From my recent diary

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Saturday, December 12

At noon the forecast said clear sky continued until the daybreak on Sunday. At dusk the prediction for predawn changed from clear sky to cloudy and rainy weather. I thought the forecast was reliable and decided to go comet hunting at dusk.

I arrived at the site at 8p.m., two hours after the end of the twilight. After enjoying observation of C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS, M33, M42 and Uranus, I started the comet hunting session with NGC1201, a galaxy in the constellation of Fornax. The galaxy was almost the culmination but I dared to sweep the direction.

I have rarely searched in Fornax. In July the constellation rose the southeastern sky at predawn and if the weather permits I search there but July is the rainy season that makes it difficult to sweep the area. I knew that there are lots of galaxies in the constellation but I strongly realized how many galaxies are there to sweet the area. Every time I slightly moved the comet seeker, some galaxies came into the FOV and I have to identify them using SkySafari Pro 4 on the iPad mini 2. It is much easier to confirm them using those gadgets than printed map. In my impression the density of galaxies per area seemed as high as that in Coma Berenices-Virgo area. Actually, on Wednesday I searched the southeastern area of Virgo and identified 38 DSOs per one hour and forty five minutes. However, today I identified 45 DSOs per one hour.

A galaxy group near NGC1399. A circle represents the FOV of 1˚.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

The most impressive object was a galaxy group of NGC1399. I observed 7 galaxies in the same FOV. The darkest one I identified was PGC12194 with a magnitude of 13.7. On Wednesday I detected darker galaxies, NGC4504 and 4784, both are magnitude of 14.0. It is fun to encounter a lot of galaxies but too many of them are tedious; I must spend much time to write them down. I may not feel so, if I stop making a note of DSOs that I identified. At present I continue to making note of DSOs.

Wednesday, December 2

The sky was clear in the same way as the day before yesterday. Snow at the site disappeared but air temperature was the same: -2 ˚C. I began the session with Arcturus, alpha Bootis. The only DSO I identified was M3. As if the resolved stars had been sparkling in the moonlight. At 4:38a.m. seeing got poor suddenly, and I could not help reducing magnification from 97x to 78x. The star image became pinpoint with 78x, the combination of Paracorr and Planocular 30mm.
During the observation I took a break and I aimed my comet-seeker at C/2013 US10. The tails looked longer than those of the day before yesterday thanks to older moon.

Though no DSO was detected except for M3, I was impressed by a blaze of silver white star, Alphecca, alpha Corona Borealis. At home I looked into the spectrum type of the star, and it turned out to be A0. Rightly, my impression agreed with the physical property of the star.

Thursday, November 30

I presumed that there was no snow at the usual observing site where 950 m a.s.l. and headed for the site. As I went up the road, snow appeared on the vegetation. At the site the snow depth was only 2 cm, but no snow on the road. Air temperature was -2 ˚C. The real winter was there and it took 40 minutes to complete setting my telescope up and start the session; I forgot the way I do in winter.

In spite of bright moon with 18 days old, I could see the Milky Way in the constellation of Auriga. I enjoyed the most substantial hunting session in this November. First of all, I trained my comet-seeker at M65. M66 was in the same FOV, but I could not see NGC3628 due to moonlight. I started sweeping the sky from M65.

I identified 17 galaxies including M65 and M66, but all of them except two were 10th magnitude or brighter: two exceptions were NGC4621 (magnitude of 11.5) and 4638 (11.1). If it were not for the moonlight, I could have detected 10 times as many galaxies as the session in the northwestern part of Virgo where I searched.

During the session I encountered C/2013 US10 Catalina by chance. The comet was just rose from the horizon with an altitude of 7˚ at 4:47a.m. local time. If I swept the positon three minutes earlier, the comet was hidden by trees and did not come into the FOV. Making a discovery of a new comet cannot be achieved only by onefs effort, but one has to be blessed with a good luck. That was the case for the discovery of P/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami; the altitude at the time of discovery was 7.5˚ above the horizon.
C/2013 US10 was 6th magnitude with two tails. Both tails were faint and short (< 3f) due to moonlight. The apparent diameter of the coma was some 2f with DC of 7.

Sunday, November 8

I had three comet hunting sessions this month. Two of them were under the moonlight at predawn, and the other was under the light pollution at dusk. All were not satisfactorily and I do not write on them. Instead, I will explain the gmultifunctional stepladderh that I began to use last week.

During the session I used to place a clipboard with a pencil and iPad mini 2 on the third seat in my car and I kept open the hatchback. Every time a DSO came into the FOV, I moved to my car on foot and spent several seconds to see the screen of iPad mini 2. I took a note of DSOs that I identified and got back to my comet-seeker to continue the hunting. Sometimes I felt this process comfortable as it was a light exercise that refreshed me, but at other times irksome since too many galaxies should be identified.

To avoid the latter problem, I equipped iPad mini 2, the clipboard, the mechanical pencil and the LED lamp on the stepladder that I usually use. Every session I attach and detach all those gadgets with ease.

Left: iPad mini 2 is placed on the stepladder using an attachment with flexible arm (not detached every session). LED lamp is fixed using Velcro and rubber string. Note that the clipboard is not vertical but inclined to avoid dew or frost condensation on the paper (not seen).
Right: Close-up of iPad mini 2. Red plastic cover is flipped.

Saturday, October 24

This is the 6th comet hunting session since Thursday, October 8, i.e. 9th session this month. Transparency was less than the average, and I could not recognize the Gegenschein. Actually, at the new observing site that I began to utilize since this September Gegenschein is easy to see as far as the sky condition is normal or better.

I was about to start the session from the constellation of Leo. At the lower left Venus (V), Jupiter (J) and Mars (M) rose. 2015 October 23.761 UT. 30sec, ISO 1600. Canon EOS 20Da, EF15mm F2.8 (F2.8). The photo was trimmed.

At 3:20a.m. JST I started the session from Regulus, alpha Leonis. Soon after the start, Venus went through the FOV. The first DSO I identified was NGC2903 but the galaxy was much dimmer than usual because of poor transparency. The second was M96 with M95, and the third was M105 with the companion NGC3384 but I could not notice NGC3389 (magnitude of 11.8) that could have been seen with M105 and NGC3384. The altitude of those galaxies were over 20˚, and they could have been identified with ease.

