NexStar 50 Club Observation Log

Name: Bob Christ
NexStar Telescope Model: NexStar GPS 9.25, Siebert 2” 36mm, 40mm E-Lux, 25mm TV Plössl, A-P 2” adapter, Stellarvue 2” diagonal, Celestron Ultima Barlow, Orion Broadband LPR filter, Starlight FeatherTouch MicroFocuser, Stellarvue 9x50 correct image finderscope, S&S Optika Wing-thing. The non-standard accessories were accumulated while I worked through the NexStar 50 list, and not all were available for use as I viewed each target. The vast majority (98+%) of my viewing is from my backyard – located about 25 miles NNE of downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Most of the visual conditions are related according to the Arizona Clear Sky Clock (http://www.eastvalleyastronomy.org/csc.html).

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Object: 1 - Orion Nebula… M42 / NGC1976
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – No cloud cover, transparency above avg. @ 5.4, darkness 6.0, seeing 4/5
Comments: Wow, what a wonderful sight. I scoped M42 last season but the view this night was nothing short of spectacular, even thought Orion was only about 25* elevated from the horizon. The nebulosity band was incredibly expansive, almost extending across my FOV. M42’s neighbor, M43, was equally prominent as well.

Object: 2 - Hercules Cluster… M13 / NGC6205
Date Observed: 2. 5/11/05 – no cloud cover, transparency above average, seeing average, darkness 5.6
Comments: What a wonderful sight! Very large, and loaded with stars that were just starting to resolve at 59x. M13 must be an even more incredible object to view from a dark site. At 5,000’ elevation 100 miles North of Phoenix – it was!)

Object: 3 – Ring Nebula… M57 / NGC6720
Date Observed: 5/31/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: At 59x, M57 looked almost perfectly round in form showing consistent luminosity throughout. At 261x, M57 looks like a doughnut with the center portion much lighter in luminosity.

Object: 4 - Saturn
Date Observed: 2. 5/11/05 – no cloud cover, transparency above average, seeing average, darkness 5.6
Comments: Always a great target to view. Saturn is slowly moving westward and it will not be long before it is no longer visible between 9-11 PM here when I do most of my viewing. Saturn is positioned to see the rings very well. I am able to calculate when the GRS should be visible but have yet to experience seeing it.

Object: 5 - Moon
Date Observed: 5/11/05 – no cloud cover, transparency above average, seeing average, darkness 5.6
Comments: The moon was positioned about 35% above the horizon and the lower portion (South), was slightly more than an illuminated sliver. The terminator was crossing the North side of Clavius and craters in the floor of Clavius could be seen. Using a 40mm E-Lux ocular in my scope, the moon consumes approximately 80% of my total field of view.

Object: 6 – Andromeda… M31 / NGC224
Date Observed: 10/22/05 – seeing 4/5, no cloud cover, transparency above average and pre-moonrise
Comments: Observed M31 from a dark site (Safford, AZ). M31 is a very nice object whose nebulosity extended beyond the FOV of my eyepiece. The extent of the nebulosity was not visible through the finderscope although the bright center portion was quite visible. M31 was tilted a little high on the left side and little low on the right side in the FOV.

Object: 7 – Dumbbell Nebula… M27 / NGC6853
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments 1: Located within the Milky Way, M27 shows nebulosity but I cannot recognize the dumbbell shape for which the object is named.
Date Observed: 8/25/05 – no cloud cover, transparency average, seeing average, darkness 5.8
Comments 2: Used the LPR filter this night from the backyard and was able to envision the dumbbell-like shape via the better contrast provided by the filter. The nebula is tilted slightly up on the right hand side and takes up about 25% of the 2x Barlowed 25mm plossl FOV.

