From my recent diary
Saturday, July 22
I feel there is a trend of bad weather in the past few years, and
transparency is poor even if it is fine. I did not confirm the trend
based on the statistical analysis, but some comet hunters told me that
they had the same impression. I comet hunted last on June 20, i.e. I
could not comet search for more than one month because of nasty
weather; if it was cloud less, I could not search due to poor
Three photos below are taken from my house. From top to bottom Dec. 30
in 2013 (fair with good transparency), Jun. 1 in 2014 (fair with poor
transparency due to yellow sand from the continent), and Jul. 22 in
2017 (cloudy with poor transparency probably due to high concentration
in aerosol). In the photo taken in 2013 a mountain range 30 km away
from my house is clear (indicated by a square), contrarily, it is not
visible in the other photos.
Dec. 30 in 2013 (fair with good transparency)
Jun. 1 in 2014 (fair with poor transparency due to yellow sand from the continent)
Jul. 22 in 2017 (cloudy with poor transparency probably due to high concentration in aerosol).
I exactly do not know the reason why the increasing trend of the days
with poor transparency, but I think the concentration of aerosol is
getting higher for unknown reasons. The web site below can simulate
some different kinds of aerosol concentrations and may give clue for
Aerosol forecast at 15:00 JST, on 21 Jul. 2017
Improvement of 46 cm comet-seeker
Last year I replaced the focuser of 46 cm comet-seeker because it was
broken. The old one was light weight but made by plastic: the Phase 4,
AstroSystems, CO, USA. From the beginning I was afraid the durability
but was satisfied with the product since it worked well for 15 years.
Please refer to this page on the series of improvement of my come-seeker.
The pole seats and the wedge method was used to connect the truss poles
and the top ring (secondary cage), however, there was a defect that the
alignment shifted at an altitude of over 60 degrees. Also, the method
requires long screwing length that is a bit annoying. To solve those
defects I adopted the crush-tube method. One end of the pole was
crushed in 10 cm long and overlapped poles are fixed by the bolt and
nut. Along with it the insulator that covers the poles was also
replaced with the new one: from thick one for water pipe to thin black
one. The alignment was improved but not perfect and it seems to shift a
bit over 70 degrees in altitude. After the improvement there is no
clear sky. Now it is rainy season, but I am looking forward to clear
sky with high transparency after the end of the rainy season.
Monday, June 5
I conducted comet hunting sessions seven times in May, but I
could not satisfied with them all because of poor sky conditions:
moonlight and hazy air. Today the moon set at 2:03am and the twilight
began at 2:35am, therefore, the dark night lasted only some 30 minutes.
However, the transparency was fair and I expected pleasing session. I
wondered if how many galaxies I could identify during the session
around the Great Square of Pegasus.
NGC7769, 7770, 7771. The image is 30f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994
I began with the session from Markab, alpha Pegasi, at 1:55am. Air
temperature was 4 degrees in Celsius that was low at this time of the
year, though the site is over 900 m above sea level. Soon after the
start of the session, the first galaxy of this session, NGC7743 (mag.
11.4) had come into the FOV. An owl hooted as if it had announced there
was still some time until the beginning of the twilight. When the
twilight started I identified the second galaxy, NGC7678 (11.8). I was
somewhat disappointed because I could not observe many galaxies as I
expected. Nonetheless, NGC7769 (12.0) and 7771 (12.1) were came into
the FOV at 2:49am. The SkySafari 5 Pro indicated another galaxy,
NGC7770 (13.6) near NGC7771. I looked at the positon and I easily
noticed NGC7770. I was glad I could identified those galaxies with an
altitude of 20 degrees, but I had no idea why I did not notice the
other 11th magnitude galaxies within the search area. I overlooked even
10th magnitude one, NGC7814. I think this was probably due to the low
altitude and small apparent diameter of the objects. I always have
doubts like this, and I wonder if the capability of my comet-seeker is
not enough to detect dark objects considering the aperture.
