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    Default This is the Journal of Don Alvarez



    I've decided I wish to start working towards my Messier Awards, so I will open this thread to log my progress alongside the analog log that I keep at home. (say that three times fast). Thus begins my journey.



    Session One - 9/23/2017


    Site:
    Near Elmer, NJ.
    Site Description:
    This is semi-dark site situated in Pittsgrove township, a rectangular open field of perhaps an acre bordered on all sides by dense wood, so the view is limited, offering mostly overhead and a corridor to the south. East and West are obstructed, and the northeastern view looks over the house, reasonably clear yet with noticeable light pollution in this direction, likely from the nearby college town of Glassboro. Most sites in South Jersey are like this: dark to the south, while combating various degrees of light pollution in every other cardinal direction. Overall I rate it a Bortle 4 or 5, darker than my situation at home.
    Time:
    Approximately 8:30 to 11:00 EST
    Equipment:
    Dobsonian, 10inch/F5; Acromat Refractor, 80mm/F5
    Conditions:
    Clear, approx 75 degree, humid
    Objective:
    Primarily DSO
    Report:
    First part of the session was spent moving and hiding various yard lighting which was impacting the viewing conditions. The first DSO sighted was M71, globular cluster in Sagitta which was reached by star hopping up from Altair. Medium power (89x) through the dobsonian revealed a fairly bright globular cluster with a loose central core with a good amount of stars resolved even towards the middle. After observing for a while the telescope was relocated to better view Andromeda clearing the trees to the Northeast. M31, the Amdromeda galaxy was clearly seen as a large light grey disk and at 62X almost filled the eyepiece. M32, it's companion dwarf, was an oval shaped blob some distance away in the same field of view, which I mistook for M110, that does not appear in my count for this reason.

    Over to Cassiopeia where M103 was easy to find, a colorful open cluster in the vicinity of Delta Cassiopeia. I was viewing this object and begun hunting for the double cluster in Perseus when my brother, who had been panning the sky to the south with the refractor, had come across an unidentified DSO quite by accident. Through the small achromat at low power revealed a small smudge of light. Spinning the dob back around to the south, tracking up from Beta Aquarii revealed this structure to be M2, globular cluster in Aquarius. Individual stars were very hard to resolve except through averted vision even under medium power, and atmospheric conditions were limiting usable magnification to not much more than this. Tracking northward from this position brought us to M15, another globular situated on the fringes of Pegasus near to Epsilon Pegasi. M15, though only listed a tenth magnitude brighter than M2, appeared noticeably brighter through the telescope with a nice, tight core under medium power, leading me to believe there are some limiting atmospheric conditions toward the horizon in this region. More on this later.

    Back to Cassiopeia where started again the hunt for the double cluster, which after some effort I finally located. NGC 884 and 869 form this double open cluster which almost appear to be one large cluster under low power. Through the telescope they appear on atop the other, mostly blue/white stars with a smattering of red mixed in, a very impressive image.

    To cap the evening we swung the telescopes back in a southerly direction where we decided Neptune would be clearing the trees and would end the evening on this object. Consulting maps we determined the planet to be a blue object near Lambda Aquarii. Under medium power we guessed this to be correct as the object, unlike nearby stars, would not focus to a point but rather to a tiny blue orb. Switching to our highest power (178x) our unknown atmospheric conditions that I suspect hampered M2 came back into play as the image was extremely agitated, as if looking through water. Still, I could make out a tiny nondescript blue orb, and the hint of a white spec, which may or may not have been Triton. Impossible to confirm under the viewing conditions, though I will be able to confirm the Neptune sighting by position during my next session.

    The hour getting late, and a heavy dew starting to set in, the session closed around 11:00PM

    Current Messier Count: 6
    Telescopes: 10" SkyLine Dobsonian, Celestron Nextar GT90, Meade Infinity 80
    EP: The Five Fingers of Doom: 5.5mm, 8.8mm, 14mm, 20mm, 24mm Meade 5000 UWA's
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    Binocs: 15x70 Celestron Skymaster, 10x50 Levenhuk Karma Pro, 10x42 Bushnell, 8x42 Sans & Streiffe

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  2. The Following 8 Users Say Thank You to Don Alvarez For This Useful Post:

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Excellent reporting, Don! Thanks much for sharing the experience with us. Looking forward to more!
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    Eyepieces: GSO Super Plössl 40mm, 32mm, 15mm, 9mm; ES 82° Series; GSO Superview 30mm; Celestron Plössl 26mm, 20mm; ES 70° 25mm; ES Plössl 25mm; Vite Aspheric 23mm, 10mm, 4mm; Orion Expanse 20mm, 9mm; KK Ortho 18mm, 12.5mm; Bresser 70° 15mm; Coulter Optical 12.5mm; BCO 10mm; ES 62° 9mm; Zhumell Z Series 5mm
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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Excellent start on your journey. I would recommend that since you are going to go for the Messier awards, take a look at the sticky Astronomy Certificate Visual Awards Program Apply Now!!!, it is best to format your observations in the requested format from the very beginning, it is easier than having to go back and reformat or retype everything into a new thread.

