New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby sfast » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:44 pm

As the new Field Trip and Observing Chairman for 2013, I see my main responsibility as organizing events and activities that will enable all our club members to observe more and better. So as your first New Year's resolution, I want to encourage you to pick at least one AL observing program to do in 2013. http://www.astroleague.org/observing.html

I started on the Messier list in February last year, and it was really, really hard at the beginning; but it revolutionized my observing and it's been one of the most fun things I've done in years. One year ago, the only deep-space objects I could find were the Great Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, and the Ring Nebula. I couldn't star hop and had an old non-GOTO scope, so that was about all I could find. But several club members generously showed me what I needed to know and answered my questions. While I'm far from an expert, I did finish the Messier list in December. So if you need something to help you get started and to keep you going, I strongly recommend an AL program.

I would like to start a thread on each of the AL observing programs where you can ask questions and give advice. Tell us which objects you enjoyed most and what one has you stumped. Maybe we can keep a running tally of how many objects on the list we've observed as a friendly competition.

If you don't know which one to pick, Messier, Double Star, and Solar System are all good ones to start with. All three can be completely or mostly done from within Houston, although you might need to go to a dark place like Bear Creek Park to do some of the Messier objects. Most or all of the objects can be found with a small scope too.

Steve
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby rene-gedaly » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:08 am

I love resolutions, and this one has nothing to do with losing weight ;) I've started the Messier list and plan to continue that while starting the HAS Texas 45 observing program. The Astronomical League Messier club has a little different requirements than the Texas 45, but it looks like satisfying both shouldn't be a problem if I observe from Columbus and go the star-hop route. Looks like fun, Steve.
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby sfast » Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:16 am

This should be a fun resolution :D
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby michael-rapp » Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:52 pm

My 2013 (and beyond) observing project is to re-observe the Messier and Caldwell objects. Sure, I did my Messier Certificate back in 1996, but back then it was always about getting through the list in the least amount of time so I could, ostensibly, start on the Herschels (which, back then, I associated with "real amateur astronomy"). In those years, I was doing 10-15 objects a night. Do I remember anything about the objects I observed? Of course not. Do all of my visual descriptions sound the same? Pretty much: "Visible with averted vision. Brightening in the core....mostly circular, with a diffuse outer edge."

So, my 2013 goal is to slow down and actually observe the objects. I also intend to sketch them. My inspiration for this, other than I can't remember any details of most of the Messier objects I observed the past, is that Stephen O'Meara in his Caldwell book relates that he spent five years working through that list, with about three clear nights spent on each object. Now, I don't think I'll approach that level of contemplation, but I certainly would like to remember and enjoy what I see a little bit better than I have in the past.

--Michael
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby sfast » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:29 pm

I think I rushed too much going through the Messier objects. I did 16 one night and 8-10 on several nights. So I want to go back and enjoy them now. But I think my observing skills have also improved so that I'm not just seeing fuzzballs anymore but I notice details and have the skills to enjoy them more. But three nights seems excessive!
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby arnie-hauswald » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:02 pm

Your program selections and viewing plans sound good, guys.

AL Lunar II Program for me this year, having recently complete the AL Lunar Program. Like M-Rapp, extensive supporting sketches are part of my journaling plan in the 'deuce' as well.

Clear Skies and Full Moons,
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby sfast » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:19 am

Arnie, would you be willing to share some of your sketches? How did you learn to sketch? Are you a natural artist or is it something that can be learned?
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby sfast » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:22 am

Anyone have updates on how their observing programs are going? I've got 78 objects on the Caldwell now, so I'm ready to submit for the certificate. I can probably do 5-10 more from Columbus as they come up later in the year. Someday I hope to take a trip south to finish the list because it was the most fun one that I have done.
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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby arnie-hauswald » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:24 pm

sfast wrote:Arnie, would you be willing to share some of your sketches? How did you learn to sketch? Are you a natural artist or is it something that can be learned?


Sure, Steve. I'll gladly share my sketches once they become presentable! All are quite rudimentary now. I'm learning the technique as I go. I have NO natural talent for the sketch. So if I can do it, anybody can! :lol: Was thrilled to hear Debbie (Moran) is planning on having a sketching presentation later this year as one of her 'novice' topics. North's Observing the Moon, is oriented primarily toward lunar sketching with a very useful sketching chapter in it.

I use the images on the LPOD (Lunar Photo of the Day) to practice my sketching against. But the real challenge is sketching at the scope! I use a single cell AAA white lens flashlite mounted to a clipboard that gives just enough illumination to sketch by at the scope. Works O.K. in my backyard, but probably not acceptable at the darksite.

Keep working toward completion of those AL Observing Programs!

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Re: New Year's Resolution - Pick an AL Program (or Three)

Postby sfast » Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:28 pm

I'm a terrible artist, but I would like to do at least a little better on sketching. So I'm eager to see what you have and to hear the talk that Debbie has planned.
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