 apo refractor on its alt-az mount I noted that the limiting magnitude around 5.6. With cool temperatures and clear skies the Milky Way was visible from Sagittarius, through Cygnus and into Cassiopeia.

First up was Jupiter, was located to the upper left of Antares. The seeing was mostly fair for the king of the planets but there was some interesting detail visible from time to time when the seeing settled down and using a magnification of between 127x - 227x. This included the South Polar Region which appeared green brown in color, and the South Equatorial Belt that appeared light brown in color. In the Equatorial Zone the Equatorial Band was visible, and there was a large festoon that extended from the southern edge of the North Equatorial Belt and connected to the Equatorial Band. The North Equatorial Belt was light brown in color and had a red barge along its northern edge. The North Polar Region was gray brown in color. Three of Jupiter's moons were visible off to one side, including Ganymede, Europa, and Io. With steadier seeing conditions the moons appeared as disks with slight differences in color.

After observing Jupiter for a while I realized there were a number of deep-sky objects I wanted to observe but only had about 35 minutes before the onset of astronomical twilight. So to save time I decided to observe them with just a TMB Paragon wide-angle eyepiece that provided a magnification of 30x. I swung the telescope over to Antares, which was a pretty orange color as always. Within the same field of view and off to one side I saw the globular cluster M 4. It showed a linear shape to its middle and I was able to resolve some of its stars. Next up was beta 2 Scorpii, a white double star that forms the upper claw of Scorpius. It too was resolved at 30x.

I moved the telescope over to Sagittarius to observe some other deep-sky objects. M 22, like M 4, is a globular cluster, however it is brighter than M 4. Like M 4 I could start to resolve stars around the edges and across the front. There was an orange colored star off to one side of M 22. As a comparison I then observed M13, another globular cluster located in Hercules. M13 appeared larger than M 22 and like M 22 some of the stars were resolved across the core and around the edges.

Back in Sagittarius I observed M 8, the Lagoon Nebula. The Lagoon Nebula is a bright nebula with open cluster NGC 6530 which has over 20 stars that are brighter than magnitude 7. M 8 gets its name from a dark lane that crosses the nebula. Through the telescope M 8 showed the dark lane between two brighter sections of nebulosity and the cluster was prominent.

M 20, the Trifid Nebula, is located near M8. It is bright nebula with two sections, a larger and brighter section that has several dark lanes and a double star near the center, and a smaller section. At 30x the larger section was visible as was the double star, and averted vision helped to bring out hints of the dark lanes. The smaller section near the bottom was not as easy to see.

M 17, the Swan Nebula, appeared to be floating upside down in a dark sea. With averted vision there was some mottling visible in the nebulosity. An orange colored star was visible off to the upper left.

M 16, the Eagle Nebula, showed a number of stars with some nebulosity.

To round out the night I observed Albireo, which is a very pretty blue and yellow colored double star located in Cygnus.

After finishing observing with the telescope I sat back and admired the star-filled sky. It was nice to observe again. Also it was interesting to listen to the sounds of nature, for the owls that had been calling out to each other during the night had begun to give way to morning birds singing as astronomical twilight came up.


10) Venus, Saturn and deep-sky objects, May 6th, 2007

With clear skies and a limiting magnitude around 5.5 ~ 5.6 I decided to observe Venus, Saturn, and some deep-sky objects with the TMB 130mm f/9.25 apo refractor on its alt-az mount. First up was Venus which at magnitude -4.1 appeared dazzling bright at 128x. The seeing wasn't very good for the planet but even so its 66% phase was well resolved and there were some dusky markings along the terminator.

It has been a while since I last had the opportunity to observe Saturn and it appeared very pretty through the telescope at 128x. The seeing was much better for Saturn, so I was gradually able to increase the magnification to 292x. The South Polar Region had a small round "cap" to it which had a slight green color. The South Tropical Zone was tan in color, and the South Equatorial Belt, south (SEBs), and South Equatorial Belt, north (SEBn) were light brown in color. The South Equatorial Belt Zone (SEBz) was visible between the SEBs and SEBn. The Equatorial Zone appeared light yellow in color. The North Polar Region (NPR) had a light blue color to it.

The A-Ring appeared darker then B-Ring, and the Cassini Division was visible on both sides of the globe. The C-Ring was visible on both sides of the globe also, and was visible in front of the planet. The rings cast a shadow on the NPR, and with Saturn was near quadrature, the shadow of the globe on the rings was very noticeable. This gave the planet a pronounced 3D appearance. Four moons were visible near Saturn, including Rhea, Dione, Tethys, and Titan. This was one of the nicest views of Saturn I have had in a long while. I wish I had this kind of seeing more often.

Next I moved the telescope over to observe V Boo, a variable star in the constellation Bootes. At 30x this star was very pretty with reddish-orange color.

With Coma Berenices well placed in the sky I decided to observe some deep-sky objects in it. The first one was NGC 4559, which is a galaxy with a magnitude 10.0. Through the telescope at 30x it appeared faint and oval in shape. At 50x it appeared more comma shaped and with averted vision there appeared to be one or two dark circular lanes near the center. Two stars were visible near one end of the galaxy.

