Florian's 2004 hiking and stargazing blog


Trail map showing local hikes

Friday, 12/31/2004, Cahuilla canyon
Hiked up Cahuilla canyon to the upper boulder with Wen. Was hoping to find signs of flowing water in the canyon from the recent rains but doesn't seem like there had been any. But the desert was nice and moist.

Thursday, 12/30/2004, Comet frustration
I keep reading email and usenet postings regarding the status of comet Machholz. But still not a clear dark evening sky here for over a week. I was really hoping to get out to a darksky site this weekend. Might happen. We'll see...

[After writing the above i went outside about 9pm to find some nice gaps in the clouds. Comet Machholz was very easy to spot with binoculars and after a bit of time in the dark was fairly easy to see naked eye. No tail visible.]

Saturday, 12/18/2004, Rattlesnake Ridge
Great hike in the Anza-Borrego desert today! I'm calling it Rattlesnake Ridge since it's the western ridge above Rattlesnake Canyon. It's also the southern approach trail to Rabbit Peak. From S22 i only went about 3 miles north but the views were absolutely spectacular. The entire northern AB desert is visible... from Truckhaven trail and Ella Wash across Font's point to Clark dry lake and Rockhouse canyon. To the south Signal mountain in Mexico. Beautiful clear day. Parts of the trail are quite steep and the route is somewhat primitive but the trail is easy to follow. I only went to about the 2600 foot level as it was getting quite windy. I have a map online here showing my waypoints with the trail shown only approximately. There are some very nice rocks at 33°20.148'N, 116°12.286'W that make a great spot to sit and take in the view. There were a couple of Gatorade bottles here someone has left as a cache. At first i thought they were trash and was about to carry them down but then realized they were full of water so left them in place. To the rocks and back took just over 3 hours total hiking time.

Friday evening, 12/17/2004, Machholz and Cleopatra's Eye
Found comet Machholz easily with the TV76 even with the almost first-quarter moon. No tail visible but i wasn't really expecting anything with the moonlight. The comet is about 2° SE of little planetary nebula NGC 1535, Cleopatra's Eye. Could almost get the PN and comet in the same field with the 16mm Nagler. Also revisited planetary NGC 1514, the Crystal Ball in Taurus. Still just looks like a star in the small scope. [I went back out a bit later in the evening after the moon had set. The comet and NGC 1535 do actually just fit in the same field through the 16mm Nagler.]

Tuesday, 12/14/2004, South Lykken and Cahuilla canyon
Quick hike up the south Lykken to the vista point. Was such a nice day i then walked up the canyon to the lower boulder. Some spots are so green and lush. Almost like a rain forest.

Monday night, 12/13/2004, Geminid meteors
Went out in my backyard after working night shift from about 12:40am to 1:30am and counted 32 meteors during that time. Every 10 mins or so i'd move my chair around the yard and face a different direction. (Hardly a scientific method.) I also had my 10x42 binoculars and would take quick peeks at things including comet Machholz. I found that i could just barely see the comet with my naked eyes once i knew exactly where to look.

Sunday evening, 12/12/2004, Backyard stargazing
Did some backyard stargazing with the TV76 as the days have been very clear recently. Started with the Messier clusters in Auriga. M38, M36 and M37. All somewhat different. Also near M38 are open clusters NGC 1907 and 1893. Tried for open 1857 but couldn't really see anything besides one star. In Taurus planetary NGC 1514 is indistinguishable from a dim star. Even at higher powers. Checking resources the next day i see this is the Crystal Ball nebula. Photos show a bright central star (which i could see) surrounded by a ball of nebulosity (which i could not see.) The PN is bracketed between two 8 mag stars making it fairly easy to locate. In Perseus open cluster NGC 1582 is large but rather sparse. Two opposing arcs of 3 or 4 stars each. Still in Perseus open cluster 1545 is hard to see although it's in a very nice starfield. Nearby 1528 is quite easy and visible in binoculars. Similar to a Messier cluster. Last cluster is M35 in Gemini. Very nice. Tried to find its companion NGC 2158 but was unsuccessful. I know i've seen this companion cluster but not sure i have from home or with the TV76. Lastly checked comet Machholz in Eridanus. Very bright. Almost seems i can see a bit of broad fan-like tail but not sure. Can see movement against background stars in about 20 minutes.

Sunday, 12/12/2004, Shannon trail
Hiked Shannon trail to the peak then looped through the middle plateau with Wen. Perfect day for a hike.

Monday, 12/6/2004, Cahuilla canyon
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder. Beautiful day after yesterday's rain.

Saturday, 12/4/2004, Orocopia day trip
Spent the morning poking around the north side of the Orocopia mtns. First took the dirt road SE from the Mecca road exit. Explored up both forks to the wilderness boundary. Really nice area. Will be a good spring/summer camping/stargazing spot. Too cold now. Back on the old highway i stopped to talk with a CHP officer. He suggested i go up the SW road and visit the the rockhouse. I'd never been here. Neat spot! I could be happy living there except it was full of mouse droppings.

Friday evening, 12/3/2004, Cleopatra's Eye
Took the TV76 out in the backyard for a bit after dinner. Comet Machholz easy and bright. I'm sure from a darksky site a bit of structure would be visible. But from home it's just bright and round. I took a bit of extra time to track down an object i've never seen... Cleopatra's Eye, NGC 1535, in Eridanus. Nice little planetary neb. Must remember to revisit from a darksky site.

Thursday evening, 12/2/2004, Comet Machholz in the evening
I went for a walk this evening returning home about 8:45pm. The walk warmed me up so i went out in the backyard with my 10x42 Nikon SE binoculars. I found comet Machholz very easily in the SE sky. If you start with the two bright stars of Lepus, Arneb and Nihal, and pan about 10° to the right you can't miss Machholz. My home skies are about mag 4.5. I'd not be surprised if Machholz is now a naked eye object from a darksky site.

Sunday, 11/28/2004, Murray Hill hike
Hiked up from Rimrocks, across Eagle canyon, to Murray Hill. Back down via Hotdog and Shannon trail. Only passed one other hiker on the trails. Beautiful clear day albeit a bit cold and windy on the top. 3 hour 5 minutes total hiking time.

Friday, 11/26/2004, Los Angeles day trip
Went to Los Angeles today. Rode the gold line Metro from Pasadena to downtown. Had lunch in Little Tokyo then walked through downtown to the Disney Music Hall, Olvera Street, and Chinatown. Here are some pictures.

Thursday, 11/25/2004, Araby trail Thanksgiving Day hike
Hike Araby trail, across middle plateau, through the dip, and back down Araby.

Monday night, 11/22/2004, Comet in Caelum
Went out about 2am this morning to find comet Machholz in Caelum. Even with the bright moonlight the comet was easy to spot with 10x42 binoculars. Through the TV76 at 53x a small right triangle of stars was visible just above the comet. The only reason i'm making this entry is that it will probably be the only time i'll ever get to report seeing something in the Caelum! (Caelum translates to The Sculptor's Chisel and is a small dim southern constellation. It was named by Abbé Nicolas Louis de Lacaille.)

Sunday, 11/21/2004, Snow, snow, snow
Cold and rainy all night. Woke up to snow all around. No matter what direction, 360° around the valley, there is snow on the mtns. Down to about the 2000 foot level just west of town.

Saturday, 11/20/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail, over peak, loop through middle plateau, and back down Shannon.

Tuesday, 11/16/2004, South Lykken trail
Up and down the south Lykken to the vista point and back.

Monday night, 11/15/2004, Backyard comet
Stargazing with the TV76 after working night shift. Better conditions than the high drifting clouds on Friday night. Comet Machholz quite bright and easy to find. No tail visible from my suburban-like skies but i suspect more detail would be visible from a darksky site. Since i was in Columba i visited globular cluster NGC 1851. Compact and bright. Noticeably brighter than M79 in Lepus.

Sunday evening, 11/14/2004, Desert stargazing
Stargazing south of the I-10 near the Mecca road exit. Not a bad spot however freeway is visible in each direction. Arrived just as the sun was setting. This was followed by a pretty crescent moon. Bit of a breeze so set up the TV76 behind the CR-V.
§ M81/M82 - Started again with these galaxies low in the north. They stand out a bit better tonight than they did last week from the Anza-Borrego desert.
§ I spent most of the evening tracking down clusters detailed in the Deep-Sky Wonders column from December's Sky & Telescope magazine. Working north-westward from beta Cassiopeia are the following string of open clusters...
§ Berk 58 - Faint but visible as a nebulous patch.
§ NGC 7790 and 7788 - 7788 is coarser and sort of squarish.
§ Frolov 1 - A bit off to the side. A little right angle of stars.
§ Harvard 21 - Very faint. Barely visible. Looks like a small neb.
§ King 12 - At the end of the string. In all an interesting string of small clusters. Only the two NGC objects are very obvious.
§ Also revisited that pretty little cascade of stars trailing southward from beta Cass.
§ M52, OC, Cass - Compared to the other clusters this is quite a change! Nice powdered sugar look. Reminds me of M11 in Scutum.
§ NGC 7510, OC, Cepheus - Interesting. Elongated. Seems to be two parallel strings of stars. Quite small. This image by David Segelstein is very much how the cluster looks through the TV76.
§ Bergeron 1, OC with neb, Cepheus - Can see the cluster, barely. Unable to see any neb.
§ Stock 12, OC, Cass - Very nice. 4 or 5 little strings of stars together give the cluster a sort of spiral form.
§ NGC 7789, OC, Cass - Beautiful cluster. Lots of stars. Nicely centered between rho and sigma Cass. A very impressive image of the cluster is here.
§ NGC 752, OC, Andromeda - While trying to see if M33 was visible with naked eye i at first thought this cluster was the galaxy. The cluster was quite easy naked eye object. However i could not see M33.
§ The Merope neb visible both with TV76 and 10x42 binoculars.
§ By 8pm a steady breeze was making it hard to get stable views so after watching the Orion nebula rise i packed up and headed home.

Sunday, 11/14/2004, Cahuilla canyon
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder with Kai. Beautiful day although a bit breezy.

Saturday, 11/13/2004, Araby trail
Hiked up and down the Araby trail with Wen.

Friday night, 11/12/2004, Comet Machholz
Went out in the backyard about 1am to look for comet C/2004 Q2 Machholz for the first time. A bit of high clouds made this a less than ideal night. But the comet was easy to spot south of Orion and Lepus way down in Columba. Quite a bit larger and easier to see than M79 to the north. With the clouds and suburban skyglow no real detail or tail was visible. Comet was easily seen in 10x42 binoculars as well. By January the comet will be in Taurus and 3 mags brighter! Passing very near the Pleadies on Jan 6th.

Saturday afternoon/evening, 11/6/2004, Truckhaven camp and stargazing
Drove down to the Anza-Borrego desert in the afternoon. Camped at my usual Truckhaven site. Lovely afternoon with nice warm sun followed by clear evening skies for stargazing. Three of the Big Dipper handle stars (Alkaid, Mizar, Alioth) form a nice crown over Pyramid Peak.

Did a bit of stargazing with the TV76 and 10x42 binoculars. M81 and M82 due north about as low in the sky as they get are both easily seen. In Cassiopeia open clusters 457, 218 and 7789. Double Cluster in Perseus along with Stock 2. Kemble's Cascade and open cluster 1502 in Camelopardalis. Also in Cam planetary 1501 took a while to find. Was larger and much fainter than i was expecting it to be. The Helix in Aquarius quite easy with binoculars and very nice in the TV76 with 9mm and UHC. The Ring neb M57 and open cluster M56 in Lyra. Dark nebula Barnard 361 is very weird looking. Both sides of the Veil are nice and quite visible without UHC. Back in Cassiopeia just north of Andromeda galaxy 185 is visible but nearby 147 and 278 are not. The Blue Snowball 7662 in Andromeda blinks on and off with direct vision. Swinging to the south galaxy 247 in Cetus is quite faint. However galaxy 253 in Sculptor is great. Elongated and bright. Also in Sculptor globular 288 and galaxies 55, 300, and 7793.

Awoke Sunday morning to gray overcast skies. Picked up some cans and bottles along S-22 like i usually do. Also came across this weird dead Teddy Ruxpin. I call him Deady Ruxpin. This dead bunny was at the same site. Was like photographing a crime scene.

Saturday morning, 11/6/2004, Shannon, Garstin, Henderson loop hike
Hiked up the Shannon trail, then down the Garstin trail, and back along the Henderson trail. Nice loop hike.

Thursday, 11/4/2004, Venus and Jupiter
Got up early to see Venus and Jupiter very close together in the morning sky. Quite pretty.

Tuesday, 11/2/2004, South Lykken trail
Hiked south Lykken trail to vista point and back. Beautiful day. On the way down i talked with two women who had what looked like a blueprint. I asked if i could see the plan and they said it was just a topo map and didn't let me see it. They said they were doing a preliminary environmental survey. I really hope the canyon/floodplain here never gets developed. It's such a beautiful canyon and so close to town. Would be a crime to lose it. Sigh...

Saturday, 10/30/2004, Shannon trail
Hiked the Shannon trail, over Smoketree mtn, then looped through the middle plateau. Beautiful clear day!

Wednesday, 10/27/2004, Total lunar eclipse
Rained most of the day but by evening skies cleared a bit and we had a pretty good view of the eclipse off and on between drifting clouds.

Sunday, 10/24/2004, Cahuilla canyon
Hike Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder then back down stopping at cache.

Friday, 10/22/2004, Garstin trail
Hiked up Garstin trail to the Wildhorse junction, across the middle plateau to Araby junction, across the dip and over Smoketree mtn, then back down Garstin. Nice loop hike. Some fresh bighorn tracks at the top of the Garstin and near junction with Araby trail.

Friday/Saturday, 10/15-16/2004, Mojave desert trip
Took a vacation day off Friday for a little Mojave desert camping/stargazing trip. Drove up through 29 Palms, Amboy, Kelso and Cima. Drove through the Mid Hills campground and ended up at the Hole-in-the-Wall campground. When i arrived i was surprised to find the campground was almost full. Turns out that quail hunting season opens Saturday! Besides there just being a lot more people around than i care for a camper near me had floodlights on the side of his trailer. Fortunately i was on the backside so didn't get them face on. Unfortunately his generator was on my side so i got the noise. Generator hours end at 7pm so when he was still running it at 7:30pm i went over and asked him to turn it off. He complied and happily this also forced him to turn off the floodlights! [Note to self: Don't go camping the night before quail season starts.] Did a bit of stargazing with my TV76 [see below] but high thin clouds spoiled the few after a few hours. I was also surprised how bright the skyglow was to the north from Las Vegas 75 miles away. Saturday i awoke to the sounds of shotguns blasting and a gray overcast sky. Drove home via Essex, Danby road, Cadiz road, Hwy 62, Hwy 177 and Desert Center. Also visited my Amoboy Lava Flow Dinocache on Friday and my Cadiz Dunes cache on Saturday leaving fresh tins of Altoids in each. Got home about 3pm after driving a total of 405 miles and paid $34.18 in Coachella to refill the gas tank. Was a good trip but a bit too much driving. Also the Mojave really isn't my favorite desert. Next trip will be a bit closer to home and won't be to a developed campground.

