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Posts Made By: Dave Mitsky

April 18, 2002 05:44 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

AR 9096, 2002/4/17

Posted By Dave Mitsky

Active Region 9906 (http://www.spaceweather.com/images2002/17apr02/midi512_blank.gif) is easily visible to the optically unaided but properly filtered eye. I had a peak at it on Tuesday and Wednesday using polymer solar shades and a Mylar filter. AR 9906 is the first "naked-eye" sunspot that I have seen for a couple of months.

With my 114mm f/7.9 Celestron C4.5 Newtonian this large sunspot group revealed some interesting umbral and penumbral detail Newtonian yesterday afternoon at 53 (17mm Tele Vue Ploessl) and 82x (11mm Tele Vue Ploessl).

AR 9096 has been the center of some energetic events recently. A large CME erupted on the 17th (http://science.nasa.gov/spaceweather/images2002/17apr02/cme_c3_big.gif) and may cause auroral activity on the 19th or 20th.

Dave Mitsky



April 23, 2002 02:34 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Astronomy Day 2002

Posted By Dave Mitsky

Last Saturday's Astronomy Day at the Camp Hill Mall was one of the best that I can recall. The Astronomical Society of Harrisburg had an excellent member turnout and a rather good response from the public. This year's strategic central location was undoubtedly part of the reason for the interest. ASH members brought telescopes, computers, slide projectors, display boards, models, books, astrophotos, and other astronomy related materials.

Unfortunately the weather was dismal until just after we left the mall so no daytime solar observing was possible. The skies then cleared for several hours only to grow cloudy again as the public observing session at the Naylor Observatory began. Nevertheless we were able to show a few members of the public telescopic views of the moon and Jupiter through occasional sucker holes using the 12.5" Newtonian and classical Cassegrain 17" reflectors.

Dave Mitsky

April 25, 2002 01:05 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

"Naked-eye" Sunspot, 2002/4/24

Posted By Dave Mitsky

On Wednesday, 2002/4/24, I was able to see what I believe was AR 9915 without magnification through polymer solar eclipse shades. (IOW, it was a "naked-eye" sunspot but don't any of you dare to try to view it without a proper filter!) Instead of my 114mm f/7.9 C4.5 Newtonian I used my 80mm f/5 Orion ShortTube 80 achromat with an approximately 43mm diameter Baader solar filter at 24x (17mm Tele Vue Ploessl), 36x (11mm Tele Vue Ploessl), and 57x (7mm Siebert Koenig). There were five or six medium to large sized sunspots and several small ones. AR 9915 had multiple umbrae.

The transparency and seeing were better than on Tuesday afternoon and the temperature and pressure were 15 degrees Celsius and 1016 millibars.

Despite the better filter (I have a full aperture Mylar filter for the C4.5) and the refractor's lack of central obstruction, the diminished resolution of a much smaller aperture was noticeable.

See http://www.spaceweather.com/images2002/24apr02/midi512_blank.gif for an image.

Dave Mitsky
Harrisburg, PA

April 29, 2002 01:32 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

The Dance of the Planets and a Morning Comet

Posted By Dave Mitsky

My girl friend and I had a delicious home-cooked spaghetti dinner with friend and fellow ASH member Tony Donnangelo and his wife Judy on Friday evening. Afterwards Tony, Maura, and I drove to a nearby rise to view the Great Planetary Alignment of 2002. As the pellucid evening sky began to grow darker we raised our binoculars to the heavens and began sorting out celestial objects as they slowly emerged. In the east the rising full moon displayed the lunar illusion and the Man in the Moon was as prominent as I have ever seen it. Tycho, Aristarchus, lunar ejecta rays, and other features were readily seen through our optical instruments. Jupiter, Venus, and Sirius were easy naked-eye objects. Soon
we noticed Saturn and then Mercury. Mars and Aldebaran eventually made appearances as did Betelgeuse, Rigel, Castor, Pollux, and Procyon.