Though the sky condition was poor and I did not notice many galaxies that are usually observable, I swept the sky comfortably. At 4:05a.m. when M65 came into the FOV, I turned my comet-seeker at a different direction on purpose.

I tried to seek Kreutz Sungrazers. I made a map for this objective and based on that I swept the range of RD -15˚ to -25˚ vertically by checking the RD on the display of Nexus DSC. I began with RA of 7h30m and moved my telescope eastward. When I reached RA of about 9h30m, suddenly, thin could began to spread the area. I returned to M65 and continued hunting, but in five minutes cloud covered the entire sky for an altitude of less than 40˚.

Filament structure in M1.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

I decided to stop searching and to enjoy star watching. I aimed my comet-seeker at M35, M37, h-ƒÔ and M1. What made me surprise was M1. I have ever tried to see the filament structure of M1 with my 46 cm comet-seeker, but I have never. This time I could the filament structure at a glance with x97! I changed eyepiece from Ethos 21 mm x97 to Ethos 13 mm x157. The structure was seen by direct vision. Exactly, it looked like a live crab, because many fragments of filament structure around the nebula, i.e. legs of the crab, moved like a living creature due to scintillation. The feature was completely different from that I have ever seen at other sites: both the shape gas if two plates along a tectonic fault had suddenly slippedh (Deep-Sky Companions: The Messier Objects, OfMera, S. J. 1998) and the uniform brightness in the nebula were not recognized. Instead, both the contour and the internal structures with filament were the same with the photo! I think this difference in appearance of M1 is attributed to the difference of sky condition among the sites. I suppose the background at the present site is much darker. This must also be effective for spotting a darker comet.

Tuesday, October 6 to Thursday, October 8

Disappointing three consecutive days at predawn

I arrived at the site at 2:17a.m. local time after 30 minutesf drive. I was still not accustomed to setting up my comet-seeker stored in my new car, and it took 40 minutes till I stated sweeping the sky. In spite of the moonlight, the sky was very clear and I expected a comfortable hunting session. However, disappointingly, the FOV got cloudy in 10 minutes. I looked over the sky and found that the entire sky was covered with clouds.
I waited for 45 minutes but there was no prospect of clear sky. I gave up waiting and decided to withdraw.

When I got up I hesitated to go comet hunting as clouds covered most part of the sky. In 30 minutes I looked at the sky again, and I decided to leave home for the observing site since the amount of clouds reduced to 30 % of the sky.
At the site, regardless of the moonlight the sky was fine like that of the previous day. Unbelievably, when I completed setting up my telescope the sky has become overcast. After 20 minutes there appeared small gaps among the clouds, and I trained my comet-seeker there to sweep. Nonetheless, the motion of clouds was very high and stars in the FOV disappeared in a few minutes. I had to aim my telescope at another gap. I repeated such a process many times, and could comet hunt for 55 minutes in total. I identified NGC2950 and 2768 but it was not satisfactorily and not a calm session.

The forecast predicted cloudy sky at predawn, and I decided not to go the usual site where it takes 30 minutes by car. I did not set an alarm clock, but my body sensor wake me up at 3:20a.m. one hour before the beginning of the twilight; the sky got clear suddenly that made air temperature low, and my body sensor responded the change. I looked out the window in the east and Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter in the constellation of Leo was impressive! I left home at 3:29a.m.

I set up my comet-seeker at the site near my house. Soon after that, the amount of clouds increased rapidly, and I could comet hunt only 5 minutes.

As a result, I could comet hunt only one hour and ten minutes for three days at predawn.

Friday, October 2 to Sunday, October 4

The 1st Conference of New Heavenly Body Seekers (Stella Nova)

I attended gThe 1st Conference of New Heavenly Body Seekers (Stella Nova)h held at Nayoro Observatory, northern Japan. Many attendees were professional astronomers who specialize in nova and super nova, but some were amateurs who were nova or super nova seekers, researchers and discoverers. Comet seekers and cometary scientists were minor group, but I enjoyed hearing presentations and having pleasant talk with attendees.

Many professional astronomers wrote papers observing novae or super novae that were discovered by amateurs, or using data obtained by amateurs. One of the most prominent amateur contributors is Koichi Itagaki, who discovered over 100 super novae. The conference implied the celebration of Itagakifs great achievement.

During the conference there were 6 sessions with 18 presentations in total. One of the sessions, gSpecial Sessionh that I thought was the highlight session, consisted of three presentations and each of the stories focused on a nova or a super nova discovered by Itagaki that had been published in Nature!

From right to left: Koichi Itagaki, me (Shigeki Murakami), and Takeshi Miyaji (Chief of Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory) at the party. All of us wore T-shirts on which the codes of 100 super novae Itagaki discovered.
Photo by Yasuo Sano, Chief of Nayoro Observatory.

I myself gave a presentation entitled gA visual discovery of comets is still possible:
See stars by hearth. I will upload the movie with English subtitles near future. Please look forward to it.

Wednesday, September 23

I had no hesitation to go comet hunting when I got up at predawn, even though some 70% of the sky was covered with cloud as we have few clear sky here in my town. At the site the amount of cloud seemed to be unchanged, but thin cloud spread at a low altitude that made it impossible to search the low part of the sky. I began with Rigel, but in 20 minutes the entire sky except for near the zenith was covered the cloud.

Venus looked like a hazy moon through cloud, and bright stars in Orion blurred picturesquely. I lay down on the road and looked at the Milky Way near the zenith for a while. I knew P/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami that passes the perihelion in coming March was in Gemini and someone has already tried to detect it, but could not. The idea came across my mind that I tried detecting P/2010 V1 using my comet-seeker. Luckily, the position of the comet was clear. I aimed my 46 cm-telescope at the position that SkySafari indicated with 97x. Then, I increased the magnification to 291x and peered at the positon, but there was nothing there.

