Florian's 2003 hiking and stargazing blog

Stargazer Home

Wednesday, 12/31/2003, Lykken Trail
Hike up and down the south Lykken trail. Beautiful sunny morning.

Sunday, 12/28/2003, LED update
I received the following email to day from a friend that is a Palm Springs fireman. For some history on the LED see blog entries from 7/7 and 9/7 below...
  From: "Dave"
  To: "Florian"
  Sent: Sunday, December 28, 2003 5:30 PM
  Subject: Re: Smoke Tree Mtn. light

  I was driving home about 5:30 PM (in my fire dept. vehicle, so I had
  the FD radio on) and I heard our battalion chief attempting to
  communicate with a CHP airplane.  Apparently he had called for an
  aircraft to fly over the south Palm Canyon area, to look for what
  to the CHP pilot, I thought about your light.

  I got on the radio and told the battalion chief about the light on
  Smoketree Mountain, but he was insistent that was not what he was
  seeing.  Of course, due to the direction it is aimed, the pilot could
  not see the light.  He flew around Palm Canyon for awhile, all the way
  to highway 74.  Our B/C insisted that it was a long way off, like down
  in the hwy. 74 area.

  The more I listened to his description, the more convinced I was that
  he was seeing the light.  However, since one of our sayings is: "You
  can always tell a chief, but you can't tell them much"  I knew it was
  pointless to attempt to further convince him.

  A couple of days later, I stood on the front steps of our headquarters
  station, on North El Cielo Rd. after dark and looked south toward Palm
  Canyon.  Sure enough, your light is clearly visible from that
  location.  I must admit that, without the information that I had, I
  could see where someone could think it was a light far up in south
  Palm Canyon, and fairly high on a hillside.  But, thanks to you, I
  knew better.

Sunday, 12/28/2003, Shannon Trail
Quick hike up and down the Shannon. Was cold last night... below freezing. But today in the sunshine was good for hiking except for the shady parts of the trail. Brrrrr...

Saturday evening, 12/27/2003, 10" from the backyard
Comet C/2002 T7, M33, NGC 404, M31, M32, M110, M1, M38, NGC 1907, M36, M37, M35, NGC 2158, NGC 2392.

Sunday evening, 12/21/2003, Desert stargazing
Drove a little farther east this evening searching for dark skies. Set up the 4" f/6 and 16x70mm binoculars in the Palen valley north of Desert Center. Nice open desert site east of Joshua Tree National Park. Pretty picture of Venus over the Coxcomb mountains. About as far from major light sources as one can get in southern California. Still, the sky wasn't exactly pristine. Quite a bit of skyglow still visible in the west. Also the light dome of Las Vegas was visible far to the north. As a test of sky transparency M33 was directly overhead and i do think i could just barely glimpse it naked eye. Comet C/2002 T7 fits in the same 30x field with M33. Hard to say but comet looked a bit fan-shaped. Something i'd really hoped to see tonight was the Horsehead in Orion. I charted the starfield very carefully but it seems to be out of reach with the 4". Tried with and without UHC. NGC 2024 Flame neb quite easy as well as 2023. 2024 actually more noticeable in the 16x binos.

Saturday, 12/20/2003, Joshua Tree day trip
Just a little morning trip to JT. Cottonwood entrance to the visitor center, drove through the campground, Pinkham canyon road a couple miles then back. Bit overcast but nice to be out. I thought there would be more people in the park but the campground only had a few sites occupied and the roads were not busy at all. I picked up a few cans and bottles along the main road. But only a few! Good to see that maybe some of the slobs haven't been trashing the place.

Thursday evening, 12/18/2003, Asteroid Ceres
Asteroid Ceres is very well placed in the east in Gemini just south of Pollux. Very easy to find and see in the 4" f/6. Also found planetary nebula NGC 2392, the Eskimo neb, with the 4". The neb is just south of a little 8 mag star which it forms a nice "double" with. And of course i had to check out comet Comet C/2002 T7. Still not much to see but at least i'm getting pretty good at finding it on the first try.

Tuesday evening, 12/16/2003, Backyard stargazing
Took the 10" f/5 out in the backyard tonight. Spent some time exploring the Orion Nebula, M42 and its companion M43. Tried to pick out some of the dimmer stars in the Trapezium but Orion was still fairly low in the east with some turbulence. Need to try again when it's closer to transit. M78 in Orion and M79 in Lepus. Open clusters M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga and M35 and NGC 2158 in Gemini. M1 in Taurus. Saturn. Comet C/2002 T7 in Triangulum. Lastly swung way down toward the south-west for galaxy NGC 253 and globular NGC 288 in Sculptor. 253 was quite nice even down so low. Large and very elongated. 288 quite a bit harder but visible as a large difuse glow.

Monday evening, 12/15/2003, Backyard stargazing
Nice clear skies so took the 4" f/6 out in the backyard tonight. Was out from about 8pm to 9:40pm. Just some casual wandering from memory... Open clusters M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga. M35 in Gemini. M1 in Taurus. Saturn. Comet C/2002 T7 in Triangulum. Mars. M31, M32 and M110. NGC 404 just barely i think. M42 and and Trapezium. M78. M79. Sirius.

Monday, 12/15/2003, Mercury from work
This afternoon the sky was really clear and as i was leaving work about 5:10pm i remembered that Mercury was a bit below and to the right of Venus. I was about to run back to my office and get the binoculars i keep there but then i stopped and looked and i could just pick out Mercury over the mountains a few minutes before it set. If i'd gone back for the binos Mercury would have set by the time i got back. Venus of course was there too and very bright.

Sunday evening, 12/14/2003, Another look at Comet C/2002 T7
Visited comet C/2002 T7 with the 10" f/5 again. Nearby M33 is large and very faint. Also open cluster NGC 752 large and pretty much fills the 60x field.

Sunday, 12/14/2003, Araby Trail
Hiked up and down the Araby trail with Wen. Air a bit cool.

Saturday evening, 12/13/2003, Comet C/2002 T7
Quick peek at comet C/2002 T7 with the 10" f/5. So much easier than with the 4". What a difference 6 inches makes!

Saturday, 12/13/2003, Garstin trail
Hiked Garstin trail, over Smoketree peak, Wildhorse junction, back down Garstin. Bit cool and overcast. Not many people out hiking today.

Wednesday evening, 12/10/2003, Comet C/2002 T7
Very brief window between darkness and moonrise this evening. Using the 4" f/6 tried for comet C/2002 T7 now in Triangulum in the east. Starting with the 20mm for 30x i wasn't able to find the comet. Switching to the 13mm for 46x can just glimpse this dim little guy. I've fairly bright skyglow in the east that didn't help. Also the moon was about 15 minutes from rise. Hoping to get out of town and out on the desert this weekend for some darker skies.

Sunday, 12/7/2003, Anza-Borrego day trip
Spent a few hours in the Anza-Borrego desert this morning. Bit breezy but the clouds were pretty. Visited Truckhaven cache. Some guy had his truck stuck in a washout along the Calcite Mine road. He'd walked to the highway. I gave him a ride back and with the help of someone's Jeep he got winched out no problem. I forgot to ask where he was headed with that surf board! He looked like a surfer too... aloha shorts and beach sandles. Was a nice guy. Just a bit out of place on the desert i think. Pictures here.

Saturday, 12/6/2003, Shannon dash
Quick hike up and down the Shannon trail this morning.

Tuesday, 12/2/2003, South Lykken trail
Quick morning hike up the south Lykken to vista point and back. Beautiful sunny clear day. Quite warm actually.

Monday late night, 12/1/2003, Comet C/2002 T7
Viewed comet C/2002 T7 LINEAR again with the 4" f/6 from my backyard around 1am. Comet is maybe just a tad brighter than on 11/25 (see below) as it seemed easier in the 20mm (30x). Also the sky seemed a bit better this time too. This little guy still isn't doing much (yet?) for small scopes from town.

Sunday, 11/30/2003, Tahquitz Overlook
Hiked up the middle Lykken trail to my Tahquitz Overlook geocache with Wen and Kai. Kai had never been up this trail nor to the cache before. Here are a few pictures from the hike.

Thursday evening, 11/27/2003, Comet Encke for the last time again
Could just see Encke with the 4" again this evening. I'm pretty sure tonight was the real last time.

Wednesday evening, 11/26/2003, Comet Encke for the last time
Just came in from the backyard after viewing comet Encke with my 4" f/6 Orion refractor. Somewhat hazy suburban skies tonight made the comet just barely visible above the background skyglow. With the brightening moon and Encke diving lower daily this will probably be my last view of it during this approach.

Tuesday late night, 11/25/2003, Comet C/2002 T7
Brought out the 10" f/5 after working night shift. Comet C/2002 T7 high in the west about 1am. Comet still just a little round fuzzball but it's easy to see through the city skyglow. With the 20mm widescan at 60x the comet and open cluster NGC 1342 fit in the same field. For comparison i also brought out the 4" f/6. Using the same 20mm for 30x the comet is a bit hard to pick out. With the 13mm for 46x comet is easily seen.

Tuesday, 11/25/2003, Cahuilla Canyon
Quick morning hike up Cahuilla canyon to the geocache. Someone left a neat metal @-sign paperweight in the cache. I took it but felt kind of guilty since i didn't bring anything to trade. Maybe being the cache owner gives me special privelege? Next time i visit the cache i'll bring something good.

Sunday evening, 11/23/2003, Comet Encke
Such a difference 50 miles make. Encke just visible in the 4" f/6 from the backyard. Last night from Desert Center was so easy. Also, when i first went out, i glanced up toward the south and saw a VERY bright Iridium flare. Was dazzlingly bright. HeavensAbove shows it as mag -7!!! (Not sure that HeavensAbove link will stay active.) And i know my cold-weather friends will laugh at me, but it was 46°F outside tonight and that's damn cold.

Saturday evening, 11/22/2003, Stargazing from Desert Center
The morning's high winds seemed to die down for the most part by mid-afternoon. After sunset i headed out east from Palm Springs toward Desert Center. Arrived at the same area i used last weekend about 5:30pm. Quite a bit more wind here than at home. Pointed the CR-V into the wind and hunkered down behind it with the Orion 4" (100mm) f/6 AstroView. I'd planned to use the Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars but decided not to set up the UniMount in the wind.

Comet Encke just below the Coathanger asterism high in the west. Coathanger itself is obvious naked eye object. The comet is easy in the 10x42mm binoculars. Through the 4" at 30x comet seems a bit fan-shaped. Originally the comet seemed to have a bit of a star-like core but later in the evening after the comet had moved i realized this was a background star.

Comet C/2002 T7 over in Perseus is quite dim and small in comparison to Encke. Last week through the 10" f/5 it really stood out. Tonight however through the 4" it's rather unimpressive. Forms a little straight line with two stars with the comet being on one end of the line. Open cluster NGC 1342 is a bit above the comet. Two nights from now the comet will be in this cluster!

Tried for comet C/2001 HT50 in Aries but it was beyond reach of the 4". While searching for the comet i briefly visited M74.

Swinging south now to try for some of those galaxies that gave me trouble from home on Thursday night. NGC 55 is a diffuse streak of light. Its elongated shape almost makes it look like it's a shooting across the field. From the dark skies it's also visible in the 10x42 binos! Panning left a bit NGC 300 is also visible as a small round diffuse glow. Reminds me of a small M33. I can also glimpse this in the 10x binos.

Galaxy NGC 253 is very bright, very elongated. Brighter toward center. Quite impressive. Below and left is globular NGC 288. Round, fairly bright. With the 13mm eyepiece giving about 46x it almost seems a bit granular but does not really resolve. When using the 20mm eyepiece both objects fit nicely in the 30x field. Both of these objects are also quite easy through the 10x binoculars.

Last object over here in this part of the sky is galaxy NGC 247. Of the five objects i've looked at in the area this is the dimmest of them all. Through the 4" it's a very dim elongated smudge. Long dimension is oriented vertically. This is the only one not visible in 10x binoculars.

Took a quick peek at M81/M82 low toward the north-east. These two galaxies are about as high above the northern horizon as NGC 55 was above the southern horizon. Nice in the 4". Packed up around 8:00pm with Orion rising and the wind becoming quite annoying.

Saturday, 11/22/2003, Shannon Trail
Shannon trail to peak and back. Another nice clear day. Cool air.

Thursday evening, 11/20/2003, Searching for southern galaxies
Backyard again with the 100mm f/6 refractor. Trying for a few galaxies way south in Sculptor. I wasn't very successful. Unable to locate NGC 55 or 300. No luck either with NGC 247 up a bit in Cetus. Back in Sculptor galaxy NGC 253 is the first object i can see. Its elongated shape visible but unimpressive. Nearby can just barely detect globular NGC 288. Skies just weren't very good tonight. I have seen these last two objects from home in 16x70mm binos on a good night. Tonight wasn't one of those nights.

Wednesday evening, 11/19/2003, Encke from home
Viewing from the backyard tonight with 100mm f/6 refractor. Didn't actually check the naked-eye limiting mag but it's usually around 4.5. Started in Sagitta with M71. Rather hard but it's visible without doubt. Hopped over to M27, the Dumbbell. Much brighter. Easy to see. At 30x can tell it's a bit of a pinched oval. From M27 just a bit to the right and down (north and west) to Encke's field. Hmm... difficult. Very difficult, but it is there. Very very dim, and maybe a tad larger than M27, but i can see it. Next checked out comet C/2002 T7. So different. Where Encke is large and very faint, T7 is a tiny little fuzzball. Both comets were quite hard through the skyglow. But still fun to see them from home. But nothing at all like the view Sunday night from the dark desert.

Tuesday, 11/18/2003, Araby Trail
Hiked Araby trail to my Araby Hope geocache. Really pretty morning. One of the few advantages of working the night shift is i get to hike on nice mornings like this!

