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The skies at Comanche Springs are dark. You drive through a section of open range to get there. I had to get a picture of this brown cow sitting by the side of the road — this cow refused to be fazed by anything. I grew up in rural Oklahoma and in my experience, free-range cattle are highly correlated with dark skies.

The skies at Comanche Springs are Bortle 1 or 2. More than miles west of the DFW metroplex, and 20 miles from the nearest town of more than people, there are no light domes on the horizon — none. I roomed with these fine gentlemen. Lonnie Wege is a sales manager at Celestron and brought the door prizes, which were donated by Celestron. It was cold and windy, and then cloudy. I did spend a few minutes out in the lee of one of the bunkhouses cruising the sky with binoculars, and I figured out an easy hack for hanging my red headlamp over my bunkbed, but that was about it.

Usually I have a layer of masking tape over the front to knock down the brightness, but for some reason I pulled it off recently. Fortunately they had plenty of red taillight tape in the 3RF coffers, so I got it back into fighting trim. Pictured above are the thumb claw of Saurophaganax , a big allosauroid from Black Mesa in the Oklahoma panhandle more about that here , and the skull of Aquilops , a little ancestral horned dinosaur that I got to help name in ditto. Now, this was a Messier Marathon star party and there were rules and checklists and everything — more on that later in the post.

I think that originally Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights were all fair game for the contest, but Friday night turned out to be suboptimal. We did get a lovely sunset, as you can see above, but those clouds were pushed on through by a strong, cold wind. We also had a group of 15 or 20 college students visiting, so we all took turns looking through the big refractor.

The first object I saw myself through the big scope was the globular cluster M3. After the comet, we looked at the galaxies M, M82, and M, and the globular cluster M I might have missed an object or two — I popped outside to call home, and spent some time in the attached classroom warming up and getting to know some of my fellow stargazers. I know we went to Jupiter at some point, and we back to Jupiter at the end of the session to catch the start of an Io shadow transit.

I slept in on Saturday and did some final tinkering on my talk. David Moody gave a talk before dinner about visiting the Royal Astronomical Society library and getting to see first editions of books by Copernicus, Newton, Bode, Bayer, and more. When he came in, Lonnie told him that all he had won was the case, and the binos were going to someone else.

This is Phillip L. I won a door prize myself — a rechargeable hand warmer. I ran over and plugged it in after dinner so it would be ready to go by marathon time. I was very glad to have it later on. Saturday night was looking much, much better. There were a few clouds low on the western horizon, but everyone who had come to Comanche Springs to observe or image was getting ready. Here are Glenn Winn in the foreground setting up his Just out of the frame on the right was Jay Ellis and his own XT I set up just south of Jay, and the four of us were the biggest group of visual marathoners.

Phil Jones had his imaging rigs set up about feet south of Glenn. There were more imagers on the south observing field, by the Obsession shed, and at least two serious visual observers: Tom Monahan and Russ Boatright there may have been more, but Tom and Russ are the two who came to the awards ceremony on Monday. Not naked as in unclothed, but naked as in, not even with a list of the objects. In a regular M-cubed the observer is allowed no charts — they have to find all of the objects from memory, hence the name.

There were clouds low in the west again, and none of us got M But the clouds blew through quickly and after that it was clear, dark skies all night. I would have brought the Bresser 7x50s that came with the Comet Edition package, but I ran out of room in my backpack — the Bushnell roofs take up about half the space. And speaking of space in my backpack — I managed to fly with carry-on luggage only. A red duffel bag held the Bresser OTA, Manfrotto tripod, DwarfStar alt-az head, and big dinosaur claw, with my clothes wrapped around everything as packing material.

Both bags were stuffed nearly to bursting, but they were both within carry-on allowances and the backpack still fit under the seat in front of me. There were five categories: No-one has ever gotten all objects in one night at a 3RF marathon, so the highest aggregate goes to the person who gets the most over the course of two nights. Herschel objects were worth two points apiece, and there was an ascending scale of more difficult dim objects, including Hickson Compact Groups of galaxies. By the time I took my first break at I took several short breaks over the course of the evening to get snacks and caffeine and chat with people.

It all went pretty smoothly until just before dawn, when I was trying to catch M I star-hopped down from Deneb Algedi aka Delta Capricorni to the right vicinity and found myself looking at trees. They were only small trees, and probably yards from the observing field, but they still obscured those last few crucial degrees above the horizon. What I should have done is pick up the binoculars and walk south until I could see the target star with no trees in the way. So I moved everything yet again, and by the time I got on target, the sky was getting bright.