P/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami
Sketch was drawn a few days after the discovery by me remembering the image at the time of discovery. FOV=1.1˚

This comet made an outburst to be discovered. I wonder if it may be missed like 205P Gacobini for many years that I observed yesterday or detected with another outburst like that of 5 years ago.

The amount of cloud augmented with time. I cared about the comet and started taking down my comet-seeker 35 before the start of the twilight.

Tuesday, September 22

I arrived at the observing site at 1:41a.m. local time, 2 hours and 24 minutes before the start of the twilight. It was much earlier than usual and this was because I wanted to enjoy observing some comets and DSOs.

The first comet I observed was 205P Gacobini that had been lost for over 110 years since the discovery by the French astronomer, Michel Giacobini (Nice Observatory) in Serpens on 1896 September 4. Re-discovery was made 2008 by two Japanese amateurs, Koich Itagaki (Yamagara) and Hiroshi Kaneda (Sapporo). This year the comet returned for the first time since their re-discovery. Though the perihelion passage was May 2015 (17th magnitude) and the comet was getting fade with time, the outburst was observed at the end of this month that made it possible for me to observe with my comet-seeker.
The comet was not visible with a magnification of 97 as I expected but I recognized it with a magnification of 291. It was faint with a magnitude of 14 to 15. In 2008 I could not observe it due to bad weather, and I observed the comet for the first time this predawn thanks to the outburst.

The second comet I observed was C/2013 X1 PANSTRRS that was much easier to see than 205P with a magnitude of 13. I observed this comet with 97x and I felt that I would never overlook the image when I encounter this object during the comet hunting session. Then, I tried changing the magnification to confirm the effect of magnification on the visibility of the comet. With 78x the comet was somewhat difficult to spot and I might overlook the comet during the session. With 68x it was difficult to notice the comet and I would pass over it. The reason why I use 97x (FOV=1.0˚) instead of 78x (1.1˚) or 68x (1.3˚) is to spot a darker comet, though it reduces the area I can sweep within a limited period of time as a result.

As I was the site with 950 m above sea level, the sky condition was good and I wanted to observe the spiral arm of M81. It was easily visible with 97x, and it turns around the core of this galaxy softly!

After 30 minutes of wonderful observing, I began to sweep the sky from Procyon, alpha Canis Minor. There are few galaxies and other comet like objects in the area I searched, but stars in the FOV was shining with pinpoint image under fairly good seeing and I came across some splendid open clusters. A galaxy in Gemini, NGC2418 was the first comet like object I identified, and the second one was NGC2392, Eskimo Nebula in Gemini. I used to overlook Eskimo Nebula because of its small apparent diameter with intense brightness; the nebula looked like a star. However, this time I noticed it due to higher magnification of 97x. I started to use 97x since last December. I wanted to observe this nebula with higher magnification and changed the eyepiece to Pentax XW 7 mm with 291x. With an aid of good seeing I could see the face of Eskimo!

When an open cluster NGC2420 in Gemini came into the FOV at 2:50a.m. local time, I stopped sweeping the sky to observe two comets. One was C/2014 S2 PANSTRRAS that also made an outburst this month. The comet was 10th magnitude and had a beautiful fan like tail. Wonderful!

Another comet I tried was 141P Machholz whose altitude was 21˚ above the horizon. I could manage to spot the comet with 97x but it was faint and difficult.

After observing the comets I continued searching and Venus came across the FOV. It was too bright to keep staying the FOV. Even with a naked eye, it was brilliant pure-whitely with intense ray, a goddess worthy of the name; I doubted if shadow might be formed by the glow of Venus. In five minutes, I trained my comet-seeker to the southeast to search the Sungrazer comet for 10 minutes.

The eastern sky at 4:35a.m. Sep. 22, 2015 JST when I completed the session.
Drawn by Stellarium

When I finished searching, the constellation of Leo rose on the east with Jupiter, the king of planets, and Mars which made this constellation dignified.

Saturday, September 12

Clear sky! I comet hunted for the first time since July 27. The observing site today was the farmland with an altitude of 950 m above sea level. Air temperature was 12 ˚C and I used chemical heater to warm my toes. Taurus was on the eastern horizon when I comet hunted last in July, but I saw the constellation of Orion at predawn for the first time since then. Time has passed.

I am not very familiar to unloading my comet-seeker from my new car, and I forgot how to do it. It took extra 5 minutes to set up my comet-seeker this time.

Before I began the session, I tried observing Horsehead nebula and I could recognized it without a filter. Then, I started the session with Betelgeus, beta Orionis. There are a lot of open clusters in the area I swept mainly in Monoceros. However, the only comet like object I identified was Hubblefs Variable Nebula. It looked like a comet with a fan shaped tail.

During the session, I took a break to enjoy observing some Messier objects and comets. M42 and M43 were wonderful as usual, but the highlight was M33, a spiral galaxy in Triangulum. The spiral looked dense and clear thanks to high altitude site, but the spiral part I have ever seen was much faint. NGC604, a HII region in M33, was shining in the FOV and many other HII regions were conspicuous. It must have been enjoyable if I would have changed eyepiece, but I gave up to do so as I wanted to save time and to observe comets.

The first comet I tried to observe was 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where Philae succeeded in landing. I aimed my comet-seeker to the comet using SkySafari on iPad mini2. It was easy to see with my 46 cm comet-seeker, but I could not spot NGC2577, a galaxy with the magnitude of 12.5. The angular distance between the comet and the galaxy was 16f. I guessed the magnitude of 67P was 11th.

The other comet I planned to see was 141P Machholz. The angular distance of 67P and 141P was 4.5 degrees. I trained my comet-seeker at 141P with SkySafari 4 Pro, but I could not identify the comet partly because of wrong positon of the comet shown on the display. The left screen shot (below) is the position of 141P by Guide 9, while the right panel is that of SkySafari. There are 141P, i.e. 141P 2-A and 141P 2-H on the Guide 9, but only 141P-A is indicated on SkySafari. The important thing is that the positon of 141P-A is different between Guide 9 and SkySafari. I found at home that 141P-A on SkySafari was not 141P-A but 141P-H. I used SkySafari to aim my comet-seeker at 141P-A that meant I tried to observe 141P-H!

