Observing Log

For the last couple of years, I've gotten into the habit of making notes of my observing sessions. Here they are. Enjoy!
July 21-22, 2006 Near Mellon, WI, in the Chequamagon Forest Mark Weller and I made our 3rd annual trip to the forests of Northern Wisconson. For the first time in three years, we were largely clouded out in our two nights there. We did have a wonderful time driving around the Bayfield peninsula though, and did a nice hike to shoot a beautiful waterfall. I look forward to next year!
June 21-24, 2006 New Mexico Skies My much awaited and anticipated trip to New Mexico Skies. I had dreamed of this trip for at least two years, and finally bit the bullet during the spring of this year and recruited three friends to make the trip with me. Geoff Holt, Art Camosy and Jeff Shokler joined me for the 50 hour round trip drive and three night stay in this celebrated dark sky site in southeastern New Mexico. My goal for the trip had been to do extensive wide angle Milky Way photography with my Canon 10D and new Tokina 12-24mm lens. Alas, clouds spoiled most of our observing plans. Night #1 was clear but very hazy, masking the quality skies that the site is known for. Night #2 was completely overcast, and Night #3 gave us about a two hour window where we had great clarity and seeing. The clouds moved in at about 1:00am on that final morning on site. Check out a few of my pictures here, but I'll have to wait for the next trip to truly realize my dream of observing from this location.
February 18, 2006 YRS Ventured to YRS in dangerously cold temperatures to take advantage of a rare clear night this winter. As I arrived at 6:45 or so, it was already 0 deg F and temps fell into the minus single digits in the three hours I stayed. I used the Doc G as a mount for my 10D and new 400mm f/5.6L lens. Took some pics of the Orion Neb and the nice pairing of Mars and M45. It was so cold that the ball head I use to mount my camera on the 12" was frozen in place. I had to take it inside and warm it up to loosen the knob. I also make the mistake of handling the lock on the 12" building with bare hands. Bad idea. Thank heavens for the clubhouse. A lifesaver on a night like this.
October 28, 2005 YRS Quite a nice gathering at YRS tonight. Many members and even a few guests gathered on a wonderfully clear night characterized by outstanding seeing. Views of Mars through the Doc G were some of the best I've ever seen. I took numerous photos, though none were noticeably better than my efforts of two years ago. Stayed out quite late this night, watching the winter constellations rise and took a few pics. Beautiful night.
September 30, 2005 YRS Met Fritz and Dan Strome at YRS. Fritz and I installed his heavy tripod ball-head on the Doc G then shot some piggyback shots. I shot M31 with my 70-200 f4, got some pretty good results. Beautiful night.
August 14, 2005 YRS Shot a few piggyback shots with my new Peleng fisheye, using the Doc G 12" as a mount.
August 7, 2005 Near Mellon, WI, in the Chequamagon Forest Returned to this location with Mark Weller, still in pursuit of Mark's goal of a killer piggyback shot of the milky way using film. Mark shot with his Pentax SLR and a Roloflex MF, but was using only 100-200ASA film. His shots were very low contrast and contained almost no milky way. There was a slight haze to our otherwise clear skies that also contributed to less than "stellar" results for him. I shot a few piggyback shots with m 10D and obtained satisfactory results (see "summer milky way shot" here). I suspect based on my results that Mark may switch to digital for his quest by next year.
August 5, 2005 YRS More piggyback work with the 10D. Met and talked with Ted, a new MAS member using the observatory for the first time.
July 25 - August 1, 2005. Various locations in New Mexico Family vacation in New Mexico. I had no observing equipment with me, but did take the time to go to some dark locations (west of Taos) to enjoy the night sky. Photographed a great rainbow and anti-crespuscular rays. See this page, and this one for some photos.
Early July, 2005 Various locations, including rural Wisconsin SW of Mt. Horeb and YRS.

Spent some time working revisiting piggyback work with my Canon 10D. The excellent low noise response of this camera makes it an excellent for capturing wide expanses of the Milky Way. I generally made use of my 50mm f2.5 Canon lens but have also used my Tamron 28-75 and Canon 70-200, though use of the latter requires extremely sturdy mounts and excellent polar alignment.

View some of the pictures here.

April 22, 2005 The Madison Club Not an "observing log" entry per se, but I received an invitation to deliver a talk to the UW Madison Ophthalmology Alumni annual dinner. I delivered essentially same talk I did at the New Year's Eve St. Benedict event. It was very well received and I got a generous honaria - very much unexpected and appreciated!
February 11, 2005 Indian Lake Park Joined by David, a senior at West High School, with his MAS loaner dob. Observed Saturn and a few other objects with our scopes, then gave David a binocular tour of various open clusters visible throughout the winter sky. Later, Mark Weller and a guy named Randy (with an ETX 90) joined as well. Photographed Saturn and did some piggyback stuff with the 10D. Very nice night but felt much colder than the 35 degrees reported by local weather.
December 31st, 2004 St. Benedict Monestary Accepted an invitation to speak at the Benedictine New Years' Eve vigil - they wanted a topic on space or astronomy. I put together a presentation on amateur astronomy entitled 'Skywatching Past and Present,' a Powerpoint affair with mostly pictures. It was very well received. Mark Weller joined me (and contributed some of his own pictures) and we set up our telescopes afterward and gave everyone views of the moon, Saturn, Comet Machholz and a few other select objects. Very nice evening!
November 7, 2004 Near ILP and from my driveway An absolutely killer display of aurora this Sunday night. Bright and vivid with lots of movement. The display persisted from just after sunset until well past midnight. See my pictures here.
August 13-15, 2004 Near Mellon, WI, in the Chequamagon Forest Invited by Mark Weller to join him at his friend Martin Hanson's house. This is the heart of dark-sky country in Wisconsin. We had two perfect nights with lots of wildlife in the forest and the brightest Milky Way I've ever seen. Mark did piggyback shots on my C8 and we both observed numerous deep sky objects. Days were spent traveling the area, boating, taking pictures, and just generally enjoying the undeveloped area. Absolutely beautiful weekend.
July 24, 2004 Indian Lake Park with Mark Weller.

Conditions: cloudy early but cleared just after sunset. Mark continued to learn and struggle with his Nextstar 9.25" SCT. Figured out quickalignment tonight and learned that he definitely needs a dewshield or dew heater. I observed the nearly first quarter moon, took a few pictures (attempted to photograph the moon setting behind the ridge but got sharp trees and blurry moon or blurry trees and sharp moon). Also observed a few deep sky objects just for fun.

There was a decent auroral display for a few hours, both Mark and I shot some film attempting to capture the event.

June 8, 2004 Mount Horeb, WI, Norsk golf course Successfully observed the transit of Venus. Skies were clear though a little hazy with the humidity. I arrived at the golf course at a little before 4:00 a.m. and set up my scopes. Geoff and Art arrived a little later, as did several students from Memorial high school and some local Mt. Horeb elementary schools. The sun cleared the soup at the horizon just a few minutes after rising and I caught my first glimpse of Venus through the digital camera display attached to my 80mm refractor. Years of anticipation leading up to this event were finally satisfied with that first glimpse (and the first of over 100 photos). It's hard to fully express the satisfaction I felt at finally observing an event that I had read so much about, absorbed the history, and simulated thousands of times in software. This was it, this was real. Our combination of preparation, site selection, and pure luck at having good skies was magic and paid off handsomely.
May 25, 2004 Driveway of my house It has been a truly miserable few weeks for observing. Torrential rains and perpetually cloudy skies. I was worried that I would not get another chance at Venus before it disappeared into the sun's glare, but the skies began to clear tonight and I quickly set up the scope in the driveway. Many neighbors were out walking, taking advantage of what became a beautiful evening. I was able to shoot Venus starting right around sunset until nearly 9:00, when it was just 10 or 11 degrees above the horizon. Conditions were much better than the previous observation from Indian Lake Park. I hope to add one more picture to the sequence, around May 31 or June 1
May 15, 2004 Indian Lake Park with Mark Weller Conditions miserable. Clouds dominated. Early indications today were that it would clear, but that became more hopeless as evening fell. We set up anyway and hoped for the best. Got a few looks at Venus through the clouds and I shot as many images as I could to complete another frame in my sequence. Poor conditions made for poor frames though. During a brief break in the clouds, I found C2001 Q4 NEAT again. It actually looked a little better than it did a week ago, probably thanks to slightly darker skies, though seeing was awful. Saw a hint of tail pointed toward the upper left. The comet was just one degree away from M44 in Cancer, making locating it relatively easy. Mark was quite impressed with the view through my 7x50s, probably his first comet. By the time I got the eyepiece back in my scope, the clouds had closed back in. Mark had his 9.25" Celestron Ultima set up. He's learning the ropes of that scope. Because it's fully computerized, I'm of less help than I had hoped to be.
May 9, 2004 Driveway of my house Forecast has been very bad for the past week. It cleared nicely after sunset tonight so I grabbed the opporunity to add another shot in my Venus sequence. After putting away the scope, I checked the position of comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT. Took the binocs out and even with the light haze settling over the sky, I was able to spot it without any difficulty about 7 degrees southeast of Procyon. Fuzzy ball with no real hint of tail thanks to the poor sky conditions. Magnitude difficult to estimate but a neighboring star was 4.7 according to Starry Night Pro. C/2001 Q4 NEAT was in the same range, maybe a full mag brighter.
January through May Various locations, mostly in my driveway Numerous sessions not individually logged this winter and spring photographing the planets from my driveway. Several sessions were devoted to trying to improve my planetary technique on Jupiter and Saturn (not nearly enough time on Saturn). As April began and Venus reached its greatest elongation, I began to take a series of photos documenting its phase change as it moves toward its historic transit across the face of the sun in June. See my Venus photos here.
November 8, 2003 Driveway of my house Observed and photographed total lunar eclipse.
October 4, 2003 Monona Terrace Another wonderfully enjoyable evening atop Madison's beautiful Monona Terrace Convention Center in MAS' annual "Moon over Monona" event. Canceled October 3rd due to clouds, attendance was down from the previous year, but still a wonderful evening. I set up my C8 and Coolpix 4500 with television monitor for great looks at the moon and Mars.
August, 2003 Numerous locations (MMSD School Forest, my house, Greg Sellek's, etc.)

