Florian's 2002 hiking and stargazing blog
Monday early morning, 12/30/2002, Comet Kudo-Fujikawa
Last year's blog...
Went out in the backyard a bit before 5am local time to check on comet Kudo-Fujikawa using Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. I had the UniMount set up this time. Comet was quite a bit brighter than my first look a couple weeks ago. Was visible in Nikon 10x42 as well. Still, it's just a fuzzball with no tail or other detail visible. Venus, Mars and a pretty crescent Moon made a nice grouping toward the south-east.
Sunday evening, 12/29/2002, Saturn/M1 alignment
Took a peek at the Saturn/M1 alignment this evening with Fujinon 16x70 binoculars from the backyard. The planet was following M1 by about a half a degree. M1 is never much to see from home but it is kind of fun to see next to a bright planet. In 6 days, on January 4th, when Saturn is directly in line with M1, i doubt the nebula will be visible at all being lost in the planet's glare.
Sunday, 12/29/2002, Cahuilla canyon hike
Had originally planned to hike up the south Lykken trail but when i saw about 10 cars at the trail head i decided to try and avoid the crowds so went up the canyon floor instead. Nice and fresh out after the recent rains. Some water pools in the boulders too. The water was pretty green looking however. Someone seems to have gotten in the mood to "improve" the trail by placing rock cairns every 30 feet or so. I removed most of them since they were more annoying than helpful.
Wednesday, 12/25/2002, Christmas hike
Hiked the Araby trail up past Bob's house, looped through the middle plateau, then back down Araby. Nice clear cool day. More people than usual out on the trails today.
Sunday, 12/22/2002, Chilly hike
Have had a bit of chilly rainy weather lately. No rain today but overcast and cool. Did a loop hike up the Shannon, over Smoketree mtn, through the middle plateau, and back down Shannon. Cold wind from the west.
Tuesday, 12/17/2002, Early morning comet
I saw comet Kudo-Fujikawa (C/2002 X5) for the first time this morning using the 16x70 Fujinons. It was raining the day before with very high winds most of the night so i wasn't really expecting to observer this morning and hadn't setup the UniMount. I woke at around 4:30am to find the wind had died down and the sky had cleared. Picked out the comet while handholding the 16x70. I've quite bright artificial skyglow to the east and dawn was approaching as well. Comet was hard to find but visible. It's MUCH dimmer than the nearby M13.
Saturday, 12/14/2002, Lykken trail to cache
Hike Lykken trail from Ramon with Wen to English Tom cache and back.
Tuesday, 12/10/2002, Cahuilla canyon
Hike Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder.
Sunday, 12/8/2002, Tahquitz overlook
Morning hike with Wen up and down the middle Lykken trail from Mesquite Ave to the Tahquitz overlook. Absolutely perfect clear day. While hiking i was making plans to go stargazing tonight however by mid-afternoon high clouds had drifted over so may not go out tonight after all.
Saturday, 12/7/2002, Amboy and Cadiz
Spent the day driving around the high desert. Drove out via Joshua Tree, 29 Palms and through Sheep Hole pass. Stopped at my Dinocache near Amboy. Replaced the cracked butter tub with a metal cookie tin. I love walking around the lava. Is like walking on glass. Visited Bagdad and Siberia (both east and west), but didn't quite make it to Klondike. Drove through Amboy then east to Chambless and Cadiz. Took the Cadiz-Rice road and hid a new geocache near the Cadiz Dunes.
Drove home via Milligan and the Iron Mountain pumping plant. The powerline road south of Milligan was signed as closed and open to authorized vehicles only. There was no such sign the last time i was out this way. I wasn't sure of another route out so took it anyway. At the pumping plant there was a security checkpoint for vehicles heading north but fortunately they weren't checking vehicles southbound. Perhaps my white pickup truck looked official enough to pass as an employee. Drove home via Desert Center. Besides the skies being a bit hazy it was a great day to be out on the desert.
Wednesday, 12/4/2002, Triangulum Galaxy
Nice clear chilly evening. Took a few quick glances around with 10x42 binoculars. Can see the Triangulum Galaxy, M33, directly overhead through the binos!
Monday, 12/2/2002, Backyard binocular stargazing
Haven't done much stargazing recently. Have had some rain and a couple days of high winds and blowing dust. Tonight i worked the night shift. The sky wasn't great when i got home after midnight with quite a bit of humidity, but no clouds and no wind. I'd really been wanting to catch up on my backyard binocular survey of the Messier objects. Set up the Fujinon 16x70 on the UniMount. Was out for about an hour starting at 1:00am local time.
_ M44, OC, Cancer, the Beehive or Praesepe - Very large of course. Fills half of the 16x field. Noticed 2 or 3 little triangles of stars.
_ M67, OC, Cancer - Couldn't really resolve into stars. More like a nebula. With averted vision seemed a bit grainy.
_ M48, OC, Hydra - Large. Counted about 25 stars. Wish the sky was better. I think this one would really sparkle from a darksky site.
_ M46, OC, Puppis - Pretty large. Nice soft glow. Can resolve a few stars. Might be able to see the small foreground planetary NGC 2438 but not sure. Might be a star. Need to check with telescope.
_ M47, OC, Puppis - Coarse bright stars. Irregular shape. A real contrast with M46. Interesting to see such different open clusters side by side.
_ M93, OC, Puppis - Medium small cluster. Odd shape. A sort of horizontal "wall" of stars just south of center.
_ M50, OC, Monoceros - Medium size cluster. Rich area of the Milky Way. Lots of other clusters and groupings in the area. Star just south of center appears somewhat orange.
_ M41, OC, Canis Major - Very nice. Lots of stars of varying brightness. Some nice strings or "arms" of stars. The star just west of center appears a bit orange.
_ Tried for galaxies M95 and M96 in Leo but there were hopelessly lost in the bright skyglow to the east.
_ Quick looks at M79 in Lepus and M78 in Orion. Tried for NGC 2024 in Orion but wasn't visible tonight although i've seen it before from the backyard.
_ All of tonight's objects on a single table.
Monday, 12/2/2002, Garstin quickie
Quick dash hike up the Garstin trail to the first peak and back.
Sunday, 12/1/2002, Déjà Vu hike with Wen
Did almost the same hike today that i did on Thursday only Wen came today. Went up Shannon trail, across the middle plateau to Wildhorse junction, back over Smoketree mountain and then down the Shannon. Desert was nice and fresh after the bit of rain we had over the last couple of days.
Sunday, 12/1/2002, Early morning planets
Went out in the backyard this morning to see a very pretty alignment of the moon, Venus and Mars in the eastern pre-dawn sky. Lovely sight with all three objects fitting nicely within binocular field. Later in the day about 9:30am used the moon to find Venus in daylight. Venus was quite obvious to the naked eye. There are some nice pictures of the event on SpaceWeather.com. Also have noticed that the new neighbors to the east have started leaving their backyard porch light on. I built a blind using PVC pipe and a space blanket to shield my observing area. I have pictures of it at the bottom of my binocular page.
Thursday, 11/28/2002, Thanksgiving hike
Hiked Shannon trail, over Smoketree mtn, to top of Araby trail, across middle plateau, and back down Shannon. Nice loop. More families out on the trails than usual. On my way down the Shannon passed a big group about at 15 young people that said they were headed for Murray Hill. I doubt some of them were in shape to make it all the way.
Sunday, 11/24/2002, Day in Anza-Borrego
Spent the day poking around the northern part of the Anza-Borrego desert. Visited my regular Truckhaven site then hiked up past the Truckhaven Rocks a bit. Was trying to get to the GC68BD cache. Got within 500 feet of the cachesite. Problem was that 500 feet was all air across a crevasse! Decided since i was alone to not try and scale any steep slopes. I did get to a neat spot just below a prominent boulder. Had quite a nice view southward over the badlands too. After the hike had lunch near Ella Wash then continued east and up Rockhouse Canyon. Was a bit of noisy motorcycle activity near Clarke dry lake that pissed me off. Once i got a bit higher into the canyon i could see the ranger patrol airplane circling where the motorcycles were so perhaps they got caught! Yay.
Saturday, 11/23/2002, Hike with Kai
Kai and i hiked up the Araby Trail this morning.
Tuesday early morning, 11/19/2002, Leonid meteors
Was a clear perfect clear sky (except for the moon) from Palm Springs. Between 2:08am and 3:08am i counted 90 Leonids. I think there were quite a few faint ones just at visual magnitude but too faint to stand out. Often i'd think i'd see a little streak of light but with the moon light i wasn't sure so didn't count them. Was quite a good show!
Sunday, 11/17/2002, Wildhorse trail
Hiked a trail this morning that i hadn't been on for years. The Wildhorse trail is one of the Desert Riders trails near Palm Canyon. I started from Andreas Hills and then south on the Wildhorse. Walked down to near Fern Canyon then up to the Dunn Road. Lots of bike tracks on the cut-across trail to the Dunn Road but didn't see any bikers nor any other hikers. Looped back following a non-maintained trail. Was out almost 4 hours. Had a great time.
Sunday early morning, 11/17/2002, Binoculars, Messiers and high clouds
Wanted to collect a few more Messiers for my viewed from home with binoculars list. Had a short window of darkness this morning from about 3:30am till the start of astronomical twilight at 4:54am. The evening sky had a few high wispy clouds but i was hoping they'd be gone by morning. They weren't. I went out with the Fujinon 16x70 anyway since i'd already set up the UniMount in the evening and spotted the following... M44, M67, M48, M50, M47, M93 and M93. Unable to see M46. With the sky so poor i didn't bother taking any detailed observation notes.
Friday early morning, 11/15/2002, C8 in the backyard
Stargazing from the backyard with the vintage 1979 orange Celestron-8. Was out from about 2:00am until 3:30am. Clear 4.5 or 5 mag skies. Moon had set.
_ Trapezium cluster in Orion - Still only able to resolve 4 stars.
_ Flame Nebula, NGC 2024, DN, Orion - Just visible. Seemed a bit easier a couple nights ago.
_ M78, DN, Orion - Contains two stars a bit off-center toward the north. Nebula is fan shaped. Looks like a small diffuse comet with the stars forming a double "head".
_ M79, GC, Lepus - Round, doesn't really resolve although it is a bit grainy with averted vision.
_ Rosette Nebula, NGC 2244, OC with neb, Monoceros - The cluster itself is scattered with 5 or 6 brighter stars. The nebula is huge, but very dim. Quite hard to detect through suburban skies. The nebula does not fit within 100x field but more frames the field. The western portion is larger and seems to obscure the background stars a bit. I don't think i'd have seen any of the nebula without specifically looking for it.
_ Cone Nebula, NGC 2264, DN, Monoceros - Not sure about this one. Appears that there might be a bit of nebulosity south-west of star 15 Mon. Hard to say. Doesn't look like the pictures in the magazines. ;-) It is a nice starfield at 100x.
_ Hubble's Variable Nebula, NGC 2261, DN, Monoceros - Easier to see than i thought it would be. Best at 200x. Looks like a small comet with tail fanning out to the north and a bright condensed head to the south.
_ NGC 2245, DN, Monoceros - Another comet-like nebula. I believe the "head" is a star. The "tail" fans out to the south-west.
_ Hind's Variable Nebula, NGC 1554/5, DN, Taurus - Not really sure what i'm looking for. Unable to locate.
_ Crab Nebula, M1, PN, Taurus - Tried to pick out some of the "crab" structure but it just remained a featureless glow. Nice at 100x.
_ Eskimo Nebula, NGC 2392, PN, Gemini - Bright! Really pops out of the field at 100x. At 200x can see a condensed central core surrounded by bright neb. Can't really see the "eskimo" face however. Nebula is just south of an 8th mag star.
Monday late night, 11/11/2002, C8 in the backyard
I setup the C8 in the backyard after working the nightshift. Was out from about 1am to 2am. Quite a nice night for the city. I think i could just barely glimpse the winter Milky Way. I wanted to try and resolve the E or F stars in the Trapezium again but seeing just wasn't good enough. The 4 bright stars are easy (and pretty) but at 200x stars remained rather blobbish. The Orion nebula on the other hand was very good. Pretty much filled the field at 100x. Quite a bit of detail in the dark lanes. Could also see the Flame Nebula NGC 2024 which sort of surprised me. I didn't realize it was visible from the city! Viewed a few other objects: M78, M79, M1, and open cluster NGC 2362 in Canis Major. This last open cluster is one of my favorites. Other names the cluster is know by are Tau Canis Majoris and the Mexican Jumping Star! Seeing wasn't good enough to show much detail in either Saturn or Jupiter.
