Wes's Online  Observing Log
2005-2007 archives
2007 December 12/13 and 13/14: Geminid Meteor Shower

I actually got in two Geminid observing sessions this year. Too bad it was in the middle of a work week, but I'll take what I can get. The last time I observed the peak night of the Geminids from such dark and cloud-free skies was 1993!

Here are a couple of short notes on the sessions.

The appetizer:
2007 December 12/13; 1239-1341 UT. Teff~1.0h
Skies were really iffy with some fog and cirrus, but managed to stay clear. Average limiting magnitude was 6.0. In one hour, I observed 19 Geminids, 1 Sigma Hydrid and 7 Sporadics. The brightest meteor was a -2 Geminid.

The main dish:
2007 December 13/14; 0744-1021 UT. Teff~2.5h
Skies were remarkably good for peak night with average LM of 6.8. In 2.5 hours, I observed 235 total meteors, including 207 Geminids. There were lots of spurts and lulls. The highlight of the night was a -4 Geminid, very long and vivid blue with a wake. This color was duplicated in a -2 just before I signed on.

2007 October 31: Comet 17P/Holmes

I've done less observing than usual this year, but the time has been punctuated with a lot of interesting phenomena and events. In January, I saw the tail of Comet McNaught while the head was well below my horizon. Now, we have a comet with a big head and not much of a tail. If you're not aware of Comet Holmes, please go to SpaceWeather.com or SkyandTelescope.com to enlighten yourself.

Anyway, here are my observations so far. I was out late (non-astronomy ;-) ) on Tuesday, October 23 and had to work until late on Wednesday, October 24. So, when I got home on the evening of the 24th I was quite shocked to see the headline about Comet Holmes' remarkable brightening.  Luckily, it was clear (albeit with bright moonlight and approaching clouds) and I was able to drag my scope out for a short time. The comet appeared starlike and about magnitude 2.6 to the naked eye; maybe vaguely planetary but nearly stellar in 8x56 binoculars. In the 10" Dob, it was a completely different story. Imagine the Eskimo Nebula several times larger and several hundred times brighter. That's the kind of structure that was visible at 165x: a bright stellar pseudonucleus with jets coming off it to the S and SW, a clearly-defined spherical inner coma with the nucleus a bit off-center, and a very faint outer halo fading gradually toward the edges. The inner coma was a bit over 1' in diameter; the total diameter was more like 3'. An odd yellowish-orange color was visible in the inner coma at all magnifications. Sketch.

Weather and commitments intervened, and my next view of the comet was on the evening of Saturday, October 27. The moonlight was a serious hindrance, and transparency wasn't that great. The outer halo was barely hinted at. Two big changes were visible, however. First, the inner coma had grown to roughly 5' across (nonstellar to the naked eye and an obvious disc in binoculars). Second, as seen in the Dob the outer edge of the inner coma was clearly a brighter rim surrounding a darker inner hollow. This enhanced the comparison to a giant planetary nebula. The innermost structure around the pseudonucleus was similar to my previous observation, but a bit more diffuse and fan-shaped rather than narrow jets. The comet's brightness seemed to have remained constant. Sketch.

On the evening of Tuesday, October 30, I got my first view of the comet without moonlight interference. Naked eye limiting magnitude was probably around 6.8. The comet was clearly fuzzy and nonstellar to the naked eye, and both an inner and outer coma were visible in binoculars. At 44x in the 10" Dob, the comet was shockingly large and stretched across nearly half of the 1.1-degree field. The inner coma was roughly 10' across and the total diameter about 30'. The comet retained its general spherical appearance, with a bit of diffuse extension to the SSW. The outer halo responded well to an Orion UltraBlock narrowband filter. The color of the inner coma seemed to vary between orange-yellow and green depending on whether I had just removed the filter or looked at my red light. At times, the very outer rim of the inner coma glowed with an eerie dark blue reminiscent of Hale-Bopp's ion tail at its best. The pseudonucleus appeared a bit fainter than before (maybe), and there was an odd counterclockwise curl in the fan region immediately surrounding it. The bright jet emerged from the SSW of the pseudonucleus, broadened into a fan, and then curved westward and finally northward. An amazing object even without a discernible tail. Sketch.

2007 October 21: ORIONIDS!

Despite iffy weather and not feeling my best, I got up early on the morning of the 21st to watch Orionids. I was rewarded with clearing skies and an excellent meteor shower. In 1.8 hours of observing from 1108-1257 UT (4:08-5:57am PDT), I saw 141 meteors. 100 of these were Orionids. The Orionids were reasonably bright, with a mean magnitude of 1.8. One fireball exploded near Venus and was about the same brightness. There was some bothersome fog for the first half hour, but overall it was an excellent morning with a limiting magnitude around 7.

2007 October 14: Comet LONEOS

More crazy schedules, but I took a couple of looks at Comet C/2007 F1 (LONEOS). I got up early on the morning of October 13 and caught the comet just above the horizon. It was a slightly aqua fuzzball with a hint of a tail to the NNW. There was a fairly bright, not-quite-stellar pseudonucleus embedded in a bright inner coma. Coma diameter was about 3'. As the sky darkened on the evening of October 13, I caught the comet again before it set. Sky conditions were a bit better for the evening session, and the tail was more prominent with some subtle structure and about 30' in length. Sketches.

2007 September 1: AURIGIDS!

I got out nice and early at 2:30am (0930UT). We had rain showers throughout Thursday night, so I was just happy to see clear sky. The moonlight was pretty intense, so I chose to obstruct it behind a tree. Unfortunately, this also brought some other trees into view, and I lived with a 20-25% obstructed FOV throughout the morning. In retrospect, I probably could have seen a few more bright Aurigids around the time of maximum if I had disregarded the Moon and chose an unobstructed view toward the east. But at least these data should be consistent.

I was absolutely skunked for the first half hour. My first meteor, 39 minutes into the watch, was a blue -3 Antihelion that I managed to see behind me. It was another 13 minutes before the first Aurigid appeared (and 8 minutes after that the first sporadic came). So I had a pretty solid baseline of background activity :-). It felt like no significant meteor activity could ever be conjured from such a dull and depressed sky. Aurigid rates began to pick up at 1041UT. The activity didn't build to a sharp maximum, but rather was a series of spurts and lulls like a major shower maximum. I had several minutes with two Aurigids, and only one with three (1121-1122UT). No bursts of multiple meteors. At 1126UT, there were nearly simultaneous -5 and 0 Aurigids. I thought: "This is really going to get good." Unfortunately, it was almost over by that time, and activity slowed to a crawl. Overall, I saw 33 Aurigids in 2.7+ hours Teff. The report below contains five-minute intervals ov! er the most active period.

The Aurigids were bright, with a mean magnitude of +0.5. There were 4 Aurigid fireballs of -3 or brighter, and 8 Aurigids in the negative magnitudes. The predominant color was orange-red, although there were a couple of blue ones and the two brightest fireballs were white. The brightest fireball of -5 left a twisting 30-second train.

In spite of the rather low numbers, this event had a very dramatic feel to it as I never knew what was going to happen next.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2007 September 1

0930-1035...Teff=1.00h...F=1.33...LM=5.6...ANT 1...AUR 1...Spo 1
1037-1042...Teff=0.08h...F=1.33...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 1
1042-1047...Teff=0.08h...F=1.33...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 2...Spo 0
1047-1052...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 0
1052-1057...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 0
1057-1102...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 0
1102-1107...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 3...Spo 0
1107-1112...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 3...Spo 2
1112-1117...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 0
1117-1122...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 5...Spo 1
1122-1127...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 4...Spo 0
1127-1132...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 0
1132-1137...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.8...ANT 0...AUR 3...Spo 0
1137-1142...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.9...ANT 0...AUR 0...Spo 1
1142-1147...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.9...ANT 0...AUR 3...Spo 0
1147-1152...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.9...ANT 0...AUR 0...Spo 1
1152-1157...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.9...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 1
1157-1202...Teff=0.08h...F=1.25...LM=5.9...ANT 0...AUR 1...Spo 0
1202-1224...Teff=0.37h...F=1.25...LM=5.7...ANT 1...AUR 1...Spo 1

Global Magnitude Distributions (0930-1224)
ANT (N=2) -3(1), +2(1)

AUR (N=33) -5(1), -4(1), -3(2), -2(1), -1(3), 0(6), +1(7), +2(7), +3(4), +4(1)

Spo (N=9) +1(2), +2(4), +3(2), +4(1)

August 27/28: Total Lunar Eclipse

I observed the lunar eclipse throughout all its umbral phases. There was some of the dark blood-red color during the deep partial phases, but during totality the predominant colors were a deep orange in the lighter areas and a dark muddy brown in the dark areas. The limb of the Moon was nearly invisible where the darkest part of the umbra passed across dark maria. Kind of an ugly eclipse if you ask me, but since I haven't seen one for over four years I'll take it! I did a little viewing with the 10" Dob, which showed a less-contrasty image with more subtle coloration. At ~2:45am, I saw a semi-grazing occultation of a 9th-magnitude star as it blinked out once, came back, and then disappeared for good a short while later.

I took some photos at various phases (more successful with the short exposures outside totality, as I don't have a tracking mount and my camera doesn't do high ISOs).

Here's an animated GIF (366K) to prove that I was out there.

During totality, I hunted down supernova 2007gr in NGC 1058 in Perseus. This 13th-magnitude supernova was very close to a field star. The host galaxy is round and diffuse with a slightly brighter center. Sketch.

2007 Oregon Star Party Report!

2007 August 13/14: Post-max Perseids

I wasn't feeling too sleep-deprived, so I did a "bonus session" of 1.5 hours this morning. I saw 100 meteors including 75 Perseids. Skies were very nice, but Perseids seemed bright this morning with a mean magnitude of 1.8. The brightest meteor was "only" magnitude -3, however.

1.5 hours Teff from 0952-1125 UT August 14
Limiting magnitude: 6.9
100 total meteors (average 67/hour)
75 Perseids (average 50/hour, ZHR~46)
16 Sporadics
2 Kappa Cygnids
3 Alpha Capricornids
2 Antihelions
2 South Delta Aquarids

August 12/13: Perseid Maximum

After pulling an all-nighter on August 11/12, I didn't feel up to the same tonight. I did a casual watch at the end of twilight and saw quite a few relatively long and faint Perseids, but decided to focus my attention on the predawn hours. I ended up counting for 2 hours between 0926 and 1130 UT. I saw 214 total meteors including 153 Perseids. Skies were awesome, so there were a lot of faint meteors. As others have noted, the Kappa Cygnids were quite active with 6 meteors. My brightest meteor was a -3 Perseid.

This was the first time I've gotten a good view of this Perseid peak timing (1995-Moon, 1999-clouds, 2003-Moon again). While the predawn hours of August 12 should be even better for my location next year, the fact is that this year I was able to break 100 meteors/hour on two consecutive mornings. I don't think I've done that before; obviously, excellent sky conditions (no nearby forest fires this year!) played a big part. It would be nice to get this kind of sky during the Geminids once in a while...

2.0 hours Teff from 0926-1130 UT August 13
Limiting magnitude: 6.9
214 total meteors (average 107/hour)
153 Perseids (average 76.5/hour, ZHR~70)
45 Sporadics
6 Kappa Cygnids
3 Alpha Capricornids
4 Antihelions
3 South Delta Aquarids

August 11/12: Star Party and Perseids

I volunteered at a public star party on the grounds of the Fort Klamath Historical Museum (timed as usual to coincide with Saturday night rather than with the traditional Perseid peak). A gate counter estimated 160 people showed up, which is exceptional for this rural area with no astronomy club. Skies were excellent with limiting magnitude pushing 7.1 overhead. In the twilight, before many people had showed up, I used binoculars to see the Hubble Space Telescope for the first time. I hadn't known that it was ever visible from this latitude, but it showed up on the Heavens Above chart so apparently it is on rare occasions. I watched the 3rd-magnitude satellite pass by the sting of Scorpius right on schedule. A bit later, the ISS (with Endeavour docked) made the first of a couple of low passes. Jupiter was up, and though the air was pretty unsteady I caught a few glimpses of the departing Great Red Spot and the shadow transit of Io.

I did a couple of meteor talks and some telescopic view-sharing before settling down to meteor counting after midnight. Perseids were quite active, especially during my pre-twilight session which included a lot of faint activity. Aquarid and Kappa Cygnid radiants were also active, with the KCGs producing a couple of bright meteors early and late. I saw 175 Perseids and 246 total meteors in 3.28 hours observing time.