Sunday evening, 11/16/2003, Two comets from Desert Center
Took my 10" f/5 dob, Fujinon 16x70 and Nikon 10x42 SE binoculars out on the open desert near Desert Center. The last time i saw Encke was three weeks ago. What a difference three weeks makes! I found the field in the Telrad and went to the eyepiece of the 10" to see if i could pick out the comet. Wow! Big and bright. Very easy. Was unable to pick out any sort of tail however. The view through the 16x70 binos was very nice. Was even fairly easy through the 10x42 binos! Comet C/2002 T7 is much smaller than Encke. Quite easy in the 10" dob but harder to tell from a star with the 16x70 binos. However once i'd identified the comet with the telescope i could see it well with the 16x binos. With the 10x42 binos i couldn't tell the comet from dim field stars. When i first saw the comet in the 10" it formed a straight between two dim stars. Revisiting later in the evening the straight line became a little equilateral triangle. Encke's position also changed during the evening. Neat!

This site is a bit farther east than my regular Cottonwood site in the Joshua Tree national park and the skyglow from the Coachella valley was much less noticable. An added plus is the cell phone works from this location in case i need it. To gage the sky darkness i attempted to see M33 with naked eye. I may have just glimpsed it. Not sure. Also tried for the California Neb but no luck. Did not try with a filter. But M74 was rather easy to see in the 16x binos and was just visible in the 10x. I shall venture a bit farther north and east next time in search of darker skies...

Sunday, 11/16/2003, Cahuilla Canyon
Hiked Cahuilla Canyon to upper boulder with Wen and Kai. Lovely clear sunny bright day. Air nice and cool.

Friday, 11/14/2003, Garstin loop hike
Hiked up Garstin trail, through middle plateau to top of Araby trail, back across Araby creek, over Smoketree mtn, and back down Garstin. Nice loop hike. Everything fresh after this week's rains.

Thursday, 11/13/2003, No can dew comet Encke
After yesterday's rain tonight looked nice and clear. Also the moon won't be rising till after 8pm so have a couple hour window of darkness. Set up the 10" dob before dinner. After dinner went out to find it dripping wet from dew. I'm a desert boy. I don't do dew! Had to dry out the Telrad with a hair dryer before i could see anything. I'd hoped to find comet Encke which is around mag 8.5 but would not locate through the city skyglow.

Wednesday, 11/12/2003, Rain!
Rain started in the early morning hours and kept up for most of the day. Very nice.

Saturday, 11/8/2003, Eagle Canyon
While Kai was at Taekwondo for an hour this morning i made a quick loop hike up the Dunn road, through Eagle Canyon, and back.

Thursday, 11/6/2003, Easy Venus
As i was leaving work about 5pm this evening Venus caught my eye setting over the mountains. The planet is becoming quite bright and easy in the evening sky.

Tuesday, 11/4/2003, Shannon trail
Nice hike up and down the Shannon trail. Kind of chilly in the shade even.

Sunday night, 11/2/2003, M33 in binos from home
Worked the night shift tonight and got home a bit after midnight. Stood outside for a while just looking around with 10x42mm binoculars. To my amazement i could actually see the Pinwheel galaxy M33 with the binoculars as a hazy patch of sky! I was quite surprised. Once in a while things just work.

Sunday, 11/2/2003, South Lykken trail
Up and down the south Lykken trail with Wen. Really pretty morning. Cool air, warm sun, puffy clouds.

Saturday, 11/1/2003, Coxcombs
Spent the day out on the desert east. I had a goal of finding some remote darksky stargazing sites. My regular darksky site at Cottonwood Spring is getting more and more skyglow from the Coachelle Valley. Did some exploring along the eastern side of the Coxcomb Mountains north of Desert Center. Found a good site at the old WW2 army training camp. Wide open desert just a bit off of Hwy 177 should be very dark at night. Also found a secondary site off of the Eagle Mountain road closer to Desert Center. Hope to return to one of these sites in a couple of weeks after the moon is out of the evening sky. Have some pictures of the Coxcombs here.

Monday, 10/27/2003, Eagle Canyon hike
Started at Vons and hiked up the Dunn road to Eagle Canyon palms. Painted over some graffiti.

Saturday night, 10/25/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Spent the evening at the Cottonwood trailhead with 10" f/5 dob and 4" f/6 refractor. Bit breezy but not so much to be disruptive. Skies were okay, maybe Bortle class 4. Seems the skyglow from the Coachella Valley gets brighter every time. Sigh. Saw two comets! Able to just barely spot comet 2P/Encke near M31. Quite diffuse and dim with no core seen. Also comet C/2002 T7 in Auriga. Using the 4" refractor at 30x with a UHC filter i could "detect" the California nebula by panning back and forth over the field. Without the UHC i saw nothing. Other objects viewed tonight included NGC 6842 (dim and diffuse), Minkowski's Footprint (small and starlike), NGC 6946, NGC 6939, NGC 1003, NGC 1023 (bright, visible in 4" as well), NGC 1778 (near comet T7), NGC 6834, NGC 470, NGC 474, NGC 488, NGC 520, NGC 7814, and NGC 14 (very faint). I left the trailhead about 11pm and decided to drive farther into the park just to check the skies. Stopped at the Porcupine Wash trailhead. Skyglow from the Coachella Valley seems considerably less from here. On the other hand, can see Las Vegas glow to the north but it's too far away to bother things much. May try stargazing from this site sometime. Only problem is it's near the main road.

Saturday, 10/25/2003, South Lykken
Hiked up and down the south Lykken trail to vista point. Warm Santa Ana winds.

Monday, 10/21/2003, Miscellaneous astro ramblings
Today about noon i noticed the sky was a very nice deep blue. I also remembered that Venus is slowly moving away from the sun and might be visible now in daylight. Sure enough, standing in the shade of my house i could easily see Venus through 10x42 binoculars about 16° to the left and below the sun. Tried to spot naked eye but couldn't quite pick it out. Later in the day from work i again saw Venus, this time naked eye, as it set over the mountains. Later in the evening, also from work, i checked out bright Mars and nearby Uranus with 10x50 binos. Getting home from work a bit after midnight i set up the 10" f/5 dob in the backyard and tracked down comet LINEAR C2002 T7. Was just barely visible in my mag 4.5 backyard skies at about 100x as a small round patch. The comet is still very dim (10.9 mag) and you'll need fairly detailed charts to locate. Looking forward to watching it brighten over the next few months. I do like comets! Rounded out the day with Saturn rising in the east.

Saturday, 10/18/2003, Shannon Trail
Hike halfway up Shannon trail. I think i'm coming down with a cold and just didn't feel like going any farther.

Sunday evening, 10/12/2003, ISS and trying for a dim galaxy
Had a perfect pass of the International Space Station about 6:55pm this evening. Really bright and went directly overhead. Passed just left of Mars and was equal brightness. After end of twilight, and before moonrise, had about a 2 minute window of darkness. Tried for galaxy 6946 in Cygnus with the 10" dob. I think it's out of reach from my home skies. But i did see nearby open cluster 6939 in Cepheus.

Sunday, 10/12/2003, Garstin to Vons
Hiked Garstin trail, across middle plateau to upper Eagle canyon, out via Dunn road to Vons. Tried to remove a bit of graffiti near Eagle canyon with a wire brush but wasn't very successful. May return someday and try to paint over it.

Saturday, 10/11/2003, Cahuilla Canyon
Hike Cahuilla Canyon to upper boulder. Someone's been doing some trail improvement up the canyon. I rather preferred it the old unimproved way.

Wednesday, 10/8/2003, Evening Venus
Venus setting over the mtns a few minutes after 6pm. Easy to see in binoculars but still can't quite see naked eye.

Tuesday, 10/7/2003, Araby Trail
Up and down the Araby trail.

Saturday, 10/4/2003, Shannon Trail
Nice hike up the Shannon trail to peak with Wen. Didn't start hike till about 9am and although it was a bit warm when we got back about 10:40am it wasn't bad. Seems the heat of the summer is over.

Friday late night, 10/03/2003, Backyard stargazing
Still trying to find comet
C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) in Auriga. Went out about 2am with the 10" f/5. Wasn't the best of nights with some haze. However, i think i could actually pick out the comet this time. Very small and faint but i could hold the image constituently at about 100x. Not much to look at. Maybe another month will help. Nearby cluster M36 is pretty. Can also see NGC 1931 quite plainly. Some other objects were open clusters M38 and M37 in Auriga, galaxy M74 in Pisces (really faint), galaxy M77 in Cetus (bright core) and Saturn in Gemini. Cassini division in rings quite prominent.

Monday late night, 9/29/2003, Backyard stargazing
Spent about an hour out in the backyard after working night shift with the 10" f/5 dob. Mostly visited some high northern Messier clusters: M39 in Cygnus is large and bright. Tried for NGC 7082 nearby but couldn't really tell it was a cluster or not. There is a nice little circlet of stars just SW of 7082 that's pretty. M52 in Cassiopeia is fairly small but quite pretty. NGC 7510 and OCL 257 (Markarian 50) were also visible. Also in Cas M103 is a tight triangle of stars. Nearby found NGC 654, 659, 663 and OCL 328 (Trumpler 1). M34 in Perseus is large with some interesting patterns of stars. Last object was M76 in Perseus. The Little Dumbbell neb. Showed up very well actually. Was a bit surprised in that the skies were not that dark. At 100x with the UHC it really stood out. Just north and east of the nebula is a tight little hook of stars and a bit farther north and west is another nice circlet.

Monday, 9/29/2003, South Lykken
Quick hike up and down the south Lykken. Still pretty darn hot and no cans this time.

Saturday late night, 9/27/2003, Looking for a comet
Set the 10" f/5 dob up in the backyard about 3am. Was hoping to spot comet
C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) in Auriga but at mag 11.2 and my mediocre backyard skies the comet was out of reach. [Actually, i did almost think i could detect something but i'm not going to count it.] Took the opportunity to catch a few Messier clusters... M36, M37, M38, M35, M45 (Pleadies with the Merope nebula actually visible) and M1 (Crab Nebula).

Saturday evening, 9/27/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Spent a few hours at Cottonwood with Kai. I was using the 10" f/5 dob and Kai the 4" f/6 refractor. Not wanting to tax Kai's patience too much we only stayed till about 10pm before driving home.
» 6723, GC, Sagittarius - Nice globular just north of Corona Australis. Resolves a bit.
» 6726, 6727, 6729, DN, Corona Australis - Very interesting group of nebulas. A wide double star surrounded by nebula and then off to the side a bit is a double nebula. I didn't have a detailed finder chart to actually identify each object exactly.
» M55, GC, Sagittarius - Nice soft glow of stars.
» 6822, EG, Sagittarius - Barnard's Galaxy - The galaxy is very large but very dim. Hard to see. Seems a bit irregular in shape. PN 6818 is round and bright off the northern edge of the galaxy.
» M75, GC, Sagittarius - Small. Condensed.
» 6907, Capricornus - Pretty dim.
» 7009, PN, Capricornus - Saturn Nebula - Still can't see the Saturn-like shape.
» M72 and M73 - Visited in passing.
» Neptune - Bit of a bluish tint. Quite star-like.
» Uranus - Showed a bit of a disk.
» Mars - South polar cap and a bit of surface markings visible. Still really bright!
» 7293, PN, Aquarius - Helix - Looked pretty good tonight.
» 7184, EG, Aquarius - Elongated.
» 7410, EG, Grus - Showed up pretty well but was way down low in the SE sky.

Friday, 9/26/2003, Anza-Borrego day two
Left campsite about 8am and probably spent too much time picking up cans and bottles along the main road between Canebrake and the Sweeney Grade. Filled 3 large trash bags. (Sigh.) Drove home through the park and arrived home a bit after noon.
I have a few pictures online.

Thursday, 9/25/2003, Anza-Borrego camping and stargazing
Drove down to the Anza-Borrego desert Thursday morning via the south entrance. On the way drove through the Yuha desert and poked along the US/Mexico border a bit. A border patrol agent was at first a bit suspicious of me but once he realized i was harmless he suggested a good side road for a nice view. Stopped for gas in Ocotillo and then up to my regular site along the Indian Gorge road. Nice warm night with no wind. Had the 100mm f/6 scope for some casual stargazing. Wasn't the best of skies. Some haze and the bright skyglow from Mexicali didn't help. Viewed the following objects... Mars, Uranus, NGC 457, M31 (Andromeda galaxy) with M32 and M110, M81 and M82 very low to the north, M30, NGC 7293 (Helix), M72, M73, NGC 7009 (Saturn neb), M2, M15, NGC 6822 (Barnard's galaxy), M38, NGC 1907, M36, NGC 1931. Tried for comet Linear C/2002 T7 near M36 in Auriga but at mag 11.3 was beyond the reach of the 100mm and the sky conditions. I was able to see a bit of the California nebula (NGC 1499) with the UCH filter. The Pleiades (M45) and Merope nebula were better without the UHC. Orion neb and M78. And pretty Saturn to top things off.

Sunday evening, 9/21/2003, M102
Found M102 (aka NGC 5866) in Draco with the 10" f/5 from the backyard. Tried for the nearby NGC 5709. This is an extremely elongated galaxy and even though it's large it's very faint. I think i could just detect something but not really enough to count.

Saturday evening, 9/20/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Nice evening in site 12B with the 10" f/5 dob. Drove home before midnight.
» Uranus - Easy in scope and 10x42 binoculars. Might just barely be able to glimpse naked eye. Not sure at mag 7.9
» 7251, EG, Aquarius - Galaxy is almost in the same field as Mars. Very faint. A bit better at 100x.
» 7662, PN, And - The Blue Snowball - Bright and round. I don't think i can see the blue color however.
» 1, EG, Peg - NGC number one. Not much of a starting place. Very dim. Very hard to see. But i can see it! Nearby NGC 16 is quite a bit easier. NGC 22 is also nearby but it's as hard as #1.

Saturday, 9/20/2003, Shannon trail
Up and down the Shannon trail to Smoke Tree mtn. Still pretty hot. Tried to re-aim the
LED light a bit so i could see it better from home.

Tuesday, 9/16/2003, South Lykken cleanup
Hiked about halfway up the south Lykken and noticed a beer can about 50 feet down off the side of the trail. Climbed down to pick it up and ended up finding a total of 6 aluminum cans and one plastic water bottle on my little cleanup detour. People are slobs.

Sunday, 9/14/2003, Henderson trail again
Hiked from the Shannon trailhead to Garstin trailhead via Henderson trail and back.