Observed Mars at its historic August 2003 opposition. Using my Nikon Coolpix camera and either my own telescope or the MMSD's 14" SCT, I photographed Mars and used image processing software to stack and average images. See the Mars page for photos and details.

This month I also set up my telescope in my front yard repeatedly and sat back while neighbors and friends stopped by to take a look. On two occasions I also had the Coolpix + television monitor set up for easy and very nice viewing of the red planet.

May 15, 2003 Governor Nelson State Park, near Madison, WI Many middle and high school students came out to observe the first total lunar eclipse visible to the Americas since January of 2000. Many binoculars and telescopes were set up to observe the event, but most people enjoyed the eclipse the best way, with the naked eye. I used my C8 and Nikon Coolpix to image the event. Take a look at my images here.
December 31, 2002 Space Place, 6 pm to 10:30. US Bank Eve at Space Place. Set up my scope with the video unit to view Saturn and a little later in the evening, Jupiter. Everyone was very pleased with the views though the steadiness of the air was less than ideal. Good time had by all.
December 31, 2002 My front yard Photographed the sun today for the perihelion shot to go with our July 4th aphelion shots. After getting the developed slides back from Burne, Art Camosy and I performed a quick measurement at his house and determined that, sure enough, there is a measurable increase in size of the solar disk of approximately the correct value. We'll repeat the measurements with a little more rigor later in the week. Setup was exactly the same as the July 4th photos, see that entry for info.
October 11, 2002 Monona Terrace Convention Center MAS' "Moon Over Monona Terrace" star party. One of MAS' most successful public events ever. We had over 30 members with an estimated 28 instruments (telescopes and binoculars) set up for the event and treated hundreds of members of the general public to some pretty good lunar observing. Conditions were excellent with clear skies and temperatures in the 60's. Mike McDowell snapped this photo of AJ and me setting up our scopes, with Mike's own scope visible to the right. A "parade" of C8s.
September 7, 2002 Indian Lake Park with Andrea Skies clear but a low fog or haze made observing difficult. As dusk fell, we saw some very nice aurora along the northern sky. Greens, yellows, and some unmistakable reds formed pillars and ribbons, but unfortunately, the display faded as dusk faded completely.
August 2, 2002 YRS with Mike, Beck, AJ, and Dave Owens Set up my C8 for the first time in several weeks. Took approx. 5 piggyback shots of the Milky Way in Sagittarius and Scutum. Showed the McDowells and Dave how the MMSD observatory operates and took a few quick pictures to show it off.
July 4, 2002 Driveway, my house, approximately 11 am CDT. Art Camosy and I photographed the sun today, just hours from the Earth's aphelion. Our plan is to photograph the sun again around January 4th, near perihelion, and then construct a side-by-side view to illustrate the apparent change in the diameter of the sun's disk when viewed at opposite ends of the earth's elliptical orbit.

I used my C8 at f/10 with Mike McDowell's Thousand Oaks solar filter, my Nikkormat camera with Kodak Elite Chrome 200 speed slide film. Art was using his Nikon camera with the Questar scope. I took approximately 24 exposures bracketed between 1/500th and 1/125th of a second. Once I looked through the camera at prime focus, I was concerned that I would be clipping the top or bottom of the sun a little. Since I've photographed the sun at prime focus at f/10 before, I assume this will NOT end up being the case. Art also exposed a 24 exposure roll.

June 17, 2002 School Forest Photographed the moon with the 14". Very satisfying results for this first attempt at CCD lunar photography.
June 15, 2002 Indian Lake Park Dennis Tande and family joined me for an hour or so of lunar observing with the C8. Good views were had by all but we packed it up relatively early and headed home due to fatigue.
May 14, 2002 Driveway, my house. Joined briefly by a few neighbors. Clear and mild night. After several days of rain and overcast skies, the clarity of the evening made it too irresistible. I set up the C8 in my driveway, primarily to view the waxing crescent moon and Jupiter. The moon stole the show as I watched Mare Crisium unfold into daylight as the heights of the mountains in that area was revealed.

Jupiter was excellent as well, and a fairly steady atmosphere made viewing very pleasant. Didn't spend long there as the moon was more alluring tonight.

May 7, 2002 School Forest, MMSD Observatory Astro-camping tonight with a group of third graders from Lincoln Elementary School. I had my C8 on Jupiter for visual observing. John Foley came with his Televue refractor, and Jane Bruen joined us to point out constellations and star colors. The clouds of an approaching storm stayed away for just long enough to give us some good views. Excellent evening!
May 3, 2002 School Forest, MMSD Observatory Twenty five planetarians and teachers of astronomy joined with over 100 girl scouts for an evening of astronomy. Geoff Holt and I were hosting the WIMPS conference (Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota) and we had intended to give them at least a tour of the observatory, and to observe if weather permitted. We found out about a month ago that there was a scheduled camp out of the girl scouts that night. We checked with the leaders of the scouts, and they didn't mind us crashing their party if we would do a star party for them. The weather cooperated beautifully and we enjoyed a tremendous evening. Jim Kotoski came out and used the MMSD observatory to do some pictures for his students. A great time was had by all. I had my C8 set up with the astrovid viewing Jupiter on the television. The girls loved it and the educators had a great time too.
April 23, 2002 Driveway, my house. Joined by Jim Hansen and friend Jeff. Decided to set up the C8, primarily to look at the moon and just to be outside to enjoy the 5 planet show. Jim Hansen and friend Jeff arrived in time to see Venus and Jupiter already visible, and together, with the binos and naked eye, we watched Mercury, Mars, and Saturn become visible in the dwindling twilight sky. Views of Jupiter and Saturn were excellent all the way up to 400x, even with the light winds blowing. The moon was spectacular, and we attached a deep red filter just to block out some of the more brilliant lunar light. The views were enjoyed by all until around 9:30 when we decided to pack it in.
April 9, 2002 Fritz road, SW of Verona Set up along side of Fritz road on the way to the MMSD Observatory. The NW horizon was respectable and very few cars use this road. I spotted Ikeya-Zhang (c/2002/c1) at about 8:25 with my binoculars, though twilight had not completely faded yet, and within a few minutes, had acquired it in my 80mm scope as well. I spent the next hour observing the comet and alternately scanning other parts of the sky with my binoculars. Ikeya-Zhang was wonderful again, and still quite bright by my estimate. Probably still between mag. 3 and 4.

The planets are quite a treat too. From the horizon up, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. A wonderful grouping which will be made even better in a couple of weeks by the appearance of Mercury. No telescope necessary to enjoy this group!

April, 5, 2002 Roadside, southwest of Verona, WI AJ Carver and I, on our way to the MMSD Observatory, found a relatively isolated spot off a road where we had a respectable view of the northwestern horizon. The target was Comet Ikeya-Zhang and its near encounter with M31.

Though fairly low to the horizon by the time we got set up (about 10 deg), the comet was surprisingly bright. I had only observed it from my house prior, so had not really seen it with a respectably dark site (though this site wasn't great). M31 was only barely discernable in my 80mm refractor or in AJ's Pronto, so the brightness of the comet was quite striking. If we accept the value of 4.5 for M31's magnitude, the comet bested this by at least a full magnitude, maybe even as bright as 3.

As an aside, I'm quite impressed by the performance of my 12mm Nagler Type 4 eyepiece ($350) in my modest 80mm Celestron short-tube refractor (<$100). Quite a sharp field of view!

March 29, 2002 Driveway and deck, my house Has it really been more than two months since I've made an entry to my log?? It's not for lack of observing. I made a decision not to log my time at the MMSD observatory (which has been considerable) as personal observing, which is what this log is for.


Observed comet Ikeya-Zhang (c/2002/c1) tonight with my 7x50s. Quite impressive, just a degree or so away from Mirach. About a degree and a half of tail too. Streetlights in my vicinity made viewing frustrating and I had half a mind to drive someplace dark, but... There will be several more good nights to observe this comet, which is probably growing fainter now. April 4 will be close to M31. Good photo opportunity... wish me luck.

January 12, 2002 Driveway at my house. Temps more moderate than last time. Set up the scope about 6 and stayed out until 9:30. Watched an Io shadow transit from beginning to end. The views of Jupiter and Saturn improved steadily as the evening wore on due to my scope's cooling down. Most views were had with the 10mm Lanthanum ep but also used the 12mm Nagler. Andrea watched part of the shadow transit with me and was able to positively identify the shadow and its direction of travel after only 10 or 15 minutes of observing.
January 2, 2002 Mike and AJ at my house. Temps in the teens but felt much colder. My scope in the driveway viewing Jupiter and Saturn. Excellent views with all eyepieces, but Mike's 9mm Type 6 Nagler stole the show. Once my scope was fully cooled down, this ep gave views that were beyond belief. At well over $250, this will set me back a few months of favors, but I have to have one. We came in the house to warm up and went back out at about 11 to view the moon. Once again, all views were excellent with sharp relief visible among mountains along the terminator. Simply excellent viewing! Then the three of us went to Denny's for warm beverages and pie. Fun night.
November 9, 2001 Mike and AJ at ILP
Didn't set up my scope due to the proliferation of clouds early that evening, but AJ set his up
and we all got to kick the tires of his new C8. Good views of Jupiter and Saturn and M42.