As it happened, I tied with Glenn Winn that night. Anyway, I went to bed happy. Got up for lunch on Sunday, then slept some more, then got up for another talk by Robert Reeves. It was incredible stuff — I took a whole page of notes to guide my own future moon-observing. Sunday night we had clearer skies than Saturday, but it was colder and a brisk north wind was blowing not long after dusk. None of us got M I have never seen it so bright. The other thing that shaped my Sunday night plans was the fact that Glenn did get M77, bringing his aggregate Messier total to All of my bonus points from Hs would only help in the event of a tie, and the only was I could tie him was to get M And without M74, there was no chance for me to achieve my personal goal of getting all Messiers in one night.

So I needed to be up before dawn to try for M30, but there was no point in subjecting myself to a whole night of observing in the windy cold. I was still using the 3RF Fujinon 7x50s. It was another Fujinon binocular that would provide the most memorable views of the evening: Sunday night I hopped in the big chair, Gary got the binos adjusted, and I was off.

In a word — WOW. I have been fortunate to get to observe with a lot of big telescopes, but I am not exaggerating when I say that using that bino chair was my favorite observing, ever.

Astronomy Deep Sky Naked Eye Field Guide for Kindle: 167 Step by Step Maps

I just sat there comfortably in a padded chair and drove myself around the sky with the joystick, while enjoying hands-down the brightest, most immersive, most enjoyable views of the night sky that I have ever had. Six inches is a lot of light-gathering per eye.

When I was cruising over to look at the Double Cluster, I kept getting distracted by all of the little open clusters that dot the Milky Way in and around Cassiopeia I was coming in from the north. M78, near Orion, was so big and bright that at first I thought I had the wrong object. I knocked off a little before midnight with 60 Messiers in the bag, and went to get some sleep.

I have read many accounts from observers under dark skies who said that when the summer Milky Way rose, it was so bright that they mistook it for a cloud. I had not previously experienced that for myself. But Monday morning I was headed out of the bunkhouse and I saw a bright, white cloud in the eastern sky. But when I turned my head to see how big the cloud was, and how extensive, it turned out to be the Milky Way in Sagittarius and Scutum.

They show up as blank spaces in the starfields. I got the scope correctly placed this time, and I got to the target star, and I spent about 15 minutes alternately adjusting the zoom eyepiece and staring into the darkness. Anyone who has pushed their gear to its limits in the search for faint fuzzies will know the feeling.

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There are the things that you see repeatably in the same place, with the same orientation, that you log as detected — and then there are things that never swim up out of the minor variations in background darkness that your retina throws up when confronted with a blank slate. M30 never surfaced for me. I did get 25 more Messiers with the 7x50s between 5: It helped that I had seen them all the previous morning with the telescope, so I knew exactly where to look. I was too keyed up to go right back to sleep, so I went into the observatory classroom, made myself a Frito pie with a microwave bowl of Dinty Moore Beef Stew — which was awesome , by the way — and copied my results over from my personal log to the 3RF competition forms.

Then I went back to sleep for a couple more hours. We all reconvened in the observatory classroom around The highest aggregate total went to Glenn Winn, with objects over the two nights. Color me impressed — very impressed. Jim Admire got 91 objects with his XT10g, and that was without pushing through dawn, so he won the GoTo category. I think the Young Observer awards went unclaimed, as no actual youngsters participated in the marathon.

Many thanks to 3RF volunteer Gary Carter for taking the photo, and for permission to use it here. A good time was had by all, and plans are already being laid for next time. Turns out that Jeff Barton is a fan of double stars, and he visibly lit up when I brought the idea of a Double Star Marathon to his attention. Something like 80 globs are visible in the fall during fall Messier Marathon season, so some kind of glob marathon may be in the offing in the near future as well. I learned some things about my gear, too.

Rarely have I had more effortless and trouble-free observing.

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I think Jeff Barton may have ordered one yesterday morning. M30 is more troubling. But I know it was visible in bigger scopes. Sure, it will be a few degrees higher by the end of the month, but M74 will be a few degrees lower, too. Now, I know that people have gotten all Messiers in one night with even smaller scopes.

According to this analysis by A. That is darned impressive. But your chances improve with bigger scopes.

Still, even a Flying with the Bresser Comet Edition turned out to be surprisingly easy. I got scope, tripod, alt-az head, and clothes for five days into a standard duffel bag. The likelihood of this scope racking up more airline miles in the future is very high. On the flip side, I did wish for a different atlas. I really need to suck it up and take the Jumbo PSA next time. I have new ambitions about gear — mainly, that I gotta get me some big binoculars. And my new no-holds-barred, price-is-no-object dream observing rig — which I may never achieve — is a motorized chair with mm binoculars.