Saturday, 9/13/2003, Anza-Borrego day trip
First time out on the Anza-Borrego desert after the summer. Still pretty warm. Just wandering around the northern part of the park a bit... Truckhaven Trail (
road is washed out just west of campsite), Arroyo Salado, Ella Wash, Palo Verde Wash, Short Wash (evidence of lots of water from summer rains), and lunch stop along Font Wash. Picked up 3 boxes of cans and bottles along S-22 on the way out.

Wednesday evening, 9/10/2003, Venus is back!
Watched the planet Venus set over the San Jacinto mtns west of Palm Springs at about 6:20pm local time. Easily seen in Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars and Orion 100mm f/6 refractor. Also visible in Leica 10x32mm binoculars. Venus is back in the evening sky! (Yay!) A bit later went out to see Mars in the east being followed by a full moon.

Tuesday, 9/9/2003, Henderson trail
Easy hike along Palm Canyon wash and the Henderson trail. Picked up a big bouquet of helium ballons that had gotten away from someone.

Sunday evening, 9/7/2003, Barkyard stargazing with a bright moon
Moon is a few day before full but the air was nice and clear today so set up the 10" for a short session before going to bed. Open clusters 6910 and M29 in Cygnus, 457 in Cassiopeia, and IC 1396 in Cetus. Galaxy 7331 in Pegasus sort of surprised me in being visible through the bright moonlight. The Ring nebula M57 in Lyra and M13 in Hercules.

Sunday, 9/7/2003, Shannon trail
Hiked up the Shannon trail to Smoketree Mtn and back. Really a nice day. Still pretty warm but clear and not muggy. First really nice desert hike of the season. Some readers of my blog may remember a hike a few months ago where i discovered a solar powered LED light along this trail. (See entry from 7/7
below for details.) I don't know who originally placed the light but i took the liberty to reposition it up near the peak today and pointed it toward my house!

Saturday, 9/6/2003, South Lykken trail
Dash hike up and down south Lykken to the vista point and back.

Tuesday night, 9/2/2003, Searching for NGC 1
Went out in the backyard with the 10" from about 12:45am to 1:30am. My goal was to see if i could spot NGC 1, a mag 13.7 galaxy in Pegasus, from town. This is the order of events...
» NGC 1, EG, Peg - Unable to locate.
» NGC 16, EG, Peg - 16 is in the same field as 1. At mag 13.2 it's just a bit brighter. It's pretty darn faint but i got a positive ID on this one.
» M74, EG, Pisces - After a few pans across the area picked it out reliably. Very faint. I was unable to locate this one a few nights ago but tonight it was there. If i can see this one from home i've no doubt i'll be able to see all the Messiers from home!
» M77, EG, Cetus - Quite easy. Bright core and dim "halo" make it quite easy to spot even in the skyglow toward the southeast.
» NGC 1 and 16 part two - Revisited the field to verify. 16 is for sure. And 1 i almost thought i could detect something. Might just be on the borderline of detectability. I'm not sure enough to say i actually could see it however.

Monday, 9/1/2003, Araby Trail
Quick morning hike up and down the Araby trail.

Saturday night, 8/30/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Stargazing from the Cottonwood Spring trailhead parking lot with 10" f/5 dob and 16x70 Fujinon binoculars. Bruce was there when i arrived and Stephen arrived a bit later. There were also a few other stargazers set up.
» Started with mostly open clusters in Cygnus...
» 6910, OC, Cyg - Just north of Sadr. "Y" shaped. Another perfect Y of dim stars at center.
» 6866, OC, Cyg.
» 6811, OC, Cyg - Somewhat triangular shape. Open center with no stars.
» 6826, PN, Cyg - Blinking Planetary - Doesn't really blink but with direct vision the neb disappears and i can see the central star. With the UHC the neb stands out but can't see the central star with direct vision.
» 6833, PN, Cyg - Unable to locate. Can't tell the neb from background stars.
» IC 5146, OC and neb, Cyg - Cocoon Nebula - Faint. Fairly large. Couldn't see any real structure.
» Some open clusters in Cassiopeia...
» 7790 and 7788.
» 7789, OC, Cas - Very nice. Lots of faint stars forms a soft glow. Seems to be some arcs of dark lanes concentric with center of cluster. Very interesting.
» 129, OC, Cas - 3 brighter stars with fainter background stars.
» 225, OC, Cas - Sparse. Maybe a dozen stars.
» 281, OC with neb, Cas - Cluster is 3 stars with a couple extra on either side. There is also associated neb. Somewhat like a small dim version of the Orion neb.
» 457, OC, Cas - ET Cluster
» M103, OC, Cas
» Trumpler 1, OC, Cas - Perfect tiny straight line of 4 stars.
» 663 and 659, OC, Cas - Both fit nicely in same field with 663 being about 4 times larger.
» 637, OC, Cas.
» 896, DN, Cas - Just detectable without filter. Shows up pretty well with UHC. Seems to have two sort of lobes or halves. Nearby are also IC 1805 and NGC 1027.
» M76, PN, Perseus - Little Dumbbell - Looks just like the big Dumbbell only smaller. A lot smaller. Still hard to see in 16x binos.
» M74, EG, Pisces - Round, faint. No detail seen. Dim for a Messier. No wonder i couldn't find from home the other night.
» Some dim galaxies in Aries...
» 680, EG, Ari - I see two galaxies here. Twins. [Checking SkyTools the next day i find that the unidentified galaxy is 678 at mag 13.3.]
» 691, EG, Ari - Below 680 and more difuse.
» 697, EG, Ari - On other side of a mag 6 star from the last couple. All 4 of these fit nicely in the 20mm Widescan field with star 1 Aries in the middle.
» 1156, EG, Ari - Round soft glow with a dim star on its edge.
» In Triangulum now...
» M33, EG, Tri - Pinwheel Galaxy - Very large. Oval shape. Bit of a condensed core. North of cente ryet within the galaxy is what looks like a little globular. Not sure what this is. [Checking resources the next day i find this is an HII region known as NGC 604.]
» 777, EG, Tri - Small and dim.
» 750, EG, Tri - Ditto.
» 784. EG, Tri - Really faint. Seems maybe a bit elongated.
» 890, EG, Tri - Nother small dim one.
» 925, EG, Tri - This one is a bit different. Fairly large. Round. Almost looks like it resolves into stars. Granular. Weird for a galaxy.
» Some objects to the south in Cetus...
» 246, PN and 255, EG - The planetary looks more like a sparse cluster of 3 or 4 stars with neb. The galaxy is just very dim.
» Bunch of galaxies around a 6 mag star in Cetus... 584, 596, 600, 615 and 636. All are pretty dim. Some moreso than others.
» M77, EG, Cet - More like a globular than a galaxy. Round with condensed core.
» 1055, EG, Cet - Near M77.
» Side trip to Sculptor...
» 55, EG, Scl - Large. Very elongated. Quite impressive. Too bad it's so far south. Nice in 16x binoculars.
» 300, EG, Scl - Large. Oval shape. Fairly dim. Has 4 dim stars superimposed. Almost easier in 16x binos.
» Back to Cetus...
» 247, EG, Cet - Large yet dim. Elongated.
» 253, EG, Cet - Sculptor Galaxy - Wow! Very bright. Very elongated. Can see some dust lanes in the 10". Beautiful object.
» 288, GC, Cet - Nice big globular. Resolves a bit. Can just barely squeeze 288 and 253 in to the same field with 30mm Ultrawide.
» Capella - Last object i looked at was this star high in the north east. It was incredibly bright. A searing white. Was absolutely stunning. Staring at the star i got to thinking... is there any chance the light from bright stars when viewed through a telescope can cause eye damage? I'm pretty sure there is no chance of eye damage but it was SO bright! I could cup my hand behind the eyepiece and hold Capella's light in the palm of my hand.
» Around 3am everyone had left the area except me. Nice and quiet now. Packed up my stuff and drove over to the campground to sleep for a bit before driving home after sunrise. Sometime around 4:30am i woke to see a bright Zodiacal Light column.

Saturday, 8/30/2003, Last tramway hike of the summer
Loop hike from tramway to Round Valley then high trail to Hidden Lake. Basically the reverse of Thursday's hike. Still some water in Hidden Lake but no frogs. Wen came this time using Kai's summer pass. The pass expires tomorrow so no more tram rides till next summer.

Friday night, 8/29/2003, Backyard stargazing
Went out in the backyard from about midnight to 1am with the 10" f/5. Not a great night but the Milky Way was just barely visible. A few more Messier objects for the list... M31 in Andromeda with its satellites M32 and M110. M32 was easy but M110 much harder through the skyglow. Open clusters M52 and M103 in Cassiopeia and M34 in Perseus. Planetary M76, the Little Dumbbell in Perseus, was easier than i was expecting it to be. This was a very hard object during my binocular survey. The UHC filter helped on this one. The Pinwheel M33 in Triangulum was a bit hard to find but once i panned across it it was plainly see in the 20mm Widescan. Tried for the M74 galaxy in Pisces but this one eluded me. The area was still east of overhead and getting too much skyglow from Cathedral City. Will need to try again in a few months when it's to the west.

Thursday, 8/28/2003, Tramway loop hike
Loop hike from tramway south to high trail then to Round Valley trail and back. Overcast and a bit cool with fog blowing through in places. Looks like it rained a lot the day before.

Wednesday evening, 8/27/2003, Mars close approach
Today the planet Mars is closer to the Earth than it's been in almost 60,000 years. I set up a collection of my scopes to celebrate the event. Had the 10" f/5 dob, old orange Celestron-8 f/10, 100mm f/6 refractor and 16x70mm binoculars. Invited some neighbors over for a look too. I think the best (at least my favorite) view of Mars was through the 100mm refractor. Image was bigger in the 10" with a bit more detail but almost too bright and the diffraction spikes from the secondary holder are distracting. The C8 view was quite soft and low in contrast. But the little 100mm was crisp and sharp and very pleasing with a 12mm eyepiece at about 50x.

Wednesday, 8/27/2003, Another hot hike
Hiked up and down the Garstin trail again. This time with Kai and went a bit earlier than Sunday's hike. Still pretty darn hot and muggy. Kai says no more desert hikes.

Sunday, 8/24/2003, Hot hike
Early this morning around 4am we had a nice little lightning display and some rain sprinkles. Cooled things down quite a bit. Around 10am i hiked up the Garstin trail to Smoketree Mtn and back. I went too late. Was pretty darn hot by then. There were some relatively fresh bighorn sheep droppings along the trail however. I've never seen bighorn sign here before.

Friday evening, 8/22/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Drove up to Cottonwood after work Friday evening. Had planned to set up in the trailhead parking lot but since no other observers were there, and the campsite didn't seem very busy, i decided to check. Driving through the upper loop found Greg and Carole with their 8" CAT so set up across from them. Also in the loop were Joe and Ann with their 11" CAT. Only about half a dozen sites occupied with one moron in a big motor home running his generator late into the night. (Evening generator hours at Cottonwood are 5pm to 7pm!)
» After visiting with Greg and Carole a bit i set up my 10" f/5 dob and started with some easy Milky Way targets... M7 with it's companion globular 6453, GC 6441, M6, Trumpler 28, OC 6416, OC 6425, the Bug Nebula planetary 6302, twin globulars 6522 and 6528. Another pair of globulars 6558 and 6569 is wider than the previous pair with 6558 being considerably brighter. M8 is spectacular with or without UHC filter. GC 6544 and 6553 fit in same 62x field. GC 6440 and PN 6445 form an interesting close pair with the planetary being a bit dimmer.
» Around 10pm Greg and Carole came over to visit and compare views between their 8" CAT and my 10" dob. I guess our talking was overheard by some neighbors because before too long there were about 5 extra very interested people hanging around. We all chatted of things astronomic and shared views through the 10" and 16x70 binoculars. Was rather fun.
» Once everyone left i went back to tracking down some dim galaxies in Aquarius and Pegasus... 7371 very dim and near Mars, 7309 even dimmer, 7606 is fairly dim and elongated a bit just north of a nice string of 3 mag 4 stars, 7600, 7585, 7556, 7723 and 7727 fit in same 62x field nicely. In Pegasus are 7454, 7479 larger than some. 7619 and 7626 on the charts look like they are touching but aren't in the scope. Last objects of the night are 7742 and 7743 on either side of star 77 Pegasus.
» Packed up a bit after midnight and drove home with plans to return tomorrow night depending on weather.

Thursday evening, 8/21/2003, Backyard planets
Spent some time with Uranus, Neptune and Mars with the 10" tonight. Starting with Neptune in Capricornus. At mag 7.8 it certainly isn't bright but not at all hard in the 10". Could even see with 10x42 binoculars which sort of surprised me a bit. A little farther west is Uranus in Aquarius. Being mag 5.7 it was very easy in the scope and the 42mm binos as well. Had to visit Mars of course. At mag -2.8 was almost too bright to look at. Could see the southern polar cap but seeing wasn't good. I'm not really much of a planetary observer anyway. Tried for a few dim galaxies in Aquarius but couldn't see any of them from home. Also visited a few old friends in the area... M30, M72, M73, NGC 7009, and M2.

Sunday evening, 8/17/2003, Backyard stargazing
The afternoon had been nice and bright but the mugginess returned in the evening. Continuing with mostly Messiers in order of viewing were M53, M3, M5, M22, M28, NGC 6638, M25, M24, M18, M17 (good with UHC filter), M16 (vague neb visible with UHC filter), M11, NGC 6712, M26, M75 (off by itself and a bit hard to locate), and tiny NGC 6717.

Sunday, 8/17/2003, Hidden Lake and High Trail
Rode the tram and hiked alone today for the first time this summer. Missed having Kai along. Checked Hidden Lake, still some water but less frogs than last time. Then took High Trail and climbed a rocky peak south of the trail. Back via Round Valley trail.

Saturday evening, 8/16/2003, Backyard stargazing
Muggy evening but at least no clouds. (After being out for about 10 minutes i went back in the house and drug out an extension cord and a floor fan to blow on me to keep cool.) Took the 10" out for about an hour before moonrise. Mostly just working through some Messier objects in Scorpius and Sagittarius before they are gone for the year. In order of viewing were M4, M80, M7, M6, M62, M19, M9, NGC 6356, M107 (faint), M10, M12, M14, NGC 6522 and 6528, NGC 6624, M69, M70, M54, M55, M22, M28, M8 (nice with UCH filter), M20, M21 and stopped with M23. This was also my first chance to try out the Widescan Type III 20mm eyepiece from AstroSystems. The eyepiece has an apparent field of 84° and with the 10" f/5 i could fit Antares and M4 in the same field at 62x! Best view of the night was the Lagoon neb (M8) using a Astronomik UHC filter. Quite impressive even through the murky skies.

