December 24, 2009


The morning of 24th December was good and the naked-eye limit of stars was 4.5 near zenith. The last week was hazy and no comet hunting or observing was possible. This morning I was on my terrace at 4:30am. I wanted to observe the comet C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring which was within my telescope’s range and also a test to check whether my scope is able to show me the comet under my city skies!

I had a printed chart downloaded from I set the telescope on Alpha Coma Berenices star and tried to star hop to the comet’s location. But the comet was some 7.5 degrees away. I chose another way. I set the 5.6th magnitude star 2 Bootis and from there I set a pair two 8th magnitude stars located some 3 degrees NW of 2 Bootis. Now the comet was just 1 degree far from this pair. While scanning around this field I noted 10th magnitude fuzz only about 4’ from the 9th magnitude star. I was using 40mm Plossl eyepiece with my 8-inch reflector giving 32.5x magnification. The comet was hard to distinguish from the star at this magnification. I replaced it with 25mm Kellener eyepiece which gave 52x magnification. Now I easily identified the comet. I estimated its magnitude to be 10. It was easily visible at 52x and then at 32.5x. I didn’t spent much time to observe it because I had only an hour left for the comet hunting session. I just wanted to identify it and so I was happy because I had it.

December 14, 2009


On the night of 13th December I went to a village named Dhosa the regular place for stargazing. We went there to observe the Geminids meteor shower. I went with Ashwin Vaghela and another member Yogesh. Like the Leonids, this year's Geminids was also predicted to be best and stronger than usual. We left for the observing site at 10:00pm and got there at 10:40pm. The village is only 15 kms from Bhuj but due to bad roads it takes more time to reach! We were on bikes and on the way we saw 4 meteors. Here is the brief detail of our observation....
ON THE WAY: 4 meteors. The first was as bright as Capella. Thus it was at magnitude 0.
11pm-12am: Throughout the first session we counted 14 meteors. A couple of them was 0 magnitude.
12am-1am: We counted 50 meteors. The brightest was a fireball of magnitude -2. Once I was looking at the Double Cluster in Perseus through my 25x100 Binocular and then one bright meteor passed through the starry studded field! It was amazing!
1am-2am: We counted 74 meteors. The brightest was a fireball of mag. -2.5 passed through the zenith at 1:12am. It was slow with short trail.
2am-3am: Again we counted 74 meteors. At 2:40am we saw a bright fireball of mag. -4.
3am-4am: In the last session we counted 83 meteors. After the end of this session I gave up observing and counting meteors and did visual comet hunting through the 25x100 binoculars. I guess the number of meteors increased after 4am until the beginning of morning twilight. During comet hunting I saw 5 meteors passed through the eyepieces. Whenever I shifted my glance at the sky I saw 1 or 2 meteors every time. I added 6 more meteors in my count. So our total number was 310.
Overall the Geminids 2009 was the best meteor shower in my life. I observed this meteor shower in the year 2004 and counted 241 meteors but this time my total number was 310.

-Rahul Zota
(Kutch Amateur Astronomer's Club-Bhuj)

December 7, 2009


This was our 3rd year of participating at Rann Utsav. The word “Rann” means desert. Rann utsav is an annual function organized by Gujarat Tourism where thousands of people from all over the world come to visit the Great White Desert of Kutch district. The function particularly organizes at the time of Full Moon where the white desert looks awesome in the moon shine. Our astronomy club also takes part in this function by showing interesting sites to the tourists around the desert through binoculars and also showing celestial objects like The Moon, planets through telescopes.

This year we carried our club’s 6-inch reflecting telescope and my 25x100 binocular. I along with 9 club members started journey at 6:45am. The function organizes at two different places in the northern part of Kutch. The first place is “
Kala Dungar” or the Black Hill which is situated some 80 Km North of Bhuj. The hill is the tallest in Kutch district and is famous for Lord Dattatrey’s Temple. The other place is Dhordo Village.
We first approached at the top of Kala Dungar. The views of the great white desert of Kutch were really mind blowing! I then set my 25x100 binocular and located “
The India Bridge” for tourists. The India Bridge was 19 Km away from our place but after seeing the view through my binocular the people reacted that it seemed as it was just 1 km away!!

