December 24, 2010


Rann Utsav 2010 was full of fun and interactions with people. This was our club’s 4th year in Rann Utsav. We went there with our equipments to show the tourists the sites in the White Desert of Kutch and some celestial objects through telescopes.

From Bhuj, we began our journey at 6:15am for Kala Dungar (Black Hill) on the morning of 20th December. It is situated 80 km North of Bhuj and there is Lord Dattatreya’s temple on its peak. In the Northern side of the hill is Great White Rann (Desert) of Kutch district. It is very beautiful, flat deserted region made of salt. The salty land is mixed with the water of the sea. We approached there at around 11:00am. I carried my 25x100 Giant Binoculars and 8-inch Newtonian Reflecting Telescope. I was with other 11 members of our Kutch Amateur Astronomer’s Club including Mr. Narendra Gor, Nishant Gor, Kartik Pomal, Navin Bapat, Ashwin Vaghela, Akhilesh Antani, Dinesh Panchal, Ibrahim Darvadiya, Nayakbhai and other members from Ahmedabad. Mr. Narendra Gor brought our club’s 6-inch Sky Watcher Newtonian Reflector. Dinesh Panchal brought his 4-inch Newtonian Telescope. There we met our other club member Mr. Pratap Sevak who brought his spotting scope for bird watching.

C.M. of Gujarat watching flamingos through the binoculars

visitors are watching flamingos through the binoculars

Enjoying the full moon thorugh a 6-inch Telescope

the flatness of the white desert of Kutch!

moon-light's reflection on the salty ground!

After approaching there we settled our equipments and lots of tourists from India and outside India were already there. They were eager to watch distant sites through the binoculars so they stood in a queue! There were lots of Flamingoes some 20 km away from our watching point on a peak of the hill. The tourists enjoyed the view through my 25x100 Binos and Pratapbhai’s spotting scope. Mr. Pratap Sevak’s spotting scope was pointed toward ‘The India Bridge”. We stayed there for almost an hour and then the C.M. of Gujarat Mr. Narendra Modi arrived. He watched the flamingos and other sites far in the desert through the Binos and spotting scope.

After having lunch we left Kala Dungar at around 2:45pm for Dhordo village. The main event of Kutch Rann Utsav was held at Dhordo village. The beautiful white desert is some 6 km away from Dhordo village. Gujarat Tourism organizes the main event in Dhordo village which is some 90km from Bhuj city by road. We reached there at about 5:00pm. The white salty ground mixed with water was squashy that our boots pierced in the ground. There, a large stage was constructed for the performances by the local artists. We found a suitable place near the stage to setup our equipments. We refused to settle my 25x100 binos. We settled three telescopes, my 8-inch scope, our club’s 6-inch scope and Mr. Dinesh Panchal’s 4-inch scope. Because of the salty ground we had to arrange some kind of paper-sheet pieces to put them below the telescope stands to protect the metal stand’s contact with the salty ground.

The sunset time was 6:10pm. We took some shots of the beautiful sunset. The moon, nearly full (99%) was already in the east sky adding more beauty to the scene! Our 6-inch and 4-inch scopes were already pointed toward the moon. I pointed my 8-inch scope to Jupiter. The Jovian moon IO was just touching the planet’s eastern limb and few of the visitors could detect it. Calisto was within 5’ from the 7th magnitude star. Some of the visitors identified that star to be Jupiter’s 5th moon by mistake! Most of the people were dazzled by the view of a full moon through a 6-inch Newtonian. We used the moon-filter with that scope to decrease the intensity of the moon. Later on as the atmosphere became cold, the ground became more and more squashy.

the salty land of the great white desert of Kutch!
The Moon looks beautiful at the time of sunset!

We finished at around 9:30pm. At last we had some conversations with police officers and few tourists. Mr. Narendra Gor explained them the vastness of the Universe. He said, “To point some particular city on the earth in a world map we have to use an arrow mark, same way to show the solar system in the Milky Way galaxy we need to use an arrow. This shows how tiny our solar system is, the Milky Ways galaxy is also nothing but a dot in this vast ocean of billions of galaxies!”

Thoroughly, it was awesome experience for all of us! The beauty of the great white desert of Kutch district cannot be descibed in words! One has to enjoy. Everyone should visit this place once in their lifetime!