Saturday, 8/16/2003, South Lykken hike
Quick dash hike up south Lykken trail to the vista point and back. A bit muggy but not really too bad.

Sunday, 8/10/2003, Tramway hike
Kai and i went for a moderate hike from the tramway today. Hiked through Round Valley and north on the Tamarack trail to revisit Mini Cache Two. I've been to the cache a couple of times but not Kai. Found it today just from memory and without using GPS. (I rarely bring the GPS hiking.) Turns out i was at the cache exactly one year ago today. Nice little coincidence. On the way back we took the high trail and visited Mini Cache One. Found without GPS as well. Got back to the tram about 1pm and bought hotdogs for lunch.

Thursday evening, 8/7/2003, Quick evening stargaze
Took the 10" out for a very short time this evening. First quarter moon interfered too much to really see much. I did observe globulars M53, M3 and M5. The later two were visible in 10x42 binoculars as well.

Wednesday early AM, 8/6/2003, Another Messier survey
I think a fun project for my 10" will be to try and see all the Messier objects from home. Over the past year or so i did see all Messiers with 16x70 binoculars but many of the dim ones were not visible from home. I think with the 10" they might just all be visible although some will no doubt be pretty hard. Tonight after work i visited some easy well placed objects... Globulars M13 and M92 in Hercules, the Ring nebula M57 and globular M56 in Lyra, the Dumbbell M27 in Vulpecula, globular M71 in Sagitta, and open clusters M29 and M39 in Cygnus. I think it's good the full moon is coming. I need some sleep.....

Tuesday early AM, 8/5/2003, Backyard stargazing
Worked the night shift Monday. When i got home around 1am i took the 10" out for bit. High in the south globulars M15 and M2 were well placed. They both look pretty similar to me. Outer stars resolving fairly well. Tracked down dim little globular 7006 in Delphinus. Was hard to see at 60x but fairly plain at 100x. Also in Delphinus is globular 6934. I always liked this one and the stars it's in line with. The cluster and a dim star form one pair with another pair of dim stars making a kind of extended double-double-with-globular thing. Over in Aquarius the Saturn nebula (7009) is very bright and easy. Nearby are M72 and M73. Neither too exciting but i like them. Also a quick visit to M30 in Capricornus. Swung up overhead to scan the Veil some more with the UHC filter. I'm still amazed to be seeing this thing so well from home. Totally invisible without the UHC. The Dumbbell (M27) and Ring (M57) also benefitted from the UHC at all powers. While i had the UHC filter out i wanted to try the Helix. Scanning the area with 32mm (37x) eyepiece i could just barely detect the nebula. Very very hard to see but i guess i'm getting pretty good at picking out things. Using the 20mm (60x) and the UHC filter the neb was fairly plain to see. Not exactly spectacular though. Really needs a dark sky. Before i called it a night i was curious what little galaxy 404 in Andromeda looked like from home. Being so close to the star Mirach it's a piece of cake to find. So i'm looking at what i think is Mirach and can't see the galaxy. On top of that i'm having trouble getting the star to focus with a 32mm (37x) eyepiece. I put in the 20mm (60x) eyepiece and wow, the star is a double. No wonder it won't focus right. Turns out i was looking at Almaak and not Mirach. Beautiful double star this is! Contrasting orange and blue components. I eventually did get to Mirach and found 404 as well.

Sunday, 8/3/2003, Backyard stargazing
Waited till after the moon set about 11pm and went out with the 10" for an hour or so. I wanted to see how the Lagoon (M8) looked from home through the UCH filter. Doesn't look bad actually. Quite a bit of structure and detail visible. The Trifid (M20) also showed its three segments. The filter also much improved the Dumbbell (M27). 20mm Erfle used for all UHC views. Tried to find the Helix down in the skyglow but no luck. I wasn't using any charts and was just hoping to sweep it up from memory. I was a bit surprised to be able to see galaxy 7331 over in Pegasus. This is galaxy is quite nice from Cottonwood and is helpful in locating Stephan's Quintet. The Quintet itself was of course not visible from town.

Saturday, 8/2/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Finally a break in the muggy/humid weather we've been having. Drove up to Cottonwood campground late in the afternoon and setup in the lower loop this time. (Too many people in the upper loop.) Had the 10" f/5 and 16x70 binoculars.
» Moon was about 5 days past new and didn't set till around 10:30pm. This was the first time i'd used a UHC filter from a dark site. Spent the first hour or so of darkness visiting old favorites using the 10". The UHC filter really brought out details in objects like the Lagoon (M8), Trifid (M20), Eagle (M16), and Omega (M17) nebulas.
» Galaxy 7331 in Pegasus was easy to find and i could just barely glimpse nearby galaxy 7335 with averted vision. SkyTools says this is a mag 14.5 galaxy. I doubt i could have found it without having 7331 as a locator. Stephan's Quintet looks about as it did last weekend. I think i can discern 3 members.
» The Helix (7293) is quite a bit better with the UHC but still somehow a bit disappointing. I think my favorite views of the Helix are with binoculars.
» Couple of dim little galaxies in Aquarius. 7309 and 7371 are both pretty darn faint.
» East of Fomalhaut in Sculptor galaxy 7507 is fairly easy. Nearby galaxy 7513 is visible but very faint.
» To the west of Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus is an interesting little grouping of galaxies. 7173 and 7176 form a very close pair. Almost touching. 7172 is just a bit north. Tried to locate 7130, 7135 and 7154 but no luck on any of them.
» Way down south in Grus i can see galaxy 7213 next to the bright star Alnair. Helps if i put the star just out of the field.
» Some Aquarius galaxies near Mars are 7606 which is fairly easy. Nice soft glow. 7600 is much fainter and smaller but a tiny triangle of stars helps locate. 7585 is rather dim.
» Sometime around 1:30am i saw a bright pinpoint flash of light high in the west. I'm sort of boggled what i may have been. Seemed instantaneous, and not like a head-on meteor. I scanned the area of sky for a while hoping for a repeat but saw nothing. I suppose it could have been some sort of brain trick.
» By around 2am the Pleadies was well up in the east. I could see a very faint nebulosity off of Merope. At the time i couldn't remember exactly where the nebulosity was suppose to be but when i checked this image the next day what i saw was exactly where the light purple areas is at the bottom of the picture. I could not detect any color tint however.
» The next morning was so nice i just spent some time out on the desert. Drove up the main road to Porcupine Wash before turning around. After leaving the park swung through Chiriaco summit and the old highway back to the Mecca road. As is my habit, i picked up a bunch of bottles and cans along the road too. Here is a picture of my recycling bin after i got home filled with my haul. And this doesn't include the aluminum cans. (Actually, after i took the picture i realized there was still a beer can in there.) It's sad how people just toss their empties. It's especially upsetting when it's within the national park.

Friday, 8/1/2003, Muggy Shannon trail hike
All this humid weather finally delivered some rain. Quite a lot actually for about half an hour this morning. A downpour. After the rain stopped i hiked up the Shannon trail, over Smoketree mtn, looped across the middle plateau, and back down the Shannon. Really muggy. I was drenched in sweat. Still, was good to be out desert hiking and to be the first person on the wet trails.

Thursday, 7/31/2003, Veil from home
I just bought a Astronomik UHC filter this week and tried it last night from home with my 10" f/5. My home skies are about 6 (bright suburban sky) on the Bortle scale and there was a lot of moisture in the air last night as well. Not a good sky at all. But with the UHC filter on a 20mm eyepiece i could actually see the Veil. Both halves even! I was amazed. I never thought i'd see the Veil from home.

Sunday, 7/27/2003, All the way to the peak!
Hiked all the way from the tram to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto today with Kai! This was the goal we'd been working toward for the summer. We almost turned back when we got to Wellman's due to some rain clouds building up but we decided to give it a try anyway. The clouds never did produce any rain and we had a good hike. Here's a picture of Kai at the peak.

Friday, 7/25/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Weather is still pretty muggy and generally crappy. Tonight didn't look too bad so drove up to Cottonwood to spend the night. Some high clouds threatened a bit throughout the night but otherwise not too bad. Still lots of haze mixed with smoke from a brush fire near San Jacinto. Using 10" f/5 scope plus Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars. Setup in site 2B near Mike and Art.
» Very pretty conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury setting in mid-twilight. Pretty in binoculars.
» Starting with some galaxies in Draco. 4236 at mag 10.1 is quite large but overall very faint. Elongated. Almost 1/3 of the 62x field. The galaxy is also competing with some skyglow from the Coachella Valley. Nearby 4128 at mag 13.1 is very small and faint.
» Also in Draco galaxies 4291 and 4319 make a nice little pair. Both look about the same to me. A little angle of 3 dim stars between the galaxies forms a square with 4291. Off to the side of these two 4386 seems a bit brighter. All 3 fit in the same 100x field. Also in the area 4589 is fairly easy and off to the other side of my starting pair is 4127 which is very dim and hard to see. There is a pretty little Pleadies-like cluster of stars just north of 4127.
» Little detour down to M81 and M82 in Ursa Major. Very impressive in the 10"!. M81 looks like a small version of the Andromeda galaxy. M82 very nice edge-on. Too low in the sky to really be optimum however. Still, very nice indeed. Also in Ursa Major is 5585. Soft and round with a nice little string of 3 stars a bit west. Just barely in the same field is little 5631. Small and tight.
» Open cluster 6939 in Cepheus and galaxy 6946 in Cygnus make a very interesting pair. Very similar size, shape and brightness. The cluster resolves into maybe a few dozen stars. Also visited galaxy 6951 in Cepheus.
» Planetary 7008 in Cygnus doesn't look very planetary-like to me. Seems almost triangular. A dim double star is on the south-east edge. (In checking some resources the next day i found this neb is also called the Fetus nebula.)
» At around 11:30pm local time some high clouds are coming over so i took a little nap. Woke at 1:30am to find conditions improved.
» Galaxy 7331 in Pegasus is a very nice galaxy. Quite bright and easy. Brighter toward the middle. Nice at 100x. Is just barely visible in 16x70mm binoculars as well. South and a bit west in the same field with 7331 is Stephan's Quintet. I can pick out maybe 2 members. Hard to tell. Can see general mottling in the area. Faint. Very intriguing. Will have to revisit. Also in Pegasus found galaxy 7753. This guy is faint and hard to see.
» Side trip to Mirach in Andromeda for galaxy 404. I've always liked this galaxy probably because even though it is hard to see it's a very easy field to locate!
» A few degrees north of the Andromeda galaxy is a little string of galaxies in Cassiopeia. 185 is round, fairly large and easy. 147 is larger than 185 yet fainter overall. And 278 is compact and fairly bright.
» Last object i tracked down was M76 in Perseus. This is very faint for a Messier object. At higher powers can see the little dumbbell shape.
» At 3am the moon is on its way and clouds are coming back over. Thicker ones this time. Getting breezy too. Time to catch a couple hours sleep before dawn.

Sunday, 7/20/2003, Short hike
Kai and i had planned to climb Mt. San Jacinto today. However Kai cut one of his toes during the week in a non-hiking related accident and it hadn't healed enough for a hard hike. Still, we wanted to keep our conditioning up a bit so made just a short hike from the tram along the Round Valley trail and back.

Saturday, 7/19/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Almost a week past full moon gives about a two hour window of darkness this time of year. Took the new Guan Sheng 10" f/5 to Cottonwood Campground for the evening. Drove through the trailhead parking lot but no one was there so decided to stay in the upper loop in the campground. Was only one other site occupied tonight by some German tourists. Quite surprising to find the campground so empty on a Saturday night. (Yay!) Weather has been very muggy recently so although there were no clouds tonight it was fairly hazy. On the Bortle scale i'd say skies were about class 4.
» Started with M51, the Whirlpool galaxy, in Canes Venatici high in the north west. Bright and easy with its companion 5195. Not sure if i can actually see the spiral structure but is definitely mottled. My SkyTools chart shows a couple nearby galaxies as well. 5198 easily fits in the same 62x field with M51. Small and round. Fairly easy to spot at mag 12.7. 5173 at mag 13.6 however is very hard. Just able to glimpse with averted vision.
» M101 in Ursa Major is large and round but i could see no real details other than a brightening toward the center. Tracked down a few nearby galaxies: 5473 (mag 12.5), 5485 (12.4), 5422 (12.9) harder but slightly elongated, 5474 (11.7) large and pretty easy. Could not locate PGC 49448 at mag 13.8.
» Galaxy 5907 in Draco is a perfect edge-on spiral. Very nice. Extremely elongated. Spindle-like. Also some other interesting galaxies in this area: 5866, aka M102, at mag 10.7 is fairly easy. Two little galaxies 5905 (mag 13) and 5908 (12.8) form a dim little pair south of 5907. One last in the area is 5879 (12.2). Fun to just pan around from one galaxy to the other and back again.
» Spent most of the rest of the evening before moonrise just wandering around starclouds in Cygnus. Both halves of the Veil were quite plain with the eastern portion showing some details. (Someday i'll get a O-III filter.) Tried for the Crescent nebula, 6888, in Cygnus but i pretty much got lost in all the stars and could not locate. I wasn't exactly sure what i was looking for actually. Headed for home about 11:30pm with plans to return next week during new moon to spend a night or two!

Sunday, 7/13/2003, Wellman's/Tamarack loop
Hiked with Kai from the tramway to Wellman's Divide then back via the old Tamarack trail. Kai didn't care for the unmaintained trail much. Next week we're planning to bag the peak!

Friday, 7/11/2003, Hidden Lake hike
Quick hike with Kai this morning to Hidden Lake. Up on the 10am car which was packed, quick hike over to Hidden Lake, and bonsai hike back to catch the 11:30am car down. Kai's never been to Hidden Lake so was nice for him to see it full of water. Lots of little frogs still hopping about too.

