2009 Observing Log

Please submit observing reports to Paul R., Observing Chair for inclusion on this page. Thank you!

Fri Nov 20: SHNOBS Session MAC-Parnell
It was another wet week. Clearing was to start late Thursday and clouds to return on Saturday so a SHNOBS session was called for Friday evening. The moon was just past new and we had planned to arrive around sunset. Doyle and I were the first to arrive and we only set up his DOB. As it got dark the skies were very clear. Before moon set Pam P., her Husband and Charles H. had arrived. It was cooler the week before. The moon light showed the field had patches of ground fog. Atmosphere turbulence limited the details visible on Jupiter to moons and just a hint of the north and south equatorial bands.
After moon set the transparency slowly decreased but many objects including the Veil nebula, M13, M31, M33 and M27 had plenty of details present. Rising in the east were the open cluster M38, M37, M36 and M35, Before we packed Orion and M42 were rising high enough to show plenty of nebulosity. [PGR]

Sat Nov 14: Primary Session MAC-Parnell
Following a very damp and cloudy week it started to clear Friday over the western part of the state with the forecast for continued clearing on Saturday. I arrived before sunset and Jane had her Grand children visiting so I stopped and pulled the PST out to look at the Sun. I was surprised to see a very large and bright flare. This was as good or better then any I have seen. It was a short lived flare when I checked on Sunday the Sun was very featureless. Joe B. arrived in time to see the flare before the Sun set into a band of clouds on the horizon.
We moved to the hay field and once the sun went below the horizon temperatures started to drop quickly. About dark Jim W, Doyle and LeVerne had arrived. It was a partly transparent night and temperatures .
During the night we mainly used Doyle's 15.5" DOB and evaluated Doyle's 17mm Ethos and Joe's 13 mm Ethos Eyepiece. When transparency was good M31 showed nice dust lanes, M33 had two pin wheel shaped arms. NGC253, the Helix and Veil nebula were in transparent areas during the night. After packing up we noticed Mars rising in the northeast. [PGR]

Sat Nov 7: Outreach Eagles Rest Lake Murray I was working just west of the Mississippi river during the week and had very clear and transparent conditions. The seven day forecast did not look good but the track and timing of bad weather looked like both Friday and Saturday would be good nights. I arrived back in Columbia in the early afternoon to very clear skies. I was first to the site. Followed by Jim W., Charles H. and Bob M. One of the highlights of the night was the two ISS passes. One to the south while the sky was still blue and the second low to the north 90 minutes later. It was very clear and we spotted both while they were low and rising. It was a chilly evening and Jim's laser pointer and 8" SCT, 10" and 12" DOB's were busy. We had about 20 visitors from the neighborhood but when the moon started lighting up the east almost everybody had left and we packed up. [PGR]

Fall cookout
The long range forecast for the fall cookout session predicted that we would be on the edge of some good and bad weather. As the week progressed the long range forecast became a Clear Sky Clock (CSC) forecast and it varied from good to bad. A go was called for the cookout late Friday as it seemed it would be dry with a chance of some clearing by dawn Sunday. The RSVP count was 35 but by noon the new CSC forecast and long range showed conditions would improve by Sunday or Monday and the clear and cloudy area was much further south and slower moving then the earlier forecast. With thick clouds Saturday morning I had several canceled.
I carpooled with Doyle and on the trip up we ran into some light rain. Once on site there was some thick mist and one time it almost was heavy enough to think about seeking shelter.
As the food was going on the grill a fire pit was dug in the far south side of clearing. A large pile of roots and branches was available that had been drying all summer. This resulted in a nice warm fire. After everybody had a plate full the head count was in the mid 20's and most of us were in a semicircle around the fire. We had 3 pounds of marshmallows on hand. A showed the fine art of cooking them near a very warm fire without either the marshmallow or the holder of the not long enough stick bursting into flames. Once all the quick burning twigs were consumed the habitable zone (distance) around the fire shrunk by a few feet. By the time Doyle and I left at 10:30 pm the circle around the fire had thinned to about 10.
48 hours later
When Sunday morning arrived it was mostly clear but later in the afternoon clouds were present around the state. On Monday it was very clear and Jim W. called in the afternoon wondering about a possible SHNOBS session. I was away from the internet and had Jim send a SHNOBS announce out. I called Charles H. about the possible SHNOBS session and he said he may be able get out after 7 pm. Jim and I got on the road a little before sunset and I notified Charles that we were going while I had a good cell signal. I had talked to Jane the land owner earlier in the day about coming out and she said that and the hay field had been cut and bailed but the bails were still in the field.
Jim and I set up the 12" and targeted Jupiter first. The early views of the evening suffered from a very warm mirror and a rapidly dropping temperature. After is was dark Jane came our for a while and Charles arrived. The Milky Way was bright from and before long the double cluster in Perseus and Andromeda became naked eye objects. Sometime during the evening I noticed a shadow transit on Jupiter. This was a first for Charles. The Veil nebula was directly overhead as it got dark and it showed up very good with a filter. It won't be around much longer. We looked at a wide range of objects before we called it a night about 11:30 pm. By then the temperature in the field was in the low 40's. I had all my layers on I had in my car early in the evening and if I was going to stay later I would need another layer or two.
November outreach
The Eagles Rest subdivision on the north side of Lake Murray will be having a night out under the stars. We have Friday or Saturday Nov 6, 7 or 13 reserved. Rather then have one shot at getting a clear night we will have a few picked out and do it the first clear night. [PGR]