The arc of the ecliptic was apparent for all to see. Mars seemed to be slightly to the west of the arc and formed a striking triangle with Aldebaran to its left and Saturn. M45 was just to the west of Venus. Both were visible simultaneously through my wide-angle 8x42's.

Despite the brightening brought on by the rising moon M42 was seen as a nebulous patch. Borrowing Maura's excellent Celestron Ultima 10x50's I swept up the Beehive Cluster, M44, which was near the zenith. Alcor and Mizar were resolved with the naked-eye and were an easy split through binos.

I decided to play the How Fast Can You See Six Planets? game. In well under five seconds Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter met my gaze. Then I did the planets in reverse order.

We soon returned to Tony's house and then left to see a movie. Afterwards I showed Maura the Lady in the Moon, which was quite easy to see without visual aid and was unmistakable through my binoculars.

I was not done with observing that night, however. At 7:45 UT (3:45 a.m. EDT) on Saturday morning I headed outside to have my first morning look at Comet Ikeya-Zhang. I first used my 8x42's to sweep up the comet in Cepheus. As reports have indicated the tail that was so prominent a few weeks ago is now quite diminished. In fact, C/2002 C1 (Ikeya-Zhang) looked somewhat similar, although larger in size, to the way it appeared back in February, when it resembled an unresolved globular cluster. After sweeping up Herschel's Garnet Star (Mu Cephei) and a few other celestial odds and ends I set up my 80mm f/5 Orion ShortTube 80 achromat and located the comet. I employed magnifications of 15x (26mm Tele Vue Ploessl), 30x (26mm Ploessl and 2x Celestron Ultima Barlow lens), and 57x (7mm Tele Vue Nagler type 1). The best view of the celestial fuzzball was at 30x. I had a quick peak at Albireo at 15x and then headed for bed.

Dave Mitsky
Harrisburg, PA

May 6, 2002 01:00 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Two Rare Planetary Events, 2002/5/4 & 6 UT

Posted By Dave Mitsky

On Friday evening (2002/5/3) I had the good fortune to observe a very unusual event, i.e., seeing a planet and a comet at the same time through a telescope. C/2002 F1 (Utsunomiya) and Mercury were visible in the same field of view using the 17" f/15 classical Cassegrain (144 and 202x) at the ASH Naylor Observatory (http://www.astrohbg.org). The comet was approximately 5' away from Mercury at the time and had a fairly bright coma that was similar to Mercury in apparent size. I could see no hint of a tail but the sky was still fairly bright at the time and both objects were not far from the horizon so that was no surprise. (Comet Utsunomiya was barely visible through the 5" f/5 finder scope.)

A number of fellow ASH members and I also saw what may have been a fuel dump from an Ariane 4 rocket that carried the Spot 5 satellite into a polar orbit shortly before 02:00 UT. A "cloud" appeared suddenly from nowhere near the head of Draco and began to expand. Another comet, C/2002 C1 (Ikeya-Zhang), was prominent at 162x in the general vicinity.

Although the transparency was not ideal, numerous deep-sky objects were viewed through the 17" and the 12.5" f.6.5 Cave Newtonian. I showed some new members Markarian's Chain in the heart of the Virgo Cluster along with some of the better late spring globular clusters such as M5 and M80, some binary stars (the other Double Double - Struve 2470 and 2474 - was popular), and the carbon stars T Lyrae and V Aquilae.

After some rain the skies eventually cleared on Saturday night but I was too tired from a trip to the National Air and Space Museum to do any observing. Seeing Sir William Herschel's 20 foot (focal length) telescope and the observing cage from the Hooker 100" reflector was quite enjoyable!

I took some photographs of the massing of planets on Sunday evening (2002/5/5) from a high vantage point very close to my residence. This time around I had the unique experience of seeing three planets (Venus, Mars, and Saturn) simultaneously through a telescope, namely my 80mm f/5 Orion ShortTube 80 at 13x (30mm Celestron Ultima)!