Friday, 10/15/2004, Supernova 2004et from the Mojave
Stargazing from the Hole-in-the-Wall campground using my Tele Vue 76 i easily located galaxy 6946 and nearby open cluster 6939. I've always liked this pair of objects and how they look similar in the small scope. I used a printed copy of the locater chart from Skyhound.com. Working from the chart and using 9mm and 7mm Naglers i first identified some of the brighter field stars. There is a triangle of unlabeled stars south of the galaxy core and another unlabeled pair north at the edge of the photographic image area. Trying for the supernova at first i didn't see anything. But after a while and just spending time with the galaxy i found i could indeed detect something in the right place. In fact with the 7mm i did start to see two objects which i believe were the supernova and a double start just east. I could not tell that the double star itself was double. I returned to the galaxy a couple of times throughout the evening to verify that i really was seeing the supernova and each time, with patience, i could just pick out objects (the supernova and the double star) at the correct location. In such a small scope the supernova was something less than spectacular. But just being able to detect it was satisfying.

Tuesday, 10/12/2004, Middle Lykken trail
Hike middle Lykken trail from end of Mesquite to my Tahquitz overlook cache. I'd not been up this trail, or to the cache, since last November. Sure doesn't seem that long.

Sunday evening, 10/10/2004, Juno, Neptune, Uranus, Vesta, Metis
Since i've been kind of hooked on asteroids lately i thought i'd try for Juno tonight with the TV76. Juno is currently in Scutum at mag 10.5. Took a bit of careful starhopping with a printed SkyTools chart to find this one. Juno was right at the limit of visibility. I did see a mag 10.6 star but nothing fainter. Moving eastward i found Neptune easily using a printed chart. Next was "bright" Uranus and then my friends Vesta and Metis. Neptune, Uranus and Vesta were all visible with 10x42 binoculars. Juno and Metis were not. My home skies are about naked eye mag 4.6.

Saturday evening, 10/9/2004, Vesta and Metis
Vesta and Metis just fit within the same 30x field in my TV76.

Saturday, 10/9/2004, Araby trail
Hike Araby trail to cache and back. I was hoping to go stagazing/camping on the desert tonight but Carl's forecast is for winds with blowing dust and sand. I hate blowing dust and sand. Guess i'll stay home although conditions seem to look pretty good right now.

Friday evening, 10/8/2004, Vesta and Metis
Since finding asteroid Vesta on Monday i've been watching its slow movement each night with 10x42 binoculars. It's like a secret little friend in the sky. I happened to notice in SkyTools that asteroid Metis is nearby. Tonight using the TV76 it was an easy starhop a field or two north to find little Metis. At mag 9.5 Metis is quite a bit dimmer than Vesta but easily visible in the 3" scope. I was unable to see it in the binoculars. On the 14th Metis will pass just south of the nice double star 94 Aqr.

Thursday, 10/7/2004, Gleanings update
I haven't updated my gleanings page all year. I finally got around to posting some new sites. Have a look here if you dare.

Monday evening, 10/4/2004, Asteroid Vesta
Asteroid Vesta is currently well placed and easy to find in the evening sky. Last night using the finder chart on page 68 of the Nov S&T i had no problem locating Vesta through my suburban-like backyard skies in the TV76. Will be fun to watch over the next month or so as it loops around the star 97 Aqr. The planet Uranus is a bit to the west and was also easy to spot. Both objects were visible in with handheld 10x42 binoculars as well.

Sunday, 10/3/2004, Shannon trail
Recovering from a bit of a head cold but really wanted to get out and get some exercise so hiked about halfway up the Shannon trail to the plaque and back. It did feel good to get out in the sunshine.

Sunday, 9/26/2004, South Lykken trail
Quick dash hike up to the visit point and back.

Saturday, 9/25/2004, Anza-Borrego day trip
Truckhaven cache, Truckhaven trail, pick up cans and bottles along S-22. Nice lunch in the shade of a smoke tree along Font's wash.

Tuesday night, 9/21/2004, Backyard stargazing
Went out for a bit after work with the TV76 again. Tried to find a few southern objects. Started with galaxy NGC 247 in Cetus but it proved to be out of reach. In Sculptor galaxy NGC 253 and globular cluster NGC 288 were visible and both fit in the same 30x field. The galaxy quite large and elongated. The cluster round and faint but did not want to resolve. Farther south unable to locate galaxies NGC 55 and 300. All of these objects are good targets from a darksky site and even though tonight's home skies were quite good many of them remained out of reach. Swinging around to the north to Camelopardalis and open cluster NGC 1502 i just realized this cluster is in Kemble's Cascade. I somehow had forgotten this from Cottonwood on Friday and hadn't noticed the nearby string of stars. Also tried for and found planetary NGC 1501 using the UHC on the 9mm. Much harder through the home skies but definitely visible with the filter. Open cluster Tombaugh 5 is also just visible with that tiny Capricornus-like asterism on its edge. Last object was boxy open cluster Stock 23 like an elongated square.

Tuesday, 9/21/2004, Middle Lykken trail
Hiked middle Lykken trail from the end of Ramon this morning. Also checked out the geocache and it's just fine. No visitors since last year however. Nice clear breezy day on the desert. Good time of year to be outside.

Monday night, 9/20/2004, Asteroid Toutatis
Asteroid 4179 Toutatis is making one of its close passes to Earth this month. It will be closest on the 29th but too far south for northern observers. Also in a couple of days moonlight will interfere. I thought i'd try to get a jump on things so after working the evening shift i setup my TV76 in the backyard. I also had a new 9mm Nagler T6 eyepiece to try out that had just arrived today! At 1am Toutatis was only 20° above the SW horizon in Capricornus. SkyTools says the asteroid is mag 10.7 and should be about the same brightness as the dimmest stars visible. Using a printed chart i carefully starhopped down from 37 Cap following a little chain of 5 stars to a another perpendicular chain of 5 where Toutatis should be the 5th "star" in the chain. This second chain was just at the limit of visibility through the 3" scope, the mediocre suburban sky conditions, and the low placement in the sky. But i can see the 5th point... Toutatis! I think. I won't be happy or convinced until it moves. At 1:08am i memorized the star pattern through the 9mm as best i could and went on to visit some other objects and play with my new eyepiece a bit. Returning to the Toutatis field again at 1:55am it's only 12° above the horizon and much more difficult to pick out the dim stars. Fortunately my SW skies are fairly dark (all the car dealerships are east) and i could just see the field stars and what i hoped was Toutatis. And that 5th "star" had moved! Not much, but enough to be obvious. Positive identification of Toutatis. Hurray! (Comparing the movement to SkyTools the next day the movement i saw pretty much matches exactly what the program predicted.) Not a bad first night for a brand new eyepiece!

Sunday, 9/19/2004, Garstin trail
Hiked Garstin trail, over peak, and looped back through middle plateau. Nice breeze.

Friday night, 9/17/2004, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Drove up to Cottonwood in the early evening with the TV76. I started out in the upper campground loop. Saw a nice little sidewinder crossing the road. There was a middle-aged couple setting up a Celestron 11 in another site. I figured it might be fun to compare views later in the night. Then a group of teen boys arrived. The boys were just being boys, and weren't playing any music, but they did start up a campfire and were somewhat distracting. But then the middle-aged couple started up a generator to power the scope/computer. Generator hours at Cottonwood are strictly limited. I don't understand why certain people just assume they are exempt from rules. So with the generator noise and the teens with their fire i decided to move to the trailhead parking lot. Fortunately, with the TV76 it's very easy to pack things up and relocate. Had the trailhead to myself for the rest of the night. Much better!
§ I didn't feel too much like taking detailed notes but tried to keep a list of objects visited. Started to the south with the NGC 6572, the Blue Racquetball in Ophiuchus. Barnard's Galaxy, NGC 6822 in Sagittarius and two globulars in Delphinus, NGC 6934 and 7006. The former quite easy thought the TV76 and the later much harder. Couldn't really see it at 30x but at 68x it came into view.
§ Globular M71 in Sagitta, the Dumbbell nebula M27 and the Coathanger asterism in Vulpecula. Also revisited little planetaries NGC 6543 in Draco, 6826 in Cygnus and 7662 in Andromeda.
§ The Andromeda galaxy M31 and its companions M32 and M110, Mirach's Ghost NGC 404, and big M33 in Triangulum.
§ Around 10:30pm took a break and just sat out in the middle of the parking lot in my lawn chair and enjoyed the star-filled sky. Bit of a breeze coming up too but not bad. Using 10x42 binoculars the Helix nebula is easy to see. Checking with the TV76 and UHC filter at 30x can tell the nebula is darker toward the center but i don't really see it as a ring shape. Using the 7mm at 68x is too much power to see much at all.
§ Planetary NGC 1501 in Camelopardalis is different than the other planetaries i've been visiting lately. I was looking for a small star-like object but finally noticed this larger dim glow. Faint. Better at 68x than 30x. There is a really pretty open cluster nearby as well, NGC 1502. Double star near center. Compact and bright. Also open cluster Tombaugh 5. The cluster itself is rather faint but there is an interesting little telescopic asterism of stars alongside that to me looks like a little tiny Capricornus.
§ Just some other random objects visited... The Double Cluster in Perseus, some of the brighter clusters in Cassiopeia, galaxy M74 in Pisces, the Pleadies, and a bunch of other stuff i didn't write down. Packed up about midnight and drove home.

Monday evening, 9/13/2004, Backyard planetaries
I've been sort of hooked on a few little planetary nebulae lately. Tonight i found NGC 6572 in Ophiuchus for the first time. Through the TV76 at 30x looks like a star. But with the 7mm for 68x it looks quite a bit like a little planet. I've seen this planetary referred to as the Blue Racquetball but i don't see the blue color tonight. Using the UHC filter the nebula really pops out of the background.
§ Since i was in the area i checked open cluster NGC 6633. Fairly sparse and coarse. Seems somewhat triangular in shape. Also open cluster IC 4756 in Serpens is large with mostly dim members. Reminds me of the Beehive in Cancer.
§ Back to planetaries for the 3 i've been tracking lately... NGC 6543 in Draco, NGC 6826 in Cygnus, and NGC 7662 in Andromeda. I think 6543 is the brightest of tonight's four and 6826 the faintest. 6572 is definitely the smallest. All are somewhat similar yet different in their own ways.

Sunday, 9/12/2004, Cahuilla canyon
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to upper boulder. Checking my notes it seems i haven't been here since April when Kai and i hiked up to the canyon narrows. Rather surprised it's been so long.

Saturday, 9/11/2004, Shannon trail
Hiked Shannon trail to Smoke Tree peak. Very humid muggy morning. But saw two fresh westbound bighorn footprints just west of the Berns junction!

Monday evening, 9/6/2004, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Drove up to Cottonwood in late afternoon arriving a bit before sunset. Set up my TV76 in site 2B in the upper loop. Had the entire campground totally to myself! It was a perfect evening... warm, clear, and absolutely calm. Couldn't have been nicer.
§ I started to the south with some casual wanderings around open cluster M7, the Lagoon M8, Trifid M20 and the M24 star cloud. In M24 the dark nebulas Barnard 92 and 93 were very obvious as well as a nice dark rift stretching down from B93. I'd never really noticed this dark arm across M24 before. Very neat looking! While still facing south i checked Barnard's Galaxy NGC 6822. The galaxy was harder to find that i recall but the little planetary NGC 6818 just north of the galaxy confirmed the location. I think the best views i've had of 6822 are with my Fujinon 16x70 binoculars.
§ Turning my attention northward i visited a couple of planetaries i've been enjoying from home... NGC 6543, the Cat Eye nebula in Draco and NGC 6826, the Blinking Planetary in Cygnus. I've gotten so i can find both of these without reference to charts. Tonight i noticed that 6543 is quite a bit brighter than 6826. Not sure why i hadn't noticed that before. Both are nice through my new Nagler 7mm T6 at 68x. I had wanted to visit planetary NGC 7662, the Blue Snowball over in Andromeda, and compare to these planetaries but i totally forgot until i got home. Something to do next time.
§ One of my favorite pairings of objects are open cluster NGC 6939 in Cepheus and galaxy NGC 6946 just over the border in Cygnus. At 30x look very similar in shape, size and brightness. However at 68x the open cluster is obviously made of stars while the galaxy remains a hazy glow.
§ Inspired by the photo on page 30-31 of the October Sky & Telescope i tried tracking down the Crescent Nebula, NGC 6888, in Cygnus. This is a difficult area to navigate due to the huge number of faint stars. I finally located the diamond of stars that's visible in the S&T photograph but the nebula itself was something else. I think, just maybe, using the UHC filter that i could detect a bit of nebulosity. But i'm not really sure. This is a very difficult object for a 3" scope!
§ Around 10pm i started packing up to drive home. I plan to return next weekend and spend the night.

Monday, 9/6/2004, Araby trail
Hiked up and down the Araby trail. Today was hot. In the last week i've hiked all four of my local regular desert trails. Nice to be out on the desert again!

Sunday, 9/5/2004, Shannon trail
Hiked Shannon trail to Smoke Tree peak with Wen. Today was warmer than yesterday.

Saturday, 9/4/2004, Garstin trail
Hiked Garstin trail to Smoke Tree peak. Visited my Flag Over Palm Springs geocache. Nice clear morning with a bit of a breeze to keep temps comfortable. Good to be hiking on the desert again.

I'd planned to go stargazing tonight at Cottonwood as the day was very nice and clear. However around 4pm clouds started moving in from the south to spoil my plans.

Tuesday, 8/31/2004, First desert hike
First desert hike of the season up and down the south Lykken to the vista point and back. Still a bit warm but not too bad. There is a rock crushing/sorting operation going on at the foot of the trail for a new development that makes a lot of noise so the hike wasn't exactly tranquil.

Sunday, 8/29/2004, Last tramway hike
Hiked from tramway to Round Valley, then high trail to Hidden Lake (dry), then back to tramway. Summer tram pass expires the end of August so this will be my last tramway hike until next year. In total i rode/hiked the tramway 10 times this summer.

Saturday early morning, 8/28/2004, Early morning Messiers
I always like to visit (or rather revisit) the Messier catalog with a new telescope. I've had the Tele Vue 76 since February and only have a few M objects i've not yet seen from home. Having a very small window of darkness early this morning between moonset and twilight i got up about 3:45am and went out in the backyard with the TV76. Skies don't seem as dark as they had been earlier in the week and there is still some glow over the mountains to the WSW from the recently set moon. Started with the open clusters in Auriga... M38 with NGC 1907 just to its south, M36 smaller and coarser, and M37 nice like a bit of spilled sugar. M38 and M36 just fit in the same 30x field with the 16mm Nagler. Also SW of M38 is a cute little asterism of stars i've seen referred to as the Dolphin. From the open clusters moved over to Taurus and M1. Not at all bright but plainly visible with averted vision. Will be better later in the season when it's higher in the sky. Surprisingly using the UHC filter the view doesn't really improve. Last two M objects were galaxies... M77 in Cetus is compact and bright. There are also quite a few other galaxies nearby but i didn't bother trying to find any of them considering the mediocre sky conditions. The only failure of the night was M74 in Pisces. It's just not there. I did check M33 almost directly overhead in Triangulum. Large and quite bright actually. So to sum up my Messier survey with the TV76 from home i've only failed to see 5 objects, all galaxies... M74, M91, M98, M108 and M109. All of them are visible from darksky sites with the TV76, but so far these 5 remain out of reach from my backyard.