Mike had his new Swarofsky (sp). Incredible spotting scope with great optics.
November 5, 2001 ILP Mike called me and alerted me to a very nice aurora display. More colorful than any I have seen - the reds were visible easily from my driveway at 9:00 with the waning gibbous moon above the eastern horizon. At ILP it was dramatic, though not quite as animated as the August display of a year ago. Mike shot two roles of film and we stayed until about 10:15.
August 21, 2001 School forest with Greg S., AJ Carver, and Drew Langlois to play with the 14" scope. This is the third time Greg has come out to assist with the scope and he is invaluable! Drew also was very helpful from a software standpoint and helpful in polar aligning.
July 14, 2001 YRS for star party. Conditions partly cloudy at first, but cleared up nicely later on. 8:00 to 12:45. Didn't set up my telescope due to the questionable conditions at first but viewed in a variety of instruments, including the 16" cassegrain which I've never seen operational before. Spent some time learning the ropes of CCD photography with Greg Sellek.
July 13, 2001 ILP after the MAS meeting. Mike M. joined. 10:00 - 1:30
Clear skies and beautiful conditions. Took a photo (400mm 800 speed film) of LINEAR C/2001 A2. Guiding was nearly impossible because the comet had no discernable core in my reticule eyepiece. I gave up after approx. six minutes.

Took additional picture of Lagoon Nebula 400mm @800 speed, and two piggyback shots of Sag and Scut regions.

Did some casual deep sky observing of a few objects, saw some hints of aurora, a few shooting stars.
July 12, 2001 ILP with Mike. Clouded out.
July 9, 2001 ILP with Mike, Becky, Marty and Alison (colleagues of Mike), 9:00 to 11:30 Clear but seeing was not great. Mars was the main target though we got a good look at the Veil Nebula with Marty's Televue Ranger and my OIII filter. Seeing got progressively worse as the evening wore on and we all finally packed up and left at 11:30.
June 23, 2001 Donald Park with Mike M., Drew Langlois, and Geoff Holt, 9:00 to 1:00 Conditions were excellent with very steady seeing leading to some of the best views of Mars yet. Excellent definition of a linear feature in the S. hemisphere (Mare Sirenum) and hints of Hyblaeus Extension and "Chaos." Observed primarily with new Red 25 filter which gave excellent surface detail. Used new 32mm ep a little with the C8 and the ST80, nice ep. Collimated Geoff Holt's C8, making him feel like he has a new telescope!
June 16, 2001 Donald Park in Mt. Vernon with Mike and Becky, 8:45 to 12:30 Clear and good seeing. I spent way too long searching for an elusive PN (NGC6572) in Ophiuchus, to no avail. I got to know this section of Oph pretty well though. Mike added several Messiers to his list of observed objects and I took a look at quite a few of them - mostly Virgo cluster galaxies.

Mars was spectacular - much detail visible and wonderful seeing most of the evening. It was very wet again, and moisture was a problem on everything except my C8 primary and the finder primary (thanks to improvised dew shield).
June 15, 2001 8:45 - 1:00

New location in Mt. Vernon (s. of Verona) called "Donald Park," a Dane Co. park under construction
Excellent southern horizon, respectable eastern and western horizons, and dubious north due to Madison, Verona, and some trees. This site has real promise.

Mike M. and Neil R. joined. Observed Mars and various deep sky objects. Mike and I had a good time puzzling out M25 in Sagittarius, eliminating at least one imposter object that had Mike fooled for awhile. Fun detective work. I used my 80mm ST to view various star fields in Scorpius and Sagittarius, and ended the evening taking in the Veil with the OIII filter.

Took two piggyback 50mm shots: 1) Scorpius with Mars, 12 minutes at F2.8 with ASA400 film and 2) Sag milky way, 15 minutes at F2.8.
June 13, 2001 ILP with Mike, 9:30 - 1:00 Clear but hazy, temps in the high 70's starting out, but it never got down to dew point at all so it stayed bone dry all night long. Seeing improved as the night wore on too.

Views of Mars were good, but not as good as 6/9 and 6/11. I spent quite a bit of time on my back lounging and just enjoying the night sky. Looked at a few deep sky objects - star hopped to M104 before Corvus got too low.
June 11, 2001 ILP with Mike 8:00 - 1:00 Imaged Mars with Mike's color quickcam. Incredible seeing and clarity to the sky. Best viewing of Mars I've ever seen. Quickcam images are not CCD quality, but not bad for an inexpensive hardware hack (thanks Mike for letting me borrow it!).
June 9, 2001 9:00 - midnight, Indian Lake Park with Mike Came to observe Mars. Conditions mostly clear with some slight haze and increasing clouds as the night wore on. Once Mars was up high enough to view, we had some of the best views I've ever seen. Large dark triangular feature on disk with some smaller dark areas above and below. No hint of polar caps. Wonderful views with all ep but especially good with 10mm Lanthanum with red filter. Along the way we were joined by a family with four kids (earlier, just around dusk) and later by a couple who had been fishing in the dark. Both encounters were great - very nice people who were genuinely curious about astronomy.
May 12, 2001 8:45 - midnight YRS Mike and Becky joined. Took my scope but did not set up. Used the 12" to observe some bright deep sky objects. Went to look at Mars but got too tired to stay much past Mars rising at 11:15 or so. Mike and Becky had their excellent binos for good views of M44, etc.
March 24, 2001 5:30 to 8 at JMM high school, 8:30 to 10 at YRS AJ, Art Camosy, Geoff Holt, and several students joined at Memorial for excellent views of Venus (2% illuminated), Saturn, Jupiter, and naked eye observation of constellations.

AJ and I plus four other astronomy students ventured to YRS and saw various M objects through various scopes. Best views were with the 13 inch dob and AJ's borrowed Panoptic eyepieces. Neil Robinson, Bill Jollie, Greg Sellek, the Ellestads, and several of Neil's friends (including Camy Mathay from the home school group) were also there. Temps were very cold and it was windy (actual temps in the 20's) so it was not a comfortable night but lots of fun.
March 23, 2001 5:30 to 8:00 pm, Memorial High School, Geoff Holt, Art Camosy, AJ Carver, Kristi Bachus, and several other students I gathered with about 15 Memorial High School students at the school tonight at 5:30 where we viewed the clouds and decided by six to call off the trip to YRS. Most of the students left, but by about 6:10, the sky was beginning to show some clearing in the west. A few of us stuck it out and ended up getting our LX200 out at about 6:20 and spotted Venus just a few minutes later. The students who remained got their first look ever at a crescent Venus and felt the wonder that Galileo must have felt 400 years ago as he amassed evidence that Ptolemy was wrong.

Our break in the clouds lasted until nearly 8:00 and everyone marveled at wonderful views of Jupiter, Saturn, the Pleiades and M42. It ended up being quite a nice night.

We're meeting again at the high school Saturday night at 5:30 and will proceed to YRS if skies are promising.
March 17, 2001 6:15 to 9:00, Indian Lake Park with Neil Robinson, Mike and Becky McDowell Cold and damp with melting snow from the day, but the seeing was fairly good. Looked at a variety of Messier objects, gearing up for next weeks' attempted Messier Marathon. Neil had his 10x70 binocs on a parallelogram tripod mount, very impressive.

Looked at crescent Venus, Jupiter, and various objects. Was unable to find Hubble's variable nebula.
January 20, 2001 9:00 to 11:00, Indian Lake Park with Mike McDowell Bitter cold. We took our small scopes (Mike's C5, my 80mm) with binocs just to so some enjoyable visual observing. Looked at many open clusters (M46, 47 in Puppis, M41 in Canis Major, Double Cluster in Perseus, etc.), along with M42, M31, M81-82, etc. I tried unsuccessfully to find the California Nebula with my 80mm plus OIII filter. Too hard to point without a finder and this tripod is too flimsy!
December 25, 2000 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, driveway at 1 Sturbridge Viewed the partial solar eclipse under beautifully clear skies and brutally cold temperatures. Took three rolls of film, showed the eclipse to several neighbors and friends, and enjoyed the day! See article for full report.
December 24, 2000 8:30 to 10:30 pm, driveway at 1 Sturbridge Set up scope in driveway, partially to establish good tripod leveling and position in anticipation of the Dec 25 partial solar eclipse, and partially to take advantage of the clear skies to try out my new 12mm Nagler Type IV. First look at Jupiter was miserable. Completely unable to focus. I defocused to a large donut and saw the roiling and broiling are currents in the tube. I had never seen such activity! I expected this, but was still surprised to see how much thermal disturbance there was. I headed back into the house and let the scope cool down for a good hour. Temps were in the minus single digits by the time I went back out. Scope much calmer and views through the plossl eyepieces were nice, but the Nagler was unbelievable! I spent about 15 minutes on Jupiter and Saturn. The newly collimated scope plus the new ep is a winning combo!
December 2, 2000 6 pm to 11:15, YRS with Mike, Becky, Greg Sellek, and Matt Mills Clear with temps in the teens. Moon set at 10:30 pm. Mike helped me collimate my C8 - made a world of difference! Finally, beautifully sharp views of the planets.