Dave Mitsky
Harrisburg, PA

May 14, 2002 07:24 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

The Comet and the Cluster, 2002/5/11 UT

Posted By Dave Mitsky

I spent most of Friday night and some of Saturday morning observing from one of the best "nearby" (a mere hour and a half drive from my residence) dark sky sites. On the final leg of the journey my significant other and I stopped for a few minutes to view the close pairing of Venus and Mars through her Celestron Ultima 10x50's and then drove up Little Knob to Camp Site 52. Tony Donnangelo, a fellow
ASH member, was already observing with his 10" LX6 Meade SCT when we arrived.

The night began with fair seeing and good transparency - a visual limiting magnitude of perhaps a shade above 6.0. This was all to change with the passage of time unfortunately.

Before too long I had my 101mm f/5.4 Tele Vue Genesis sdf refractor set up and trained on Jupiter at 193x (7mm Nagler type 1 and 2.5x Powermate). My next targets were M81 and M82. Both galaxies were easily visible through my 19mm Tele Vue Panoptic (28x).

I followed with Comet Ikeya-Zhang, which was to the east of the fine globular cluster M92 in Hercules. The 60x view with Tony's new 9mm Nagler type 6 was superb. I was to revisit the comet a number of times throughout the night and as it climbed towards the zenith its coma was clearly asymetrical although I could never quite convince myself that I could see a tail.

During the course of the night I observed quite a few deep-sky objects with the aid of only 4 inches of ground and polished glass. These included M101, M5, M13, M104, M65, M66, Gamma Leonis, M87 and other Virgo and Coma Cluster galaxies, M3, Cor Caroli, IC 4665, Antares B, M4, M8, M11, and V Aquilae.

Through Tony's telescope I saw M51, NGC 4195, M81, M82, NGC 2976, NGC 3077, NGC 3079, M97, M108, M109, M101, M94, M106, NGC 4631, M53, M84, M86, NGC 4435, NGC 4438, M3, and other celestial eye candy using a 40mm Tele Vue Wide Field, 22mm Nagler type 4, and a 17mm Nagler type 4.

The highlights of the night were seeing C/2002 C1 (Ikeya-Zhang) near the zenith through the Genesis sdf and the 10" SCT and viewing the classic elongated edge-on spiral galaxy known as Berenices' Hairclip (NGC 4565) at 28 and 60x through the refractor, as well as the heart of the Virgo Cluster (M84 and M86) and parts of Markarian's Chain at
60x.


May 16, 2002 05:58 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

The Comet and the Other Cluster, 2002/5/16 UT

Posted By Dave Mitsky

I motored to the ASH Naylor Observatory on Wednesday night to help with the observing portion of the spring Introductory Observational Astronomy class and to photograph the ongoing alignment of the planets. When I arrived I first had a look at Jupiter through the 17" f/15 classical Cassegrain at 202x (Venus and Mars followed a bit later) and then set up my Pentax K1000, 50mm lens, and tripod. At 01:02 UT I took a 20 second exposure followed by additional exposures about 20 and 40 minutes later.

Prior to that I'd alerted the students and other ASH members about an upcoming Iridium flare. At 01:27 UT Iridium 74 unleashed its reflective brilliance, reaching a predicted seventh magnitude. Hopefully, I was able to capture yet another flare on film. After the brief flash of light I followed the satellite briefly through another ASH member's
Fujinon 16x70's.

Using the 12.5" f/6.5 Cave Newtonian I showed some of those present the Lobster Claw (Crater Gutenburg). The crater was situated for the most part on the unlit side of the terminator but its crustacean outline was unmistable nevertheless. I returned to the French Dome and trained the 17" on Gutenburg. After everyone interested had seen
it I moved on to what I call the Tomahawk or the Reflex Hammer, the peculiar lunar feature located near Mare Crisium, and then increased the magnification to 259x.

Another ASH member asked me to confirm his tripod mounted 10x50 sighting of C/2002 C1 (Ikeya-Zhang). The comet was to the north of the Great Hercules Cluster (M13) and seemed to be at least twice M13's apparent size. Both were easily visible in the same field of view. Next I put Comet Ikeya-Zhang and M13 into view with the 16x70's.