Saturday, 8/21/2004, Home from China
Returned home after a 10 day vacation to China. Visited such cities as Beijing, Xi'an, Wuxi, Suzhuo, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Highlights were the Great Wall north of Beijing and the terracotta warriors near Xi'an. I have a few pictures from the trip with short captions online here and a larger collection without captions here. I'm not sure i'd actually go with a tour group again. One gets tired of being herded around after a while. It's more fun to make your own route. Now if i can just get over the jet lag.

Saturday, 8/7/2004, Tramway hike
From the tramway Wen and i hiked south to high trail then to Round Valley. Basically the same hike as last week only going the other direction, and only did it once.

Friday evening, 8/6/2004, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Have a good two hour window of dark between the end of astronomical twilight and moonrise tonight so drove up to Cottonwood with the TV76. Only one other person in the upper loop. Lovely quiet evening.
> My first target was the new supernova SN 2004dj in galaxy NGC 2403. But at the end of astronomical twilight the galaxy was only 13° above horizon just west of due north. Not very well placed at all. But using the TV76 the galaxy itself was fairly easy to see. A soft oval glow. Using the AAVSO finder chart i carefully matched the brighter foreground stars to my eyepiece view. Through the 3-6mm Nagler zoom set at 6mm the two stars on either side of the galaxy core were plainly visible. Then bingo... the supernova! At first it would pop into view then i'd loose it. But with practice i could hold it reliably at 80x. Wow! Now neat! Using the 10mm Radian for 48x i could just catch fleeting glimpses of the supernova. I'm sure during another time of year when NGC 2403 is higher in the sky that the supernova would be quite an easy target.
> Globular cluster M53 in Coma Berenices hoping to find faint nearby globular NGC 5053. But no luck on 5053. Skyglow from cities to the west didn't help. There is an interesting little string of mag 6 star just north of M53 and a cute mag 9 or so double just south.
> Not too far away in Boötes i did find globular NGC 5466. Fairly easy in the TV76. No central core visible. Looks more like a round galaxy than a globular. Between NGC 5466 and M3 i tried to find galaxy NGC 5375 but was unsuccessful.
> Revisited planetaries NGC 6543 in Draco and NGC 6826 in Cygnus. The nebulas themselves don't look that much different than they do in my home skies. However from Cottonwood the background sky is much darker and many more fainter field stars are visible. Just a much more pleasing view. Tried to find NGC 6552 in Draco but the little mag 14.5 galaxy was just too faint for the TV76.
> Spent some time looking for the Cocoon nebula, IC 5146, in Cygnus but it was totally invisible. Tried both with and without UHC filter with no luck. I could see open cluster NGC 7209. But what was really neat in the area was dark nebula Barnard 168! A straight dark wall maybe 2° long. Very plainly seen through the TV76 at 30x using the 16mm Nagler. Really neat looking. Plainly visible with 10x42 binoculars as well.
> A bit of random wandering... Veil nebula (both halves), the Dumbbell M27, M73, and the Coathanger with open cluster NGC 6802 off the eastern end.
> Tried to resolve the NGC 281 trapezium in Cassiopeia. With the 3-6mm zoom at various settings i can see a brighter pair and a third dimmer member off to one side. But at 11pm is still only about 30° above the horizon. Perhaps later in the year i'll revisit and see if i can resolve the members a bit better.
> I'm tired. Time to go home.

Thursday evening, 8/5/2004, Comet not as near M3
Found comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR again this evening with the TV76 but somehow didn't seem as bright as a couple days ago. Perhaps the sky wasn't as clear. Also revisited a couple of planetaries NGC 6543 in Draco and NGC 6826 in Cygnus.

Monday evening, 8/2/2004, Comet near M3
Comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR well placed this evening in Boötes about 4° south of the bright globular cluster M3. Using the Tele Vue 76 both would not fit in the same field but it was easy to pan back and forth between them. The comet was larger than M3 but not as bright. No tail was visible through my suburban-like backyard skies. Also visited a couple of bright planetary nebulas... NGC 6543 in Draco marks the north ecliptic pole somewhat like Polaris marks the north celestial pole. This is the "Cat's Eye" nebula. At 30x like a defocused star. Nice at 48x as a small disk next to a little mag 10 star. Over in Cygnus NGC 6826 is a bit dimmer but otherwise similar to 6543. A double star to the west (16 Cyg) helps in locating the nebula. 6826 is the "Blinking Planetary" but to me most planetaries tend to blink when switching between direct and averted vision. Not sure why this particular object won the title for itself.

Saturday, 7/31/2004, Tramway hike
From the tramway hiked the Round Valley trail and looped back on the high trail. But that only took an hour and ten minutes, so i did the loop a second time for a nice two and a half hour hike.

Sunday, 7/25/2004, Tramway hike
Hiked from tramway south then west on high trail to Round Valley. Up to Wellman's then back to tram.

Friday night, 7/23/2004, Camping/stargazing from Cottonwood
Nice night camping and stargazing at Cottonwood. Arrived about 8pm and setup in the upper loop. Maybe about 6 sites were occupied is all. The skies are good but not great as a bit of monsoonal moisture is moving in. Earlier in the week the air had been very dry. Figures it would change by the weekend. Brought the Tele Vue 76 and Nikon 10x42 binoculars.
> Caught a quick peek at Mercury just before it set. The star Regulus was right above it. Missed seeing Mars as it must have set just before i arrived. Higher in the sky Jupiter and its bright moons were very symmetrical with 2 moons visible on each side of the planet. Quick glance at the moon and then i napped a bit until after the moon had set.
> Getting up around 11:30pm i started with the comets. C/2001 Q4 NEAT low in the NW in Ursa Major. Too low in the sky and too dim to see much of anything. C/2003 K4 LINEAR up in Boötes is much better. Easily visible in 10x42 binoculars. I was hoping to see a bit of tail but the comet is competing with quite a bit of skyglow from the west. No tail visible.
> Cygnus is well placed just east of the zenith with the North American nebula looking nice. Probably looks best with the binoculars. Through the TV76 lots of dark knots are visible. Tried for the Pelican nebula but even with the UHC filter it's very difficult. Don't think i can see it with the binoculars. The Veil nebula is however visible in the binoculars. At least the eastern portion is. Through the TV76 both portions just fit on opposite sides of the 16mm Nagler field. With the UHC filter contrast is much improved with interesting details visible. Also in Cygnus is little planetary NGC 7027. Hard to tell from a star. Even at higher powers still looks pretty much like a star. Last stop in Cygnus is open cluster M39. Triangular shape. I think i like it best through binoculars.
> In Andromeda the "Blue Snowball" planetary NGC 7662 is bright and star-like at 30x. With the 3-6mm Nagler zoom it looks much more like a planet. Can't say that i can see any color however. I should try this one from home.
> Revisiting the "Pacman" nebula NGC 281. From here without UHC filter looks about how it looked from home with the filter. But even using the UHC i'm still not seeing the Pacman shape. Will try again later in the night when it's higher in the sky.
> Down south also revisiting NGC 7009, M73 and M72. They all look about the same here as they did from home a couple nights ago. Sometimes i think my home skies are better than i give them credit for. Also tonight's conditions aren't the best. It had been dryer earlier in the week.
> Found the Helix (NGC 7293) easily without the UHC. At 30x with UHC and averted vision can glimpse the central hole. But i think my favorite view tonight is through the binoculars where it's easily seen as a ghostly glowing ball floating in space.
> I printed some planet charts tonight to find Neptune and Uranus. Neptune isn't bright and definitely needs the finder chart to locate. Even at high powers can't tell it's not a star. Uranus is much brighter and at higher powers can see a small disk. Both planets are visible in binoculars with Uranus even visible to the naked eye with averted vision.
> Back in Andromeda M31 is huge stretching from edge to edge in the 16mm Nagler's 2° field. Companion M32 is easy to see as is M110. Also in Andromeda NGC 404, Mirach's Ghost, and it does look very much like an optical "ghost" of the bright star. Best at 80x but can just glimpse it at 30x.
> North of Andromeda in Cassiopeia are three little galaxies... NGC 185, 147 and 278. 185 is fairly easy but could not see 147. I was a bit surprisingly to see little 278. Very small, but unmistakable in the 10mm Radian at 48x.
> At 2am trying the Pacman nebula again now that it's higher in the sky. With the 16mm and UHC filter i can see the Pacman! Barely. Maybe it's time to get that TV102!
> Galaxy NGC 7331 overhead in Pegasus. I'm sort of surprised i could see this so easily from home the other night. It doesn't seem that bright tonight.
> By 2:30am or so i'm getting a bit worn out but made quick visits to a few Messier objects... Galaxy M33 in Triangulum is big and quite bright. Very slightly brighter toward center otherwise no real structure seen. The Little Dumbbell, M76, with 10mm Radian and UHC filter almost shows its dumbbell shape a bit. Open cluster M34 somehow doesn't look that much better here than it did from home the other night. Either the sky just isn't very good or i'm too tired. Or both. Galaxy M74 in Pisces isn't at all bright but it is just visible in the binoculars. And galaxy M77 down in Cetus is really too low to count but i did see it in the TV76.
> At 3am it's getting a bit breezy so time to stop. So i put the eyepieces away, closed up the charts, and climbed into the sleeping bag in the open bed of the truck to fall asleep under the stars...

Wednesday night, 7/21/2004, Backyard stargazing
Another nice early morning session with the Tele Vue 76. Similar conditions to the last few nights with brighter patches of the Milky Way visible. I'm working on a TV76 survey of the Messier objects visible from my backyard and have about 15 yet to go.
> On my way to M72 and M73 in Aquarius i find it easier to start with a non-Messier... NGC 7009, the Saturn nebula. At 30x it looks more like a star than a planetary. At 48x the nebula definitely has some "body" to it. Pushing up to 80x using the 3-6mm zoom the neb is still pretty small but it seems a bit oblong. Going all the way to 160x is a bit too much for the sky conditions. 7009 is a fun object to play with at various powers.
> Fitting in the same 30x field with 7009 is M73. At higher powers can see what looks like a little triangle of 3 stars with maybe a 4th just popping into view now and then. A little to the east of M73 is little globular M72. Quite faint. I think this is Messier's dimmest globular. Can almost fit all three, M72/M73/7009, within the same field using the 16mm Nagler but not quite. As faint as both M72 and M73 are i always enjoy this part of the sky above the "big smile" of Capricorn.
> There are three bright Messier globulars along a north/south line all transiting around 2am. Starting from the south M30 in Capricorn is bright and very easy to see just to the right of a mag 5 star. Quite a change from M72. Moving north M2 in Aquarius is even brighter. And lastly M15 in Pegasus is also quite bright. M15 sits at the center of a triangle of stars with a 4th star just NE of the cluster. Quite a nice field in the TV76. Sort of reminds me of the Mercedes logo.
> Uranus and Neptune are both in this area of the sky but i forgot to print out finder charts for them.
> Change of pace from globulars to look for the Helix nebula, NGC 7293. This is always a challenge from home. For one the nebula is very faint. Also there are no good field stars nearby to help locate the position. Panning around the area at 30x was fruitless until i tried with the UHC filter. Although not bright, 7293 does show up very well with the filter. Large and at times with averted vision i thought i could just glimpse a darker central hole. Once i'd located the nebula with the filter i tried again without filter and the nebula basically disappeared.
> Another change of pace to galaxy NGC 7331 high overhead in Pegasus. Almost at the zenith. The Observer's Sky Atlas says it's spindle shaped in larger scopes but all i could tell was that it was someone elongated. Best using the 10mm Radian.
> Continuing with the Messier survey to galaxy M33 in Triangulum. Quite easy to see tonight as it's higher in the sky than a couple nights ago. Can't see any real detail. Just a large oval patch of light.
> Last object is open cluster M34 in Perseus. Very pretty cluster. Contains 5 or 6 pairs of stars. Really pretty in the TV76. There's also a little string of 3 stars NW of the cluster. Quite a nice field.
> By now it's 3am and the Pleadies are up in the east. A quick peek at them through the scope makes me feel like it's winter and not the middle of summer. If i don't go inside now Orion will be in view and i'll never get any sleep!

Tuesday evening, 7/20/2004, Backyard comets
Went out this evening with the TV76 at the end of astronomical twilight to check the two brighter evening comets. Comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT fairly low in the north-west and down in skyglow from the city. Somewhat difficult to find however being located right between the pointer stars of the Big Dipper helped a lot. Not much to see anymore. Just a small faint glow. Tried for nearby M97 and M108 but the sky was much to bright for any hope in seeing them. In comparison comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR high overhead was no problem at all. Round with no tail visible. Looked similar in size to globular M3 which is in the same area of the sky but the comet was maybe half as bright. Globular M5 a bit south was brighter yet and resolved a bit in the 3" scope.

Monday night, 7/19/2004, Backyard stargazing
Went out again late tonight with the TV76 after working night shift. Similar conditions to last night with brighter patches of the Milky Way visible overhead.
> Open cluster M52 in Cassiopeia at first just a soft glow but with more study many faint stars start to resolve. Another Cass open is NGC 7789. Quite large but very faint. Almost not visible above the background skyglow. Hard to tell it's actually made of stars and not a nebula.
> Revisiting the NGC 281 nebula tonight with the UHC filter. This is the Pacman nebula. Surprisingly easy to see with the 16mm Nagler. However not quite enough contrast to see the "bite" that gives the nebula its name. Definitely needs a visit from a darksky site.
> An interesting pair from darksky sites are open cluster NGC 6939 in Cepheus and galaxy NGC 6946 just over the border in Cygnus. From dark sites the two are actually easy to see in 16x70mm binoculars. But tonight through city skies it's a different story. The cluster 6939 is just barely detectable and the galaxy 6946 is invisible.
> Over in Andromeda M31 is of course bright and easy to spot. But to me it's always oddly uninteresting with no real details seen for all its brightness. Companion M32 easy to spot. However the other companion M110 took a bit of searching as it was farther from the main galaxy than i remembered and dimmer than i was expecting. Before going in i tried for the Pinwheel galaxy M33 but it was too low in skyglow to the east to bother with.