Session 1 (2 hours Teff from 0707-0910 UT)
Limiting magnitude: 6.9
117 total meteors (average 58.5/hour)
83 Perseids (average 41.5/hour, ZHR~52)
20 Sporadics
2 Kappa Cygnids
2 Alpha Capricornids
4 Antihelions
6 South Delta Aquarids

Session 2 (1.28 hours Teff from 1004-1124 UT)
Limiting magnitude: 6.8
129 total meteors (average 101/hour)
92 Perseids (average 72/hour, ZHR~70)
21 Sporadics
4 Kappa Cygnids
2 Alpha Capricornids
6 Antihelions
4 South Delta Aquarids

August 10/11: Meteor observing

I got out for 1.25 hours of observing this morning. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to sneeze at, either. Forty-two meteors total, of which 22 were Perseids. The brightest was a very fast -3 Perseid. Hopefully skies will remain clear for a public star party tonight and maximum tomorrow night.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2007 August 11

Interval: 1004-1120 UT
Teff: 1.25 hours
F: 1.00
LM: 6.7
Total Meteors: 42
KCG: 1
ANT: 1
SDA: 2
PER: 22
Spo: 16

Magnitude Distributions
KCG: +2(1)
ANT: +2(1)
SDA: +3(1), +4(1)
PER: -4(1), 0(3), +1(2), +2(4), +3(7), +4(5)
Spo: -1(1), 0(1), +1(1), +2(5), +3(5), +4(3)

July 8/9: Observing update

Despite the lack of updates to my website, I have been observing off and on through the spring and early summer. I observed shuttle Atlantis and the ISS on several evenings after their separation. On June 30, I enjoyed the conjunction of Venus and Saturn (photo). I have also been following the brightening of Comet C/2006 VZ13 (LINEAR), which is now a bright binocular object. Jupiter has also given up some interesting detail in spite of its southerly declination.

On this warm and slightly buggy summer evening, I tuned in to Jupiter during astronomical twilight. Seeing improved until 275x was usable, although I soon backed off to 190x. I tried to make a sketch, but the "ill wind" blew away all detail on the planet before I was through. Up to this point, however, the planet was quite a sight. The Great Red Spot was visible near the preceding limb, and the temperate belts to the south of it showed some fine detail. The South Equatorial Belt was interrupted, with only the south side well-defined and several projections hanging off this. The Equatorial Zone was full of subtle detail, which blurred out into a darkish haze when the seeing got bad. The North Equatorial Belt showed its usual projections and splits. A hint of a North Temperate Belt was present. The polar regions were pretty quiet.

C/2006 VZ13 was well-placed in Draco, a bright binocular object of 8th magnitude or better. It consisted of a faint, nearly stellar nucleus surrounded by a small, bright inner coma. The diffuse outer coma stretched to about 10' in diameter. The comet was elongated to the WSW.

Deep-sky targets for tonight included NGC 7008 (the "Fetus Nebula") and the Veil Nebula in Cygnus, NGC 6905 in Delphinus, M27, NGC 6572 in Ophiuchus, M22, M15, and many of the "usual suspects" in the summer Milky Way.

April 22/23: Lyrid Meteor Shower

Sunday was very wet, with a mix of precipitation types. Freezing fog was forecast for Monday morning. There was already some fog present when I woke up just before moonset. Except for a couple of brief incursions, the fog stayed around the horizons, and I was able to get in 2 hours of observing time. Sometimes skies were impressive, with limiting magnitude reaching 7.0 for two star area counts. Meteor activity started off on the slow side, but picked up enough that I saw 15 meteors (6 Lyrids) in my first hour. The second hour was quite active with 26 total meteors (9 Lyrids). The brightest meteor was a -1 Lyrid.

Totals (0837-1048 UT)
Teff: 2.00 hours
F: 1.00
LM: 6.8
ANT: 3
LYR: 15
Spo: 23
Total meteors: 41

Magnitude Distributions
ANT: +2(1), +3(1), +5(1)
LYR: -1(1), 0(1), +1(3), +2(4), +3(2), +4(3), +5(1)
Spo: 0(2), +1(2), +2(6), +3(9), +4(3), +5(1)

April 18/19

I had completely "spaced" on comet C/2007 E1 (Garradd) during my previous sessions, and I realized I might not get another chance to view it before the Moon got in the way. Luckily, the weather threw me a bit of a birthday present, as there was clearing on Wednesday night. I hauled out the Dob and immediately found the diffuse comet in Cancer. The coma appeared round, with the inner 2' fairly bright and an overall diameter of perhaps 5'. Total magnitude was estimated at 9.6, but again this was a very diffuse comet and would not be visible under poor sky conditions. A quick search with 8x56 binoculars yielded no trace of the comet. I made a sketch of the comet and then visited Saturn. Not much to see on the ringed planet, as my scope was still cooling off and seeing wasn't that good anyway. The clouds came in, and I poked around through the sucker holes, visiting the visible Messier objects and a few bright NGCs. After about an hour, I came back to the comet and noted the coma's motion.

April 15-16

On the morning of April 15, I got up before dawn to look for Comet C/2007 E2 (Lovejoy) in binoculars. It had been cloudy in the evening, but apparently this was the night I should have brought the scope out. It was beautifully transparent with a limiting magnitude of 7.0 overhead. The comet was fainter than I expected, but easily visible in NE Sagittarius. It was about magnitude 8.4 and had a round, diffuse coma about 11 arcminutes in diameter with a stellar nucleus. Sketch.

I did take the scope out on the evening of April 15. Skies were a bit moist and hazy, and seeing was mediocre at best. I still had some fun picking out galaxies in Crater. I started out with NGC 3636 and 3637, a little matched pair. NGC 3672 was large and elongated, and would be nice to visit again on a better night. NGC 3892 was large and oval with hints of structure. NGC 3511 and 3513 were a nice pair of diffuse, elongated galaxies. I visited six other galaxies in the area before heading off on a quick sweep through the grand tour area of Virgo and visiting some other spring showpieces.

Clouds passed through during the morning hours, and the sky was very hazy when I got up for a morning session. I almost packed it in, but I figured that I would at least take a look at Jupiter. Seeing was pretty bad, and even Europa's shadow was invisible. The western half of the sky was mostly clear, but my two cometary targets (C/2007 E2 and 96P) were in the east. 96P was hidden behind a thick wall of clouds, but C/2007 E2 was merely buried in haze. I could just make it out in binoculars, but it was easy in the 10" Dob. It showed a diffuse oval coma with a faint and spread out central condensation. Sketch. I went back to Jupiter, and seeing had improved. I was able to make a halfway decent sketch. The whole equatorial area was alive with details.

March 18/19

I've done a few short observing sessions over the past couple of months, but nothing to write home about. The weather and my schedule just haven't cooperated. I like to do a short session to shake the rust off, and then follow it up with a longer session a couple of nights later. This winter, the rust has really been building up, but I was able to get rid of some of it on March 15/16. Conditions weren't the greatest with some high clouds, but at least I was able to get my starhopping skills back on line with some winter and early spring showpieces. I followed up with a 3.5-hour session on March 18/19.

It was a nice, clear night (limiting magnitude 6.8) with the exception of a bit of dew and occasional incursions of wood smoke lower in the sky. Seeing was iffy early, but improved later on.

After enjoying the winter sky, I turned to the M65/M66 galaxy pair in Leo. The two just fit in the same field of my 10" Dob with a 7mm Nagler (~165x). M66 has a small, bright core region with bar-like extensions to the north and south of a stellar nucleus. Both extensions appear to curve eastward at their ends. The northern portion of the halo cuts off abruptly, while the southern portion is elongated and diffuse. This gives the galaxy an odd, irregular overall shape. The halo is cut through with subtle structure. While M66 is an immediate attention-getter with its bright, curving structure and attendant 9th-magnitude star, M65 is at least as interesting. M65 is an extremely elongated (roughly N-S) oval object with a stellar nucleus inside a small, bright core. Several extensions appear to sprout from the core into the surrounding halo, and there is a thin but conspicuous dark lane just east of the nucleus. A faint star or galactic knot is visible along this dark lane. There are brightenings in the halo about halfway out on both the north and south ends. The southern halo fades out more gradually and is impressively extended with averted vision. Sketch.

I visited an old friend, the galaxy cluster Abell 1367 in Leo. Just a few weeks after I got my 10" Dob, I had an incredible morning session on 2003 February 9/10 that really opened my eyes to the faint fuzzies this aperture could reveal. Abell 1367 was one of my targets that morning. On this late evening, I hopped through the cluster with a better chart and a better eyepiece. Over a one-degree field, I identified 14 NGC objects and almost as many non-NGC galaxies. There are several reasonably bright and immediately visible galaxies in this cluster, so it is a good introduction to the world of the Abells.

Finally, I observed Supernova 2007af in the galaxy NGC 5584 in Virgo. The galaxy was a faint, diffuse, oval spot. The supernova was bright and obvious, perhaps a little brighter than the last reported observations of ~magnitude 13.0. See my sketch.

January 19/20

Mostly cloudy weather and snow flurries were predicted, but when the evening turned clear I took a quick walk to find a spot with a dark and relatively unobstructed western horizon. At 6:30pm, with twilight still apparent, tail streamers from Comet McNaught were immediately visible to the naked eye. This area of the sky was heavily involved with the zodiacal light, but the comet rays were brighter. As the night got darker, I examined the structures with naked eyes and 8x56 binoculars. Five main rays were visible at first, and a sixth one became visible a bit later. In general, the rays were 1-2 degrees wide at their bases and narrowed slightly at their tips. They glowed softly but the edges were pretty well-defined. There wasn't much fine structure visible, and the presence of the zodiacal light undoubtedly made it difficult to see any fainter rays that may have been present. Three of the rays were basically visible all the way to the horizon (a ridge blocked out the lowest several degrees for me). The two southernmost rays stood nearly upright; the rest leaned northward to give a radiating appearance. The northernmost ray was the longest and thinnest, and at the end of astronomical twilight reached to an altitude of ~20 degrees. The width of the display in azimuth was about 18 degrees.


I watched for about half an hour before the fog and wood smoke started settling in. What a subtly beautiful display among the stars of Aquarius!

January 12/13: Comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught)

I had one decent opportunity to view Comet McNaught from the Oregon Coast. Friday night was pretty awesome! So I put together a page with my observing report and a few photos:

Special Report: Comet McNaught from the Oregon Coast

On the other side of the coin, Saturday night was clouded out. Sunday was clear during the day, but I failed to find the comet in daylight. Sunday evening at sunset was also a miss.

2007 January 5: Comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught)

I got up in twilight this morning to try to catch Comet C/2006 P1 low in the east. The comet was 20 degrees south of and 3 degrees lower in altitude than Altair. Unfortunately, Chiloquin Ridge lies to my east, and the road conditions in the winter aren't conducive to trying to get up higher for an unobstructed view. I even had to move from my yard down to a street corner to keep nearby trees from obstructing my view. Even then the comet wasn't visible. My finger calculations left it a degree below the horizon, so I went back four minutes later and there it was in binoculars. A very strong stellar coma, although strongly affected by the poor seeing. Just a hint of tail, maybe 5-10 arcminutes, pointing up and to the left from the horizon. The comet was considerably fainter than Altair, but must have been brighter than Delta, Lambda or Gamma Aquilae as I wasn't able to find them in binoculars. Mars and Antares were obstructed by trees, so I wasn't able to make a comparison to them. It was a very (surprisingly) clear morning. Sketch.

2006 December 22: Ursid Meteor Shower

I woke up to clear skies on Friday morning. By the time I got bundled up for the cold (actually a rather moderate 18F), there were some patchy clouds but luckily they moved on leaving just a little high haze to bring down the LM. Meteor activity was OK and fairly steady, if a bit on the faint side with 26 meteors seen in 70 minutes Teff. Kind of reminded me of a late July observing session, except a lot colder! The best meteor was a yellow -1 Ursid early in the session. Ursids were pleasantly active with 10 meteors. Three Coma Berenicids also showed up.

This was only my second successful observing session near the Ursid peak, so clear skies are definitely a rare treat here this time of year.

November 17: (A few) Leonids

I got out for 1.5 hours of Teff this morning. Skies were decent when they were clear, but variable thick cloudiness was moving through for most of the session. Clouds were scattered enough that I only had to take one 5-minute break. Activity was ho-hum; Leonid rates were fairly low with only 9 seen during the session. There were also 14 sporadics, 3 Taurids and an Alpha Monocerotid for a total of 27 meteors.

A 20-minute dead period when the skies were nice and clear was a bit exasperating. The best meteor of the session was a yellow -3 Leonid streaking southward.

November 8: Mercury Transit

It was a really beautiful, clear morning in Chiloquin. That lasted until a bit after noon, which was enough time for me to grab an early lunch break and watch the beginning of the transit. I used the 60mm Scope of Death with both a Baader filter and projection setup, and showed the projected imaged to a few curious people. I also put the Baader filter on my digital camera and snapped a few pictures. (Sample above right.)