Object: 8 – Pleiades / Seven Sisters… M45
Date Observed: 10/22/05 – seeing 4/5, no cloud cover, transparency above average and pre-moonrise
Comments: The Pleiades is a large object that shows beautifully in the finderscope. In my 36mm 2” lens, the clarity of the area was visually astounding as a sprinkling of stars of widely varying magnitudes – and this was at ~20* above the horizon.

Object: 9 – Jupiter
Date Observed: 2. 5/11/05 – no cloud cover, transparency above average, seeing average, darkness 5.6
Comments: Jupiter was positioned +/- 55% high in the SSW sky, tilted up (equatorial bands) on the left by approximately 15% from a horizontal perspective in the ocular. Callisto was the closest in proximity to Jupiter on the lower left side and Io was positioned on the right side about double the distance compared to that of Callisto. Ganymede was on the left and the farthest out. Europa was situated on the right of Jupiter +/- half the distance of Ganymede to Jupiter.
Date Observed: 5/31/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: At 9:45 PM, Ganymede was sitting on Jupiter’s limb at the 270-degree position in the eyepiece.

Object: 10 – Wild Duck Cluster… M11 / NGC6705 in Scutum
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments 1: Very nice cluster within the Milky Way. M11 is a dense profundity of stars and dark lanes are visible. I assume the dark lanes are comprised of matter that block viewing the stars behind them.
Date Observed: 8/25/05 – no cloud cover, transparency average, seeing average, darkness 5.8
Comments 2: Previously I was looking (unsuccessfully) for a “v” line of stars. Tonight, I realized the “v” shape is the outer edge of the left side of the nebular that is v-shaped, as viewed through the eyepiece.

Object: 11 – Bodes Galaxy… M81 / NGC3031 & Cigar Galaxy… M82 / NGC 3034
Date Observed: 5/8/05, cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2
Comments: M81 viewed as a diffuse image with bright center showing at 261x. M82 shows near horizontal in eyepiece, perhaps 5% elevated on the right side, no nucleus visible.

Object: 12 – Swan Nebula… M17 / NGC6618 in Sagittarius
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: M17 is a beautiful nebula. Located toward the edge of the Milky Way, M17 appears like a cloud-like structure. There is an apparent ˝ area of a circle of darkness located on the left side of the nebula and the cloud like nebulosity extends from the dark outer arc of the circle to the right forming an isosceles triangle. The left portion of the nebulosity comprises the base of the triangle. The upper portion of the nebulosity extending out to the right appears to be brighter than the lower portion.

Object: 13 – Albireo-Double… Double List
Date Observed: 6/03/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: A nice looking double. The prominent star shows yellow in color and the blue/white companion is placed just below 270* on the right side.

Object: 14 – Perseus Double Cluster… NGC869 & NGC884 in Perseus
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: A gorgeous mass of stars clusters separated by a meandering dark lane. Both cluster were visible in my 36mm 2” wide field ocular – one in the upper left and the other in the bottom right of the FOV.

Object: 15 – Whirlpool Galaxy… M51 / NGC5194 in Canes Venatici
Date Observed: 5/8/05 – no moon, cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2 -
Comments: Appeared as a smudge. I know M51 is a spiral galaxy, but I could not view an arm detail. A companion DSO unknown to me (nebula/galaxy?) was in relatively close proximity.

Object: 16 – Lagoon Nebula… M8 / NGC6523
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: M8 appears as a cloud-like object with a dark lane running through it on a N/E to S/W slant. Two-thirds of the nebula is above the dark lane and one-third below it. In the N/W portion, at the end of the right side of the dark lane is a dark, semi-circular area that can be likened to a “lagoon” when viewed from outer space. I assume this is the basis for the “Lagoon” nickname.

Object: 17 – Beehive Cluster… M44 / NGC2632
Date Observed: 5/8/05 – cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2
Comments: 40mm eyepiece provided the widest FOV – counted 26 stars that were the most prominent and a few that were pinpricks …scattering of stars in the 9x50 finder scope.