After 36 minutes of the start of the twilight, C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS
have come into the FOV. The comet had a tail with the magnitude of 8th.
I continued the session and finished when Venus was in the FOV. A
cuckoos chirped in replace with the owl. What a fresh daybreak! Air
temperature dropped to 2 degrees in Celsius.
Tuesday, May 2 and Wednesday, May 3
I conducted comet hunting session three times in April, but I
updated my web page only once on April 1, because I had been very busy.
One of the reasons was that I have been in Vienna to take part in
General Assembly of European Geosciences Union (EGU) as a forest
hydrologist not as an amateur astronomer.
Venue of EGU in Vienna.
I took off on Monday, May 1, to recover from the jet lag. I tried to go
to the observing site for non-snow season without expecting
disappearance of snow. I could not go beyond the point with the
altitude of 600 m due to snow cover. As the altitude of the site is 962
m, it probably takes one more week until the disappearance of snow. I
use the temporal observing site with the altitude of 575 m until the
snowmelt of the summer site.
The observing site with the altitude of 575 m where there remained some snow cover on May 1, 2017.
I was scheduled to get up at 1am, but I wake up at 0am because of the
jet lag. I felt I could not sleep anymore, and I headed for the site. I
was ready to observe at 1am. Prior to the comet hunting session, I
enjoyed observing bright comets. Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak was
7th magnitude, DC = 2, diffused, and the wide tail was not distinct
with the length of 0.1 degrees. I could recognized the existence of the
comet using a 7x50 binocular. C/2015 V1 Johnson was 6th magnitude, DC =
4, the beautiful tail extended as long as 0.7 degrees. I noticed the
tail with ease using the 7x50 binocular. The brightness of these comets
were determined by intuition and not objective.
I started the comet hunting session from the east at 1:20am,
specifically from Altair, because the southeastern sky was very bright.
I wondered what the source of the light pollution was. Did a ski resort
still open through the night? I noticed the southeast is always bright
at this time of the year. During the session the DSOs that I identified
were NGC6934, M2, NGC7006, M15 and NGC7177. All of them except for the
last one were globular clusters. I identified NGC7177 (mag. 11.2) when
it was at the altitude 39 degrees 15 minutes after the beginning of the
twilight. Nonetheless, the impressive moment for me at the session was
when C/2015 V1 Johnson came into the FOV. I noticed that the object was
the comet in a moment. Spotting a comet, even if it is a known one,
gives me an inspiration.
I often come across wonderful double stars during the session, but I
have seldom confirmed the names. During this session, I identified a
double star. It was Gamma Delphini. The primary star was golden with
the secondary being dull golden. I checked the color of them at home
using the Internet; the primary was golden as I observed, but the
secondary was unexpectedly light blue. The golden color of the primary
looked like that of Golden Hall, Musikverein in Vienna where my wife
and I enjoyed the concert. I wondered how long the star has been
shining. In comparison with the period, the lifetime of the Hall must
be as short as a blink of an eye.
Golden Hall, Musikverein in Vienna.
Following yesterdayfs session, I conducted one this predawn also. I
began with NGC7177 that was the last DSO I identified yesterday. This
galaxy looked a mere faint stain because of poor transparency. During
the session I identified Veil Nebula in Cygnus. Last year I installed a
filter slider on the focuser on which three filters are attached: IDAS
LPS-P2, Lumicon Comet, Lumicon OIII. The nebula was not clear due to
haze but applying the Comet or OIII filter improved the contrast
dramatically and made the image wonderful.
(upper center) and Stephanfs Quintet (lower right).
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994
There are many galaxies in the constellation of Pegasus, the major
search area today, however, I encountered only two, NGC7217 and 7331,
except for NGC7177 from which I started the session. NGC7177 came into
the FOV following 10 minutes of the start of the twilight. I could
manage to recognize Stephan's Quintet that is 0.5 degrees south
southeast of NGC7331 with attention. In the latter half of the
searching session, the transparency got worse with time and hazy. I
completed the session when Venus rose on the eastern horizon.