Took several pictures with 400mm of Pleiades, Orion region, plus one piggyback shot of the planets in Taurus. Did some other misc. observing though no serious deep sky work. Greg S. took some great CCD pictures, including one of a 14th mag asteroid, showing some movement over a 15 minute period. Very cool.
Nov 22, 2000 ILP with Mike and Pat Burke for just about an hour before clouds moved in Temps in the 20's. Observed Uranus in binocs low in the SW before Capricornus had a chance to get too low. Took a few quick looks at Jupiter and Saturn in Mike's C5 and C8 with various eyepieces. My RA motor wasn't working - hoping it's just a battery issue. Clouds started to roll in quickly after about 8:45 so we packed up and left by around 9:15. Good conversation and hot soup with Mike and Pat.
August 18, 2000 ILP for just an hour after sunset and before moonrise at 10:00 Used the ST80 w/OIII filter to view Veil Nebula. Toured various DSOs in Sagittarius and Scorpius.
August 11-12, 2000 3:00 to 5:00 am, Indian Lake Park Got up to watch the Persied peak after moonset at 3:25 but ended up getting completely blown away by the aurora display that was almost unexpected. I had not heard of a flare warning until somebody mentioned in passing at the MAS meeting tonight. Having gone out to watch after such warnings before, my hopes were not high. However, after getting up and going out to my car at about 2:40am, I could clearly see the display from my driveway past the streetlights on my street! I drove to ILP as fast as possible and was not disappointed. I had never seen anything like this before. See my notes in separate article for more details.

Took a roll of 400 Fuji on tripod with 50mm lens, 20 to 60 second exposures.

See my article and photos of this night.

August 2, 2000 YRS with Brian Larmay from Milwaukee. 8:30 to 2:00 Evening started out very overcast and looking like rain, but all forecasts were for clear skies so we waited it out. By 9:20 or so, the sky had cleared completely and we had a beautiful evening of exceptionally steady skies. I took 3 pictures at prime focus with the C5 and did some visual observing with Brian's and Rich Creager's 80mm short-tubes. Looked at various nebulae and clusters, and watched Pleiades then Saturn and Jupiter rise.

Pictures: Lagoon - 25 minutes at f/10 with Fuji 800 M13 - 20 minutes M31 - 20 minutes
July 22, 2000 Indian Lake Park with Mike and Becky. Conditions clear and cool Dew was a problem but my scopes managed to stay dry. Photographed comet LINEAR s/4 with the 80mm scope piggyback on the C8. Had a difficult managing the 80mm due to the single contact mount. It kept wanting to lose its aim. In addition, the camera and scope made access to the ep of the C8 difficult, making guiding my shots problematic. Overall, I was swearing at my scope for awhile! I managed to guide to 5+ minute shots, one up to about 9 minutes. With 800 speed film, hopefully I got some images. It was interesting to guide on the comet itself, for that highlighted how rapidly it was moving, it was possible to watch stars drift across the field during the shot!

At one point in the evening, we heard some noises coming from the direction of the water. Mike went to investigate and ended up scaring a deer. He was quite close to it and did not see it until it leaped over a grassy barrier and bounded away. Scared him half to death.

We looked at a variety of other fairly easy deep sky objects and just enjoyed the evening. I lay on my back for quite awhile drinking in the richness of the Milky Way. Saw the "coat hanger" asterism in Vulpecula.
July 20, 2000 Indian Lake Park with Mike, Becky and Martin. 9:00 - midnight. Conditions wet but clear Comet LINEAR S/4 was very nice tonight, noticeably brighter than last Friday. Found easily with the 80mm ST and the C8. Best views were with the 26mm ep on the C8 though the wider field of the ST gave better perspective on its movement over the course of the evening. I had prepared 3 charts with SNP prior to leaving that enabled me to quickly find it in both scopes. Position prediction was very accurate.

We looked at several brighter Messiers with Mike's new C5, as well as our C8s and my ST80. It got progressively wetter as the evening wore on and since LINEAR was getting lower and harder to see, we called it a night. Mike took one or two pictures with his 200mm camera lens.
July 14, 2000 Indian Lake Park after the MAS meeting. Approx. 10:20 to 1:30am. Mike McDowell, Becky Bracey, Bill Jollie, and newcomers Ron and Dee joined Skies partly cloudy at first, moon nearly full but seeing was pretty good considering all the glare. The highlight of the night was Mike's finding of LINEAR S/4 in his C8. We followed it's progress for several hours and saw it move very quickly through an asterism of 9th and 10th magnitude stars in Camelopardis. Very exciting to finally see this comet and to be able to clearly mark its progress through the evening. Observed position squares almost exactly with Starry Night's predicted position (checked after returning home).

Other highlight of the evening was spending time with Ron and Dee who just purchased a C8 Deluxe a few days ago and set it up for the first time ever tonight. They were complete newbies but enjoyed every minute and every view we set up for them. Hopefully they were able to learn alot about their new scope.
July 13, 2000 YRS with Greg Selleck and Martin Nelson Did some work measuring the periodic error of the LX200 with Greg. Measured the split of Epsilon Lyrae to calibrate the ticks on the reticule ep he had, and then checked our measurements using Alberio. Each tick is approx. 6.2 arcseconds, total periodic error of the 12" is about 50 arcseconds.

Took 5 or 6 quick photos of the moon through the 12" with star diagonal.
July 3, 2000 YRS 10:30 to 12:30 Clouds held off until just after midnight, but then it got wet with a vengeance. I took two pictures with the C5 guiding on the LX200, the Pluto region in Ophiuchus (pointing was tough) and of the North American nebula. I'm not sure if the nebula will come out either since the scope may have dewed up by then. Didn't really get to do much visual work at all.
June 29, 2000 YRS 8:30 to 12:45, skies clear and conditions fairly dry Did some astrophotos with the C5, using the 12" LX200 to guide. Took pictures of:

M5 10 min M5 15 min M11 10 min M27 14 min
June 26, 2000 Indian Lake Park, 8:45 to 12:30 Temps in the 50's, dry early on but it got quite damp later. Variable high clouds made it a less than ideal evening. Took about five pictures with the 80f5. Late visit from a nice county sheriff's deputy, and earlier from some high school kids attending a bonfire.

Attempted photos of some fainter objects tonight. Another NA nebula, M51, 3c273 (just for fun), M87 region, and the Veil nebula.
June 22, 2000 Indian Lake Park, 8:30 - 12:45 with Paul Lease and a park visitor named Susan Conditions clear, temps 50 - 60, high humidity, winds calm, seeing good.

Looked at a few bright Messiers to warm up, talked astronomy with Susan who was not an observer. Put the 80mm scope piggyback on the C8 and manually guided 7 or 8 photos - N.A. Nebula, Antares region, M11, and Lagoon/Trifid region. Illuminated reticule e.p. difficult to use because of cloudy/hazy appearance of the crosshairs. Frustrating.

After packing up, stayed for a few minutes to enjoy the skies with binoculars. Watched the moon poke up on the ride home. Very nice night.
June 18, 2000 Indian Lake Park, 8:30 to 2:00 am. Mostly clear with light surface haze at the park, light variable winds. Prior to moonrise, I took several pictures with the new 80mm short-tube, Lyra region, Hercules region, Cygnus, etc. No reticule guider so we'll see if they turn out at all. Alignment of the second scope is hard due to the weight of the camera and tube, it tends to sag.

After moonrise, took several pictures of the moon at f10 with the C8 and f5 with the 80mm. Focus looked good so we'll see how they look.

Martin Nelson joined me at about midnight.

June 5, 2000 Indian Lake Park, 8:30 to midnight Took 12 photos of the crescent moon in an attempt to capture the earthshine effect. Also took one or two pictures trying to capture the M44 cluster which was less than 2 degrees away from the moon. Did a little visual observing with the C8 and "shorty" ST-80 but spent most of this evening deep in conversation with Mike McDowell.

Also this evening saw many high school students apparently partying at ILP. Dane C. Sheriff's deputy arrived about midnight, looked at Mike and my passes, and then proceeded to bust several kids who were apparently engaging in some underage drinking. Mike and I quietly packed up and left.
June 2, 2000 ILP, 8:30 to 12:30, joined by Bill Jollie and briefly by Mike McDowell (who didn't observe once we told him how damp it was).
The previous days' heavy rains left clear skies and very humid conditions tonight. Things were dripping wet after less than an hour and I ended up getting dewed out for the first time in two years.

Began by playing around with my brand new (used) ST-80 Celestron refractor. Very nice scope for the price and it sits reasonably well on my Bogen junior tripod. It won't be any fun at higher powers trying to track planets, but for wide field visual work (and hopefully photography) it will do nicely. My enjoyment of my ST-80 was pleasantly interrupted when Bill Jollie arrived with a similar but somewhat larger beast, a 102mm ST refractor with a 2 inch diagonal he just got last week. We put it through the paces with his excellent selection of eyepieces and got some great views of M81, M82, M13, and we capped off the evening by getting stunning views of the Veil Nebula with his 25mm ortho and OIII filter. We could actually see the entire southern (?) lobe of the Veil easily in the wide field of the 25mm. I've never seen views of the veil like this. Beyond words! I was absolutely blown away by his scope; the wide fields, the bright rendering of objects, very impressive! The combination of a short focal length with the wide fields of the 2 inch eyepieces almost made me regret that I don't have a 2 inch diagonal (and eyepieces) myself.

Due to the encroaching dew, I really didn't get a chance to put my ST through its paces, but will do that ASAP. Though I did set up my C8, I didn't use it a whole lot due to moisture. I looked at M81-82, M65-66, M57, and M12 and M14. Not too much more.
April 29, 2000 YRS with Matt and Denny, new member and guest from Janesville, 9:30 to 1:00 Conditions somewhat hazy and some light clouds early. Seeing was fair.

Matt had a 12 inch dob with digital setting circles and a laptop running TheSky. Very impressive setup and a nice selection of eyepieces. We looked at some galaxies and the Eskimo Nebula, nice views. I showed them the clubhouse, the 17" dob, and the 12" LX200. We compared some views on his 12" and the club 17".