Sunday night, 7/18/2004, Backyard stargazing
The day had been somewhat humid with a fair amount of moisture in the air. Still, early in the morning things didn't look that bad and i could just see some brighter portions of the Milky Way so i setup the Tele Vue 76 in my backyard around 1am.
> Starting with open clusters in Cassiopeia... NGC 457, the ET Cluster, is always pretty with its unique shape and two bright "eyeball" stars. M103 has a kind of interesting tri-corner shape with two brighter stars at the middle. Reminds me of the Stargate asterism in Corvus. Also about half a degree east of M103 is a tiny little triangle of stars. The two groupings together make a pretty field. NGC 663 seems split into two parts with a brighter pair of stars in each half. Little NGC 654 is fairly hard to see through the suburban skies. Resolves just a bit at 48x using the 10mm Radian. Tried for open cluster NGC 559 but i don't think i can see it.
> NGC 281 is a cluster associated with nebulosity. Panning over the area i almost think i can see a bit of a large faint glow. However through these poor skies i'm surprised if i'm really seeing what i think i'm seeing. Might be more a case of wishful thinking. Online images of the nebula like this one look like a small version of the great Orion Nebula. This is one to revisit from a darksky site.
> Can't be in this part of the sky without a visit to the Double Cluster in Perseus. This is just one of those objects (actually a pair of objects) that's always lovely no matter how many times one has seen it.
> The surprise of the night was M76, the Little Dumbbell in Perseus. This is one of the faintest Messier objects and can be difficult from the city. Checking the field at 30x with the 16mm Nagler i didn't see anything. Switching to 48x with the 10mm Radian i can just see the planetary as just barely brighter than the background skyglow. The surprise was when i put the UHC filter on the Radian... Wow! The neb just popped into view! The filter made such a difference in contrast that what was before a marginal object became bright and very easy. I'm not a huge fan of filters but once in a while they can do impressive things!

Saturday, 7/17/2004, Tramway caches
Nice little loop hike from the tramway to Round Valley then north to Mini Cache Two. On the way back took the high trail and then dropped down cross-country to Mini Cache One. Saw a pretty deer near Mini Cache One.

Sunday-Monday, 7/11-12/2004, Mt. Laguna camping and stargazing
Took a couple of days off this week and went camping with my family to Mt. Laguna for two nights. Arrived Sunday afternoon and set up in site #13 right on the meadow. (Looking south from campsite across meadow.) Weather was perfect with warm days and clear still nights. The meadow sites at Mt. Laguna are great for stargazing offering clear southern views. Oddly, i've never seen another stargazer in all the years i've been camping here. Perhaps that's because i've never come on a weekend. I pretty much refuse to camp in any forest service campground on weekends due to the rowdy crowds. Seems so many people use going to the wilderness as an excuse to make noise and ignore all guidelines of common courtesy. Sigh.
For stargazing i brought my Tele Vue 76 scope and Nikon 10x42 binoculars. The only star guide i used was The Observers's Sky Atlas by E. Karkoschka. This is a great little book and really all one needs to keep fully entertained at night with a small scope. It even fits in my small 6" x 8" eyepiece box. The following is just a brief summary from memory based on sections from the book...
> Chart N10 - The Owl nebula M97 and galaxy M108 are a dim but easily seen pair. M108 is somewhat elongated. On the other side of the Big Dipper's bowl is M109. One of the hardest Messier objects. Visible in the 3" scope but that's about it. Tried for galaxy NGC 3184 down between lambda and mu Ursa Majoris but this dim galaxy was too low in the sky to see tonight. I have seen 3184 with the TV76 when it was placed higher in the sky. I didn't bother with M40 but i did enjoy the Pinwheel galaxy M101. Large and round with a bright center.
> Chart N12 - All galaxies in Canis Venatici. The Whirlpool galaxy M51 and companion NGC 5195 are always nice. The spiral arms are of course not visible in the small 3" scope but just knowing they're there and knowing what i'm looking at with my own eyes is always a kick. A visit with alpha Canis Venatici (Cor Caroli) and then NGC 4490, 4449, and M106 all in a line. They all look fairly similar to each other. A bit south and west of star beta is NGC 4244. This one is much dimmer and fairly hard to see. Moving a bit up (east) to bright round M94 looking very much like a globular cluster and lastly somewhat elongated M63.
> Chart S21 - Way down south for a different part of the sky. Lingered quite a while on open cluster NGC 6231 in Scorpius. I just love this area. Also visited open cluster NGC 6124 and globulars 6388, 6541 and 6723. The later two in Corona Australis and Sagittarius respectively.
> Popped over to chart S18 for globular NGC 5986 in Lupus and chart E16 for galaxy M83 in Hydra.
> Visited lots of other objects as well but didn't take notes. Out in the middle of the meadow south of my campsite is a neat pile of boulders. Each night i walked out there, able to follow the trail in the starlight, and just stood, looking up at the stars and bright Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. Such an amazing sight. There are grinding holes in these boulders made by native Americans hundreds of years ago. I wonder how different, or how similar, the sky looked to them as it does to me, and i wonder what they thought about as they looked up at night.

Friday evening, 7/9/2004, Stargazing at Cottonwood
Drove up to Cottonwood after dinner. A few more people in the campground tonight since it's Friday so i set up in the trialhead parking lot instead. Had it to myself. Didn't even have any drive-through visitors. Very nice evening. Only brought the Tele Vue 76 and 10x42 binoculars.
> Starting with a few easy objects still in twilight: Galaxy M104 in Virgo just north of Corvus and globular M68 in Hydra just south of Corvus. Also galaxy M83, the Southern Pinwheel, in Hydra is quite large and easy to see with maybe a bit of a condensed core visible.
> Comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT is much easier to see here than from home. Easily visible in 10x42 binoculars as well. I don't see any sort of tail. Nearby planetary M97 and galaxy M108 are much fainter yet easily seen.
> Had a very nice pass of the space station in late twilight high in the NW. As bright, if not brighter, than Jupiter. The station stayed illuminated during it's entire pass until setting in the NE. There is a fair amount of aircraft/airline traffic over Cottonwood but satellites are neat cuz the don't make any noise.
> Comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR in Boötes is looking good. Bright and easy to spot. Almost think i can just maybe kinda pick it out with naked eye but not sure. Very easy in 10x42 binoculars. Bit of a condensed core visible but could not see a tail.
> Galaxy NGC 6207 just north of bright globular M13 in Hercules. I only tried for this little mag 12 galaxy because of its close proximity to M13. Just on the visibility limit with the TV76. Shows up best with the 10mm Radian. Tried the 3-6mm Nagler zoom at 6mm setting but image is too dark. (I think i need to put a 8mm Radian on my wish list.) This little galaxy is fairly easy in my 10" dob but takes quite a bit more effort with the 3" APO.
> Sometime around 10:30pm caught a very bright flash out of the corner of my eye. Like a strobe light went off nearby. Looking up to Cygnus caught the tail end of a bright meteor and its trace.
> Down in the tail of Scorpius is perhaps my favorite open cluster... NGC 6231. Absolutely gorgeous. At first see maybe 20 brighter stars but on further inspection there is another level of dimmer stars mixed in. Just great in the TV76 with either the 16mm Nagler or 10mm Radian. Also in the field are the nice wide pair of Zeta 1 and 2 to the south and open cluster Trumpler 24 to the north. Just a spectacular area. And even more special because it's far south and only visible for brief periods.
> The "Bug" planetary nebula NGC 6302 isn't very bug-like in the TV76. More an out of focus star. But checking some online images of the nebula i can see where it got its name.
> Barnard's Galaxy NGC 6822 in Sagittarius is very faint but quite large. Doing a bit of panning with the 16mm Nagler it's visible. In the 10mm Radian quite a bit harder to see as the galaxy comes closer to filling the field and just doesn't stand out. I think i can even see it in the 10x42 binoculars. This is one of those objects (like the Horsehead neb) that looks so spectacular in photographs but just doesn't do much in a small scope. North of the galaxy is little planetary NGC 6818. Had a hard time finding it at first but once located was distinct.
> Spent some time just panning around Cygnus, Vulpecula and Sagitta. North American Nebula (better in 10x42 binoculars than the scope), Veil Nebula (better in the scope), NGC 6910, M29, the Dumbbell M27, M71, the Coathanger, NGC 6934, etc.
> Departed for home about midnight. Wish i'd brought sleeping bag so i could have spent the night.

Thursday, 7/8/2004, Evening comets
From the backyard comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT in Ursa Major getting pretty low in the NW down below (preceding) the bowl of the Big Dipper. But still fairly easy to spot in the TV76. Comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR high overhead in Boötes is quite a bit brighter. Also being just south of a mag 9 star probably helps it stand out a bit more. Comet Q4 is on its way out whereas K4 will be brightening over the next few months.

Monday, 7/5/2004, Tramway to the peak
Figuring the tram would be on holiday schedule today i arrived in time for the 9am tram car. Wrong. They weren't on holiday schedule so first car up was 10am so i had to wait a bit. Oh well, no problem. Joan Taylor and husband were also going up on the 10am car with full packs to test them out. Turned out to be a very nice day. Hardly anyone on the trails so decided to go all the way to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto. I really don't like being on the peak when there are hordes of people at the top but today there was just one small group there. I did run out of water since i was only carrying one bottle. But no worries. Just a little thirsty by the time i got back.

Sunday, 7/4/2004, Anza-Borrego day trip
Went to Anza-Borrego for the morning. Stopped at Truckhaven then picked up cans and bottles along S-22 between the park boundary and Font's Wash.

Friday evening, 7/2/2004, Two comets and a full moon
About 9pm with the full moon rising went out in the backyard with the TV76. I was able to spot both comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT in Ursa Major and comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR in Hercules. Not bad considering the moonlight, the local light pollution, and that twilight hadn't ended. Q4 seemed somewhat more condensed and brighter. K4 maybe a bit larger and more diffuse.

Sunday, 6/27/2004, Tramway to Wellman's
Hiked from tramway to Wellman's divide and back. Nice day. Seemed less people on the trail than usual. No one was at Wellman's when i arrived which is unusual. On the way back i was thinking that i might be able to find Venus in daylight through the clear mountain air. Sure enough, i found it about 30° west of the sun. Through the little Zeiss 10x25 binoculars that i always bring hiking i could see a tiny crescent.

Saturday night, 6/26/2004, Backyard stargazing after work
I worked the night shift this evening and got home a bit after midnight. The first quarter moon was still up but it would set soon so i brought the TV76 out to the backyard. I wasn't really expecting too much and was surprised to see the Milky Way even before the moon had set. I started with M7. Hm, not quite the sight it was a few nights ago from Cottonwood. Still the cluster itself was very pretty even though i couldn't see any of the other nearby objects. M6 the Butterfly/Dragonfly cluster was nice. After the two Messier clusters i tried for a few of the dim globulars in the area... 6441 next to G Sco is always easy to find, 6522 and 6528 in the spout of the teapot were both visible with the 10mm Radian. M69, M70 and M54 in the body of the teapot as well as M22 and M28 up above. The star cloud M24 was a bit of a letdown compared to the other night. But it does contain some pretty patterns of stars. Lastly i found 6934 in Delphinus and its dim little companion stars. I didn't even try for 7006.

Thursday night, 6/24/2004, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Arrived at Cottonwood about 8pm. Had the campground to myself! Set up in my usual spot in the upper loop with the TV76. Since i visit Cottonwood Spring so often for stargazing i thought it would be nice to sponsor the Cottonwood Spring Clear Sky Clock for the summer. Attilla Danko's Clear Sky Clock site is one of the most useful resources for astronomical weather forecasts. First quarter moon wouldn't set till after midnight so i just enjoyed the desert evening then took a little nap till about 12:30am.
> M7, OC, Scorpius - Sue French's "Deep-Sky Wonders" column in the July Sky & Telescope magazine focused on M7. Using the chart on page 85 to explore the cluster i was amazed! Besides the main cluster itself (which does looks like a pound-sign with alternate legs lopped off) i could see open cluster NGC 6444, globular cluster NGC 6453, open cluster Trumpler 30, star cloud NGC 6455 and dark nebulae Barnard 287 south and 283 north. I've seen M7 many times before but never like this. So many different objects in a single field. The only objects i couldn't see were the small planetaries.
> M6, OC, Scorpius - Butterfly cluster - I guess i can see why people think it looks like a butterfly. But to me it looks more like a dragonfly traveling in the opposite direction.
> 6441, GC, Scorpius - The cluster is just following bright mag 3 star G. There is also a much fainter star very close to the cluster just south and preceding. A bit farther south are 3 other globulars... 6388, 6496 (faint) and 6541.
> Over in the Sagittarius "Teapot" visiting a few more globulars... 6522, 6528, 6558, 6569, 6624 and 6652. Across the body of the Teapot are Messier globulars M69, M70 and M54. Down below the Teapot just above the arc of Corona Australis is globular 6723. Quite bright this one. Just south and following the globular Sky Atlas 2000.0 has a few small nebulae plotted... 6726, 6727 and 6729. I can't quite tell what's going on here but i think i can detect just a bit of nebulosity around a star. Not really sure.
> Up above the teapot is little globular 6717 just south of star Nu 2 Sagittarius. Fairly hard to see so close to the mag 5 star. Continuing around the teapot to globulars M22, 6642, 6638 and M28.
> Switching from globulars over to the Lagoon/Trifid area. Quite messy with lots of stars and nebulosity. Viewing with and without the UHC filter i think i prefer without the filter. In my 10" dob the filter really makes these nebs stand out but in the smaller 3" the difference isn't as pronounced. Also visible are nebula 6526 and globulars 6544 and 6553.
> The M24 star cloud is great tonight. The dark nebs along the upper edge are really standing out. Very nice. Also in the area are open cluster M18, the Omega nebula M17, the Eagle nebula M16, and open cluster M23 to the west and M25 to the east.
> Swinging up the Milky Way visiting a few easy objects mostly from memory... Open clusters M26 and M11 in Scutum, globular M71 in Sagitta, the Dumbbell planetary M27 and the "Coathanger" asterism both in Vulpecula.
> Sidestepped over to Delphinus for one of my favorite globulars... NGC 6934. I like how the globular forms a pair with a little mag 9 star plus there are two other mag 9 stars just a bit west. All four together look like two pair of eyes with the eastern-most eye a bit fuzzy. While i was in Delphinus i finally found globular 7006. Couldn't see it at all with the 16mm Nagler but with the 10mm Radian i could just barely pick it out. The last time i visited these globulars i was using a Celestron-8. Finding them now with the little 3" Tele Vue is a bit different.
> By 3am comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR is high in the NW. Easy to see in 10x42 binoculars. I still can't really see a tail with the telescope.
> Spent another hour or so just sitting under the stars and looking up. Sometimes through the scope, sometimes through 10x42 binoculars, sometimes just wide open eyes. The Andromeda Galaxy is easy to see in the east. Through the TV76 tried for, and found, galaxy NGC 404 just NW of the star Mirach. Watched bright Capella rising in the NE. Quite a while before the start of astronomical twilight i noticed a brightening of the eastern sky which i assume was the Zodiacal light. As it got closer to 4am noticed more and more satellites criss-crossing the sky.
> This was really a wonderful night on the desert. I hated for it to end. Slept for a few hours then drove home in the morning.

Tuesday evening, 6/22/2004, Backyard stargazing
Out in the backyard with the TV76 for a few peeks. Moon is about 5 days old.
> M13 in Hercules is of course easy to find and see. Tried to find galaxy NGC 6207 just NE of the cluster but UTL. I think i've seen this little galaxy before in the 10" but not sure. M92 is easy to see. Also found little globular NGC 6229. The cluster forms a little equilateral triangle with two 8 mag stars. Tried to find comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR with some casual panning but no luck. I didn't actually have an updated locator chart for tonight so i didn't know exactly where to look.
> Comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT in Ursa Major is still quite easy to find.

