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All observing logs in category Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 21.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.4C ...
Humidity: 40% ...
Wind Speed: 3.5mph ...
Wind Dir: North North West ...
Pressure: 1017.2hPa ...

Very warm, clear day. No real haze to speak of and no clouds visible. Did a quick sunspot count with the Solarscope.


From: 2006-05-11 13:00 UT
To: 2006-05-11 13:06 UT

With the Solarscope I could only see a single active area (880) which only contained a single spot.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-11 20:45 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 14.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.7C ...
Humidity: 57% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1015.8hPa ...

Reasonably clear evening, no cloud visible, although the sky did look a little murky towards the horizon. Moon close to full (about 95% waxing gibbous) so moonlight was bound to make for a pretty awful sky.

Having read in a couple of places that fragment B of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 was in outburst (even to the point of claiming that it was visible to the naked eye in moonlight) I decided to have a session to see if I could find it.


From: 2006-05-11 20:50 UT
To: 2006-05-11 20:59 UT

Sky not quite properly dark yet so I decided to start with another look at Saturn. Using the 905 with the 6mm eyepiece I had a view that wasn't one of the best I'd ever had. The image wasn't very crisp and was often unsteady. Despite this most of the usual detail could still be seen. Both shadows were very obvious and there was a hint of banding on the planet itself. The Cassini Division kept popping in and out of view but was mostly hard to see.

Titan was visible although, with direct vision, would pop in and out of view (first time I've ever seen that happen). With averted vision I could see it with little problem.

State of the sky

Time: 2006-05-11 21:05 UT

By this point the sky was still very light, it was very hard to see all but the brightest of stars. Looking at Ursa Minor, for example, I could only easily see the three main stars (Polaris, Kochab and Pherkad).

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-11 21:07 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:35 UT

From 21:07 UT to around 21:18 UT I did an initial sweep for either fragment B or fragment C of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 with the binocular but failed to locate either of them. This seemed to confirm that the sky was pretty terrible.

After double checking the location of fragment B (it was located about way between Deneb and Sulafat) I did another sweep that ended around 21:34 UT but I'd still not found it.

Finally, after a third attempt, at around 21:45 UT I was sure I'd finally found fragment B. It was in exactly the right location but very hard to see. All I could detect was a faint, ghostly patch with no definition to it. It was right on the edge of my vision with direct vision and only a little better when using averted vision.

To be sure that I had located it I made a mental note of the pattern of stars close by and popped into the office to check the location with Starry Night. This check confirmed that I had located fragment B.

Between around 22:15 UT and 22:35 UT I made further observations, comparing the view in the binocular with the view in the 905 using the 32mm eyepiece. It appeared to be easier to see with the binocular than with the 905.

By the time I stopped attempting to observe fragment B the sky hadn't improved, if anything I'd have said that it had got a little worse. Even as late as 22:35 UT I could still only easily see the three main stars in Ursa Minor.


From: 2006-05-11 22:40 UT
To: 2006-05-11 22:51 UT

I noticed that it was now possible to have a look at Jupiter from round the side of the house so I moved the 905 into position, lined it up on the planet and dropped in the 6mm eyepiece. The view was very impressive, possibly the best view I've had yet (which is saying something considering how low down it is this apparition). Not only could I see the two main bands, they both had a very mottled appearance that was always visible. Also, the rest of the disc had very obvious variation with hints of detail to them. The polar regions were obviously very different in colour from the rest of the planet.

All four of the main moons were easily visible. When I had the planet in the middle of the field of view Callisto, which was furthest out, didn't actually fit in the field.

At 22:51 UT I decided to call an end to the session. Conditions were far from ideal and I needed to be up at a reasonable time the following morning.


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-05 12:50 UT
To: 2006-05-05 12:54 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 22.8C ...
Dew Point: 8.8C ...
Humidity: 41% ...
Wind Speed: 7mph ...
Wind Dir: South South West ...
Pressure: 1018.2hPa ...

Mostly clear, just a few clouds about, slight breeze. Nice and warm. Did a quick sunspot count with the Solarscope.


From: 2006-05-05 12:50 UT
To: 2006-05-05 12:54 UT

With the Solarscope I could only see two active areas (as best as I can tell they were 878 and 880). Could only see a single spot in each area giving a total of two spots for today.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-05 19:34 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:45 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 18.3C ...
Dew Point: 8.2C ...
Humidity: 52% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1019.1hPa ...