It was that good. But ultimately the star party was not about gear, it was about experiences. I had a fantastic time at Comanche Springs, saw amazing things in the sky, learned a lot from my fellow amateurs, and most importantly made a lot of new friends. Many thanks to Jeff Barton and the whole 3RF crew for their hospitality and for making my trip possible. For more about Messier Marathons, including log sheets, links, and observing reports from previous marathons, see this page. Did I say cruel? I meant ridiculously First World cushy, where a grown man can afford nice toys and has the time to play with them and blog about it.

And waiting not-so-patiently for a chance to get out to dark skies and do some wide-field, low-power scanning. I actually did get about 45 minutes of semi-dark time with the scope a week ago. I was on dawn patrol up in the foothills and I spent some time in the summer constellations before the sun came up. The views were bright and contrasty, but all it did was whet my appetite.

Friday night I finally got the scope out under decent skies, for a decent amount of time. I decided pretty late to go to the Salton Sea — originally we had other plans, but Vicki and London were wiped out from a long week, and the forecast said that Friday was the last clear night for a while, all over SoCal. I was rolling pretty light. That was a novel experience — I usually roll with 10x50s or 15x70s. This was my first time using 7x binos for serious deep-sky observations.

The only way I broke with the Bresser package was with eyepieces. I did use the included 20mm degree a few times early in the evening, and I briefly tested the 10mm degree that just came in, but my most-used set for most of the evening consisted of the 28mm Edmund RKE, both natively A word about the 28mm RKE. There are several factors that play into that. One is the long eye relief. Another is the magical floating stars effect, which is real, and impressive. Using binos or eyepieces with exit pupils wider than your own will go is usually not recommended. The extra light falls on the muscles of your iris, not on your retina, so your pupil becomes an aperture mask , stopping down the system to a smaller working aperture.

You could get just as much light delivered to your brain using a smaller instrument or eyepiece. One nice effect of swapping the 28mm RKE for the 20mm degree is that they have close to the same true field of view of 2. I did have one minor gear screw-up: I forgot my laser. Same with the C80ED, except for one or two nights early on. When I really need help I lay a laser finder along a straight edge and use it to point to things in the sky. On the C80ED, there are a couple of buckles on the tube clamp that together form a de facto trough like the one I built for the SkyScanner On the ARS, the finder bracket serves the same purpose.

But I forgot my laser. So I did what I usually do, just dead-reckoned it. But none of those eyepieces do their thing with the same panache as the 28mm RKE — at least in this scope. I had a program in mind. So I decided that the best way to properly test the Bresser would be to start a Messier survey with it. To be clear, I had no intention of attempting an off-season or mini Messier Marathon. I decided to just go until I got tired. When I started observing at They were spectacular as always.

The cluster was fully resolved at 33x, but I thought it was prettier at I also checked in on NGC , which is a much less impressive cluster and a much tougher catch since it is dominated by a bright foreground star. I hit M34 on my way out, and of course I stopped at the Pleiades, which were very nicely framed at After all of that, I realized that I had to get a move on if I wanted to catch M79, the glob in Lepus, before it set. It was a tiny red spark in the 28mm RKE.

The whole sword of Orion fits into the field of view of the RKE. The Trapezium was nicely broken out into four stars at 33x with the Barlow. Up to this point I had been using the 7x50s to trace my star hops in advance, but now I really started to run ahead. In this case, I started at Sirius and followed the path of my December article down through Canis Major, across Puppis — with a side trip down to Vela that was not in the article — and into Hydra for M Then I picked up where my tour from this March started, running northwest through Monoceros and northern Orion before ending in Gemini.

Running through both tours took about 10 minutes, and I saw a lot and missed a lot more. Seriously, that stretch of the winter Milky Way is just ridiculous. You can swing your optics over it again and again and not pick out all there is to see. Then I had a long break to rehydrate, eat a snack, and get into my cool-weather getup. After the break I went back through almost all of that with the telescope, in part just to see it all with more than 50mm of aperture. Both were dim swarms of faint stars that were still not fully resolved at 52x, but very pretty.

I had not noticed them in the binos, but after catching them in the scope I was able to see them when I went back with the 7x50s. I was comparing the two clusters in the binos when a meteor flashed through my field of view, which is always a cool sight. I spent about half an hour trying to catch the planetary nebula NGC , and even hauled out Interstellarum to help me get on target, but I never got a definite sighting.