Monday, 11/11/2002, Veteran's Day hike
Wen had today off for Veteran's Day and i'm working the night shift so Wen and i took a little morning hike up the Garstin trail south of Palm Springs. Was a beautiful clear sunny perfect day. We met a BLM ranger (Lisa) that was also hiking the trail following a woman walking two Dobermans. Seems this woman is a known offender and has removed dog-closure signs in the past. I've never seen a ranger on the local trails but i have seen the woman and her Dobermans. They're nice dogs actually. Didn't actually see the ranger/dog-walker confrontation so don't know how it worked out.
Saturday, 11/9/2002, Stars on the desert
Very windy afternoon at home in Palm Springs. Had just about given up any plans to stargaze tonight. But the winds did stop in late afternoon. Some scattered clouds here and there but mostly clear. After dinner drove out to my darksky desert site east of the valley. On the way in along the dirt road saw a tremendously bright fireball to the east. Broke into pieces as it crossed the sky and left a green trail. Quite spectacular!
_ Arrived at my usual site about 9:00pm. Scattered clouds around the horizon but clear and dark overhead. Nice to see the winter Milky Way! Setup the AstroView 100mm f6 refractor and Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars. By now some high clouds are drifting over. It's sometimes hard to tell if are clouds or just dark area of the sky. With the clouds drifting about i decided that instead of doing any kind of organized stargazing i'd just randomly wander around the sky as areas became clear. Spent a lot of time just scanning with Nikon 10x42 binoculars as well.
_ Partial list of objects seen. Most objects found from memory without using charts. Did not take detailed notes tonight: Kemble's Cascade (could see with naked eye), Double Cluster in Perseus, lots of pretty star fields in Cassiopeia, Andromeda galaxy in and out of clouds, M33 in Triangulum nice in 10x binos, M74 in Pisces visible in 10x binos as well (!), M36/37/38 and other clusters in Auriga, M1 in Taurus, M35 in Gemini, Saturn, Pleadies and Hyades, galaxy NGC253 (gorgeously elongated) and globular NGC288 in Sculptor, Helix nebula (I thought it was a small cloud at first in binoculars), M42 in Orion, Trapezium resolved to 4 stars at 60x, dark lane through the Flame Nebula NGC2024 easily seen, tried for Horsehead but it remained out of reach, M78, M79 in Lepus, M81 and M82 in Ursa Major, M44 Praesepe cluster in Cancer, Jupiter, M41 in Canis Major and dazzling Sirius.
_ Packed up and headed for home a bit after midnight. When i got home about 1:30am i set up my old C8 and had another look at the Trapezium. I wanted to see if i could resolve either the E or F components but the seeing was absolutely horrendous. It was as if i was looking through a waterfall. However the nebula looked quite pretty even through the suburban skyglow.
_ I think the best part of the evening was being out away from city lights and casually scanning around with handheld binoculars. Or not using them at all and just looking up with unaided eyes!
Saturday, 11/9/2002, Morning hike with the family
Hiked up the south Lykken trail with Wen and Kai this morning. Interesting weather... bit breezy with clouds blowing over the Desert Divide. Nice blue sky otherwise. Quite warm actually.
Wednesday, 11/6/2002, How is your backyard?
The following is a response i posted on the sci.astro.amateur newsgroup in reply to the question "How is your backyard?" posted by Tony Flanders... I'm in Palm Springs, Calif. Nice private backyard, grass, pool. It's safe to leave my stuff outside. Some palm trees block the view here and there but i can move around them pretty easy. The front of my house faces south so sometimes late at night i setup in the open garage door and view south. No street lights in my immediate neighborhood. One neighbor down the street has a floodlight on his driveway but i can avoid it pretty easy. I also live on a cul-de-sac so not a lot of traffic. My yard and neighborhood are really pretty good. My skies however are only about 4 or 4.5 mag. On the best nights i can just glimpse the Milky Way. There are night lighted softball/soccer fields about a half mile east of me. Also a few miles east are some car dealerships. My eastern skies are pretty bad. A mile north-east is the airport with quite a bit of security lighting. South is pretty good since undeveloped hills start about a half mile away. Downtown is west but the city doesn't have a lot of bright lights. Some of the worse offenders are neighboring communities with billboards that have upward shining floodlights. (God i hate those.) Palm Springs itself does not allow billboards. Naked eye stargazing or using smaller handheld binoculars isn't bad. I can pick out most constellations. But the deepsky nebs and galaxies that i love are really hard and mostly just depressing from my yard.
Monday, 11/4/2002, Guilt over staying home
This weekend, being a new moon weekend, i was hoping to get out of town into the desert for some nice dark skies. Well it was overcast the last three evenings. (Even though Sunday morning was beautifully clear it became overcast in late afternoon.) Now today is clear and dark. But Monday's a work day, and tomorrow's a work day, and i got home from work at 6pm and i'm tired. But i really wanted to see darksky stars tonight.... And i just can't get myself to pack up and drive an hour to get to the dark skies. I'm feeling pretty down. I feel like a wimp for not driving out into the desert tonight. So i setup in the backyard... Tried for the Helix, tried for NGC 55... Nothing. All i could think of was how easy and pretty these objects are when i'm 50 miles east out in the dark desert and what a lazy chump i am. Sigh...
Sunday, 11/3/2002, Hike with Wen
Was a lovely clear sunny morning so Wen and i did a loop hike going up the Araby trail, across to Smoketree mtn., then down the Shannon trail. The weather was perfect. I had planned to go out on the desert tonight stargazing but high clouds came over in the late afternoon. Haven't had a day with clear air and clear skies in about a month. Seems all of October was hazy. Hoping that November is a bit better.
Thursday, 10/31/2002, Halloween!
Only one trick-or-treater. A bit disappointing. ;-(
Sunday, 10/27/2002, Quick backyard stargaze
First clear night since before the full moon. Still a bit of haze but the STARS are out! Set up the 100mm f6 scope and 16x70 binoculars. Start of standard time today as well so it gets dark early.
_ Fairy Ring (a.k.a. Fairy Circle), asterism in Cygnus - Bit hard to locate at first. Once i found it can easily see 4 pairs of stars forming a little arc. With a bit more study can see two more pairs on the other side forming a ring. Pretty at 30x but doesn't really jump out. At 60x the ring seems a bit more obvious. Visible in 16x70 binoculars but not obvious. Location of the ring is RA 20h 04m, DEC 38d 20m.
_ M29, OC, Cygnus - I like this little square cluster.
_ M39, OC, Cygnus - Rather sparse but nice. Triangular shape. Reminds me of the AOL logo.
_ NGC 7209, OC, Lacerta - Nice little splash of dim stars at 30x. Nice in 16x70 binoculars as well.
_ NGC 7243, OC, Lacerta - Sparse. Almost not a cluster. More just a loose group of stars.
Need to be at work early on Monday so packing up early.
Sunday, 10/27/2002, Lykken trail hike
Hiked the south Lykken trail this morning. Had Wen drop me at the Mequite trailhead near the Aqua Caliente visitor center then i hiked southward to Cahuilla Canyon.
Sunday, 10/20/2002, Murray Peak hike
Combination family/solo hike today. Went up the Shannon trail with Wen and Kai. Kai seemed in much better hiking mood today. Was nice. Once reaching the ridge near Smoketree Mtn i continued on to Murray Peak while family walked back down. Saw quite a few fresh bighorn tracks on trail west of peak. Didn't see any sheep however. After reaching the summit i came down the north trail and out via Eagle Canyon. Called Wen on the cell phone and had her pick me up across from Target.
Saturday, 10/19/2002, Stargazing equipment trunk
I made/modified a simple equipment trunk this morning to haul my Orion AstroView 100mm f6 around in. I used a foot locker i bought at Target and added an internal foam lined partition for the scope. I have a picture of it here. (The tripod is under the equipment in the front half of the trunk.) It's a pretty simple project but i'm a pretty simple woodworker. The foam we just happened to have at work left over from a recent new equipment purchase. I also added handles on each end since the trunk should be carried level and not by the original handle. What i like is it not only carries and protects the scope but also carries tripod, eyepiece box, altitude cradle, 10x40 binoculars, SkyAtlas 2000.0 charts, etc. All this stuff took 4 or 5 trips to move around before. Now it's all in one box and one trip. I'd like to thank John Ridley for the idea after seeing the equipment trunk he has on his website. (John's trunk is shown on his My Equipment page.)
Sunday, 10/13/2002, Family Hike
Loop hike up Garstin trail and down Andreas Hills trail with Wen and Kai. Kai complained and moped along on the climb up. Once we started back down he perked up a bit.
Tuesday night, 10/8/2002, Kemble's Cascade
I worked the night shift tonight getting off work about 1am. I noticed Kemble's Cascade and NGC 1502 on the SAA100 list would be well placed when i got home. Having never looked at these objects before i set up my little AstroView 100mm f6 in the back yard and went out for a quick glace before going to bed. Kemble's Cascade is very pretty with NGC 1502 at one end. The cluster has two brighter members that seemed to me a bit orangish. The cascade and cluster were a lovely sight. In fact, the cascade is almost better through 10x42 binoculars.
Tuesday, 10/8/2002, Quick Hike
Quick morning hike up the south Lykken trail to vista point.
Monday, 10/7/2002, Mini desert vacation, day three
Drove down Valecito Creek a bit and stopped near the Hollywood and Vine sign. Hiked up to my Overland geocache. First time i'd been back to this cache since i placed it in March 2001. On the way out i picked up a LOT of cans and bottles. I'm still amazed how inconsiderate and uncaring some people are when out on the desert. Drove back home through the park. Had a great little trip with warm clear days and calm starfilled nights.
Sunday night, 10/6/2002, Stargazing from southern Anza-Borrego
Orion AstroView 100mm f6 and Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars
Indian Gorge, Anza-Borrego State Park, Calif.
Bit breezy in the early evening but settled down later in the night. Setup behind the camper shell to block wind a bit. Have a little of a headache too. Probably a bit too much sun today. Skyglow from Mexicali is quite bright and high in the east.
_ NGC 6717, GC, Sagittarius - I keep coming back to this little globular somehow. Just like it. Can just see at 30x next to a 6 mag star. Still can't see it in 16x70 binoculars.
_ Nova in Sagittarius - Very dim. In fact i'm not sure i can tell which star it is against the background starfield.
_ M25, OC, Sagittarius - Really like this cluster in the 100mm. Wanted one more good look at it before it's gone in the glare of the sun for this season. Pretty in binoculars as well but the wind is making everything bounce around a lot.
_ Quick looks at M24, M20, M21, M8, M6, M17, M7 et al before they're all gone for the season.
_ The twin globulars NGC 6522 and 6528 nicely seen in the 100mm. Will miss them too.
_ NGC 7006, GC, Delphinus - Just as dim as ever.
_ NGC 6934, GC, Delphinus - After 7006 this little guy is a cinch. I like how it makes a fuzzy eyeball next to a dim star.
_ M15, GC, Pegasus - Bright central core obvious.
_ M2, GC, Aquarius - Maybe a bit brighter than M15 but without the pronounced central core.
_ NGC 7009, PN, Aquarius, Saturn nebula - Not quite how it looked last night through a 20" scope but i almost like my view better. I certainly perfer this setting out alone with the stars all to myself. Bright and starlike at 30x. At 60x still bright and a bit like a planet. Can't really see the "rings" however. But at 120x i think i can almost see the "rings" a bit.
_ M72, GC and M73, OC, Aquarius - I actually like these two little guys. Someone has to look at them!
_ NGC 7293, PN, Aquarius, Helix nebula - Bright and quite easy. Even visible in the 6x30 finder. Still no real detail seen. The skies aren't really that dark here with Mexicali so close.
_ NGC 55, EG, Sculptor - Very nice. Large and very elongated. Quite low surface brightness. Elongation quite visible in the binoculars as well.
_ NGC 300, EG, Sculptor - Large and round but dim surface brightness. Looked somewhat like the Helix only much dimmer. Has a couple of foreground stars. Also visible in the binoculars.