OK, not the most exciting event in the world, but since I haven't seen one in 7 years it was worth the time. I didn't get to follow the later stages of the transit; by the time I got off work it was preparing to pour. Could even get some snow tonight...

2006 October 25/26: Comet SWAN bright!

Comet C/2006 M4 (SWAN), currently located between the Keystone of Hercules and Corona Borealis, had been a marginal naked eye object from a dark site but has suddenly grown much brighter. Last night I estimated its magnitude at 4.5 (naked eye). In binoculars it shows a round, aquamarine 17' coma and a faint tail to 4 degrees in length. While still subtle, the tail has gotten broader and brighter over the past couple of nights. Viewing through the 10" Dob, I saw some jet activity surrounding a possibly elongated pseudonucleus, and a short dust tail. Best time to view this one is right at the end of evening twilight.

2006 Orionid Meteor Shower Surprise! This year's Orionids were much stronger than expected. I've compiled my observations into a special article.

September 29/30

I was out for two hours this morning, and saw my two target comets. 4P/Faye, in Aries, looks a lot like it did a month ago. It may be a little bit brighter, and the short tail (5' or so in length) seems a bit easier. Sketch. I hopped through a number of 12th-13th magnitude galaxies nearby.

C/2006 M4 (SWAN) was low in Ursa Major. I had to drag my scope across the yard to get a clear view of it. This is a bright, condensed comet. 8x56 binoculars showed a round head with the hint of a tail. In the 10" Dob @ 76x, the coma was very intense and cyan-tinged with a bright non-stellar central condensation. The tail was faint but impressive at over 45' in length. It looked like there was a disconnection event in the tail about 10-15' from the nucleus. Sketch.

2006 Oregon Star Party Report!

August 12/13: Perseid Report

I was involved with a public star party, so I didn't get to count while the Moon was still down. There were some nice Perseids early in the evening, however. Between talking astronomy and giving views through my Dob, I got down to serious meteor watching a lot later than I had planned. But, the star party was fun. I'd had a full workday, so my perception was definitely flagging. I had hoped to do three hours, but after two I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Skies were OK considering the Moon, but it definitely was one of the more "blah" Perseid maximum nights I've
experienced. My first hour started out strong but fell flat during the last half. My second hour was uniformly mediocre.

Total for 2 hours of observing: 38 Perseids and 10 other meteors, with 19 Perseids and 5 others in each hour. There were 4 Perseids and one sporadic of negative magnitudes.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Fort Klamath, OR (42d 41.6m N, 121d 58.4m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2006 August 12/13

Interval UT  Teff    F   LM   KCG   PER    Spo
0715-0816    1.00  1.00  6.2   0     19     5
0828-0929    1.00  1.00  6.0   2     19     3
Total        2.00  1.00  6.1   2     38     8

Magnitude Distributions
KCG +2(1), +3(1)
PER -3(1), -2(2), -1(1), 0(5), +1(5), +2(8), +3(13), +4(3)
Spo -1(1), 0(2), +2(3), +3(2)

July 28/29: Meteor Observing

I got out for another two hours this morning. Smoky skies in the evening were discouraging, but by morning the skies were OK. Still a lot of crud near the horizon. Meteor rates were decent, with the South Delta Aquarids producing 9 per hour. Most of the meteors were faint, but there was a -3 sporadic and a very impressive slow -2 Alpha Capricornid that left an interrupted train. Perseids were also active with 9 total members including one of magnitude -1.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2006 July 28/29

Interval UT   Teff    F    LM   CAP  ANT  NDA  SDA  PER  Spo
0850-0951     1.00   1.00  6.6   1    2    0    9    5    7
0951-1052     1.00   1.00  6.5   2    3    0    9    4   10
Total         2.00   1.00  6.6   3    5    0   18    9   17

Magnitude Distributions
CAP: -2(1), +3(1), +5(1)
SDA: +1(1), +2(3), +3(10), +4(3), +5(1)
PER: -1(1), +2(1), +3(4), +4(2), +5(1)
Spo: -3(1), +2(3), +3(8), +4(5)

July 27/28: Meteor Observing

I observed for two hours this morning. Unfortunately, although I didn't have to deal with any light dome from railroad work, there was a lot of sky clutter. Probably smoke from one of the forest fires. Rates were OK the first hour considering this. There was a really nice, long, red -2 Perseid early in the session. South Delta Aquarids were nearly absent during the first hour, but picked up during the second hour. Sky conditions improved during the second hour, but meteor rates took a dive with back-to-back droughts of 14 minutes and 11 minutes. Overall, I saw as many meteors (27) in two hours as I typically see in one hour at this time of the year.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2006 July 27/28

Interval UT   Teff    F     LM   CAP  ANT  NDA  SDA  PER  Spo
0855-0956     1.00   1.00   6.2   3    0    0    1    3    8
0956-1057     1.00   1.00   6.5   1    0    0    5    1    5
Total         2.00   1.00   6.4   4    0    0    6    4   13

Magnitude Distributions
CAP: +1(1), +2(1), +3(1), +4(1)
SDA: 0(1), +2(1), +3(3), +4(1)
PER: -2(1), +3(1), +4(1), +5(1)
Spo: +2(4), +3(6), +4(3)

July 26/27: Meteor Observing

They've been working on the railroad, all the live-long NIGHT?

I went out for a bit over an hour this morning, mainly to shake the meteor observing rust off and to hedge my bets against the possibility of clouds this weekend.

Skies were not up to par, mainly because a large railroad crew was working all night on a nearby crossing and employing lots of bright lights. Combined with a little smoke and lots of moisture in the air, the skyglow was like a gibbous Moon stuck on the eastern horizon.

The session started out really slow, but picked up a bit even into the start of morning twilight. Brightest meteors were a nice short -1 South Delta Aquarid and a blazingly fast and long sporadic.

Overall, in 70 minutes I saw 6 South Deltas, 2 Antihelions, 2 Perseids and 11 Sporadics. Hopefully, they'll get that railroad work done soon.

July 25/26

I spent a couple of hours observing under humid but decent conditions (naked eye LM 6.7). I observed a lot of showpieces, but my main target was Comet 177P/Barnard. This bright, diffuse comet is high in the sky near Delta Herculis. On this occasion, it was involved with a neat asterism of 11th-13th magnitude stars. The comet was visible in binoculars as a fuzzy spot. In the 10" Dob at low and medium powers, it appeared as a diffuse patch about 9' in diameter with a small, soft central condensation displaced to the east of center. Sketch. The comet's northward motion was obvious within 15 minutes or so.

July 6/7
I spent almost all the observation on Jupiter. Seeing was initially awful, but settled down to Antoniadi III (average). Not bad considering Jupiter's low elevation. The Great Red Spot Hollow was obvious, but the spot border itself was only fleetingly visible and mostly colorless. The oval BA was visible when the seeing settled down, and looked whitish and pointed toward the preceding edge. A dark wedge tapering from the south and connecting with the South Equatorial Belt separated the two spots. Only the southern border of the South Equatorial Belt was prominent; northward it blended in with the chaotic grayish detail of the Equatorial Zone. The North Equatorial Belt was dark with irregular structure running through it and several projections from its southern edge. Sketch.

July 2/3
Asteroid 2004 XP14 Observation
It was clear at sunset, but a few clouds had moved in by 10:30 when I watched the ISS glide through Bootes. I went in to read for a couple of hours before setting up the scope. I had the path plotted out with a Cartes du Ciel chart (got the elements just a few hours before), but it was soon apparent that I was seeing nothing.

I went inside to check, and found a Sky and Telescope chart. While it wasn't as deep as Cartes du Ciel, the positions were clearly different and I hoped that it was right. I went back out and...clouds. More clouds. Yet more clouds. At 1:50am I caught a small sucker hole and was able to see a small dot of light crawling ever so slowly but in real time through the field. This lasted a minute or two before clouds intervened. If there was a cloud anywhere in the sky, there was one over Cassiopeia! Eerily similar circumstances to my Deep Impact observation last year. By the time the clouds passed, I needed the next chart in the S&T sequence. At 2:30, I was able to hold and track the asteroid consistently in my 10" Dob @ 76x. It took about 3.5 minutes for the asteroid to cross the 40' field of view (no sidereal tracking).

So, I was out a lot later than I had planned, but successful nonetheless.

May 17/18

I dodged scattered clouds and moonlight to view fragments B and C of Comet 73P this morning. Fragment B had a longer, brighter tail in binoculars.  In the 10" Dob, fragment C had a very irregular coma with two bright sunward spikes and a bright stellar condensation.  C's visible tail was fairly slim and straight. Sketch.

Fragment B had a much different telescopic appearance, with a very narrow, elongated coma and only a slight central condensation. There was a pronounced tailward spike. B's tail was much broader and fan-shaped. Motion relative to a nearby bright star was very noticeable. Sketch.

May 9/10

I went out this morning with binoculars just before moonset.  Fragment B had a bright nucleus and large coma (22' in diameter) visible to the naked eye at magnitude 5.0.  A short tail was visible in binoculars, although a multiple star system in the tail confused matters somewhat.  For a few brief minutes the Moon was down and twilight wasn't too bright yet, and limiting magnitude reached 6.6.  This made a big difference in the coma, tail and starfield of fragment B. Sketch.

Fragment C was nearly lost in the rich Milky Way, and I couldn't see it with the naked eye.  In binoculars it was magnitude 6.9 with a small, uncondensed coma and short, bright tail.

May 4/5

I got up for 1.25 hours of observing into morning twilight. Skies were good early on, with a few high clouds rolling in late. Meteor rates were mind-numbingly low considering the good conditions, although there were a couple of impressive ETAs early in the session.  A 21-minute drought in the middle of the session really hurt.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2006 May 4/5

Interval UT   Teff    F     LM   ETA  Spo
1030-1145     1.25   1.00   6.8   4    6   

Magnitude Distributions
ETA: -1(1), 0(1), +1(1), +4(1)
Spo: -1(1), +3(2), +4(2), +5(1)

May 3/4

I was invited to do an early evening astronomy presentation for the Klamath Outdoor Science School.  This went really well, with good views of the Moon and Saturn.  Upon arriving home, I looked at M13 and 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann (B), which fit into the same low power field.  At high power, there was a lot of subtle detail in the inner coma of fragment B, with at least two stellar condensations. Sketch.

May 1/2

I did a short session in the evening (before moonset) and observed the 4 bright fragments of 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann. I sketched fragment C, which is a naked-eye object. In the 10" Dob, C showed a small stellar pseudonucleus surrounded by a bright coma.  There looked to be at least one parabolic hood sunward from the nuclear region, and a thin spine extended back into the center of the tail.  The tail was rather broad, brighter in the center and to the NW and very diffuse on its SE edge.

Fragment B was in the midst of a group of stars.  Its coma didn't look as large tonight, and it also seemed to have lost some condensation.  Fragments G and R appeared much as they did on April 30.

April 29/30

I had good skies last night, with both of my limiting magnitude counts yielding 7.0.  These observations are from the period 5:20-6:20 UT on April 30.

As reported elsewhere, 73P-C is a naked-eye object under these conditions.  I estimated it at m1=6.5.  In 8x56 binoculars, coma diameter was 10' and tail length was 90'.

I tried in vain to see 73P-B with naked eye.  It may be just on the verge of visibility.  I think I detected a nearby 7.1 star a couple of times.  B was an easy binocular object; I estimated the coma diameter as 19' and tail length as 45'.  My m1 estimate in binoculars was 7.4.

73P-G was a very diffuse object in my 10" Dob. It appeared as a ghostly haze 6' x 3' with a very slight condensation sometimes visible at its head. At times it looked a bit irregular, with the hint of another condensation tailward. Sketch.

73P-R, though quite faint, was much more condensed, with a coma diameter approaching 1'.  At times a slight elongation could be seen. 

April 27/28

I had decent but not great transparency and seeing last night, plagued by smoke from local debris burning.

I observed fragments B and C in 8x56 binoculars. B's coma was fairly large and diffuse; C showed an intense stellar nucleus in a small coma with 70' of tail. My m1 estimate for C was 7.6, with a coma diameter of 6'. For B, I also got an m1 of 7.6, with a coma diameter of 13'.

I observed fragments B and R in my 10" Dob. Fragment B showed a much broader, well-defined coma than during my last observation 5 nights ago. I only saw a single stellar nucleus but some bright tailward mottling and irregularities in the coma. A couple of long jets extended into a gradually fanning tail.

I saw fragment R for the first time as a very small and faint fuzzy object with some stellar condensation. Its motion was detectable within a few minutes. R mostly looked round. Sketch.

I had trouble finding fragment G; I may have eventually found it as a very diffuse patch involved with some stars, but am not sure.