Sunday night, 6/20/2004, Backyard Messier hunting
Went out after midnight for an hour or so to view some of the Messier objects i've not yet seen through the TV76. Basically started with M7 and worked my way up the Milky Way. This was the path i took... M7, M6 (Butterfly), M8 (Lagoon), M20 (Trifid), M21, M23, M28, M22, M69, M70, M54, M55, M75, M25, M24, M18, M17 (Omega), M16, M26, M11, M71, M27 (Dumbbell), M29 and M39. Through Sagittarius saw a few non-Messier globulars but didn't stop to identify which ones. Also visited the "Fairy Ring" in Cygnus before going back to bed.

Sunday, 6/20/2004, Tramway hike with Wen
Hiked to Round Valley with Wen. Back via high trail. Solstice is 5:57pm PDT.

Thursday night, 6/17/2004, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Since the White mtns and Death Valley didn't work out for stargazing i was very pleased to see that Thursday's weather looked promising for Joshua Tree. Drove up to the campground in late afternoon arriving about 6pm. No one else was in the campground when i arrived although a couple other people did arrive after dark. Observed with the TV76 and Fujinon 16x70mm binoculars.
> Comet C/2002 T7 LINEAR - This one is gone. Unable to locate low in the SW.
> Comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT - Still quite nice. Bit of a broad tail. Best in 16x70 binoculars.
> M81/M82 - Very nice in the TV76 tonight. Also nearby NGC 3077 can be seen. Another little galaxy in the M81/82 area is NGC 2976. Almost a bit easier to see than 3077 as it's not near any stars. All four fit in the same 30x field.
> Some other objects visited in Ursa Major were planetary M97 and galaxy M108. Nice comparison of a round planetary and an elongated galaxy. Both easily seen with M108 being fainter. I see why this one wasn't visible from home. Galaxy M109 is pretty hard. Near one of the dipper bowl stars and is hard to see at first. NGC 3953 is a bit farther from the star and actually easier to see. The double star M40 is visible. M101 is big and round and i think i can see nearby NGC 5474. Not actually sure on the identification as there are a few other dim galaxies nearby to M101 as well. And just for good measure a look at M51 and its companion.
> Comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR - Easily found. Easily seen in 10x32 binoculars even.
> Barnard's Star - This one took a while. Had a hard time matching star patterns on the Sky Tools chart. Star brightnesses didn't seem to jive very well. But eventually i did match everything up and found Barnard. Not much to look at. Just a dim little mag 9.5 star. That V shaped grouping of stars that shows so well on the charts doesn't stand out at all through the eyepiece.
> Bit of a Messier globular hop through Ophiuchus and Scorpius... M12, M10, M14, M107, M9, M19, M62, M4, M80 and NGC 6144 near Antares. All of these were also visible in the Leica 10x32 binoculars as well. (I forgot to bring the Nikon 10x42.)
> Spent a lot of time just panning around up and down the Milky Way using both the TV76 and 16x70 binoculars. Beautiful. Cygnus has some great star clusters and little groupings. The "Fairy Ring" asterism shows up very well in the TV76 through the 10mm Radian. Next month i must start in this area. I did identify a few objects... M29, M39, M57 (Ring) and M56, M27 (Dumbbell) and M71. Also the Veil neb and North American nebs.
> The next morning i hiked the Mastadon loop trail before driving home.

Wednesday, 6/16/2004, Push start
Departed camp early about 7am. I had planned to drive south and spend one more night in the Mojave desert before going home. Got gas at Furnace Creek but when i went to start my engine all it did was click click click. Battery dead. Just like that, no prior symptoms. Just dead. With the help of a couple folks at the gas station (including Jim Cornett) who helped push the truck it started. I drove home without turning off the motor. Not quite the darksky stargazing trip i had hoped for but at least i got to spend time out in some beautiful remote country.

Tuesday night, 6/15/2004, Bats on the roof
Around 2am i woke up to hear a little pitter-patter sound. Hm... what's that? I heard it again. Okay, there is a mouse in my food box which is on the front seat. Oh well, i don't care. Let him have fun. I'll get him out in the morning. I roll over but keep hearing the pitter-patter sound. So i sit up and listen again. Pitter-patter. It's coming from the roof of the truck shell! WTF? A mouse is on the roof?? No way. I get up and climb out of the truck and shine a flashlight on the roof. Nothing there. Hm. As i relieved myself on a bush i shone the light back at the truck. There are now 3 bats circling around. I watch for a while and one by one they are doing little touch-and-go landings on the top of the shell! Amazing. I figure they might do this to collect dew or rain water from the roof of vehicles but there was no dew tonight and it didn't rain where i was camped. Maybe they were just having a little contest so see if i'd wake up or not.

Tuesday, 6/15/2004, Death Valley
Since the weather wasn't cooperating in the Whites i decided to drive down to Death Valley. I headed east through Westguard pass to US 95 in Nevada and then south to enter Death Valley from the north. I arrived at the Mesquite Spring campground about 3pm but it's totally exposed and was very hot. I figured one of the higher campgrounds near Telescope peak would be much better this time of year. What i wasn't counting on was the rain! By the time i drove through Wildrose it was POURING rain. It's not suppose to rain in Death Valley in June! So i turned around and spent the night at Emigrant station. This is a bare-bones campsite just off the west entrance road but this time of year the park is pretty quiet. I had the campground all to myself which was nice. It was windy and the skies remained cloudy all night so stargazing was out once again. Still, i enjoyed the evening.

Monday, 6/14/2004, White Mountains
I had been planning to take a stargazing trip to the White Mountains in eastern Calif. The remote Grandview campground is 8550 foot elevation which can give near perfect skies at night. I arrived in late afternoon with thunderheads gathering. Such afternoon clouds are common here so i wasn't really concerned. But tonight they didn't go away. Sky remained gray and overcast all evening. In the next site was a nice couple and their 3 year old daughter. The husband is from Italy and the wife from Japan and their daughter was very cute and liked to sing. I had invited them to come over after dark to visit and look at the stars but alas, no stars were to be seen. At least all the clouds did make for a pretty sunset. I woke up around 2am to see some stars so got out my TV76 for a bit. The Veil was quite impressive with both sides of the loop visible. It really stood out well with the UHC filter.

Sunday, 6/13/2004, Tramway hike with Kai
Hiked south on the Hidden Lake trail (but not to Hidden Lake), across the high trial to Round Valley, then back to tram.

Friday night, 6/11/2004, Three comets
I went out the backyard this evening with my TV76 and found three nice little comets. At around 9:30pm local time comet C/2002 T7 LINEAR was pretty low in the west. It was just barely brighter than the background skyglow and took a while before i finally spotted it. Won't be long before this one is gone. Much easier was comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT high in the north-west in Ursa Major. No problem at all seeing it through my 4.5 mag or so skies. I didn't try with binoculars but i'm sure it would have been visible, although not as dramatic as it was a month or so ago. I waited till after 11:30pm to look for comet C/2003 K4 LINEAR high in the sky between Lyra and the head of Draco. I was surprised to spot this little mag 9 comet on my first glance through the eyepiece. Round, and like a small Q4.

Thursday night, 6/10/2004, Backyard Messiers
Some more backyard Messiers with the TV76... M5 in Serpens Caput, M4 and M80 in Scorpius, M19, M62, M107 (faint), M10, M12 and M14 in Ophiuchus. All globulars tonight.

Sunday night, 6/6/2004, Backyard Messiers
Went out in the backyard for about an hour and a half to try for a few more Messier objects with the TV76. The skies weren't great but at least it seemed most of the lights were off at the softball fields. First night using the 10mm Radian as well. This is a very nice eyepiece.
> M97, PN, Ursa Major - The Owl Nebula - Very faint. Just barely detectable without filter. The UHC did improve visibility quite a bit.
> M108, GX, Ursa Major - UTL.
> M109, GX, Ursa Major - UTL.
> M42, double star, Ursa Major - Not exciting but easily visible.
> M106, GX, Canes Venatici - Fairly easy.
> M63, GX, Canes Venatici.
> M94, GX, Canes Venatici - Bright and round.
> M102, GX, Draco - One of the missing Messiers. Just barely visible.
> M13, GC, Hercules.
> M92, GC, Hercules.
> M57, PN, Lyra - Best in 10mm Radian.
> M56, GC, Lyra.

Saturday, 6/5/2004, First tramway hike
Bought my $50 summer tramway pass today. Did just a moderate hike to Round Valley, over the high trail to Hidden Lake, then back to the tram. Lots of frog-tads in the lake. The trails haven't changed much since last summer.

Monday evening, 5/31/2004, Crescent Venus
Watched the thin crescent Venus set over the mtns this evening with the TV76. The planet was only 2% illuminated and in 8 days will pass in front of the sun as viewed from the eastern hemisphere. Too bad the transit won't be visible from Calif. Later in the evening had a perfect near-overhead pass of the space station. Also found comets T7 LINEAR and Q4 NEAT although they weren't very impressive with the bright moonlight.

Monday, 5/31/2004, Birthday hike
Hike Garstin trail, through middle plateau, and back over Smoketree mtn. And it's my birthday too!

Sunday, 5/30/2004, Shannon trail
Shannon to Garstin and back.

Saturday, 5/29/2004, South Lykken trail
Hike up and down the south Lykken trail with Wen.

Thursday, 5/27/2004, Two evening comets
Just came in from looking at comet T7 LINEAR with 10x42 binoculars. Even with the first-quarter moonlight the comet is fairly easy to spot. Comet Q4 NEAT seems a bit brighter, more compact, and since it's much higher in the sky, it stands out better.

Tuesday evening, 5/25/2004, Comet T7 LINEAR
Found comet T7 just a bit after 8:30pm local time from my backyard. Knowing where to look from watching Sirius set last night helped. The comet was fairly easy to spot with Nikon 10x42 SE binoculars. I watched it with the binoculars and Tele Vue 76 refractor until it set over the mtn ridge at 8:46pm. Hard to tell brightness. Comparing to Q4, which was much higher in the sky, T7 didn't seem as bright. But T7 was much lower in the sky against a brighter background so it was hard to tell. Sizes of the two comets seemed similar. Nice to see this comet now in the evening sky after watching it last month in the early morning sky. Too bad that pesky moon will be interfering for the next couple of weeks.

Saturday evening, 5/22/2004, Half-hearted stargazing
I was thinking to go stargazing at Cottonwood tonight. Almost went. But it's hazy, it's windy, the moon won't set till late, i'm tired, and i have a sore throat... so i stayed home. I did view comet Q4 NEAT and tracked down a few of the nice doubles on PJ Anway's Spring Double Star Tour with the TV76 from my backyard.

Saturday, 5/22/2004, Hwy 74 clean-up
My friend John is home taking a break from his PCT hike so i drove up to Pinyon Flats to visit him today. You can read about his walk here... JohnsWalk.com. On my way home on Hwy 74 i was overcome by my compulsion to stop and pickup cans and bottles along the road. The amount of litter is amazing. I stopped twice, and walked maybe a quarter mile each time along the highway, and picked up this this huge pile of trash to be recycled.

Tuesday, 5/18/2004, Henderson trail
Bit of an abbreviated hike along the Henderson trail. Have a bit of an upset stomach.

Sunday, 5/16/2004, Garstin trail loop
Hiked up the Garstin, over Smoketree mtn, across to the top of Araby trail, across the middle plateau to the Wildhorse junktion, then back down the Garstin. Nice loop hike.

Friday evening, 5/14/2004, Workplace starparty
Bit of something different tonight. I invited my co-workers to join me after dark to see planets and comet NEAT. I set up my TV76 and Fujinon 16x70 binoculars at my workplace and for an hour starting at about 8:30pm we took turns looking at Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT. As an added bonus we had a very night overhead pass of the International Space Station. In all about 20 of my co-workers, and some of their children, had a little starparty.

Monday, 5/10/2004, Pacific Crest Trail
Hike the Pacific Crest Trail! No, not me. But my best friend John is hiking the PCT this summer and i've created a website for him... JohnsWalk.com. He started his hike this morning and hopes to complete the California segment by September.

Monday, 5/10/2004, Araby trail
Quick hike up and down the Araby trail.

Saturday night, 5/8/2004, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Drove up to Cottonwood campground in late evening. Arrived about 8:30pm and quickly set up in the upper loop. Lots of people in the group sites but otherwise the campground is only about 1/4 occupied. Only brought the Tele Vue 76 and Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Primary purpose of the trip was to see comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT and it was easily visible to the naked eye even before the end of twilight. Through binoculars shows a broad tail maybe 3° or 4°. Bright head with small condensed nucleus. Through the TV76 motion is apparent after 10 minutes or so. This comet is moving fast! Spent another hour or so visiting galaxies mostly... M104 in Virgo then up to Ursa Major and Canes Venatici for M51 and NGC 5195, M101, M63, M94, NGC 5005, NGC 5033, NGC 4490, NGC 4449, M106 (quite bright), NGC 4631, globular M3. NGC 3184, M81, M82, NGC 3077. In Draco planetary NGC 6543 (Cat's Eye neb) and galaxy NGC 5866. Packed up and headed for home a bit after 11pm.

Saturday, 5/8/2004, Shannon trail
Up the Shannon to the peak and back. Hottish.

Thursday, 5/3/2004, Comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT what a change!
Such a change three days makes! The comet is very easy to see from home this evening. Bright and fan-shaped in the 10x42 binoculars. Can even see it with the naked eye. I hope to get to a darksky site over the weekend. Should be quite impressive!

Tuesday, 5/4/2004, Shannon trail
Quick hike up and down the Shannon. The hummingbird nest i found last week now contains just a single little baby hummer. The other one must have been lost.

Monday, 5/3/2004, Comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT first glimpse
And that's what it was... just a glimpse at about 8:20pm local time before it set over the mtns SW of town. I was using my Tele Vue 76 with 16mm Nagler for 30x and was about to give up when i finally detected the comet a few minutes before it went behind the ridge. Quite diffuse. It did not seem to brighten much toward the center. No trace of a tail in the moonlit twilight sky. I tried to pick up the comet with 10x42 binoculars but was unsuccessful.

Sunday, 5/2/2004, South Lykken
Hike south Lykken trail to vista point and back.

Saturday early morning, 5/1/2004, Comet Bradfield
I wanted to see comet Bradfield again before moonlight interferes so i got up at 4am again this morning and drove back out NE of town a bit. As i mentioned last week this site is out of some of the larger light sources in the area but it's not a darksky site by any means. The comet was better placed this week and already about 10° up by 4:15am. This was before the start of astronomical twilight and Bradfield looked very nice in my Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. The tail was easily visible for 2° or 3°. This has turned out to be a very nice comet. It's just the early morning hours that are the killer.

Sunday, 4/25/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail, over Smoketree mtn, loop through middle plateau, and back down Shannon. Getting warm. On the way up a big old rattlesnake was at the foot of the trail. Then at the peak saw a cute little horned lizard and at the very top of the rock pile a swarm of flying ants. On the way down noticed a hummingbird nest, compete with two eggs, right alongside the trail. And then at the bottom again near where the rattlesnake had been was a swarm of migrating bees. Lots of wildlife today!