They left at about 11 and I stayed on to figure out how to run the LX200. I finally got aligned by pointing at M57 and locking. Good enough for rough finding of other objects. I hopped over to Virgo and sighted on some of the brighter elliptical galaxies, and then lined up on NGC4536. From there, it was a short hop to NGC4527 and now I was just a simple star hop away from quasar 3C273. I had an excellent photo of the region with the two NGCs and the Quasar clearly marked, so the star hop was relatively simple. I did it twice to make sure I had the right field, and there it was. It's marked as a mag 12.7 object, but was quite faint - near the limits of my ability to see. I'll chalk that up to the fair to poor conditions tonight. Seeing this object, about 2 billion light years distant, was quite a thrill.

I spent about another 45 minutes hopping from DSO to DSO, enjoying the ease of use of the LX200. I almost felt guilty doing the GOTO routine, but it was fun. Very nice scope.
April 23, 2000 ILP with Mike McDowell Cloudy skies all day gave way to a clearing tonight and beautiful skies. Unfortunately I spent much of the evening struggling with my Lumicon OAG, trying to make star images focus, with little success. Between frustrating episodes with that, I looked at some nice galaxies in Virgo, Coma Bernices, Leo, Sextans, and Ursa Major. Mike had a nice night doing visual work too. We saw a few late Lyrids too.
April 5, 2000 Back deck with binocs. Skies mostly clear with brisk winds. Temps in the low 50's to high 40's.

Went out for the express purpose of spotting the 30 hour moon, should be just 9 deg below and slightly to the left of Jupiter. I was out at 7:30, just about sunset time scanning the skies for Jupiter. Finally spotted it 7:35, took five minutes more to find the razor thin crescent moon. Absolutely lovely. In the dusky sky, the crescent was just a little lighter and whiter than the background sky haze. The crescent only made it about 90 degrees around the disk. As it set further and further, the contrast was greater and it became easy to spot with the naked eye. Still a great sight.

7:40 time spotted makes for a 30.47 hour moon, 2% illuminated, which I'll call my new record (though I haven't kept records before).

Continued watching until the moon set over my neighbor's house; became unobservable at 8:16, just 2 deg 52 minutes above my horizon per Starry Night Pro.

Jupiter and Mars close (1 deg 02 min) with Saturn to the upper left just under 6 deg from Jupiter. I could just barely get Jupiter and Saturn in my 7x50 fov which indicates about a 6 deg fov for the binocs, useful info.

Lovely night!
March 4, 2000 Indian Lake Park, 7:00 to 11:00 pm Mike McDowell and Becky joined for about an hour Skies started partly cloudy at sunset but cleared nicely by 7:00 pm. It turned out to be a clear and beautiful night. Joined by a few Waunakee HS students at about 10:30, one of whom is a new member of MAS.

Continued pictures on 24exp roll of film

7. Orion F2, 15 minutes (late, was low on horizon and cars may have spoiled) 8. Auriga F2, 15 minutes

Lots of good deep sky observing tonight, thanks to RASC's list of best NGC objects for Winter and Spring:

NGC2392 - the "clownface" or "eskimo" nebula in Gemini. Bright, very fuzzy circular patch with some mottling evident. Maintains brightness even with 10mm but loses some detail, best view with 25mm.

NGC2261 - Hubble's Variable Nebula in Monoceros. 25mm, very striking cometlike shape - clear pointed head and widened tail shape. Very bright and sharp.

NGC2403 - galaxy in Camelopardis - appears nearly face on but not quite circular, has an oval shape, nice distinct central brightening.

NGC2683 - Edge-on galaxy in Lynx - very bright and easy to see.

NGC2841 - Ursa Major, Galaxy. Oval shaped, bright. Core bright and nearly starlike. Very nice.

NGC3877 - Ursa Major, edge-on galaxy. Very close to the bright star Chi UMa. Difficult to see clearly because of the brightness of the star.

M97 - supposed to be the "Owl Nebula" but looks very much like an edge-on galaxy. Not sure if I'm looking at the right object. My sketch shows a cigar- shaped object tilted 45deg to the right. (after getting home and checking the computer and charts closely, it's obvious that I had the wrong object. M97 is very circular, and a little less than a degree away from an edge-on galaxy (NGC3556) which is obviously what I was observing.)

NGC3115 - Beautiful squashed galaxy in Sextans. Well defined core.

NGC3242 - Incredibly bright planetary nebula in Hydra, very blue! Also referred to as "Jupiter's Ghost" on my RASC list. So bright and compact that it could literally be mistaken for a planet!

NGC2903 - Leo. Beautiful galaxy - oblique-oval shape, nicely defined nucleus.

M105 with NGC3384 and NGC3389. In Leo, small, either face-on spirals or ellipticals.

M95 and M96 in Leo - Less than a degree south of M105 group. Ellipticals? Nice views.

NGC3628 - the edge-on galaxy near the well-known M65 and M66 in Leo. Other people have shown this to me before, but I've never found it myself until tonight.

NGC4244 - Large edge-on galaxy in Canes Venatici
March 3, 2000 YRS with Paul Lease, 7:00 to 9:30 A few wispy clouds along the eastern and northern horizons, temps in the mid 30's. Skies were fair to good.

Spent most of the night hunting down a few good Messier open clusters for Paul, who is a relatively new observer. Took 3 piggyback photos of Orion:

4. Orion, F2/Fuji 400 superia, 15 minutes 5. Orion, F2/Fuji 400 superia, 20 minutes (Paul opened car door) 6. Orion, F2/Fuji 400 superia, 20 minutes

Looked at open clusters in Canis Major and Pupis, Beehive in Cancer, Double Cluster in Perseus, galaxies M81-82 in Ursa Major, and some others. Opened the 17 inch dob for Paul to see what the Orion Neb looks like in a big scope.

Left about 9:30
February 4, 2000 YRS 7:30 to midnight with Martin Nelson and Susan Connell-McGee New moon and clear skies equals a must-see night. Martin and I headed out to YRS.

Observed Lepus globular cluster (M79). Nice to see this sole winter globular (that I'm aware of).

M46 in Puppis, open cluster with a planetary nebula superimposed. Very dim but we were able to spot it without much difficulty.

NGC2244, the Rosetta nebula. Nebulosity not seen, even with OIII filter. Nice open cluster though.

M76 in Perseus, the "little dumbbell" or the "butterfly." Found after some difficulty.

M66 and M65 in Leo

M81 and M82 in Ursa Major

Photographs (piggyback)

Old roll of film, F2.8/Fuji 400 superia

1. Orion 8 minutes 2. Orion 12 minutes 3. Orion 15 minutes 4. Taurus/Pleiades 10 minutes 5. Sirius/Canis Major (about 15 minutes)

New Roll

1. Sirius/Canis Major 15 minutes 2. "Double" clusters in Puppis (15) (M46 and M47) 3. Orion 15
January 20, 2000 8pm - 11pm, town of Middleton (west on Airport Rd.) Viewed total lunar eclipse with Mike McDowell. See my article at Mike's website for pictures.
November 17, 1999 Indian Lake Park Went to bed at 10:00, got up at 2:00, met Mike McDowell at Indian Lake Park to watch Leonids.

Upon arriving, we saw possibly the best fireball of the night, I was writing out my photo log on Mike's car hood when I saw the reflection of a bloom in the hood. I looked up as Mike gasped and saw the trail fading from what must have been a beauty.

We observed many relatively faint meteor streaks, all with Leonid radiants. Estimate from 60 to 80 per hour. They seemed to come in clumps - several within a 15 second period, and then none for several minutes. We also saw several slower moving meteors which appeared to have a radiant in Taurus (Taurids?), but how can you have different radiants in the same night? Also, several other meteors with radiants that didn't appear to be consistent with either Taurus or Leo.

Along the way that night, we were joined by two Dane Co. Sheriff's deputies, very nice guys.

Left the park by about 5:30. Quite an enjoyable night!
November 6, 1999 Indian Lake Park, 8:30 to midnight Temperatures in the 20s, skies clear, seeing good.

Spent some time drift aligning and then used setting circles to locate M15, M74 and M77.

M15 in Pegasus, globular cluster. Medium bright object with densely packed core.

M74 in Pisces, very faint spiral galaxy, faint and very nebulous patch. Only the barest hint of spiral structure at 74x.

M77 in Cetus, very bright, small core. Almost globular in appearance. Small and compact.

Jupiter and Saturn very nice. Also took quick looks at M57, M42, M31, double cluster.

The highlight was a wonderful Aurora show. Spreading over nearly 60 degrees of the horizon due north, a horizontal glow covering the sky just above the horizon with periodic "searchlight" like vertical beams coming straight up, slowly fading in and out, changing positions, at times seeming to connect the entire spread of the display with a drape-like sheet of light across the n. horizon. Reached no higher than 20 deg above the horizon. Took two piggyback exposures, the second probably marred by a car headlight.

Also observed several Taurid meteors, and possibly one clear meteor with radiant in Ursa Major - a new storm recently mentioned in Sky&Tel?

Pictures: ASA400

1. Taurus, 11 minutes at F2.8 (camera misaligned?) 2. Taurus, 9 minutes at F2 (camera misaligned, car shortened exposure) 3. Orion, 11 minutes F2 4. Pegasus, 3 minutes F2 (car shortened exposure) 5. Northern lights, 5 minutes at F2 6. Northern Lights, 5 minutes at F2 7. Pegasus, 11 minutes at F2, camera properly aligned.
November 5, 1999 Indian Lake Park with Mike McDowell, 8:15 to midnight Skies mostly clear, temps in the 20's. At about 10-11pm, some wispy clouds drifted past, never obscuring the stars, but reducing the otherwise excellent seeing.