_ NGC 288, GN, Sculptor - Nice size, round. Doesn't look like a globular. Soft glow without much central brightening.
_ NGC 253, EG, Sculptor - Bright and very elongated. Very nice object. Fits in same 30x field with 288. Both seen in binoculars.
_ NGC 247, EG, Cetus - Much dimmer than the last two objects. Elongated along NS axis. Seen in binoculars with difficulty.
_ NGC 1499, DN, Perseus, California nebula - Not sure about this one. Nothing detected in the 100mm scope. With the 16x70 binoculars i think i can just detect a large patch of slightly brighter background sky. Very hard if i saw it at all.
_ Still have a bit of a headache and the sky is a bit disappointing. Going to sleep.
Sunday, 10/6/2002, Mini desert vacation, day two
Camped last night near Tubb Canyon fairly close to Borrego Springs. In the morning drove up Glorietta Canyon. From the road's end i hiked up the canyon a mile or so. Swung back through Borrego Springs stopping at the visitor center and buying drinks and ice at the market. Heading for the southern park of the park i took a little side trip up Oriflame Canyon. I'd never been in this canyon before. Beautiful stand of cottonwoods with actual flowing water. Glad to see this summer's fire did not burn the trees. Came very close however. On down in the southern part of the park drove through Bow Willow and Mountain Palm Spring sites before settling into my regular Indian Gorge site about 3pm. Great afternoon and evening with the desert and stars all to myself.
Saturday night, 10/5/2002, Stargazing near Borrego Springs
Orion AstroView 100mm f6
Tubb Canyon road just south of Borrego Springs, Calif.
After leaving Nightfall i setup nearby out on the open desert. Was closer to the town than i usually am when desert camping. Bit of skyglow from Borrego Springs to my north and some from the Rams Hill development to the east. Also the Borrego airport beacon was quite bright in that it lit up the mountains south and west of me. All observations were with my Orion AstroView 100mm f6.
_ NGC 404, EG, Andromeda - At 30x the galaxy was pretty much lost in the glare of Mirach. At 60x could see pretty well. I did have a nice view of this galaxy at Nightfall through at 8" reflector.
_ Unable to locate any of the following dim galaxies: NGC 507, NGC 410, NGC 266, NGC 315.
_ NGC 185, EG, Cassiopeia - Dim but fairly easy. Could not see nearby NGC 147.
_ Double Cluster in Perseus - NGC 869 is somehow more intersting perhaps because of two brighter stars near center. Both clusters have lots of little strings and chains of stars that are very pretty. NGC 884 has two cute little triangle of dim stars.
_ Stock 2, OC, Cassiopeia - About 60 stars all close to the same brightness. Almost fills the 30x field.
_ M103, OC, Cassiopeia - At first just looks like a string of 3 or maybe 4 stars. But at 60x and averted vision can see there are quite a few dim members.
_ NGC 663, OC, Cassiopeia - Pretty cluster. Two pairs of brighter stars. Makes nice field with the much smaller NGC 659.
_ NGC 457, OC, Cassiopeia, ET cluster - Very pretty at 30x but somehow looses its sparkle a bit at 60x.
_ NGC 281, cluster with neb, Cassiopeia - Bit of nebulosity seen. Almost like a small dim Orion nebula. Better at 30x than 60x.
_ NGC 7789, OC, Cassiopeia - Lovely soft glow of stars. Many resolved.
Saturday, 10/5/2002, Mini desert vacation, day one
Left home about 2:00pm and drove down to the Anza-Borrego desert for a little two night mini desert stargazing vacation. Stopped at my Truckhaven geocache and then drove down Ella Wash and the Cut-Across Trail to San Felipe creek. Spent the evening at the RTMC's Nightfall star party in Borrego Springs. Is fun to look through various telescopes but by about 10pm i'd had enough society and went off to camp by myself in the open desert nearby.
Tuesday, 10/1/2002, Hike
Hiked up the middle Lykken trail from Mesquite Avenue this morning to my Tahquitz Overlook geocache. Cache is in fine shape but kind of lonely. Not a single visitor since i was there last in February. I think this cache location is one of the most spectacular i've placed. Too bad more people don't seek it out.
Monday, 9/30/2002, Backyard casual stargaze
Took the AstroView 100mm f6 out to the backyard for some casual looking around. No charts and no planned objects. I really like the views through this scope. With a 20mm Erfle i have a wide 2+ degree field at 30x. Wandering around Cygnus i found M29 (like a little TV set with antenna) and pretty little NGC 6910 (two stars connected by a delicate chain of fainter stars). Also easily found M57, M71, and M27, Albireo, bright Vega and epsilon and zeta Lyra. Plus all sorts of doubles and little un-named asterisms galore. It didn't matter where i pointed the scope. Everywhere i looked was a pretty field. I didn't have to think or plan anything to enjoy the sky. I just carried the scope out already on its tripod and started looking. There is something elegant about a simple lens pointed skyward that's very basic and comforting.
Sunday, 9/29/2002, C8 in the backyard
Set up my old orange Celestron-8 in the backyard tonight. I haven't used this scope much in the last 10 years. (I don't think i've had it outside in over a year.) The sky was pretty good. Milky Way was plainly visible although not exactly bright. Tried for a few of the dim globulars i saw under dark skies on Saturday... NGC 6717 in Sagittarius, NGC 6934 and NGC 7006 in Delphinus. All three were quite easily seen at 100x. Also down in Aquarius M72 was a soft glow. Even the maligned M73 makes a pretty little asterism in the C8. (I'm not sure i've ever seen either of these Messier objects from home in binoculars yet.) The nearby "Saturn Nebula" NGC 7009 was very bright and did look a lot like Saturn.
Sunday, 9/29/2002, Hike
Morning hike with Wen up and down the Shannon trail. Lovely clear day with a bit of a breeze to keep the temp just right.
Saturday, 9/28/2002, Startazing on the desert
Drove out east of the valley tonight to my regular desert darksky observing site. Hoping the wind wouldn't be a problem since it's been quite breezy recently. There was a light breeze at my regular site but not too bad. Set up the Orion AstroView 100mm f6 as well as the Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. This is the first time i've had the AstroView out to a darksky site. All observations are with the AstroView unless otherwise noted.
_ I arrived in time to watch Venus set. Nice little crescent seen. I did notice a bit of spurious color in the image tonight that i hadn't noticed from home. I think this is partly because at home my western horizon is very high so Venus sets in quite a bright sky. From tonight's site the western horizon is much lower and thus darker and a bit of coloring is more noticeable.
_ One thing i'm always amazed with is how many more stars you can see from a dark site. Well before the end of astronomical twilight and still with a bit of sunset glow in the west i can see more stars, and more of the Milky Way, than i ever see at home.
_ I'd been wanting to try the little globular NGC 6717 in Sagittarius again since seeing it from home a few nights ago. I find i like objects that are near stars or near other objects. Just more interesting somehow. 6717 is just south of a 6 mag star. The cluster is just visible at 30x but not easy. I'm quite surprised i can see this little one from home at all. Fairly easy to hold in view at 60x. With the 2x barlow at 120x there was a bit too much wind and everything bounced around a lot. Tried with the 16x70 binoculars but was unable to see.
_ Open cluster M25 is beautiful at 30x. The binoculars show a nice cluster but the telescope brings out "all" the stars. There is a nice little arc of dim stars near the center. Almost like a second dim cluster within the main cluster. Something i never noticed with binoculars. (This image shows the arc well.)
_ The M24 star cloud showed some really nice dark foreground patches at 30x. Checking with the 16x70 binos i can also see the dark nebs but somehow they are much more noticeable in the telescope. I think i may be becoming a bit of a refractor convert. (Then again, binoculars are just dual refractors, right? Having some serious thoughts of mating two 100mm f6 refractors into a binocular/telescope!)
_ Spent some time on the big globular M22. Used various powers and combinations of eyepiece/barlow. I want to say i can "resolve" about 30 stars but i don't think resolve is really the right term. The stars almost look like little globulars in front of (or within) the main cluster. None are pinpoints. Since i'm new to using a small refractor i'm not yet sure just what i should be seeing.
_ The open cluster M11 in Scutum was always one of my favorite binocular targets. It's very nice in the 100mm. The refractor's ergonomics help too in that i can just sit and really study things instead of having to crane my neck high with the binos. Nice fan-shaped spray of stars. I still don't think this looks anything like "wild ducks" as its common name implies. I think it looks more like spilt sugar.
_ Another little globular i visited was NGC 6934 in Delphinus. This little guy i saw from home a few day ago as well. Cluster is just east of a dim star. Interestingly there is a pair of dim stars a bit to the west that have similar separations as the cluster from its star. All four objects together (1 cluster, 3 stars) look like two pair of eyes looking back at me with the eastern "eye" being fuzzy. Through the 16x70 binoculars it looks more like 4 stars.
_ Tonight i finally found the tiny globular NGC 7006 in Delphinus. I'd tried for this object a few times in the past with the 16x70 binoculars with no success. At 30x through the AstroView i can just detect it. Very small. I'd say about the size of M57 but much dimmer. Even once i found it at 30x i kept loosing sight of it. At 60x i could hold it quite well. 120x was too much power. Tried again with the binoculars but even knowing where to look i don't think i could see. This is one i'm not surprised i couldn't see from home!
_ Bit of a breeze came up around 10pm so i packed up. Getting a little cool for this desert boy.
Saturday, 9/28/2002, Hike
Made a loop hike up Shannon trail, across the middle plateau, then down Araby trail. Good hike and nice weather since it's cooled down a bit.
Thursday, 9/26/2002, Backyard stargazing
Last week we had these great clear days and nights. Calm, no wind, sparkling horizons... and a full moon. Now, the moon's out of the way till late evening and we have wind, blowing dust and sand, hazy skies. [Grumble.] Took the 100mm f6 out to the backyard this evening anyway. I didn't stay out long and will only briefly list the few objects i tried for...
_ Globular NGC 6717 in Sagittarius seen but really hard.
_ Big globular M22 in Sagittarius really easy.
_ Unable to locate globular NGC 7006 in Delphinus.
_ Globular NGC 6934 in Delphinus was nicest object of the night next to a little star. In binoculars it's hard to tell one is a star and one a cluster.
_ Dim globular M72 in Aquarius just barely seen.
_ M73 was frustrating. I'm quite sure i could see the little grouping of dim stars at 50x. But the seeing was so poor i couldn't bring them into focus. I understand why Messier thought this may be a comet.
_ While i was out i did see a nice pass of the International Space Station high in the north-west. Also a nice long meteor in the same area.
Tuesday, 9/24/2002, Hike
Quick morning hike up south Lykken trail to vista point and back.
Sunday, 9/22/2002, Nova in Sagittarius
Viewed the nova in Sagittarius tonight with 10x42 binoculars. It forms almost a perfect triangle with the 6th mag stars SAO 187519 and SAO 187584.
_ I also had the AstroView 100mm f6 out and tried for a few small Sagittarius globulars in the area. NGC 6717 is just south of 5th mag star 35 Sgr. At 60x i kept thinking i was seeing a ghost image of the star until i finally realized this was the cluster itself. A ghost would move around a bright star as the star was repositioned in the FOV. This little fuzzball was always just south of the star. Very dim. I don't think i'd have seen the cluster at all if i hadn't had the 5 mag star to guide me.
_ NGC 6638 just east of Kaus Borealis was a bit easier. Visible at 24x and fairly plain at 60x even with the almost full moon having risen.
_ Tried for NGC 6642 but was unable to locate.
Sunday, 9/22/2002, Hike
Hike up Garstin trail, over Smoketree mtn, and down Andreas Hills trail. Nice loop hike. Still kinda warm for this. But the heat does keep the crowds away.
Saturday, 9/21/2002, Telescope modifications
Made a rather crude altitude cradle for my new AstroView 100mm scope. You can see pictures of it in the StarryNights files area of Yahoo groups if you're a member. If you're not a member, and are interested in stargazing observations, you should join this group!
Friday, 9/20/2002, Polaris' companion
I was quite pleased tonight to be able see Polaris' dim companion star with the AstroView 100mm f6. I could just glimpse it at 24x. Was quite easy at 60x.