A clear, warm and calm evening. The sky was still very light (the Sun hadn't long set). I decided to set up the 905 to have a session observing the Moon (which was just past first ). I also intended to observe Saturn and, if I was out late enough and the position was right, Jupiter.

All being well I also wanted to try and further observe 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 although I didn't hold out too much hope given how bright the Moon was going to be.

Searching for Saturn in a light sky

From: 2006-05-05 19:34 UT
To: 2006-05-05 19:41 UT

Although the sky was still very light I did a quick sweep of the area to the west of the Moon with the binoculars to see if I could spot Saturn. Pretty quick I spotted it.

Having found it with the binoculars I tried to get it in the 905 but, even using the 32mm eyepiece to give me a fighting chance, I just couldn't track it down. I guess, if I'd persisted, I'd have got it in the end but I decided to give up and move on to the Moon.

Imaging the Moon with a mobile phone

From: 2006-05-05 19:51 UT
To: 2006-05-05 19:55 UT

I lined the Moon up in the 905 and, because I had my mobile phone in my pocket, I decided to try taking some shots. I knew they weren't going to be anything clever but I thought I'd have a try anyway. All attempts were using afocal projection while simply holding the phone in my hand.

I took a number of images but most of them were really terrible and were deleted on the spot. The following were the best of the bunch (which gives a good idea of how terrible the others were).

Moon with mobile phone

Moon with mobile phone

The Moon

From: 2006-05-05 20:14 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:00 UT

After taking the images shown above, and after a short break from "proper" observing to show my wife the Moon via the 905, I stayed with the Moon to work my way along parts of the terminator and areas close to it.

The first features that really stood out were Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel. While Ptolemaeus was mostly fully lit by the sunlight (the floor looking very smooth except for a couple of small but obvious craters within it) Alphonsus and Arzachel both had their floors in shadow but with their central peaks lit.

Further south I could see (running east to west) Nasireddin, Huggins and Orontius. The latter was mostly in shade, in the night side of the terminator, but the "back" wall (in relation to the direction of the sunlight) was fully lit. I could also very clearly see a small crater in the wall (which is unnamed on the map I had with me).

To the north, on the eastern side of Mare Imbrium, I could clearly see Mons Piton casting a very long shadow which seemed to have a conical shape about it.

Over in the night side I could clearly see the peak of Mons Pico. Near it, just to the south, I could see another sunlit peak. The mountain in question is on my map but isn't named (I can see I'm going to have to get a more detailed map of the Moon some time soon).

The next thing I saw, clearly cutting a path through Montes Alpes, was Vallis Alpes. Although I've seen plenty of images of this feature I was still quite taken by how striking it was. This is a good candidate for further observations and possibly a good candidate for a lunar sketch at some point in the future.

The shadows from Montes Alpes were very striking — I counted 6 distinct shadows stretching out into the floor of Mare Imbrium. One of them appeared much longer than the others and I took this to be the shadow of Mons Blanc.

Other mountain ranges that stood out were Montes Spitzbergen (which could be seen just north of Archimedes and more or less on the terminator) and Montes Archimedes (which was also more or less on the terminator, south of Archimedes).

The next thing I noticed, in the terminator, was the eastern wall of Plato. Above it, in Mare Frigoris, I then noticed what looked like some sort of ridge running more or less east to west. I could see a hint of the feature on my map but no name is given. While the impression on the map is that it isn't a very distinct feature the view I had was one of a feature that was very significant (not very surprising really given its proximity to the terminator — the western end of it seemed to disappear into the terminator). To some degree the view I had reminded me of Rupes Recta, except this feature more or less runs east/west (unlike Rupes Recta, which runs more or less north/south). The "higher" side (the side that appeared to be sunlit) was the north side — the south side seeming to be in shadow.

At 20:52 UT the seeing suddenly deteriorated and for the first time this session there seemed to be a breeze about. Given that the image in the 'scope seemed to be getting worse I finally decided, at 21:00 UT, that it would be a good time to take a short break.