Object: 18 – Western Veil Nebula… NGC6960 & Eastern Veil Nebula… NGC6992 in Cygnus
Date Observed: 10/22/05 – seeing 4/5, no cloud cover, transparency above average and pre-moonrise
Comments: I have tried to view these object from home without success. This night, at a dark site, I was able to finally see the wispy nebulosity comprising these objects – long and thin with a bump in the middle. The Eastern Veil appears to be slightly more prominent than the Western Veil. Both objects are large.

Object: 19 – Omega Centauri… NGC5139
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: Up to this date, I have not been able to view Omega Centauri from my backyard. While preparing to view NASA’s Deep Impact from a dark sight I was able to view NGC 5139 from a 5,200’ elevation just after darkness fell. It appears to be huge, and was located well down toward the Southern horizon from my vantage point – sitting above, and in, the sky glow from Phoenix. Omega Centauri is a dense cluster of stars and the effect of the low position relative to the horizon gave the cluster the appearance of sunrays dancing off of a dense sprinkling of salt particles.

Object: 20 – Globular in Sagittarius… M22 / NGC6656
Date Observed: 6/26/05 – cloud cover 10%, transparency above average, seeing average 3/5, darkness 5.6
Comments: Dense globular cluster comprised of seemingly similar magnitude stars with a sprinkling of brighter stars throughout.

Object: 21 – Butterfly Cluster… M6 / NGC6405
Date Observed: 6/29/05 – Cloud cover 10%, transparency above average, seeing average 3/5, darkness 5.8
Comments: A nice open cluster of stars, but the image of a butterfly escapes my consciousness. There is a star in about the 260-265* position in the eyepiece relative to the major grouping of stars that is appreciably brighter than the companion stars and is yellowish in color.

Object: 22 – Double Double – Epsilon Lyra 1 & 2… Double List
Date Observed: 6/03/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: I had looked at this list object a couple of times without “catching-on.” Finally this night I understand it, and it’s really neat! The four stars appear to be about equal in magnitude and the companion stars are real close – requiring higher magnification to split them. In the eyepiece, Epsilon Lyra 1 sits slightly higher and to the right of Epsilon Lyra 2.

Object: 23 – Jewel Box… NGC4755
Date Observed:
Comments: UNABLE TO SEE FROM MY NORTHERN LOCATION

Object: 24 – Blue Snowball Planetary Nebula… NGC7662
Date Observed: 10/22/05 – seeing 4/5, no cloud cover, transparency above average and pre-moonrise
Comments: Observed from a dark site. NGC 7662 appeared as a slightly fuzzy object about the size of Jupiter that is very spherical in shape. Hoping the object’s name did not influence my color perception, I believe I detected a very faint bluish cast in the object’s color.

Object: 25 – Spiral Galaxy… M66 / NGC3627
Date Observed: 5/8/05 – cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2 -
Comments: M66 appear as a round smudge with a slightly brighter center portion. Another amorphous object (NCG 3628?) showed in the 40’ TFOV (40mm, 1 Ľ” ocular) when M66 was centered.

Object: 26 – Coathanger – CR399… Asterism List
Date Observed: 5/31/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: The Coathanger asterism is much too large to fit into my approximately .66 degree TFOV.
Date Observed: 6/03/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: Revisited CR399 by viewing through the 9x50 finder. The six bottom stars comprising the Coathanger sit at about a 40* tilt through the finder eyepiece and all ten stars can be seen.

Object: 27 – Galaxy in Leo… M65 / NGC3623
Date Observed: 5/8/05, cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2 -
Comments: Showed as a small smudge @59x. No light intensity differentiation at either 94x or 261x.