Then at 3:12, the C.M. of Gujarat Mr. Narendra Modi arrived at Kala Dungar. He saw few interesting sites through the binoculars as well as through spotting scopes. At 4:00pm we left the place for Dhordo Village. After 10pm we set our instruments in the vicinity of the tourist tents. About hundreds of tourists looked through my 25x100 binoculars and also through our club’s 6-inch reflecting telescope. They saw the moon through the binoculars and somebody said the moon looks like the white desert of Kutch! They also glimpsed two moons of Jupiter through a telescope. Actually all the 4 moons were visible but Europa was very close to Jupiter. Ganymede and Callisto were just 4.2” apart, hence they saw one satellite instead of two..!

Overall this year’s Rann Utsav was great especially for site seeing. This year we had more interactions with people. They were very much excited to know about celestial objects and interesting sites in the desert of Kutch.

-Rahul Zota

November 18, 2009


To observe this year’s Leonids Meteor Shower on 18th November we made a plan to go to our regular observing place Makanpar-Dhonsa. Our other club members including Mr. Narendra Gor stayed in Bhuj and observed the meteor shower on the terrace of a school along with hundreds of students. To observe from a dark place I went to Makanpar-Dhonsa with club members Chirag Dusnaam, Kartik Pomal, Ashwin Vaghela and my brother Prashant Shah. We reached there at 11:35pm. I quickly set my 25x100 binocular and did some basic binocular observing. During this time my friends saw 8 meteors coming from east. The sky condition was good and our naked-eye limiting magnitude was 5.5.

During this time I counted 21 meteors. The first few meteors were bright at magnitude -1 and left a bright trail behind. The faintest was magnitude 3.5.

I counted 29 meteors in this time. The brightest was a fireball of magnitude -2. The last one was very dim at magnitude 4.2.

4:00am-5:00am: The Great Fireball!
I counted 24 meteors in this session. At 4:08am I was looking around The Sickle (The head of Leo) and Cancer. Then suddenly there was a flash in the entire sky as usually happens at the time of lightening. I looked at Orion and saw that a very bright fireball of magnitude -8 had just broke apart into two, then into 4 meteors and then converted into many sparkles. In the second moment another stream of sparkles appeared just above. It was great indeed! I had never seen like this before. After that I had a phone call of Mr. Narendra Gor form Bhuj and he said he also saw the same!

In this hour we observed 18 meteors. Again the last one was a bright fire ball (magnitude -4) between the stars Mizar and Alkaid of The Big Dipper. It appeared at 6:00am and left a smoke-like trail which remained in the same place for about one minute and then gradually vanished.
So our total number of observed meteors was 99. I also observed dozens of meteors coming from the direction of Canis Minor and Orion. Later I found that was Alpha Monocerotids Meteor Shower that activates between Nov 15-Nov 25. The Leonids was my second great meteor shower observation after The Geminids in the year 2004.

-Rahul Zota (Bhuj-India)

October 17, 2009


The Orionid meteor shower is expected to reach peak activity this year on October 21st, 2009. This meteor shower comes from Halley's Comet, since like most comets, it leaves a dusty trail as it orbits the sun. The particles in this trail eventually become meteors as they burn up in our atmosphere.

The Orionids have been producing rather bright meteors in the recent past, so it should be a good show. The shower reached a maximum of only 20-30 meteors per hour last year, but is still a worthwhile observing event! This is because the Orionids typically are very colorful meteors, sometimes being yellow or green, and sometimes even producing fireballs called bolides. Also, this year's shower will be perfectly timed with a very thin crescent Moon, so the views of the meteors won't be impeded by moonlight!

