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Posts Made By: Dave Mitsky

June 19, 2002 02:04 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

I'm Back from South of the Equator

Posted By Dave Mitsky

Last week I traveled to Bolivia to attend the Southern Skies Star Party at Lake Titicaca. Saying that it was truly an eyeopening experience doesn't begin to adequately describe the trip. Although dealing with the stress of travel, sleep deprivation, fatigue, cloudy nights, and the high altitude (almost 13,000 feet) wasn't exactly fun, the overall experience was a very positive one and included many personal observing firsts.

Highlights included locating the closest extrasolar star (Proxima Centauri) and SN 1987A in the LMC, splitting Beta Centauri with difficulty and Antares with ease, seeing the Small Magellanic Cloud and the great globular cluster 47 Tucanae (NGC 104) for the first time, observing the Homunculus Nebula surrounding the star Eta Carinae, and having simply superb views of NGC 2808, NGC 3132 (the Eight-Burst Nebula), NGC 3372 (the Eta Carinae Nebula), NGC 3532 (the finest open cluster in the sky), NGC 4038/9 (the Antennae), NGC 4945, NGC 5128 (Centaurus A), NGC 5139 (Omega Centauri), NGC 6302 (the Bug Nebula), NGC 6231 and the rest of the Table of Scorpius, NGC 6397 (a fantastic globular in Ara), M4, M7, M8, M16, M17, M20, M24, M83, M104, B86 (the Ink Spot), the Pipe Nebula (LDN 1773), the Coal Sack, and so very much more.

Dave Mitsky

June 24, 2002 07:02 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Number 8's a Big One, 2002/6/23

Posted By Dave Mitsky

This weekend I followed the three large sunspots currently traversing the sun. The biggest of which, designated number 8, could easily be seen, despite hazy conditions, without optical aid. Yesterday number 8 displayed a very complex umbral structure. I used polymer solar eclipse shades and my 114mm f/7.9 C4.5 Newtonian at 53 and 82x to view the day star.

For a current solar image see

Dave Mitsky

July 13, 2002 09:47 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

The Blinking Galaxy, 2002/7/13 UT

Posted By Dave Mitsky

I'm posting this message from a library in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Coudersport is the county seat of Potter County, the home of one of the darkest observing sites east of the Mississippi, namely Cherry Springs State Park.

Thursday night was superb with a limiting magnitude approaching 7.0. I observed quite a few objests with my newest scope, a 10" f/5.6 truss-tube Dobnewt. One of the galaxies I was particularly interested in was NGC 6384, which was mentioned in a recent S & T article by Jay Reynolds Freeman. This galaxy was not particularly impressive through my 10", a friend's 10" SCT, and later through a 18" Starmaster but one must keep in mind that photons departing NGC 6384 must overcome the extinction effects of the Milky Way. Also mentioned and observed last night was NGC 6822, or Barnard's Galaxy. This faint member of the Local Group is interesting to see from a dark site through a large aperture scope with an O-III filter. Its HII regions are quite prominent when so viewed.

Another galaxy included in Jay's article was the infamous NGC 6118, which is called the Blinking Galaxy in the Herschel 400 manual because averted vision is often required for a sighting. After observing it through the two 10" inchers and the 18" on Thursday night I decided to try my luck with a TV-102 belonging to a fellow who arrived on Friday. Despite repeated attempts using a 12mm Nagler type 4 (73x) NGC 6118 remained unseen. It was visible, however, through his 8" Meade LX200.

Dave Mitsky

July 18, 2002 02:25 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

SN 2002dp, 2002/7/12 UT

Posted By Dave Mitsky

One of the more interesting objects that I observed under the very dark skies of Cherry Springs State Park last Thursday night was a recent type 1a supernova in NGC 7678, a 12.2 magnitude SAB(rs)c I-II galaxy located in Pegasus. With a magnitude of 15.1 to 15.5 SN 2002dp was by far the dimmest exploding star that I have ever viewed. I could discern the supernova about 1/3 of the time with averted
vision through a 18" Starmaster at high magnification.

