Historical deep sky observing at the Grand Canyon Star Party
by Jane Houston Jones
Mid week at the Grand Canyon Star Party was the time for daytime
walks, a train trip to Williams, and and a drive through Flagstaff to
Meteor Crater. I knew I'd need a observing break but would still like
some fun projects to work on at night. I've been studying some of the
historical observing catalogs, and observed a couple objects from each
of these lists mid-week at the Grand Canyon. It is awe inspiring to
think that astronomers from Ptolomy in 138 to Bode in 1777 were looking
up and seing the same objects we revere today. If for no other reason
than this, it was worth it to me to take a look at some of these objects
again. But this time, I observed them with a new inspiration and respect
for their discoverers and the equipment they used to study and admire
the night sky. I used my Orion Short Tube 80 refractor at 16x to observe
Here are some interesting catalogues. Why not give them a try and see
the some familiar objects in a different light? They also make excellent
armchair astronomical reading and research topics!
1654 Hodierna's Deep Sky Observations:
1678 Halley's Deep Sky Object list
1690 Hevelius' 16 Nebulosae
1746 De Cheseaux's List of 21 "Nebulae"
1777 Bode's Complete Catalogue of hitherto observed Nebulous Stars and
Star Clusters http://www.seds.org/messier/xtra/similar/bode_o.html
Hodierna, a follower of Galileo, used a Galilean telescope with a
magnification of 20x and observed from Ragusa, Sicily, before he became
a priest in 1622.
- NGC 6231,an open cluster in Scorpius was first discovered by
Hodierna before 1654. This cluster, called the Table of Scorpius
or the Scorpius Jewel Box consists of nebulosity and star clusters
near Zeta Scorpii.
- Melotte 111 - Coma Berenices Star Cluster, first discovered by
Ptolomy 138 AD.
- Collinder 399 (Brocchi's cluster), aka the Coathanger asterism in
Halley's Deep Sky Object list - nothing new here, but just for history
sake, I observed M31, M22, M11 and M13, M7 and NGC 6231 (again) through
my 80mm refractor in Halley's honor.
Hevelius' observed stars including the sun, planets, the moon and his
list 16 of Nebulosae is an interesting mix of objects.
- Sigma, Pi, Rho and Omicron Capricornii are on Hevelius' list - I
observed this pretty little group of stars below alpha and beta
Capricornii - was it just a few years ago when Neptune and Uranus
were playing here?
- 88 and f Herculis in the left leg and foot of Hercules
De Cheseaux observed several clusters and nebulous stars in about 1746.
Here are a couple I observed again.
- NGC 4655 in Ophiuchus and NGC 6633 (independently discovered by
Caroline Herschel) are good binocular objects. Perfect at 16x in
the Short Tube 80.
- M4 in Scorpius. In 1995 the Hubble telescope photographed white
dwarf stars in M4! http://www.seds.org/messier/more/m004_hst.html
Bode published a list of 75 objects but he only personally observed 19
of them before publication. Five are his original discoveries.
- Bode 17 (M81) and Bode 18 (M82) were discovered by Bode on
December 31, 1774, and I observed them as part of the public
program most evenings as they are among some of our nearest
neighbors. He also independently discovered M92, M64 and M53.
These lists make fun observing projects and history lessons.
|Observer||Jane Houston Jones
Date June 24/26, 2003
Location Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon National Park Lat 36 04' 12" N ,
Long 112 degrees
07' 12" W, Altitude 7040 ft.
|Instruments||Orion 80mm reflector
|Oculars||25mm (16x) Kellner
Seeing good. Humidity less than 20 percent all week
Transparency LM 6.3 - 6.0 using LM Area 16.
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