Fri Sep 11: SHNOBS Session MAC-Parnell
The forecast for the weekend of the primary session did not look too good. By late Thursday it looked like Friday would be much better then Saturday. Friday morning I posted a SHNOBS's message for that evening. Ken which came the September meeting was wanting to come to a session. Jim Wilson and I decided that we would go to MAC-Parnell and I talked Ken into coming as it looked like Saturday would be a no-go. He had to take care of some things before he could come and would arrive after dark. On the drive down the skies did not look too good. I found the hay field was too not too tall but it full of sand spurs. I went back to the yard by the house and talked to Jane the land owner and her neighbor were looking for a dog. While getting ready to setup and she mentioned she has two sprinkler heads in the yard south of the row of trees that are between the drive way and gate to the pasture.
Jim arrived a little while later and as it got dark the clouds seemed to thin. The evening was nice and about average transparency. I got a call from Ken on a track phone while he was on 3 near the Church. He had a good signal and I was able to get him into the observing area without a problem. Ken had his 5" goto mount which had never successfully star aligned. We attempted to align it several times but it did not work as it should so we turned it off and all used the 12".
We looked at some globular cluster, open clusters, Nebula and a galaxy or two but Jupiter was the star of the evening. The great red spot was visible in the southern equatorial band along with many other features in the northern equatorial band. Seeing was very stable later in the evening and Jim's 6mm radian was not quite enough power.
Ken had to leave before moonrise which was after midnight. After Ken left Jim and I used various color filters and took some a-focal images of Jupiter with a point and shoot. As the moon was scheduled to rise the sky brightened. Jim and I scanned the eastern horizon and we finally the last quarter moon just clearing the grass line to the east-northeast. It was very dim and deep red. Jim had his stabilized binoculars out earlier looking at the Milky Way and after a few views Jim leaned on a tree using one eyepiece to point while I took the point and shoot and used the other eyepiece to take some pictures and managed a few images. As the moon rose it quickly lost it red hue. Jim and I packed up about 1:30 am. By this time we had added a layer or two as the temperature had dropped into the 60's. [PGR]

September events
With September arriving the days are now getting shorter and the chances of having clear evening are increasing. The primary and alternate are at MAC-Parnell on the 12'th and 19'th of this month with possible activity at MAC-Hunter most clear weekend nights. Sign up for the SHNOBS list for alerts to short notices observing and monitor the go-nogo page. It will be updated as the 3 to 5 day weather forecasts are available and as things change.
We have an outreach at the State Museum on Saturday Sept 26. We had quite a few want to see Jupiter last year at the 20'th anniversary event while is was totally overcast with lighting to the south. Their will be a film that night and they will have it publicize. We could have a large attendance so if you can help contact me. This will be good exposure for the club. In addition to scopes and binoculars we will need some additional help to answer questions. Being a location not quite as dark as the ETV parking lot we will have two bright objects. The moon will be at first quarter and Jupiter will be rising in the southeast. We can and to the list a few of the double stars and open clusters. [PGR]

August Observing
We had some rather poor observing weather for the primary and alternate sessions resulting on both being called a no-go's. On near prefect night several were out in various locations waiting for what may be the last night shuttle launch only to be scrubbed by a thunderstorm popping up about an hour before launch. A few brave observers hoped the clearing just south of the state would make it Friday night launch but it was just too thick and no reports were sent in as to seeing any thing. [PGR]