Saturday early morning, 4/24/2004, Two early morning comets, day two
I went to a bit better location this morning to view the comets. Not exactly a darksky site but i was a bit NE of town outside of most of the bright light sources in my area with a good unobstructed eastern horizon. The Milky Way was plainly visible overhead. I arrived about 4:15am with Nikon 10x42 and Fujinon 16x70 binoculars. Also had my Tele Vue 76. About 4:35am i spotted C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) due east. Basically just a little round fuzzball through both binoculars. Through the TV76 at 30x it almost looked to have a small secondary head. However after checking it again later in the morning i realized this was a dim star since its separation from the comet changed a bit over time. Through the 16x70 binoculars i almost thought i could see a very short dim tail pointing toward the upper right but not sure about it. Panning along the distant mountains looking for C/2004 F4 (Bradfield) with the TV76 i at first thought i saw a spotlight, or the headlights of a vehicle shining up behind the ridge. Then it dawned on me that i was seeing the tail of comet Bradfield! I switched to the 16x70 binoculars and watched as the head came into view. At its best, when the comet was a bit off the horizon, and before the sky got too bright, the comet and tail came close to stretching across the 4° field of the Fujinons. I'd say the tail was easily visible for 3° standing straight above the head and feathered a bit to the right. Beautiful sight! Made me wish i'd taken the time to drive out to a truly darksky site.

Friday early morning, 4/23/2004, Two early morning comets
Spotted both comet C/2004 F4 (Bradfield) and comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) this morning from my home in Palm Springs, Calif. It took a bit of effort. I didn't go out till just after 5am and by then the sky was getting fairly bright. However i could still pick out the stars of the "great square" which helped me locate the correct fields. Also there are a lot of palm trees in the yards east of me so i had to keep moving around my yard to see various bits of sky along the eastern horizon. But using Nikon 10x42 SE binoculars i spotted LINEAR about 20° up. I could not see a tail but the head did seem to maybe be a bit fan-shaped. Comet Bradfield was a bit harder as it was lower in the brightening sky. I had almost given up when i finally spotted its small bright head with a bit of a tail pointing up and a bit to the left. I'm thinking to drive out east of town tomorrow morning for a clear dark eastern horizon. That is if i can motivate myself to get out of bed at 4am!

Thursday evening, 4/22/2004, Backyard stargazing
Young moon still up but sky is pretty good. Mostly revisiting some of the galaxies i saw last week from the Anza-Borrego desert using TV76.
> M66/M65 - Both fairly easy to see. Could not see the 3628, the other member of the trio.
> Jupiter's moons look neat. One moon fairly near the planet and three others on the same side a bit father off all in a straight tight line.
> M105/M96/M95 - M105 and M96 fairly easy. M95 much harder. Unable to see M105's companion.
> 2903 below the head of Leo. Easier to see than M96. In fact, easier to see than i remember it being from home.
> 3344 in Leo Minor - At first wasn't sure i could see it, and then thought i could. Might be just a couple of close stars. [SkyTools does show two stars just off center.]
> Tried for 3184 in Ursa Major in the center leap but was UTL.
> 3521 in Leo is fairly easily visible. Wonder how Messier missed some of these.
> 3115, the Spindle galaxy in Sextans. Not very spindly. Smaller than some of these others. I'm still sort of surprised i'm finding some of these galaxies so easily.
> 3242, the Ghost of Jupiter planetary in Hydra. Fits in same 30x field with Mu Hydra.
> 3585, Hydra - Probably the hardest so far. Very faint.
> 3621, Hydra - UTL.
> M104, Corvus - Nice. The brightest galaxy tonight. Really nice field too with little string of stars pointing to the galaxy and the nearby Stargate asterism.

Tuesday late night, 4/20/2004, Driveway globulars
Got home from work about 12:30am. Not great skies but wanted to look at something in the sky so brought the TV76 out front in the driveway. Almost directly overhead is the bright globular M3 in Canes Venatici. Down below Corvus in Virgo is another globular... M68. Much dimmer. Looks more like a galaxy than a glob. Also in Virgo found galaxy M83. This galaxy was so easy from the desert last week. Was even visible in 10x32mm binoculars! From the city it's just barely detectable in the 3" scope. And way down just skimming the southern hills is the big globular Omega Centaurus. This one is easy to see but strong winds aloft makes it unresolvable. Now i can go to sleep with thoughts of stars on my mind instead of work.

Tuesday, 4/20/2004, Araby trail
Hike Araby trail again and loop across the middle plateau. Removed some survey trash.

Sunday evening, 4/18/2004, Backdoor observing
Quick little observing session before bed with the TV76. Skyglow quite bright from the east which is where i was looking. Always takes me a while to find globular M3 in Canes Venatici. It's somehow just an awkward starhop. But once found it's bright and easy to see through the city skyglow. Nearby in Coma Berenices globular M53 is also pretty easy to see. However galaxy M64 also in Coma is much harder. Galaxy is just barely seen above the background skyglow. Back in Canes Venatici galaxy M94 is small but bright. Much easier to see than M64. Unable to locate galaxies M63 or M106.

Sunday, 4/18/2004, Araby trail
Hiked Araby trail with Wen. Weather considerably cooler than last week.

Thursday, 4/15/2004, Anza-Borrego camping trip, day three
Drove up both forks of Indian Gorge before heading departing. Drove home through the park stopping at the visitor center in Borrego Springs. Bought a copy of the new Munz wildflower book. Stopped at the Ella Wash overlook for lunch. Got home about 1:30pm.

Wednesday, 4/14/2004, Anza-Borrego camping trip, day two
Walked up through the canyon in morning to the "Y" in road. Was out about 2 hours. After relaxing in camp a bit and having some lunch drove up to Aqua Caliente then back south and looped through Bow Willow. Drove out to Ocotillo for fresh ice then back to my same site in mid-afternoon. Warmer today and a bit more windy. But the wind is probably good otherwise would be almost too hot. The wind did finally stop and i had another very nice night stargazing.
> 2903, GX, Leo - Bright easy oval. This one is just barely visible from home but from here it's easy.
> 3344, GX, Leo Minor - Small. A star is just off center. Or maybe it's two stars. (The SEDS image does indeed show two stars superimposed on the galaxy!)
> 2997, GX, Antlia - Fairly large but quite faint. Two stars following.
> 3132, PN, Vela - Almost like a star but not quite.
> 3201, GC, Vela - Doesn't resolve but very easy to see. Easy in 10x32 binoculars too.
> 3184, GX, Ursa Major - Fairly dim but easy to find being in the center leap of the "Three Leaps of the Gazelle" asterism.
> M108, EG and M97, PN in Ursa Major - The galaxy is not bright but it is elongated and the planetary is fairly large and bright. Both fit nicely in the 30x field.
> M109, GX, Ursa Major - Not bright at all but easy to find off the bowl of the big dipper.
> M81, M82, 3077, GX, Ursa Major - Another trio of galaxies! Never noticed 3077 before but it's quite easy in the TV76 tonight.
> 2768, GX, Ursa Major - Dim. Hard to find at first.
> 2403, GX, Camelopardalis - Big. Oval shape. Seems it might have a couple of foreground stars. Nice object. (The image on SEDS does indeed show two foreground stars on either side of the galaxy.)
> 4125, GX, Draco - Small little guy. Near a dim star that forms a little equilateral triangle with two other stars.
> Omega Centaurus - Visible to the naked eye. Bit grainy in the TV76 but too low in sky to resolve well.
> 5128, GX, Centaurus - large but low surface brightness. Visible in 10x32 binoculars.
> 4945, GX, Centaurus - UTL.
> M83, GX, Hydra - Nice. Round. Core visible. Easy in the 10x32 binoculars as well.
> M68, GC, Hydra.
> 5068, GX, Virgo - Very dim but fairly large. Faint.

Tuesday, 4/13/2004, Anza-Borrego camping trip, day one
Start of a nice little two night camping trip to the southern Anza-Borrego. Drove in via the south entrance and camped at my regular Indian Gorge site. Bit breezy in the afternoon but settled down after sunset. Nice evening observing with the TV76.
> 3115, GX, Sextans - The Spindle Galaxy - Not really spindle-like but it is elongated.
> 3242, PN, Hydra - The ghost of Jupiter.
> 3585, GX, Hydra - Small and dim.
> 3621, GX, Hydra - Nice. Elongated and diffuse. Quite nice in the TV76.
> The Leo Trio - All 3 easily seen in the TV76. In the 10x32 Leicas M66 is fairly easy with M65 just visible. Could not see 3628 in the binoculars.
> Also in Leo M95, M96, M105, 3384 and 3377.
> Random panning around the Virgo galaxy cluster without trying to identify objects. Can easily see eight or so galaxies.
> Found some galaxies in Coma Berenices... 4494 is small and dim, 4565 is elongated, 4725 is largest of the three, and 4559 is similar to 4725.
> 4631, GX, Canes Venatici - Very elongated. Neat looking. Needle-like.
> 4656, GX, Canes Venatici - Just visible with difficulty.
> M64, GX, Coma Berenices - The Blackeye Galaxy - Can't really see the "eye" but can tell it's a bit of an oval with something on one side.
> M53, GN, Coma Berenices - Round and bright.
> Also M51 and M101 in Ursa Major.

Sunday night, 4/11/2004, Stargazing at Cottonwood
Spent the night in the Cottonwood campground stargazing with 10" f/5 dob and TV76. Arrived around 5pm and set up in site 2B in the upper loop. Bit of a breezy afternoon but nice and clear. After sunset the wind stopped for very nice night. Bit colder than i was expecting. Campground is maybe 1/4 to 1/3 full with a few motorhomes and miscellaneous campers. A few had campfires and a couple Coleman lanterns but none near me and no loud groups. Didn't see any other scopes set up. A group of Japanese campers a few sites away asked in the afternoon if it was okay for them to come over after dark and look through my telescope. I said sure but they never stopped by. I spent a very enjoyable evening stargazing with both scopes and handheld binoculars till a bit after midnight. First time i'd seen Markarian's Chain from a dark site with the 10". Quite impressive! Slept in tent and woke to a fairly overcast morning. Left camp around 9am and drove home. Have to work Monday night. Sigh.
> 3115, EG, Sextans - Spindle Galaxy - Quite easy in the 10x42 binoculars. Elongated in the TV76. In the 10" very elongated and bright.
> 3242, PN, Hydra - Ghost of Jupiter - In the 10" it really looks like a ghost of Jupiter. Big and round and bright for a planetary. In the TV76 disappears with direct vision.
> 3521, EG, Leo - Bit of an awkward starhop. Bright with condensed core in the 10". Easy in the TV76.
> 3309/3311 and others, EG, Hydra - Interesting field of galaxies. 3309 and 3311 seem almost like one object with lobes. On either side of these two 3312 is elongated and 3308 is round. This image shows 3311 and 3309 at center with the elongated 3312 on left and round 3308 at top right. Also in the area are the overlapping 3314A and 3314B. Very faint. Can't see the overlapping structure. This image shows 3314A/B. A bit north and following these galaxies is IC 2597. Could not see 3316.
> Markarian's Chain - Easy to follow the chain with the 10". Can see everything on the SkyTools chart.
> 4038/4039, EG, Corvus - Antennae galaxies - Interacting pair of galaxies. Can see two lobes in the 10". Not quite like the Hubble images.
> 4361, PN, Corvus - Looks rather like a small globular.
> Panning around the Coma star cluster with the TV76 came across two bright galaxies on the following side. Didn't check charts in the field but these were most likely 4559 and 4565.
> Some quick visits to a few bright Messier objects with the TV76... M64, M53, M3, M5, M13, M92, M51 and M101. Also did some comparisons using 10x42, 10x32 and 10x25 binoculars on M51 and M101 and also M57, the Ring nebula. M57 is visible in all of these.

Sunday, 4/11/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail to peak and back. Pretty day.

Friday, 4/9/2004, Cahuilla Canyon
Hike Cahuilla canyon to where the canyon narrows with Kai. Saw a nice rattlesnake next to the upper boulder on our way down.

Tuesday, 4/6/2004, Middle Lykken trail
Hike middle Lykken trail from Ramon to Skyline junction. Up the Skyline just a bit to the trail warning sign then back down and loop around through the picnic tables. Nice hike.

Sunday, 4/4/2004, Lykken trail
Hike south Lykken with Wen.

Tuesday, 3/30/2004, Garstin loop
Loop hike up the Garstin trail and down via Andreas Hills. Nice smallish (about a foot long) king snake on the lower Garstin. Beavertail cactus are blooming nicely.

Sunday, 3/28/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail with Wen. Wildflowers well past peak.

Saturday night, 3/27/2004, Jupiter triple shadow transit
The shadow of three of Jupiter's moons (Ganymede, Io and Callisto) fell on the planet tonight around midnight local time. I'm not much of a planetary observer but this is a rare event so i went out with the TV76 for a look. Using the Nagler 3-6mm zoom i could indeed see the three shadows on the disk of Jupiter. Seeing wasn't very good (it never is being just east of the mountains) and it was a bit windy, but in moments of clarity the three black dots were fairly easy to see. While i was out also took a peek at Omega Centauri way down low just skimming the mountains to the south.

Friday, 3/26/2004, Cahuilla Canyon
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the upper boulder. Wildflowers past peak. Encelia still nice and some barrels in bloom. Didn't see any snakes.

Tuesday, 3/23/2004, Lykken trail
Hiked the south Lykken trail to the vista point and back. Some wildflowers but not as impressive here as it was last spring. Someone put up a sign at the start of the trail warning to watch out for rattlesnakes. I didn't see any snakes but i did see four chuckwallas. One young one about 6" long.

Sunday night, 3/21/2004, Backyard stargazing
After working my way through the Virgo galaxy cluster with the TV76 on Saturday night i wanted to try the same with my 10" f/5 dob. My backyard skies aren't anywhere near as dark as from the Anza-Borrego desert but the added light grasp of the larger scope did let me navigate through the cluster pretty well.
> This was my route with the 10" dob... M98, M100, M85, 4394, 4450, M99, M84, M86, 4438, 4435, 4388, 4461, 4473, 4477, 4459, 4474, M87, 4478, M89, M90, 4564, 4568, M58, M59, M60, 4535, 4526, M49 and M61. Now i'm really looking forward to trying these galaxies in the 10" from a dark site but i think this will have to wait another month.
> Also visited M64, the Black Eye galaxy. I could tell this galaxy had some interesting structure but through the skyglow i couldn't really see the black eye itself. Last object was M104, the Sombrero galaxy. Nicely elongated. I've always liked the little string of 3 stars that precedes the galaxy as well as the nearby Stargate asterism.