Monday, 7/7/2003, What's that light on the mountain?
My friend Jen lives in the Araby neighborhood south of me a bit. She called me a couple weeks ago to say she's been seeing a bright light on the mountain ridge west of her house at night and asks if i knew what it was. I had no idea and couldn't see it from my house. Yesterday she called and said the light is still there and asks if i'm sure i can't see it. I couldn't see from my house so Sunday night after dark i drove over to Jen's to see for myself. Sure enough, there is a bright pinpoint light right on top of the ridge above and west of her house. It's quite bright and orangish in color. Really stands out along the ridgeline. Looks like it's right along the Shannon trail someplace. So early this morning before it got too hot i made a quick hike up the Shannon to see if i can figure this out. Sure enough, wedged into a large rock about 15 feet off the trail i found it. It's the top portion of one of those cordless solar Malibu patio lights. The light is propped up in such a way that the solar cells on the top get sunlight during the day and the orange LED light is pointing toward Jen's neighborhood. I'd never have thought such a little LED could appear as bright as it did last night. I've no idea who placed the light but it must be someone from the Araby neighborhood since that's where it's pointed. Pretty cool thing to do i think. Wish i'd thought of it!

Sunday, 7/6/2003, NGC 5907 in Draco
Ever since i saw Dennis Persyk's
image of this galaxy i've been wanting to view it myself. I finally remembered to look tonight using my 10" f/5 dob. Though my moderately light polluted suburban-like skies and with the 1st quarter moon high in the south-west i actually saw this little guy at 100x! I was amazed this mag 11.1 object was visible with such conditions. It wasn't easy to see, and was just barely brighter than the background skyglow, but its elongated shape was visible without doubt. I will definitely have to revisit this one under better conditions.

Sunday, 7/6/2003, High trail loop
Made a quick loop hike from the tramway, up the Round Valley trail to the High trail and back over to Hidden Lake. Not quite as much water as last visit but still nice. Lots of little half inch long frogs hopping about. Cute little guys.

Saturday, 7/5/2003, Me and my 10 inch
Just posted a photo of me and my new 10 inch f/5. Checking the sky later at night i was surprised to be able to see little 10.8 mag galaxy 6503 in Draco through the skyglow and first quarter moonlight! The galaxy wasn't bright but definitely there and showed just a bit of its elongated shape. I like this scope!

Friday, 7/4/2003, Stargazing fireworks
First night out with new 10" f/5 dob at a friend John's house in Pinyon Crest. First quarter moon interfered until about 11:30pm. Skyglow from the Coachella valley quite bright toward the north and north-east. Bright toward the west also from the LA area. Still, the sky here is much better than home with the Milky Way easy and bright. The scope worked very well. Easy to use and well balanced. I'm not accustomed to newts so the 4-point diffraction spikes on bright stars was a novelty. (I sort of liked the look actually.) About halfway through the night i found i really missed my Telrad, so wearing a red LED headlamp to light my way i removed the stock 8x50 finder and attached the Telrad base in its place. Today in daylight i can see i mounted the base a bit off-center so off it came to be re-attached with screws this time. (That dental floss trick to remove the base works REALLY well btw.) Since this was the first time out with the scope i mostly just hopped around the sky and referred to charts only occasionally. Most observations with 20mm Meade Erfle along with Meade 12.4 and 7mm Erfles.
» Galaxies M81/M82 fit nicely in same 60x field, M51, M101, and quick peek at M104 low in the SW. Elongated galaxy 6503 in Draco. Tried to find galaxy 6127 also in Draco but gave up. In Cygnus open cluster M29 is cute. North America and Pelican nebs visible but i had a hard time figuring out just what parts i was viewing. Traced out both sides of the Veil fairly easily. The Dumbell M27 was really bright with it's hourglass shape obvious.
» In Scutum M11 is beautiful at all powers. This has always been my favorite telescopic open cluster. Also in Scutum open M26, globular 6712 and random wanderings around some dark nebs. M72, M73 and the Saturn neb 7009 over in Aquarius.
» After the moon set spent an hour or so just wandering around the Milky Way in Sagittarius and Scorpius. The Lagoon M8 was great. Rivals the Orion neb. Trifid, M22, M24, and some globulars. M7 is really better in the 16x70 binoculars but can see the little 6453 globular just preceding in the 10". Barnard's galaxy 6822 visible but not easy in these skies. Looked at a lot more stuff that i haven't mentioned. Was just enjoying the scope and wishing the skies were a bit darker up here like i remember them from 10 or 20 years ago.

Thursday, 7/3/2003, New 10" f/5 dob
I'm generally a very patient person. (I've worked for the same company for 29 years.) But on the other hand, once i've decided i want something i usually want it NOW. So Thursday afternoon i left work a bit early and made the two hour drive to OPT in Oceanside to pick up one of their 10" f/5 Star Hunter dobs for $499! (This is the same Taiwan made Guan Sheng scope that numerous vendors sell under various names.) OPT had an in-store special going on as well that included a free star chart book and a free 2x Barlow. (Mike W even offered to exchanged the Barlow for a 32mm eyepiece since i already have a Barlow!) Got home a bit after 9pm and put the scope together. The only assembly really is putting the base together. Took about 20 mins. No hardware was missing and everything fit well. The altitude bearing is smooth and has a nice feel to it. The azimuth bearing scrapes a bit but i'm sure i can tinker with it and make it work better. The 8x50 finder mounts in a quick-release dovetail mount similar to Orion's finders. Taking the scope outside i only observed for about 30 minutes. I was quite surprised to see that the optics were very well aligned right out of the box! Good sign that the scope wasn't abused in shipment from Taiwan. Only viewed a few objects... M57, M4, M7, a few bright/wide doubles. My first impressions are very good. I'm hoping to get out to some darksky tomorrow night and give the scope a better chance to perform.

Saturday, 6/28/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Spent the night stargazing at Cottonwood Spring. Brought my Celestron-8 (orange), Orion AstroView 100mm f6 and Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars. Very light breeze, bit of haze. Maybe mag 6 skies.
» Quite a group of people at the trailhead today... Stephen, Bruce, Bob, Tom, Rich (or was it Rick?) and David. Also visited a bit up in the campground and looked at some objects with Ron's 22" Starsplitter dob. Spent less time tonight doing actual observing and more time chatting and looking through other people's scopes. Also spent time switching around between my two scopes and the binoculars. One of the real highlights of the evening was the Veil Nebula through Ron's 22". Spectacular filaments and structure visible. Also actually seeing the spiral structure of M51 directly with my own eye was pretty impressive. The following comments are from memory as i didn't take any field notes.
» 6503, EG, Draco - Visible with difficulty in 16x70mm. (Skies were darker a few nights ago from Mt. Laguna.) Start to pick up its elongation shape in the 100mm at 30x and 40x. Quite nice in the C8 at 100x but VERY hard to position the fork-mounted scope near the pole. Nice in Ron's 22" dob. Makes it look more like a major Messier object in the big scope instead of a dim little NGC.
» 6543, PN, Draco - Cat's Eye Nebula - Almost think i can see a bit of its bluish color in the C8. Not sure. Viewed this with the 22" as well. The central star/core was quite obvious in the big scope. Also just east of 6543 we stumbled upon the little galaxy 6552 by accident.
» 6822, EG, Sagittarius - Barnard's Galaxy - Difficult object. Large but very dim. Transparency not that great tonight either which didn't help. Probably best seen in the 16x70mm. In the C8 it fills about half the 100x field but you can't really tell you're looking at anything until the field is panned back and forth a bit. Just a north of the galaxy is little planetary 6818 which is kind of cute.
» M72 and M73, Aquarius - I got a bit mixed up on these two tonight. I had forgotten that M73 isn't really a cluster but is only 4 stars. So when i thought i was viewing M73 with the C8 i was actually viewing the globular M72. I then spent a lot of time trying to find M72 and finally gave up. I was quite perplexed because i knew i had seen all the globulars plotted in SA 2000.0 and didn't understand why i couldn't find it tonight! It all made sense the next morning once i checked some resources.
» 7009, PN, Aquarius - Saturn Nebula - Nice in the C8 at 100x. Bright with the "Saturn" structure somewhat visible.
» Just quick peeks at the Delphinus globulars 6934 and 7006. I've always liked 7006 as it was one of the first non-Messier globulars i ever found and i remember spending a lot of time trying to find it the first time.

Saturday, 6/28/2003, Tramway to Wellman's Divide
Hike from tramway to Wellman's Divide with Kai.

Wednesday, 6/25/2003, Mt. Laguna Stargazing
Camping with the family at Mt. Laguna i did a bit of casual stargazing with 16x70mm Fujinon binoculars. I didn't bring my SA 2000.0 charts but did have the July S&T for some in-camp afternoon reading material. Sue French's Small-Scope Sampler column provided just what i needed for a fun evening after the campfire was out and the rest of the family were intently sleeping. Sue's column this month were objects in Draco. The little Cassiopeia-like asterism Kemble 2 is lovely. It does look just like a tiny Cassiopeia. Very pretty in the 16x70 binos. The galaxy NGC 6503 took a bit of work. I almost gave up before i re-read the description that mentioned that there is a mag 8.6 star just east of the galaxy. Sure enough, there was a dim star with a faint little smudge just west of it. Once i knew where the galaxy was i could see it fairly easily. Also in Draco is the Cat's Eye planetary NGC 6543. At first i couldn't tell the planetary from field stars but after a bit of study i could tell one object wasn't quite a pinpoint. A mag 10 star just west helps to identify. I could not detect the robin's-egg blue color that Sue mentions. I spent the next hour or so just cruising around Sagittarius/Scorpius and the galactic center. Star clouds, dark nebulae, bright nebulae, star clusters, etc. Just beautiful stuff. Nice too to not worry about taking notes or logging observations and just look at things. I did have one goal for the trip however. That was to see if i could spot globular NGC 6397 way down south in Ara. Close to midnight, sitting at the picnic table at site #14, looking south over the meadow and through the distant treeline, i spotted it! Was quite easy to see actually. In fact, at mag 5.3, it is brighter than M5 but so far south it's not known to us in the north. The view didn't last long however before it was gone behind another pine tree.

Monday, 6/23/2003, Tramway to Hidden Lake and Round Valley
Loop hike with Kai today from the tram, south to Hidden Lake, High trail to Round Valley, and back to tram. Really nice loop hike. Hidden Lake has real water in it too!

Saturday, 6/21/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Arrived at the Cottonwood campground in Joshua Tree National Park about 6pm. Bit of a breezy afternoon but wind died down after sunset. When i arrived i noticed a group with a large scope on a trailer. Figuring they'd be fellow stargazing campers i setup in a site near them. Well, around 7:30pm they started up a gas generator and started watching movies on a large TV they brought along! I was aghast! The generator was loud, the TV was loud, their florescent lights were bright, and it was obvious these people were not interested in stargazing. (Why they brought that telescope i have no idea.) I hastily piled all my stuff back into my truck and moved to another site on the other side of the campground. (Now i remember why i try to avoid public campgrounds on weekends. Sigh...)
» Tonight i'd planned a bit of a globular marathon across the center of the Milky Way. I was using a photocopy of SkyAtlas 2000.0, chart 22, with all the globulars highlighted. Basically i just worked my way right to left across the chart checking them off as i went. This was not so much a night of observing but more just trying to spot a lot of globulars. What follows is my basic route with just a few comments.
» Started in Centaurus with a visit to big bright Omega Centauri (5139) and much smaller 5286. The later is right next to a little mag 5 star that makes it nice. One of the only non-globulars tonight was big galaxy 5128 in Centaurus. The dust lane splits the galaxy into two halves. Also way south are 5927 in Lupus and 5946 in Norma. Bit hard to locate these but once found were easily seen. 5927 is the brighter of the two. Back north in Lupus to bright 5986 then a jog east to 6139 in Scorpius.
» Up to the head of Scorpius for M4, 6144 and M80 then east through a very dense area of Ophiuchus for 6235, 6287, 6284, M19, 6293, 6355, 6316, 6304, M62 and 6401. Side trip into Sagittarius for 6440 and planetary 6445. This is an interesting pair. Both look like globulars to me and fit in the same 100x field. Another nice combination is little 6453 sitting on the western edge of huge open cluster M7 and then just south of that 6441 paired with a nice bright star. On south to pick up 6388, 6496, 6541 and 6352. 6352 is large but dim. Two globular i could not locate are 6397 in Ara and 6584 in Telescopium. Just too low in the sky and down in the haze.
» Swinging back north to the Sagittarius teapot i picked up the twins 6522 and 6528 in the spout then 6558, 6569, 6624, M69, M70, 6652, M54 and 6723. Last romp of the night starting in the Lagoon area were 6544, 6553, M28, 6638, 6642, M22 (!), and lastly 6717 with its two little companion stars.
» Was quite a fun night (once i got away from the noisy neighbors) with a very focused single-minded goal. With the exception of 6397 and 6584 which i couldn't spot low in the haze i've now seen all the NGC globulars visible from my latitude that are plotted on SkyAtlas 2000.0! Not a bad way to celebrate the June solstice.

Saturday, 6/21/2003, Tramway to Wellman's Divide
Ride tramway and hike to Wellman's Divide with Wen. Lots of backpackers going up the tram today.

Sunday, 6/15/2003, Tramway to Round Valley
Ride tramway and hike to Round Valley with Kai. Buy two summer passes. Nice flow of water in the creek! The creek was totally dry last year.

Saturday, 6/14/2003, Shannon trail
Shannon trail to Smoketree mtn and back. Warmish.

Saturday, 6/7/2003, South Lykken trail
Hike south Lykken trail to vista point and back with Kai.

Sunday, 6/1/2003, South Lykken trail
Quick morning hike up south Lykken trail to vista point and back.