-Rahul Zota
KAAC, Bhuj-Gujarat, India

December 7, 2010


The Geminids will peak on the night of December 13th till the morning of 14th and will produce a fertile show of shooting stars. The Geminids are a meteor shower caused by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This would make the Geminids the only meteor shower not originating from a passing comet. Recent showers have seen 120–160 meteors per hour under optimal conditions, generally around 2am to 3am GMT.

The meteors appear to come from a radiant in the constellation Gemini. However, they can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, and often appear yellowish in hue. The meteors travel at medium speed in relation to other showers, at about 22 miles per second, making them fairly easy to spot. This year, the First Quarter Moon will set at 12:56am IST so it will not interfere the later night. The radiant of the Geminids will rise around 8pm.

Last year, the KAAC members observed 301 meteors throughout the night and this year KAAC has planned to observe the Geminids from the same venue of Makanpar-Dhosa village.

November 30, 2010


The sky was thankfully clear and the best it can ever get from my city’s site. I could see 3.5th magnitude stars near horizon 5.5 magnitude stars high in the sky. The comet 103P Hartley was close to a rich open cluster M47 and its companion, rather faint open cluster M46. I saw this from my Planetarium Software Starry Night Pro. This was a nice opportunity for astro-photographers. I was ready to observe it visually but had no idea how bright the comet was! The software shows that it shines at 7 magnitude, so I decided to observe it through my 8-inch Newtonian.

I woke up at 2:10am and uncovered my telescope. The sky was really very clear. A Waning Crescent (23 days old) moon had just rose and was behind the hill. Dazzling Sirius was high in the sky (transit time 3:02am). I set the telescope on the pear stand but found that its plastic made poor rack-n-pinion focuser was broken!!! I have fixed this problem many times by sealing it using a tape!! But this was not the time for this operation. From my balcony, the region of the sky was just about to hide behind the building. So I quickly uncovered my 10x50 Olympus Binocular. I pointed it to Sirius and moved eastward unless I reach to some bright open cluster. M47 is some 12.5 degrees East of Sirius. After centering on the cluster I saw both M47 and M46 together in the Filed of View. In the next moment I saw a fuzzy object between the two clusters. The cluster M46 appeared as fuzzy object and the comet Hartley was fainter than M46. It was very close to the 5th magnitude star and was easy to observe using averted vision. Another open cluster NGC 2423 was also visible in the same FOV.

The above image is the drawing generated in computer using paintbrush and photoshop

November 27, 2010


On 17th night the members of the Kutch Amateur Astronomer’s Club decided to go for the Leonids Meteor Shower observation. Our venue was Makanpar-Dhosa, our regular place for observing Meteor Showers. Me, Mr. Narendra Gor and Kartik Pomal travelled through Kartik’s car. Two members joined us later. This year’s meteor shower was less fertile and we saw only 12 meteors from the Leonids and two meteors from Delta Monocerotids. We spent the night on the terrace of a Shiv Temple in the village. We all woke-up at 3:30am and started to count meteors till dawn. I carried my 25x100 binos without stand. As the meteor shower wasn’t showing a good number of Shooting Stars I decided to observe few known galaxies and other deep-sky objects through the binoculars holding by hands. Here is the list of objects I observed,

*NGC 2841
*NGC 2903•
* M35
*NGC 3077
*NGC 5195
*Saturn & Venus

I first pointed the binos to NGC 2841. This is a bright and easy object even from my city. The galaxy is located 1 degree 50’ S-SW from Theta Ursa Majoris star. This is a 10th magnitude galaxy with Angular Size of 7.7 Arc Min and Axis Size of 3.6 Arc Min. It appeared as a faint, rather elongated smudge in the Binoculars.

The next galaxy was NGC 2903, a very easy and bright galaxy in Leo. This galaxy lies within 4 degrees SW of Epsilon Leonis. This is a 9.6th magnitude galaxy with an Axis Size of 5.6’. The galaxy appeared beautiful with two 7.6th and 7th magnitude stars in a 3 degree FOV. Also a 4.3rd magnitude orange star Lambda Leonis appeared in the N-NW edge of the FOV. I missed my stand this time!

The third object was a Planetary Nebula M97 in the Big Dipper. I saw both the nebula and a galaxy, M108 in the same FOV. The nebula was very easy to identify even at first glance. This object is hard to observe from my suburban skies even through my 8-inch Newtonian Telescope. M108, the galaxy was also an easy object through my binos. M108 appeared as elongated fuzz next to two 8.5th and 9th magnitude stars. M108 is just 1.5 degrees NE of Merak or Beta Ursa Majoris.