Jupiter was clear and brilliant, with the GRS transiting just at the time we were first looking. With my new 10mm Vixen Lanthanum, I had some of the clearest views I've ever seen of Jupiter. Mike's telescope, as usual, performed just a bit better than mine, must be better collimation.

Saturn was just as nice, with the southern equatorial belt and cassini division clearly visible.

A few quick looks at some easy DSOs. Crab nebula just rising in the east was very faint at first, but easily picked out. Later, trying it with the 10mm and OIII filter it was nearly impossible to see. With these skies, it was just too faint for the OIII to help. Pleiades, double cluster, M31, all very nice and rewarding.

Observed several nice meteors, most likely of Taurid origin.

After Orion was high enough, we both spent a bit of time looking at M42. With the widefield 40mm it was very extended and bright. Even viewing this object with the 10mm Vixen is wonderful. This ep gives such excellent eye relief and bright views, it's hard to believe it's a true 10mm focal length.

Most of my night was spent learning some of the preliminary ropes of off-axis guiding astrophotography. Using my new illuminated reticule ep, I learned the declination drift method of polar alignment. Pretty easy to do and pretty effective.

Then I hooked up the OAG. Struggled to get the camera attached... Once I had it on the scope, and focused through the camera on the Pleiades, I was unable to focus on a guide star through the prism. Stars were blown way up out of focus. The only way rough focus could be achieved was to pull the eyepiece completely out of the barrel and hold it back about 1.5 inches! Wrong extender?? Going back to Eagle Optics tomorrow. Thought later of trying the star diagonal. It probably would have helped, but wouldn't have been enough for focus.

Packed up at about midnight and left.

October 23, 1999 Indian Lake Park, 9:15-12:00am Joined by Mike McDowell. Temperatures falling into the 20's, clear skies, bright moon.

Trying out my new focal reducer, Mike and I notice a large blurry aberration on the side of my fov with the 40mm Televue. Present but slightly less noticeable with the 26mm plossl. We spend some time testing combinations of my reducer, star diagonal, and lenses, with my telescope, and his stuff with my scope. We are unable to narrow the problem down to a specific accessory, but it is apparent only on my scope with some combination of my diagonal and any reducer. Frustrating.

Time spent mostly observing Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter's moon Europa does a slow approach all evening, and is finally occulted by the planet at about 11:25. The GRS should be rotating into view by around midnight, but neither of us see it before we tear down and leave due to numb hands.

Mike's views of the two planets are the best by far due to his excellent 10mm V.L. eyepiece and the wonderfully perfect optics of his telescope. I have good, but less stunning success with my 15mm plossl.

Saturn's SEB was broad and clear, with and without color filters. The Cassini division was a clear as I've ever seen it. Several faint moons were clustered around Saturn's 'south of ring' area, all too faint to see without liberal use of averted vision. The planet itself, particularly with Mike's 10mm ep looks incredibly three dimensional. The ball of the planet itself is undeniably spherical in appearance, a radical difference from the usual 2D circular impression.

Jupiter's NEB and SEB are very thick and dark tonight. Just one day past opposition, this is the largest we will see Jupiter for another 12 years. Though the difference is only an arcminute or two, we can't help but be impressed by how large and clear the disk is tonight.

We were treated to the nonstop quacking and honking of the trumpeter swans and Canadian geese all evening.

Also, an unexpected treat: Northern Lights! Just after setting up, Mike spots what he at first notes as an approaching cloud hanging just above the handle of the Big Dipper. He turns around to look a moment later, and it's gone, only to reappear before his very eyes. He points it out to me and identifies it as the Northern Lights, which I've never seen before. We watch for a few minutes as it drifts in and out of visibility, staying in the same place above the handle, and about a wide. Due to the competing brilliance of the moon, no real color is visible, but it does undulate a little and clear brightens and dims over a period of about a minute. Spectacular to me, and how much better would it be if we had a new moon??
September 11, 1999 dusk to about 11pm, Indian Lake Park Second clear night in a row, and possibly the last good observing before the fall equinox. Martin and I headed back to Indian Lake park. Using his 500mm Cassegrain spotter, we took some pictures of the setting crescent moon.

Then we attempted some "guided" shots of M31 and the Sagittarius region. Martin wasn't sure what film was in his camera, but we chanced it and guided some shots as long as 10 minutes. His camera and long lens was mounted piggyback on my C8 and shots were guided through the C8, using the hand controller and RA/Dec motors to keep guide stars near the edge of the field. Guiding without a reticule eyepiece is iffy at best and we may have done more damage than good. Hopefully we'll get a few prints that will turn out.
September 10, 1999 Indian Lake Park with Mike M. and Martin N. following the MAS meeting. Observing from about 11 pm - 3 am
Not much serious deep sky observing, a few looks at some bright objects like the double cluster in Perseus. Most of the night was spent looking at Jupiter and Saturn. Mike had his C8 and I had my C8D, we used lots of varieties of filters, eyepieces, etc. Mike's Vixen Lanthanum 10mm was giving the best looks of the night, but my barlowed 15mm plossl was pretty good too. Atmosphere seemed exceptionally steady and detail was abundant on the planet's cloud tops. Later in the night, Mike and I observed a break in the SEB which looked suspiciously like the GRS, but I was much wiser after my last "fake-out" on the GRS. We decided after hours of observing that it was likely not the GRS but most likely a break in the belt caused by other festoons, etc.

Early in the evening we also observed an excellent Io shadow transit, the first I've seen!

Saturn was brilliant too, lots of fun.

Mike offered to let me borrow his telextender and I took 10 eyepiece projection shots of Jupiter and Saturn with my 15mm Plossl and blue 80A filter.

All film 400 Fuji Superia, Nikkormat SLR

Jupiter 1. 1/4 second 2. 1/2 second 3. 1/2 second 4. 1 second 5. 1 second

Saturn 1. 1/2 second 2. <1 second 3. >1 second 4. 1 second 5. 1.5 seconds 6. 2 seconds (picture didn't print, end of roll)

We ended the evening taking a peek at M1 as Taurus finally cleared the treetops to the east.
August 14, 1999 YRS 7:30pm to 3am Skies were clear, winds calm, seeing good. Fireworks at Yanna's house with a bonfire later.

Some Perseids put on a good show early on, but after midnight seemed to calm.

Saturn Nebula (NGC7009) was beautiful and blue color was apparent. With 15mm ep was a hazy patch, brighter than M57.

M15 - Globular Cluster in Pegasus: bright, dense core. 10mm view easily resolved into stars.

NGC7006 - faint globular in Delphinius - almost not visible - faint glow against background sky. 10th mag.

M2 - Globular in Aquarius - very dense and diffuse but bright.

NGC6712 in Scutum - Beautiful globular in a rich star field.

NGC6440 and NGC6445 in Sagittarius - listed on the chart as a planetary and a globular close enough to be in one field of view. Dan S. and I found it with the Meade 12" and I went back to acquire the view in my 8". Found it with some difficulty (Sag was getting lower in the sky). In the 8" the faint smudges would have been easily missed if I had not been looking for them. Both easily fit into the 26mm fov. With the somewhat higher power of the 12", the were about 1 fov apart. SNPro lists the planetary as 13th mag and the globular as 10th mag, but both appeared close in size and brightness to me.

Observed both Uranus and Neptune with the help of my SNPro chart. Uranus was a clear disk, though hazy at higher powers. Slightly off-white appearance.

Neptune was starlike to my eyes, though Mike M. and Steve W. saw distinct difference from the stars in the same field of view, and were able to pick out the planet without being told ahead of time which one it was.

Jupiter and Saturn were nice, though Saturn was still a bit low for a really good look. Dan and I spent a little while puzzling out which Galilean moons were which, and watching their positions change over about an hour. No real detail visible on the planet other than the two equatorial belts.

Spent some time looking with binocs at various objects. M33 easy to pick out again - amazing what a little knowledge will do. Pleiades beautiful. Aldebaran rising, Hyades looking pretty so low in the sky.

Took 2 pictures piggyback:

1. Cassiopeia, 12 minute exposure at F/2.8

2. Scutum/Sag, 15 minute exposure at F/2.8 (well after midnight, Sag had drifted quite low in the SW).
August 10, 1999 YRS 8:30pm to 3am Skies appeared extremely clear as the sun went down and it turned into a night of exceptional clarity and excellent seeing.

Just as twilight ended, I acquired the Saturn Nebula in Aquarius (NGC7009). Small but clearly not a star, possible slight bluish tint. Bright enough to see even in skies that are not completely dark yet. I intended to return to this object later in the night but never made it back.

M72 Aquarius - faint and small globular, unable to resolve into stars. Just a circular smudge of light.

NGC4631 Canes Venatici - on my Arp Galaxy list. clear cigar shape, bright and big. 4656 is supposed to be close by but can't find it. Unable to resolve any detail out of 4631.

M51 and M101 - looked at both of these objects to see if I could make out the spiral arms. No to both.

M106 Canes Venatici - Bright central concentration, vaguely oval in shape, can't decide if it's face-on or slightly oblique. Due to oval shape, slanted at about 45 deg in the eyepiece, I decide it must be oblique.

NGC6946 On the border of Cygnus and Cepheus - galaxy, faint smudge - face on or slightly oblique. Very extended and diffuse, quite large but faint.

NGC6229 Globular in Hercules - very small and dense but bright.