Assessing the viewing conditions

Time: 2006-05-05 21:10 UT

By now the sky had got quite dark but the moonlight was visibly causing problems — making the sky look quite washed out. Conditions were so bad that I couldn't actually make out the Keystone. Conditions didn't look good for viewing the comet.

Although it was hard to tell at this point there was a hint of some cloud moving in on the eastern horizon.

Brief look at Saturn

From: 2006-05-05 21:15 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:25 UT

Had a brief look at Saturn with the 905 and the 6mm eyepiece. It wasn't anywhere near the best view I've had of it this apparition but I was still able to make out both of the shadows, a hint of handing on the planet's surface and, from time to time, the Cassini Division would pop in and out of view.

A quick hunt for Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-05 21:20 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:30 UT

Used the binoculars quickly hunt for fragments B or C of 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 but failed to find them. I did note that M13 was only just visible so it didn't come as any surprise that I failed.

Assessing the chances of observing Jupiter

From: 2006-05-05 21:33 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:34 UT

Wandered around the house looking for a possible vantage point that would give me a good view of Jupiter but couldn't find a location that would give a clear view with the 905. I did have a quick look with the binoculars and could briefly see a hint of the Jovian moons but the eyepieces misted up and put a stop to that.

Increasing cloud — end of session

From: 2006-05-05 21:35 UT
To: 2006-05-05 21:45 UT

Just after checking on Jupiter I noticed that it was starting to fade and, shortly after that, it totally disappeared. I quickly became obvious that a bank of cloud was moving in from the east. Within a couple of minutes it was almost overhead and I could see no stars all the way down to the eastern horizon. Because it looked like there wasn't going to be a break in this (and the forecasts for the evening had it clouding up with a chance of rain) I called an end to the session.


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-03 13:17 UT
To: 2006-05-03 13:24 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Temperature: 20.7C ...
Dew Point: 9.2C ...
Humidity: 49% ...
Wind Speed: 1.1mph ...
Wind Dir: East North East ...
Pressure: 1011.3hPa ...

Breezy day with lots of broken cloud about — sunny intervals were more the exception than the rule but there was a short time when a sunspot count with the Solarscope was possible.


From: 2006-05-03 13:17 UT
To: 2006-05-03 13:24 UT

With the Solarscope I could still see active areas 875, 878 and 879. Between them I counted 7 sunspots.

Using eclipse shades I checked to see if it was still possible to see area 875 with the naked eye but I was unable to detect it.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-03 20:35 UT
To: 2006-05-03 22:45 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 15.2C ...
Dew Point: 9.1C ...
Humidity: 68% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1013.8hPa ...

Another calm, clear evening, similar to a couple of nights ago but also a lot warmer. It was still light when I first stepped out, I wanted to get things set up as soon as possible and give the 'scopes plenty of time to cool down. Waxing crescent Moon, getting close to first , was in the western sky.

The main plan for the evening was to try and observe comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, with a view to trying to track down fragment B and, if possible, any other fragments. Because of this, as with a couple of nights back, I took both the 905 and the 130M out with me.


From: 2006-05-03 20:40 UT
To: 2006-05-03 20:59 UT

While waiting for it to get dark (and while letting the 130M have plenty of time to cool down) I decided to start by viewing Saturn with the 905. After getting the planet lined up in the 'scope I switched to the 6mm eyepiece. The image was crisp and steady, much better than the last observation. Right away the shadow of the planet on the rings and the shadow of the rings on the planet stood out. The Cassini Division kept leaping in and out of view.

Noticed that Titan was obvious close by.

I also noticed that I was getting many fleeting hints of banding on the surface of the planet.

The Moon

From: 2006-05-03 21:00 UT
To: 2006-05-03 21:26 UT

To kill some more time I turned the 905 on the Moon. The first thing that stood out was, in Mare Serenitatis, Dorsa Smirnov. It stood out as a very obvious line, snaking its way up the eastern side of the mare.

Closer to the terminator from Dorsa Smirnov I could pick out a line of 5 small craters, each one casting a very long shadow. On my lunar map only the bottom two are named. The names given are (starting at the bottom of the line) Deseilligny and Sarabhai. I'll have to try and find a more detailed map to get the names for the others.

Further to the north, partly in the terminator, Montes Caucasus looked amazing in the low sunlight. It looked as if someone had thrown a huge pile of rubble onto the lunar surface — the whole thing having a very "bitty" appearance.