Saturday, April 1
We have had no clear sky at predawn for just four weeks. During
the period I got up at predawn a couple of times, but I was clouded out.
I went to skiing and on a hiking to a snow-covered mountain last month.
It takes some 15 minutes by car to Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort where one
of the nearest ski field from my residence. At the top of the field air
temperature was below zero degree Celsius and snow quality was pretty
good. At the lower part, however, snow was granular and poor quality
with few skiers.
The highest point of Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort. It was snowing in the morning.
The hiking course was Mt. Sakato-yama (37.059034N, 138.898435E ) where
I usually enjoy mountaineering. It is 30minutes drive from my house to
the parking at the foot of the mountain where 165 m above sea level
(a.s.l.). For me it is 50 minutes-walk (in summer 40 minutes) from the
parking to the top (634 m a.s.l.). On Monday, March 20 the snow depth
at the parking where many city houses were was around 1 m, while at the
top 2 m.
Toward the top to the Mt. Sakato-yama. It was cloudy in the morning.
After getting back to the parking from the top I saw a wonderful scene
that the top of the mountain and houses were reflected on the surface
of a pond. It was refreshing and looked like European one. One
month has passed since I observed 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak
last. I have yet spotted C/2017 E4 Lovejoy nor C/2017 E1 Borisov. All
of them are getting brighter. I hope clear skies in Apirl.
Mt. Satato-yama (a peak at upper center).
Tuesday, February 28, Wednesday, March 1, and Saturday, 4
At predawn we had clear sky three out of five days. I must say
it is rare that we have gso manyh clear days at this time of the year.
Tuesday, February 28
Air temperature reached as low as -7˚C that was the lowest record in my comet hunting session this winter.
Prior to the session I observed 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova,
41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak and C/2015 V2 Johnson. This is the first
observation of 41P and 45P for those returns. The image of 45P was
extremely diffused and it looked like M33 under a bit poor sky
condition. With careful observation I noticed the comet had the west
ward tail with a length of 0.6˚. I estimated the parameters of the
comet as DC=0, dia. > 10f, and mag. 8th by intuition. Another
periodic comet, 41P has a tail with 11th magnitude. The tail of C/2015
V2 got wider in comparison with that on January 7, and the magnitude of
the comet was 11th. It is interesting that each comet had its own trait.
45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, C/2015 V2 Johnson,
41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak and C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS. The drawings
were made at home after the observation based on recollections.
I began the session with M4, a globular cluster in Scorpius, and
finally, I identified 18 DSOs. The catalog data of NGC6325, a globular
cluster, shows the magnitude is 10.5 with apparent diameter of 4f, but
for me it looked 12th magnitude with the diameter of 1f that was faint
enough to have had been overlooked. After the start of the twilight, I
trained my comet-seeker at C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS. When I observed the
comet on January 22, I could not recognized it without a filter, and I
managed to observe the comet with the comet filter.
After observing C/2015 ER61, I made a 10-minute searching identifying 3
globular clusters, and completed the session at 5:18amlocal time. The
last globular cluster that came into the FOV was NGC6401 in the
vicinity of Saturn but Saturn was out of the search area.
Wednesday, March 1
It was as chilly as yesterday with the air temperature of -6˚C. I
started the session with Eta Ophiuchi so that the search area
overlapped with that of the previous day. When M9 came into the FOV I
looked at SkySafari 5 Pro and noticed that there is a dark nebula in
the vicinity of the globular cluster. Again I peered into the FOV and
actually, there it was; the number density of stars are different
between the right and left side of M9.