Now at this time at around 4:10am The Beehive Cluster or M44 was high in the sky appearing through naked-eye as small fuzz. Through the 25x100 Binos it was a breath taking object, Indeed beehive! It filled the entire Field of View. The brightest star in the cluster is Epsilon Cancri shining at magnitudes 6.28. It wasn’t comfortable observing this beautiful cluster through my bulky 4-inch binos weighting 5kg holding on hands! Thus I couldn’t make the view study for longer time and counted 14 stars. There is a miniature of The Constellation Corvus in this cluster if you look carefully. The star Epsilon Cancri is the brightest star in this miniature version of Corvus making a 9’X7’ sized square of stars.In Cancer, there is another beautiful Open Cluster M67. The cluster is located within 2 degrees West of Alpha Cancri. M67 is also known as “King Cobra” and is one of the most ancient open clusters known making it to be 5 billion year old! It is a bright open cluster containing more than 500 stars, many of which were resolvable through my binos. In the FOV it shared view with 60 Cancri and 50 Cancri stars.

Now, even higher in the sky was constellation Gemini. I pointed toward even more rich Open Cluster M35. This cluster gathering of several hundred stars was a glorious sight in my 25x100s. The star, 5 Geminorum shining at magnitude 5.8 was 30’ from the cluster. After this observation, at around 4:25am I pointed the binos toward a beautiful pair of galaxies, M81 & M82 in Ursa Major. The pair is located roughly 10.5 degrees North-West of Dubhe, Alpha Ursa Majoris. M81 is a bright galaxy shining at magnitude 6.94. Its nearby, M82 is another bright galaxy with a apparent magnitude 8.41. Messier 81 and Messier 82 both can be viewed easily using binoculars. Through my binoculars in a 3 degree FOV, I observed another faint fuzzy galaxy, NGC 3077. This galaxy is a smaller member of the M81 group. The galaxy shines at magnitudes 10.6 and was rather tough to make it out through hand-held binoculars. However, after spending little time I could make it out as a very diffuse glow.

In the North-Eastern sky at around 5:15am, the galaxy M51 was well up and I aimed the binos toward its direction. Located nearly 5.5 degrees N-NW of Alkaid (Eta Ursa Majoris), M51 is a bright galaxy and can be easily observed in Binoculars. The galaxy is approximately 23 million light-years away. In my binos I think I had a glimpse of its companion galaxy NGC 5195.

At 5:30am, Saturn and Venus were well up in the eastern sky. I saw Saturn and it appeared as an oval disc. These days Saturn displays the disc of just 16 arc seconds. Venus was nearly 6 degrees above horizon and was within 4 degrees East of Spica. Mr. Narendra Gor somehow fixed the binos steady on the corner of the terrace and pointed toward Venus. It clearly showed the phase of Venus. All members could easily see the phase of Venus. I found from the planetary software that its disc illumination was 12%. I wanted to see the newly discovered comet C/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami but due to haziness in the horizon I couldn’t find it.

November 8, 2010


Here I have posted the finding charts of latest visually discovered comet C/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami. The comet will remain in the constellation Virgo till Mid-December. The comet is moving to the East-Southeast direction and its magnitudes are around 8-9. The comet rises with Saturn at 4:32am and is just within a degree SE of Saturn just before dawn on 9th November. The comet will be nearly 1 degree South of the 4.4th magnitude star Theta Virginis on the morning of 17th November (see chart 2). On November 26th the comet will be 2 degrees 20’ NE of Spica.

I am waiting for my first observation and will share in this blog whenever I will observe this comet.

Clear skies and happy comet hunting,
Rahul Zota

November 4, 2010


On 31st October I went to Devraj Farm House for comet hunting and sky observing. I carried my Panasonic DMC FS-15 Digital Camera. The camera has a particular mode called "Starry Sky" that allows us to give exposures from 15 secs to 60 secs to take starry sky image. During comet hunting I set exposure of 60 seconds and pointed the camera toward Aquila. After reaching home I processed the image in Picasa Image Viewer and brightened the image thorugh the software. It revealed a trail of meteor in the constellation Ophiuchus. This was my first shot of a meteor. 