Even further to the north Aristoteles stood out really well. The eastern wall of the crater was nicely lit while the rest (floor and western wall) was in total darkness. Adjacent to it Mitchell could be seen with the tops of all of its walls lit but with the floor in total darkness. Close by I could also see Galle was casting a very long shadow.

A short break and a meteor

From: 2006-05-03 21:27 UT
To: 2006-05-03 21:44 UT

Noticed that the Keystone was now quite high and more or less in a good place to observe. Also noticed that the sky still looked quite bright due to the moonlight — I could easily see my shadow cast by the Moon.

Decided to have a short break for a drink before attempting to find and observe the comet.

At 21:37 UT I saw a meteor travel west through the "bowl" of the Plough in Ursa Major.

Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (plus a meteor)

From: 2006-05-03 21:45 UT
To: 2006-05-03 22:44 UT

Started out with the 10x50 binocular and found what I thought was fragment C of Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. It was much harder to make out than a couple of nights ago — I suspect this was down to the increased interference from the Moon.

Having found the right general area I switched to the 905 with the 32mm eyepiece and couldn't find it. I spent at least 5 minutes looking in what I thought was the right area but could not identify the comet.

At 21:57 UT I saw a meteor travel from the zenith to the eastern horizon, north of the Keystone. It was quite bright but I didn't manage to estimate the peak magnitude.

Finally, at 22:00 UT, I found fragment C of the comet in the 905. It was much less obvious than the last observation, less of a hint of a tail.

At 22:08 UT I switched to the 130M with the 32mm eyepiece and easily found fragment C. The view with the 130M was much better and brighter. The tail was much more obvious.

After some time looking at fragment C I went looking for fragment B with the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. By 22:27 UT (after about 1 minute of looking) I was sure I'd found it. I had what appeared to be a faint, fuzzy patch, just outside the Keystone and in the same field of view as M13. Whatever it was I was looking at it was much fainter than M13.

At 22:29 UT I took a look at the same location with the 130M and the 25mm eyepiece and found the same object. It was much clearer and more obvious with the 130M and there was a hint of a tail visible. Given the location and the look there was little doubt that I'd located fragment B.

Around 22:36 UT I had a go at finding fragment B with the 10x50s but, due to the eyepieces constantly misting up, I failed and gave up. For a brief moment before they misted up badly I thought I saw C and possibly another fragment but that might have been wishful thinking on my part.

At 22:45 UT I noticed that there was quite a bit of cloud rolling in from the south west. Showers had been forecast for anything from 23:00 UT onwards so I decided to play it safe and call an end to the session so that I could get the 'scopes packed away.


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-05-01 20:10 UT
To: 2006-05-01 22:17 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Temperature: 8.9C ...
Dew Point: 2.8C ...
Humidity: 66% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1003.3hPa ...

Calm, clear evening. Still light when I first stepped out. Some high-level haze was visible but it seemed to be patchy and didn't look like it would cause much of a problem. Waxing crescent Moon (about 12% illuminated) in the western sky.

The main plan for the evening was to try and observe comet 73P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. With this in mind I set up both the 905 and the 130M — the idea being that the former would be useful for locating the comet and the latter would be better for actual observing once I'd located it.

The Moon

From: 2006-05-01 20:14 UT
To: 2006-05-01 20:30 UT

While waiting for it to get dark (and while letting the 130M have plenty of time to cool down) I decided to turn the 905 on the Moon. I started with the 25mm eyepiece. Right away the earthshine looked very impressive, good enough to see plenty of features on the night side of the Moon.

Mare Crisium was fully illuminated with the terminator running through Mare Fecunditatis.

I spent a little time using different eyepieces and quickly running up and down the terminator, enjoying the sights of the various craters and mountains that could be picked out. I made no serious effort to do any real lunar observing as that wasn't the main point of the evening.

I then spent a bit of time trying to get a couple of images, through the 25mm eyepiece, using the camera in my mobile phone. Sadly the day-side of the Moon was always too washed out and none of the images were any good.