Object: 28 – Ptolemy’s Cluster… M7 / NGC6475
Date Observed: 6/26/05 – cloud cover 10%, transparency above average, seeing average 3/5, darkness 5.6
Comments: A very nice open cluster of stars. While not visible to the naked eye, the cluster was visible in both the finder scope and telescope. Through the telescope, there is an interesting geometric pattern to be seen. There is an apparent horizontal line composed of 5 stars. Another set of stars (6) cross the horizontal line at an almost perpendicular angle (~5* tilted top-to-the-right). In the top-left quadrant formed by the intersection of stars, 5 stars are positioned in an arc as such that they appear to be Ľ of a circle’s circumference. The leftmost star in the horizontal line is yellowish in color and the other stars are white/bluish-white. Overall, the magnitude of the stars visible to me ranges from pinpricks to those readily visible.

Object: 29 – Bernice’s Hair Clip… NGC4565
Date Observed: 5/8/05 – no moon, cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2 -
Comments: NGC 4565 is either a UFO, or an edge-on DSO. It is a faint object and a bright center is shown at 261x.

Object: 30 – Globular in Pegasus… M15 / NGC7078
Date Observed: 8/25/05 – no cloud cover, transparency average, seeing average, darkness 5.8
Comments: This is a very nice, tight globular that is irregular in shape, having a bright core comprising about 25% of the total area of the globular, viewed at 188x.

Object: 31 – Owl Cluster… NGC457
Date Observed: 10/22/05 – seeing 4/5, no cloud cover, transparency above average and pre-moonrise
Comments: Observed from a dark site. This open cluster differed from others I have viewed. This one had very prominent bright stars and those of lesser magnitude, but the interesting feature to me was the “pairing” of stars within the cluster. There were pairs (couples), triplets, and quadruplets visible in contrast to single stars dispersed throughout.

Object: 32 – Milky Way
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: Unable to see the Milky Way from my backyard, I was fortunate to be able to view it while at a dark site about 100 miles North of Phoenix) to see NASA’s Deep Impact of Tempel 1. The Milky Way extends from the South horizon between the tail of Scorpius and Sagittarius (above the sky glow of Phoenix) toward Casseopia in the Northeast sky. Dark lanes are visible through the band of the Milky Way, and peregrinating throughout the Milky Way with the telescope shows a myriad of stars at each stop.

Object: 33 – Trapezium in Orion… Center of M42
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – No cloud cover, transparency above avg. @ 5.4, darkness 6.0, seeing 4/5
Comments: At low power (65x), the Trapezium appeared to be located in an area void of M42’s nebulosity. At 188x is clearly is embedded in the nebulosity. Rising in the East about 25* high, the stars of the Trapezium exhibited no perceptible twinkling. One of the four stars is considerably brighter than the other three.

Object: 34 – Open Cluster in Puppis… M46 / NGC2437
Date Observed: 5/8/05 – no moon, cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2
Comments: Positioned lower in the sky over the sky glow of SW Phoenix, even at this position M46 is a nice open cluster to view.

Object: 35 – Double Triangle (Star Gate)… Asterism List
Date Observed: 5/11/05 – no cloud cover, transparency above average, seeing average, darkness 5.6. Comments: Star Gate is an interesting asterism comprised of 6 stars that form two triangles, one within the other. The outer triangle is comprised of two stars about the same magnitude and the third about ˝ of the other two star’s magnitude. Two of the stars in the inner triangle are approximately the same magnitude and the third is very dim in comparison – showing as just a tiny speck of light at 59x. This night, the asterism appears to be approximately 10% West and 20% South of Jupiter.

Object: 36 – 24 Com Double… Double List
Date Observed: 5/8/05 – no moon, cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2 -
Comments: 24 Com is a very nice double star. The prominent star is a whitish/yellow color. The companion star is bluish in color and is approximately 315* in position to the primary star as viewed through the ocular.

Object: 37 – Open Cluster in Sagittarius… M25 / IC4725
Date Observed: 6/29/05 – Cloud cover 10%, transparency above average, seeing average 3/5, darkness 5.8
Comments: A nice cluster of dispersed stars. An image that reminds me of the sickle represented on the now-abandoned USSR flag is formed by seven (7) of the stars within the open cluster. While M25 is positioned within the Milky Way, I did not see an expected preponderance of stars. The Milky Way is not visible from my backyard, and perhaps Milky Way stars would be visible in the area of M25 from a dark site.