I observed Jupiter and definitely got on its good side. Seeing was mediocre early in the evening, and then settled down a bit. Occasionally, the "ill wind" (a gentle breeze from the SE that has a devastating effect on seeing from my yard) messed things up, but I was able to get a sketch of Jupiter. Featured were Io's shadow and disc transit, the Great Red Spot, and the very-low-contrast BA oval or "Junior". I couldn't see any color in the oval, and much of the time it wasn't visible. The Equatorial Zone was absolutely alive with detail.

April 22/23

I got decent looks at the three brightest fragments of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann Saturday night.  Fragment C continues to be the brightest; I didn't estimate its magnitude because a field star was very near the coma in binoculars.  Fragment B showed a coma diameter of about 6' and a magnitude of 8.4 in binoculars.  My main interest was trying to observe the "split nuclei" of fragment B.  I used high magnification (330x in my 10" Dob) and was consistently able to observe a stellar condensation in the comet's head.  A clearly separate tailward second condensation didn't appear to contain a stellaring, but seemed to be the source of much of the tail.  The tail remains bright and fan-shaped. Sketch.

Fragment G was very diffuse and not always obvious.  Averted vision showed a ghostly, fan-shaped object with little or no central condensation.  This fragment appeared fainter than the last time I observed it. Sketch.

April 21/22

I got a slim hour of very iffy partial clearing this morning.  The first half-hour was covered in a thin haze through which only two bright Lyrids were seen.  Skies improved quite a bit around 11:00 UT (4am local) and activity picked up for about 20 minutes before clouds started moving in again.

All meteors seen (6 Lyrids and 3 sporadics) were relatively bright.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2006 April 21/22

Interval UT   Teff    F     LM   ANT  LYR  Spo
1030-1130     1.00   1.02   5.4   0    6    3

Magnitude Distributions
LYR: -2(1), 0(1), +1(2), +2(2)
Spo: -2(1), -1(1), +1(1)

April 17/18

I got clear and cold skies last night (April 17/18), and was able to observe the B, C and G fragments. Naked eye limiting magnitude was 6.8.

B and C were both easily visible in 8x56 binoculars.  I estimated C as magnitude 8.8 with a coma diameter of 9' and fragment B as magnitude 9.0 with a coma diameter of 12'. But in a telescope, there isn't much differentiation between coma and tail for fragment B.

Fragment B was a very interesting object in the 10" Dob, consisting almost entirely of a very broad fan-shaped tail spreading from a near-point.  Occasionally a very faint stellar nucleus was visible at 165x.  Just tailward from this nucleus was a disrupted high surface brightness streak 1-2' long.  Fascinating tail detail was present as shown in the sketch.

Fragment C had a bright coma with a stellar nucleus and several jets into a very broad fan-shaped tail much like fragment B's but with less obvious structure.  Tails for both fragments were ~20' long. Sketch.

Fragment G was fairly obvious in the 10" once the comet got above the horizon murk.  It was slightly condensed in the center and highly elongated, with a ghostly coma up to 4' in diameter.  I'd say it was roughly magnitude 13 or a bit fainter. Sketch.

I didn't find fragment R, but at that point I was long on eyepiece fog and short on warmth and sleep. Everything started looking a bit fuzzy to me...

April 5/6

I saw from newsgroup messages that the "B" fragment of Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann is in outburst and even brighter than the "C" fragment that I observed last week. Thursday morning offered at least the potential for some clearing, so I set my alarm clock for 3am and got up to find clear sky with a setting Moon and some high clouds around the edges. Both fragments B and C were binocular objects in my 8x56 Ultimas, with B being more prominent and surrounded by a
diffuse coma.  My magnitude estimates in binoculars were 8.1 for B and 9.0 for C. Conditions got quite variable by the time I set up my scope, but I was able to observe and sketch both fragments.

In my 10" Dob at 76x, fragment B stood out with a very bright stellar pseudonucleus.  The coma had a brighter fan-shaped component with several jets that formed into a faint tail approximately 15' long to the SW.  There was also a diffuse, round "halo" component to the coma. Sketch.

Fragment C's nucleus was more subdued, but its tail was brighter and longer.  The coma was bright and parabolic with a couple of strong tailward jets.  The tail stretched for almost 30' to the SW, curving slightly westward near the end. Sketch.

Up-to-date info with finder charts here: http://www.skyhound.com/sh/73P.html

Jupiter was mired in a cloudbank for most of the morning, but when it popped out there was amazing detail in the Equatorial Zone at 165x.

March 29/30

I got in a bit of viewing last night before it all closed in from the south.  The highlight was Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann, which was bright and obvious in my 10" Dob (probably about 9th magnitude).  The comet showed a stellar pseudonucleus in a bright coma with some jet structure, and an obvious tail stretching maybe 15-20 minutes to the SW.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to savor the view as the clouds were moving in.

Also, this is only the brightest comet fragment (fragment C).  Fragment B should also be visible at magnitude 12-13, and maybe fragment G (mag 15) in large scopes.  You'll need separate ephemerides for these, which you can generate from JPL's HORIZONS age. I hadn't done this for my spur-of-the-moment session, so I panned fruitlessly around the wrong area trying to pick up B.

March 8/9

More snow, but some fitful clearing at the beginning of morning twilight let me observe C/2006 A1 (Pojmanski) for the second time.  The comet was beautifully placed for binoculars just below the diamond asterism of Delphinus.  The coma appeared a bit larger than before, although still concentrated.  The tail was not as bright, especially near the coma, although at times I could still make it out for 1.5 degrees.  I estimated the coma magnitude as 5.6, so the comet is hanging in nicely.  Sketch.

March 7/8

A brief clear spell made this a one-object night.  My goal was to observe the near-Earth asteroid 2000 PN9, and I succeeded.  The asteroid was traversing star-poor Camelopardalis, but was fairly easy to find with good charts even under moonlight through sucker patches.  The asteroid was moving pretty quickly, with motion certainly apparent within a minute at 165x.  It was about 12th magnitude.  I made a couple of rough sketches.  Here's one.

March 2

In a lucky break, it cleared after snowing a couple of inches overnight.  I got up just before 5am to look for Comet C/2006 A1 (Pojmanski) in the eastern sky.  The comet doesn't rise too high before morning twilight begins; for my first look, I had to step into the middle of the street to clear some trees.  The comet is bright: barely visible to the naked eye and easy in 8x56 binoculars.  In binoculars, I estimated its magnitude at 5.5 but it is probably slightly brighter.  The coma is nearly stellar, just slightly bulging and elongated E-W.  Just a hint of a cyan tinge was visible.  An eastward-extending tail of about 2 degrees was easily visible in binoculars in spite of deteriorating conditions.  Sketch.

February 22/23

I haven't done too much observing recently, mainly due to weather and fatigue.  Tonight featured clear skies and OK transparency (LM~6.7).  Saturn was very nice, with its six brightest moons well-placed for viewing.  My main ambition for this short session, however, was to observe Supernova 2006X in the spiral galaxy M100.  The host galaxy is an old favorite of mine, but I hadn't taken a long look at it for a while.  M100 has a bright, mottled core with a stellar nucleus.  The core is surrounded by a large, mottled halo.  The halo contains a subtle spiral pattern, and small differences in sky quality can make a huge difference in the amount of detail visible.  The supernova, less than 1' SSW of the nucleus in a spiral arm, was readily visible at magnitude ~14.  Two small galaxies, NGC 4322 and NGC 4328, are in the same field as M100.  Both were faint objects, and NGC 4322 was difficult even with averted vision.  NGC 4312, just out of the field toward the south, is a nice edge-on galaxy.  Sketch

January 22-24

Finally, some halfway clear weather after over two months of nonstop clouds.  Sunday evening featured mediocre to terrible transparency, but seeing was generally okay, and the partial clearing allowed me to shake off some of my rust.  I hadn't had my scope out since November!  Mars was tiny but showed a gibbous phase, a dark Mare Cimmerium and a couple of bright spots in the North Polar Region.  Saturn was decent as well.

Monday evening was much better from a transparency standpoint (about LM=6.5 overhead), although the seeing was jumpy.  I went after my second observation of Comet C/2005 E2 (McNaught), low in the western sky in Aquarius.  Conditions were poor near the horizon, with a naked-eye limit of about 5.0 at the comet's altitude.  I was able to sweep up the faint fuzzball in my 10" Dob.  Medium powers showed it best.  The comet was very faint, round and poorly condensed in the center.  It was slightly larger and more diffuse than when I viewed it in November.  Sketch.

I remember seeing and imaging NGC 1931, a compact nebula in Auriga, when I was in college.  I don't think I've visited it that often, so I put it on my list for this winter.  I sketched it Monday night.  This is a very bright nebulous object dominated by an equilateral triangle of embedded stars.  Two of the stars are brighter and appear slightly yellowish.  This nebula can take a lot of power, but seeing wasn't very good so I sketched it at 165x.  Several fainter stars are also within the nebula glow, which is brightest around the stars but extends in an irregular pattern out to a diameter of about 3'.  The nebula is brighter and more extended to the south.  Both the narrowband UltraBlock and an OIII filter seemed to do more harm than good to the view of this nebula.

Due to the mediocre seeing, planetary viewing wasn't great, but Saturn's moons were enticing with Tethys, Dione and Enceladus in a compact triangle.  Saturn and the Beehive cluster made a nice pairing in the same field at 36x.

Tuesday night was similar to Monday night, but was a bit more humid.  I sketched NGC 1579, a reflection nebula in Perseus that could easily be mistaken for a face-on spiral galaxy.  Softly glowing with a brighter center and subtle curving extensions, this is a fairly easy and attractive nebula. Sketch.

Also in Perseus is NGC 1624, an open cluster with nebulosity.  The unfiltered view at 76x was dominated by a rich, compact cluster with a triangle of bright stars in the center and several curving star chains.  The nebula was quite difficult without a filter.  The UltraBlock enhanced the nebula a bit while making the cluster less attractive.  The nebula really responded to the OIII filter, while the cluster nearly ceased to exist and was reduced to a few of its brighter stars.  Fog crept in and put an end to serious observation, but this object is definitely on my list to revisit.

2005 December 11-14: Geminids and an Oregon Coast Trip

I observed the 2005 Geminids on three different nights under varying conditions.  A bright gibbous Moon was a serious annoyance during this year's shower.

On the morning of December 11, I got in nearly two hours of meteor observing after moonset, from a rather unusual location:

I went on a weekend camping trip to the Oregon Coast, the land of sand and fog (albeit a lot warmer than my high-altitude hometown).  Astronomy wasn't the main focus of my trip, but I was able to observe for almost two hours on Sunday morning from a cozy bivouac in the Oregon Dunes.

Wow! What a beautiful morning! Excellent sky conditions with a bright Zodiacal Light and winter Milky Way.  Meteors were numerous, with lots of sporadics (didn't have radiant positions of minor showers with me, but a few at most) and the expected numbers of Geminids.  When the fog did roll in, it came suddenly, obscuring most of the sky
within 4 minutes.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Cleawox Lake, OR (43d 56m N, 124d 07m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2005 December 10/11

Interval UT   Teff    F     LM    GEM   Spo
1205-1306     1.00   1.00   6.8    15    22
1306-1401     0.90   1.00   6.8    13    22
Total         1.90   1.00   6.8    28    44

Magnitude Distributions:
GEM: -2(1), 0(1), +1(2), +2(6), +3(12), +4(6)
Spo:  0(1), +1(4), +2(8), +3(19), +4(7), +5(5)

That was almost the extent of my observing at the coast, aside from looks at the beautiful Moon-Mars pairing the next evening.  I then returned home to (much) colder conditions, and had a productive 51 minutes of observing on Tuesday morning:

Brrr! My first night back from the coast, and it was a cold one.  I expected fog or clouds in the morning, and set my alarm a little too late for a one-hour session.  I decided to go out anyway after seeing a few Geminids through my bedroom window.  I might have thought twice if I had looked at the thermometer.  It was 7 degrees F (-14C) at the end of my observation.  And I wasn't even in full cold-weather

Sky conditions were a bit hazy, with lots of reflective snow on the ground.  Geminid rates were...okay.  A lot of the meteors seemed to be near the periphery of my FOV rather than near the center.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2005 December 12/13

Interval UT   Teff    F     LM   GEM  Spo
1325-1416     0.83  1.00   6.3    29    8

Magnitude Distributions:
GEM: -2(1), -1(2), 0(1), +1(4), +2(8), +3(9), +4(3), +5(1)
Spo: +1(1), +2(2), +3(4), +4(1)

The next night was the shower's maximum, and proved to be even colder.  Also, it was a bit cloudier, and the Moon was brighter.  Glutton for punishment that I am, I stuck it out for a couple of hours.  Not the most impressive Geminid return that I've observed...:

I spent a couple of hours out in frigid temperatures under moonlight and broken cirrus.  Conditions were actually pretty bad for my evening observation from 0500-0600 UT (9-10pm local).  Even so, the Geminids seemed a bit weak and faint.  Lots of piddling +1s and +2s; none of the fireballs that I observed last year through clouds.  I tried to account for both obstruction and partial obscuration, but corrections may still be underestimates and this period should probably be treated as a casual count.