Saturday night, 3/20/2004, Ella Wash camping
I spent Saturday night camping/stargazing in the Anza-Borrego of southern Calif. I packed lightly and only brought my Tele Vue 76 and Nikon 10x42 binoculars. Was a perfect afternoon/evening. Warm and still with lots of wildflowers in bloom. The ocotillo were absolutely lush!
> Mercury was easy to spot in late twilight above the western horizon. I could face south and then lean back and see Saturn directly overhead and with peripheral vision could see Jupiter to the left and Mars and bright Venus to the right. I couldn't actually "see" Mercury with peripheral vision when i was looking straight up but i could see the western horizon so i knew Mercury was there. All 5 naked eye planets visible at once!
> One of the nicest sights of the night was Mars near the Pleadies through the 10x binoculars. Very pretty. A side note... Venus will pass very close to the Pleadies on April 2nd and 3rd. Should be another pretty view.
> I didn't do an official limiting magnitude check but the skies are fairly good. The winter milky way is visible and it's not from home. The worse light pollution was from Mexicali about 60 miles away. A huge light dome. Probably worse than Las Vegas.
> One of my goals for the evening was to revisit the Virgo cluster of galaxies. I'd worked across it from my home last week but wanted to try from a site with darker skies. I "galaxy hopped" starting with M85 and ending with M61. The following is the route i took. Four digit numbers are NGC and objects in [brackets] i was unable to see... M85, 4394, 4293, [4350], M100, M98, M99, 4212, [4216], [4267], M84, M86, 4438, 4435, 4388, 4473, 4477, 4459, M88, M91, [4571], M87, M89, M90, 4654, M58, 4567, 4564, M59, M60, 4596, 4371, 4429, 4442, 4417, M49, 4535, 4526, 4365, 4261 and M61. 36 galaxies in around an hour and a half. Sort of a galaxy marathon!
> In the morning after sunrise i found fresh sidewinder tracks along the sandy road i was camped beside. I love the desert!

Saturday, 3/20/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail again. Moving from warm to hot.

Thursday, 3/18/2004, 30 years
I started working at The Desert Sun 30 years ago today. I was 18. I'm older now.

Tuesday night, 3/16/2004, Realm of the Galaxies
Took a little romp through the Realm of the Galaxies from my backyard late tonight. I was out with my Tele Vue 76 for about an hour from 12:30am to 1:30am local PST. (Wednesday morning actually.) My backyard skies are usually around mag 4.5 and i wasn't really sure how many (if any) of the Messier objects in this area i'd be able to see from home with the little 3" scope. Turns out i can see most of them! I was using my 13mm Widescan Type III at 36x for all observations. I basically worked eastward across the area starting with M98. This was a disappointing start as i couldn't see it. At times i almost thought i could see something but not enough to count. Things got better with M99, then M100, then north a bit to M85. All three were dim (of course) and right on the edge of visibility. Pretty much all the galaxies in this area are just on the edge of visibility through my home skies. Back to the center of the realm for M84 and M86 and then a clockwise loop to pickup M87, M89, M90 and M88. M91 was like M98 in that i couldn't make a positive sighting. Back down to M58 and then east to M59 and M60. M60 is one of the brighter galaxies in the area. I completed the tour by swinging south to M49 and found i could also see NGC 4526. Last target was M61. Of all the Messier galaxies in the area only two, M98 and M91, were out of reach. This weekend i'm planning to go back to Cottonwood and will do the tour again. I should then be able to pick out many of the dimmer galaxies in the area.

Tuesday, 3/16/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail to peak and back. Nice and warm!

Sunday, 3/14/2004, Cottonwood wildflowers
After stargazing at Cottonwood last night i wanted to come back in daylight to see the wildflowers. Returned this morning with my family. The flowers are absolutely stunning! Some photos are here.

Saturday, 3/13/2004, Stargazing at Cottonwood
Stargazing from Cottonwood with both 10" f/5 dob and Tele Vue 76. Was more a night to test out the TV76 and compare a bit to the 10" than a night of serious observing.
> Trapezium - Could only resolve the 4 main stars with either scope. With the 10" things got really murky with higher powers. With the 3" stars stayed a lot sharper but still no E or F components. Maybe i'm expecting a bit too much from the little TV76. I'm also starting to think the mirror in my 10" isn't that great.
> 1977, DN, Orion - Running Man neb - Visible in both scopes.
> M78, DN, Orion - Visible in both scopes. Nearby NGC 2071 easily seen in the 10".
> 2169, OC, Orion - The 37 Cluster.
> 2392, PN, Gemini - Eskimo neb - Spent some time using both scopes and switching around eyepieces. Looks quite good at higher powers in the 10".
> M35, OC, Gemini - Pretty in both scopes. Nearby open cluster NGC 2158 also easily seen.
> Horsehead neb - UTL.
> 2362, OC, Canis Major - Tau Canis Majoris - Probably my favorite open cluster. It sparkles and shines no matter what the scope or power.
> 2359, DN, Canis Major - This is a really interesting object. At first it didn't really look like much in the 3" or the 10". Then i tried the UHC filter in the 10". Wow! It looks like a bunny rabbit's head with big ears. Very interesting object.
> M66/M65/NGC 3628, EG, Leo - The Leo Trio - Easy with the 3". All 3 fit in same field with both scopes. M66 is even fairly easy to spot in 10x42 binoculars.
> M95/M96/M105, EG, Leo - All three plus NGC 3384 in the 3". With the 10" can also pick up M105's second companion NGC 3389. Panning around the area with the 10" can see 7 or 8 galaxies.
> Castor - I just realized a week or so ago that Castor was a double star. Using the Nagler 3-6mm zoom in the TV76 the star splits very nicely. Two white headlights coming at me in the sky.
> 2419, GN, Lynx - The most distant globular cluster. 300,000 light years from Earth! Took a while to find it with the 3". It's dimmer than i remembered. Once located with the 10" i found i could see it with the 3" but with difficulty.
> Realm of the Galaxies - I packed up the 10" about 10pm. While i still had the TV76 setup i just panned around the Realm without trying to identify anything. I probably saw close to a dozen galaxies this way in the 3". Pretty neat. I think my next time out will be to concentrate and identify these galaxies.
> Three closing comments... 1. I'm very happy with the Tele Vue 76. Very sharp. Sharper than the 10" dob at higher powers. 2. I need a better alt/az head for the TV76. At low powers the Bogen photo head works okay but not at higher powers. 3. It's best to concentrate on using one telescope (plus binoculars) than switching back and forth between two scopes. Distracting and time consuming.

Wednesday, 3/10/2004, LED gone
Well, it had to happen eventually. The solar powered LED light that i'd moved to Smoketree mtn is gone tonight. Someone must have finally found it. See my blog entry from 9/7/2003 for details. The LED was good to see shining nightly for over 6 months! I hope whomever found it moved it to another neat spot.

Monday evening, 3/8/2004, Backyard stargazing
Short evening observing session before moonrise with the TV76. NGC 2169, the "37 Cluster", in Orion. Very nice little cluster. Pretty little angles and pairs of stars. I can't really see the 37 shape however. In fact, what i thought was the 7 turned out to be the 3. Need darker sky and/or higher magnification. In Gemini the Eskimo neb, NGC 2392, is one of my favorites this time of year. I like how it disappears with direct vision. Lots of planetaries do this. Also tried to find the remote globular NGC 2419 in Lynx. I think i could have seen it but just too difficult to find the correct field as it's located almost directly overhead and the tripod pan head is difficult to maneuver.

Sunday, 3/7/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail with Wen. Nice warm clear day.

Saturday, 3/6/2004, Anza-Borrego day trip
Day trip to the northern Anza-Borrego desert. Lots of people out on the desert this weekend. The Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club is having their annual Safari this weekend and have a huge mass of trailers/motorhomes setup just west of Salton City. I spent the day doing some casual poking around the east and west segments of Truckhaven trail, Short wash and Ella wash. Wildflowers are very nice with ocotillos blooming as well. Spent some time watching hikers up the Rabbit Peak trail through my TV76 telescope. I need to make plans to hike that trail someday.

Monday, 3/1/2004, Shannon trail
Hike Shannon trail to peak and back.

Friday night, 2/27/2004, Backyard stargazing
First really clear night i've had for a couple of weeks. Started out in the evening with the TV76 (3", f/6.3) for a little while...
> Orion Nebula with 4 stars of the Trapezium easily resolved. M78 in Orion easily seen. Also the belt stars of Orion are very pretty. Tried to find NGC 2024 but was unable to locate this evening with the moon light.
> Just some wandering from memory: M79, globular in Lepus; M41, open cluster in Canis Major; NGC 2362, open cluster also in Canis Major; M93, M46 and M47, open clusters in Puppis. In Monoceros the Rosette cluster is pretty but could not see any of the nebula. In Cancer the M44 Beehive and little M67 cluster. In Gemini open cluster M35 and trying to find dim NGC 2158 but can't find it. I forget exactly which direction it is from M35. Also found the Eskimo Neb, NGC 2392, in Gemini. With the 20mm looks like a fuzzy star but with the 13mm is definitely a little planetary neb.
> I slept for a couple hours and went back out after the moon had set after midnight with the TV76 again...
> Galaxies M65 and M66 in Leo are quite easy to see tonight. Much easier than they were Monday night. Tonight's transparency is much better. Tried for NGC 3628 which makes up the Leo Trio together with M65/66 but was unable to locate. Also in Leo are M95, M96 and M105. All are quite faint but visible. Can also just barely see nearby NGC 3433. Last object in Leo is NGC 2903 is at least as easy as M65 or M66.
> Detour to globular M68 in Hydra down below Corvus. I was trying to find this the other night but didn't see it. Might have been that i wasn't quite in the right area since i wasn't using chart or may have been do to the poorer transparency.
> M81 and M82 in Ursa Major are very nice tonight. Well placed high in the north. Also in Ursa major visited the Whirlpool galaxy M51 as well as M101. Can actually see M101 tonight.
> Since the sky was so nice tonight i brought out the 10" f/5 dob. The following observations are using the 10"...
> Wow, what a difference going from 3" to 10" inches makes! M65 and M66 in Leo are "huge" in comparison. Both are bright and elongated. Their orientation is parallel to each other. M65 seems a bit more diffuse whereas M66 a bit more condensed. NGC 3628 is also easily visible in the same field to complete the Leo Trio! Also in the area NGC 3593 fairly easily seen. Still in Leo checking M105. What a surprise. I'd forgotten it had NGC 3384 as such a bright neighbor. I'm also a bit puzzled why i didn't notice this in the 3". I shall have to revisit with the smaller scope sometime. M95 and M96 just fit in the same low power field. Over in the head of Leo NGC 2903 is quite diffuse. It's also getting down a bit and some city lights are interfering.
> Up north to Ursa Major again for M81 and M82. M81 reminds me of a small Andromeda galaxy with a bright core and a diffuse halo. In M82 i can just detect a dark lane across one side of this elongated galaxy. Not sure i've ever noticed that from home before. Over to the Whirlpool M51. Very nice. Although i can't really see its spiral form i can see some dark lanes in the main disk. It's companion is also very easy to see. M101 in the 10" is big and rather hard to see. In a way it was almost easier to see in the 3" being it was smaller and had more sky around. Can't see any structure or details.
> Detoured again way down to M68 in Hydra. I can't really say it resolves but it is grainy. Transparency is pretty good tonight but the seeing is not.
> Eyepieces are dewing up very quickly now so called it a night about 2:20am. It was fun to compare views between the 3" and 10" scopes. Also the dob is more fun to point around the sky. I do need to upgrade the mount for the Tele Vue 76 as right now i'm only using a tripod with a photo pan head. This is fine for daytime spotting but balance really becomes a problem when trying to locate objects near zenith.

Monday night, 2/23/2004, TV76 first light
Worked the night shift today and got home a bit after midnight. For the first time since my TV76 arrived last week the sky was clear. Well, relatively clear. Still a lot of moisture in the air and the stars weren't exactly sparkly. But still, i could see stars so i took out the TV76 for its first look at the night sky!
> Jupiter was high overhead. Starting at 24x i saw a very nice arrangement of moons. All 4 were on the preceding side of the disk in two pairs. The closest pair to the disk were perpendicular to the equator and the second pair were parallel to it. Really a striking pattern. Switching to 36x the planet's bands became apparent. I could also tell there was a bit of turbulence as well. My highest power is 68x using an old Meade 7mm eyepiece. I don't know what design the eyepiece is. At the highest power turbulence was very noticeable. Best view tonight was using the 13mm at 36x.
> I don't have a finder on the TV76 yet so my next targets were a stretch. Galaxies M65 and M66 in Leo. I also was only using a very low resolution Messier locator chart and the mag 4 skies weren't helping either. After about 10 minutes of slowly panning up and around from Jupiter i finally spotted these dim guys. I was sort of amazed i actually found them. I just sort of sat and stared at them for a while. First galaxies through the new scope! I then tried for the M95/M96/M105 group. I eventually found one of the galaxies but not sure which one.
> Wanting to view something i was more familiar with and that would perhaps be a nicer target through the mediocre skies i swung around to the north for M81 and M82 in Ursa Major. After a bit of panning around (remember, no finder on the scope yet) i did find them. Now i realized just how poor the skies were tonight. M81/M82 are usually fairly easy in 10x42 binoculars. Tonight they were somewhat difficult with the TV76. But still, they were there... old friends seen through a new telescope.
> One last target was M51 also in Ursa Major. The galaxy's easy to find location off the end of the Big Dipper certainly helped. The main spiral with companion were definitely visible. I tried for M101 but was unable to locate.
> After about 45 minutes things were starting to dew up (dew, on the desert, ack) so i called it a night. My first impressions of the TV76 are very good. The Bogen tripod head i'm using works okay at lower powers but i can see that at higher powers it's going to be bothersome. I also need a finder. I have the Stellarvue red dot finder on order and should arrive in a couple days. I also still have my Telrad to experiment with. I'm really looking forward to getting this little jewel of a scope out under some darkskies soon! But alas, more rain is forecast.

Monday, 2/23/2004, Venus in daylight
Venus very close to the crescent moon today. Set up the TV76 in the driveway and easily spotted both. Also shared the view with some neighbors.

Monday, 2/23/2004, Garstin trail hike
First day without rain for a while. Hiked up the Garstin, across the middle plateau, and back over Smoketree mtn. Everything nice and fresh. Might even have some clear skies tonight to see stars!

Thursday, 2/19/2004, New Tele Vue-76
New telescope arrived today! A Tele Vue-76 76mm f/6.3 APO refractor. Beautiful little scope. I'll be using it both as a daytime spotting scope and for nighttime stargazing. Weather forecast is for clouds/rain for the next week or more. Sigh...

Tuesday, 2/17/2004, South Lykken trail
Quick hike up and down the south Lykken trail. Rather hazy day.

Sunday, 2/15/2004, Araby trail
Hike the Araby trail with Wen.