NGC 4565 is a galaxy near NGC 4559 with a magnitude of 10.3. At 30x it appears as an elongated spindle of light. At 50x it appears larger and brighter. With averted vision a brighter bulge was visible near the center along the top of the galaxy with perhaps a star-like nucleus to it. Also there was a hint of dark dust lane across its center.

M 53 is a globular cluster with a magnitude of 7.6. At 30x the cluster showed a concentrated core and some of the stars were resolved. At 86x the cluster was better resolved.

M 64, the Black Eye galaxy appeared relatively large and bright with an oval shape at 30x and a brighter central region. At 50x the galaxy appeared more elongated with a star-like nucleus, a brighter inner region and a fainter outer region. At 86x with averted vision there was a hint of the dark dust lane that gives this galaxy its nickname. I almost felt that I was looking across the plane of the galaxy.

After observing M 64 it was time to call it a night. I had observed for about three hours and would have liked to stay out longer but it was a work night so it was time to pack it in. As I started to take down my telescope I noted that Jupiter was rising in the southeastern sky while Venus was setting in the northwestern sky. When I first set the telescope up the stars of fall and winter were setting in the western sky, and by the end of the observing session the stars of spring were overhead while the stars of summer were rising in the eastern sky. It felt like the sky was in a state of transition, as we sometimes feel about our own lives.


11) Deep-sky and Jupiter observing report, May 13th-14th, 2007

I set up the TMB 130mm f/9.25 apo refractor on its alt-az mount to observe galaxies in Virgo. This included Markarian's Chain, which is an arc of galaxies in the central region of the Virgo Cluster. The limiting magnitude was around 5.1 ~ 5.2.

I began by star hopping from epsilon Virginis to M 59 and M 60. At 30x through my telescope both of these galaxies fit into the same field of view (FOV), with M 60 appearing larger and brighter than M 59. Both are elliptical galaxies, and M 59 at 60x and 75x has a star-like nucleus with a circular core that than becomes elongated on both ends. M 60 appears more circular in shape and has also a star-like nucleus. NGC 4647 is a spiral galaxy and located next to M 60. It is smaller and fainter than M 59. At low power the M 60 and NGC 4647 appear to be in contact with each other, reminding me of a smaller version of M 51.

M 58, a barred spiral galaxy, is an easy star hop from M 59 and M60, as it is roughly on a line from these galaxies. It appears smaller than both of them do, and slightly brighter than M 59. Through the telescope at 60x and 75x it has a star-like nucleus with an oval shape that becomes fainter near its edges.

M 89 is a galaxy located above M 58, and appears smaller than M58. It appears oval in shape with a star-like nucleus at 60x and 75x.

M 90 is a spiral galaxy located above M 89, and appears larger and brighter than M 89. At 60x and 75x it appears elongated with a brighter central area and star-like nucleus.

It was getting late and I had to get up early the next day so I decided to continue my observations, including Markarian's Chain, on another night. Before packing up I took a took a quick look at M 13, M 57, and Jupiter. At 30x the stars in M 13 were nicely resolved across the core and around the edges, and at 60x the stars were mostly resolved. M 57 at 30x was resolved as a ring with and its darker inner portion was prominent, and at 60x the ends of the ring appeared elongated.

Jupiter was low in the southwestern sky and at 30x the North and South Polar Regions were visible, as were the North and South Equatorial Belts. Also Jupiter appeared to have five bright moons near it, one of them being a bright star in the background that just happened to be above one of the Jovian moons.


12) Observing report of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Atlantis, June 20th, 2007

I observed the passage of the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Atlantis using the unaided eye and a pair of Oberwerk 11x70mm binoculars. The ISS and Atlantis were to pass from the northwestern sky to the southeastern sky. While waiting for them to appear I looked to the western sky and noted that the crescent Moon, Regulus, Saturn, and Venus formed a line. Next week on June 30th Saturn and Venus will be within a degree of each other and will be an interesting sight with the unaided eye, binoculars, or telescope.

The ISS and Atlantis appeared low in the northwestern sky and gradually grew brighter as they got higher in the sky. The ISS appeared brighter than Atlantis and had a somewhat of a yellow or gold color to it while Atlantis appeared white in color. Through the binoculars I did not note any detail on Atlantis, unlike in February 15, 2000 when I observed the passage of the Space Shuttle Endeavor using a pair of binoculars and saw a radar boom and radar that extended off of its side. However the ISS did not have a smooth shape to it as Atlantis did.

The ISS and Atlantis passed below the bowl of the Big Dipper and the ISS passed between the end of the Dipper handle and Arcturus. The ISS seemed to temporarily take the place of Arcturus as a guide to Spica from the old astronomy saying "Arc to Arcturus and speed onto Spica". As the ISS and Atlantis continued towards the southeastern sky the ISS seemed brighter than Jupiter.


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