I set my alarm for 2am, but somehow turned it off in my sleep.  I awoke with a start at around 4:20am, and after I saw one bright Geminid out my window I decided to go out.  Sky conditions were better, with the moon low and most of the persistent clouds out of my view.  There were a few brighter Geminids, but in general they still seemed faint in light of this shower's reputation for producing bright meteors after maximum.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2005 December 13/14

Interval UT   Teff    F     LM   GEM  Spo
0500-0600     1.00   1.25   5.1   10   0
BREAK 0600-1300
1300-1401     1.00   1.00   5.8   20   3

Magnitude Distributions: 0500-0600
GEM: -2(1), +1(4), +2(4), +3(1)

Magnitude Distributions: 1300-1400
GEM: -3(1), -1(1), 0(3), +1(2), +2(5), +3(7), +4(1)
Spo: 0(1), +2(1), +3(1)

November 23/24

First, two weeks of clouds.  Then, I got sick.  Not much observing going on around here.  I did a desultory meteor watch on the morning of the 21st, and got out the scope that evening for a short session plagued with poor transparency and seeing.  Tonight would be different.  I pulled the scope out early to try to catch comet C/2005 E2 (McNaught), an 11th-magnitude object in Capricornus.  I was able to track down the little fuzzball.  It was visible at medium power as a highly condensed and nearly round object with a faint stellar pseudonucleus.  Sketch.

I turned to Mars and was captivated by the detail visible under fair to good seeing conditions.  Sinus Meridiani was near the north preceding limb, and was bordered by an intense white limb cloud.  Oxia Palus, the "stinger", seemed to extend northward and merge with Niliacus Lacus.  The North Polar Hood was intense and pure white, bordered by a dark greenish narrow collar.  Chryse was a subtly etched lighter patch.  Aurorae Sinus was a dark thumb sticking northward from Mare Erythraeum.  A bright patch separated Aurorae Sinus from the slender finger of the Coprates/Tithonius region. Solis Lacus looked like a sunspot with an umbra and penumbra.  Most of the southern hemisphere looked mottled and darkish.  I glimpsed a very small South Polar Cap remnant on occasion. Sketch.

I hit a few deep-sky showpieces like NGC 253, M42 and some open clusters, but it was getting very frosty and moist so I had problems with eyepiece fogging.  I spent quite a while trying for Deimos, and got a few possible glints but nothing definite.  Dry air would have helped, but this was a nice invigorating session anyway.

October 29/30

I did a late evening Mars-only session.  Temperatures were on their way to the upper teens, the air was quite moist, and seeing was variable.  Syrtis Major and Sinus Sabaeus were dark and prominent, but Sinus Sabaeus tapered to a point with Sinus Meridiani being almost completely obscured by dust.  During the best seeing conditions around 7:30 UT, ghostly remnants of Sinus Meridiani and Margaritifer Sinus were just visible.  A bright incursion of dust extended from the following limb to just south of Sinus Meridiani.  There seemed to be dust around Mare Serpentis as well, although this feature was still visible.  Hellas looked muted and mottled, except for a bright spot in its north-following portion.  The South Polar Cap was very small and only intermittently visible.  The North Polar Hood was also very narrow and disrupted. Sketch.  Overall, the planet's disk appeared lighter and more peachy than I remembered from my last observation.

October 21/22

For some reason, I couldn't get myself in gear to observe Mars on Friday morning, so I tried Friday night/Saturday morning.  I did a little deep-sky observing before moonrise, but it was a casual session as there was significant local smoke and there was a lot of skyglow from the high school football stadium.  Mars looked promising even at a low altitude, and I decided to try an early sketch at 9:45pm (4:45 UT).  Unfortunately, things got really shaky.  I took too long to complete the sketch, as there were some really blurry periods.  Nevertheless, Mars was showing a side that I've rarely gotten to see due to weather quirks.  Sinus Sabaeus was very dark and blended into Sinus Meridiani, which looked small. Hellas was partly visible on the terminator, and Mare Serpentis reached onto the visible disk.  The small South Polar Cap was prominent even when the seeing was mediocre, and during good periods, the stinger shape of Oxia Palus reached northward from Margaritifer Sinus.  The midsouthern latitudes were dominated by a bright, featureless yellowish Argyre-Chalce region, probably infiltrated with dust.  Aurorae Sinus was dark and prominent near the following limb.  The North Polar Hood was bright, fairly large, and most prominent on the preceding limb.  A dark bluish area disrupted the hood just following its center.  Sketch.

I went back out just before 1:00am (8:00 UT) and found that seeing had not improved.  My "ill wind" (downslope off a ridge to the E and SE) was kicking up intermittently and destroying the image.  I sketched anyway.  There was a very bright yellowish dust core following Mare Erythraeum and preceding Solis Lacus.  Solis Lacus was diminished into an odd southward-curving hook shape, with little surrounding detail.  The dusty area made a sinuous curve around the Bosporos region on the S-following tip of Mare Erythraeum, then into Argyre and Chalce near the central meridian.  Some streaky detail was visible across Mare Erythraeum and near Aurorae Sinus during the rare moments of good seeing  Eos region seemed dark and prominent.  The area north of Solis Lacus was bright and washed out, probably also due to dust.  In the northern hemisphere, the Lunae Lacus region following Aurorae Sinus was well-defined.  Mare Acidalium and Niliacus Lacus were prominent.  The North Polar Hood was prominent but smaller, with a very bright preceding half separated from a subdued, warmer-hued following half.  Chryse, the original source of the dust storm, was unremarkable.  Margaritifer Sinus and Sinus Meridiani were subdued and hazy near the terminator.  Sketch.  Compare sketch with this one from 2003.

October 17

I viewed Mars from about 1:00-2:30am Monday morning under variable seeing conditions.  For much of the observation there was a very hard cap of 275x on useful magnification in my 10" Dob.  Later on, the seeing relented a bit and I was able to use 330x sporadically.  Solis Lacus was very prominent, with nice detail in the regions around it.  The South Polar Cap, though very small, was still readily visible.  The North Polar Hood wasn't very prominent this morning.  A bright
area was visible around Xanthe or eastern Chryse, right on the terminator. A small, bright round patch was visible just following Solis Lacus in the Claritas region.  Lots of good stuff when the air was steady.  Sketch.

Later in the morning, I was able to watch the slight lunar eclipse out my window, half asleep.  Not much as eclipses go, but kind of a funky, flattened-off view of the Full Moon.

October 6-14

I spent a week housesitting at a usually decent location.  I didn't get very much serious observing in this time, due mostly to indifferent sky conditions.  On a couple of mornings, seeing was good to very good and the views of Mars were fairly impressive.  Unfortunately, the side of Mars presented was essentially the same one that I saw during OSP one month earlier.  Mars is a little bigger and fuller now, but the views were quite similar.  A large cloud area was visible along the terminator N of Solis Lacus.  The North Polar Hood was large and white.  A small, round remnant of the South Polar Cap was visible.  Mare Sirenum and Mare Cimmerium dominated the disk.  Some fine detail was visible in the Tharsis region, but the seeing and transparency generally deteriorated while I was making this sketch on October 13.

I tried for the Martian moons on a couple of occasions.  October 11 was a complete failure; I got a few glimpses of Deimos on October 12.  Phobos was well-placed that morning for a short time, but I missed it.

I had a blast slewing around to the showpieces of the fall and winter sky even when there were thin clouds and smoke.  I did complete another galaxy group sketch as well.  On the morning of October 14, conditions briefly became very good, and I looked at McNeil's Nebula near M78 in Orion.  At first I thought the nebula was showing a distinct stellar component, but on extended observation I saw that I was alternately observing the diffuse nebula and the brighter component (sometimes the fainter component as well) of the nearby double star.  Only occasionally was I able to hold the nebula and star at the same time.  I'd say the nebula's appearance is about the same as it was early in the year.

September 20

I've been out a couple of times since OSP, for morning views of Mars.  I also looked at the NGC 383 galaxy group in Pisces before the Moon got in the way.  Seeing hasn't been that great; on September 20 I did a sketch of Mars under borderline conditions.  I also looked at the Moon, which was in a nice waning gibbous phase.  Saturn was pretty ripply, but the view of the more closed perspective of the rings was striking.

2005 Oregon Star Party Report

2005 August 12/13

I went out for a couple of hours.  I probably should have waited until a little later, but I really needed some sleep.  Skies were very nice, but my eyes were tired and I kept zoning out and seeing "sprites".  My perception probably wasn't at its best.  Activity came in spurts and lulls, and seemed a lot more lively when I reviewed my tape than when out under the sky for two hours.  Rates still weren't that great (like I say, I should probably have stayed out another hour or so, but I just couldn't hack it).  I saw a mini-burst of 4 Perseids and a Kappa Cygnid just after I had called the watch and was
packing up.  Some interesting meteors nonetheless, including a red -1 Perseid with a train lasting 15 seconds followed closely by an orange -2 with a 5 second train.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder (1 minute/hour rec. time)
Date: 2005 August 12/13

Interval UT   Teff    F     LM   KCG  CAP  ANT  NDA  SDA   PER   Spo
0620-0721     1.00   1.00  6.89   2    0    0    0    0     21    4
0721-0822     1.00   1.00  6.82   0    0    2    2    2     34    6
Totals        1.00   1.00  6.86   2    0    2    2    2     55   10

Magnitude Distributions:
  2 KCG +2(1),+3(1)
  2 ANT +3(1),+5(1)
  2 NDA +1(1),+5(1)
  2 SDA +2(1),+3(1)
55 PER –2(1),-1(2),0(4),+1(8),+2(17),+3(13),+4(7),+5(2),+6(1)
10 Spo +1(1),+2(1),+3(4),+4(3),+5(1)

2005 August 11/12

Despite all the rosy forecasts, there was a band of clouds moving through as it got dark.  I set my alarm for 11:00pm (6:00 UT).  When I got up, it was clear, with just a bit of haze to the north below Polaris.  I was able to avoid the clouds for a while before they returned.  First there was just a high haze knocking down the limiting magnitude, then dark clouds with breaks in between.  I was completely clouded out from 8:49-10:02 UT; afterwards, I was able to observe under variably obstructed skies.  Transparency was just fine where it was clear.

Perseid numbers were fairly impressive given the conditions: In 3.87 hours of observing time, I saw 225 Perseids and 40 other meteors.  No ground-lighting fireballs out of all of these, but decent numbers of bright Perseids.  The increase in activity later in the watch was blunted by the sky conditions; still, I saw 71 Perseids in the hour (Teff) from 10:17-11:18 UT.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder (1 minute/hour rec. time)
Date: 2005 August 11/12

Interval UT   Teff    F    LM   KCG  CAP  ANT  SDA   PER   Spo
0620-0635     0.25  1.00  6.71   1    0    0    0     6     2
0635-0650     0.25  1.00  6.71   0    1    1    0    10     2
0650-0706     0.25  1.00  6.82   0    0    0    0    10     1
0706-0721     0.25  1.00  6.82   0    0    1    0    19     1
0721-0736     0.25  1.00  6.86   0    0    0    0     9     3
0736-0751     0.25  1.00  6.86   0    0    0    1    12     0
0751-0807     0.25  1.00  6.66   0    0    0    0    14     0
0807-0822     0.25  1.00  6.16   0    1    0    0    14     2
0822-0837     0.25  1.00  6.48   0    0    0    0    20     1
0837-0849     0.20  1.07  6.54   0    1    0    0    16     1
1002-1017     0.25  1.31  6.43   0    0    0    0    12     1
1017-1032     0.25  1.16  6.48   0    0    1    0    18     6
1032-1048     0.25  1.33  6.66   0    0    0    0    18     3
1048-1103     0.25  1.42  6.56   0    0    0    0    14     2
1103-1118     0.25  1.21  6.68   0    0    0    1    21     2
1118-1128     0.17  1.16  6.66   0    0    0    0    12     4
Totals        3.87  1.10  6.63   1    3    3    2   225    31

Magnitude Distributions
0620-0807 UT
  1 KCG +5(1)
  1 CAP +2(1)
  2 ANT +4(2)
  1 SDA +3(1)
80 PER –1(4),0(4),+1(17),+2(22),+3(19),+4(13),+5(1)
  9 Spo +1(1),+2(2),+3(3),+4(3)

0807-0849 UT
  2 CAP +3(2)
50 PER –2(1),-1(1),0(5),+1(9),+2(13),+3(16),+4(5)
  4 Spo 0(1),+2(1),+3(1),+4(1)