July 26 2009 Outreach Congaree under the Stars
The public side of the event was organize and promoted by Congaree National Park Seasonal Park Ranger Nelson Turner. Because of previous commitments Saturday I was running late and arrived a little before 9 pm. While setting up the sky was' still blue with some thin cirrus in spots and a few contrails. The crescent moon was just above the western tree line but would be too low to be seen when viewing started. When I arrived Charles H. and Doyle W. were about finished setting up their scopes, Stuart G. was doing photo documentation of the event, Paul W. went to the visitor center where Jim W. visitor center for the indoor part of the program. It was still warm and humid for the start of the evening. As it got dark it was a little hazy and the moon was making star hopping a little difficult.
57 people attending the indoor part of the program and arrived at the out parking area when I was dark. Lines formed at the three scopes and groups around Paul and Jim doing laser pointer tours. It was a average South Carolina summer night. With the high humidity and light winds the telrads were dew up before it was dark. Several had problems with eye glasses fogging when at the eyepiece. Nelson setup his 10" DOB and it stayed busy for a while but slowly the visitors left and a some cool air was felt from time to time. Once the moon set the Milky Way was showing definition. A few comment from the visitors were heard as they viewed the brighter objects. Once all the visitors had left Stuart mentioned he had a very good night vision scope he had been using to monitor turtle hatching on the coast. It did get some use and a line almost formed to get to take a look at the sky with it. It did kill your night vision for a few minutes but it was worth it. I did not get the specs but it seemed to be a 1x or 2x view and M23 showed individual stars. My memory seems to make dim small objects brighter and bigger then what they were the longer the time is from the observation to the recall. This really made dim things bright. The dark areas from Cygnus to below the teapot were very distinct using it. It was just a little better then the naked eye view from the primary session. It was 12:30 when we packing up and left. We had several visitors which said the will try to make it to the next meeting and the following via email:

"Sir, I want to thank you and the gentlemen for the outstanding lecture/hands on symposium last night. Mr. Weber, I believe and another gentleman whose name I can't remember...and I do apologize for that...showed me some fantastic star and planet sightings. At the risk of sounding like a kid, I felt like one in a candy factory! I've never seen Jupiter and her moons in a telescope before and I was totally astounded! The gentlemen pointed out the constellations in a way that we the uninitiated could comprehend it. Again, thanks for the excellent experience. Looking forward to another of your programs again."
Sincerely, Phil R.

This was a very well attended public session and I plan on working on setting up every quarter. In addition there were no campers in the out parking area and I think either the heat and or the fact that the park now is not locking the gate anymore after dark. Campers can now use the visitor center parking area still leave and or unload closer to the other camping areas.
GO-NOGO web page not updated for the July 26 Alternate and outreach session.
I had an out of town trip on Saturday and determine it would be a go around 1 am Saturday but I did not upload the Go-nogo webpage before I left town and did not get home until 8 pm. I hope that this did not spoil anybody's observing that weekend. [PGR]

Jul 18: Primary Session MAC-Parnell
The 5 day forecast showed the southeast under clouds for the weekend. The 48 hour forecast pointed to clear zone possible. From then the forecast changed every 12 hour and alternated between clear and clouds. Saturday's noon Clear sky clock update predicted very clear and transparent conditions which was the very much different then the midnight forecast of mostly cloudy and poor transparency. About 1:30 pm a go was posted. After a few calls we had 3 lined up for the session. On my way to the site after 7:30 pm a line of cirrus was south east and east of Columbia. The west was very clear and blue with a few small clouds to the northeast. Jim W. was the first to arrive and I followed Eric T. into the field. Joe R. arrived shortly after and we set up deep in the field where Jim had located an area which had shorter grass. Bob half of Bob and Lavern arrived while we were in the process of setting up. We had 2 12" scopes and Joe's 4" equatorial reflector on site as the sun was getting ready to set. With the cirrus clouds to the southeast and the sun setting in the very clear northwest I was expecting a very colorful sunset but I was disappointed. The air was very clear and dry to the west and the clouds turned a light shade of pink then back to pale blue after sunset. That line of clouds slowly headed to the east as the stars started to show. Antares was just above the line of clouds as it was dark. As the evening progress the clouds to south cleared and it was very transparent. Conditions by midnight were the best I or anyone else at the site had ever seen in any part of the southeast at anytime of the year.
I had unloaded all my winter gear from the car before the 4'th and with the heat index in the 90's Saturday afternoon the only extra layers I took was a windbreaker and long pants. The evening was clearer and colder then I expected for Mid July and the temperature dropped quickly to low 60 very shortly after the sunset. It was not long after that that it was in the mid 50's and extra layers were being added by everybody. Heavy dew was forming on the grass and I was wet from the knees down by the end of the evening and did use the heater on the way home.
The observing started with Saturn once it was dark enough to locate. It is getting low at sunset and won't be an evening object for much longer. The rings were at 0.34 deg from being aligned with the sun and were very dim. The seeing at that point was below average with some short periods of average seeing where the shadow of the ring and 4 moons showed up. Once it was dark enough to star hop, calibrate digital setting circles the quest for objects began. The naked eye views of the Milky Way showed very defined dark regions. The dark area between Sagittarius and Scorpius was visible with the naked eye once you block the glare from the bright tea pot spout region. Later in the evening we talked Jim in to getting his 20x stabilized binoculars out of the car. The dark nebula were evident everywhere in the Milky Way. When Jupiter rose high enough to get into stable air I detected the Great Red spot just passing the meridian.
This was one of a kind night. In late spring I joked with Bob M about it would be September before the next clear and transparent night. He said "We may get a few before then" The weather conditions at noon don't reflect how the evening may turn out.
A follow up email:

"The clearest and darkest summer evening I have ever seen."

I couldn't have said it any better. It was definitely one to remember and I'm still enjoying it!
Jim W.

Sat Jun 27: SHNOBS Session
A few of the weekdays following the alternate session were very clear after sunset. A cold front (not much colder) was scheduled to arrive some early evening on Saturday. Near the end of the week some interest was expressed in viewing on Saturday so a SHNOBS session was called. A line of showers on the front pass Columbia heading south and showers were east and west of the center of the state. A go was called at 7:30 and Doyle and I headed out a little after 8. Just as I was leaving the house a severe thunderstorm watch was over the central and southern part of the state. On the way down US-321 it was mostly clear overhead but a medium size clouds were growing to the east and west. When Doyle reached Pelion he called me and decided to turn around. I was a little more optimistic and continued on. I checked with Dan O. and he was on the way about 40 minutes behind me. When I arrived the hay had not grown much. To my surprise the transition from the air conditioning running at maximum to the conditions in the field was not traumatic. I set up and while waiting on Dan started to write the first part of this report. Since the moon was out and I was not observing yet I did not put a red filter on the laptop screen but just turned the brightness down. I was not before I had moths and other large flying objects buzzing the area. As soon as I put the red filter on the screen the big bugs disappeared. While I did not getting any bites the sound of mosquitoes made me reapply repellent several times. When Dan arrived the clouds had gotten thicker and lighting was flashing from some clouds to the west. After a little while we noticed a few drop of rain. It was trailing edge of a system already to the south and heading south. It was clear to the east and north east. We covering the scope and moving the electronics into the car but stayed out and absorbed the occasional refreshing drop of water.
During the clear holes we had good views of M3, M57, M51, M81 and M82 were washed out by the moonlight and poor transparency. M101 was a no show as it's surface brightness is very low. After some clearing it clouded up again with more lighting about 10 miles to the south. At this point I took the 12" apart and Dan an I discussed various astronomical topics. It was about 11 pm and we were waiting on a -8 mag iridium flare at 11:33. The sky were clearing but the moon was getting dim and red and without the shadows from clouds the sky and ground was brightening. At 11:34 and on flare I determined I had been an hour too late on my alarm but an hour earlier it was overcast.
Since it was not too transparent Dan and I headed home about 11:45 pm. As I had determined mid week Friday evening would have been a better evening for observing.
A public outreach session is in the planning stages and would be held at the state Museum on first quarter moon weekend. The moon and Jupiter will be the main targets. [PGR]

