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I left the comfort of the house for the observatory at 5:45 under a clear sky, calm winds, and a temperature of -18oF. This morning's ephemeris for Comet Hale-Bopp listed its position as 18hr54.2 min min RA and 6o43' DEC at 5:48 local time when it was scheduled to rise at 79.8o in azimuth. After placing the 8x56 binoculars and tripod out on the observatory deck, and the 4-inch Dynascope in its polar aligned mounting cradle that had been attached to the SCT tripod several days ago outisde the east wall of the observatory, I first sighted the comet naked eye at 6:10 when it was only 3.7o altitude and 83.9o azimuth (using SkyGlobe v. 3.6 software); thereafter I spent thirty minutes using the binoculars and Newtonian before it was obscured by lower level cloud, which dissipated shortly before our 8:29 sunrise. Afterwards, while use DeepSpace v. 5.21 software and a star plot sketch of the inverted telescope field, I made some measurements of field stars. With the comet field-centered in a 46x ocular, the following stars magnitudes, position angles, and star-comet nucleus separation distances were calculated: 5.6 mag, PA 160o, 20'; 9.0 mag, PA 5o, 8'; 9.1 mag, PA 330o, 25'; and 9.2 mag, PA 290o; the comet remains near 3.5 magnitude. An observing log that includes time, altitude, and azimuth positions follows:
6:10 3.7o 83.9o sighted naked eye 6:21 5.5o 86.0o 6:30 7.0o 87.7o made rough field sketch 6.40 8.6o 89.5o last sighting because of cloud
(This was the fifth time the comet has been viewed as a pre-dawn object since recovering it December 26.)
John Leppert Deneb Observatory 48o56'07"N 99o09'40"W: 08 Jan 1997 08:40 CST
I reached the observatory shortly after six o'clock under a mostly clear sky, but with brisk southeasterly winds which made the -15oF temperature feel brutally cold. After mounting the 4-Dynascope in its cradle ten minutes later and some twenty minutes before the start of dawn, I glanced to the east and noticed that Comet Hale-Bopp was conspicuous a few degrees above the horizon, its tail pointing northeastwards in a black sky ablaze with spring stars --- Scorpius' great claws well up in the southeast, but its "heart" than a couple degrees above the horizon. I waited another twenty-five minutes before using a defocusing method to make an estimate of the comet's magnitude using zeta (3.0 mag) and delta Aql (3.4 mag) as reference stars; it appeared its coma is at about the same brightness as yesterday, that is, at magnitude 3.4. Using a 68x ocular and field stars for determining its position, the comet was very near the ephemeris prediction of 19hr04min RA and 08o32' DEC. Thin cirrus and some middle-level cloud appeared on the southern horizon about that time, and my viewing session was forced to close at a quarter before seven o'clock. An observing log that includes time, altitude, and azimuth positions follows:
CST Alt Az ---------------------- 5:26 horizon 81.2o 6:10 7.2o 85.2o sighted naked eye 6:35 11.3o 89.9o determined magnitude estimate as 3.5 6:45 13.0o 91.8o last sighting -- clouded out
John Leppert Deneb Observatory 48o56'07"N 99o09'40"W: 14 Jan 1997 11:06 CST
After yesterday's tiring events (I must digress Dear Reader, since the events of yesterday's blizzard, the third in five days, is worth reciting, albeit in the manner experienced with daughter Sarah and later with Jill: lastnightSarahITaurus-start27mileRolladrive-2miles-blizzard-drifts- "STUCKSTUPID!"-dig-shovel-30mphNW10belowzero-dig-STUCK-shovel-dig-STUCK-gig- "MORONJOHN!"-1hourW A I T-Jillupstairswindowbinoculars-JillCheve4x4- drivemile-chainTaurus-jerk-drag-jerk-drag-shovel-jerk-drag-jerg-drag-FREE- drivemile-garage-drifts-STUCK-4x4chainTaurus-jerk-drag-FREE-sprintwarmhouse!), I over slept and didn't waken until half past six this morning. As I left the house ten minutes later for the observatory, last night's horrid winter fare were fortunately memory-vacant, instead I found myself humming bits of the Dvorak and Tchaikovsky seen after getting back to the safety of our home via PBS and the New York Philharmonic. As I rounded the south side of the shelter- belt, I glanced east towards a brightening orange sky where my eyes were greeted with a fine sight --- Hale-Bopp due east nearly a full hands-width up. Given the (as I was soon to read at the observatory) -15o temperature, NW at 28, -69o wind chill, my LARGO gait became an ALLEGRO. Knowing I had little more than an hour before old Sol obliterated the view, I grabbed the old Dynascope from inside the observatory and placed it outside the east wall in its cradle , than entered the office for a quick warm up and a check of the SKYGLOBE software comet horizon-altitude-azimuth position. A few minutes later I was back at the telescope where I defocused the coma and, using delta-zeta Aql, decided Hale-Bopp had risen another tenth magnitude since Tuesday's estimate and was now at magnitude 3.2. Just before quitting today's session, I spent a BRIEF period (not more than a MINUTE) looking at the gibbous forms that Mercury and Venus presented very low in the southeast. An observing log that includes time, altitude, and azimuth positions follows:
CST Alt Az ---------------------- 6:45 14.2o 92.2o sighted naked eye 6:52 15.4o 93.6o 6:58 16.3o 94.7o determined magnitude estimate as 3.2 7:24 20.6o 99.8o 7:30 21.5o 101.0o lost naked eye Mercury 4.9o 130.1o Venus 0.9o 128.0o (1 north of M22) Sun -8.5o 112.1o Neptune 1o03' east elongation from the Sun, conjunc- tomorrow at 7:00 CST Jupiter 2o23' east elongation from the Sun, conjunc- next Sunday at 7:00 CST