A comparison between Guide 9 and SkySafari 4 Pro. SkySafari showed the wrong positon of 141P. On SkySafari no comet was shown at the actual position of 141P (arrow).

I have confirmed that the positons on Guide 9 are correct and those of SkySfari are wrong. At the correct position there is no comet on SkySafari as shown by an arrow. Even so, 141P-A and 141P-H were in the same FOV that means 141P was too dark and/or defused to notice. At any rate, I could not observe 141P.

During the session, I noticed ISS flew toward the east and Venus, Mars and thin moon rose. It was a satisfying session.

Sunday, September 6

I have conducted no comet-hunting session at all since July 27 due to unfavorable weather. Air temperature has been low since the middle of August and we have nothing but cloudy and rainy days.

A good news is that I got a persmission to use a new observing site with an altitude of some 1000 m above sea level. The site is in a farmland and owners permitted me observing there at night. I used to have observed at similar sites, but one of the sites, a pasture, was banned to enter because of prevention for foot-and-mouth-desise. I have mainly visited there in autumn, since night time is long; in winter the site is unaccessable due to heavy snow. I used to have arrived the site at dusk and comet hunted before I got a sleep in my car. Then, I got up at wee hours and had a predawn comet-hunting session.

During my sleep, I put the telescope cover on my comet-seeker to keep out dew or frost condensation. The cover that was tailor-made at a local tent manufacturer was wrorn out and I bought a new one from Astrosystems, Colorado, USA.

Old telescope cover (tailor made)

Telescope cover made by Astrosystems.

Telescope cover I bought.
1) cover for secondary mirror, 2) draw cord, 3) storage bag, 4) telescope coer.

Logo on the cover.

I believe there are a lot of fine days this autamn and am looking forward to observing at the new site with the brand new telescope cover.

Sunday, August 9

It has been very hot since the middle of July with maximum temperatures of 30 to 36˚C. There were some fine days but the sky condition has been poor and I gave up comet hunting. For instance, I got up at predawn yesterday, but the sky looked white as humid and duty air defused moonlight.

A good news is that I finally identified the source of the glight pillarh that I wrote in the dairy on May 30. In June I drove around Ishiuchi area in Minamiuonuma-City (the area gAh in the figure below) but strangely, I could not specify the source (at first I suspected the sport facility but it was innocent). Last week I suspected the service area of the highway in the area A, Shiozawa-Ishiuchi, and I went to there; however no light source was found. Then, I went up to a ski field by car that is indicated as the point gBh in the figure, Ishiuchi-Maruyaka, and looked down the area A. Surprisingly, there existed no light source again. At the point B I looked at the west where my observing area is, but the sky was dark. The only possibility is that the source existed between the point B and the observing area. At the next moment, a suspect came across my mind.

Area map of my observing sites and information on the light source.
A: potential light source area, B: a ski field where I went up to find the source, and C: actual place where the light source existed.

A road that connects the area A and the area of my observing sites, Route 353, was closed for a while because of a landslide. The landslide was a large scale and it takes long time to complete the recovery construction. The construction site must be lit up for safety. I decided to drive through the Rote 353.

The site of the landside.
Original photo

The construction site with a lamp. There were many lamps there.
The image is taken from the drive recorder installed on my car.

There it was! The source of the light pillar was the construction site in the mountain area. That explained I could not specify it easily. Unfortunately, I cannot claim to turn off the light as it is set up for safety. But it is sure that it disappears when the road became completely safe after the construction. I have to be patient.

Monday, July 27

I conducted the Julyfs fifth comet hunting session this predawn. I was getting used to unload my comet-seeker from my new car. It took 15 minutes until I completed the collimation of the optics after I arrived at the site. Usually, additional 10 minutes is required before the start of the session to set up the digital setting circles, pick up an eyepiece and wearing the hooded observing vest. The vest is sometimes too hot in summer, but it is a must under the moonlight or to avoid streetlamps nearby. I noticed the lightweight (summer) version of the vest has been released, and I want to buy it.

Prior to the session I observed Uranus with a magnification of 255. I expected to observe three 14th magnitude satellites, but actually I could two of them: Titania and Oberon. It was difficult to observe another satellite, Ariel, since angular distance from Uranus was only 13h in addition to poor transparency. I thought I could see it with higher magnification, but I gave up to change the eyepiece as I did not want to spend more time to observe Uranus and the satellites.

Uranus and three 14th magnitude satellites. Screen shot from the SkySafari 4 Pro.
Zenith down.

I started the session from Uranus with a magnification of 97 (Ethos 21 mm), but in 15 minutes cloud spread the eastern sky. I aimed my comet-seeker at the south. In 15 minutes the eastern sky got clear and I searched the east, i.e. some 5 degrees north of Uranus, again. The first DSO that I came across was NGC718, a galaxy in Pisces with a magnitude of 11.7. The next one was NGC936 but I noticed there is a companion, NGC941, on the display when I confirmed NGC936 using SkySafari 4 Pro. I could manage to see NGC941 (magnitude of 12.2) but this galaxy was limit of my telescope under the poor sky condition like today; I could never notice it during sweeping the sky.

NGC936 and 941. There are also some darker galaxies around them. Screen shot from SkySafari 4 Pro.
Zenith down.

NGC1032 (left, magnitude of 11.8) and 1073 (ritght, 10.8). NGC1032 is easier to observe.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

Todayfs highlight was a galaxy group including M77: NGC 1032, 1055, M77, 1087, 1073. The most difficult galaxy to see among them was NGC1073 whose magnitude is 10.8. The darker galaxy, NGC1032 was much easier, because the surface brightness of NGC1032 is 13.1 while that of NGC1073 is 14.0. I must have overlooked many galaxies due to bad sky condition, and I wish I could search the area under the superb sky.

Sunday, July 12

At the observing site, I have experienced the difference in the moonlight between today and yesterday, in one day; the brightness was significant for comet hunting. Today, the earthlight in the moon was obvious, though it was not seen yesterday. Thanks to the darker moon the Milky Way was more impressive than that in yesterday.