As usual, the best time to observe a meteor shower is during the early morning hours, around 2-5 AM. This is because as the Earth rotates into the sunlight, we are moving into the meteor field. This increases the number of meteors entering our atmosphere over any given location. Of course, not everone wants to stay up that late, so if you don't plan on doing so, start watching for the meteors at local dusk, and they'll really start to pick up towards 11 PM or midnight. The Orionids have a very broad peak, so any night during the week of October 18th to October 24th will work for obesrving.

- Rahul Zota (Bhuj-India)

September 15, 2009


On the morning of 14th September I spent 40 minutes for comet hunting. The sky was very clear and the Waning Crescent Moon (30%) was present. At 4:50am I decided to observe comet 217P Linear which was shining at magnitude 11 in Eridanus. The comet was close to Beta Eridani star. I had not chart at that moment but I roughly

remembered the location. I was using 8-inch reflector operating at 40X. I set the star-field some 2 degrees 40’ NW from Beta Eridani. I centered a 7th magnitude star forming an elongated triangle with two 9.5 magnitude stars. When I moved the scope to Beta’s direction, a small, round, fuzzy patch of light appeared in the view. It was close to one of 9.5 magnitude stars of the triangle. I thought this should be a comet.

At first I used averted vision and tapped the telescope tube to have glimpses of the comet but then spending few minutes I could see it through direct vision. I kept observing to note its motion until strong light of dawn washed out the view. There was no motion or very less which is hard to note. Later that day I found in the software that the comet moves about 1 degree in 24 hours.

Comet 217P Linear is the faintest comet I have ever observed. After observing this comet I could say my city’s sight for comet hunting is suitable and I can pick up 11th magnitude comets. But one thing I added to my method that from now I have to spent at least 5-8 seconds with using averted vision in each Field of View while sweeping the sky in quest of the cosmic interlopers.

August 13, 2009

Perseids Meteor Shower observing report

We observed the Perseid Meteor Shower with some disturbance of clouds and moonlight. We were again at Dhosa Village 12km from Bhuj. Our another member Ashwin Vaghela stayed in Madhapar the suburb of Bhuj.
At 11:30pm I saw the first Perseid Meteor. It was bright at mag -1.5 toward south west and left a trail of about 15 degrees. Then I counted more 3 before 12:30 but then clouds covered the whole sky. I again rose at 3:30am and saw more 2 meteors. The last one was once agin very bright at mag -1 toward north west.

Ashwin Vaghela at Madhapar saw 14 meteors before dawn.

August 12, 2009

Observing Report of Comet C/2006 W3 Christensen through 25x100 Binocular

On 11th August, I went with Narendrabhai and Kartik Pomal to a village named Dhosa some 12 kms from Bhuj. There we stayed on the terrace of Shiv Temple for the whole night to watch Perseid Meteor Shower. This is our regular place for stargazing. Afternoon that day the sky became almost clear so we expected to see the meteor shower without obstruction of clouds. I got my 10x50 and 25x100 binoculars with me. The 10x50 Olympus is my regular choice for the meteor shower but I carried also 25x100 because I wanted to observe a comet C/2006 W3 Christensen which is in Vulpecula shining at magnitude 8.2 with angular diameter 2’. We got there at 10:45pm. After some 30 minutes I was all set to locate the comet through 25x100. Cygnus was on transit, high on zenith. I remembered the comet’s position from the website . I first located Delphinus and traversed to a wide pair of 5th and 6th magnitude stars roughly 10 degrees NE from Delphinus. The comet was about 3 degrees NW from this pair. When I got to the right location, I saw a round fuzzy blob. It was easy through 25x100 even when I was holding it through my hands without any support. Then I saw the comet also through 10x50, It was rather difficult in the smaller instrument but I glimpsed it. Afterward I tried to see the comet through Narendrabhai’s 8x40 Olympus binocular. In this instrument I could see a very small fuzzy spot only using averted vision.

Meanwhile I also observed few deep-sky objects like, M56, M57, M29, M39, NGC 6910, M11 and M15. The sky of this place was not as clearer as usual. Generally the naked eye star limit varies from 6 to 5.5. But this night it was 4.5. After midnight some clouds started to cover the entire sky and we missed the meteor shower.