Object: 38 – Open Cluster in Gemini… M35 / NGC2168
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – No cloud cover, transparency above avg. @ 5.4, darkness 6.0, seeing 4/5
Comments: A nice, open cluster that appears to be bigger than its M36/37/38 cousins. In the right side of the FOV, 15 stars formed a nice shallow arc (flattened “u” shape), comprised of stars ranging from barely perceptible stars (pinpricks) to brighter ones.

Object: 39 – Open Cluster in Cepheus… NGC7510
Date Observed: 10/22/05 – seeing 4/5, no cloud cover, transparency above average and pre-moonrise
Comments: Viewed from a dark site. NGC 7510 appears to be a small, tight cluster sitting right inside of the Milky Way. It looks more like a globular cluster than an open cluster.

Object: 40 – Globular Cluster in Hercules… M92 / NGC6341
Date Observed: 6/03/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: Wow! M92 is a gorgeous mass of clustered stars. The center portion emits a warm glow and at 261x I could resolve some of the peripheral larger stars. This is arguable the best Messier object I’ve viewed to date and I plan to revisit M92 when I trek to a dark site.
Data Observed #2: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: Wanted to revisit M92 from a dark site this date. Indeed, it is even more magnificent than the view from my backyard.

Object: 41 – Tucanae… NGC104
Date Observed:
Comments: UNABLE TO SEE FROM MY NORTHERN LOCATION

Object: 42 – Galaxy in Andromeda… NGC891
Date Observed: 10/22/05 – seeing 4/5, no cloud cover, transparency above average and pre-moonrise
Comments: Viewed from a dark site. I suspect this object is an edge-on galaxy. It appeared long and thin, inclined slight up on the left in the FOV and slightly down on the right side. It showed best by using averted vision.

Object: 43 – Open Cluster in Ophiuchus… NGC6633
Date Observed: 5/31/05 – seeing average 3/5, transparency above average, cloud cover 10%, darkness 5.4
Comments: Sitting approximately 25* above the horizon, NGC6633 looks like a splattering of buckshot comprised of stars of multiple magnitudes when viewed at 59x.

Object: 44 – Galaxy in Coma Berenices… M100 / NGC4321
Date Observed: 5/8/05 – no moon, cloud cover 10%, seeing average, transparency above average, darkness 5.2
Comments: Appears to be reasonably bright as DSO’s go, showing a brighter, star-like nucleus.

Object: 45 – Table of Scorpius… NGC6231
Date Observed: 6/29/05 – Cloud cover 10%, transparency above average, seeing average 3/5, darkness 5.8
Comments: A nice open cluster (sounds redundant, but I’m impressed with each one). The core appears to consist of about 30 stars I was able to count, ranging in brightness from pinpricks of light to those much more luminous. This said, there is an overall consistency to the brightness of the stars forming 6231.

Object: 46 – Trifid Nebula… M20 / NGC6514
Date Observed: 8/1/05 – 5% cloud cover, transparency and seeing above average, darkness 9.4
Comments: This was a rare night of viewing opportunity during our monsoon season here in the desert. Using the LPR filter and averted vision, M20 reminds me of a face-on view of a heart valve. I’m sure this object would show much better from a dark site.

Object: 47 – Betelgeuse… Named Star
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – No cloud cover, transparency above avg. @ 5.4, darkness 6.0, seeing 4/5
Comments: Part of the Orion Constellation, Betelgeuse is bright and yellow-orange in color. There were not many stars in the FOV around it, and the brightness of Betelgeuse keep drawing my eye to it when I tried to view the surrounding area.