I began the session with Deneb Kaitos, beta Ceti. The first object I noticed was a dark galaxy, NGC7832, with the magnitude of 13. Under the moonlight this galaxy was the limit of detection, and in my impression a chance of noticing the object was 20%, i.e. I would identify NGC7832 one out of five searching sessions. Then, I noticed two galaxies, NGC210 and 157. A planetary nebula, NGC246, looked like an asterism at a glance, but at the next moment I noticed a mottled nebula surrounding the stars. When I confirmed NGC246 using SkySarfari 4 Pro, the display showed a nearby galaxy: NGC255. I peered into the FOV consciously and recognized NGC255 easily in the same FOV, but it was too faint to notice during sweeping the sky. NGC255 must be an easy target at a dark night.

NGC246 (lower right) and NGC255 (upper left). The field is 30f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

The surface brightness (SB) of NGC337 was bright enough to notice under the moonlight, but the nearby galaxy with the same main number, NGC377A, was very difficult due to dark SB. The angular distance of the two galaxies is 26f. I also noticed the existence of NGC337A looking at the display, SkySafari.

NGC337 (right) and NGC337A (left). The field is 40f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

A pair of galaxies, NGC584 and 596, were also seen in the same FOV with an angular distance of 25f, but NGC600, a 12th magnitude galaxy, in the same FOV was invisible due to twilight.

I anticipate the dark night when I can identify much more galaxies in the area.

Saturday, July 11

In my impression it seems that the rainy season has finished yesterday, though there was no official announcement on it by the authority. Thanks to the clear sky, I could comet hunt for the first time in a month since June 11 (I spent only 15 minutes for searching on the day), but substantially, for the first time in 6 weeks since May 30.

I got up at 0:50a.m. and headed for one of the observing sites, and finished setting up my comet-seeker at 1:50a.m. This was the first session after recoating of mirrors and loading them on the new vehicle. I felt everything was new and it took longer time to set up the telescope because I was not familiar with the new way of unloading the comet-seeker. I will illustrate the arrangement of the telescope on the car on the 18-inch telescopefs page soon.

Comet-seeker loaded on the new car. Note that the primary mirror (lower left) was placed on the floor with white plastic cover in the plastic bag.

When I arrived at the site, the bright crescent moon rose above the horizon, and also disappointing glight pillarh was ON in the southeast. I started with the session from Gamma Andromedae: a double star with a pair of a beautiful golden primary and a greenish companion (usually, bluish but looked greenish). After some 10 seconds from the beginning of the session, NGC1023, an elongated galaxy in Andromeda, came into the FOV. It grazed near the edge of the FOV, but bright enough to notice. I felt the background was not dark enough due to moonlight and I attached a light pollution filter, IDAS LPS-P2, on the eyepiece. Then, a sparkling open cluster, M34, expanded the entire FOV whose apparent field is 100˚ with x97. Wonderful cluster! I overlooked NGC891, an edge on galaxy in Andromeda, as the surface brightness of it is low, and did many other darker galaxies due to the moonlight.

Fine open cluster NGC1245 was impressive even under the moonlight. At the central part of Perseus I felt a depth of the space looking at a shine of many bright stars. M36 and M38 had presence of Messier Objects even at altitudes of less than 10˚. The only comet like object, i.e. non stellar objects, I identified was NGC1023, but I was recharged by shine of stars after long absence of the hunting session, which satisfied me.
The summer triangle inclined to the west, while a pair of long hones of Taurus rose in the northeast when I completed the session.

During the session, I could not recognize the effect of recoating of mirrors and I guess I will never see it, but it was comfortable using newly coated mirrors. My comet-seeker was well arranged on my car. I believe my comet hunting session become cozier as I accustom to the new way of loading & unloading my telescope on my new car.

Monday, June 29

It has been very busy this month.

The first week
On Monday June 1, I have sent my mirrors, i.e. 46 cm primary and 7.9 cm secondary mirrors, to Galaxy Optics, Colorado, USA, for recoating. This was the first recoating since I purchased the mirrors 14 years ago. On Wednesday June 3, a new car that I had ordered was delivered. June 6 and 7, I attended the Annual Comet Conference in Saitama. I talked with many cometary persons and I met some persons who knew via internet only. How joy and interesting it is to meet those people.

My new car, Toyota Noa. Photo is copied from Toyotafs web page.

The second to third weeks
Friday June 12 to Monday June 15, I had to visit my motherfs house to attend a Buddhism service, 6th anniversary of my fatherfs death. On June 20 I had to attend an academic meeting in Tokyo in in spite of Saturday. It is unhealthy that people are so busy that we can have a meeting only on weekend.

This week
I have received recoated mirrors that looks like brand new, but I cannot use my comet-seeker. I need to arrange my new car so that I can load my comet-seeker into it, and I have been busy to DIY. Without some work it is very inconvenient to load and to unload my comet-seeker.

Recaoted primary mirror before unpacked.

I choose June for the best time for reacaoting because middle June to middle July is the lowest chance of clear sky due to rainy season. Actually, I comet hunted only once this month using 30 cm telescope instead of 46 cm. However, I could search the sky only 15 minutes as cloud spread. I made 30cm telescope in 2008 but I forgot to show the details of the telescopec I will write on the telescope near future.

30 cm telescope.

I have other things to do. I need to specify the source of the light pillar; at first I thought the source was the sport facility, but it turned out the facility was not guilty. I noticed another suspect, and additional investigation is needed. Regardless of rainy season, I have too many things to do.

Saturday, May 30

I conducted six comet hunting sessions since May 20. Some of them were wonderful with perfect clear sky and others were not satisfactory being annoyed by clouds.

Today, the moonset was at 2:18a.m. (JST) while the twilight started at 2:39a.m. that meant the dark night was only 31 minutes. Nevertheless, seeing was excellent for this area (generally, seeing in the area is poor), and the star image has been pinpoint and steady throughout the session. As if all stars in the FOV had been telling me the eternal beauty of the universe.