After all I was happy because I had seen the first comet through my new 25x100 binocular..!
image credit:

July 24, 2009


To watch the Total Solar Eclipse 2009, I travelled to Surat with our KAAC-club members. Surat was the best place for the eclipse.We got there one day before total eclipse and attended the whole day workshop. The whole day was rainy and we didn't expect to see the eclipse successfully.

On the next morning when I rose before dawn, I stepped out of my room to check the weather. It was complete cloudy and still raining.I thought we wouldn't be able to see the eclipse! At 5:30am at dawn on 22nd, some thousands of people accumulated on the terrace of"Atmiya Vidhya Mandir" in Kamrej village where the main event was organized. The sky was completely covered by dense clouds and there was light rain.Then the Sun was about to rise and the first contact was already in progress. At 6:19 everyone felt that the darknesswas gradually increasing. Then after a minute there was complete darkness at 6:20am. Although we did not see the eclipse as the Sun was hidden behind clouds but weenjoyed the thorough event what nature offered!

Just before the totality, I saw a bird called "black painted strock" emerged from the farm and wandered around. But as the time of totality approached and the darkness spreaded, the bird quickly went back and hidden behind the farms. That behaviour of bird I observed and enjoyed the moment instead of seeing the Sun!!

Rahul Zota (Bhuj-India)


On the evening of 19th July just after sunset the sky became crystal clear! Although the whole day remained cloudy and was light rain. I had just got my new 25x100 giant binocular on 17th and I had not checked it yet. I was very buoyant to see celestial objects through it and I did not expect to see stars until mid August. But on 19th evening the sky was very clear down to horizon. The Scorpius was mind blowing in south! The summer triangle was coming up at 10:00pm. I quickly uncovered my binocular and went on terrace. Still I haven’t purchased its mount and I was using it without any brawny support. The binocular weights 5 kilograms and it is very difficult to hold it for a long time. So I decided to observe the sky and few known deep sky objects in sleeping position.

The first light was Vega high in the sky. Through my binocular the star appeared very bright but was out of focus. The binocular has individual support system. It has not central focus system like small size binoculars. It was tough to focus any thing when you are holding a bulky thing without mount. Eventually somehow I managed to focus Vega. The view of this bright star was outstanding! I can say it was better than the view of my old 5-inch reflector. Then I slightly moved to M57. I could see a bright, round fuzzy patch. Then I observed many objects described below:

M3: Very bright and big with outer halo resolved.

MIZAR AND ALCOR: Mizar A and B was slightly resolved.

M11: with many pinpoints resolved.

M4: big and bright, more like M11.

M7: Stunning! I have never viewed like this before!

M6: I counted about 20 stars.

NGC 6231: Very nice, I could count 6-7 stars.

M22: Very bright and big with outer halo resolved.

M13: Was near transit and I could see faint stars of outer halo.

GAMMA CYGNI REGION: This part of the sky was embedded with many celestial sparkles! I saw M29 and NGC 6910.

NU DRACONIS: This star in the constellation of Draco is a wide pair and appeared nicely separated.

ALBERIO: Excellent with color difference.

Jupiter was just rising. I saw two cloud belts and four satellites.

Rahul Zota

July 19, 2009


1. M42
2. M13
3. NGC 6231
4. NGC 6910
5. STEPH.1
6. NGC 2169
7. NGC 2392
8. NGC 6633
9. IC 4665
10. NGC 6885
11. BASEL 1
12. NGC 2301
13. NGC 2477
14. NGC 6293
15. M17
16. NGC 6624
17. M68
18. M92
19. M4
20. M19
21. M57
22. M80
23. NGC 4755
24. NGC 5128
25. NGC 5986
26. NGC 6356
27. M9
28. NGC 6281
29. NGC 6242
30. M31
31. M32
32. M110
33. NGC 457
34. NGC 663
35. NGC 1851
36. NGC 5286
37. M62
38. M10
39. M11
40. M69
41. NGC 6441
42. NGC 6541
43. NGC 6871
44. NGC 6284
45. M7
46. M6
47. Cr. 399
48. M16
49. M22
50. M18
51. M24
52. M25
53. M23
54. Stock 23
55. M15
56. NGC 6723
57. M54
58. M34
59. M2
60. M45
61. M36
62. M37
63. M33
64. M3
65. M44
66. NGC 2571
67. M87
68. NGC 4214
69. M52
70. M101
71. M104
72. NGC 6823
73. NGC 1746
74. NGC 1647
75. NGC 1582
76. NGC 2299
77. NGC 2482
78. NGC 2467
79. NGC 2520
80. NGC 2841