Saturday, 2/14/2004, Stargazing from Cottonwood
Drove up to Cottonwood this evening. Arrived at the trailhead parking lot about 7pm. There were quite a few cars and i at first thought maybe there would be a bunch of stargazers set up. But turns out only Stephen and Bruce were there. Not sure why so many cars at night. Maybe backpackers or maybe overflow parking from the campground. (I didn't drive through the campground but i think it was full this being the 3-day President's Day holiday weekend.) My primary goal for the night was to see comet C/2002 T7 from a darksky site before it got too close to the sun and lost in the twilight. I only brought the 4" f/6 Orion refractor plus 16x70 and 10x42 binoculars.
> Comet C/2002 T7 - Comet easy to spot near mag 2.8 Algenib in Pegasus. Nice round coma with just a short little stubby tail. The nicest view was with the 16x70 Fujinons handheld with my arms propped up on the roof of the truck. The comet was also easy to see with 10x42 Nikon binoculars. The Zodiacal Light and skyglow from Coachella Valley cities interfered however. I tried to spot the comet naked eye but could not.
> M74, EG, Pisces - This sure is one of the faintest Messier objects. Just barely visible in the 4" and the 16x70 binos. Very faint.
> 2237, DN and cluster, Monoceros - Rosette - At 30x in the 4" takes up half the field. Using the UHC it's quite easy to see. Sort of like a large Helix neb. The side preceding the central cluster is larger. Looks more like a nebula here than it did from home where it was just this weird dark gray nothingness. The neb is noticeable in both 16x70 and 10x42 binoculars. Can almost tell there's something there with naked eye.
> Ranger visit - A park service ranger came by checking out the parked cars. He came over to me and we chatted for a while. I pointed out some constellations and planets for as well as Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter were all visible across the sky from west to east. Also pointed out Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky, was visible along the southern horizon. It never hurts to be friendly with the rangers.
> 2261, DN, Monoceros - Hubble's Variable neb - I can't find it! Very strange. I was able to see from home a couple of nights ago but i can't find it tonight. I see heaps more stars than i can see from home but can't pick out the neb.
> Horsehead neb - Trying really hard to find him with the 4". I'm just not sure. Sometimes i think i can see a faint neb with a bit of notch in it. Other times i don't see anything at all. Trying with and without UHC.

Friday the 13th, 2/13/2004, Shannon trail
Hiked up the Shannon, over peak, across middle plateau, back down Shannon. Started out clear but turned overcast after a while. I'd planned to go out on the desert stargazing tonight but the clouds have overruled me.

Thursday evening, 2/12/2004, Backyard stargazing with the 4"
Stargazing again from the backyard but this time with the 4" f/6 refractor.
_ Comet C/2002 T7 - Comet is right next to the star Algenib in Pegasus. Wish this darned comet would get a bit brighter. Not really much to see in the 4" with the city skyglow.
_ M42, DN, Orion - Orion Nebula - The 4 main stars of the Trapezium easily resolve at 30x.
_ 2024, DN, Orion - Flame neb - UTL.
_ M79, GN, Lepus - Pretty easy. Little round ball down below Orion's feet.
_ M78, DN, Orion - At 30x can just see the two stars within the small nebula.
_ R Lepus, Variable star, Lepus - Hind's Crimson Star - Doesn't look very crimson to me. More a light orange.
_ M41, OC, Canis Major.
_ Collinder 121, OC, Canis Major - Contains the bright naked eye Omicron Canis Majoris. A few other bright stars.
_ SAO 173349, DS, Canis Major - The Winter Albireo - Not labeled on SA 2000.0. It does look like Albireo. The dimmer star is maybe a bit greenish and the brighter one orangish. Quite pretty.
_ 2362, OC, Canis Major - Tau Canis Majoris - Not quite as impressive in the 4" as in the 10" a couple nights ago but still pretty. One of my favorite objects.
_ M47 and M46, OC, Puppis - M47 bright and course. M46 dim soft glow. Can't see the planetary 2438 in M46 with the 4". But i can see just north of M47 the open cluster 2423. All 3 clusters fit within the same 30x field.
_ M93, OC, Puppis - Oddly unsymmetrical. Looks like a fish.
_ 2261, DN, Monoceros - Hubble's Variable neb - Found this a couple nights ago with the 10" and it's actually visible in the 4" as well. Small but definitely there. Just north of the neb is a nice little starfield around 15 Mon.
_ 2237, DN and cluster, Monoceros - Rosette - The star cluster is nice. Like a long rectangle. The neb i'm not sure about. I almost think i can see it. Like a dark gray cloud blocking background stars. This grayness seems a bit more noticeable on the preceding side of the cluster.
_ 2360, OC, Canis Major - Noticed this cluster just panning around. Quite noticeable. I thought it was a Messier cluster at first.
_ 2451 and 2477, OC, Puppis - I love these clusters down below Canis Major. 2451 is bright with stars that seem to form a spiral. 2477 is a much fainter glow. These two are similar to the M47/M46 pair. Very nice even in 10x42 binoculars.
_ Last object is Jupiter. Interesting arrangement of moons tonight. Three moons on the preceding side of the planet with two very close and a third a bit farther off. A forth moon on the following side all by itself.

Wednesday, 2/11/2004, Roadrunner cable
Had Roadrunner cable internet installed today. It's fast! Over 4 times faster than the Verizon DSL i was using.

Tuesday evening, 2/10/2004, Backyard stargazing with the 10"
Took the 10" f/5 out in the backyard for a couple hours this evening before moonrise. Catching up on a few Messier objects i've not yet seen with the 10". Sky quite clear due to Santa Ana winds. However these same winds made the sky very turbulent so stars were on the blurry side.
_ M42 and M43, Orion neb - Quite a bit of detail. With the turbulent air didn't see more than the 4 main stars of the Trapezium. Can just pick up a bit of the neb NGC 1977 which surrounds the northern star of the sword. Also the Flame neb, NGC 2024, off the left belt star is visible. No luck on the Horsehead of course.
_ M78, DN, Orion - Two stars and neb. No sign of McNeil's Nebula. ;-)
_ 2264, DN, Monoceros - Cone neb - UTL.
_ 2261, DN, Monoceros - Hubble's Variable neb - Fairly easy to see actually. Small. Somewhat fan shaped. Surprised this one is so easy to see.
_ 2237, DN and cluster, Monoceros - Rosette - Totally fills the 60x field. Very strange object. Looks like a gray cloud blocking background stars. Interesting star cluster at center. Just an odd object. Seems like it might be nice in the 11x80mm binoculars but when i tried i could not see the neb at all, only the cluster. Must try this in the 10" from a dark site.
_ M50, OC, Monoceros - Nice little cluster. Stands out well.
_ 2359, DN, Canis Major - Thor's Helmet - I've no idea what i'm looking for. Nothing seen.
_ M47 and M46, OC, Puppis - M47 bright and very course. M46 much dimmer producing a soft glow. Contained in M46 the planetary 2438 is quite easy to see.
_ M48, OC, Hydra - Large. Course. Some pairs of stars. Almost like a smaller version M44.
_ 2362, OC, Canis Major - Tau Canis Majoris - One of my all time favorite objects. I still remember the first time i discovered this cluster with my C8 about 20 years ago. Cluster is triangular and sparkly with the bright star Tau dead center.
_ M93, OC, Puppis - Nice open. Kind of an odd half-moon shape almost.
_ M41, OC, Canis Major - Big, bright, course. Very nice open cluster. Tonight the stars are boiling in the turbulence.
_ M44, OC, Cancer - Beehive - Too big for the 10". Doesn't even look like a cluster through the scope. Better in binoculars. Can just see with naked eye.
_ M67, OC, Cancer - Another nice little open cluster.
_ M35, OC, Gemini - Swung back overhead for last objects of the night. M35 is a very pretty cluster with the dim and much more distant cluster 2158 off to the side.
_ Packed up about 10pm just before moonrise.

Monday, 2/9/2004, Comet C/2002 T7
Quick peek at comet C/2002 T7 with my 4" f/6 refractor from home. Comet quite easy to spot near Algenib in Pegasus. No tail visible.

Sunday, 2/8/2004, Cahuilla Canyon
Cahuilla canyon again, this time with Wen, to the upper boulder.

Saturday night, 2/7/2004, Skate park!
Kai and i went to the Palm Springs skateboard park today for the first time. We both signed up for the resident rate of $10 per year. Pretty good deal. I can ride a bit but just basic stuff. Was a lot of fun and none of the kids made fun of me.

Wednesday night, 2/4/2004, Jupiter and its moons
Jupiter and its 4 Galilean moons all lined up on one side of the planet this evening. I hadn't even looked at Jupiter for weeks and just by coincidence decided to look tonight with the almost full moon! The moons named outward from the planet were Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Serendipity!

Tuesday, 2/3/2004, Cahuilla Canyon
Walk up Cahuilla canyon to the lower boulder. Nice and fresh after last night's rain.

Monday, 2/2/2004, South Lykken Trail
Hiked up the south Lykken trail to the vista point and then up the ridge off-trail a bit.

Saturday, 1/31/2004, Murray Hill
Hiked to the top of Murray Hill with my friend and co-worker Greg Petek. We went up the trail from Andreas Hills and came back the same way. Got a bit overcast on the way down but otherwise a really nice day.

Sunday, 1/25/2004, Araby loop hike
Nice 2 hour hike up the Araby trail, across to Wildhorse junction, back to Garstin junction, over Smoketree mtn, and back down Araby. Sunny and clear. I was expecting more hikers out on such a nice day but only saw a couple of other people on the trails and no one parked at the trailhead.

Friday, 1/23/2004, Mars and NGC 524
Mars passing very near to galaxy NGC 524 in Pisces tonight. The galaxy is fairly dim mag 11.5 but using the 10" f/5 dob through my mediocre 4.5 skies i was able to pick it out. It helped to position Mars outside of the field. Without knowing beforehand that the galaxy was there i'd never have noticed it. I was viewing about 8pm local time and by then the separation was about 20'. While in the area i tried for M74 but was unable to see though the skyglow. M77 was fairly easy however. Also had a nice view of comet C/2002 T7 though the scope and through 16x70mm binoculars. First time i'd viewed the comet with the 16x binos from home. Much easier than with the 10x binos a couple nights ago. Two other targets were objects i'd viewed last Saturday from the dark skies of Desert Center and wanted to try from home. Planetary 1501 in Camelopardalis took a bit of sweeping to find the field but once i did i had no problem seeing its round presence. The other object was globular 2419 over in Lynx. This one is very hard. Fortunately there is a nice little string of three stars that helps pinpoint the cluster's location. By carefully nudging the scope back and forth i could just detect the faint 300,000 year old light from this most distant globular.

Wednesday, 1/21/2004, Comet T7 from home
Stretching the limits a bit but i could just barely see comet C/2002 T7 from home in my Nikon 10x42 SE binoculars. It's very faint. Like a small dim galaxy. But using averted vision and knowing exactly where it was did let me see it. I also had my 10" f/5 dob out and found the comet easily. Through the binos the comet was hard to see but knowing exactly where to look having located it first in the 10" did let me find it. Without first spotting in the larger scope i don't think i'd have found the comet with the 10x binos alone. Over the weekend from Desert Center it was much easier.

Sunday, 1/18/2004, Cahuilla Canyon
Lots of people out hiking today. I'd originally planned to hike the Garstin trail but found about a dozen vehicles at the trailhead. So drove back over to Cahuilla canyon instead. Didn't go up the Lykken trail as it had quite a few people on it too. Rather went up the main canyon past the upper boulder to where the canyon narrows.

Saturday, 1/17/2004, Stargazing near Desert Center
Drove out to near Desert Center this afternoon with the 10" f/5 dob. Also had the 16x70 Fujinon and 10x42 Nikon binoculars. Beautiful sparkly clear weather. Wish i'd driven out a bit earlier just to enjoy more time on the desert. Arrived just before sunset. Very still with no wind.
_ Comet C/2002 T7 still pretty defuse with no core. Bit of a tail in the 10" but not much. Easily seen in the 16x binos as well as the 10x42 binos.
_ 1502 and Kemble's Cascade.
_ 1501, PN, Camelopardalis - Just south of Kemble's Cascade and 1502. Very nice little planetary. Round and at 100x i think i can see a central hole. Also visible in the 16x binoculars but looks like a star.
_ Tombaugh 5, OC, Camelopardalis - Soft splash of stars.
_ Stock 23, OC, Camelopardalis - Nice cluster.
_ 1560, EG, Camelopardalis - Fairly easy. Elongated.
_ 1573, EG, Camelopardalis - North of 1560. Much harder. Small.
_ 1530, EG, Camelopardalis - Larger than the last two. Round, but not bright.
_ 2276 and 2300, EG, Cepheus - Pair of galaxies very close to Polaris. 2276 looks like a ghost of a nearby star. 2300 a bit smaller but more noticeable.
_ 2268, EG, Camelopardalis.
_ 2336, EG, Camelopardalis - Seems to have a bit of a condensed core.
_ M81 and M82, EG, Ursa Major - Always nice. Interesting to compare M82 to Robert Gendler's image of the pair. No trace of the red glow that shows so well in the photograph.
_ 2403, EG, Camelopardalis - Big guy. Easy in 16x binos and visible in the 10x even. Oval shape. Reminds me of M33 in Triangulum a bit.
_ Enough galaxies for now. Check the bright open clusters in Auriga and Gemini. I think the scope needs alignment. Hard to bring stars to pinpoint focus.
_ 2392, PN, Gemini - Eskimo neb - With direct vision the neb disappears and the central star is seen. Interesting effect.
_ 2420, OC, Gemini - Near Eskimo neb. Very pretty little cluster.
_ M1, PN, Taurus - Crab neb.
_ 2415, EG, Lynx - Small and hard to find.
_ 2419, GC, Lynx - Very remote globular. The SEDS page says this is the most remote Milky Way object visible in moderately-sized scopes!
_ Horsehead neb - Okay, i saw it. VERY hard. Uninteresting. Can just barely detect a background glow with a very slightly darker rift across it using UHC filter. Bah. Not really worth it but at least i can now say i've seen it. The nearby Flame neb (2024) is nice however.
_ M42, DN, Orion - Orion neb - Spectacular of course. But i'm tired of looking at things so it's time to head for home.
_ Kit Fox - After packing up i shone my spotlight around the area. About 50 feet to the NE is a cute little kit fox! He watched me a bit then pranced off into the night. A nice way to end the evening as i drove home.

Wednesday, 1/14/2004, Uranus and Venus tonight
Uranus within a degree of Venus this evening. Took the 4" f/6 refractor out in the backyard for a quick peek. Uranus easy to see in the same field with Venus at 30x and 50x. No details of course. Uranus, although not bright, is easy to spot with handheld 10x42 binoculars as well.

Monday, 1/12/2004, Shannon Trail
Quick hike up the Shannon to the plaque and back.

Sunday, 1/11/2004, Cahuilla Canyon
Hiked Cahuilla canyon to the upper boulder with Wen and Kai today. Weather couldn't have been nicer!

Saturday night, 1/10/2004, Comet C/2002 T7
Using the 10" f/5 dob from the backyard comet shows a bit of a fan shape.

Saturday, 1/10/2004, Desert trip
Desert day trip: I10 to Chiriaco Summit, drive up powerline road south of summit and to JT border north of summit. On to Desert Center then north along Hwy 177. Stop at Palen road and pickup a lot of cans and bottles. Continue north to Hwy 62 then east to Rice, south on the Blythe/Rice road to Midland, west on Arlington road through Palen pass (running a bit low on gas) back to Hwy 177. Got home about 4:30pm after driving 266 miles. Great day to be out on the desert.

Sunday, 1/4/2004, Garstin trail
Wen and i hiked up the Garstin, over Smoketree mtn, across the middle plateau, and back down Garstin. Was a beautiful day. Clear, cool and bright. Also stopped by my Flag Over Palm Springs geocache. All's well with the cache but no visitors since i was there last May.

Thursday, 1/1/2004, New Year's Day
Just hang out at home.

Last year's blog...


© Florian Boyd