On Wednesday May 20, I could detect 10th magnitude galaxy in Andromeda, NGC404, at 3:10a.m. when 20 minutes had passed since the beginning of the twilight. The galaxy was only 6f away from beta Andromedae with an altitude of 21 degrees at that time. One tends to overlook the galaxy due to the bright neighboring star, but I was satisfied with spotting the object under challenging conditions.

NGC404 (center) and beta Andromedae (lower left).
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

On Friday May 22, I started session with the northeastern sky but in 45 minutes I was forced to search the south due to clouds cover in the northeast. The center of our Galaxy, i.e. Sagittarius, was transit and I truly enjoyed the beauty of some showpieces in this constellation: M8, M20, and M17. Usually, I identify those objects when their altitudes were low at the southeast. But this time I observed at their culmination. I noticed green-hued M8 and larger extension of M17 and M20 than usual, in addition to many awesome dark nebulae.

Contrary to the beauty of the star field, I was shocked as the glight pillarh has been on the eastern sky since I noticed it on Thursday May 14. It has kept ON.

The glight pillarh that appeared this month for the first time. The photo was taken 11 km away from the source of the light. The image is 90˚ in height. The bright star upper left is Vega.

The light source.

At dusk on Saturday May 23, I drove to an eastern town to identify the light source. One of the sports facilities seemed to be the source and I contacted employees of the office. They said their service ends at 10p.m. and turns off light at 10:30p.m. I drove around near the area, but no other light source was found. I believe the facility must be the source, and they must keep some of the lights ON through the night.
I will require them to turn off the light completely via some organization near the future.

Thursday, May 14

This predawn I comet searched for the first time in May. It was full moon on May 4; I do not conduct a hunting session if the moon phase is some 15}3. Besides the influence of the moonlight, it has been cloudy this month till yesterday.

May and June are the hardest month in terms of comet hunting, because the twilight starts very early, e.g. 2:56a.m. JST today, and I have to get up at 1a.m. or earlier. Actually, I got out of my bed at 1a.m. today.

There was no snow at the observing site today, though the snow depth at the site was some 40 cm last time, on Monday, April 27. At the observing site a paddy field was irrigated and stars were beautifully reflected on the flat water surface. On the contrary, a light beam that released on the south eastern sky disappointed me. I guessed the source of the light was a few kilometer away from my observing site. I hope it will be turned off next time.

I started the session with NGC7331, a 9th magnitude galaxy in Pegasus. I noticed Stephanfs Quintet that is located some 0.5 degrees south of NGC7331. At the beginning of the session the star image was swelled and I thought the cause was bad seeing. However, the star image got improved in 20minutes. In half an hour stars changed into pinpoint image. It turned out that the cause of deteriorated star image at first 20 minutes was due to temperature difference between the primary mirror and ambient air. A difference in air temperature in my car between daytime and night time is large, especially May to August, and the primary was kept much warmer than air temperature at predawn. It takes long time for the primary mirror to reach an equilibrium with ambient air. I do not know why this phenomenon happened today, but I have to figure out some counter measure for it.

NGC6772, Blue Snowball Nebula. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

I identified NGC7662, Blue Snowball Nebula, in Andromeda. This planetary nebula looked blue green like Uranus, though an apparent diameter of Uranus is one order of magnitude smaller than that of the nebula. As the apparent diameter of the nebula is only 0.5f I might overlook this object with x78. The other DSOs I noticed were M31, 32 and 110 at 3:27a.m. when 31 minutes passed after the beginning of the twilight. I could not notice M110 at first and I looked for it. I managed to see this diffused object. If it had not been for a crescent moon, I could have identified some dark galaxies like NGC7640 (11th magnitude). I was happy I could enjoy pinpoint star image during the latter half of the session.

Wednesday, April 22

This predawn transparency was excellent for this time of the year. At 3a.m. JST the concentration of PM2.5 at the nearest station was only 3 ƒÊg/m^3. At one of the usual observing site I was so impressed by the beauty of the star field in the south that I decided to sweep the constellation of Scorpius that was culminant. However, before the beginning of the session I wanted to observe C/2015 F3 SWAN. It became very dim and I could manage to confirm it by comparing the asterism in the FOV of my comet-seeker with the digital map, SkySafari Pro4, displayed on iPad mini2.

After I observed C/2015 F3, I started the session from M4, a globular cluster in Scorpius. The cluster were vividly resolved into stars using x97 with 46 cm. In addition to M4 all globular clusters included in the Messier catalog were resolved into stars, and very bright under the excellent todayfs sky condition. M107, M19, and M62 were similar at a glance but each of them had a different and unique appearance. At the first half of the session, I swept some 400 square degrees (40 degrees x10 degrees) per 30 minutes. The second half of the session the rate of sweeping was reduced since I identified many DSOs in comparison with the first half and spent longer time to identify them. I encountered 25 DSOs in total during this session.

NGC6302. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

NGC6337. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

During todayfs session I identified two interesting planetary nebulae. One was NGC6302, Bug Nebula. For me it looked like an ant without legs. The image obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope shows completely different shape, and it named as Butterfly Nebula. I observed this nebula many years ago not during the hunting session but enjoying DSOs watching session. The nebula was much brighter today due to superb air transparency. The appearance of stars and DSOs are not always the same, but is changing all the time even during a session. Another planetary was NGC6337. It looked a dim disk but actually it is a ring shaped. I have no idea if I have ever observed this nebula.

I finished the searching session at 4a.m., a half an hour after the beginning of the twilight. As I identified 25 DSOs in total during one hour and twenty minutes of the session, I encountered and checked DSOs using SkySafari every 3.2 minutes. I have never got tired of this seemingly monotonous work, because the universe is beautiful.

Tuesday, April 7

I could conduct comet hunting sessions seven times in March, and the highlight was Friday 27 to Sunday 29 when I enjoyed a three-successive-days session at predawn. At dusk on Thursday 26 JST, it was announced that a new comet was discovered from a SWAN image, C/2015 F3 SWAN. I confirmed this comet visually throughout the three days.

