Astronomical League Observing Program trivia questions

Astronomical League Observing Program trivia questions

Postby edward-fraini » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:14 pm

Question One-Since the formation of HAS how many Astronomical League Club certificates have members of HAS acquired? I know that for many, maybe even most, the quest of an observing certificate does not have much attraction. But for some of us, I am included in this group, the structure of an observing club helps motivate us to observe and they make me much more efficient under the night sky. I find myself being more diligent about having an observing plan when I am working on an observing program.
So how many have there been?? Well as of end of this year the total is 255! That number is a bit soft because the Astronomy League tally is a couple months behind and I know from experience that some of the club chairs are a bit slow in getting data up to the League office. So officially it is 255 but I bet that it probable is really between 260 and 265.
Question Two- Who was the first member to collect a certificate? Answer – Norman Jones! I do not know the name; maybe some of the members who have been around longer do know him. He was awarded with the Messier certificate number 307 in April of 1977. Since then 113 Messier certificates have been awarded to our club members. The last one of record was awarded to Steve Fast and his certificate number is 2599, so that observing club has grown to over 2600 by now.

Question Three- What are the most popular clubs for our members? Overwhelmingly it is Messier with 114, next is Binocular Messier with 26 and thirdly we see Lunar with 18. One reason Lunar is popular is probably because it is up so much of the time during the lunar cycle, but also it might be because this is one that can be completed in the comfort of your driveway or back yard. Lastly it combines visual, binocular and small telescope observations all of which can be achieved with little prep time. Surprisingly there is another club not well represented in the tally that can be done from your home and it is not the Urban Observing Program I am referring to. It is the Sun Spotter Program which is best done early ever morning. We have three members (Jay Levy #13, Doug McCormick #33, Ed Fraini #156) with that certificate.

Question Four- Which clubs have the least HAS participation? Want to get away from the norm then try the Caldwell Program (only Steve Sartor, number 123), the Open Cluster Program (only Brian Cudnik, number 36) or the Planetary Nebula Program (only Gordon Houston, number 11). Each of these takes some unique observing skills you will only learn at the eyepiece.
If you decide to tackle an observing program my number one piece of advice is to find a mentor who can help you at the eyepiece, and help you properly record good complete observations. Typically there are eight to ten certificates award to HAS members per year. There have been three years that this number has soared to 18. If we all put in that extra bit of effort we could surpass 20 in 2014.

Last question- Who would make a good mentor? For starters I would suggest any of the Master Observers who are HAS members. We can be proud to have a good number of them in our Houston club. In order of achieving this recognition they are: Doug McCormick #48, Amelia Goldberg #55, Gordon Houston #76, Larry Wadle #87, and most recently Brian Cudnik #101. Each of these individuals has ten or more observing clubs to their credit including the Hershel 400. We have 12 members that have tackled and completed this lofty Hershel club. One way to find your mentor is to do a little search. If you go to the Astronomical League WEB page you will find a link called “Award Search” which is the second link under “Observing Programs”. When you click on this link it will pop up a page with four search criteria boxes. In the first box select the observing program you have an interest in, leave the second as the default “all”, leave the third which is labeled Name blank, and enter “Houston Astronomical Society” in the last and click “search”. It will render you a list of all the HAS members who hold the certificate you are interested in. I am betting you will see a name that stands out to you as a potential mentor.
As I said in the beginning, we are not all wired to work on lists. But I encourage you to pick a club that is off your beaten path and give it a try. You will be a better observer for it even if you never complete that particular program.
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Re: Astronomical League Observing Program trivia questions

Postby stephen-jones » Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:31 pm

I for one plan to add my Messier and Lunar awards in 2014 if the weather will allow it. I'm in the home stretch with Lunar and I've got about 40 to go with Messier, most of them in the Virgo area

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Re: Astronomical League Observing Program trivia questions

Postby sfast » Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:56 am

Thanks, Ed, that's was fun to read.

I highly recommend the Caldwell. I've done the Silver level (70 objects), but I haven't turned it in yet. It's got a nice mix of showpiece objects and some really tough galaxies -there's eye candy as well as stuff that will challenge your observing skills. It was also fun for me to see how far south I could go (since all 109 objects go down to the south pole). I got 87 total, and I'll have to travel farther south or build a really tall private observatory to get any more.
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Re: Astronomical League Observing Program trivia questions

Postby william-kowalczyk » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:42 pm

Agreed, great post Ed. I totally agree the programs give one a good outline for exploring the heavens.

I highly recommend the Carbon Star, Double Star, and Globular cluster programs; most fun visually for me. I'm in the process of wrapping up those programs along with the H400 and Messier. All very challenging and fun. The H400 takes some good time at the EP and has a lot of faint fuzzy galaxies; its good to break that list up with the others I have mentioned. I have also started in on the open cluster program, but not to far along, so I can't really comment.
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Re: Astronomical League Observing Program trivia questions

Postby michael-rapp » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:20 pm

Very cool research....I love stuff like that.

I'm working on several concurrently. I'm actually redoing the Messier one (I only have the regular from 1996) and am sketching all 110 objects. I suppose I'm also "still" working on the Herschel one and have been since 1992 or so..with only about three objects logged.

Others I'm working on are the Double Star, Urban Observing, Carbon Star, and Binocular Deep Sky. I also recently finished the Messier Binocular one, I just need to send in my observations!

I really enjoy the observing clubs....they give a structure, and most importantly, a theme to my observing. (And a nice sense of accomplishment at the end, too.)

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Re: Astronomical League Observing Program trivia questions

Postby rene-gedaly » Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:37 am

Great suggestions, Ed. Hopefully this year I'll get around to formatting my observations in the form required by the individual AL clubs. For me it's seemed too much like my work-a-day job and I've put it off. SkyTools, don't fail me now :D
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