Object: 48 - Globular in Sagittarius... M55 / NGC6809
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: Located approximately 25* West of the Southern visible end of the Milky Way, M55 is a fine globular comprised of stars fairly consistent in magnitude – almost translucent and cloud-like. A sprinkling a brighter magnitude stars are visible around the periphery of M55.

Object: 49 – Open Cluster in Auriga… M36 / NGC1960
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – No cloud cover, transparency above avg. @ 5.4, darkness 6.0, seeing 4/5
Comments: A nice open cluster comprised of about 50-60 stars scattered about. The steadiness and transparency of the sky allowed me to see the slightest pin-pricks of light – stars I normally could not detect from my backyard.

Object: 50 – Eagle Nebula & Cluster… M16 / NGC6611
Date Observed: 6/29/05 – Cloud cover 10%, transparency above average, seeing average 3/5, darkness 5.8
Comments: Located in Serpens, the core appears to be a concentration of about 16+ stars (visible to me). From the core of the cluster a cascade of stars drop down in the eyepiece (Southward) filling-in what appears to be a portion of a circle’s surface area, starting from the concentration of M16 stars outward to an imaginary arc of a circle’s that would approximate 1/8th of a circle’s circumference.

Northern hemisphere substitute objects

Object 51: Sun
Date Observed: 9/26/05, 1:30 PM, beautifully clear Arizona sky.
Comments: Completed building a combination solar filter and two-hole Hartmann mask assembly last night. I used Baader’s visual Mylar film, and the off-axis aperture measures approximately 70mm. I assured no holes existed in the filter film, accepted the scopes two-alignment stars, and then set the rate to “9” and manually slewed toward the Sun. (scope was set to “solar” tracking) The Sun was ~65* high to the South and I interpolated where I thought the scope should point - but could not find the Sun. I finally looked at the shadow of the OTA and moved the scope to minimize its profile. I looked in the eyepiece and there was the Sun. A sunspot was clearly visible about 1/3 of the way from the center of the Sun toward the left. The black umbra looked like the profile of a derringer pistol with the barrel pointing down about 100*, and the outside edge of the penumbra looked like a perfect circle. This is my first experience looking at the Sun - cool!
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – A cloudless, typical Arizona blue sky.
Comments: The image of the Sun looked clear, without any sunspots or color variations.

Object 52: Globular Cluster in Aquarius … M2/NGC7089
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: A very nice globular cluster showing a semi-bright center portion surrounded by nebulosity around it. There were surprisingly few stars in the area of sky surrounding M2.

Object 53: Globular Cluster in Canes Venatici … M3/NGC5272
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: Like M2, M3 is a really nice globular cluster showing a bright center within the nebulosity. Unlike M2 that I just observed, there are significantly more stars in the area surrounding M3.

Object 54: Globular Cluster in Serpens … M5/NGC5904
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: I have just previously viewed M2 and M3. M3 is larger in apparent size than M2, and M5 is significantly larger than M3. M5 is large. There is a large glowing center portion and the nebulosity is inconsistent in appearance toward the Eastern side.

Object 55: Open Cluster in Auriga … M37/NGC2099
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – No cloud cover, transparency above avg. @ 5.4, darkness 6.0, seeing 4/5
Comments: Not comprised of stars as bright as M36 in general, M37 appears to be larger and contains many more stars. The variation is the magnitude of stars is not as great as displayed in M36.

Object 56: Open Cluster in Auriga … M38/NGC1912
Date Observed: 11/05/05 – No cloud cover, transparency above avg. @ 5.4, darkness 6.0, seeing 4/5
Comments: M38 exhibits a view similar to M36 – the same combination of varying star magnitudes – but it appears to be farther away. Very nice.

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Additional entry: Comet 9P/Tempel 1
Date Observed: 7/3/05 – no clouds, transparency above average, seeing above average 4/5, darkness 5.9
Comments: While this entry is not part of my submission for the NexStar 50 list, I thought I would share my experience viewing NASA’s Deep Impact of 9P/Tempel 1 this night. This was exciting!