For a recent image of SN 2002dp see

Dave Mitsky

August 1, 2002 06:56 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Yesterday Morning's Sun in H-Alpha, 2002/7/31

Posted By Dave Mitsky

I spent some time observing the daystar through my friend Tony Donnangelo's 102mm f/8 Takahashi FS-102 on Wednesday
morning, 2002/7/31. We got a bit of a late start so the seeing was already beginning to slide somewhat. Nevertheless we still had some great views of the major sunspots (39, 44, and 50) currently dominating the solar disk as well as those
comprising the three long chains that are so very prominent. Sunspot 44 was easily visible without optical assistance
through a white light solar filter.

We began our session at approximately 14:45 UT using Tony's Lumicon Solar Prominence Filter H-alpha rig (see, which is probably the cheapest route available to observing the sun in the light of hydrogen alpha. One drawback of the Lumicon filter is that it has a rather narrow bandpass of 1.5 Angstroms which limits its utility. OTOH, no heating is required.

Despite the strong activity the sun has been displaying recently, no extraordinarily striking prominences could be seen but there were quite a few small ones including what looked like a broken loop prominence with a spike extending from one end.

When we switched to a Baader AstroSolarâ„¢ full aperture filter the views of the sunspots were enhanced. The three chains of sunspots were truly impressive. Around 15:10 UT we closed up shop.

We used a 12mm Tele Vue Nagler type 4 (68x), a 9mm Tele Vue Nagler type 6 (91x), an 8mm Orion Lanthanum Superwide (102x), and a 5.2mm Pentax SMC XL (158x) for the H-alpha observations and the 9mm Nagler type 6 and 5.2mm SMC XL for
the white light observations.

Dave Mitsky

August 5, 2002 06:55 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Weekend Doings, 2002/8/3-4

Posted By Dave Mitsky

Fellow ASH member Tony Donnangelo and I did some white light and H-alpha solar observing on a very hot late Saturday morning between 15:10 and 15:40 UT using his Takahashi FS-102, Baader AstroSolar filter, and Lumicon Solar Prominence filter. We employed magnifications ranging from 82x (10mm Tele Vue Radian) to 158x (5.2mm Pentax SMC XL). The most striking feature was a rather large and unusual segmented solar prominence. With time the lower portion of
the vertical column formed a loop prominence. After further time passed a spike branched off the top of the arch diagonally. Neither Tony nor I had ever before seen the likes of that. We also viewed two surges, one of which seemed to collapse back upon itself in a rather short period.

Despite local thunderstorms, Tony and I ventured to Camp Site 52 that night. We drove through a towering thunderhead as we neared the site and it began to rain. A number of spectacular lightning bolts arced across the sky. However, just a few minutes later we were on dry road. When we arrived at Little Knob we were treated to clearing skies. Sometimes weather forecasters do get it right! The transparency never got as good as it promised to for a time early in the night but we were still able to do a bit of worthwhile observing with Tony's 10" Meade SCT and my 101mm Tele Vue Genesis sdf refractor until the moon became a hindrance. Tony tracked down Campbell's Hydrogen Star (PK 64+5.1) in Cygnus. I tried out Tony's new 3.5mm Orion Lanthanum Superwide (154x) on a few appropriate targets. Since I was unable to see M33 with the Genesis, which is normally not a problem from a dark site, conditions were just not all that good. The proof of that fact was that neither of us could locate Comet Hoenig.

Last night I helped with the regular Sunday summer public session at the ASH Naylor Observatory ( Hot and hazy describes the conditions rather succinctly. It was 89 degrees Fahrenheit inside the French Dome. We were forced to stay with the
brighter showcase objects. A half-illuminated Venus displayed the effects of prismatic dispersion quite effectively. I trained the 17" classical Cassegrain on M57, M11, V Aquilae, and a few other goodies at 118 or 202x. We were able to show visitors a fairly bright Iridium flare (Iridium 84). After everyone else left another ASH member and I stayed to give Comet Hoenig the old college try. Even
with an ephemeris and the Orion Sky Wizard DSC I was unable to find the fuzzball in those miserable skies.

Dave Mitsky

August 13, 2002 01:58 PM Forum: Equipment Talk

New AstroGear at Stellafane

Posted By Dave Mitsky

While attending the 67th annual Stellafane Convention last weekend I had the opportunity to use three new pieces of astronomical gear, two of which have not yet been officially unveiled.

On Friday I had some spellbinding views of solar prominences and filaments through a new Tele Vue refractor, the TV-102i. This instrument is a binoviewer equipped TV-102. It has a shorter tube and a new barlow system to allow low power binoviewing. Extension tubes allow use without the binoviewer.