June Observing sessions
With Daylight saving time and the very late sunsets in late spring observing can be a challenge. June was a wet and cloudy month and the first primary session at MAC-Hunter was called a no-go by late Thursday as the forecast was for partly to mostly cloudy, very warm, very humid and a moon rise just after midnight. By late Saturday scattered showers were popping up over the state.
The following week long range weather forecast pointed to clearing near the end of the week. By Thursday the conditions predicted pointed to Friday evening being the clearest once the afternoon clouds cleared out. It was a very warm days very high heat indexes. Everybody had problems going out on Saturday so the SHNOBS session never occurred. It was cloudy until after sunset but by 10 pm the skies over Columbia were very clear and transparent. The humidity was very high and grass was wet from dew and it was too warm to stay out side for long after being inside with air conditioning.
As the forecast predicted Saturday was partly transparent and the clear sky clock showed poor conditions followed by clearing after midnight. About 4 pm the decision for a go was made and we planned on arriving after sunset to allow it to cool some. Ellie a new member planned on making it to this session. Since finding the last turn to MAC-Parnell in the dark is difficult arrangements were made to meet on I-77 after 8 pm. After a missed communication on which site we were going to I met up with Ellie on 321. We arrived last about 9:20 pm I did not see anybody in the yard. Arriving at the hay field and it was freshly cut. Doyle and Eric were almost completely setup. As the night progressed most of the sky overhead was mostly clear with periods and sections of the sky very transparent. Ellie and her fiancé were able to view several objects before they were run off by the bugs around 10:30. This was when the sky started to get much clearer. Conditions were very stable as the double double in Lira was an split with all of the scopes. Objects viewed when transparent patches were in there area were Planetary nebula M57 and M27, Globular clusters included M13, M93, M80, M5 and a few NGC's I don't remember. Open cluster included Doyle's favorite the wild duck's, Jewel box in Scorpios and ( m 18? near swan). The swan showed texture at high power. Galaxies included M51, M81, M82, M101, M109, Leo trio M65,M66.
About midnight the Milky Way from Cygnus to Altair was in the clear the zenith was also very clear. Shortly after that the cirrus returned and it did not look like it would be clearing again. We packed up and left by 12:30. While Doyle and I were packing up what looked like a plane doing a touch and go at the north airbase popped out above the south east tree line for a bit. Later as we had everything in the car it popped out again slightly higher and it was Jupiter.
Conditions at MAC-Parnell when I arrived seemed cooler that predicted and we had no dew and by 11:30 the breeze picked up or became cool enough to feel. Reviewing the weather when I got home showed that a high pressure centered over New Orleans was pumping most gulf air off of Texas into the Ohio valley and back over the Appalachian mountains then into North Carolina before arriving in South Carolina. By 9 pm thunderstorms were forming in North Carolina and the tops were being blown over the state and that was what we saw covering the sky just after midnight. [PGR]

Sat Jan 17: Cloudy night session MAC-Durieux
The forecast from Thursday had clouds arriving Saturday afternoon or evening. The noon update on Saturday showed clouds arriving by 10:30pm. Saturday afternoon was very clear with conditions. Arriving before sunset some clouds low to the north west were seen. By the time Venus was visible the clouds were closer. Heather was first to arrive, I arrived and then Lavern, Bob, Alex, Doyle and Jim W. As the blue faded the clouds moved in but on the western horizon a thin sliver of orange sky was seen. Holding out hope that was a large hole. Heather and I had setup our scopes and Doyle and Alex were busy setting up there scopes. The clouds were thick but every now and then a small holes would align with a star or two. Discussion of equipment and observing continued for a while. When Venus was viewed by a few with the 12" when that hole moved to the M42 region the trapezium and nebulosity surrounding it was seen by Bob and I. Jim and I were the last to leave just before 9 pm. [PGR]

Fri Jan 16: SHNOBS Session MAC-Durieux
Following a long spell of fog an cloudy conditions in early January conditions turned cold and clear. Mid week the forecast for the Primary was not looking good and Friday looked to be a very clear evening. A SHNOBS session was planned on Thursday for the following Friday and a go posted. When running errands about 3 pm a few clouds to the north west were seen in the distance. Checking the satellite views showed some fast moving high cirrus heading this way. Doyle arrived first just as the Sun was setting and I arrived just after. It was mostly very clear between areas with cirrus. Doyle was testing a new go-to equatorial mount with his ED80. With a good ISS pass for later in the evening I setup the 12" lightbridge. Doyle also had his 15.5" Dob ready. Venus was the first object to be viewed. Under high power it was 50% illuminated and this was the first time I noticed that the brightness varied from the terminator with the side pointing to the Sun a lot brighter. Before the end of twilight a future member Bob arrived. As it was getting darker a few objects were in the clear. I had my alarm set 2 minutes before the ISS was to be 10 degrees above the horizon and with the charts from heavens-above.com we spotted very close to the horizon. I was able to keep view it at 150x in for short periods but the brightness and glare of the central area hid any details. As normal for the first time out on a cold night Bob did not bring enough layers and along with the clouds and possible primary session the next day he left early. Even Doyle and I had toes getting cold and after a few clear then clouds and have seen very good view in the 15.5" of M31, M32 and M110, Blue snowball, Eskimo nebula M42, M43, NGC 2024 - the Flame nebula, M78, M81,M82, M41, M47, M48 and the double cluster in Perseus. Doyle and I packed up and left the site about 10 pm one of the last items packed was one unopened frozen 16 oz diet soda. On my way north on 321 I saw a nice meteor traveling in the same direction I was traveling. [PGR]