I turned the 17" to the comet. Both objects were visible
simultaneously through the 5" f/5 finder scope. At 162x Comet Ikeya-Zhang displayed an oddly skewed coma but no hint of its now dim tail was seen.

The big scope next collected photons from M13 (162 and 259x). Two more ASH members had arrived while everyone else had taken their leave. One was going to look at binary stars with the 12.5" so I suggested Gamma Virginis. The rapidly closing separation of this system and only fair seeing made a clean split impossible with the 17" at 259x.
Using a 19mm Tele Vue Wide Field (340x) did the trick. I moved on to another Gamma double, the golden Gamma Leonis (340x).

Soon just one ASH member besides yours truly remained. I had a peak at M13 through his 10" Meade SCT before returning to the dome where I finished the night with a few spring deep-sky objects - M104 (162 and 259x), M84 (162x), and M86 (162x).

Although I didn't do nearly as much observing as I would have on my own, I did manage to impart some knowledge to the students and accomplished a minor repair in the dome. All in all it was three hours very well spent.

May 19, 2002 02:43 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

NEAF 2002 - A Brief Report

Posted By Dave Mitsky

I attended the Eleventh Annual Northeast Astronomy Forum and
Telescope Show
(http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaf/index.htm#EVENTS)
yesterday. Held at the Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York, this event has grown tremendously over the years and now attracts astronomy enthusiasts from both near and far.

There were, of course, many vendors, over 70 in fact, and much in the way of new equipment. Particularly impressive were the new 26mm Tele Vue Nagler type 5
(http://www.astronomy-mall.com/regular/products/tele-vue-optics/), the Tele Vue-76 76mm f/6.3 apochromatic refractor
(http://www.astronomy-mall.com/regular/products/tele-vue-optics/tv76.html), the Sirius Optics VFS-1.25 Variable Filter System (http://www.siriusoptics.com/). I had the opportunity to see a variety of interesting oculars with which I was unfamiliar, such as the truly gigantic 40mm Rodenstock (http://www.cloudynights.com/eyepieces/rodenstock.htm) and the Vixen 30mm LV and 42mm LVW. The modular Borg refractor systems offered by Hutech (http://www.sciencecenter.net/hutech/) were very nice indeed
as was the Taurus Tracker III astrophotography system
(http://www.taurus-tech.com/).

The large display of NEAF speaker Robert Gendler's awe-inspiring CCD images was worth a very long look. There were also a fine display of ATM telescopes by the Sprinfield Telescope Makers. Al Francis and Ron Newman of Moonlite Telescope Accesories (http://www.focuser.com/)
had their large homemade Newtonians set up in front of their booth.

This year I only managed to catch two of the lectures. Richard Berry, a former editor of Astronomy, gave a truly excellent talk entitled "The Milky Way in 3-D Perspective”. Using a variety of different types of data and computer mapping Mr. Berry completely revamped my knowledge of morphology of the Milky Way and our location within it. Professional astronomer and author Dr. Alan Hirshfeld
related the fascinating history of the many attempts of astronomers to measure the distance to a star in his talk called "Parallax – Measuring the Universe”.

During the course of the day I ran into many fellow amateur
astronomers, both friends and aquaintances, who I had not seen from many months including John O'Hara, Kent Blackwell, Frank Bov, and Gary Honis.

Dave Mitsky

June 4, 2002 07:28 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Another Fine Night at the Old Campsite, Part I

Posted By Dave Mitsky

Four fellow ASH members and I spent Saturday night (2002/6/2 UT) at Camp Site 52 in western Perry County, PA. The skies were quite clear the entire night but the seeing wasn't the best. The zenithal VLM was a bit better than sixth magnitude. (M13 was a naked-eye object.) Our intrepid group was equipped with binoculars and telescopes
ranging from a 10" f/10 Meade LX5 SCT to a 4" refractor, namely my 101mm f/5.4 Tele Vue Genesis sdf.