At predawn on Friday 27 I observed C/2015 F3 for the first time. At 2:55a.m. JST it was at a low altitude and was hidden by a tree. C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy was still bright in the constellation of Cassiopeia. I started the session from Altair, alpha Aquilae, at 3:05a.m. At 3:34a.m. I aimed my comet-seeker at C/2015 F3, but at first I could not notice it with 46 cm x97. I compared the asterism in the FOV with a finding chart that I printed at home. Finally, I could manage to notice the comet with an averted vision. The altitude of the comet was 11 degrees above the horizon. I felt that it was impossible to discover this object under that condition, i.e. at the low altitude with light polluted sky.
I identified a faint galaxy in Delphinus, NGC6988, with a magnitude of 13.9. It looked like a multiple star at a glance, but I stared the object and it looked somewhat blurred. StarSafari 4 on iPad mini2 indicated it was not a multiple star but a galaxy. Then, before the twilight began I observed the comet again at 4:04a.m. The altitude of the comet was 15 degrees. In my impression I would never overlook the object during a comet hunting session. The magnitude of the comet was 11 by intuition with an apparent diameter of 4' and DC was 3.

NGC6988, a faint galaxy in Delphinus (center). The magnitude is 13.9. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

Planetary nebula, NGC6894 in Cygnus. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

On Saturday at 2:41a.m., I could not observe C/2015 F3 due to low altitude. At 2:55a.m. I began to search from Albireo, beta Cygni. In this constellation I encountered a pretty planetary nebula, NGC6894, which probably I have never identified during the searching session. I think a magnification of 97 with Ethos 21 mm helped me identify the object. The same holds true for NGC6988. At 4:03a.m. I could observed C/2015 F3 whose image was a little bit fainter than that of yesterday. I guessed this was because very thin cloud at a low altitude. I completed the session when I identified the Veil Nebula in Cygnus at 4:35a.m.

On Sunday, the sky was humid with poor transparency. At 3a.m. I could not see C/2015 F3 at all. All the DSOs I identified during the session were NGC7217 (9th magnitude, at 3:45a.m.) and NGC7311 (10th magnitude, at 4:13a.m.). I knew that there exists Stefanfs Quintet near NGC7311 and tried to see it. Actually, I have ever identified Stefanfs Quintet with x78 during the searching session, but this time it was difficult to spot it during the session because of low altitude (26 degrees) and inferior transparency. I looked into the FOV carefully, and I spotted some of the members of this galaxy group easily. How interesting! At 4:25a.m. 16 minute after the start of the twilight, I observed C/2015 F3 using the light pollution filter, IDAS LPS-P2, but I could not see the comet without the filter. I replaced it with Lumicon Comet Filter. The Comet Filter very strongly boosted the comet image and it was very easy to spot it. The Comet Filter exerted great power, and this also meant the comet is gassy. I entirely felt the Comet Filter is useful for comet hunting under the moonlight or under the light polluted sky, though it spoils the beauty of the star field due to the unique wavelength transmission characteristics.

I enjoyed the three-days session and learned again that we still have a chance to discover a new comet visually as C/2015 F3 proved.

Tuesday, March 17

I got up at 2:15a.m JST and arrived at usual observing site at 3a.m. It was still chilly and it took a lot of time to ware winter clothes both at home and at the site. Even so, air temperature was over 0˚C and I heard melt water dropping from snowpack at the site. Heater installed vest and disposal heating pads on my back and thighs were too warm at this temperature and were not necessary. But I put disposal heating pads under my toes in my shoes.

The sky was dark when I arrived at the site, but the crescent moon rose while I was setting up my comet-seeker. The eastern sky looked very bright because of scattered moonlight by haze. At 3:40a.m. I began with the hunting session from M10, a globular cluster in Ophiuchus. The cluster with Ethos 21 mm, 97x was beautiful! This eyepiece made the session more enjoyable as I wrote before. I identified NGC6440, a globular cluster, and 6445 a planetary nebula, which I have seen many times ever. But this was the first time saw them using Ethos 21 mm and I noticed the structure of NGC6445. It was interesting. I could have seen it neither with 68x nor 78x. At 4:02a.m. while those two objects were in the FOV, I attached IDAS LPS-P2 filter (light pollution filter) on the eyepiece to improve SN ratio, i.e. to reduce the influence of haze and moonlight. Certainly, the filter was effective and the background got darker.

NGC6440 (lower object) and 6445. The image is 30f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

NGC6540 The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

The faintest comet-like object that I identified this predawn was NGC6540, a globular cluster in Sagittarius. A digital map showed the magnitude of the cluster is 14.6, but I must say it is much brighter, i.e. 13th magnitude. The highlight of the session was that I encountered M17, M22 and M54 over ten seconds. A swan floating in the Milky Way, M17, looked powerful with 97x and M22, a great globular cluster in Sagittarius, came across in the field in a few second when I moved my comet-seeker downward. After ten seconds M54 passed through the FOV. What a gorgeous view! In spite of the moderate sky condition, Ethos 21 mm offered me a superb view of the DSOs in the summer Milky Way. I finished the session at 5:00a.m.

Tuesday, March 3

At Monday dusk, I have read Tsutomu Sekifs book. In the section of gHunting session in Mayh, it read, gYou need to get up early from now on, since the beginning of twilight is getting earlier this month. Otherwise, you do not have enough time for the session.h  The book also described, gYou start the searching session from Cygnus or Aquila that are near the zenith. The background is Milky Way and the inside of the lens is unique beauty.h Aquila! I remembered that this is a constellation where I discovered C/2002 E2 Snyder-Murakami. Thirteen years have passed since then.

Forecast predicted clear sky and I set an alarm clock at 2:30a.m. to avoid lack of time for the hunting session. Having said that, the sky was bright because of moonlight until the moon set at 4:31a.m.

I went out of my bed as scheduled and headed for usual observing site.@Unexpectedly, but not abnormally, the site was in a fog. It disappeared soon, but when I completed setting up my comet-seeker there was the fog again. I hoped the fog clear up soon and started the hunting session at 3:45a.m. from Rasalhague, alpha Ophuchi, because I wanted to sweep near the location of my discovery of C/2002 E2.