Wednesday, 9/18/2002, A new scope!
New telescope today! I purchased an Orion AstroView 100mm refractor, 600mm focal length, f/6. Wanted something with a bit more power to go along with my binoculars. See my review on Cloudynights.com for my initial impressions on this telescope.
Tuesday, 9/17/2002, Hike
Another quick morning hike. This time up Araby trail to Araby Hope geocache. It's good to be desert hiking again.
Monday, 9/16/2002, Hike
Quick morning hike up Cahuilla Canyon to geocache. No cache visitors since i was there last March. Weather still a bit warm but a nice breeze kept things comfortable.
Friday, 9/13/2002, Stargazing from Joshua Tree
Last weekend was the new moon weekend but since it ended up being cloudy every night i didn't get in any good stargazing. So tonight after work i headed out east to Joshua Tree National Park. Even with the first-quarter moon the desert skies were better than from my backyard on a "dark" night. Milky Way is obvious. All observations are with Fujinon 16x70 unless otherwise noted.
_ Picked out comet Hoenig in late twilight in the north-west near the handle of the Big Dipper. The comet is very dim. I suspect i won't see it again.
_ NGC 7380 open cluster with associated nebula in Cepheus. I tried for this object a couple nights ago from home and was only able to see a single star. (See log for 9/11 below.) Under tonight's dark skies i see a nice little open cluster. The star i saw from home is just alongside the cluster and not actually part of it. Could not detect any nebulosity.
_ Since the moon won't set till close to midnight i rolled out the sleeping bag in the back of the truck and took a little lap till about 1am. Although it is quite dark here there is still a lot of skyglow from the cities of the Coachella Valley to the west.
_ Tried for little globular NGC 7006 in Delphinus but was unable to locate.
_ Globular NGC 6934 in Delphinus looks like a fuzzy star next to a non-fuzzy star. As much as i like binoculars sometimes i wish i had a bit more power to pick out details in objects like this.
_ Having another look at NGC 7380 after the moon set can see a nice dark nebula about a dergee east of the cluster. Quite noticable in the 16x70.
_ The eastern Veil Nebula NGC 6995 easily seen. Very big. Probably one of the largest deepsky objects in the sky. For the western part NGC 6960 can just see a bit of "skyglow" on each side of the star with southern portion a bit more noticable.
_ Tried for the California Nebula NGC 1499 in Perseus but was unable to see. I somehow thought this was a binocular object but maybe not. The SEDS page says it can be glimpsed with naked eye under dark skies but i had not luck.
_ Swinging southward now to the Helix NGC 7293 in Aquarius. Large and easy to see. Trying to see the central hole and i think i can just glimpse it with averted vision and side-to-side panning.
_ Tried to find 4 or 5 dim galaxies in the Helix/Fomalhaut area but unable to locate any of them.
_ Galaxy NGC 55 in Sculptor is very nice. Very much elongated and quite bright. Almost like a miniature version of the Andromeda Galaxy.
_ Nearby galaxy NGC 300 is round and looks a bit like a small version of the Helix. Not as bright as NGC 55.
_ Tried for the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy but i was unable to see it. It's listed as being visible with 6 inch scopes so i guess i don't feel too bad not seeing with 70mm.
_ Globular NGC 288 is round and quite easy and makes a very nice field with the Scupltor Galaxy NGC 253. The galaxy is quite bright with a nice north-south elongation.
_ Galaxy NGC 247 in Cetus is relatively easy to see. Can tell it's elongated.
_ NGC 246 in Cetus is a planetary but looks very much like a galaxy to me. Big for a planetary. I'm used to them being more star/planetlike. Tried for NGC 255 which is a galaxy adjacent to 246 but was unable to see.
_ The M77 galaxy in Cetus is round and compact with a star just adjacent. One of the few Messier objects i've looked at so far tonight.
_ Galaxy M74 in Pisces is large but fairly faint. I understand why i wasn't able to see this one from home. Looks quite a bit like a dim comet and see why it's on Messier's list!
_ M33 is directly overhead and even with the UniMount it's a neck-breaker. Maybe i'll try again a bit later.
_ M34 open cluster in Perseus visible to naked eye. Really pretty. Almost a cluster within a cluster with a smaller grouping of stars in the middle with a halo of bright stars surrounding.
_ Have seen quite a few meteors over the last hour. Maybe 5 or 6. Not sure if they're sporadic or part of some minor shower.
_ The Pleadies M45 is absolutely stunning. VERY bright. This must be the best binocular object in the sky! Can see a bit of nebulosity south of Merope. I don't think i've ever actually seen the nebulosity before.
_ The Auriga open clusters M38, M36 and M37 are all quite nice and all a bit different from each other with their own personalities. Just south of M38 is the open NGC 1907 and quite easy to see.
_ M35 in Gemini nice and pretty. I remember M35 and the clusters in Auriga from as some of my very first "finds" when i started stargazing decades ago. They always just seem kind of familiar to me. I've loved open clusters ever since.
_ Near M35 can also see little open clusters NGC 2158 and IC 2157. Lots of pretty stuff in this part of the sky.
_ Change of pace looking at Saturn. Very oblong shape. I think i should be able to see a bit of gap between the rings but i don't see it. Might be my eyes.
_ The Crab Nebula M1 fairly easy. Could not find this from home a few days ago although i have seen it from there before.
_ Around 3:30am noticing the zodiacal light rising up in the east. Sirius has also risen as has Jupiter. Time to climb back into the sleeping bag.
Wednesday, 9/11/2002, Backyard binocular stargazing
Bit of backyard binocular stargazing with the Fujinon 16x70. Went out about 10pm local time after moonset. Not great skies. Maybe about mag 4.5. I think i could just barely glimpse the Milky Way. (But just barely.)
_ Starting with a few obscure objects in Delphinus. First was the "toadstool" asterism mentioned by Sue French in her Small-Scope Sampler column in the October Sky & Telescope magazine. Didn't see it at all at first since i was looking for something bigger. Then i checked the S&T article and realized that it's a telescope asterism. It's certainly there in the 16x70 looking a bit like an arrowhead pointing SW. I imagine it would be quite nice in a telescope.
_ Tried for the little globular
NGC 7006 but was unable to locate.
_ Next visited
M2. M15 is nice near the center of a little tripod of stars. M2 kind of all by itself. I always seem to have a hard time finding M2 but once i find it it's bright and easy. Both M15 and M2 visible in the Nikon 10x42 as well.
_ Back to Delphinus for globular
NGC 6934. Doesn't look like a globular. Looks like a small nebula with two stars. In checking the
Digital Sky Survey image i see there is a star just west of the cluster that i must have been seeing. I'd think this would be a very interesting telescope object.
_ The little planetary
NGC 6891 on the western edge of Delphinus i can't tell if i see it or not. Might be one of those faint stars. Might not be.
_ Back to Messier's tried for
M73 down in Aquarius but was unable to see either. These are a couple of the holdouts on my backyard Messier binocular survey.
_ Now up to
M71 in Sagitta. Quite large actually. It does look a bit more like a small open cluster than it does a globular. Fairly easy to see in the 16x and just a hint in the 10x.
_ Also checked the Dumbbell
M27. Quite easy to see. Can just put M27 and M71 on each side of the 16x field. Can't really see either of them this way but does give me a good reference for the field of view.
_ One more object on my list tonight was
NGC 7380 in Cepheus. This is an open cluster with associated nebula. Sky Atlas 2000.0 plots a small open cluster symbol with nebula to the east and south. It also plots a 7.5 mag star touching the west edge of the cluster symbol. This star appears double through the 16x although it's not plotted that way. For the "cluster" itself i could see a single star maybe mag 8. No nebulosity seen.
_ A nice surprise was the pretty double delta Cepheus that looked VERY much like a slightly dimmer version of Albireo.
_ Wrapped up the night after about an hour. I'm planning to get out of the city on Friday night and spend some time under darkskies. (At least dark after the moon sets.)
Monday, 9/9/2002, Stargazing with the power out
When i came home from work on Friday i found a note on my front door from the electric company advising they would be shutting off power to my neighborhood tonight from 11pm to 5am. Apparently there is some faulty equipment in the area that needed replacing. Thought i'd take advantage this and catch up on a few Messier objects i've yet to view from home with the Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Unfortunately it wasn't a very good night. Still lots of moisture in the air with skies somewhere around 4.5 magnitude. The power was only out on a few residential streets (that don't have streetlights anyway) so the sky was about the same with and without power. It was nice and quiet outside however since no one's air conditioner was running! Since the skies really weren't very good i'll want to revisit most objects when conditions are better. For this report i'll merely list objects seen (and attempted but not seen) without much detail.
NGC 7293 the "Helix" just barely visible, open cluster
NGC 7789 surprisingly easy,
M103 thought the center star looked somewhat orange, unable to locate
M31/M32/M110 all members of the Andromeda Galaxy complex seen,
NGC 869/884 Double Cluster, unable to locate
M45 Pleadies almost too bright to look at compared to everything else so far,
M37, unable to locate
_ About 1:50am local time the power came back. Was a bit startling to have the porch lights come on and all the air conditioners startup! When i got up in the morning i was surprised to find the skies clouded over. It's a wonder i saw as much as i did see last night.
Sunday, 9/8/2002, Skyline trail all the way down
Still overcast but seems no threat of rain. (I wish it would rain.) Went up the tramway and then hiked down the Skyline trail. Wasn't actually planning to go more than a mile or so but the trail at the top is so steep, and one drops down so fast, i decided pretty quick that i didn't want to hike back up and would hike all the way down instead. Was quite cool at the top which made me think it wouldn't be too hot down lower. (It got hot.) I'm not sure how long it's been since i've hiked this trail all the way through but probably 10+ years. Was really good to be out there again. One thing that did surprise me were the number of hikers coming UP the trail. I passed 12 people on their way up! Used to be i could hike this trail all day and never see a single other person. All the fresh footprints made the trail very easy to follow. (Even without the footprints the trail is quite well defined.) I think i was the only person walking down and that was fine with me. Skies remained overcast most of the day but it got sunny and quite hot for the last couple of miles. I didn't have enough water and my two bottles were empty well before bottom. Next time i will carry more water and start earlier. (I took the 10am tram car but the 8am car would have made the hike more enjoyable.) Passed a very active bee colony down around the 1800 foot level. The bees were maybe 15 feet above the trail in a crack in a rock wall. They didn't seem aggressive at all. Hiking time from tram station to Ramon Road was just over 5 hours.
Saturday, 9/7/2002, Clouded out
Really wanted to go stargazing tonight but the clouds are thick and steady. Had some nice blue skies this afternoon but back to clouds now. Watching the NOAA satellite image just shows a steady line of clouds heading my way. If it would rain some more i'd not mind. But right now it's a terrible waste of a new-moon weekend. Grumble, grumble, grumble...
Friday, 9/6/2002, Hike
First desert hike of the season up Shannon trail to Smoketree mtn. Bit of rain earlier in the morning cooled everything down. Still a bit muggy but was good to be out on desert trails again. Visited my Flag Over Palm Springs cache. No visistors since i was there back in May.
Thursday, 9/5/2002, Thunderstorm
Thunderstorm in early morning! Loud thunder woke everyone up. Nice to get a bit of rain. Forecast is for more showers over the weekend.
Monday, 9/2/2002, Hike
Hiking from the tramway again today. Didn't feel like going high or to the peak so headed south and over the Desert View divide. Took the Laws trail down to Laws camp. Sort of wanted to hike all the way down to Carumba camp but decided against it. Was a bit warm and also a bit of threat of thunderstorms so didn't really want to hike that far down. Went west by Reed's Meadow and then Skunk Cabbage Meadow. Climbed back up from Willow Creek and back over Desert View divide back to the tramway. Only passed a few people on the trails today. Sort of surprised me for a 3-day weekend.
Thursday, 8/29/2002, Stargazing from Cottonwood Spring
Had about a two hour window of darkness between end of astronomical twilight and moonrise tonight so took the Fujinon 16x70 binoculars up to Cottonwood campground. Only a few other people in the camp tonight although i expect it will be quite busy over the upcoming holiday weekend. David Pofahl from Blythe joined me later in the night. Also met Greg and Carole Mottino from La Quinta as they were setting up their NexStar 8 in a nearby campsite.