1002-1048 UT
  1 ANT +3(1)
48 PER –2(2),-1(6),0(7),+1(7),+2(7),+3(14),+4(4),+5(1)
10 Spo  0(1),+1(1),+2(1),+3(2),+4(5)

1048-1128 UT
  1 SDA +3(1)
47 PER –1(2),0(7),+1(5),+2(9),+3(15),+4(8),+5(1)
  8 Spo +1(1),+2(2),+3(3),+4(1),+5(1)

2005 August 10/11

This was the most transparent morning in a while.  I was out for two hours and saw 113 total meteors including 72 Perseids.  Activity wasn't too bright overall, but there were a few nice meteors.  There are a few stubborn clouds around today, but forecast says tonight should be good for max.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder (1 minute/hour rec. time)
Date: 2005 August 10/11

Interval UT  Teff    F     LM   KCG  CAP  ANT  NDA  SIA  SDA  PER  Spo
0920-0950    0.50   1.00   6.8   0    2    0    0    0    2    18    4
0950-1021    0.50   1.00   6.8   0    0    0    1    0    0    17    4
1021-1051    0.50   1.00   6.8   0    1    0    0    0    1    22   12
1051-1122    0.50   1.00   6.8   0    0    0    0    0    0    15   14
Totals       2.00   1.00   6.8   0    3    0    1    0    3    72   34

Magnitude Distributions:
CAP +1(1), +3(2)
NDA +2(1)
SDA +3(2), +4(1)
PER -3(1), -2(1), -1(4), 0(5), +1(7), +2(11), +3(24), +4(14), +5(4), +6(1)
Spo 0(1), +1(3), +2(6), +3(12), +4(10), +5(2)

August 7/8

My main target for this short evening session was the grouping of comet 161P/Hartley-IRAS with three galaxies in Draco.  The comet was more diffuse than any of the nearby NGC galaxies, showing a very faint stellar nucleus in a relatively large but faint coma.  The comet appeared slightly elongated to the N.  NGC 4256, SE of the comet in the sketch, is a nice little edge-on galaxy with a small, fairly bright core and some mottling. NGC 4210, to the comet's W, is a small E-W oval with a slight central condensation.  NGC 4221, NW of the comet, is fairly large, bright, and strongly condensed.  It is elongated NNW-SSE and shows subtle mottling and asymmetry.  The galaxies are all between magnitude 11.9 and 12.5 and set in an attractive star field.  The comet's motion to the SSE was evident over the course of the observation.  A good number of other galaxies are within starhopping distance from this field, including the bright NGC 4125 and the huge NGC 4236.

August 6/7

I did a short meteor session before morning twilight; the Perseids seem to have kicked it into gear with 18 shower members seen in 1.25 hours.  In contrast, the Aquarid radiants were very quiet.  Sporadic activity was decent but much lower than on August 3/4.  Bright meteors were absent.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2005 August 6/7

Interval UT  Teff    F      LM   CAP  ANT  NDA  SIA  SDA  PER  Spo
1000-1116    1.25   1.00    6.6   0    2    1    0    0    18   16

Magnitude Distributions
ANT +1(1), +2(1)
NDA +4(1)
PER +1(1), +2(9), +3(5), +4(3)
Spo 0(1), +2(4), +3(3), +4(6), +5(2)

August 5/6

I did a morning session.  I quickly located comet C/2005 A1 (LINEAR) in Pisces.  The comet was faintly visible in the 10" at my starhopping magnification of 44x; I sketched it at 165x.  It appeared as a low surface brightness, diffuse object.  A faint stellar nucleus was visible in the coma.  The coma was elongated NE-SW with the hint of a tail to the SW.  Two faint jets to the S and SW were visible in the inner coma. (Sketch)

As twilight brightened, I turned to Mars.  Seeing was OK.  Fine detail was a tough catch this morning; Solis Lacus was barely hinted at.  More prominent features included Mare Sirenum, Mare Australis and bright Argyre.  Dusky dark features were visible around the small North Polar Hood.  (Sketch)

August 3/4

I began the night with a failed attempt to locate comet 37P/Forbes low in Scorpius.  The comet may have been too near a field star; more likely it was just too faint and diffuse to be seen at a low elevation under so-so conditions.  There was noticeable extinction low in the sky from lingering forest fire smoke, and evening seeing conditions were poor at low altitudes.  It was better high in the sky (LM of 7.0 in Lyra), so I hunted down a couple of faint galaxy groups in Draco in my continuing quest to complete the "Additional Galaxy Groups" portion of the AL observing program.

I capped off the session with 1.25 hours of meteor observing.  Lots of meteor activity, mostly faint and sporadic.  South Delta Aquarids were pretty strong, but Perseids were scarce.  The highlight was a white -4 SDA fireball.  I was counting with the assistance of a shoestring, so I can't be overly confident about some of the Aquarid complex associations.

Probably the most interesting sporadic was a very short (~.25 degree) +2 that was a couple of degrees N of Gamma Andromedae and headed roughly in the direction of the Double Cluster.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2005 August 3/4

Interval UT  Teff    F      LM   CAP  SIA*  NDA  SDA  PER  Spo
0845-1001    1.25   1.00   6.8    1    1     1    6    4    28

*No attempt made to separate antihelion and SIA radiants.

Magnitude Distributions
CAP +4(1)
SIA +2(1)
NDA +3(1)
SDA -4(1), +3(3), +4(2)
PER +1(1), +4(3)
Spo 0(1), +1(5), +2(4), +3(7), +4(4), +5(5), +6(2)

July 12-27

I spent two weeks housesitting.  Nice location; unfortunately, this time was in a bright Moon period.  Skies were clear, however, and there was only one small incursion of smoke before the most recent round of local fires.

I caught three medium-faint comets in the morning sky before the Moon took over.

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (magnitude 10.2), very low near the Hyades, showed a fuzzy round coma with an indistinct central condensation and a faint tail at low power. Going to 165x revealed a bit more structure, including a faint stellar pseudonucleus.  The inner coma was slightly misshapen, with a strong tailward jet.  The tail was slightly curved, and stretched westward for ~15'. (Sketch)

161P/Hartley-IRAS (~magnitude 10.5), in Camelopardalis, was large and quite diffuse, but bright enough to be easy. Its 7'-diameter coma was round with a small nonstellar condensation; the coma passed over a number of faint stars over 1.5 hours on Friday morning. (Sketch)

C/2005 N1 (Juels-Holvorcem) (~magnitude 12.5), between Perseus and Auriga, was both low and faint. I was pleased that I was even able to pick up its small, moderately-condensed coma. (Sketch)

So, faint fuzzies rule the cometary component of the sky at this time.

Antares occultation of July 17/18: I'm not that good at observing occultations, especially when the dark limb of the Moon isn't visible via Earthshine. I always seem to have a lag before I realize the star has disappeared. So it was with this one. Antares was nicely visible in daylight and then: "Oh, it's not there anymore." The reappearance was really nice, though, with the star popping out suddenly. I didn't catch the secondary this time, or note any gradual brightening on reappearance.

Mars: From one red object to another. On the morning of July 20, I got in my second prolonged observation of Mars this season. Very impressive for a 10.5" gibbous orb. Seeing ranged from Antoniadi II-IV, but there were enough moments of II to see some very nice detail. I was using the 10" @ 275x with a variable polarizing filter. Syrtis Major was centered. The South Polar Cap was very distinct, mostly surrounded by a bright collar. It looked like there was a small rift or incursion of this collar into the cap (~285 degrees longitude?). Hellas was bright and appeared to have a dusky streak running across it N-S (Alpheus?). Sinus Sabaeus and Mare Serpentis were both prominent. I'll have to get out my more-detailed map and brush up on my Martian albedo geography.  (Sketch)

I also observed Mars on July 24 and made a rough sketch, but seeing was pretty poor.  The morning of July 26 was better, with average seeing allowing me to use a magnification of 330x.  Mare Tyrrhenum and Mare Cimmerium dominated the middle of the disk, separated by a dusky and indistinct Hesperia region.  Hellas was fairly bright as usual on the following limb, and this limb arc was bright and yellowish.  Fine dusky dark features were visible in the northern hemisphere, and the North Polar Hood was visible.  The South Polar Cap was small and brightest in its south central portion.  Prominent southern hemisphere features included Eridania and Mare Chronium. (Sketch)

July 3/4 (Deep Impact Report)

I set up on a ridge off a forest road in order to get a clear view to the SW.  I acquired the comet in twilight just after 10:30pm (5:30 UT).  At 10:51pm, I saw an object moving toward the comet!*  At 10:52pm, there was a bright flash!**  At 10:53pm, the comet disappeared!***

*-A faint satellite.
**-Headlights from an approaching pickup.
***-So did everything else in the field, due to clouds.

So, anyway, I had the great luck to be clouded out from 10:53-11:36pm. :(  A swath of clouds that I thought would move out of the area just kept hanging around, especially in Virgo.  In fact, it wasn't so much a matter of the clouds departing as the comet dropping below them that rendered it visible again.  My magnitude estimate at 10:40pm, already with variable sky conditions, was 10.6.  The comet looked about the same as it did two nights ago, considering that the sky wasn't as good.  I didn't note an obvious pseudonucleus at 76x, the power I was using at the time.

When I reacquired the comet, the pseudonucleus was quite prominent. I did another magnitude estimate at 11:45pm, and it came out as 10.1. No clear changes in coma structure were visible.  My estimate of m2, the brightness of the pseudonucleus, was 13.8. I did a sketch at 165x.  The comet was getting pretty low and dim after midnight.  I did a final magnitude estimate at 12:30am, and came up with 10.4, although this may have had more to do with losing some of the outer coma.  The pseudonucleus, however, seemed to have gotten brighter in comparison to nearby stars (magnitude 12.5). It still looked stellar to me.

These should work all right as before and after sketches:
2005 July 2; 6:15 UT
2005 July 4; 7:00 UT

July 1/2

I went out to get one more good look at 9P/Tempel before Deep Impact on Sunday evening, and also to view Supernova 2005cs in M51.  There was quite a bit of turbulence early on, and the sky was a bit washed out near the horizon.  Overhead, this was the best night in months, as I reached a naked eye limit of 6.9.  Unfortunately, Tempel was rather low in the sky towards my worst horizon.  I tried my 3.5" off-axis mask, and the comet was detectable but looked very small and lacked any detail other than a suspected central condensation.  I'm glad I've got my 10".  Taking the mask off, the comet was much easier and the outer coma was visible.  A stellar pseudonucleus was also apparent.  This comparison was made at 44x, but 165x was the best power in the 10" despite variably mediocre seeing.  The comet looked about the same as earlier in the week, but my magnitude estimate came out fainter at m1=10.8.  Sketch.

M51, somewhat higher in the sky, was a very nice sight.  The supernova was immediately apparent, and looked like a twin to the bright field star superimposed on the galaxy to the west.  I tried this with the 3.5", and was able to catch fleeting glimpses with averted vision. The same for spiral structure in M51's mottled halo.  Did I mention how glad I am that I have the 10" instead of my previous instrument?  I made a quick sketch.

I did some showpiece-hopping, and checked in on M57.  The sky looked really, really good near the zenith.  Using 330x, I was able to get multiple glimpses of the central star as well as a magnitude 16.1 field star and the faint galaxy IC 1296.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the night was that the scope was out for 3.5 hours and wasn't dripping with dew at the end of the session.

June 28/29

After looking at the Venus/Mercury/Saturn trio in twilight, I observed Comet 9P/Tempel.  I want to get a couple of good magnitude estimates just in case the weather cooperates for Deep Impact. 

In the 10" Dob @ 44x, the comet appeared to be magnitude 10.4.  It had a 5' coma, mostly diffuse but with a faint central condensation.  I sketched the comet at higher powers.  The most prominent jet pointed to the SSE; overall, the coma was slightly elongated SE.  Several faint stars were in the outer coma.  Naked eye limiting magnitude near the comet was ~6.3.  The comet was not visible in handheld 8x56 binoculars.

June 12/13

I did a short evening session, mainly to catch comet C/2005 K2 (LINEAR).  This fast-moving comet has brightened to 9th magnitude; in the moonlit twilight, it was barely visible in 8x56 binoculars but was an easy catch in the 10" Dob.  The comet looked like a dim, poorly condensed globular cluster.  It was slightly elongated NE-SW at 4.5' x 3.5'.  The inner coma was a moderately brighter sphere ~1.5' in diameter.  The comet's motion was noticeable within a few minutes.  Naked eye limiting magnitude near the comet was ~6.1.  Sketch.