From: 2006-05-01 20:37 UT
To: 2006-05-01 21:00 UT

Next, while waiting for it to get dark enough to look for the comet, I decided to have a look at Saturn. I started with the 905 and the 10mm eyepiece. Right off the planet's shadow on the rings was obvious. The image was sharp but often unsteady. There was no obvious hint of the Cassini Division.

Next I switched to the 6mm eyepiece and there was a good view of the shadow of the rings on the planet. There was also a faint suggestion of banding on the planet's surface. The image wasn't as steady as previous sessions but, with the 6mm, I did start to get the odd hint of the Cassini Division in steady moments.

One thing that was very obvious was, when compared to the last couple of views I've had of Saturn with the 905 (2006-03-24 and 2006-04-03), the planet was looking smaller than I recalled.

Next, as a comparison test, I turned the 130M on Saturn. Using the 6mm eyepiece the image was (obviously) much bigger than with the 905 but it was also much softer too. At no point could I get as sharp a focused image as I could with the 905. I'd say that the 130M didn't give me any more detail on Saturn than the 905 did, perhaps even a little less. The image was, obviously, much brighter with the 130M.

I find it hard to believe that there'd be that much difference between the two, this suggests to me that I really need to give the 130M a good check-up and redo the collimation (it has been a long time since I checked the collimation).

International Space Station

Time: 2006-05-01 21:08 UT

Noticed a very bright satellite heading west to east, just below Leo. Watched it head down into Virgo and then fade. Given the look, location and speed I suspected that it was the International Space Station.

Checking later, it was the ISS.

Haze starting to form

Time: 2006-05-01 21:12 UT

Noticed that some thicker high-level haze was starting to form. This was causing a slight halo around the Moon and, looking over to Hercules, I could see that it was difficult (but not impossible) to see the Keystone asterism.


Time: 2006-05-01 21:18 UT

Watched a satellite pass south to north just west of Botes.

According to `stella' on the SPA BB what I saw was a rocket body called Resurs 1-4.

First look for Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

Time: 2006-05-01 21:27 UT

Despite the fact that conditions were less than ideal I decided to have a first go at looking for Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. Using the 905 with the 25mm eyepiece I started out at Epsilon Herculis and worked my way to the general location of the comet (actually, fragment C of the comet — that's all I was concentrating on this evening — mostly because I ran out of time and good conditions). With no effort at all I found the comet.

The general impression was that it was faint, fuzzy and conical shaped. With direct vision it was almost impossible to see but with averted vision it was easy enough to detect. At times there was a hint of blue/white colour to it.

Next I dropped the 32mm eyepiece in the 130M and located the comet with that. This time I could see it with direct vision and there was a very obvious hint of a tail — even more so when averted vision was used.

Still on the 130M I then switched to the 25mm eyepiece and then the 15 mm eyepiece but found that, the shorter the focal length I used, the worse the image became. The 32mm eyepiece was easily giving the best view.

At this point, using the 130M and the 25mm eyepiece, I made a mental note of the location of the comet in relation to the stars close by with a view to seeing if I could detect movement with a later observation.

Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 with 10x50 binocular

Time: 2006-05-01 21:45 UT

I grabbed my Meade 10x50 binocular and quickly located the comet without any effort. It was very obvious — impossible to miss. When compared with M13 the comet appeared bigger and more diffuse.

Jupiter with the naked eye

Time: 2006-05-01 21:55 UT

From the bottom of the garden I noticed, through some trees over the road from me, that Jupiter was up and looking very bright. Sadly, given the position, it was almost impossible to use either of the telescopes to have a look. Given that Jupiter is going to be rather low to the horizon for this apparition there's a good chance that I won't get to observe it (at least not from home) as it'll probably be obscured by the house most of the time.

Second look at Comet 73/P-C Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

From: 2006-05-01 22:10 UT
To: 2006-05-01 22:17 UT

After a short break I went back to the 130M with the 25mm eyepiece to see if I could detect any movement (based on the earlier mental note). It was instantly obvious that there had been movement in that time. Given the rate of movement I saw in such a short period of time I noted that it would be interesting to see how the location compared on subsequent nights (assuming, of course, that the weather plays ball and I get the chance to observe it again any time soon).

By 22:17 UT thicker haze had moved in from the west and it looked like it was more or less horizon to horizon. At this point I decided to call an end to the session.

Page last modified: 2013-04-09 09:19:19 UT
Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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