M10 Ophiuchus - bright globular, big, easily resolved into stars. M12 Ophiuchus - same as M10 M14 Ophiuchus - slightly smaller than 10 and 12 but bright. More of a diffuse glow, not as easily resolved into individual stars.

M33 Triangulum - very broad and diffuse, huge! Takes up the whole field of view with the 26mm. Saw this object with binoculars for the first time tonight!

Jupiter Observations:

Brilliant tonight. GRS visible just R of center. Moon near grazing of S.pole Dark prominence in NEB near right limb. Moved right to left (as did GRS) throughout evening.

I observed Jupiter exclusively from about 1:00 to 2:00am, waiting for the moon to vanish as it passes in front of the southern region of the planet. Very slow moving moon, can't be Io, must be an outer moon. One moon left of planet, one right, and the close one on right nearly grazing pole. The moon disappeared between 2:00 and 2:10 after appearing as a mole on the planet for nearly 30 minutes.

After getting home and checking the software, it turns out the moon was Ganymede, but more interestingly, I had just missed Io passing deep into the shadow of the planet only a few minutes before midnight.

Pictures taken tonight: piggyback, Fuji Superia ASA400

1 Triangulum F/4 10 minutes 2 Triangulum F/4 15 minutes 3 Andromeda F/4 15 minutes 4 N. Cygnus F/4 12 minutes 5 Andromeda/Triangulum F/4 14 minutes 6. Capricornus F/4 15 minutes
August 8, 1999 YRS 9pm to 2am Clear but damp night. Temps dropped to the 50s.

Saw several nice early Perseids, most of the bright ones were in SE to SW skies. I did a 20 minute timed count and only saw two, but was facing NE in my chair.

Photos: piggyback, ASA400 Fuji Superia @F/2.8

1. Andromeda 5 minute exposure 2. Cassiopea 7 minute 3. Sagittarius 10 minute 4. Lyra 11 minute 5. Andromeda 10 minute 6. SW Cygnus 11 minute 7. Scutum 12 minute 8. Perseus 8 minute 9. Pleiades 8 minutes
July 11, 1999 Indian Lake Park, 10:30 pm to 12:30 am With Mike McDowell. Mike demonstrated a guided shot at prime focus. I got a chance to see his hardware. We also spent some time looking at Sag DSOs with and without an LPR and OIII filter.

Piggyback picture taking, before being dewed out:

All images with Fuji ASA200 film, Nikkormat 35mm camera with 50mm lens @ F/2.8. Took care tonight to align the camera as closely as possible with the line of sight of the telescope. Did NOT use hat trick to allow vibrations to quiet. I'm working on the hypothesis that the star smearing in my first batch of pictures was caused by imperfect alignment, not vibrations.

1. Big Dipper, 6 minute exposure

2. Cassiopeia, 8 minute exposure

3. N. Cygnus, N. American Nebula region, 8 minute exposure

4. Sagittarius, 8.5 minute exposure

5. Scorpius, 8 minute exposure
July 7, 1999 Pine Bluff, 9:00 pm to midnight Clear and light winds. Dry. Typical Madison skyglow from Madison to the east. Slight glow to the southwest (Mt. Horeb).

2nd attempt at piggyback photography.

Image 1 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 5 minute exposure, Scorpius

Image 2 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 6 minute exposure, Scutum

Image 3 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 9 minute exposure, Cygnus

Image 4 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 10 minute exposure, Lyra

Image 5 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 12 minute exposure, Hercules

Image 6 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 15 minute exposure, Aquila

Image 7 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 15 minute exposure, Scorpius

Image 8 Piggyback, 50mm lens, F 1.4, ASA100 Kodak film 15 minute exposure, Sagittarius
July 6, 1999 YRS 9pm to 2:30am Clear, low humidity, beautiful skies.

NGC6712 in Scutum. 26mm faint glowing circular patch, could almost be a face-on galaxy. Looks only vaguely globular to me. 9mm Vixen L. looks more clearly globular now. Unable to resolve stars at the fringes or in the core. Pretty bright to show up at this mag (225x). Near the OC IC1295 (not listed separately in Voyager II). Small but nice OC.

M7 Open cluster in Scorpius. The charts show a faint globular on the edge of this object. Unable to locate it either with my C8 or the 12" Doc Greiner SCT. Incidentally, the 12" Greiner Meade is not giving very good looks tonight. Difficult to focus.

Used new camera to take several piggyback pictures. Entire roll was blank. Overexposed or flawed camera, or operator error? Try again next time.
June 17, 1999 YRS 9pm to 1:30am Lots of observing tonight due chiefly to my long-time-coming mastery of the setting circles on my C8. All I did was my usual rough polar alignment and then "set" the RA circle by pointing to Regulus, Spica, and then checking it on Vega. Close enough for Vega to be in the 26mm fov.

After that, I bounced from DSO to DSO like I've never experienced. I think I saw every globular in Ophiuchus and many of the galaxies in the Virgo cluster that have always stymied me. I even jumped to M101 and M51 with virtually no effort at all.

I have mixed feelings about using the SC tool since I've always been very intent on learning the sky like an expert amateur. Using the setting circles will allow me to see more per outing, but I already can sense that I'm not learning the constellations as well as I'd like. In the future I'll probably do a combination of both.

Viewing notes:

Venus was a beautiful waning crescent. I can't wait to watch it grow in size and become even thinner as the summer wears on.

Globulars in Ophiuchus were spectacular. Next time I'll take notes. Promise.
June 7, 1999 Pine Bluff site, 10pm to 2am local Skies clear and winds calm. A few light fluffy clouds on the S and W horizon as the sun sets.

Venus brilliant and clear, just past last quarter phase (26mm). The clarity of the planet gives me hope that the seeing will be calm and steady tonight. As twilight continues to fall, I detect the faint stars of M44 just to the upper left of Venus (7x50 binocs). In a few nights, Venus will be so close to this cluster that it'll almost superimpose itself on top.

Waiting for dark to fall completely, I sneak a peek at M13 and M57. Both easily found even though there's a bit of light left in the sky.

Dark enough now to resume the hunt for M104 (Sombraro).

With 26mm 8"SCT, I start my search tonight with the N-most star in Corvus, 3rd mag Algorab. Hop N to a few 6th to 7th mag stars until I find the binary on my chart that is just below and to the right of M104. From there, I hopped right to it. No mistake upon first seeing this object. Horizontal fuzzy band with a hint of a dust cloud embedded. The nucleus is exceptionally bright with the dustband running right below it. Outstanding view. I come back to this object several times as the night goes on to appreciate it under ever darkening skies.

While I'm in Corvus (though M104 is technically in Virgo), I swing down a bit to look for the elusive planetary nebula NGC4361. I've casually tried for this object a few times before with no luck. Tonight, I find it almost immediately - faint blobby fuzziness, roughly circular in shape. Fairly small, probably just a bit larger than M57 but fainter.

Quick look back to Leo at M65-66. Bright and beautiful as always, but I'm still having trouble finding the triplet (3628). Pan back to the three stars just west of 65-66 and was able to faintly make out 3593. Nice.

Before Leo gets too low, I go to the sickle and try to ID the asteroid Vesta. My finder chart puts it below a line drawn between Eta and Epsilon in a field of scattered 7th and 8th mag stars. Vesta itself is about mag 7. I was able to ID most of the stars in the field (7x50 binocs) but unable to positively ID the asteroid. Ideally need to sketch the field and do another observation in a few nights. Not tonight, no sketch made.

Around 11:30 now. Scorpius is getting up above my treeline, so I home in on M4, nice bright globular. M80 is a bit more challenging to find, but once there, its small compact but very bright nucleus is wonderful.

As it is fully dark now, the milky way is just beginning to show itself. I pan over to the Scutum cloud and quickly find M11 for my first look at the Wild Duck this year. Simply beautiful cluster with a single bright orange star in the middle. While I'm looking for bright familiar stuff, I quickly scan over to M27. The Dumbbell is easily visible in the finder. 26mm shows an extremely bright, large circular blob with slightly dimmer areas on opposite sides giving the vague suggestion of a lobed shape. With some effort, the hourglass shape is just visible.

M71 in Sagitta is too dim to verify fully. Could it be an OC instead? Unable to resolve individual stars. Looks almost like a dense open cluster. Nothing else in the area according to Tirion so it must be M71.

Sagittarius is beautiful and compelling. Too much to resist. Starting with binocs, I scan the Lagoon and Trifid. Both bright and obvious in binocs. This entire area of the sky is too much for words.

In the scope, the 26mm with OIII filter brings out two distinct lobes in the Lagoon (M8) with a clear dark lane in between. Upper lobe brighter and more extended with tendrils running off to the right.

Trifid (M20) is much fainter, just patchy-milky lightness with the OIII filter.

The open cluster M23 is large. More than fills the 26mm fov. Sparse, lots of bright stars evenly scattered in the interior.

Closer inspection of this area around Mu Sagittarii is too tempting to resist. It's fully dark now and the milky way has become brilliant. More so than I remember for the Pine Bluff site, or is it just an exceptionally clear night?

East of Mu Sag is a vertical line of three bright patches in the binocs. Just as good in the finder. Main scope with 26mm shows, top to bottom:

M16 - cluster with faint nebulosity. OIII just brings out hints of milky lightness surrounding the cluster. No definition of this wonderful nebula emerges.

M17 - Very bright nebulosity, vaguely check-shaped. Darker portion near NW side.

M25 - no nebulosity visible, even with OIII. Stars still bright with filter but no milkiness detected.

The bright starry patch between M16,17,25 and Lagoon/Trifid is brilliant with the binocs. Contains the cluster M24 but I didn't inspect it closely with the scope tonight.