June 11/12

I got up early this morning.  I viewed a lot of the summer sky showpieces for the first time this year, but the main events had to wait until near the beginning of twilight.  First, I viewed comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.  I saw this comet once before, in October of 1998.  The comet was low in Aries.  It was easy in the 10" Dob, a well-condensed 2.5'-diameter coma with a broad 4' tail pointing westward.  A faint stellar pseudonucleus was visible in the coma. Sketch

As twilight wiped out the stars, I turned to Mars for the year's first decent view of the Red Planet.  Still low in the sky and only 8.4" in apparent diameter, the tiny gibbous disk nonetheless revealed some detail.  The Syrtis Major complex was on view.  Seeing was mediocre, and only supported 190x.  Sketch. Better nights to come?

June 2/3

Wow, the clearest night in 2.5 months.  Even so, after all this rain it was very wet.  Seeing wasn't too great, and some very thin high clouds made a bit of a dent in the transparency.  I stuck it out for 3 hours.  During twilight I fought the turbulent air to sketch Jupiter.  Both Io and Europa were casting their shadows on the planet, and Io ended its transit while I watched.  Io's shadow looked smaller and less prominent than Europa's.  Fine detail was fleeting, but there was the normal complement of wispy swirls in the Equatorial Zone and on the southern edge of the North Equatorial Belt.  There was a dark, curving feature in the southern portion of the North Polar Region (possibly corresponding to the North North Temperate Belt).  The South Equatorial Belt showed well-defined margins and a few darker areas but was mostly uniform.  Perhaps the most interesting detail was south of the SEB.  A protuberance from the South Polar Region spread wispy tendrils toward the SEB and appeared to separate two white ovals at its own latitude.  The South Polar Region was rather light and warm in color.  Sketch.

As the sky darkened, I swept up Comet 9P/Tempel. The comet has grown in size since I last observed it, with a coma nearly 5' in diameter.  However, only the central 1' or so of the coma is prominent (including a stellar pseudonucleus).  The outer portions have a very low surface brightness and the edges are ill-defined.  Sketch.  There are lots of galaxies in the neighborhood, although none were in the same telescopic field on this night.  I took quick peeks at NGC 4845 and NGC 4900, both smaller and with a higher average surface brightness than the comet.

I spent a bit of time in Virgo, first picking out faint galaxies in the field of M59 and M60 and then examining M87 and its four brightest companion galaxies (NGC 4478, NGC 4476, NGC 4486A and NGC 4486B). 

April 9/10

A really dreadful spell of bad weather; only two mediocre observing sessions since mid-March.  During this one, I had to deal with subpar transparency, especially in the lower half of the sky.  I sketched comet 9P/Tempel, which is much larger and brighter than it was a month ago.  The comet has a very prominent stellar nucleus and a fan-shaped coma.  Sketch.

I watched Jupiter for a while; unfortunately, seeing was poor.  The GRS was visible, and seemed to fill nearly all of its hollow.  Whitish wake turbulence made a big hollow in the SEB just following the GRS.  On occasion, some fine equatorial detail was visible, but it was never really steady enough to sketch.  I did watch Io emerge from eclipse.

March 13/14

I continued my quest for galaxy groups tonight.  My first observation dealt with the NGC 4065 group, a populous, clumpy group in Coma Berenices with 16 galaxies visible over two 30' fields of view. 

My second group was NGC 5171 in Virgo.  I observed the five NGC objects in this group, and up to five additional galaxies in the CGCG.  What was special about this observation was the presence of Comet 9P/Tempel in the same field as the group.  A sketch is here.  The comet appeared slightly brighter and larger than NGC 5171, the brightest galaxy in the group at magnitude 12.7.  The comet had a prominent central condensation and an elongated fan-shaped 1' x 2' coma opening to the west.  Naked-eye limiting magnitude was ~6.8.

Notes on galaxies in the sketch:
NGC 5171: Fairly bright.  Much brighter core with intense stellar nucleus.  Diffuse, larger halo elongated ~N-S.
NGC 5179: Fairly bright, fairly small.  Very condensed to nonstellar core elongated ~E-W.  Very faint halo.
NGC 5176: Pretty faint, diffuse.  Nearly round.
NGC 5177: Very faint (AV3)*.  Small with slightly brighter center.  Possibly elongated NW-SE.
NGC 5178: Faint (AV1).  Elongated NW-SE.  Slightly brighter center; fairly large diffuse halo. Threshold star at NW edge?
CGCG 72-88: Extremely faint (AV3). Very small, round with uniform surface brightness. Near fairly bright star.
CGCG 72-79: Faint (AV1).  Very small and condensed.  Near star.  Reviewing DSS images, need to reobserve to clarify identity as DSS shows a star near the galaxy.  Should be able to observe both.
CGCG 72-96: Extremely faint (AV4).  Small, diffuse with possibly brighter center.  Reviewing DSS images, I would like to reobserve to clarify as there are a couple of stars in the area.  I think I alternately picked up one or two stars and the galaxy as occasional transient ghosts.

*The "AV" averted vision scale was developed by Ron Morales. An online version is here.

February 26 - March 9

I spent a total of 11 nights at a house-sitting location. I managed to observe on 7 nights.  Skies were supposed to be clear most of the time, but troublesome high clouds often passed through.  The site is darker and has better horizons than my yard (though sadly the southern horizon isn't quite low enough for Omega Centauri :( ).  The best limiting magnitude I got was 7.2, and several nights were around 7.0.  I had the feeling that a night of excellent transparency would really be spectacular.  I worked on additional galaxy groups from the AL observing program, but also found time for other observing projects.  I'll start with the Antares occultation on the morning of March 4 and my comet observations.

Antares occultation: OK, I slept through my alarm for the disappearance. I woke up in time to see Antares hanging just off the bright limb in binoculars, but couldn't get the scope set up in time. I did better for the reappearance, which happened just after 3:05am here (maybe 3:05:10; didn't really try to get the time right). There were some thin clouds that masked the Earthshine on the dark limb of the Moon. With some sort of twisted logic, I used 165x in my 10" Dob and put
the sunlit portion of the Moon near the edge of my FOV. I expected the companion to be dimmer than it actually was (the clouds apparently got out of the way at just the right time). So, I had a moment of panic when a really bright spark appeared in the middle of my field. I thought maybe I had missed the companion's reappearance and was seeing the primary, except that it was bluish (definitely didn't look greenish to me). So, I counted to five and watched it bloom into an extremely bright orange. The atmosphere was pretty turbulent down there, so I couldn't split the stars post-
reappearance. The naked-eye view was really impressive just after reappearance.

Sunday morning, March 6, I viewed C/2003 T4 (LINEAR) with my 10" Dob. This roughly 8.5-magnitude comet was visible in 8x56 binoculars and showed a bright, well-condensed coma in the Dob @ 160x. In spite of some retreating high clouds and a rising crescent Moon, I could also make out a fairly broad tail 10-15' long pointing NNW. Sketch.

Sunday evening, I tried for 141P/Machholz near the end of evening twilight and was not able to see it. There was a bit of horizon murk that heralded approaching high clouds, so conditions weren't the best. Zodiacal light interfered as well. Presumably, the ephemeris position from MPC is close to accurate for component A?  I tried again Tuesday evening with the same result: zip.

I did see 49P/Arend-Rigaux in Taurus on Sunday evening.  Limiting magnitude was as good as 6.9. This 13th-magnitude comet has about a 1' diffuse coma surrounding a very small central condensation that often "blinked" as stellar. I was able to detect motion over 40 minutes. Sketch.

Comet 9P/Tempel has been making a slow pass through the field of the 6th-magnitude star 71 Virginis and the moderately faint galaxy NGC 5162.  I observed it on the morning of March 8, and again late on the evening of March 8.  The comet was fairly faint but not that difficult, a magnitude estimate of ~12.5 is probably about right.  It showed a faint, nearly stellar central condensation and a small inner coma elongated slightly to the NW.  This was surrounded by a much fainter, diffuse outer coma about 1.5' in diameter.  A faint star was just to the NW of the comet on the morning of the 8th. Sketch.

February 14/15

I did a casual morning session.  Seeing was mediocre, although the GRS was visible on Jupiter early in the session.  Darkness and transparency were better than on my previous morning sessions this year, but there still seemed to be something missing from the sky contrast that hid the faintest objects.  It was pleasantly dry, and the temperature was a tolerable 15F.  I did a big swing through the heart of the Virgo Cluster, and looked at some other showpieces.

February 11/12

The fifth clear night in a row; I did a sketch of M79 early on.  This winter globular is partially resolved in my 10" under average seeing and transparency conditions from my yard.  The core is granular with some stars resolved, and elongated NNW-SSE.  The halo is much dimmer and looser, with stars scattered about on a faint background haze.  Several dark lanes and wedges are apparent.  230x and 330x probably showed equivalent detail under the conditions, but I liked the larger image scale of the higher magnification.  I spent the rest of the session on casual viewing.

February 7-11

Another mid-week run of clear nights; none exceptional but all good with zenithal LMs 6.5-6.8.  On several of these, I worked on a "showpiece sketch" of the Rosette Nebula in Monoceros.  The open star cluster NGC 2244 in the middle of the nebula is an easy object for anyone.  The surrounding nebulosity is faint, but I pick it out with binoculars on a normal dark night here.  The nebula looks flat and indistinct in my 10" Dob at 44x, but add an OIII nebula filter and it is suddenly very contrasty with subtle texture.  The 1.1-degree field will only take in a portion of the nebula, but it's easy to pan around.  The brightest knot of nebulosity is just to the NW of the cluster, and the northern half of the nebula is brighter in general.  The W side of the nebula features the most interesting textures, but the whole complex shows a lot of mottling and dark lanes.  The mottling was enhanced by going to 76x and using an Orion UltraBlock filter instead of the OIII.  There appears to be an inner shell of about 52'x35' elongated NW-SE and mostly separated by irregular dark lanes from a more diffuse and less complete outer shell.  The northern half of the central cluster is in a dark void, while the southern half appears to protrude into the nebulosity.  The total diameter of the nebulosity is about 1.5 degrees.

Three comets of 10th magnitude or brighter are currently visible from my location.  C/2003 K4 is in Fornax at about 9th magnitude.  It has a 6'x4' coma that fans and elongates to the ESE.  There is a stellar pseudonucleus surrounded by a narrow bright zone.  Several faint jets are visible in the coma.  Sketch.

C/2004 Q2 Machholz is still a naked-eye object.  I estimated its magnitude at ~4.8 and its coma diameter as 13'.  In the 10" Dob at 44x, the ion tail was easily visible and extended for well over a degree in PA~80.  A dust fan extended for over 20' in PA~120.  Sketch.

C/2003 T4 is a morning object of about 10th magnitude in Vulpecula.   It has a 2' coma slightly elongated E-W.  There is a faint stellar pseudonucleus surrounded by a small bright inner coma that seems to fan to the E.  Sketch.

NGC 1535 is a bright planetary nebula in Eridanus.  It has a bright central star and a double-shell structure that is very similar to the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392).  High-surface brightness planetaries like these are at their best at high power.  Even though the nebula was only at 30-35 degrees altitude, decent seeing allowed me to use 330x and 390x.  The inner shell, roughly 20" in diameter, is a bright, slightly irregular oval; its interior shows a complex pattern of radial spikes and dark lanes around the central star.  The round outer shell nearly doubles the nebula's size, but is quite soft and faint.  A few variations in brightness are visible. Sketch.

Jones-Emberson 1 in Lynx is a very different planetary.  It was very diffuse, round and not much brighter than the sky background when I swept it up at 44x with an OIII filter.  Going to 76x improves contrast somewhat. The OIII filter gives a marginally better view than the UltraBlock, which gives a marginally better view than no filter at all.  The nebula is ~5' in diameter.  The NW and SE edges contain concentrated bright spots which fade in and out of prominence.  The nebula appears annular, but the center is not completely dark.  Stars are embedded in the NNW and SSW edges. Sketch.

February 1-3

Taking up Alan Whitman's challenge, I tracked down the 13th-magnitude globular cluster Palomar 2 in Auriga.  It was a pretty straightforward starhop from Iota Auriga.  The globular is faint but visible with averted vision and occasionally with direct vision at 165x.  A trapezoidal asterism to the N, a 13th-magnitude star to the SW and a wide double with a 13th-magnitude primary to the E of the cluster help to fix its position and keep it in the field at higher power.  At 330x, the cluster shows a brighter center.  The outer halo is very faint and diffuse with an irregular cottony texture. Sketch.

