Observing Reports ~ January 2001

February 1, 2001 - Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon

Comments: The proximity of the moon, and hazy skies, made it impossible to see any deep sky, or detail on Saturn, but three Galiean moons were visible for Jupiter. Tonight's show stealer was the moon! Aristotle and Exodus craters were outstanding... and the Southern Highlands... WOW!  


January 30-31, 2001 - Gathering rain...  


January 29, 2001 - Nothing but snow, ice and clouds....


  January 27, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, M42, M41, Plieades, Hyades, and Ariguran Clusters

Comments: Another unexpected clear sky! We've been snowed in... but when I saw Sirius through the window, you just know, I had to go! Something about the tiny temperatures and standing in a snowdrift definately took the irish cream right out of my coffee, but there's a mystery that needs solving...


  January 25, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, M42, M81 and M82

Comments: Unexpected clear sky! Ready for bed, but what the hey! I NEVER miss an opportunity...  


January 23, 2001- Saturn & Jupiter

Comments: What can I say besides I'm sated from last night? (Ah, come on... we're hazy tonight!) But good enough to take a peek...  


January 22, 2001 - Ok, I've got YOU now... this is the kind of "night" that 'the astronomer' dreams about! So you are in for a most unusual report style...

Break out the 12.5 dob... It's marathon time! 6:30 p.m. - Twilight...the zenith has darkened to midnight blue, and the last rays of the sun still color the edges of the horizon. Beautiful Venus is smoking up the eastern sky... let's go look! By stacking a blue and green filter on the 10mm, we get an excellent view of its' 50-60% illuminated phase. Very pretty, but who can resist the siren song of Saturn? Let's switch to the deep yellow filter on the 17mm plossl and see what we get. Wow...! The ring divisions are excellent! And the shadow play between the rings and the planet are incredible! (Hand me the barlow, will you?) Oh, man! Check it out now! It makes me dizzy as fast as it moves, but it's worth the vertigo to "see"! (Now, quit staring and hand me the 25mm Meade Series II!) Check out those moons! The two brighter ones are hanging out away from the ring system at roughly three and seven o'clock, but look at the edge of the rings... There's three more twinkling little moons dancing along! (Now...give me the light blue filter, and let's go look at Jupiter!)

Talk about it! All four Galiean moons are hanging out... one to the right at three o'clock, and three to the left at nine o'clock! I still can't get over the depth perception... you can see that one of the moons is actually "behind" the planet, as seen from our perspective. (Give that barlow back...) Check out the banding! Usually we only see three... one white outlined by two grey... but not tonight! How many can you count? Seven? Nine? Eleven? The subtle shading is defies the imagination...

Now... let's go warm up a bit! (put on these sunglasses to help perserve our "night eyes", ok?) And we'll let it get a bit darker.... (Let's call the neighbor across the field and ask them to extinguish their security light... we're going to rock and roll!)  


January 22, 2001 ~ 8:00 p.m. - Dark enough now? You bet! Look at Pegasus... when you can see the M31 as a naked-eye, the chase is on! (now, put the 25mm in unfiltered, and let's go check it out!) Oh my... it takes up the WHOLE field of view! And just look at that structure... (bump it a bit) and there's it's little spin-off companion! A little face-on spiral of its' own... Ready for the M33? Get our bearings on Triangulum, 'cause we're going to have to run a grid pattern to find it. (Yeah, yeah... I know. It's incredible just how many stars there are, isn't it? But if you don't stop gawking, it's going to run behind the tree on us!) Oh my... there it is. Just a big hazy patch, but what a sight! Had enough? Then let's slip off to Cassiopeia, ok?

Yes, I know there's doubles there, but let's go for all of those great clusters! M103, NGC663, NGC457, NGC436, NGC637... pretty, huh? You ain't seen nothin' yet! Look at this... M52! Stars piled on top of stars! Not bad, but look here... NGC7789! Spectacular... it looks almost like a galaxy itself! Ready for Perseus yet? No? Too bad... it's marathon time, and the night's awasting! The "Double Cluster" is easy... but give me the 32mm, 2" and watch what happens! (Hahahaha! Pick your jaw up off the ground, ok?) Beautiful, isn't it? Leave it in so we can get our bearings... I've got a target in mind! (Yep...Algol! You demon...) Nudge a little bit...a little bit more... oh YEAH! (Give the 17mm back... you're not going to believe this!) I've been hunting for you for a very long time... and now you're mine! The Perseus Galaxy Cluster! (Quit it! You're fogging up the optics!!!) Oh, look at it! Three of them are very distinctly galaxies... and there are others. They look like very small, dense globulars... but WOW! They are there!!! (You don't know how much I hate to leave, but it's) Run time... let's go to Orion....