Several weeks prior to the “Deep Impact,” I discovered an Ephemeris generator on the JPL Web site (http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/eph). The NexStarGPS does not contain a comet database so I used the generator to calculate the comet’s precise position on the night of July 3rd and used the GoToRA function. The generator allows one to input the lat/long coordinates of the viewing location and its altitude. This night I was viewing at 5,200’ elevation.

I was fortunate to be able to view the comet from a dark site, about 100 miles North of Phoenix, Arizona. I do not considering myself to be an experienced amateur astronomer and have been using my NexStarGPS 9.25 for only about 5 months prior to this date, this, following 1-year of using a Meade ETX-60AT scope. Same game: significantly very much different ballpark.

I aligned the scope on Vega and Alberio as offered by the scope. Following alignment, I slewed to Spica knowing that it was in close proximity to Tempel 1. I was disappointed with the result. I then re-aligned the scope on Spica and Jupiter because both were very close to the location of the comet. I inputted the comet’s co-ordinates and slewed to the target area.

I was expecting to see a prominent comet structure and its attendant dust and gas tails. No such luck. I caught a view of something in the corner of my eye while I was searching the periphery of my .97* TFOV (36mm 2” Siebert). There it was, – a barely perceptible fuzzy – and in the middle of my FOV! I’m sure without re-aligning the scope I would have been pointed in the wrong direction. A fellow club member, whom I had never met, came by and verified I had found the comet. Of the 25-some scopes set up by fellow astronomy club members (most exceptionally experienced), I was apparently the first to lock onto Tempel 1. Many came by to peek through my scope (some multiple times) so they too could get a fix on the comet.

I wondered how this fellow could be so immediately confident of my sighting. At the risk of offending him, and exposing my naiveté, I did not question him. Days later I believe I discovered how he knew I was fixed on the comet. An individual, Andrew Johnson, was kind enough to create and make available a “Mag 7 Star Atlas” for downloading (free) at: http://cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=1052. I had printed the charts well before Deep Impact, but had never used them. (Hey, I have a GoTO Scope, right?) About a week or so after Deep Impact I was looking at the chart covering RA 12h to 16h, Dec +20* to –20* that contained Spica and realized there was no DSO in the area where Tempel 1 was located that night. I’m sure my club member did his “homework,” and I learned a valuable lesson – the value of star charts.

Upon having sighted Tempel 1, I replaced my 2” 36mm ocular with a 25mm 1 Ľ” eyepiece to get a slightly closer look. There were 2 stars close to the faint fuzzy, located on the right side. When an imaginary line was drawn between those 2 stars extending out to the left, the line passed just over Tempel 1. The three objects were almost in linear alignment. As I continued to watch, I began to realize the fuzzy was moving! This provided me with further confidence that indeed, I had locked-onto the comet.

At 10:52 MST the impactor collided with Tempel 1. It would take the light, at the instant of the impact, approximately 7.5 minutes to reach earth and we all watched with eager anticipation. Nothing. A lot of us, me included, expected to see some dramatic change - but it didn’t happen. I continued to view the comet and after about 10 minutes began to realize something was happening. I wasn’t keeping track of the time because my eye was glued to the eyepiece but a star-like core began to grow in the center of the fuzzy. About 30-40 minutes after impact, the glow from the nucleus of the comet had grown significantly and was equal in brightness to the two nearby stars. By this time the fuzzy had traveled from being in near-linear alignment with the two stars to a position that formed a right triangle when the 3 objects were connected with an imaginary line.

By now the comet had moved low in the Western sky and the crud of earth’s atmosphere significantly diffused its visibility from our vantage point. I bid it an appreciative “thank you, and good night.” I then took the opportunity to continue to work on the NexStar50 list until about 3:00 AM.

I will long remember the impact of Tempel 1. I was able to successfully view this historic event and I am most grateful for the experience.