M9, a globular cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus. There is a
dark nebula on the lower right. The image is 1 degree wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994
emission nebula in Sagittarius, NGC6595. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994
I could identified an emission nebula, NGC6595, because I saw a faint
blur of light around a double star. Showpieces of DSOs like M22 and M17
went through the FOV with the gorgeous background of stars. I finished
the session with wonderful view of those objects.
Saturday, March 4
On weekends the light pollution is getting prominent at the usual
observing site. This is because Kandatsu Kogen Ski Resort, some 18 km
away, opens through the night.
Advertising of all night opening of Kandatsu Kogen Ski Resort.
The service finishes at 4am local time, but the light at the ski field
remains crazy bright after the time. In the past the resort was once
closed because it went bankruptcy and the managements have changed a
few times. Now, it features the service of all night, but it is
annoying for me. I headed to the observing site that was different from
usual one to avoid the light pollution caused by the resort. At the
usual site the direction of the pollution is on the southeast but at
todayfs site on the south-southeast.
I began with M17 to overlap the sweep area with that of 3 days ago.
However, around 10 minutes later, I was discouraged by the light
pollution originated at the ski resort that made the FOV bright. I
recovered from the negative sense and I resumed on the east where less
polluted. A globular cluster NGC6760 and two planetary nebulae, NGC6781
and 6804 have come across the FOV. NGC6781 is worth observing 11th
magnitude nebula with an apparent diameter of 2f. On the contrary, the
12th magnitude nebula, NGC6401, has the apparent diameter of only 0.5f.
I could noticed NGC6401 as I employed the magnification of 97. If I
used 68x or 78x as I did in the past, I would have overlooked NGC6401.
In snow season, light pollution from ski resorts in addition to snow
light makes the sky brighter. Another disadvantage in winter is that I
cannot go for the site with high altitude due to snow. I am longing for
disappearance of snow.
Sunday, February 5
When I arrived at the observing site at 2:10am local time, air
temperature was -2˚C. It was not very chilly. The transparency was
inferior, and a shine of Scorpius that began to rise on the eastern sky
looked very weak probably because of the poor transparency. Light
pollution caused by ski fields around the site made the situation worse.
At the comet hunting session on Friday, Jan. 20, transparency was very
bad and the moonlight boosted the light pollution. On top of that,
there was a large amount of clouds and I could not concentrated on the
session. On Sunday, Jan. 22, wind got stronger with time, which caused
snow drifting. I was forced to stop the comet hunting session in 50
minutes. Snow drifting is a phenomenon that snow particles on the
surface of the snow cover are blown and drifted by wind. I found more
than 100 snow particles on the surface of the primary mirror upon
taking down of my comet-seeker. Snow particles did not melt as air
temperature was -6˚C. I could even blow them using a rubber bulb dust
blower. Having said so, I quitted removing them because so many
particles were on the mirror. I decided to leave the mirror in the
mirror case to sublimate them. I have experienced such a situation once
per winter more or less.
Snow drifting. Even if the sky is clear, snow particles on the snow cover are blown that causes poor visibility.
© Copyright William Starkey@http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2182100
Today transparency was not good just like Friday, Jan. 20, but cloud
cover was less. I began the session with theta Centauri on the
southeast to avoid the light pollution originated by ski resorts in the
southeast. The transparency got worse as time went that made a contrast
in the FOV poor. At 4:34am NGC5728, an 11th magnitude galaxy in Libra,
was in the FOV. Because of bright background the image of the object
was faint that might be overlooked. However, surprisingly, the
transparency improved drastically at around 4:50am local time. Scorpius
that was high in the eastern sky shined vividly. I had an illusion as
if I had moved to another dark site, since the change in the sky
condition occurred within a few minutes.