_ Had only a short list of objects to visit. This was also my first time to try the UniMount from a darksky site.
_ Started with comet Hoenig now crossing the tail of Draco. Still easy in the 16x and visible in 10x42. Comet was maybe a bit dimmer than M81 but bigger than M82.
_ Next found the little open cluster NGC 188 near Polaris. Cluster was actually a bit larger than i was expecting but very dim. A few brighter stars (possibly foreground stars) could be seen but the main cluster remained unresolved. This is perhaps the oldest known open star cluster in our galaxy according to the SEDS info page.
_ A few nights ago from home i had tried to see some nebulosity in NGC 7023 but was only able to see the main central star. Tonight with dark skies i could just detect a bit of "haze" behind the main star. Nearby stars did not show this haze. Certainly nothing i'd have noticed if i wasn't specifically searching for it.
_ Every time i see IC 1396 on charts i have to try for it. Charts make it look so impressive. It is a very nice star field but i was unable to see any nebulosity.
_ Swung up to the planetary NGC 6543 in Draco. This is the "Cat Eye" nebula but it looked quite planet-like to me. Bright and round and small in the 16x70. It's always interesting how planetaries at first look like stars but vanish with direct vision. NGC 6543 is almost exactly at the north ecliptic pole.
_ Last stop of the night was probably my favorite. A "double" cluster-galaxy pair of NGC 6939 and NGC 6946 in Cassiopeia. Both were easily seen in the 16x70 and made a lovely pair centered in the field. Both were round with the cluster 6939 being a bit brighter than galaxy 6946. Reminded me somewhat of the M81/M82 galaxy pair. Interesting how a nearby star cluster and a distant galaxy can look so much alike in binoculars. Later in the evening walked over to Greg and Carole's site and found these two objects in their NexStar 8. 6939 resolved quite nicely and 6946 looked definitely galaxy-like.
_ Noticed skyglow from the soon to rise moon around 10:30pm. I headed for home about 11pm leaving David still peering through his Takahashi 22x60 and Greg and Carole loading up their scope for the drive home.
Monday, 8/26/2002, Astro
Tried for NGC 7023 in Cepheus with 16x70 binoculars from the backyard this evening. The object is a small cluster with some associated nebulosity. Couldn't see the cluster, or the nebulosity, although i could see the main star of the group. While scanning around the area found a pretty starfield right in the center of Cepheus including a nice binocular double of SAO 19760 and 19762. About a quarter degree north (left) of this double i spotted what i at first thought might be a little planetary nebula. SkyAtlas 2000.0 did not plot anything at this location. Concentrating with the 16x70 some more i thought i could see a little tiny straight line of 3 dim stars. Checking my HNSky program afterwards sure enough that's exactly what's plotted at the location. Stars 19746, 19747 and 19749 at around mag 9. Fun to "discover" little gems like this.
Sunday, 8/25/2002, Hike
Hiked tramway to peak. I thought after a summer of mountain hiking that going to the peak would be a breeze by now... but i still got pretty winded near the top. Was a spectacular clear day however.
Saturday, 8/24/2002, Astro
Comet Hoenig just visible this evening from my back yard through Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Mag 4.5 to 5 skies in late astronomical twilight at 8:45pm local time. The moon was just about to rise as well. Easy well-placed field with the star Kochab in Ursa Minor. No tail or detail seen. Hope to try again later in the week from a darksky site.
Saturday, 8/24/2002, Caching
Okay, this was about the easiest cache i've ever found. The Vintage Race Track Cache is about 1.6 miles from my house. I pretty much knew exactly where the cache was and found it without using the GPS. One of the few open desert areas left in Palm Springs. I grew up playing in desert like this catching lizards and building forts. There was quite a bit of desert iquana (Dispsosaurus dorsalis) activity in the area. Watch for these large white/gray lizards lounging in the sun when you're at the cache. Left a red roadster and a pickle. Took the water pouch since the cache box was pretty full and anyone dying of thirst here could just walk downtown and buy a frosty.
Saturday, 8/17/2002, Astro
In the evening i attempted to observe the fast moving asteroid 2002 NY40 with Fujinon 16x70 binoculars from my backyard but was unable to locate. Combination of moonlight, muggy skies, skyglow and a dimmer than projected asteroid left it out of my reach. Charts on S&T site agreed with HNSky plots so i'm quite sure i had the correct fields. But nothing, that i could see, was moving.
Saturday, 8/17/2002, Hike
Went for a bit of a casual hike in the mountains today. Started from the tram and hiked to Round Valley. Hiked back along the high trail and stopped by the Mini Cache One and left an empty Altoids tin with some fresh paper and a pencil for the logbook. This was my 10th trip up the tramway so far this summer. Guess my yearly pass is paying off!
Home tonight from a little mini family vacation in San Diego. Went to
Cabrillo National Monument and
Balboa Park and basically just enjoyed a bit of
cooler weather away from the desert
heat. Drove home the long way through the
Bit of a combination desert exploring and stargazing trip this evening. Left home around 5pm heading eastward on I-10. I was planning to meet some stargazing friends at Cottonwood Spring in the Joshua Tree National Park but since i'd gotten such an early start i decided to take the "scenic" route into Joshua Tree. Just east of the Cactus City rest area took the frontage road exit and doubled back west and then north into Pinkham Canyon. Road is in good shape with a few soft spots. The side trip added about an hour and a half to my drive but it was good to be out on the desert. Looking forward to cooler temps in the fall. Have a few
pictures online here.
_ Arrived at Cottonwood a bit after sunset to find Stephen Pitt already setting up his Stellarvue equipment for a night of photography. I set up my Fujinon 16x70 binoculars on a my trusty Bogen tripod that was rather dusty from the dirt road. After dark David and Olga Pofahl arrived with their new Takahashi 22x60 fluorite binoculars on a Virgo Nova mount. David and i have been communicating via email but hadn't met in person before. Since they arrived after dark i'm still not exactly sure what he or Olga look like but i do know their voices now! (Olga has the most lovely European accent.)
_ Before we really started observing we had a really bright pass of the Hubble Space Telescope as it passed through Scorpius. Was really bright before going into shadow. I don't recall ever seeing HST this bright.
_ Started observing by picking up
comet Hoenig in late twilight. Comet is much easier to spot tonight than last week. Quite an easy object in the Nikon 10x42 as well. No tail seen with the 16x.
_ From comet to the "Little Dumbell" planetary M76 in Perseus. Guidebook says this is the dimmest Messier object. I believe that! Very hard in both 16x70 and the 22x60 Taks.
_ For a change visited the bright globulars M15 and M2. M15 big and bright in a nice little triangle of field stars. M2 is similar but all by itself in a less interesting field.
_ A pair of objects i've tried unsuccessfully to see from home are the "double globulars" NGC 6522 and 6528 in Sagittarius. Both were visible in the 16x70 with 6528 a bit larger and brighter. Pretty Milky Way field stars too.
_ Another object i've had trouble with is the open cluster M73 in Aquarius. The cluster is actually an asterism of 4 stars. I've never been quite sure if i've actually seen it with the 16x before. However using the Tak 22x60 i could just barely resolve the components for a positive ID.
_ Nearby to M73 is NGC 7009, the "Saturn Nebula" planetary. Fairly bright but too small to see any shape or detail in the 16x70.
_ Swinging a bit east to the "Helix" NGC 7293. Although quite large it is dim. Tried to detect the central hole but failed. Skies just weren't transparent enough. Need to try again next month.
_ Last stop of the night was the
M33 galaxy in Triangulum. Was still fairly low in the north-east but made for a nice view with foreground horizon objects. Also nice to rest my neck and look at something a bit lower in the sky. This object was definitely better in the Fujinons than in the Takahashis.
_ I packed up a bit after midnight and drove home. Not sure how late the others stayed. On the drive home i passed a few groups of people out for the Persied meteor shower. I felt bad shining my headlights into their eyes but it was unavoidable as they were stopped along the main road. I'm not accustomed to stargazing with other people as i did tonight but it was very enjoyable to chat and compare views. Still, i think my true passion is to be out alone, with the stars and the desert all to myself.
Loop hike from the tramway through Round Valley to Wellman's Divide and back on the old Tamarack trail. Found
Wee's Jacinto Peak (Almost) cache near where the old Tamarack trail joins the main trail. Nice spot at right about 10,000 foot elevation. Stopped at the
Mini Cache Two on the way down and left a new logbook.
C/2002 O6 this morning from my backyard through Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Was quite easy even through the bright skyglow from cities east of me. That the comet was only 16 degrees above the horizon didn't help either. Comet appeared round with no noticeable central core. No tail seen. Could see the comet with 10x42 binoculars as well.
_ While i was up i took a quick peek at Saturn and was surprised to be able to see M1 nearby. I generally have trouble with M1 from home and was surprised to glimpse it this morning. It too was competing with skyglow from cities east of me. Pretty crescent moon low in the NE made for a nice naked eye morning sky. Lots of dim pre-dawn satellites passing through my binocular fields as well.
In the evening (10pm local time) found comet
Hoenig from my backyard for the first time. Using Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. The comet seems to not be in quite as bright an area of the Milky Way which helps. The comet looks very much the same size and brightness as M1 did this morning when i was out viewing comet 2002 O6. I'd say if you can see M1 in your skies you should be able to see Hoenig now.
Found three geocaches in the mountains west of the tram today.
Mini Cache One,
Mini Cache Two, and the
PS Tram Cache. The two mini caches are off the trails which is nice. Almost a bit cool in the mountains today. Maybe a hint that summer is ending.
Got out of town this evening for a bit of darksky stargazing. Was planning to visit my regular site south of I-10 but smoke from the fire in Julian was drifting over. Could even smell it! Found a place a bit west of the smoke just off the south entrance road to Joshua Tree National Park. Not a bad spot but could hear freeway sounds.
_ Found comet Hoenig for the first time. The comet is round and fairly dim but with the dark skies it's unmistakable in Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Almost thought i could see the comet with 10x42 binoculars but not sure enough to claim it. If comet hadn't been against the bright Milky Way i think it would have been easy in the 10x.
_ Was only out for about an hour and visited a few other objects in the area. Open cluster M52 in Cassiopeia resolved a few stars but looked more like a nebula than a cluster.
_ Found open cluster NGC 7789 by surprise. Big and very plain in 16x70. Some stars resolved. Quite nice.
_ The open cluster M103 was a bit disappointing. Looks like a little string of 3 stars with a 4th off to the side. Need to verify that it was actually M103 that i was looking at. [In verifying M103 the 4 stars i saw were indeed the cluster. Looked very much like this
image although i did not notice the star colors.]
_ Near M103 are opens NGC 663 and 654. Both were more interesting than M103. 654 is dim with one bright foreground star to set it off. Last stop was planetary NGC 7662 in Andromeda. Like a dim star except it vanishes with direct vision. I was a bit tired and planning a mountain hike in the morning so packed up about 10:30pm and headed home. It's amazing the difference a 45 mile drive makes in how the sky looks!
First attempt for comet
Hoenig (C/2002 O4) tonight from my moderately light polluted back yard. Was unable to locate using Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Local time was 2am which placed the comet high in the north however the 30% illuminated moon had already risen.
Hiked tramway to peak and back. Lovely clear day in the mountains. Was just cruising along but near the peak i got a bit light-headed. After sitting a bit i was fine.
Short morning hike before work from
tramway to Willow Creek divide, high trail to Round Valley, and back to tramway. Some pretty thunderheads were building up over the peak. Hope we get some rain.
Back from vacation. Rode Amtrak Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle. Great ride. It really makes a difference to have a private room on the train. Sleeping in coach isn't much fun. Spent two days in Seattle and then drove up to Anacortes. Spent three days riding ferries and poking around the San Juan Islands and just taking it easy. Flew home today via Phoenix. Had a really nice week. Amazing how cool/wet/green everything is around the north-west coast.
On vacation. Back next week...
Took a vacation day and hiked with Wen from the tramway to Wellman's Divide. We took the Desert View trail south and then the high trail across to Round Valley. Cloudy and a few light sprinkles. No real rain. Hung out at the tram station after hike and had lunch!
Using 16x70 binoculars tried for the "twin" globulars
NGC 6522 and
NGC 6528 in
Sagittarius. Skies weren't dark enough to see. Must try again from a dark site. I did find globulars
NGC 6441 and
NGC 6541 a bit farther south. Was surprised how easy 6541 was as it was quite low on the horizon.