July 18, 2009

My New 25x100 Giant Binocular!

I have just received the new 25x100 Giant astronomy binoculars. I have always been a binocular fan ever since I became interested in astronomy. Although my first instrument was 20x50 Super Zenith binocular.

The 25x100 is very bulky and looks very attractive with giant 4-inch multi coated glasses! I hope it will help me to find the new comet. I will purchase its stand by August end. The views of M42-The Great Orion Nebula, M45 and M44 will be undoubtedly outstanding! This new binos will get name MIZAR. My 8-inch reflector has been named VEGA.

- Rahul Zota

April 1, 2009

Observing Hickson 44

Hickson 44 is a cluster of four gravitationally bound galaxies situated about 1.5 deg S-SE of Zeta Leonis.
The group contains 4 galaxies known as NGC 3193 (11.8), NGC 3190 (12.00), NGC 3187 (13.6) and
NGC 3185 (12.9). NGC 3193 is brightest and can be seen through an 8-inch telescope. To see
other members requires at least 12-inch telescope.

The group lies about 65-70 Million light years from the Sun in GA Leo Cloud. Suppose you are standing in some
planet of NGC 3193 then NGC 3190 would appear as bright as Andromeda galaxy appears from Earth!
NGC 3185 would be 7th magnitude..!

The group can be well observed using 12-inch or larger telescope under excellent dark skies far
from city. Use high magnification to reveal more details.

- Rahul Zota (BHUJ)

February 12, 2009


Mare Nubium is lengthened North South formation. It is separated in two similar parts by Promontorium Taenarium. Contains few wrinkle ridges and rilles. It can be best observed 1 day after first quarter moon. Minimum instrument required to observe Mare Imbrium is 10x50 binocular. But to observe other features within Mare Imbrium requires 3-inch refractor. Mare Imbrium extent about 772x772Km. Its location in the moon is, Longitude: 15.0° West, Latitude: 10.0° South, Quadrant: South-West. I have held my observation through my 8-inch Newtonian reflector and observed few interesting features within Mare Imbrium.

BULLIALDUS: Bullialdus is a crater of Eratosthenian period. Its dimension is 63x63Km. Its an Isolated circular formation situated on the West bank of Mare Nubium. It is Very steep and tormented slopes supporting the craterlets Bullialdus L to the West Bullialdus E to the South-West and crater Bullialdus A and B to the South.

BULLIALDUS A: This is a small crater located some 18 Km from Bullialdus. Its dimension is 26x26 Km.

BULLIALDUS B: This 21x21 Km crater is in pair with Bullialdus A.

KIES: Kies is a crater of dimension 46x46 Km. It is Isolated circular formation almost ghost. Its flat floor is filled with the lava of Mare Nubium.

BIRT: This is a STRAIGHT WALL: Also known as RUPES RECTA. This is a 110 Km wide straight wall, one of the best known lunar faults. It is situated on the East bank of Mare Nubium.

PITATUS: This crater is believed to be Nectarian (From -3.92 billions years to -3.85 Billions years). Its dimension is 100x100 Km. It’s a circular formation situated on the South bank of Mare Nubium. Few high walls of riddled with anonymous craterlets. The map shows the position of Bullialdus and Pitatus. Through my 8-inch Newtonian at 160x using dense grey moon filter, I was able to observe all these features described above. I viewed on 18th January at 4:30am.

- Rahul Zota (Bhuj-India)