A pair of galaxies in Libra, NGC5898 (right) and NGC5903. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994
After that, the DSOs that came into the FOV were NGC5834 (globular
cluster), a pair of galaxies NGC5898 and 5903, 5897 (g. c.), 5986
(g.c.), 6072 (planetary nebula), M80, and M4. All of them were 11th
magnitude or brighter, and I could not identified darker galaxies in
Libra, i.e. 12th magnitude or darker, at all. My observing site at the
snowy season is 425 m above sea level, while 960 m in none snowy
season. In addition to the altitudinal difference, snow light and the
light pollution of the ski fields degrade the limiting magnitude in
Weekly forecast. Japan Meteorology Agency
In January and February it is lucky enough in my city if we can conduct
comet hunting sessions two days per month, and in that sense it was a
satisfactorily winter session today. It is expected that bad weather
will last through one week from now on.
Saturday, January 7 and Sunday, January 8
A weather forecast said clear sky at predawn, while another predicted
cloudy. I believed clear sky and got out of my bed in the wee hours,
but the entire sky was covered with the clouds and I could not see any
stars at home. Even so, I drove to the observing site expecting starry
sky at predawn.
Upon arriving at the site at 3:05a.m. local time, I saw some stars
through breaks in the clouds. Under the air temperature of | 6˚C it
took much time to wear my polar shoes and clothes. At 3:50a.m. I was
ready to observe but I could not align Nexus DSC, because stars to
align with were invisible behind the clouds. At 3:55a.m. Spica and
Arcturus appeared from the breaks in the clouds and I could manage to
align the DSC. There was a band shaped gap of the clouds at an altitude
of 5˚ to 20˚ above the horizon between the southeast and the south and
I swept the area, though 90% of the entire sky was hidden by the
clouds. I identified IC4296, a 10th magnitude galaxy in the
constellation of Centaurus, but the other galaxies nearby were not
observed due to drifting thin clouds. In 20 minutes the area was behind
the clouds, and I turned my comet-seeker some 10 degrees eastward to
last the hunting session.
Interactive galaxies NGC5426 (lower galaxy) and 5427. The image is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994
At 5:06a.m. an interacting galaxies in Virgo NGC5426 (mag. 12.1) and
5427 (11.4) came into the FOV. Both of them are spiral galaxies but I
could not see the structure. It may be perceived when they rise higher
in the sky. The amount of clouds declined with time, but it was kept
more than 60% through the session. That meant when I swept the sky from
the altitude of 40˚ to the horizon I could see the star less than half
of the path and the rest of the sky was cloudy.
I stopped the session for a while and observed C/2015 V1 Johnson. I saw
this comet for the first time. It was 11th magnitude with a tail of 2f
long, which looked a typical beautiful gcometh shape. At 5:30a.m. I
turned my comet-seeker at C/2016 U1 NEOWISE. The altitude was only 5˚
above the horizon. It was a 7th magnitude having a short tail of 1f. I
have observed the comet on 25 November for the first time: 13th
magnitude with a diameter of 2f. It got surprisingly bright since then.
After observing the come I completed the 2-hour of session.
In a sharp contrast with yesterdayfs sky, the sky was cloudless today.
Having said so, transparency was poor and C/2015 V1 looked as if it had
reduced the brightness by one magnitude, though the actual magnitude
must be unchanged.
The light pollution from the Ski Resort in the direction of Naeba
was not very conspicuous yesterday. Contrary, it was boosted by
aerosols, the causative agent of poor transparency in the form of
particulates, and the entire eastern sky was polluted. I started the
session with M5 to avoid light polluted area, i.e. the southeast. In 10
minutes I applied the light pollution filter, IDAS LPS-P2, to improve
the contrast in the FOV. The DSOs I identified were M12, M10 and M14
only. In the area I searched there are some 11th magnitude of galaxies
but I could detect none of them.
After the beginning of the twilight I observed C/2016 U1 NEOWISE but
the image was humble and dark in comparison with that of yesterday.
Nonetheless, usually, weather in January is harsh and it is norm that
there is no days that I observe in the month. I must say it was lucky
that I conducted comet-hunting sessions two consecutive days.
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