To celebrate the Japanese festival of Tanabata i did a simple little starhop through the Milky Way from Vega to Altair this evening. Was using tripod mounted Fujinon 16x70 binoculars supplemented with handheld Nikon 10x42 binos. Started with Vega. Bright with purple fringes. The primary Eplison Lyrae double was easy to split although i cannot split the individual components. Zeta Lyrae was also easy. Vega with Epsilon and Zeta make a nice binocular field. The Ring Nebula M57 was easy to find but not much more seen than a roundish "point". Tried for it with 10x42 but not really there. Stopped by dim globular M56 on way to Albireo. There is an unnamed large open cluster about 2 degrees east of Albireo that was quite nice in the 16x70. The stars make a sort of crooked X shape. Swung by the "coathanger" then to the globular M71 in Sagitta. M71 is even harder to see than M56. The Dumbbell Nebula M27 was the best deep sky object of the night. I'm becoming quite fond of it in the 16x70 even in my so-so skies. Clearly seen in 10x42 as well. Ended my tour on Altair. Altair and it's two "guard" stars on each side remind me of Antares and it's companions. Also tried for and found M81 and M82 with the 16x70. I was actually fairly surprised i found them since my skies aren't great and when i looked (about 10:30pm local time) the galaxies were only about 25 degrees up. M81 was fairly easy to spot but M82 was there as well with a little effort. Could "just" glimpse M81 in handheld 10x42 but couldn't see M82. To top off the night i saw two VERY bright satellite flares in Cygnus. Both were southbound about a minute apart. Then, a few minutes later, another very bright flare in the same area northbound. I'm assuming these were Iridum flares but haven't checked yet.
Hiked tram to peak. Altitude didn't seem so slow me down nearly as much as last time. Nice cool day in the mountains. Bit hazy down below so the views weren't as great as usual.
Quick evening peek at some open clusters with 16x70 binoculars.
IC 4756 in Serpens is quite large with a nice soft glow of stars. Didn't really stand out from the background skyglow from my moderately light polluted backyard.
NGC 6633 nearby in Ophiuchus is much more compact with a nice little arc of stars through center.
IC 4665 a bit farther west is large but sparse. Counted about 12 stars. Back a bit east of IC 4756 the star Alya is a nice binocular double. I hope to go out Wednesday night to a dark site and will revisit this area then.
Loop hike from tram through Round Valley, Wellman's Divide, Saddle Junction, Willow Creek, Desert View, and back to tram. I was surprised to find the trail to Desert View no longer maintained. But i knew where it was so no problem.
Tried again for comet Ikeya-Zhang. Unable to locate. I think the comet is finally out of range for my backyard skies.
Comet Ikeya-Zhang was within a degree of M5 tonight. Tried for the comet through 16x70 binoculars but was unable to locate. Had been a bit of a hazy day and the evening wasn't much better. (Was unable to see Milky Way with naked eye.) M5 was easy and pretty near a bright star. I did "almost" think i could see some little bit of fuzziness on the opposite side of that star from M5 but i'm not sure enough to claim it was IZ.
Went up the tram again today. Hiked to San Jacinto Peak. Peak is 10,832 foot elevation and i felt it. Hadn't been that high in years. I was moving kinda slow the last mile or so. Was great on the top though. Clear and fresh. Took the old trail down through Tamarack valley. Bit worn out this evening. Probably residual effects of the elevation. Also last day of my vacation. Back to work Monday night. Sigh...
Taking a few days off this week. Just stayed home yesterday and lazed around. Was quite nice actually. Today went up the Tramway and hiked to Wellman's Divide. Haven't hiked in the mountains for a long time. Felt good. The trails are exactly the same as i remembered them. Bought a yearly tram pass too so will probably be hiking up there a lot this summer.
Did some casual stargazing in late twilight with 16x70 Fujinons. The moon was pretty though a bit turbulent as the day had been hot and the evening was still quite warm. Vega made a nice triangle with double stars Epsilon and Zeta. The surprise of the evening was when i swung over to Mizar in Ursa Major. I could actually split Mizar! I've tried in the past to split Mizar with the Orion 20x80 but was never able to positively see two stars. The image was always too spiky. But with the 16x70 Fujis both stars were clearly seen. Pretty neat!
Viewing from the backyard again tonight and continuing with my Messier tour. I have seen most all of the Messier objects with binocular in the past but not recently. I'm working through the list again with the goal of finding them all from my home. Observations are with Fujinon 16x70 and Nikon 10x42.
/// Started with the Ring Nebula
M57 in Lyra. There is a little triangle of 8th mag stars just north of the ring that helps point to it. Through the 16x70 the neb looks about like one of these stars. Nearby globular
M56 is smallish but it does lead me down to the double Albireo which is always pretty. Over to Satitta for globular
M71. A short string of 3 dim stars just west helps in finding this one. Just a bit north to the Dumbbell Nebula
M27 in Vulpecula. Really neat with a nice soft glow. Bit of its "hour glass" shape is visible in 16x. Easily seen in 10x too. Quick detour down toward the east for globular
M15 off all alone by itself. Bright and easy. Back to Cygnus and open cluster
M29. Its square shape didn't quite jump out like it did Friday under dark skies. Also in Cygnus is the open cluster
M39. Very pretty in 16x80. Triangular shape with bright stars. Almost like a squat Christmas tree. While i was in Cygnus i tried for the Veil Nebula. Not sure if i can claim it or not. There "is" something there. Very faint. Ghostlike. But nothing at all like the easily seen arc i saw under dark skies on Friday.
/// The hardest objects of the night were the Hercules globulars
M92. Hard not because they are faint but hard because they were almost directly overhead and it's HARD to get under my tripod mounted binos. My neck is still sore this morning as i write this. Both are bright and easy. M92 a bit dimmer with M13 looking a lot like
M5 that i used as a stepping stone to comet Ikeya-Zhang. The comet is still visible but not bright at all. Could just barely glimpse with 10x42. I wish i had thought to check the comet from dark skies on Friday. Spotted a dim tumbling satellite near M5. It always surprises me to see satellites in the middle of the night!
Earlier in the evening had a really nice double pass of the space shuttle and space station. Shuttle passed just west of overhead about 8:25pm local time and then the space station followed along the same track about 10 minutes later. I even introduced a coworker to the world of satellite spotting!
Darksky stargazing from my regular desert site. This site is about an hour drive east and away from most of the light polution of the Coachella Valley. The difference in sky is amazing! Even with a 4 day moon in the west and before the end of astronomical twilight i can see more than i can from home under best conditions. Tonight was also "first light" for new Fujinon 16x70 FMT-SX binoculars that arrived today!
/// First treat of the night was an incredibly bright pass of the
International Space Station in the east. I hadn't checked for passes ahead of time so took me by surprise. The station was brighter than Venus. Almost seemed too bright to look at directly. (It wasn't of course, just seemed that way.)
/// Started binocular viewing southward with some objects in Centaurus. Omega Centari big and very bright even with moonlight and late twilight. Unmistakable. Visible with naked eye as a fuzzy star. Up a bit to galaxy
NGC 5128. Quite easy. Didn't notice the dark lane. Globular
NGC 5286 was low with horizon in the same field. Just north of a 5 mag star made it easy to find. Bit farther north to galaxy
M83. Round and visible in the 10x42. This object is very hard from home but quite easy from a darksky site. Little globular
NGC 5986 in Lupus was also visible in the 10x. North to globular
NGC 5897. Largish but dim. Fairly easy in 16x70. Was unable to find this object from home last week in 20x80. Could just see it in 10x42 tonight. This is a
RASC Deep-Sky Challenge Object. Not sure what it means when i can see it with 10x42 binoculars.
/// Swinging around and viewing eastward now. The Ring nebula
M57 in Lyra isn't really much to see in binoculars. Almost like a very dim planet. Globular
M56 looked like an open cluster to me at first somehow. Double star Albireo is pretty and easy to split in the 16x70. The dimmer star is quite blue looking. I first noticed the Coathanger cluster as a naked eye patch. Pretty and interesting in both 16x and 10x. Open cluster
M29 in Cygnus looks like a little box with handles. Maybe a TV with antennas. The Veil nebula
NGC 6992 is fascinating. Very easy. Looked like a glowing parenthesis. Scanning around Cygnus a bit can see the North American and Pelican nebulas. More interesting are the dark patches just a bit north. Globular
M71 in Sagitta also somehow looked like an small open cluster. The Dumbbell nebula
M27 is interesting. Bright and easy. Almost looks like the pictures as the shape is recognizable.
/// Moving around toward the north-west now. The
M82 galaxy pair are very easy and nice. No trouble at all finding them. Galaxy
M108 and the Owl nebula planetary
M97 are very similar looking. And both very dim. Not surprised i can't see either of these from home. Galaxy
M109 is faint and hard even with the dark sky. Probably the faintest object of the night. The Whirlpool
M51 is wonderful. Can see the companion very clearly as well. And
M101 is large but relatively dim.
/// Took a break around midnight. Had intended to start viewing again about 2:00am but didn't wake up till 3:20am. Twilight will start around 3:50am so just doing some quick glances around.
/// The Andromeda galaxy
M31 is huge! Over half the 16x70 field. Companions
M110 are also easily visible. Big
M33 is pretty easy too. This is a hard object without a dark sky. Quick views of
M30. Was unable to locate
M73. (Seems this is an asterism of 4 stars. Didn't realize that at the time.) An object i've been wanted to try is galaxy
NGC 6822 in Sagittarius. The
NOAO image of this galaxy is stunning. I found it dim but fairly large with the 16x70. Almost the last object of the night was the Helix
NGC 7293. Nice and round. Almost thought i could glimpse the central hole but not sure. Just randomly scanning around low in the south-east i came across my last object of the night. I think is galaxy
NGC 55. Really neat. Big and elongated.
/// Twilight is coming and my neck it stiff. I think i tried to do too much tonight. Time for a nap before sunrise.
Hike Garstin trail, middle loop, and back over Smoketree peak. Not as hot as last week.
Trying for some galaxies on Leo about 10:00pm local time. Unable to locate
M105 with 20x80 binoculars. Better luck with
M66. Very faint but do make a nice pair. Similar to the M81/82 pair but dimmer. The galaxies seem about equal in size and brightness. (M65 and M66 are part of the "Leo Triplett" together with
NGC 3628.) I had intended to work through the Virgo/Coma cluster of galaxies but after seeing how hard and faint they are from town i think i'll save them for a darksky site and not "waste" my time fighting the light pollution.
Continuing with my Messier binocular tour tonight after midnight. This time exploring toward the north-west in Ursa Major, Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices. Most observations are with 20x80 unless otherwise stated. Started with the
M82 galaxy pair. M81 was pretty easy. Could see in both the 20x80 and 10x42. M82 was harder but being close to the brighter M81 made it easy to find. Could see M81 with the 10x42 but not M82. Both were really too low in the sky at about 25 degrees elevation to see well. (I can see both with 10x42 when they are overhead.) Next tried for but could not see
M109. Will probably have to save these for a darksky site. The double star M40 is interesting. It does at first look very much like some kind of little nebula. The stars are dim but resolvable with 20x80. The Pinwheel Galaxy
M101 is large but very faint. Was right on the edge of visibility above the background sky glow. The "missing" Messier
M102 (NGC 5866) was pretty dim. Harder than M82 but being placed higher in the sky helped. Galaxies
M63 were all visible. M94 quite bright and round. Like a globular. Only one of the three i could see in 10x42. The Whirlpool Galaxy
M51 is pretty good size but not bright at all. Could not see the companion. Could just barely see with 10x. Doesn't look like at all like the pictures in the magazines. But that's okay. Swung a bit south to the globular
M3. Brightest object of the night. Quite a change from all the dim galaxies. Globular
M53 was also fairly easy and also visible in 10x. Final object of the night was the Blackeye Galaxy
M64. Could not see the dustlane. Surprised i found at all given how small it is and how low in the sky by the time i got to it. Tonight's objects were much more challenging than the globular and open clusters i'd been viewing earlier in the week.
