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 these objects.

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: http://www.seds.org/messier/xtra/Bios/hodierna.html
1678 Halley's Deep Sky Object list http://www.seds.org/messier/xtra/similar/halley.html
1690 Hevelius' 16 Nebulosae http://www.seds.org/messier/xtra/similar/hevelius.html
1746 De Cheseaux's List of 21 "Nebulae" http://www.seds.org/messier/xtra/similar/deches.html
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.

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.

De Cheseaux observed several clusters and nebulous stars in about 1746. Here are a couple I observed again.

Bode published a list of 75 objects but he only personally observed 19 of them before publication. Five are his original discoveries.

These lists make fun observing projects and history lessons.

ObserverJane 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.
InstrumentsOrion 80mm reflector
Oculars25mm (16x) Kellner Seeing good. Humidity less than 20 percent all week Transparency LM 6.3 - 6.0 using LM Area 16.