Friday, 5/30/2003, Stargazing from Belle
Drove up to the Belle campground in Joshua Tree in late afternoon. Hazy but clear. Bit breezy but settled down for the most part in the evening. The campground pretty much filled up. Best not to go on a weekend night i think. People kept arriving late in the evening looking for open sites. Fortunately my site was not in direct shot of headlights but it was still annoying to have a cars drive slowly by. Mediocre night sky with the haze and bright skyglow from the Coachella Valley. Really disappointing how bright the glow from home is. Set up Celestron-8 and 16x70 Fujinons. Using AccuTrack with Coleman Powermate supply for the C8 for the first time. Working really well.
» M104, EG, Virgo - Sombrero Galaxy - Can see the dust lane but the view isn't really that great. All that skyglow from the south is pissing me off.
» M68, GC, Hydra - Resolves a bit. Granular. Needs a darker sky.
» M83, EG, Hydra - Large. Very condensed core almost like a star. I really wish the sky was darker. Sigh.
» Omega Centauri (5139), GC, Centaurus - Even though it's huge and bright (visible in 30mm finder) being low in the sky and down in the skyglow it doesn't resolve well. Must be a really spectacular object to see from the southern hemisphere.
» 5128, EG, Centaurus - Centaurus A - Very large. Seems almost as large as Omega Centauri. Much dimmer however.
» 5286, GC, Centaurus - Well, i can see it. But just barely and very low in the south down in the murk.
» 5694, GC, Hydra - Just west of the "Night Owl" asterism. Fairly small but bright and easy. I think i can see it in 16x70 binoculars as well.
» 5824, GC, Lupus - Bit brighter than 5694. By itself in the field.
» 5986, GC, Lupus - Much brighter than the last two. Maybe just a bit granular.
» 5897, GC, Libra - Large but dim. Nice soft glow. More like a dim open cluster.
» M5, GC, Serpens - Resolves pretty well. I actually like the little dim ones better. They're more fun somehow.
» M10 and M12, GC, Ophiuchus - I always liked these two because they fit in the same binocular field. They don't fit in the same telescope field of course. M12 is a bit brighter and courser.
» Tried for 5927 and 5946 way down south. Unable to find either of these globulars. Will have to try them again when i have a better southern horizon.
» M57, PN, Lyra - Ring Nebula - Taking a break from the globulars. Haven't looked at the Ring with anything other than binoculars in a long time. Nice little bagel in the sky.
» M4, GC, Scorpius - Nice. Resolves really well. Has some nice strings of stars.
» 6144, GC, Scorpius - Between M4 and Antares. Large but quite dim. I've tried for this before with binoculars and not been able to see it.
» 6522 and 6528, GC, Sagittarius - The "twin" globulars. Two of my favorites in the spout of the Teapot. Nice together in 100x field. 6522 is somewhat brighter of the two.
» 6558, GC, Sagittarius - Small and quite dim.
» 6569, GC, Sagittarius - Brighter than 6558. Almost fits in the same 100x field but not quite.
» 6624, GC, Sagittarius - Nice little globular. Just they way i like them.
» M69, GC, Sagittarius - Much like that last one. Somewhat brighter.
» 6652, GC, Sagittarius - Another nice little one.
» M70, GC, Sagittarius - Somewhat grainy. Nice little straight string of stars to the SE in the same field.
» M54, GC, Sagittarius - Bright and quite compact.
» M22, GC, Sagittarius - Very nice! I think is my favorite of the Messier globulars. Can resolve tons of stars.
» 6642, GC, Sagittarius - Doesn't compare to M22 nearby but still a cute little GC.
» 6638, GC, Sagittarius - So many globulars!!
» Palomar 8, GC, Sagittarius - My only non-NGC object of the night and my first Palomar globular! Dim but plainly seen. Not condensed.
» 6717, GC, Sagittarius - Really pretty field. Two wide 5 mag stars with the cluster just south of the eastern one. Oddly, the cluster almost looks like it's split into two halves.
» 6712, GC, Scutum - Surprisingly big and bright.
» 6760, GC, Aquila - Nice soft glow.
» 6749, GC, Aquila - This is the night's challenge object. Not plotted on SA 2000.0. Using chart printed from SkyTools. I'm sure i have the correct field but not sure if i can see the cluster or not. Sometimes i think i see a little fuzz, then it's gone.
» Mars has risen by 1:30am. And it's my 48th birthday too! Time to sleep under the Milky Way...

Monday, 5/26/2003, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Drove to Cottonwood campground in Joshua Tree National Park in the afternoon. Arrived around 4pm. A bit warm but not bad in the shade. Brought the C8 and 16x70 Fujinons and setup in site B16. I thought the campground might be a bit trashed after the Memorial Day holiday but the place was spotless. Almost had the entire campground to myself with only two other sites occupied. Had a very nice still clear night. First time using C8 with Telrad i purchased on Saturday at RTMC. I like it very much!
» M3, GC, Canes Venatici - Resolves pretty well. A lot of stars are lost in bright glow from the cluster itself.
» 5466, GC, Bootes - Cluster is about 5 degrees due east of M3. Nice soft glow. Some stars resolve. I was unable to see this one from home last week but is quite easy from the desert. Also visible in 16x70 binoculars.
» 5375, EG, Canes Venatici - Dim little galaxy halfway between M3 and 5466. Just visible as a dim little smudge.
» M53, GC, Coma - Sort of like a small version of M3. Resolves about the same.
» 5053, GC, Coma - Wow! No wonder i could not see this one from home. Rather large but VERY dim. Not at all like a globular. More like a round patch of nebulosity. I don't feel at all bad for not being able to see this one from home. Such a difference a darksky makes. Amazingly, it's fairly easy to see in 16x70 binoculars. Is a pretty binocular starfield with M53.
» 2419, GC, Lynx - Just caught this little guy low in the north-west. Only about 15 above the horizon when i viewed it. Visible in binos as well.
» 6229, GC, Hercules - Bright and compact. Seems to resolve a bit.
» M92, GC, Hercules - Very nice. Big. Resolves quite well.
» M13, GC, Hercules - Very nice and big of course. Interesting string of stars curving off to the south.
» 6207, EG, Hercules - Same 100x field with M13. Quite easy. Elongated. Really neat seeing it so close to M13.
» 4147 (aka 4153), GC, Coma - Small and round.
» 5248, EG, Bootes - Condensed core surrounded by a soft glow. Could not see any of the spiral arms or other structure.
» 5846 and 5850, EG, Virgo - Nice pair. 5846 is much brighter. 5850 is dim but together they make an interesting field.
» 5831, EG, Virgo - Dim. Similar to 5850.
» 6426, GC, Ophiuchus - Really dim. Like 5053 earlier only smaller.
» 6535, GC, Serpens - Another dim one.
» 6539, GC, Serpens - Dim again but larger than the last two. I'm also getting tired and impatient and my notes are suffering. Going to view a few more globulars in the area before calling it a night however.
» 6517, GC, Ophiuchus - Ditto above.
» 6366, GC, Ophiuchus - Just a bit east of a 4 mag star in Ophiuchus. Rather large but quite dim. Couple of field stars along the preceding edge.
» M9, GC, Ophiuchus - Nice and bright. Quite a change from the last few.
» 6342, GC, Ophiuchus - Not too bad. Fairly easy.
» 6356, GC, Ophiuchus - Bright! I'm surprised it wasn't recorded by Messier. Almost as bright as M9. 6356 and M9 are nice in the same 16x binocular field.
» Closing down about 12:15am. Summer Milky Way is high in the sky now. Favorite sight of the night was little galaxy 6207 right next to M13! Will sleep in the truck bed till 5am and then drive home early in the morning to take Kai to school. (At about 4am i awoke to see a very bright Mars shining down on me!)

Sunday, 5/25/2003, Cahuilla Canyon
Hike Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder.

Saturday, 5/24/2003, RTMC
Went to the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference (RTMC) for the afternoon. (Info on the RTMC is here.) I'd paid for camping so could drive in close, but i didn't really see any open camping spots left. I did get lucky and someone was just pulling out so i got a good parking place for the afternoon. Was nice to meet Larry of Universal Astronomics and saw his new offerings of parallelogram binos mounts. (I was a bit disappointed with the pair of 22x100mm Oberwerks he had as i think they were somewhat out of alignment.) I did buy a Telrad finder and a Tele Vue eyepiece from other vendors. Enjoyed the views of the sun with the Coronado scopes too. The view though the 90mm with bino eyepieces was most impressive!

Sunday night, 5/18/2003, Backyard stargazing
Backyard stargazing with Celestron-8 using Meade 20mm Erfle eyepiece. Moderate light pollution with a bit of haze.
» M53, GC, Coma - Does not resolve at 100x. Two field stars are a bit south and following. Just visible in 10x42 binoculars.
» 5053, GC, Coma - Just south-east of M53. Unable to locate. SkyTools says it's mag 9 so i'm not sure why i couldn't see it.
» M5, GC, Serpens - Big and bright. Granular. Outer halo resolves a bit. There is a prominent star preceding and a bit south. Also the bright star south-east (5 Ser) is double with a dim companion.
» 5634, GC, Virgo - Bit of star-hopping down from M5. Quite easy to see actually near a little 8 mag star. Not sure why i can see this cluster at mag 9.5 but not 5053 at mag 9.
» 4147, GC, Coma - An awkward star hop from M53. Looks somewhat like a compact galaxy. At mag 10.4 i'm again puzzled why i can not see 5053 at mag 9.
» M3, GC, CVn - Seems maybe bigger than M5 but doesn't resolve as well. Might just be better placement in the sky.
» 5466, GC, Bootes - Unable to locate.
» 5897, GC, Libra - I was looking for this little globular with 16x70mm binoculars during the lunar eclipse on Thursday. Was unable to locate then and am still unable to locate with the C8 probably due to the bright skyglow to my south-east.

Sunday, 5/18/2003, South Lykken trail
Hike south Lykken with Kai to the vista point.

Saturday, 5/17/2003, Shannon trail
Up and down the Shannon trail with Wen. Bit of a muggy day.

Thursday evening, 5/15/2003, Lunar eclipse
Pretty view of the eclipse using Fujinon 16x70mm binos from the driveway. Moon rose already into the partial phase. During totality had a nice view of M104 high in the south. Couple of neighbors stopped by for a peek too.

Monday, 5/12/2003, South Lykken trail
Quick hike up the south Lykken trail to vista point and back.

Sunday, 5/11/2003, Garstin hike
Hike Garstin trail to Wildhourse junction, back over Smoketree mountain, and down Garstin again.

Monday, 5/5/2003, Cahuilla canyon hike
Quick morning hike up Cahuilla canyon to the geocache. Nice sunny day.

Sunday night, 5/4/2003, Backyard stargazing
Backyard stargazing with Celestron-8 using Meade 20mm Erfle eyepiece. Clear but breezy. Moderate light polution.
» M68, GC, Hydra - Looks a bit grainy. Unable to resolve with the current seeing.
» M83, EG, Hydra - Southern Pinwheel - Can see a compact core with a very faint washed out halo around.
» 4038 and 4039, EG, Corvus - The Antennae - Can see a very faint smudge. No structure or details. Need to try again from a dark site.
» 4361, PN, Corvus - Easier to spot than i thought it would be. Round and soft. Somewhat like a globular cluster. Could not see a central star.
» M104, EG, Virgo - Sombrero Galaxy - Elongated along EW axis. I think i can just glimpse a bit of the dust lane. Not sure. Another to retry from a dark site.
» 4697, EG, Virgo - This one is actually brighter and easier than M83. Bit higher in the sky too. Seems somewhat oval in shape.
» M61, EG, Virgo - Fairly large but dim. Round. No noticable core visible.
» M49, EG, Virgo - Pretty bright. Somewhat condensed core. Seems to have a feild star right on the following edge.
» M65/M66/3628, EG, Leo - Leo Triplett - M65 and M66 quite easy. Both somewhat elongated. Fit nicely in 100x field. 3628 is larger but extremly faint. If i wasn't sure where to look would not have seen at all.
» M105/3384/3389, EG, Leo - I see two small galaxies. Both small but fairly bright and easy. The one preceding is M105 and the one following is 3384. Could not see 3389.
» M96, EG, Leo - Fairly faint. Round. Soft core.
» M95, EG, Leo - Even fainter than M96. Can almost fit M96 and M95 in the same 100x field but not quite.
» 3367, EG, Leo - Unable to locate.
» 3338, EG, Leo - Small. Seems maybe a bit elongated.

Sunday, 5/4/2003, Araby trail
Beautiful sparkly clear sunny day. Hiked Araby trail to Wildhorse junction, Garstin junction, over Smoketree mtn., checked my Flag Over Palm Springs geocache, and then back down Araby trail. A nice loop hike indeed!

Wednesday evening, 4/30/2003, Maniobra stargazing
Binocular stargazing from Maniobra valley. Equipment was Fujinon 16x70mm on a UniMount and Nikon 10x42mm handheld. Clear and still but a bit of suspended haze. Skyglow from Coachella valley to the west and from Mexicali to the south very prominent.
» M67, OC, Cancer - Granular. One brighter star on northern edge of cluster. The oldest Messier cluster being about 3.2 billion years old.
» 2775, EG, Cancer - Dim but fairly easy to find near the head of Hydra.
» 2713 and 2716, EG, Hydra - Not sure. Seems there might be some fuzziness there or maybe just field stars.
» 3115, EG, Sextans - Compact, fairly bright. Could not see the spindle shape that photographs show. Just visible in 10x as well.
» Leo I, EG, Leo - Just wanted to try one more time. Could not see.
» 3242, PN, Hydra - Ghost of Jupiter - At first looks like just another 8 mag star. But then notice it disappears with direct vision as some other planetaries do. Thought i could maybe see a bit of blue-green color but not sure.
» 3201, GC, Vela - Low to the south competing with skyglow from Mexicali. Quite large. Would be a major object for northern observers if placed higher in the sky. Visible in 10x as well.
» 3132, PN, Vela - Not sure. Hard to tell from field stars.
» 4038 and 4039, EG, Corvus - The Antennae - I dunno. Might be something there. Very faint. Unsure.
» M104, EG, Virgo - Sombrero Galaxy - Quite bright. Easy to see. Still don't think i can really see any structure with binoculars however. I like the little string of 3 stars just preceding. Also the "Stargate" asterism is in the same field.
» 4697, EG, Virgo - Pretty easy. There is a bunch of other galaxies plotted on SA 2000.0 in the area but i couldn't find any of them.
» M68, GC, Hydra - Nice and round. Kind of all by itself down below the Crow.
» M83, EG, Hydra - Southern Pinwheel - Big! Very nice. Jumps out at you. Round. No structure seen. Nice in 10x as well.
» 5061, 5078 and 5101, EG, Hydra - All 3 a bit NW of M83. Seemed like they might be easy targets. 5078 is plotted very elongated. Alas... Unable to see any of them.