During the course of the night we saw a surprising number of
satellites including a great naked-eye pass of one of the NOSS "constellations". A bright flash that was not a predicted Iridium flare occurred before 02:00 UT while a conspicuous tumbling satellite made a pass around 02:30 UT. I saw two satellites pass by each other in opposite directions in the eastern sky through my Meade 8x42's and
was able to track two satellites for fairly long periods (one at 60x) with my refractor. As I was observing NGC 5907 through the 10" SCT a dim satellite bisected the galaxy.

Speaking of galaxies, a good many of them were observed through Tony Donnangelo's 10" Meade SCT. These included some of the best highly elongated, edge-on spirals (so-called "needle" galaxies) such as the somewhat faint (11.3 magnitude) and small (3.5') NGC 5308 in Ursa Major, NGC 5907 (the Splinter Galaxy) in Draco, and NGC 5746 (the
mini-Sombero Galaxy) in eastern Virgo. Despite our best efforts the highly elusive NGC 6118 (the Blinking Galaxy) in eastern Serpens Caput was not seen. (The notorious NGC 6118 was by far the most difficult object on the Herschel 400 list for me.)

We also looked at some planetary nebulae. NGC 6572 (the Emerald Nebula) in Ophiuchus exhibited outer shell structure at 179x (14mm Tele Vue Radian) along with its trademark green color at 63x (40mm Tele Vue Wide Field). Another of the night's fine planetaries was NGC 6905 (the Blue Flash Nebula) in Delphinus.

Another member concentrated on logging globular clusters,
particularly in the Ophiuchus-Scorpio region, with his 8" Orion Newtonian Dob. I saw NGC 6229, M4, NGC 6144, NGC 6342, and M9 through his Dob at 49x (25mm Celestron SMA). I looked at a few globulars myself such as M5 and M13 with the 4".


June 4, 2002 07:30 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Another Fine Night at the Old Campsite, Part II

Posted By Dave Mitsky

(Continued)

Comet Ikeya-Zhang was situated in the head of Serpens Caput. The coma appeared considerably smaller and more dim than the last time I saw it but it was certainly still a straightforward target for binoculars. We had good views of the comet through the 10" SCT, the 8", and my telescope. No tail was visible.

I didn't have much luck with difficult binary stars that night with the Genesis sdf. Antares B was detected only fleetingly at 193x (7mm Tele Vue Nagler type 6 and a 2.5x Tele Vue Powermate) and I was unable to resolve the four stars of Nu Scorpii at the same power. Gamma Delphini and its nearby binary neighbor Struve 2725 (http://www.dibonsmith.com/dels2725.gif) were easily resolved through Tony's scope.

I was able to detect NGC 5907 with my 101mm Genesis sdf, the smallest aperture that I had ever employed to view the Splinter Galaxy. It appeared as a small streak at 28x (19mm Tele Vue Panoptic) and was simply unmistakable at 60x (9mm Tele Vue Nagler type 6). M104 was rather prominent at 60x and 77x (7mm Tele Vue Nagler 6).

M6 and M7 in eastern Scorpius were fine binocular targets. My Genesis sdf showed its rich-field prowess as I scanned northward through the length of the summer Milky Way using my 35mm (15x) and 19mm Panoptics. M8, M24, M18, M17, M16, M11, and other old chestnuts are always worth a gander. M24, one of my favorite Messier objects, was particularly pretty. The 9mm Nagler type 6 produced an excellent
view of M17 and M16, one that I can still recall vividly.

I used my 48mm Orion Skyglow (a filter that I bought for
astrophotography) with the 35mm Panoptic and I must admit that it did enhance the views of the southern Milky Way emission nebulae somewhat but it was not very effective on the Veil Nebula complex. Tony's Lumicon O-III filter was far better. NGC 7000 (the North American Nebula) looked quite good that night through the 35mm Panoptic and
the O-III filter.

By the time the moon rose over the ridge we were all exhausted. A few quick lunar views through Tony's telescope revealed how bad the seeing was and in a few minutes we all retired for the night. In the morning we had breakfast in the majestic Blain Hotel, a tradition for those ASH members who observe from western Perry County.

So all in all it was another fine night at the old campsite.
Dave Mitsky