John Leppert Deneb Observatory 48o56'07"N 99o09'40"W: 16 Jan 1997 11:30 CST
>From this morning's observing journal, the 9th observation since 26 December when the comet was recovered in the pre-dawn:
Since I again overslept this morning, I didn't reach the observatory until half past six when Hale-Bopp was well up due east and conspicuous in the "spring" sky, its short broad tail pointing northeast. After again mounting the 4-inch Dynascope in its cradle, I defocused it for the day's magnitude estimate, again using zeta Aquila's 3.0 magnitude for comparison; again I determined that it remains the same as yesterday at 3.2. Although it was was -20oF, the fact that the winds were dead calm made the morning air seem nearly tropical after yesterday's blow. I finally lost sight of it naked eye at half past seven, as Mercury and Venus were JUST gaining altitude in the southeast. An observing log that includes time, altitude, and azimuth positions follows:
CST Alt Az ---------------------- 6:30 12.3o 89.7o sighted naked eye 6:45 14.8o 92.5o determined magnitude estimate as 3.2 6:55 16.4o 94.4o 7:30 22.1o 101.2o last sighted naked eye Mercury 5.0o 130.6o Venus 0.7o 127.6o Sun -8.7o 111.6o Neptune 0o23' separation; in conjunction this hour Jupiter 1o37' east elongation from the Sun, conjunc- next Sunday at 7:00 CST 7:34 22.8o 102.0o last telescopic view
John Leppert Deneb Observatory 48o56'07"N 99o09'40"W: 18 Jan 1997 14:35 CST
John, Thank you for the reports. It is good to read about what I do not have the time to go out and do myself every clear morning. A busy schedule keeps me in bed until the last minute, when I lately that means having to get up and shovel snow. I have been observing Hale-Bopp though. I recently bought a new pair of 10 X 50 binoculars (more on those later). I picked up the comet easily and was thrilled, disappointed in one breath. Looking through the 10X 50's, the comet was great, obvious, and with a short, fairly broad tail. The comet was Bright, very remarkable, rather diffuse and gradually brighter toward center (B!!dif-gbCtr in my notes). The tail was fan, or cone shaped with the coma at the apex. I noticed the color of the coma to be slightly blue. The slight disappointment arrives only because I had hoped to see a monster coming at me! Keeping in mind that Hale-Bopp is still on the 'other side of the sun', I think we have much to look forward to in the coming months with this comet.
Clear skies, Paul.
Hello, I hope you are all well. Skies were cloudy this AM (31 Jan) so I was not able to observe. I did get out yesterday AM with the new Celestron 8 X 40's. I went out at 5:30 AM and spent a few minutes adjusting the binoculars and myself to the cold. It was a nice, but crisp morning. There was a bit of new snow that had blown around and drifted here and there. I first focused on the moon and was pleased with the crisp view. Right away, I could tell the improved contrast and the reduced scattered light compared to the Vistas. The Vistas are supposed to be pretty good, but I think I just got a bad pair. One of Orion's techie's called me up and they said they agreed. Side by side with another pair (of Vistas), the difference was obvious. Anyway, I turned to the east where Hale-Bopp was plainly visible to the unaided eye. This being in moderately light polluted skies, and me having just come out from a lighted kitchen and not having yet dark adapted. I was unable to see any tail without binoculars, but the nucleus was easy, stellar and with a hint of coma. In the glasses, I could easily make out a tail which was broad and fan shaped. Under these less than ideal conditions, the tail was rather uniform in shape and brightness, although it was slightly brighter left (north) of center of the tail. It was really a beautiful sight. At times, it appears three dimensional, although this effect is more pronounced in very dark skies. As I watched, I could imagine this cloudy mass gliding through the darkness of space. For a moment, it was almost as if I were there and travelling with it. Easy to get lost in this observational astronomy, isn't it? Anyway, I make the tail to be pointing NW, almost parallel to alpha and beta Sagitta. I guestimated the tail length to be slightly less than 30 arc minutes (using the separation of the two former stars as a = ~36' yardstick). My rusty magnitude estimating skills place the nucleus at 3.5m using gamma & delta Sagitta and gamma Aquila for comparison. Delta Sag (3.8m) was just above the limit of visibility, but Hale-Bopp and gamma Sag were easy (3.5m). Adding the estimate for the tail, I put the total magnitude about 3.0, give or take. I was able to view the comet right up to about 6:30AM when I had to get ready for work. I would strongly encourage anyone who has not yet got up early in the AM to do so and go out and have a look. I plan to head out in the country this weekend if the weather permits. The orbital configuration will now have the tail (if a bright one develops, please!) swinging up and more north of the solar system vice the straight on view we have been seeing. This means it will be more and more favorably placed, and hopefully lengthening. But you NEED dark skies to really see it well. So go and catch a comet, it is a tremendous ride!
Clear Skies from the east side, Paul.