    Good luck & clear skies!
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    So many trees in NJ!

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    count - 82/110, Caldwell count - 16/109, Herschel count - 18/400
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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Thanks guys. I am going to log all these in a spreadsheet as well, which I'll submit when I reach the milestone numbers. I just wanted to get my report typed out, since I wasn't observing alone I didn't take very good notes and I wanted to get it up before the particulars were forgotten.

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    20mm, 26mm, 32mm, 40mm Meade 4000 Plossls, 30mm, 20mm, 15mm GSO Superview, Orion Expanse, Baader Classic Orthos, Various others.
    Binocs: 15x70 Celestron Skymaster, 10x50 Levenhuk Karma Pro, 10x42 Bushnell, 8x42 Sans & Streiffe

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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Nice report and a good start! You will get there in no time!
    Scopes: Orion 130mm APO Triplet, Orion 8" f4 astrograph, 10" RC Mount: Celestron CGX-L Guiding: Orion 60mm f4 scope, Starlight Loadstar, PHD2 software - Cams: Planetary: ASI120mc, DSO:Atik 383L+, SGPsoftware Processing : Regisax, Deep Sky Stacker, Star Tools, Pixinsight Assistant: One very large cat
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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    You are up to a great start Don! Nice progress on Messiers and congrats on logging Neptune.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Session Two - 10/16/2017

    Site:
    Home Base - Pennsville,NJ
    Site Description:
    Home Base is a not so dark site situated in Pennsville Township perhaps not even a half mile from the banks of the Delaware river and all the industry that comes with, primarily a couple of power stations, a gas refinery, DuPont chemical, plus various small business, streetlamps and neighbors who love to leave their lights on all night. Overall I rate this probably an 8 on the Bortle scale, less or more depending on what neighbors are awake.
    Time:
    Approximately 10 to 11:45 EST
    Equipment:
    Dobsonian, 10inch/F5
    Conditions:
    Clear, and cool approx 45-50 degrees, slight breeze with occasional 10-15mph gusts.
    Objective:
    Equipment Test, DSO

    Report:
    Tonight's session was primarily to test a couple new eyepieces I've acquired since my last session almost three weeks ago. Since then, almost every weekend has been lousy with a full moon arriving on the 5th not helping matters. The new equipment is two new Meade 5000 EP's, a newer 8.8mm UWA and an older 24mm which I found a vendor still had new and in stock, the latter to replace the venerable 30mm GSO Superview as my primary low power eyepiece. My initial target this evening was going to be M57, which by the time I had set up had sunk too low in the WNW and was obscured by trees. I then shifted West more to pick up Altair and decided to make a stab at the Dumbell Nebula (M27). Tracking through Sagitta I picked up M71 again which I had logged in my last session, just to get an idea what the limiting magnitude might be in this area of the sky. I acquired the apparent magnitude +6.1 globular after about three tries with some difficulty, It was dim under low power but it gave me hope that M27 might be within reach. Following a ragged line of stars across from Eta Saggitae I arrived at my target star and beheld a pale grey wisp just nearby. Satisfied I had found it with the first attempt, I began changing eyepieces to find one that might provide a better view, I decided it was medium low power (20mm) through which I could make out what appeared to be two oval shaped halves. On a lark I reached into my kit and drug out the Celestron LPR/UHC filter which had up till now proved useless, and was actually surprised to find that it did actually bring out more contrast in the image. Finer details were still undetectable, but I was satisfied the image was brighter and the shape a bit more distinguishable. Perhaps there's hope for that thing yet.

    Moving on, I stretched west again and picked up Pegasus' nose for a try at M15, which was found with a bit of effort, to be expected with my polluted skies. Despite the conditions, by this time I felt the new low power Meade was performing very well. The globular appeared faint, with only the outlying stars resolved, mostly seeming yellow/white through the eyepiece. The inner core appeared as just a grey/white mass, even under medium-high power (142x). Reaching down for M2 proved a futile effort. Despite being listed as similar magnitude to M15, the sky had brightened significantly down near its location, and though I checked and rechecked my route, I was confident I had the right location, it just did not reveal itself.

