SSP Observing Report

by Michael Huster

I had a great time at the Shingletown star party. It was my first major star party. I thought it ran very smoothly. I was there from Wed. morning through Mon. morning. getting in five good nights of observing, camping, eating, socializing, etc.

My primary *observing* goal was to start and finish my Astronomical League Binocular Messier certificate. It would be my first. I want to add firsthand observing experience to help me in teaching astronomy.

Dates25 - 30 June, 2003
ConditionsDark skies all nights. After twilight I estimated the skies as 5.5+ magnitude.
EquipmentCelestron Ultima 9x63 binoculars, 5.4 deg FOV on a paralleogram tripod mount.
GuidesI used the Astronomical League, Messier
ObjectsA Beginner's Guide and Astro Cards.
ResultsI logged 53. Only 40 are necessary for the certificate. Some were very challenging; I only glimpsed a wisp of nebulosity with averted vision.

List in numerical order:


I started on Wednesday at 10:30PM working through the Messiers in Ursa Major and working south, then east and finally into Ophiuchus at 3:00. I logged 16 the first night. On Thursday I started with M83 in Hydra and into the Milky Way in Scorpius. The highlight for me was seeing (or recognizing) dark nebulae for the first time. M24, wow! It was a treat to see the open clusters and nebulae after spending the first night on galaxies and globular clusters with unresolvable stars. I finished with M54 & 55 in Scorpius. I was packing in for the night around 3:00 when I realized M31 was up. I was stunned by the view as M31 was clearly visible for 3 deg in the binoculars! What a treat before bedtime. I logged 22 Messier this night. On Friday I started with M29 and some of the Messiers that were near azimuth by the time I went to bed the previous night. A highlight was identifying M32 and M110 near/in M31. John Whitehouse and I hunted down some help for positive identification. I finished the night with the open clusters in Cassiopeia and M33 in Triangulum. I logged 12 by 3:00 Saturday morning when I quit. Saturday was the public star party, so I switched to the 8" LXD-55 Schmidt-Newtonian. (The public doesn't want to look through bino's when there are scopes around.) Between 1:00 and 2:00 I logged four Messier galaxies in Ursa Major with the telescope. The last night I was getting tired. I used the telescope to work on my starhopping. I find star hopping much more difficult with the telescope than with bino's. I had bought a Rigel QuikFinder earlier in the day. It definitely is a big help, but I still struggled. My surprize was that while using the bino's to help the star hopping with the telescope I found and logged M66, 65 and 49 in the bino's. I hit the wall around midnight and went to bed.

I really enjoyed the star party. My thanks and appreciation go to Jim Ster who was the driving force behind the move to Shingletown.

Carpe Noctem!
(Seize the Night!)

Michael Huster
Simpson College