I did catch NGC , the planetary nebula that is superimposed on M46 but only about half as far off as the cluster. By the time I was finished retracing my winter Milky Way tours, the Auriga Messiers were getting low in the west, so I hopped over to check them out. After that I hit M44 and M67 in Cancer. M44 was just perfect at The stars in that cluster always seem to fall into geometric patterns to me, as if they were laid out using a grid system that got erased the morning after creation. I also popped up north, past Iota Cancri and over the border into Lynx, to check on NGC , a surprisingly bright and easy Herschel galaxy that I had previously only observed with binoculars.

Want to know more about this galaxy and its neighbors? After that I turned south, to Omega Centauri. From Mecca Beach there is a definite light dome from El Centro and usually some near-horizon haze in the southwest — directly over the water. But Omega Centauri culminates between that particular Scylla and Charybdis. Last month I spent nearly an hour checking it out, using naked eyes, binoculars, and several levels of magnification with the C80ED. I could just get the outermost stars to resolve at x, albeit in imperfect seeing. This time was worse — about the same lousy seeing, and slightly worse transparency.

I think it should be naked-eye visible under optimum conditions, but my conditions were not optimum. It was obvious in the binos and showed some detail in the scope. Then it was on to Corvus to check in on M and M I also observed the planetary nebula NGC , I think for the first time. I also visited M83 while I was in that neck of the woods. What a wonderful galaxy, so big, bright, and obviously elongated even at low magnification.

By now it was almost 3: That might have been the scope, but it might have been the skies — by this point there was a steady breeze blowing right in my face when I looked east. I have had other nights where the seeing was so bad that Epsilon Lyrae would not split. I decided to finish with M57, which was fitting since it was a chance observation of that nebula with the TravelScope 70 a few years ago that got me hooked on refractors. I wanted to recreate the feel of that surprising low-power observation so I left in the 28mm RKE.

The whole southern end of the parallelogram fit very nicely into the 3-degree field, with M57 showing as a pale little dot. Then I realized that I had stopped the scope down to 60mm while I was playing with the double star and had forgotten to take off the aperture mask. The nebula had been obvious at 60mm — at full aperture it was so bright it almost looked stellar.

I ended the night having observed several double stars and 46 unique DSOs with the telescope, of which only 22 were Messier objects. Every Messier I attempted was not just visible but easy at Will be interesting to try it on some of the smaller, tougher objects like M I think this will be my Marathon scope this year. In particular, the evening I spent stargazing with Doug up in Oregon that October is in my short list of all-time favorite observing sessions.

After spending literally years contemplating the purchase, what finally tipped me into SkyScanner ownership was my own forgetfulness. On July 3 I was driving to Utah to spend 10 days hunting dinosaurs with friends and colleagues. So my choices were to roll with binos only, or come up with Plan B on the fly. The number of dedicated telescope stores on the direct route between Barstow and Moab continues to hover near zero. However, I was already planning to pass through Flagstaff, which has the Lowell Observatory, which has a gift shop. Not long after, I had a SkyScanner in the back seat of the car and a song in my heart.

Bluff is truly remote — the nearest towns with more than people are Moab , miles north, and Kayenta, Arizona , 68 miles southwest. So the skies are inky dark.

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I rolled in pretty late and I really needed to get some rack, but there was zero chance that I was going to pass up first light for the SkyScanner under those jet-black southern Utah skies. I drove about five miles outside of town and pulled over on a dirt road. The sky was just incredible, even better than out on Santa Cruz Island back in June. Again, the Milky Way looked like an astrophoto and the Messiers in Scorpio, Scutum, and Sagittarius were almost all naked-eye visible minus a few of the minor globs.

In skies like that, a telescope can almost be a distraction. And after that, the sky was at least partly cloudy for most of a week. Finally on the evening of July 10th we got nice, clear skies. I drove out southeast of Moab on the La Sal Loop Road with a couple of new friends and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours rocking through the best and brightest. The SkyScanner performed like a champ.

Karl Rijkse center shows his heirloom German binoculars to Howard Maculsay left and me. With an assembled weight of just over 6 lbs, it is the definition of a one-hander. The tabletop tripod works great, very smooth, and the rubber feet provide a good grip even on the precarious edge of a sloping car hood. And it goes on my Manfrotto tripod 3. I was going to set up the scope outside after the meeting so we could all have a look at Saturn, but the night sky was almost completely blocked out by smoke from the wildfires and the air quality was terrible, so we packed it in.

Obviously, that never happened. I find that with my observing reports, I need to get them done and out quickly or they never happen. When London and I stayed there together back in , we camped at the Palm Canyon campground, which is basically the headquarters campground of the park. There are no stoplights in town there is one roundabout, and enough stop signs , and all of the businesses use low but sufficient! As a result, I can see more stars in town in Borrego Springs than I can in some rural areas elsewhere. Happily, the locals are aware of how much of a draw the dark skies are, and they actively promote Borrego Springs as a place to come stargaze for example.