    Backtracking to Andromeda, which by now was almost directly overhead, I decided to resolve my mistake from last session and log M110, which this time surprisingly I did find. Luckily is was in the best position for viewing else I don't think I would have found the dim object had it been any lower. M31 and M32 are both readily apparent, consulting charts and using M32 and a nearby star, both form a line which point across M31's face directly at M110, which I could only just barely make out. Long minutes of observing and averted vision revealed a ghostly white patch, with certainly no structure or detail.

    As to the evening's primary goals, I am extremely satisfied with the Meade 24mm UWA as a replacement to the 30mm SuperView. The overall true field is slightly smaller, but the higher magnification made finding DSO's much easier than the Superview, the images seem to have a bit more contrast and appear brighter. On a side by side tests of all the DSO's I viewed tonight, the larger image through the Meade was always preferred.

    The jury is still out on the 8.8mm UWA. I am not unhappy with it, and perhaps tonight's conditions weren't really suited to higher magnification viewing. The images seemed dim by comparison (likely a by product of these polluted skies) and I did not get the same impression of image quality that I do from the other Meade UWA's. Will have to do more with this at a later date at a darker site so as to give it a fair testing and with the Infinity 80 refractor as well, which is what it will probably see more use in anyway.

    -Alvarez

    Current Messier Count: 9
    Telescopes: 10" SkyLine Dobsonian, Celestron Nextar GT90, Meade Infinity 80
    EP: The Five Fingers of Doom: 5.5mm, 8.8mm, 14mm, 20mm, 24mm Meade 5000 UWA's
    20mm, 26mm, 32mm, 40mm Meade 4000 Plossls, 30mm, 20mm, 15mm GSO Superview, Orion Expanse, Baader Classic Orthos, Various others.
    Binocs: 15x70 Celestron Skymaster, 10x50 Levenhuk Karma Pro, 10x42 Bushnell, 8x42 Sans & Streiffe

    Member, South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association

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  10. #8
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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Pretty darn good outing, Don, especially consider the light pollution and intrusive porch lights you had to deal with. Well done!

    I tell you, that 8.8mm will really shine at a darker sight, and will help a whole bunch on smaller and "on the edge of perception" DSO's.

    My ES 8.8mm backs up my 11mm quite nicely. And lately, especially on these Herschel 2500 galaxies in Pegasus that I've been after, often as not the 8.8mm gets the nod when the 11mm can't pull it off.

    Thanks for the great report, my friend!
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    Bryan

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    Eyepieces: GSO Super Plössl 40mm, 32mm, 15mm, 9mm; ES 82° Series; GSO Superview 30mm; Celestron Plössl 26mm, 20mm; ES 70° 25mm; ES Plössl 25mm; Vite Aspheric 23mm, 10mm, 4mm; Orion Expanse 20mm, 9mm; KK Ortho 18mm, 12.5mm; Bresser 70° 15mm; Coulter Optical 12.5mm; BCO 10mm; ES 62° 9mm; Zhumell Z Series 5mm
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  11. #9
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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Quote Originally Posted by bladekeeper View Post
    Pretty darn good outing, Don, especially consider the light pollution and intrusive porch lights you had to deal with. Well done!

    I tell you, that 8.8mm will really shine at a darker sight, and will help a whole bunch on smaller and "on the edge of perception" DSO's.

    My ES 8.8mm backs up my 11mm quite nicely. And lately, especially on these Herschel 2500 galaxies in Pegasus that I've been after, often as not the 8.8mm gets the nod when the 11mm can't pull it off.

    Thanks for the great report, my friend!
    Thanks! Its hit or miss around here what direction is good and when. The only certainty is North to East is almost always no good, but luckily if you wait long enough stuff rises out of the pollution and directly overhead is not too bad. I'm surprised I pulled out M110 but could not get M2, but when I started to dip down I saw that sky start to turn bright and figured it would be useless. I knew I had the right location too, I saw nothing.

    I'm thinking when the last EP comes in and I get them all cased up together, my next project I'm considering is flocking the tube to guard against some of the extraneous light around here. I think it might help some.
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    20mm, 26mm, 32mm, 40mm Meade 4000 Plossls, 30mm, 20mm, 15mm GSO Superview, Orion Expanse, Baader Classic Orthos, Various others.
    Binocs: 15x70 Celestron Skymaster, 10x50 Levenhuk Karma Pro, 10x42 Bushnell, 8x42 Sans & Streiffe

    Member, South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association

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    Default Re: This is the Journal of Don Alvarez

    Excellent reports Don.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Clear skies.
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    Peter.


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