The background of the FOV was still bright, but stars were gaining luminosity as the moon declined. I was sometimes annoyed by the fog, and on top of that, scintillation deteriorated suddenly at 4a.m. when NGC6633, an open cluster, came into the FOV. I used Ethos 21 mm eyepiece with 97x, but I was forced to reduce the magnification due to bad seeing. I changed the eyepiece to Planocular 30 mm with Paracorr, i.e. 78x.

NGC6756. The image is 30' wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright©1994

A screen shot of SkySafari Pro 4 on iPad mini2 at the observing site when I identified NGC6781.

At the time of moonset a graceful star ground appeared in the FOV and an arch of summer Milky Way was very impressive with naked eyes! Air temperature was -6˚C, but disposable heaters and a heater installed vest worked well and I did not feel chilly at all. I could identified NGC6756, an open cluster in Aquila. In my impression the cluster looked shining stronger and more graceful than ever. NGC6781, a planetary nebula in the same constellation looked like a spherical smoke floating in the space. A combination of Nexus DSC with iPad mini2 made it easier and more comfortable to identify DSOs than ever. I saw a shooting star at the head part of Cygnus when the twilight started at 4:48a.m. The dark night was only 27 minutes but even so, I fully enjoyed the searching session in the summer Milky Way.

Wednesday, February 18

It has been snowy, rainy and cloudy for four weeks except for full moon period when I do not comet search, and I could not conduct a comet hunting session. I expected the fine weather and got up at predawn twice this month but it was cloudy on both of the two days. Snow depth at my work place reached at 297 cm on Tuesday February 10, and over 4 m in Matsunoyama where I discovered C/2002 E2 Snyder-Murakami.

Spa in Matsunoyama. I discovered C/2002 E2 Snyder-Murakami at the parking lot at this spa. Snow depth was over 4 m.

The sky was clear on the photos below that I took at the ski field, however, the fine weather lasted only a few hours at that time. The weather had changed into cloudy soon. It is normal that we do not have clear sky at all in February and I must be patient.

Trees at the highest point of the ski field.

A: Observing site where I discovered P/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami (I do not use this site now due to increasing light pollution and other reasons); B: One of the observing sites I use in warm season and C: the site I use throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 21

The alarm clock woke me up at 3:40a.m. and I started searching at 4:10a.m. at the usual observing site. In summer it takes one hour and ten minutes to begin the hunting session after waking up, but in winter I need longer time to prepare comet-hunting session since I wear winter clothes. Last time it was comfortable wearing the heater installed vest as it heated my neck and back. Nevertheless, I felt cold on thighs and lower part of my back where there were no heaters. Today, I put additional disposable heating pads on the lower part of my back and thighs. As a results I wear 5 heating pads on my body, though I only had a pair of them beneath the toes until the end of last year.

Heater installed vest and additional disposable heating pads.

Refer to Comet hunting Wear

Heaters on my body

It was a good timing to have perfect body warming system today, as the air temperature recorded the lowest at predawn in this winter, i.e. -10˚C. In spite of such a severe condition the vest and heating pads could reduce my physical exhaustion, and I will never fail to use this system from now on in chilly night.

I began with Spica but I could identify only four DSOs due to clouds. A combination of Nexus DSC and SkySafari (an appli of iPad mini2) worked perfectly that made my hunting session more enjoyable. Instead of identifying DSOs using an identify mode of a digital setting circles that requires some keypad operations, if only I release the sleep mode of iPad mini2, the display indicates the map the FOV where my comet-seeker is aiming. I can see what kind of DSOs are in the FOV at a glance of the display of iPad mini2.

NGC5897. The diameter of the circle is 1˚. The south is up.
Snapshot from SkySafari 4 Pro.

 Zuben Elgenubi, alpha Librae, a double star, was very impressive with a magnification of 97. The contrast of white color of the primary and yellow of the secondary were vivid. Thanks to this rather high magnification, NGC5986 looked more graceful than ever; dissolved stars in this globular cluster were not uniform in magnitude but some of the stars were dominant against the background of fainter stars that made the cluster unique. Another globular cluster I saw was NGC5897 that also dissolved into stars but the stars seemed uniform in brightness.

This predawn I was often annoyed by clouds that hid star ground but I was satisfied with comfortableness of new gadgets.

Wednesday, January 14

It has been snowy and cloudy as usual in January in my city, and finally, I had a good fortune to have a clear sky at this predawn.

Snow depth has reached 240 cm in Tohkamachi that is about twice as much in comparison with usual year, while it was more than 250 cm at the observing site. Air temperature was -7 ˚C. I saw Antares, Alpha Scorpii, rose on the southeast and I felt, as Tsutomu Seki said, the chilliest season throughout a year has come.

My performance of comet-hunting after the actual session has finished. Note that the snow depth was over 250 cm.

Frosted light-shroud.

Today, I introduced a new wear, a vest with heater. It works for seven hours with Lithium battery and heats onefs neck and back. I used it for the first time today, and I must say it is a must for stargazers. I strongly recommend this vest, though I do not know if it is available outside Japan.

Heater equipped vest.
Supplierfs page in Japanese

At the site, Nexus DSC that I bought last month did not work correctly today. I soon noticed the cause; I have updated the firm wear and all data that I installed has deleted. I did not want arrange the DSC as I have not yet familiar with the device. Instead, I used old NGC-SkyVector.

I trained my telescope at Alphekka, Alpha Coronae Borealis and started the session from this star with 68x. The first DSO that I identified was M13. I did not notice NGC6210, a planetary nebula, due to small apparent diameter. I also overlooked NGC6207, a galaxy near M13, during sweeping the sky. I got back near M13 and looked for the galaxy. On this trial I could spot it soon. Then, I changed the magnification from 68x (Planocular 30 mm, apparent FOV of 88˚) to 97x (Ethos 21 mm, 100˚) and I could notice it easily. I continued to use 97x after that. I felt 100˚ was too wide for the first 10 minutes, but I became accustomed to the super wide field. The other DSOs I encountered were M57 and M56 only. The waning moon was bright and I guessed the moonlight hid many fainter objects.

As a residence of Japan Sea side area I think I could comet-hunt only one or two days at most this month, while on the Pacific side people like Kaoru Ikeya are enjoying clear sky very often in winter.

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