Monday, 4/28/2003, Middle Lykken trail
Hiked the middle Lykken trail from Mesquite Ave up to the vista point and back. Technically, this is a nice, well designed trial. But it's too close to the city to get any feeling of being out and away from civilization at all.

Sunday, 4/27/2003, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail with Wen and Kai to Smoketree Mtn. Kai was lagging a bit. We decided that Thai food would be good for lunch.

Saturday, 4/26/2003, Anza-Borrego day trip
Poking around the Truckhaven, Arroyo Salado and Palo Verde wash areas. Just a nice day to be out. Stopped by my Truckhaven geocache. Need to replace the logbook soon. It's almost full!

Friday, 4/25/2003, South Lykken trail
Hike south Lykken trail to a bit north of the vista point.

Thursday, 4/24/2003, Pinkham Canyon
Drove through Pinkham Canyon with Kai from near the Cactus City rest area north then east to the Cottonwood visitor center in Joshua Tree National Park. Explored around the Snow Cloud mine a bit. Jim Cornett tipped us off that the world's tallest Mojave yucca can be seen along the route. We found it! See the picture here. Was a good day out. Kai even got to try driving the truck a bit.

Wednesday, 4/23/2003, Araby Trail hike
Quick morning hike up Araby trail to Berns junction and back.

Sunday, 4/20/2003, Cahuilla Canyon hike
Morning hike up Cahuilla Canyon to a bit past the upper boulder. All the grass has gone to seed. Still some little things blooming here and there. Saw the same beautiful white hawk that i saw here a couple months ago.

Saturday, 4/19/2003, Salton Sea and Box Canyon
Little bit of poking around the desert today. Drove to Mecca and then south on Hwy 111 to the Salton Sea State Park. I drove up to the entrance station and asked the ranger if i could just turn around. She said to go on in and look around a bit if i wanted, so i did! Quite a nice place. Not the dead-fish image one usually has of the Salton Sea. From the beach i headed back north to Mecca again and then east through Box Canyon. Did a bit of trash pickup along the way. Near the junction of the Box Canyon road and I-10 there was a big pile of used diapers. Quite disgusting. Fortunately i'd brought some extra large trash bags. Drove back home via I-10 stopping at the Cactus City rest stop to put the diapers in a trash can.

Monday, 4/14/2003, Shannon Trail
Hike south Shannon trail to vista point with Wen. Bit overcast with a cool breeze.

Sunday, 4/13/2003, South Lykken Trail
Hike south Lykken trail to vista point with Wen and Kai. Nice clouds rolling over the desert divide. Wildflowers are fading fast.

Saturday, 4/12/2003, Araby Trail
Hiked the Araby trail to my Araby Hope geocache. Filled the cache up with some plastic frogs. All the grasses that were green last month are now brown and going to seed. Takes a while to pick all the seeds out of your socks. Saw a nice rattlesnake on the trail just below Bob's house. I watched her for a while before she found a good hiding place. She wasn't happy.

Sunday evening, 4/6/2003, Planets and deepsky
Quick peeks with the 100mm f6 scope at Jupiter next to open cluster M44 and Saturn next to super nova remnant M1. Saturn's rings are as wide open as they ever get. M1 very hard to see through the sky glow.

Sunday, 4/6/2003, Garstin Trail
Hike Gastrin trail with Wen, over Smoketree mtn, middle plateau, back down Garstin. Flowers are fading a bit.

Friday, 4/4/2003, Anza-Borrego trip, Day 2
After breakfast drive up gorge and then hike to Over the Edge geocache. Then up to the "Y" before turning around. Drive south on S-2, through Bow Willow, and then down Mortero Wash road, though Dos Cabeza to the Indian Hill trail head. Hiked up to Indian Hill and after a bit of poking around found a cave/overhand with some stunning pictographs. Drove on down to Ocotillo for gas, ice and beer (not necessarily in that order) and then back northward along S-2. Picked up another overflowing bag of cans and bottles along the road. Back to my regular Indian Gorge site. Another coolish/breezy evening. Debating if i should spend another night or drive home...

Thursday, 4/3/2003, Anza-Borrego trip, Day 1
After taking Kai to school i returned home and packed truck for a short mini-vacation to Anza-Borrego. Drove down via Hwy 86 to S-22 and then westward into the park. The ocotillos along S-22 in the state park are nice and lush. Drove up the Rockhouse Canyon road to the Rockhouse Canyon geocache. Nice cache near one of my favorite camp sites. Lower part of the road is quite washboarded these days. Needs a good leveling. Some nice little fields of sand verbena up the canyon and little things blooming here and there. Otherwise not really very impressive wildflowers. Saw a nice horned lizard along the road. From Rockhouse Canyon drove to Borrego Springs and stopped by the visitor center. Quite busy! Lots more people than when i was last here. Spring is popular with visitors hoping to see wildflowers. Continued on south through the park. Picked up quite a few cans and bottles along S-2 from the Campbell Grade southward. Swung through Mountain Palm Spring and then back to my regular site along the Indian Gorge road. Windy afternoon and actually fairly chilly. I was expecting wind from the forecasts so not really a problem. Wind is only bad when one is hoping for a calm still night and one doesn't get such. When one is expecting windy conditions it's not really a disappointment although i'd certainly prefer calm/warm conditions. Wind has died down as i write this about 8pm. A bit overcast and still cool so won't be doing any stargazing. Curling up early in the sleeping bag sounds pretty good.

Tuesday early AM, 4/1/2003, New eyepiece
Last week i ordered a new Orion Expanse 15mm eyepiece. It arrived Monday during the day. I worked the night shift Monday night so after i got home about 1am Tuesday morning i set up my AstroView 100mm f6 scope in the driveway for a quick test. Compared the new eyepiece to my Meade 20mm Erfle. The new 15mm gives me 40x while the 20mm gives me 30x. I only looked at 3 objects... M13 in Hercules, M57 in Lyra, and M104 in Virgo. My home skies are really pretty cruddy at times so can't really tell much how the new eyepiece performed. It did show M57, the Ring nebula, better than the 20mm. I was somewhat surprised i couldn't really see any structure in M104, the Sombrero Galaxy, with either eyepiece. Nor could i resolve M13. Need a dark sky. Maybe later in the week but the outlook isn't promising with clouds and high winds in the forecast.

Monday, 3/31/2003, South Lykken trail
Quick hike up and down the south Lykken trail to the vista point. Lots of lupine blooming.

Sunday, 3/30/2003, Red Canyon Trail and Bradshaw
After spending the night in Maniobra Valley i continued eastward along the Red Canyon Trail over to Salt Creek. This is one of the best jeep trails around. Drove past one group of campers west of the summit and only saw one other truck on the remainder of the trail. After joining Salt Creek i drove out the Bradshaw trail to the gas line road before turning around. Had lunch along the Amy Wash road before heading north to the freeway and then home. Today is warmer than yesterday and no wind. If i wasn't working tomorrow i think i'd restock in Desert Center and spend a second night. Pictures are here.

Saturday, 3/29/2003, Maniobra camp and stargaze
Nice clear day so thought would be a good night for stargazing. Drove out eastward intending to spend the night in the Palen Mountains. However once i got out near Chiriaco Summit the winds were quite gusty. There was also this weird layer of what looked like smoke to the east. I assume from agricultural burns in the Blythe area. The smoke layer and winds made me decide that i didn't want to go all the way to the Palens so turned around went to my regular Maniobra Valley site. Afternoon was a bit breezy but not bad. Winds stopped around sunset. It was a bit cooler than i was expecting however. After having some dinner i setup the AstroView 100mm f6 for some stargazing...
» M95/M96/M105/3384, EG, Leo - All 4 fit nicely in 30x field. M105 appears double with nearby 3384. The two galaxies are about equally bright. There is also a third galaxy, 3389, near M105 that i could not see.
» 3367, EG, Leo - Not too hard. Fits in same field with M105.
» M65/M66/3628, EG, Leo, The Leo Triplett - Very pretty group. 3628 seems a bit larger and elongated but is also dimmer than the M objects.
Detour to the south-west for a bit...
» 2362, OC, CMa - One of my favorite objects. Also known as the Mexican Jumping Star cluster. Beautiful open cluster. Triangular shape containing bright star Tau CMa.
» 2354, OC, CMa - Rather sparse.
» 2451 and 2477, OC, Pup - This is one of my favorite binocular fields. Both clusters just fit in the 30x telescope field. 2451 is coarse and large and very bright. In binoculars i tend to see a spiral of stars but this is not evident in the telescope. 2477 is smaller and much dimmer. Resolves fairly well at 30x. Very nice comparison of two very different open clusters.
» M93, OC, Pup - Nice splash of dim stars. Two little strings of stars at right angles is kind of interesting.
» M46/M47/2423, OC, Pup - All 3 fit in a nice 30x field. At 30x could not see the dim planetary 2438 in front of M46. At 60x i can just see the PN but it's not really obvious. Probably would not have noticed it had i not been specifically searching for it.
» M41, OC, CMa - Nice cluster but not especially interesting.
Back overhead for some more galaxies...
» Markarian's Chain on the Coma/Virgo border - Have never actually tried to follow the chain although i have seen all the M objects in the area. Starting with M84 and working basically eastward i was able to see the following at 30x... M84, M86, 4388, 4435, 4438, 4473, 4477 and M88. I was unable to see 4402, 4435 or 4461.
Over to Ursa Major...
» M81/M82, EG, UMa - Very nice at 30x. Nice to see some bright galaxies after all the dim ones.
» M97, PN and M108, EG, UMa - Both fit nicely in 30x field. The PN is a bit brighter and round while the galaxy is elongated and dimmer.
» M109, EG, UMa - Dim.
» M101, EG, UMa, The Pinwheel Galaxy - Quite large, fairly bright. Round but no structure seen.
» M51, EG, CVn, The Whirlpool Galaxy - Smaller than M101 but brighter. Companion easily seen.

Saturday morning, 3/29/2003, Shannon trail
Hiked Shannon trail with Wen in the morning. Quite a lot of stuff blooming. Pictures are here.

Wednesday, 3/26/2003, Palm Springs wildflower photos
Some wildflowers around Palm Springs are here.

Monday, 3/24/2003, Palm Canyon wildflower photos
Returned to Palm Canyon this morning and took some wildflower pictures this time. You may view them here.

Sunday, 3/23/2003, Palm Canyon hike
Spent the morning hiking in Palm Canyon. Started at the "trading post" and took the Victor trail southward. The Victor trail runs parallel to the main canyon along a ridge just east and overlooking the main palm grove. Absolutely stunning wildflowers here! Right at peak bloom. At every turn i'd just stop and stare awestruck. I highly recommend this bit of trail right now! From the Victor trail i continue eastward on the Vanderventer and then south on the East Fork trail to Dry Wash, then back north along the main Palm Canyon trail. The entire loop took about 3 hours. On the drive in a bit north of the trading post stopped to let a rattlesnake cross the road in front of me. I did not bring a camera but i'm considering returning tomorrow to do some photography.

Saturday, 3/22/2003, Cahuilla Canyon hike
Hiked Cahuilla Canyon to upper boulder with Wen this morning. Still lots of wildflowers but i think maybe a bit past peak. Lovely warm clear sunny day.

Friday evening, 3/21/2003, Realm of the galaxies
Drove out to my darksky site east of Indio after work this evening. Left home a bit after 5pm and arrived at my site at 6:30pm. Canopus visible to the south. My goal was to complete my binocular re-survey of the Messier objects that i started just over a year ago. Would have been nice to have seen them all within one year but doesn't really matter. The only objects i was missing were the galaxies of Leo, Coma Berenices and Virgo. These constellations were well placed high in the east at the end of astronomical twilight. All observations with mounted Fujinon 16x70 and handheld Nikon 10x42 binoculars.
» Leo I, EG, Leo - Starting off with a tough one. I could just glimpse something at the correct location but it may be a dim star. Does not look like a galaxy but it's hard to tell so close to Regulus. There is a star just NW of Regulus and the object i saw is directly north of Regulus. I sketched the field and the location matches Uranometria 2000.0. [Checking this image later i don't believe i saw the galaxy. What i saw was the star directly north of Regulus and not Leo I.]
» M95, M96, M105, EG, Leo - The three form an extended triangle. All three look very similar. Dim but plainly seen in 16x.
» M65, M66, NGC3628, EG, Leo - The Leo Triplett. M66 quite easy. Visible in 10x as well. M66 seems to have either a couple of dim foreground stars or maybe some bright knots. Elongated. M65 smaller and dimmer and does not show the bright "knots". Just barely visible in 10x. NGC3628 seems about the same size as M66 but much dimmer. Also elongated. Not visible in 10x.
» M98, EG, Com - Just barely there. Extremely dim.
» M99, EG, Com - Bit easier than M98 but not by much.
» M100, EG, Com - Somewhat bigger and brighter than M99. All these guys are dim.
» M85, EG, Com - Finally one that's fairly easy to see. Visible in 10x also. Round. Can see a dim field star to the SE.
» M88, EG, Com - Dim but plainly visible.
» M91, EG, Com - Dimmer than M88. Quite hard. All these galaxies are pretty hard!
» M84, EG, Vir - Another round one. Bit easier than the last couple.
» M86, EG, Vir - Makes a nice pair with M84. Also a bit larger.
» NGC4438, EG, Vir - Can just glimpse this one on a line from M84 and M86. Nice image of all three here.
» M87, EG, Vir - Bit easier to find this one with some good foreground field stars.
» M89, EG, Vir - Fairly hard.
» M90, EG, Vir - Larger than M89.
» M58, EG, Vir - Another dim hard one.
» M59, EG, Vir - Ditto.
» M60, EG, Vir - Finally one i can see! Visible in 10x as well.
» M49, EG, Vir - Out a bit from the main cluster. Nicely placed between two foreground field stars. Quite easy. Visible in 10x.
» M61, EG, Vir - This galaxy makes my Messier checklist complete! Time for a beer before the moon rises.

Tuesday evening, 3/18/2003, Asteroid Vesta
Used HNSky to plot asteroid Vesta and just went out to see it with 10x42 binoculars. Quite easy to see even very near the full moon only 8 degrees away!