Back to the 25mm, and the point of origin is the M42. Yep, still great, but I've seen it hundreds of times! Head on up to the "belt" stars, 'coz you're in for a treat! You've got it! The elusive "Horsehead Nebula"! Not as pretty as the pictures, but now you've seen it with your own eyes... And while we're here, let's check out the "Flame" nebula too! Enough? No? (bump...bump) Then look at this... the wispy little "Rosette"! Ready for Taurus?

Who can resist the Pleiades and Hyades? I can't... but the stay is brief. I've got my eye on the M1! There it is, too. The light is different than the M42, isn't it? It looks almost alive... I hear those busy little "bees" humming in Cancer. How can you miss 'em? They're hanging out right there! Now, a little nudge here and there, and viola! The M67. What a beautiful little jewel-box this is! Ready to get Sirius? Let's hunt....

Bless bess, but that is bright! It positively "pulses" in the view! Drop down now... there it is...the M41! Cool, huh? Let's swing over to Puppis and catch the clusters...M46, M47 and a nice "rich" one, M93. Not too bad, eh? (So you're starting to feel the cold too, huh? Ready to go in?) But I'm not through with you yet... Let's go build a fire and take a nap. The galaxies are going to be up in just a bit, and I'm taking you with me...


  January 22/23, 2001 ~ 11:45 p.m. - Coffee smells good, doesn't it? Now wake up, and let's go! The sky is calling to us...

Look at how far the constellations have moved in just a few hours... Orion has gone from the owl's domain into the west, and Jupiter and Saturn are just about to disappear behind the garage roof! The good news is... Leo is up and shining. And Ursa Major is in prime position! Button up your coat and let's go there...

You know we have to start with the M81 and M82. (Sure, they're old hat... but these galaxies are among my favorites!) In the 4.5, this pair are glistening "cat's eyes" in the same FOV... in the 12.5 with the same magnification, they no longer share center stage... but break apart, revealing their own "personal" structures! Now... let's sweep down past Mizar and Alcore (who can resist?) to Alkaid, our stepping stone for the M51. And there it is! Not as "show-stopping" as the M31, but just as beautiful. (You can see "hints" as to where clusters might be...) And while we're in the "neighborhood", let's look in on Cor Caroli. If you enjoy Albiero, you will like this colorful double! Now, let's sweep on to an infrequently viewed target...

M94! It's a very "compact" little galaxy... almost resembling a globular cluster. But, a worthy target none-the-less! And is that Arcturus I see, shining a bright orange? Then running a very simple grid pattern will bring the M3 into view. And it does! How very like the "Hercules" M13 this globular is! I like it!!!! Now... ready for Leo?

Yep. There's the big question mark...and all we have to do is look into the triangular "hindquarters" of the Lion to capture two more galaxies. The M65 and M66! And there they are... They remind me a great deal of the 81 & 82.... sharing the same FOV in a small scope, but revealing their dynamic detail in a larger one! They are not as bright, but every bit as beautiful! Are you ready to go in yet? I'm not! Let's do something a bit out of the ordinary....

Let's go back to Arcturus, and see if we can find the "Black Eye" Galaxy, OK? (Keep sweeping, it's you're turn to run the dob... I'm having a beer!) That's it...Murphid. On to Alpha Comae...STOP! You've just found the M53! Excellent choice... a nice, tight little globular... looks just like the M15, doesn't it? (Now, bump up and to the right...) Ah HaH! We've just found the M64! Not too impressive is it? Just another tight little galaxy, but it's the last target for tonight.... Or is it?

Come now... The hour grows late. Let us save some sky for another day... (I don't know about you, but I'm STARVING! Let's go raid the refrigerator, grab a beer, and let the frost melt....)

I've had a wonderful time! ;-)  


January 20/21, 2001 - Jupiter, Saturn, Ariguran clusters, M42, M41, Puppis globulars, M44, M67, M81, M82, M51, M65, and M66.