Finally after 1:00 am. Capricornus is just emerging above the trees to the SE. With the binocs, I can clearly make out the field where Neptune is resting tonight. An upside down triangle of stars - top two 7th and bottom 8th. Neptune should be right above the E top star. There is an object there that corresponds. Must be Neptune, right?

Uranus, though brighter, was tougher to make because of the trees. Cap just not high enough yet, but I'm beat and have to pack up to go home. Nearly 1:20 am now.

I pack up the equipment and sit in my lawn chair for a few more minutes to appreciate the beauty of the milky way tonight.

A night to remember.
May 21, 1999 1 Sturbridge Cir. 7x50 binoculars on back deck Pretty overcast and rainy all day, seemed like there was no chance to observe the lunar occultation of Regulus tonight. At about 10:15 pm as I got ready to head for bed, I peeked out the back doors and was surprised to see a hazy moon and Venus over the western horizon. I grabbed the binocs and went outside. Regulus was clearly visible through the glasses off the eastern limb of the moon. Bingo.

Closer to the zenith, the sky was much clearer so I figured things could even improve a bit by 11:00. I went upstairs and in the next half hour managed to finish Cernan's "Last man on the moon." Came back down at about 10:50 and set the tripod up on the deck. Regulus was now easily visible to the naked eye hugging the darkened limb of the moon.

Through the binocs I thought I could just barely make the darkened edge of the moon. I had predicted the actual occultation to be a few minutes past 11:00 so by 10:55 or so, I had my eyes pretty much glued to the eyepieces. By 11:00, the star looked really close and I wondered if I might have been late on my prediction. A few more minutes went by and darned if it doesn't look like the star is absolutely riding the edge of the moon. I now wished I had set up the scope - the better to make out the reflected earthlight off the dark moon limb.

Eyes held open now, hands steadying the tripod, willing myself not to blink. Regulus is there... there... there... hanging on to the edge. Can't see the 7th mag companion at all, darn it for not setting up the scope. Star's still there... there... there... GONE! Quietly, without any fuss, it just winked out. Beautiful. Quick check of the watch, 11:06:24. A little later than I thought.

Conditions at disappearance, slight haze, enough to be very noticeable with naked eye, but lunar surface details easily visible. Regulus was a clear point object with slight fuzzy halo.

After getting downstairs to the computer, I refined my home location position in Starry Night to my correct lat/long (using Mapblast.com, 43 4.90N, -89 30.84) to exact values and Starry Night gave the predicted occultation time to 11:06:30 seconds - within 6 seconds of the actual time! My respect for Starry Night's accuracy continues to grow.

Reappearance scheduled for 12:10:10 am May 22. Let's see how close I can nail it.

Checked at midnight, the western sky is completely clouded over. No chance to view reappearance.
May 14, 1999 Pine Bluff site Arrived 10:30pm after late-ending MAS meeting. Intended just to set up the binocs and do some casual observing, but the seeing seemed so good I went ahead and set up the 8"SCT.

M65 and M66 in Leo were found quickly and appeared bright and distinct. I was able to make NGC3628 was faint to resolvable. (26mm ep, 40mm ep)

After this I spent about 15 minutes trying to starhop from Spica to M104 (Sombraro) but was unsuccessful. More patience next time and I'm sure I'll nail this object. I can make a clear path to the region with easily recognizable pairs of stars, but need a more detailed custom chart of the region.

Since Lyra and Hercules were so well up, I couldn't resist a quick look at M13 and M57.

M13 was strikingly bright. This was my first view of the year of this object under moonless conditions, and as always, it took my breath away. Individual stars were easily resolved around the halo and near the core of the cluster. Under higher mags (15mm ep) was striking. Simply a stunning object!

Quickly swung around to M92. If it wasn't for the immediate presence of M13, this would easily be known as one of the best globulars of the spring sky. Not as big or as bright as M13, but still magnificent.

Now on to Lyra. As a quick test of the seeing, I took a look at Epsilon Lyrae. Even with the 26mm ep I was able to just resolve the small doubles. Atmosphere was exceptionally steady.

M57 popped out bright and clear at first look. With the 26mm I was able to make the central hole with averted vision. With the 15mm I still needed averted vision to clearly make the hole, but was unable to see either the central star of the embedded 14th mag star in the disk. I've seen the disk star with the 17 inch dob, but never with my 8".

Back to try M104 again, I noticed the sky was beginning to cloud over. It was nearly midnight now so I waited a few minutes to confirm the thickening clouds and decided to call it a night.
May 1, 1999 YRS Arrived 8:45pm, nobody there. Couldn't remember combination for 17" dob. Pulled the 6 inch GEM Newt out of the clubhouse, but couldn't figure out how to polar align. Martin arrived and we puzzled over it for awhile then put it away and dragged the 13" coulter dob out.

Obs. Mars w/15mm, 15mm + Barlow, and 5mm ep., starting at about 10:00 local time, CDT.

Images very bright and clear, the extra aperture definitely makes a difference in the brightness of the images, and allows for better use of the filters. We observed the polar ice cap again, on the right limb at about 3:00 position.

Snuck a few looks at M13 and M57 as they cleared the trees on the NE horizon. M13 was full and nice even with the terrible moon glow illuminating the whole SE sky. M57 was dim but resolved into its clear cheerio shape.

Moon filter on with 15mm eyepiece. We zeroed in on the lit limb to find those mountains in profile again. Approx 70 deg N and 20h W, W of what I think is the crater Herschel. They were clearly visible again, even with just the 15mm ep. With 7.5mm they stood out in clear relief with what appeared to be a plateau nearby. What we're likely seeing is the contour of the lunar highlands which make up the bulk of the farside.

Wrapped up and left around 11:30pm.
April 30, 1999 Pine Bluff CDT 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm w/ Martin Nelson

Obs. Mars, 8"SCT. Skies clear, moon just hours past full, seeing good and improved as it got closer to 11 pm.

We were taking turns at the eye piece, each observing for about 10 minutes before switching places. While the other was observing, we messed around with the 7x50 binos on tripod or the 3" SCT.

15mm Plossl (135x mag), Brilliant disk with a hint of contrasty mottling near 2 o'clock on edge of limb. difficult to pin down with confidence but we both agreed that there was some definite surface characteristic apparent. Albedo of disk was near uniform but I could detect some slight darkening in the interior of the disk. Both Martin and I agreed on the 2:00 anomaly, but he didn't see the interior disk darkening.

Added the Barlow for effective 7.5mm ep (approx 270x mag). Limb mottling at 2:00 was still clear and additional detail could be seen. I detected clear contrast in surface brightness on the limb at 2:00 and the effect was faintly suggestive of 3 dimensionality. Martin thought I was nuts about the 3D effect but definitely agreed that the impression was of the polar ice cap. My estimation of the inclination of the disk would put Mars' northern pole tilted to the left, so our seeing the surface feature at 2:00 position on the disk is consistent with the up-is-up/left-is-right orientation of the SCT w/ star diagonal orientation.

To check our observations, and make sure we weren't reinforcing each others' imaginations, we rotated the star diagonal about 1/5 of a turn to the right and reobserved without saying anything about the change in image. After we both thoroughly reobserved the planet and decided that the feature was still visible, we compared notes and agreed that the rotation had shifted the feature to about 3:00 position.

Now satisfied that we were really seeing a clear surface detail, we shifted targets to the moon to test our diagonal rotation method to make sure the image shifted the same way. Still at 270x, I sighted on the moon's fully lit limb, at approximately the 5:00 position. Rotating the diagonal clearly caused the moon's image to "rotate" in a clockwise direction, confirming our observations of the feature shift on Mars.

Studying the moon's limb more closely at 270x, I was surprised to see a clear surface irregularity right on the edge of the moon at 5:00, apparently two mountain peaks visible in profile on the limb. Without telling him what I thought I was seeing, I asked Martin to have another look at that position, and he confirmed my observation exactly, two peaks side by side, one a little taller than the other. Neither of us had ever heard of seeing such peaks in profile before, so we were quite happy to have "discovered" mountains on the moon, and wondered to whom such discoveries should be reported.

We continued observing Mars for about another 45 minutes, changing filters on and off, and patiently waiting for those moments of excellent seeing.

Feb 23, 1999 1 Sturbridge, backyard The local forecast for Madison WI was very dim all week - even up until the morning forecast which predicted mostly cloudy and snow flurries for the day. I had been anticipating this excellent grouping of Jupiter and Venus for several months - I hoped clouds wouldn't spoil it.

Driving home tonight, the sky was partly cloudy and the sun was shining. I started to get a little optimistic. I had prepared myself for clouds, so _any_ viewing would be a reward.

By 5:00 pm local (23:00 UT) the skies west of Madison were mostly clear, so I started setting up the scope.

I spotted Venus with my binocular by about 5:25 and could just see Jupiter peeking out of the blue. 5:45 (23:45UT) I had both in my low power fov (40mm plossl, f/10 8"SCT). Soon, Jupiter's moons became evident. Callisto and Europa were almost vertically aligned west of the planet, and Io was nearing eclipse, also west. Lone Ganymede was off to the east. Two cloud bands were clearly visible on the planet but the atmosphere was boiling quite a bit and no further detail was possible. By this time, the clouds were almost completely gone and the night looked perfect!

Venus was brilliant with no discernible phase (didn't bother with any filters). I bumped the power up to 135x (15mm) and was still able to get both planets in the same fov easily. What a sight!

I stayed out (local temps about -4C thanks to the clear skies) until nearly 0100UT, just about the time Io passed behind Jupiter. I made a few sketches, but mostly just enjoyed the show, being joined by my daughter and two other local neighborhood kids. They had a few good looks and then played tag.

Quite a memorable night!