NGC 2146 is a peculiar barred spiral galaxy in Camelopardalis.  It was on my target list because of the recently discovered supernova SN2005v.  All I knew was that the supernova was near the nucleus and had been reported as magnitude 13.8.  I didn't know that this was an infrared magnitude and the supernova was likely much fainter in visible light.  The galaxy is well-extended with an oval core.  At 165x, a stellar point is visible near the center of the core, but seems to correspond to the galaxy's nucleus rather than an offset position.  The brightest portion of the core is to the N and NE of the nucleus.  Two faint, linear extensions project to the SE, while a longer and brighter one projects to the NW.  A small dark lane is just to the S of the nucleus; a brighter area is wrapped around this lane to the W.  A larger, fairly conspicuous void separates the core area from an area of faint nebulosity to the N.  The SE end of the halo seems brighter and blunter than the indistinct, tapered NW end. Sketch.

Reflection Nebula NGC 1788 in Orion is immediately apparent at 44x.  165x reveals a complex structure.  A 12th-magnitude star is embedded in bright nebulosity.  Nebulosity is also apparent around a 10th-magnitude star a couple of arcminutes to the NW, and subtle swirls of fainter mist pervade an area of about 6' x 4'.  The 10th-magnitude star has a faint companion, and several faint stars are involved in the nebulosity.  Sketch.

Jay McNeil had a really interesting article on 10 overlooked planetary nebulae in the January 1999 issue of Sky and Telescope.  I've tracked down most of these.  Tonight's target was Sanduleak 2-21 near 16 Puppis.  This 40"-diameter planetary has fairly low surface brightness.  I could see it without a filter, but I preferred the view at 165x with an Orion UltraBlock.  The nebula has a distinctly brighter center; the edges are faint but well-defined.  There seems to be a brighter central axis aligned WNW-ESE, and the W edge is brightest.  The nebula is about 4' W of Zeta Puppis, and is contained in a skinny 4.75' x 1.5' trapezoid of 11th- and 12th-magnitude stars. Sketch.

January 30/31

High clouds prevailed over most of the day, and the only thing that kept my hopes up was the Clear Sky Clock's prediction of good to excellent seeing during the pre-midnight hours.  Of course, those high clouds hadn't been predicted, either.

In any case, most of the clouds went away and I was left with a really good night.  Haven't had one of those for a while, so I didn't know how to act.  I'd forgotten what M42 looked like under decent skies.  Wow!  I took the obligatory look at Comet Machholz, which hasn't changed much. 

I messed around in Orion for a while, and spent some time looking for McNeil's Nebula.  It was very, very difficult at 165x and required averted vision for even an occasional glimpse.

I remembered Abell 12, a planetary nebula right next to Mu Orionis.  I had looked at it just after I got my OIII filter, but hadn't sketched it.  It was easily visible at 165x with the OIII filter, and also detectable without the filter.  I kicked it up to 330x for the sketch. The nebula is ~27" NW of the 4th-magnitude star, and shows up as slightly oval with subtly brighter edges.  In my sketch, I tried to capture the color effect of the OIII filter.

How was that seeing?  When I looked at Saturn, I abandoned deep-sky objects for a sketch of the ringed planet.  It's been a year since I've seen Saturn this steady.  Most of the time, it easily withstood my highest power of 390x.  The Encke Minimum in the A ring was more than just hinted at, and actually showed some structure.  It appeared double at the ansae, with a slightly brighter area separating darker outer edges.  Midway around the ring to the south, the minimum was fairly dark and thin, especially on the preceding side of the planet.  On three fleeting occasions, I caught a thin, dark feature on the outer edge of the minimum.  This was always in the same place, just south of the following ansa. The outer edge of the A ring seemed to be brighter in this location, heightening the contrast. 

Banding of the disk was still subtle, but the SEB was clearly double and had some interesting festoon- and barge-like detail on its northern edge.  The southern half of the Equatorial Zone was bright.  The South Polar region showed some detail, but it wasn't very contrasty.  I spent a lot of time trying to get the sketch right, though I'd still like to improve the color contrasts and transitions.

With such good seeing, I had to try to split Sirius, but it just wasn't going to happen.  If the Dog Star rose as high as Saturn, maybe?  I'll keep trying.  As the Moon was rising and a new batch of clouds approached, I hit some of the winter open clusters and did some binocular observing to pull myself back from the high power experience.

January 29/30

High clouds went away during twilight and then came back with a vengeance an hour later.  In between, I looked at two comets.

C/2003 K4 (LINEAR) is "the comet that came back, again."  Last spring, it was a morning object.  By summer, it had crossed into the evening sky.  In early September, it disappeared below the western horizon at my latitude of 43 N.  It made a brief call in morning twilight during November, and then slipped out of sight again.  Now, it's back above my horizon in a dark sky.  I caught it on the Eridanus/Fornax border at the end of evening twilight.  It was quite low, so the quality of the view depended on whether nearby chimney smoke was blowing over the FOV or away from it.  The magnitude 8.5 comet had a stellar central condensation surrounded by a diffuse coma about 4.5' in diameter.  The coma was slightly fanned and elongated to the E.  Sketch.

C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) was transiting a very rich star field that included open clusters IC 1858, Collinder 33 and Collinder 34.  None of these clusters really stand out, but IC 1858 is passable.  The comet is still 4th magnitude and naked-eye visible.  In the 10" Dob at 36x, the ion tail was visible for ~2 degrees in PA~90 and a dust fan was visible for about 30' centered around PA~140.  The ion tail was fairly bright but not as impressive as on January 12.  It seemed to be getting dimmer during my observation, and that was when I noticed the clouds had returned.

January 23/24

A very clear, moonlit night with fair seeing.  I messed around with a 90mm off-axis mask for my Dob (report here).  I also did some measurements of my 7mm Nagler.

January 20/21

The clearest night of the month so far came with a bright gibbous Moon.  In the evening, I fiddled around with Saturn and the Moon, and checked out Comet Machholz (an easy binocular object in spite of the moonlight).  Seeing was just OK, and I went in to get some sleep.

I got up at 4:30am and went after a couple of comets in the Moon-free morning sky.  62P/Tsuchinshan has been transiting the Virgo cluster; I had cloudy skies for its more dramatic encounters.  This morning, it was the third-brightest object in a low-power field that included galaxies M90 and NGC 4531 (sketch).  The comet was very diffuse; its 4' coma had a slight central condensation that was elongated E-W.

C/2003 T4 (LINEAR) was a much easier object.  This 11th magnitude comet in Lyra had a well-condensed 2' round coma that included a bright nonstellar core and looked like a small unresolved globular cluster.  It was nicely displayed in a very crowded star field in the 10" Dob @ 160x.

January 12/13

Another night like the one before, except that it was colder and got foggy pretty quickly.  Machholz's ion tail was a ghost of what it had been on the previous night, and was only dimly visible for a couple of degrees.  I didn't sketch the comet tonight.  I found 78P/Gehrels; this comet is about 12th magnitude and fading.  C/2004 Q2 (Tucker) was about a magnitude brighter and in an attractive star field in Andromeda; I made a quick sketch but by that time the fog was rolling in.  Seeing was mediocre at best, and my mirror was still trying to cope with the falling temperature.  So, I took quick looks at Saturn and a few double stars and called it a night.

January 11/12

A Machholz Moment...

...was much more pleasant than a Maalox Moment.  In fact, it was a lot like a mini-Hyakutake moment.  I had started off this evening session with some faint objects in my 10" Dob (including 13th magnitude comet 32P/Comas Sola), and hadn't glanced at Machholz in binoculars.  I put in the 32mm widefield eyepiece and slewed up to Machholz.  Whoa!!!  Where on January 10 there had been a couple of ill-defined jets forming the base of the ion tail, there was now a thin, ramrod-straight and bright structure that stretched across the field of view (and the next field of view, too)! 

8x56 binoculars showed essentially the same view in miniature.  The ion tail was thin but with diffuse edges; it appeared to dead-end at Omicron Persei, ~4 degrees from the center of the coma.  The ion tail's position angle was ~90 degrees.  The dust tail was also quite prominent, as a broad fan centered around 160 degrees; I could make out a length of about 1 degree.  I sketched the comet in binoculars and then in the Dob

A few hours later, when the comet had moved a bit, the ion tail had moved off a string of bright stars and was now visible with difficulty for 6 degrees.  Coma diameter was ~20' tonight, and my naked eye estimate of the magnitude was 3.8.  Naked eye limiting magnitude was 6.5, although eventually some fog moved in.  I packed it up before midnight when the temperature was 15F.  When I awoke in the morning, the fog had frozen out and the temperature was a nice round 0F.

Seeing started out as pretty atrocious, but improved to mediocre.  I was able to see 7 of Saturn's moons, including Hyperion which made an attractive quadrilateral with Titan, Iapetus and a field star. As mentioned above, I found 32P/Comas Sola and sketched it for AL Comet Club purposes.  The comet was a fairly difficult object, requiring averted vision to hold steadily (AV1).  It appeared to have a fairly condensed, round coma about 1' in diameter.

January 9/10

I got my 10" Dob out for the first time since Christmas Eve.  After yet more snow, there was some fitful clearing.  Unfortunately, all the moisture led to fog formation.  There were some really clear sucker holes at times, though.  My only real target was Comet Machholz.  Luckily, it was high in the sky.  The comet was very attractive at low power (36x in my much-maligned 32mm GSO widefield).  A bright, round greenish coma featured a stellar pseudonucleus.  A small, bright envelope with some irregular structure surrounded the pseudonucleus.  A number of jets protruded from the inner coma, forming the bases of tail structures.  Two of the most prominent jets, at PA 90 and 110, extended for over a degree from the pseudonucleus.  This was probably ion tail structure, while the dust tail arose from multiple jets in PA 130-240 with the longest and brightest feature centered at PA 165 degrees.  Two bright and pretty double stars were in the field SSE of the comet.  Sketch.

2005 January 7/8

I got the chance to observe under some incredible conditions tonight: blowing snow and 21 degrees F. Oh, well, it WAS clear. After a really disappointing week of clouds, today was a blizzard. I checked the sky every once in a while just in case, and by 10:30 the stars were out. I ventured out on a couple of occasions with binoculars to view Comet Machholz near the Pleiades. Limiting magnitude was ~6.3. The comet's naked eye appearance hasn't changed much. It still looks
like a fuzzy star.

The 6th-magnitude star 7 Tauri was in the outer coma, making it difficult to do a magnitude estimate. Somewhere around 3.8 seems about right. Coma diameter in 8x56 binoculars was about 25', with a bright central condensation. The bluish inner coma seemed oval and elongated E-W, with several faint jets from PA 150-200 degrees forming a dust fan. At its longest, this tail was about 1 degree in PA 170. The ion tail was very faint tonight, except for the first 30' or so. I eventually was able to trace it out to ~1.5 degrees in PA ~90. So much for the tail stretching across the Pleiades...

Nevertheless, the comet and the cluster did make a nice pairing in the binocular field. I persevered and came up with a composite sketch, despite being set upon by a cascade of powder every time a wind gust let loose. Enjoy.

January 2/3
Skies cleared off around 10pm last night.  I went out with binoculars and studied Comet Machholz for a while.  The comet was an easy naked-eye object.  I estimated its magnitude at 3.7 (In-Out method used). The coma diameter was ~24'.  The ion tail stretched for about 2 degrees to the ENE, and had a thin central spine of fairly high surface brightness.  A short dust tail was visible for about 45' to the S. The coma was round with a bright center. (Sketch)

I was afraid of morning fog, but a brisk wind kept it at bay and hustled the scattered clouds away.  It was actually fairly
comfortable, as the temperature didn't drop below 20F.  The Moon and snow cover meant skies weren't the best, and the orientation of the trees in my yard forced me to choose a slightly obstructed field of view to keep the Moon out of my eyes.  I observed meteors for three hours, and saw 78 total meteors.  58 were Quadrantids.

Quadrantid rates were a bit lower than I expected; most of the Quadrantids were faint and short and near the radiant.  There was one nice -3 yellow Quad with a short train.  I saw 78 total meteors in three hours. My best 15-minute period was 1206-1221UT (4:06-4:21am PST) with 10 Quadrantids.

Observer: Wesley Stone (STOWE)
Location: Chiloquin, OR (42d 35m N, 121d 52m W)
Method: Counting: Watch/Tape recorder
Date: 2005 January 3

Interval UT  Teff    F      LM    QUA   COM   Spo
1045-1145    1.00   1.18   6.11    12    0     5
1151-1251    1.00   1.18   6.08    23    3     3
1300-1400    1.00   1.14   6.12    23    1     8
TOTALS       3.00   1.17   6.10    58    4    16

Note: Breaks taken between intervals, from 1145-1151 and 1251-1300

Magnitude Distributions
   -3   -2   -1   0   +1   +2   +3   +4   +5   Total (Mean)
QUA  1    -    1   3    4   13   20   13    3     58   (2.6)
COM  -    -    -   -    -    -    2    2    -      4   (3.5)
Spo  -    -    -    -   3    -    6    5    2     16   (3.2)

Observations for 2004 are now archived.
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