So the skies are pretty dark even in town, and once you get outside of the town they get very dark. One of the highlights of the November trip for me was getting my first really good look at NGC and , two halves of a planetary nebula in northern Gemini. Always before the nebula had just looked like a dim blob, but that night I could see both halves very clearly as separate arcs of nebulosity. London was rolling that night with his XT4.

In the gift shop at Palomar he spent some of his birthday money to get a planisphere and a constellation guide. At the campground he drove his scope by himself, and found Andromeda, the Double Cluster, the Pleiades, and Orion without any help from me. It was a milestone observing session for him.

I spent a lot of time in Orion that night myself. Orion always looks pretty good — the total object — but under very dark skies it looks amazing. I got a special treat around midnight — I saw a satellite drifting through the field of view as I nudged the scope along to follow the nebula.

I stopped pushing the scope and sure enough, the satellite just sat there, rock solid, while the nebula and starfield drifted past. I was back at Anza-Borrego this past weekend for the Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists annual meeting. It was a one-day regional conference held on Saturday, February I gave a talk and I wanted to look presentable, so instead of camping the night before I got a hotel room. Especially if by staying out I could get in some good dark-sky time. I had originally planned to drive around to one of the Salton Sea campgrounds — Borrego Springs is on the western side of the sea.

But I figured that with the holiday weekend all of the campsites would be taken. In the State Park visitor center — which is awesome and has some cool fossils from the park on display — I learned that the many undeveloped campgrounds in the park do not require reservations and that not all of them were likely to fill up. In particular, the ranger recommended Culp Valley Campground, which is about 8 miles west of Borrego Springs and at an elevation of feet. I drove up Friday night after dinner to hike it out and do a quick binocular tour of the winter best and brightest.

The conference on Saturday was great, my talk went well and I had a great time talking to colleagues old and new. After the banquet I drove up to Culp Valley, found a spot, and got settled in. My plan was to go right to bed and get up in the morning for dawn patrol, but — predictably — I was not able to pass up another quick turn around the sky, which evolved into half an hour of fun binocular observing.

I did manage to get up at 4: I had to have the ranger explain it to me twice. That said, if you go stay at one I encourage you to stop by the park visitor center and leave a few bucks in the donation box — even undeveloped campgrounds require some upkeep. Thursday evening Steve took us out to one of his favorite dark-sky observing sites a few miles east of Big Bear. We had hoped to get an early start but a succession of minor things kept us from getting set up and going until about By that time astronomical twilight was long over.

We could occasionally see lights from vehicles on a bend in the road about a mile off, but other than that, no artificial lights were visible from the site. The altitude is around feet. This field guide can be used simultaneously on a laptop, iPhone, iPad and a Kindle.

The "Kindle for PC" allows the maps to be displayed full screen on a jet black background, and the display intensity can be adjusted to minimum to save night adapted vision. This display is truly unmatched by other PC applications or web browsers. The iPad - iPhone version of the field guide is exceptional as well. The maps are brilliant white on black with virtually no glare.

In the chapter devoted to visible deep sky objects, no marginally visible deep sky objects have been included. All of hese objects can be seen with the naked eye in average dark skies. Each deep sky object is displayed with a layered series of maps that progressively build a context of constellations and nearby stars. On the maps, the stars, constellations and deep sky objects are displayed in vivid white, and the sky is black.

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Bright 4th magnitude reference stars serve as end points for each reference line. Deep sky objects are mapped in order as they traverse the sky throughout each night and throughout the year. Because reference line end-point stars are often repeated from one object to the next, after locating a deep sky object it is often easy to locate the next. It is not necessary to mark out degrees in the sky or have a magnifying finder telescope. A word about the editor: He matched the demographic of a large sector of our intended audience.

On the one hand, we are unveiling a method to locate deep sky objects that will be helpful to veteran stargazers. On the other hand, we wanted to be certain that a novice could download this field guide to a Kindle and begin locating deep sky objects that same night. His fresh perspective, attention to detail and insistence on clarity proved immeasurably valuable.

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Jun 17, McUH rated it liked it. Good - fair number of objects with guidelines to locate for naked eye or small telescope Bad - maps render quality This is about guidelines maps to locate some deep space objects and explanation to use them. There is only very little content apart from this but that was not aim of the book. Sadly Kindle versions on star gazing are not such a great choice because star maps do not render too well.