On Saturday night I had the pleasure to observe a number of objects through a new Tele Vue ocular (actually a pair of them), the 24mm Panoptic. The 24mm is much smaller than the old 22mm Panoptic and is eminently suited to binoviewer use. The views of the Double Cluster, Stock 2, Comet Hoenig, and other celestial objects were excellent indeed. Just as with a Tele Vue Bizarro a few years ago at Stellafane M27 appeared to float above the background starfield in a classic example of the binoviewer induced pseudo-3D effect.

A bit later I ran into Phil Harrington and was transported onto a delightful cosmic tour via a 15x60 Zeiss Classic binocular. I was very impressed with how the comet and a host of deep-sky objects, M31 in particular, looked through these expensive armored glasses.

Dave Mitsky

August 15, 2002 02:34 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

C/2002 O6, 2002/8/8

Posted By Dave Mitsky

I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. EDT (8:15 UT) last Thursday morning in order to have a peak at the new morning comet, C/2002 O6. I resorted to the most languid of observing methods, I merely stuck my Celestron 20x80 binocular out of my southern facing bedroom window. Orion was rising in the eastern sky. The comet was just to the west of the head
of Orion and was quite prominent. However, it was also extremely large and diffuse, a huge fuzzball. I spent a few minutes on O6 and the Sword of Orion and then retired to bed. In a few hours I would have to start preparing for my annual pilgrimage to Stellafane.

Dave Mitsky

August 16, 2002 01:17 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

Sunspot (ahem) #69, 2002/8/15

Posted By Dave Mitsky

Date: 2002/8/15
Time: 14:40 to 14:55 UT
Location: 10 km east of Harrisburg, PA, USA
Instrument: 114mm f/7.9 Celestron C4.5 Newtonian
Oculars: 26mm Tele Vue Ploessl (35x), 17mm Tele Vue Ploessl (53x),
12.5mm Edscorp ortho (72x), 11mm Tele Vue Ploessl (82x)
Conditions: 30 degrees Celsius, 1008 millibars, high cirrus cloud cover

Sunspot #69 was easily visible to my optically unaided eyes through polymer solar eclipse shades on Thursday morning. Through my C4.5 this huge sunspot appeared to have a roughly triangular umbra, which somewhat resembled a Hershey's Kiss, and a very large penumbral region. There was a chain of small spots near the central meridian as well as a sprinkling of additional sunspots.

See for a current solar image.

Dave Mitsky

August 16, 2002 05:47 AM Forum: Deep Sky Observing

A Break in the Weather, 2002/8/7 UT

Posted By Dave Mitsky

This report is a bit dated by now but I decided to post it anyway.

On Tuesday, August the 6th, an alteration in the jet stream brought a very welcome change in the weather, a brief respite from the onerous heat that has been so much a part of the summer of 2002. The evening sky was cerulean and beautifully transparent when I arrived at a friend's observatory.

When I entered the dome housing a 20" classical Cassegrain I found M80 already in view at 159x (32mm Edmund Scientific Erfle). I decided to peruse a few more summer globular clusters so I logged M10, M12, M14, M107, M19, and NGC 6712, all at 159x.

I moved the shutter to the east in order to observe Comet Hoenig but before locating that shallow-sky object I looked at the fine galaxy NGC 7331 and the open cluster M52 at 159x.

C/2002 O4 (Hoenig) was rather dim and very diffuse with a slight central condensation as I had mentioned in a previous posting. I used magnifications of 127 (40mm Orion UltraScan), 159, 203 (25mm University Optics MK-70), and 302x (16.8mm Orion MegaVista).

I informed the guys that I had tracked down the comet and after everyone had a look I moved on to M31 (127x). As I was looking at it a satellite emerged directly from the core and bisected M31 at 3:33 UT. Afterwards I hopped to the star cloud NGC 206, M32, and M110. We also spent some time on the Veil Nebula complex (NGC 6960 and NGC 6992) using the 40mm and a Lumicon O-III filter. The tendrils and eddies of the Waterfall region of NGC 6992 were displayed very well indeed.

The time for me to depart was drawing close. My final object for the all too short observing session was NGC 6822, Barnard's Galaxy. Several of the brighter HII regions were visible without filtration at 127x. We also used a handheld Orion UltraBlock filter at 127 and 159x while observing NGC 6822.

Dave Mitsky