Monday, 3/17/2003, South Lykken hike
Quick morning hike up the south Lykken trail from Cahuilla canyon. Ran into the entire Desert Museum natural science council (including Jim Cornett and my dad) out on a wildflower bus tour! Pretty bright breezy day with nice clouds rolling over the desert divide.

Sunday, 3/16/2003, New car
Bought a new 2003 Honda CR-V today. Traded in the Civic.

Tuesday, 3/11/2003, Araby trail hike
Hiked up Araby trail this morning. Dropped down into upper Eagle Canyon wash then up the drainage to the junction with the Wildhorse trail. Back down via Araby. There are LOTS of grasses on the lower Araby. Not a whole lot blooming up in the middle areas but still quite nice. Lots of heliotrope and some lupines. Fairly warm day... Spring is coming.

Sunday, 3/9/2003, Vanderventer trail and Wentworth canyon loop hike
Went for another great hike this morning! Started at Hermit's Bench in Palm Canyon, south through the main canyon a bit then east on the Vanderventer trail through the East Fork and Hahn Buena Vista junctions then north to Wentworth (Fern) canyon and back to my starting place near the trading post. Just a fabulous day... Clear, sunny, warm, lots of wildflowers, and hardly anyone on the trails. The loop is just right length for a good morning hike. Took about 2.5 hours start to finish. Although Oswit canyon yesterday seemed close to peak flower i think the Palm Canyon area is not quite there yet. The next couple of weeks should really be great!

Saturday, 3/8/2003, Cahuilla canyon hike
Kai and i hiked up Cahuilla canyon to the upper boulder this morning. Lots of stuff blooming... yellow ones, white ones, purple ones, etc. And lots of busy bees servicing the flowers. Was here a month ago when things were getting nice and green. But now it's all in flower. Blooms are probably pretty close to peak right now for this canyon.

Wednesday early morning, 3/5/2003, Mars/M8/M20
Got up at about 4:30am to see Mars situated between M8 and M20 in Sagittarius. Was a pretty sight in the 16x70 Fujinons. M8 showed a lot of nebulosity but only a trace for M20. See the Sky and Telescope finder chart for some more info.

Sunday, 3/2/2003, Joshua Tree day trip
Day trip to southern Joshua Tree. Clear sunny day but also cold and windy. Picked up some trash along Cottonwood entrance road. Not much blooming yet but looks like will be soon. Lots of green grasses and the ocotillos look nice. Encilias are green and bladder pod are blooming a bit. Took a little hike up a side canyon from Cottonwood road near the Coyote mine. Didn't go all the way to the mine. Will save for a future hike. Drove through the campground and north on the main road a bit then back and out the Pinkham Canyon road a couple miles. Along the Pinkham Canyon road a ranger came by and was a bit suspicious of what i was up to. Seems she saw my truck from the main road and drove out to check. Not sure why. Maybe longhair guys out alone on the desert are just suspicious. I showed her the cans and bottles i'd been picking up and she looked in my truck. (She didn't search it or anything... Just looked in the open door seeing if i had anything suspicious i guess.) Once she was satisfied i was harmless we had a nice chat. Anyway, was just good to be out (as always) and got home about 3pm. Looking forward to warmer weather in the spring and summer and spending nights out stargazing.

Saturday, 3/1/2003, Shannon trail
Up and down Shannon trail with Wen.

Monday, 2/24/2003, South Lykken trail
Hike south Lykken trail to the vista point. Also walked up the canyon a bit. Some encilia starting to bloom. Most of the barrel cactus are blooming too.

Sunday, 2/23/2003, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail with Wen to Smoketree Mtn and back. Meet Elsie and Joy and their families at the top.

Saturday, 2/22/2003, Anza-Borrego day trip
Another Saturday on the Anza-Borrego! Parked along the west Truckhaven Trail a bit east of Font's wash. Hiked to the Lute benchmark at N33° 18.930' W116° 12.562'. Spectacular spot! Great view north toward the southern outcroppings of the Santa Rosa mountains. From the benchmark i dropped down west then north to the Rock at N33° 19.713' W116° 12.812'. What a great rock! Probably 25 feet in diameter. Amazing it rolled out here from the steep slopes. Wish i'd brought my camera. Will return here someday for sure. After walking back to my truck i drove a bit west on S22 and picked up some more cans and bottles before driving south along Font's wash for a nice lunch break. Hiked up to the Paint benchmark at N33° 17.778' W116° 13.792' after lunch. Drove out via the Short Wash trail and then the Thimble Trail.

Saturday, 2/15/2003, Anza-Borrego peace trip
Didn't go to a peace march today. Went to the desert. Anza-Borrego desert. I'd forgotten it was a 3-day weekend. Lots of off-roaders camping outside the park along S-22 roaring around on their bikes and quads. Ugh. I hiked up Palo Verde Canyon north of S-22. The topo shows some "natural rock tanks" up a side trail in Smoke Tree Canyon that i thought might be interesting after the recent rains. But i missed the trail on the way in and didn't find it till coming back down. Decided i really didn't want to climb back up again so just walked back to my truck. Saw some fresh bighorn droppings and one set of fresh tracks. On my drive home, from Font's Wash to the state park boundary, i picked up cans and bottles along the road. Picture of my haul here. So, no peace marching for me... Just picking up after my "fellow" humans.

Monday, 2/10/2003, Joshua Tree day trip
Both Wen and i had a day off, and Kai didn't, so the two of us took a little desert trip today. East on I-10 and into Maniobra Valley a bit. Then back down and across the freeway and into Joshua Tree National Park. Bit of a gray cool overcast day on the desert. Drove as far as the Cholla Garden before turning around. Stopped at Maggie's on the way home for Mexican food!

Sunday, 2/9/2003, Comet C/2002 V1
Viewed comet C/2002 V1 from my workplace this evening a bit after 6pm local time. Using Nikon 10x42 SE binoculars handheld a cute little tail was seen. Rather wish i'd brough my 16x70 Fujinons with me. There might be a day or two left where this comet is still visible in the evening with binoculars. Hurry and catch a peak if you haven't already!

Sunday, 2/9/2003, Araby trail
Hike up and down Araby trail with Wen. Ran into Joan Tayor again!

Saturday, 2/8/2003, Garstin trail
Hike up and down Garstin trail with Wen this morning. Met Joan Tayor on her way down as we were heading up. Just a nice day to be out hiking i guess.

Tuesday, 2/4/2003, South Lykken
Hiked south Lykken trail this morning before working night shift. There was this spectacular white hawk perched near the trail. To me it looked similar to a red-tail hawk in size and structure, but it was almost all white with some dark gray splotches on the back. When in flight there were some light red or light brown feathers in the tail. Was a beautiful bird. I've looked through my Peterson western bird book but don't see anything that really fits. Also picked up some trash. This is a short hike, only about a mile from start to finish, but i picked up 2 beer cans, an empty Gatorade bottle, an empty water bottle, a rag, assorted bit of paper and candy wrappers. I think it good that people hike and get out, but i do wish all the slobs would stay home.

Sunday night, 2/2/2003, Desert stargazing
Drove out to my darksky site east of town in late afternoon. Was surprised to find the open desert breezy and chilly since it was quite a warm still day at home. Only stayed till about 8:00pm before packing up and heading home. Following observations are with Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars on a UniMount supplemented with handheld Nikon 10x42mm.
» First target after the end of astronomical twilight was comet C/2002 V1 (NEAT) in the western sky. Through the 16x70 a tail of over one degree is visible. Perhaps almost 2°. Comet is competing with bright skyglow from the Coachella valley. Comet visible in 10x binoculars as well but can't quite pick out with naked eye. The Zodiacal light is very noticeable tonight reaching almost to zenith and is also a factor in the comet being a bit less visible than it could be.
» M81/82, EG, Ursa Major - Well placed to the north-east in dark skies.
» NGC 2976, EG, Ursa Major - Faint galaxy in same binocular field as M81/82. Just barely visible in 16x.
» M31, EG, Andromeda - Huge and bright. Easy naked eye.
» M33, EG, Triangulum - Quite big and easy in 16x. I think i can just glimpse with naked eye.
» NGC 2244, OC with neb, Monoceros, Rosette Nebula - Cluster is 3 pair of bright stars. Kind of like a butterfly. The nebula is huge. Northern part is brighter and maybe 2° across. Not sure if i can see the southern part or not. Seems a bit misty maybe.
» NGC 2261, DN, Monoceros - Unsure.
» NGC 2264, OC with neb, Monoceros - Nice cluster and star field but no nebula seen.
» Saturn/M1/zeta Tauri - Nice field in the 16x.
» Tried for M95/96/105 in Leo but were too low in the sky to locate.
» All of tonight's deepsky objects on a single table.
Will be back next month when it's warmer and hopefully no wind.

Sunday, 2/2/2003, Cahuilla Canyon
Hike Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder with Wen. Lots of nice fresh green growth.

Saturday, 2/1/2003, Family hike
Hiked Shannon trail this morning with Wen and Kai to the peak and back. The single ocotillo along the trail is all green and even has blooms!

Saturday, 2/1/2003, Columbia gone
I went out this morning about 5:55am to see if i could see the space shuttle Columbia pass on its way to landing in Florida. I'd used an outdated source for pass data and i didn't see the shuttle. An hour or so later when i went online and checked email to some of the astro groups i'm a member of i saw the news that Columbia had disintegrated on re-entry over Texas killing all 7 astronauts. So sad. I really wish i'd seen this morning's pass. But on the other hand, maybe better i didn't since it would make me even sadder.

Monday, 1/27/2003, Hike Araby trail
Hiked Araby trail to my Araby Hope geocache. Nice warm morning. Removed a bit of religious propaganda a non-cacher had placed at the cache site.

Sunday, 1/26/2003, Anza-Borrego day trip
Spent Super Bowl Sunday out on the Anza-Borrego desert. Was a perfect day... warm, clear, sunny, quiet. First stop was my Truckhaven geocache near the microwave tower. This was the first cache i placed and it's nice it still gets regular visits. Swung through my Truckhaven campsite. Was a fairly large group camped along the road. After the Truckhaven area made a loop down Arroyo Salado to 17 Palms, the Cut-Across trail, Palo Verde wash and Ella wash. Near 17 Palms found the Oasis Kids cache. Didn't use the GPS this time. Just followed footprints to the cache. Continued on along the Cut-Across trail and took a short hike to the Coach benchmark at N33° 14.989', W116° 7.346'. Neat spot! Can see both my Ella wash and Truckhaven campsites. Drove out via Palo Verde and Ella washes. Such a great day to be outside and few people on the trails. All those poor saps at home watching football!

Saturday, 1/25/2003, Comet C/2002 V1
Took a peek at comet C/2002 V1 (NEAT) from my suburban backyard this evening. Easy to find location just south of the Great Square in Pegasus. Visible in 10x42 and 16x70 binoculars. I'd guess it might just be visible to naked eye from a darksky site. I could not see a tail. On a side note comet Kudo-Fujikawa (C/2002 X5) is visible on the LASCO C3 image from SOHO. The comet is near the top of the image with its tail pointing away from the sun. Pretty neat!

Monday, 1/20/2003, Garstin to Araby hike
Woke up early this morning to hear rain outside! But by 9am the sky was basically clear so went for a hike before work. Went up the Garstin trail, across the middle plateau, then down the Araby trail. Everything damp after the rain. We might have a nice spring with wildflowers if the rains keep coming!!

Sunday, 1/19/2003, Shannon hike
This really is the perfect time of year for desert hikes. Went up the Shannon trail this morning and looped over Smoke Tree mtn, through the middle plateau, up Hot Dog peak, and then back down the Shannon. Absolutely gorgeous day to be on the trails! Sunny, clear, sparkly even. Green bits of vegetation. Now if we can just get some more nice rains over the next couple of months!!!

Monday, 1/14/2003, South Lykken hike
Hiked south Lykken trail to vista point. Was such a beautiful day i also went up the canyon to the lower boulder.

Sunday, 1/12/2003, Tahquitz ridge hike
Hiked up the south ridge of Tahquitz Canyon from the end of Mesquite Ave this morning with Wen. The encilia is starting to green up a bit. Very pretty. Also checked out my Tahquitz Overlook geocache. It's safe and sound and rarely visited. As we were starting down a hiker arrived at the vista point with a GPS unit. I thought he might have been a geocacher looking for the cache but he turned around and passed us on the way down.

Saturday, 1/11/2003, Murray Hill hike
Had a great hike today to Murray Hill. Went up the Dunn Road near Rimrocks, through Eagle Canyon, up the north face of Murray Hill, then down westward and out via Andreas Hills. About 11am i noticed a flock of pelicans high in the south-west. They looked neat through binoculars. As i was following them across the blue sky i saw this bright pinpoint of light... Venus! Once i'd found the planet with binos i could also see with my naked eye. Wen dropped me at the start and picked me up 3 hours later at the other end. Lovely day with the desert nice and fresh after this week's rains. No sign of bighorns.

Sunday, 1/5/2003, Black Eagle Mine Road
I drove to Joshua Tree National Park and stopped at the Cottonwood visitor center to buy a yearly pass. Then drove out the Black Eagle Mine road. I was surprised to find a big boulder had been placed to block the route a few miles east of the park boundary. Seems to have been placed fairly recently too as the road was worn about equally on either side of the boulder. Some pictures here. Maybe i'll make the boulder a virtual cache. These are the coordinates... N33° 52.027', W115° 34.754'.

Wednesday, 1/1/2003, New year's day on the desert
My habit for the last couple of years has been to spend new year's day out on the desert. Is the best way to start the new year that i can think of. Today i drove the Dupont Road south from I10, through the Chuckwalla Mountains, to the Bradshaw Trail. I've never been on the Dupont Road and it's absolutely spectacular. Wonderful stands of ocotillos and cholla. The road is a "good" 4x4 route but there are a few areas that are a bit rocky. Also there is a steep climb to make the crest before joining the Bradshaw. Much of the road borders wilderness and sadly there were a lot of vehicle tracks driving past (and sometimes over) closure signs. Pictures online here. Once joining the Bradshaw i headed east and then north through Graham Pass and back home via I10. A great day. I plan to return soon!

Last year's blog...

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