Continuing my southern Messier object tour in Sagittarius with 20x80 binoculars. Started with the Lagoon Nebula
M8. Lots of stars and nebulosity. The Trifid Nebula
M20 although nice didn't really show any of it true triune nature. Open cluster
M21 small and compact. M8, M20 and M21 make a nice round field with
NGC 6559. Also just barely glimpsed the little globulars
NGC 6544 and
NGC 6553. From a dark site this binocular field would be spectacular. From my back yard it's still nice. Moved eastward to pick up little open cluster
M28 and then big bright globular
M22. M22 showed a bit of graininess in the 20x80. North to open cluster
M25 which was nice with some fairly bright stars. Way back west again to open cluster
M23. Nice size with lots of dim stars. Working back up along the Milky Way to the
M24 star cloud, open cluster
M18, Omega Nebula
M17, and Eagle Nebula
M16. M17 looks like an upside down swan and M16 showed a good nebula but nothing like the famous
Hubble pictures. Popped up to Scutum for open cluster
M26 and the Wild Duck cluster
M11. One of my favorite telescope objects is M11. Not quite as good in the 20x binoculars but its one bright star did stand out nicely. Swung back south again to pick out globular
M54. Fairly bright but tight. Like an unfocused star. Globulars
M70 made a nice pair fitting in one 20x field. Somewhat like M10 and M12 but a bit closer together. Globular
M55 looks a bit like M22 only dimmer. Dropped down south to globular
NGC 6723 and found it quite easily. This cluster would probably have been an M object had it been a bit farther north. Finished up with little
M75 off by itself to the east.
Some late night after midnight binocular stargazing. Comet Ikeya-Zhang in Serpens Caput. Much dimmer than when i last had a look. Still fairly easy even in 10x42. The 20x80 showed it well. No tail visible. While looking with 20x80 i saw this pinpoint flash of light right next to the comet. I first thought was just my eyes. Maybe a bit of twinkle from a star. Then it flashed again! A UFO! An Unidentified FLASHING Object. I kept watching and it would flash about every 5 seconds. At first i thought the flasher was stationary but after watching for a minute i realized it was moving very slowly eastward. Flasher was visible in 10x42 but not to naked eye. Interesting to see a satellite in the middle of the night. Must be in in very high orbit. After this excitement i checked out the globulars in Ophiuchus.
M5 very bright and easy in both 10x and 20x binos. Tried for
NGC 5897 down in Libra. I "might" have just glimpsed this globular but not sure enough to count.
M10 make a nice pair. Can just fit them both in the 20x80 if i put one on each edge of the field. M10 appears rounder and more symmetrical than M12.
M14 a bit irregular and dimmer than both M10 or M12. Down to
M107. Faintest of the lot. Could just barely see in 10x42. Lastly dropped down to
M80 in Scorpius because i forgot to check it Sunday.
Morning hike to the English Tom cache from the Ramon trailhead. Getting too hot for this!
Venus and Jupiter making a very pretty pair in the evening sky. Nice finale to the recent evening planet show. At least Venus will remain with us throughout the summer.
Checked out a few globular clusters in Scorpius and Ophiuchus with 20x80 binoculars after getting home from work a bit after midnight. Started with
M4. Easy to find near Antares although the bright star always "detracts" from the cluster a bit. Tried for
NGC 6144 just west of Antares but was unable to locate. Swung east to
M19, then down to
M62, and then back up to
M9. All three globulars looked pretty similar to me. All were easy to find. Visited a couple of open clusters
M7 next. There was quite a bit of turbulence thus the stars were a bit murky. Scanning down from M7 spotted globular
NGC 6441. This cluster is just east of a 3rd mag star. Was surprised how easy the cluster was to see. Finished the night with open cluster
NGC 6231 and the Zeta 1 and 2 region. Was more murkey than sparkly tonight but a nice way to end the night.
Quick observing session with 20x80 binoculars. Found
M83, the Southern Pinwheel galaxy. It was quite dim and larger than i was expecting. Not at all easy in my moderately light-polluted skies. I used Sky Atlas 2000.0 Second Edition (desk version) and star hopped up from Menkent (Theta Centauri). There is a nice 4-star asterism in Centarus made up of the stars labeled 1, 2, and 4. M83 is NW of this asterism about the same distance that Menkent is SE of it. There is an unlabelled 6 mag star just NE of M83 that helped me get the field right. While i was out i also found the globular
M68 (also quite hard) and galaxy
M104. M104 was the easiest of these 3 M objects as it's more compact. Its elongated shape was easy to detect.
Happy 47th Birthday to me! Took a morning hike up Shannon trail to Smoketree peak and the Flag Over Palm Springs cache. No cache visitors since April 1st. Was about 95 degrees when i got down. I think it's about the end of desert hiking season. Need to start exploring some mountain trails again.
Watched a very nice pass of the International Space Station out in the street with my neighbors. Was a really nice pass. Just south of overhead and quite bright.
Hike Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder. Nice relaxing morning hike.
Hike Shannon trail with Wen.
Quick dash hike up south Lykken trail to viewpoint and back.
Did a morning loop hike up Garstin trail, down Shannon trail, back on Henderson trail. Kind of the reverse of last Tuesday's hike.
Really pretty conjunction of the moon and Venus in evening.
Hike Araby trail to Araby Hope geocache with Wen. Cache is almost one year old.
Morning loop hike... Up Shannon, down Garstin, back on Henderson.
Morning hike with Wen up south Lykken trail to the vista point.
Spent the day with Kai messing around with computer things. Bought a router and another NIC so we can now have both computers online at the same time. Kai's happy i'm not kicking him offline all the time.
DSL is up and running! Yay!!
Climbed Murray Hill today. Started from Rimrocks Vons. Took a couple of tries to find the right trailhead off of the graded roads. Haven't been up to the peak from this side for a few years. Steep trail but well constructed. Nice breeze helped keep from getting too warm but soon it is going to be to hot for this kind of desert hiking. Would have liked to have hiked through and come down Garstin trail. However, i didn't have my cell phone with me nor a set of house keys so i'd have been a bit stranded with no way to get back to my truck.
Hike Shannon trail again. With Wen this time. Warm sunny morning. No trace of Wednesday's rain. All dry and dusty.
First view of comet Utsunomiya this evening. Fairly easy to find to the right of Mercury in evening twilight with 10x42 binoculars. Through 20x80 binoculars a short broad tail was clearly seen.
Hike Shannon trail to Smoketree peak, then loop around via Araby junction, middle trail, and back down Shannon. Desert was nice and fresh after yesterday's rain.
Hike Garstin trail to Smoketree peak, then shortcut trail to Wildhorse junction. Decide to do Hot Dog peak too. Down via Andreas Hills. Good hike!
Hike Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder. Nice sunny morning. Hiking is better than camping.
Drove to Anza-Borrego this afternoon with plans to camp along Truckhaven trail. Arrived at my regular spot about 1:00pm but found someone already camped there. Grrr. Anyway, no problem. There are other places. It's a big desert. Drove over to my regular spot along Ella Wash. Kicked back and had a nice afternoon. Little breezy but not bad. Nice and clear. Sun felt good. Over toward Vista del Malapais i could see some dirt bikers racing around. That pissed me off a lot. Dirt bikes are not allowed in the park and it looked like they were really tearing up the place. Just plain assholes. Anyway, they left after a while and i was relaxing sitting in the sun waiting for evening. I was in an odd sort of home-sick mood actually. Was considering driving home after the sun set. Then about 6:30pm i hear a couple of vehicles coming down the wash. I'm sitting waiting for them to drive pass but they stop about 200 feet away and start setting up camp! How fucking rude is that! Hundreds of square miles of desert to choose from and these morons set up camp within talking distance of me. I could hear every word they said. That was it... I threw everything into the back of my truck and headed for home. Got home a bit after 8:00pm. Nice and quiet here. Probably good i came home since i just noticed Buttercup (our pet hamster) is out of food.
Just watched a beautiful pass of the space station and space shuttle. Was amazing to watch the two bright points of light following each other across the sky. At their highest i'd say they were separated by about 5 degrees. Shortly thereafter they went into shadow. A most memorable view.
Hike Araby trail and make a nice loop through on the shortcut trail to Wildhorse junction and back. Breezy and a bit cool. Lot different than last week.
Hike south Lykken trail to vista point. From there climbed down eastward. Too damn steep. Picked up a bag full of empty water bottles and cans on the way down. People are such slobs.
Hike Shannon trail and loop through cholla garden. Didn't see another person on the trails all day. Guess it's getting past prime hiking season.
Hike up Araby trail and take shortcut trail loop back. It's going to be too hot for hiking desert trails pretty soon.
Made a through hike on the Lykken trail from Mesquite Ave southward to Cahuilla canyon. Warm hazy day. Good hike though. Once i got to the Tahquitz overlook is was pretty much all downhill to the end.
Monday, 4/1/2002, April Fools Day
Drive down to Anza-Borrego in late morning. Stop along Font's Wash for lunch then camped at our regular spot along Ella Wash. Have some
pictures here. Nice warm afternoon. A bit breezy but not too bad. Found the
Short Wash geocache on Monday and the
Coachwhip Canyon geocache on Tuesday.
Quick hike up Shannon trail to peak and back. Weather is starting to get quite warm.
Day in Anza-Borrego showing a friend from Australia around. Visited Truckhaven Trail, Ella Wash, Short Wash and Font's Point. Sat in the shade of a desert willow along Font's Wash for a while just enjoying the quiet and solitude. Menudo for lunch in Indio on the way home!
Hiked up to my Araby Hope geocache this morning after a couple of people reported not being able to find the cache. Cache is safe and sound. I updated the cache page with an encrypted hint on finding the cache. Also cleaned up a bit more of the discarded lumber around the peak.
Bright clear morning in camp. Sort of hated to leave. Drove north on S-2 and then up the Pinyon Mountain road to climb Whale Peak. This is quite a strenuous climb. No real trail but followed a good series of rock cairns. Found Steve and Tracy's Whale Peak cache and just sat and enjoyed the view for a while. Can see all my favorite places from here including last night's campsite. Got back to my truck a bit after noon quite tired. Scraped up my leg on a rock but nothing serious. Had lunch at the trailhead and then drove a bit farther eastward to the narrow slot. I think people are nuts to try and drive through that! The paint marks on the rocks are evidence lots don't make it through very smoothly. Turned around and drove out the way i came in. Considered spending a third night camping but the weather seemed to be changing and winds were getting quite steady so drove home. Here are some pictures from the trip.
Bit overcast today. Walked around the Piedras Grandes area a bit looking for pictographs. Didn't find any. Broke camp and drove through Dos Cabezas spring and Mortero Palms and then northward to the Volcanic Hills area. Got to the narrow spot in the road north of the railroad watertank so parked and walked about a mile to the Volcanic Hills cache. Walked back to the truck and then back around and out via Mortero wash to Canyon Sin Nombre. Had lunch at the overlook and then drove down the canyon. Found the Cache Sin Nombre without any problem. Looks like this cache gets a lot of visitors. From there drove along Vallecito Creek back to S-2. Looped through Bow Willow camp just to see how busy it was and then drove up Indian Gorge to my usual campsite. Another nice still evening but the high clouds precluded much stargazing. Here are some pictures from the trip.
First day of a mini spring desert camping trip to the Anza-Borrego. Drove down via Hwy 86 and then in via Ocotillo and the south entrace. Drove up the Piedras Grandes road and then hiked to Zeke and Debi's Jacumba 3446 cache. Fairly steep hike but great views and a fun cache. After the hike i camped next to Piedras Grandes. Really nice afternoon and evening. Clear and no wind. Comet Ikeya-Zhang was bright with a nice tail. Venus was pretty too. Also found quite a few galaxies in the Ursa Major area through 10x42 binoculars: M81, M82, M51, M101, M63, M94, M106 and GC M3. (Could not see M97, M108 or M109.) Was surprised to find so many with the first-quarter moon in the sky. Also the lights of El Centro and Mexicali to the east are quite bright. Kind of pretty though. Here are some pictures from the trip.
Such cool March weather we are having. Snow on the mountains last night down to about the 5000 foot level. Very pretty this morning.
Make a quick dash hike up Shannon trail to get Wen's sweatshirt from yesterday.
Hike Shannon trail with Wen. Pretty day after all the wind.