Comments: Took a bit of a gamble tonight...(don't you dare tell a soul that I trusted a weather report!) and it paid off! The midnight skies were absolutely outstanding, with the M44 as a naked-eye object! All of the objects listed above are target practice, but what the hey... you don't know how good it was just to visit with "old friends" again! The show-stealer for tonight was the M81 & M82... brilliant "cat's eyes" in the field of view. The M51 was a bit faded, but still observable. The M65 & M66 are also faint, but still a little low on the horizon at this time. I have a never-ending fascination with galaxies, and while I hate to bid adieu to the winter constellations setting in the west.

I can't help but to look to the east and think...  


January 18, 2001 - Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Capella, Betelgeuse, Aldeberan

Comments: Guess you can gather from the list that the sky was somewhat less than outstanding. Only the planets and a couple of stars were even visible! It's enough for me... I'll use any excuse to go hang out in the backyard with you! The of Jupiter's moons just teased in and out of view... one at roughly the ten o'clock position, and the others at three and four. More sleet and snow is on the way, so I'll take what I can get... when I can get it!  


January 17, 2001 - Heavy, grey skies that obscure both sun and stars... and rain. Sigh...

One bright spot, however. The Canadian geese are beginning to migrate again! A promise of spring???


January 16, 2001 - Lead grey skies and an occasional spit of snow. (I will give the owl credit for one thing... despite the weather, he is still out there in the big pine... and calling "who?"!) Observances for tonight... a cold beer, a warm fire, and the company of a good book!


January 14 & 15, 2001 - Fog and rain... yippee.

(Hey! What did you expect? There's no moon in the early evening... so of course, it's cloudy!) :-(  


January 13, 2001 - Jupiter, Saturn, Plieades, Hyades, M1, M31, M33, in Orion (M42, M43,Sigma Orionis, Trapezium area) in Canis Major (M41), in Puppis (M93, M47, M46) in Arigura (M36, M37, M38), in Cassiopiea (M103, NGC663, NGC7789, M52), in Perseus (Algol, M34, NGC 869, NGC 884) in Cancer (M67, M44)

Comments: Fog held on all day...figured tonight would be a no go. Guess I figured wrong, eh? Shortly after sunset the temperature dropped and the skies cleared! You know that the majority of the above listed targets are a routine run... but it was my treat tonight to see the "Triangulum" galaxy... M33! For those of you who have not seen this "ghost ship" of a galaxy, it couldn't be more elusive than if it were the Flying Dutchman! Very diffuse, and very faint, the M33 takes a dark adapted eye and a stroke of luck to find! (OK, who bumped the 'scope? Hey! Check it out!) By going off and on the field several times, you can verify it's presence. (When I finally find it, I'm usually breathing so hard I have to back off the eyepiece just to make sure it's not me fogging up the optics!!! ;-)


  January 12, 2001 - Low pressure system brings warmer temperatures... and ground fog. :-P The zenith remains clear, but the high moisture content in the air makes me hesitate to dew up the mirror!


  Observations for January 11, 2001 - Venus - Jupiter - Saturn - Ariguran Clusters - Cassiopeian Clusters - M42 (Orion Nebula) - M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) - Aurora Borealis (!)

Comments: What can I say besides...WOW! As soon as I read the Space Weather Alert, I had to run outside and check! Sure enough, the Aurora was quite visible! From a few degrees below Polaris, it appeared as a pinkish sky glow... but from above Polaris, and reaching as high as Cassiopeia and Perseus, were the unmistakable pillars of auroral light! Seeing conditions were extremely steady tonight... allowing extreme magnification on the planets. Saturn's ring divisions were outstanding, as well as the shadow of the ring system on the planet itself. Two of the brighter moons were visible at roughly ten and four o'clock positions... with two more against the ring system at roughly 9 and 12. Jupiter sported all four moons tonight... along with very decent views of the equatorial bands. High magnification upped the ante from the usual three visibile to seven!

Hurrying now, before the Moon begins to rise and trash the view! Made a quick sweep over Arigura and Cassiopeia, drinking in the rich clusters. The a fast pass at the M31, Andromeda Galaxy (sorry! had to linger here a bit... it's one of my favorites!). Now of to Orion for a shot at the M42... which is just as bright and lovely as always...a winter gem. Terrific night!

Wish you were here....