Hike Araby trail up and down. Not a very pretty day. Very hazy. But any day i can hike is a good day. Working night shift does have advantages.
Went hiking this morning up the south Lykken trail from Oswit/Cahuilla canyon. Starting to get a bit warm. Right near the vista point where the picnic tables are is a hive of bees. Has been there a couple years. I was watching a whiptail lizard scurrying around outside the hive entrance chasing bees. It would catch one in it's mouth and then rub the stinger off on a rock before swallowing the bee head first. I watched him do this twice, both times nabbing a bee that had landed, scraping off the stinger, and swallowing the bee head first. Was amazing to watch.
Nice loop hike with Wen up Shannon trail and down Araby trail.
Make loop hike up Shannon trail and down Garstin.
Received my new Leica 10x32BN from Astronomics.com today. First impression this time was same as last time... wow, heavy. My Nikon 10x42 SE weigh in at 26 oz and the new Leicas at 24 oz. (Zeiss 10x25B are 6 oz!) These are very nice binoculars. The focusing is quick and the diopter adjustment is clever. Today was kind of a hazy day so first views outside were probably a bit off. Nice wide field. Wider than the Nikons. Image not quite as bright as the Nikons however, but that's to be expected with the smaller objective. Some simple star testing at night gave me sharper (less spiky) images than the Nikons. This is most likely due to the smaller exit pupil of the Leicas. Could definitely see fainter stars with the Nikons. Again, this was expected. I could just glimpse the dim little star between Mizar and Alcor in the handle of the Big Dipper with averted vision in the Leicas. With the Nikons i could hold the star steady with direct vision. But i didn't buy the Leicas for stargazing so this is fine. Thursday i took them hiking. This is what i bought them for. I didn't like the strap that came from Leica. Rubbery part in the middle, leather ends, Nylon webbing middle part. I also found the binoculars heavy against my chest. So i built a longer strap out of half-inch Nylon webbing and sliders. This let me carry the binos bandolier style over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. Worked very well on a steep desert trail. Out of the way, didn't bounce around, yet ready instantly. Also didn't notice the weight this way at all. Speaking of desert, this is where i live and hike. One tends to get hot, sweaty and dusty quite often. One's binoculars do as well. Will be really nice (and very strange) to rinse off the dust under the kitchen faucet. Just seems so weird to be able to put any pair of binoculars in the water. The Leica manual even tells you to do this if/when they get dirty! Something else i find i really like is the close focus of about 6 feet. I've a hummingbird feeder at my house and i can sit right under it and still focus on the hummers. Was also fun hiking today to zero in on lizards. Will be really nice the next time i encounter a rattle snake. Will be able to really see him up close while being out of striking range! After playing around for 24 hours i'm very happy with these Leicas. (First Leicas i've ever owned.) The only negatives might be their weight and of course the price. The Nikon 10x42 still fill their stargazing nitch as well. I'm spending a few days next week desert camping and hiking. Will give these binos a good workout!
Kai and i hiked up the Andreas Hills trail to Wildhorse junction. Another beautiful clear day. Kai even seemed to enjoy the hike!
Hike up Araby trail to Wildhorse junction then back on shortcut trail. Really nice clear day.
Comet Ikeya-Zhang was VERY easy tonight. Had much better skies without the haze of the last few days. Found at about 6:30pm local time with 10x42 Nikon SE. The core is bright and compact. At first thought was a star. Through 20x80 Orions can see a tail of maybe 1/4 degree. From a dark location i'm sure the tail would be very obvious and much longer. Even tried 10x25 Zeiss compacts and could still easily see the comet. Go out and look!!
Dash hike up to Cahuilla cache this morning. All's well. Weird hazy/windy day however.
I just came in from viewing the comet from backyard through somewhat hazy skies. Comet was visible in 10x42 binoculars and just barely showed a tail in 20x80 binoculars. Now that the moon is past full and we've a bit of dark evening sky it's a good time to start looking for comet Ikeya-Zhang again. It's visible in the western sky after sunset from most northern locations. Southern hemisphere might have a harder time.
Hiked up to the English Tom cache this morning and retrieved the Slug Bug traveler. Will relocated in another desert cache closer to Baja in a couple of weeks. For now he's drinking cervezas with me in Palm Springs.
Moon occultation of Saturn today. Took a peek from work with the little 8x30 binoculars i keep there. Could just barely glimpse Saturn along the northern dark limb of the moon at 3:15pm local Calif time. Wish i'd remembered to bring my good binoculars with me this morning. When i got home about 5:20pm local time the occultation was well over but moon and Saturn were very pretty in twilight sky through 10x42 Nikon SE binoculars. Almost thought i could split Saturn's rings. Looked again later after was dark but i think the view was actually better during twilight because there is less glare from the bright moon. Also eventually found comet Ikeya-Zhang over the mountains to the west through 16x70. Not much to see through the hazy skies and moonlight.
Fujinon 16x70mm FMT-SX binoculars arrive today. Yay! Won't be able to really test them properly for another couple of weeks when the moon is out of the sky.
Hiked to Ababy Hope cache the hard way straight up the canyon. Cleaned up some of the discarded lumber at the top. Sun was shining when i started but got cool and cloudy and even a very little bit of rain while i was out.
Built a bino-mirror mount to use with binoculars for stargazing. See my binocular page for more info and photos. Pretty view of Jupiter tonight nicely placed between two stars. Also can just barely see comet Ikeya-Zhang tonight in 20x80 binoculars through light of the 4 day old moon.
Hiked middle Lykken trail to Tahquitz Overlook cache. No visitors since Erik back in November. Wish more people would climb up here. It's a spectacular view.
Hiked Shannon trail to peak. Hid a little reflector in the rocks to bounce my laser off at night. Showed up quite bright from home over a mile away at night. Such fun!
Climbed Pyramid (Traverlers/Palm) Peak in the northern Anza-Borrego desert on Monday. It's the southern-most peak of the Santa Rosa mountains. There is some confusion (on my part) for the name of the peak. See my photos page for description and photos. I've wanted to climb this peak ever since i first visited the AB park years ago. Parked along S22 and approached peak from the south-west from near Truckhaven Rocks. Ridge was a bit tricky in parts. Pretty steep with a couple of sharp drop-offs. Definitely a 5 star hike. As i approached the summit i roused a herd of 16 or 17 bighorn sheep! They headed away on the northward ridge. Such great views all around from the top and was a perfect clear day. Could see many of my favorite campsites. Was spectacular. There is a "desert peaks" register at the top with entries going back quite a few years. Logged the peak as Travelers Peak geocache at Geocaching.com.
Venus is visible! First sight in the evening sky this year. Just came in from watching it set. I have mountains west of me so my horizon is quite high and sky was still bright. Sunset for a theoretical flat horizon for me today is 5:25pm. However sun actually went behind the ridge at 4:28pm. Venus set for me at about 4:55pm. Very easy to see in 10x42 binoculars and could just glimpse with naked eye. For people with a flat western horizon Venus should be very easy to see. Look about 20 minutes after your local sunset right above where the sun went below the horizon.
Loop hike up Garstin trail and down via Andreas Hills.
Just came in from viewing comet Ikeya-Zhang from my relatively light-polluted back yard. (See 2/2 entry below for more details.) Comet was fairly easy to see in 20x80 binoculars. Could just glimpse in 10x42 binos once i knew where to look. Not sure i would have found using the 10x42 alone. (From a dark site the comet is fairly easy in 10x42.) Looking forward to the comet getting brighter. However it's going to hug the western horizon and remain at basically the same elevation for the duration.
Hiked Araby trail up to my Araby Hope geocache this morning. Quite a change in the weather today. Warm and spring-like. A lot of people on the trail too. Most were middle-age couples. Must have passed about 30 people! Some kind of hiking club i think. Also removed some religious advertising near the cache that someone had erected out of old wood and painted white. Also carried down the empty spray paint can they left behind. If people are going to put up junk like this the least they can do is have the decency to remove their garbage.
Hike Shannon trail with Wen to Flag Over Palm Springs and back. Lovely bright clear day.
That i hadn't been able to see M74, M33 or NGC 891 from my yard recently really had me bugged. Between the casino lighting, the car dealerships, the night-lighted softball fields, and the billboards along the freeway my skies have really degraded over the last 10 years or so. Fortunately, north and east are vast areas of open dark desert. So after an early dinner i packed up my 20x80 and 10x42 binoculars, tripod, some charts, a warm coat and drove eastward on Interstate 10. About 50 miles out of the valley i exited and drove up a dirt road into the desert to an old concrete slab that i knew was there. What a difference 50 miles makes! Bright milky way overhead, stars everywhere (not just the bright ones), and this huge glow back westward from where home is. I'm amazed i can see anything from there! Set up the 20x80 binoculars on tripod and spread charts on the truck's tailgate. Here is a short list of what i saw... Comet Ikeya-Zhang (Easy in 20x80. Round and compact), M74 (Round with a nice soft glow in 20x80. Can see in 10x42 too with averted vision.), M33 (Big and easy in 20x80. Easy in 10x42 as well.), M31 (Huge in 20x80. Almost edge to edge of the 3.5 degree field. M110 very prominent as well.), NGC 891 (Very hard in 20x80.), NGC 925 (Almost gave up on this one until i realized it was there all along but looked like a star.), NGC 404 (Unable to locate.), M42 (Always good no matter the instrument.), M78 (Easy in both 20x80 and 10x42.) , NGC 2024 (Nice surprise for the evening! Very easy in 20x80. Dark dust lane quite prominent. Can also see the neb and the dust lane in the 10x42 which kind of surprised me.), M79 (Always liked this little PN down in Lepus all by itself. Compact and easy in 20x80. Quite plain in 10x42.), Horsehead neb (I always try for this when i'm looking at Orion but never see it. Tonight was no exception.) I was only out for a bit over an hour (i was cold, i'm a desert rat) but had a great time. My faith in galaxies has been restored... They are still there!
Dash hike up Cahuilla Canyon to upper boulder. Pretty clouds coming over the divide. It's suppose to rain tomorrow. Hope it does!
School track meet today.
Dash hike up the south Lykken to the vista point and back. Nice and sunny but a bit chilly with clouds coming over the Desert Divide.
New computer arrived today. Dell 4300S, Pentium 4 at 1.6GHz. Nice computer. Kai gets the old one for school work.
Great day out in the Anza-Borrego desert. First hiked to the Calcite Cave cache. What a spectacular spot. Wonderful views south and east. Can even see my Truckhaven campsite. Afterwards looked for the Oasis Kids cache near 17 Palms but didn't find this time. No problem... any day out on the desert is a good day. Here are some pictures of the day.
Left my Truckhaven campsite about 8:30am and drove over to Vallerie Jean's to meet some O.W.L. group members for a hike. We drove up Martinez Canyon, parked at the wilderness boundary, and then hiked about 1.5 miles to a small grove of Elephant Trees. This is the northern-most Elephant trees known to exist. Was a great warm sunny day. Brought back memories of when i hiked down this canyon from Pinyon Flats almost 20 years ago. I don't think i could do that hike again.
Drove down to the Anza-Borrego desert a bit after noon and visited the Ocotillo Island cache. I was the first visitor. Rather an odd cache though. Weird stuff in the coffee can including a baby diaper. At least the diaper was unused. Afterward drove over to my regular Truckhaven campsite. Had a perfect/still/quiet/sunny afternoon and a starfilled night. Here are some pictures of the trip. First camping trip of the year! Yay!
Hiked south Lykken from Cahuilla Canyon to vista point. Lovely nice clear day. Felt almost spring-like.
Just glimpsed Mercury this evening through binoculars after sunset. I have mountains west of me so Mercury was maybe 10 degrees above the theoretical horizon. Neptune was nearby but way too dim. Mercury will be climbing higher over the next week.
Morning hike up Araby trail, loop around over Smoketree mtn, Wildhorse junction, and back down Araby. Hid a Leatherman S2 Juice tool as a special mini cache prize for desert geocaching list members.
Tuesday, 1/1/2002, New Year's Day
Spent the first day of 2002 out east on the desert. Found the Carry Me Down cache near Desert Center and then i hid a new cache in Palen pass called Palen Far Side. The Palen pass area is spectacular. Followed the road till it met the Arlington mine road and then back. Felt like i had the entire desert to myself. What a great way to start a new year!