November 3, 2010


I decided to go to Devraj Farm House, one of the observing dark sites around Bhuj city for comet hunting. The sky in the morning of 31st October was blue and clear. I called up my friend and our club member Ashwin Vaghela to come with me. Unfortunately after sunset the sky started to get hazy may be due to change of season. Because of dew in the atmosphere the lights of the city was spreading in the region of the sky at N-NW making the sky non-observable!!

We reached there at around 7:00pm. I carried my 25x100 binos and 10x50 binos. I also carried my Panasonic DMC FS-15 Digital Camera. The camera has a mode called “Starry Sky” which allows us to set exposure from 15 seconds to 60 seconds. Through 60 sec exposure the camera reveals stars down to magnitude 6.5 under excellent dark sky.

I wanted to scan in Hercules and Scutum so I began sweeping the sky horizontally from Hercules. Just when I started I stumbled upon a bright Globular Cluster M92. It was indeed very bright and easy object. The sky at West-Southwest was rather clear and dark so it forced me to pursue my work at Southwest.

western evening sky
After spending 15 minutes I decided to observe some bright deep-sky objects I memorized in the region of Aquila and Scutum. I pointed the Binocular to Scutum Milky Way and the next moment a very bright and rich Open Cluster entered the field of view. It is M11, one of the most famous clusters in the sky. This cluster is also known as “Wild Duck Cluster”. This is a very dense cluster of stars that it is hard to count individual stars at 25x magnification. It was discovered by Gottfried Kirch in 1681. This cluster contains about 2900 stars. Through my equipment in a 3 degree field of view, M11 appeared beautiful in a bright background of Milky Way stars.

scutum star field
In the same field of view I could also see a 9th magnitude Asterism Basel 1. Basel 1 is a faint asterism located 51’12” West of M11. Now I again centered on M11 and moved the binocular to the S-SW direction and stopped on a fuzzy object. I quickly identified that it was a Globular Cluster NGC 6712. This is an 8.5th magnitude globular located nearly 2.5 degrees S-SW of M11. This cluster was probably discovered by Le Gentil in the year 1749 and he described it as a “true nebula”. This was an easy object in my 4-inch Binos. In this starry field there is another beautiful Messier Object, M26, an Open Cluster located nearly 3 degrees 25’ SW of M11. This cluster is rather loose and fainter than M11.

Now I turned to Aquila and began sweeping the sky from Zeta Aquila star. I was doing stargazing and comet hunting simultaneously because this part of the sky is within the “Comet Haystack Region”. Just about 2.5 degrees SW of Zeta Aquila I noted small group of stars which was an open cluster NGC 6738 and 2 degrees 44’ West was another open cluster NGC 6709. NGC 6738 shines with a total magnitude of 8.3 with Angular Size of 15 Arc Minutes. NGC 6709 is a loose Open Cluster containing about 60 stars. The visual magnitude of this cluster is 6.7 with Angular Size of 15 Arc Minutes. After that I centered on a rich open cluster IC 4756 in Serpens Cauda. This is a 5th magnitude Open Cluster spreading about 39 arc minutes in the sky.

IC 4665

From here, about 3 degrees W-NW lies a beautiful cluster NGC 6633. This open cluster is about as large as the size of the moon and is located in Ophiuchus. The brightest stars in this cluster shines at 8 magnitudes. There is a blue, bright star (mag. 5.6) south of this cluster. The whole field was studded with many stars forcing me not to move away!!

There is another rich open cluster in Ophiuchus, IC 4665 located just 1 degree 20’ and 50” NE of Beta Ophiuchus star. The prominent part of this cluster is seven stars of mag. 7th and 8th making a nice view along with 2.7th magnitude star Beta. The angular diameter of this cluster is 41’. This cluster lies some 1400 light years away from Earth. This is an easy target in almost any sized binoculars and a naked eye object from a dark place.

After paying attention at IC 4665 I moved to Lyra and centered M57-The Ring Nebula in the field of view. M57 is a 9th mag Planetary Nebula located between Beta and Gamma Lyra stars. The nebula spans 1.7 Arc Minutes and is 2300 light years away from Earth. This is one of the famous and easy Messier Objects.

I have seen this planetary as a “thin dot” through my Olympus 10x50 Binoculars under dark skies. In the 25x100 Binos the nebula appeared rather bright, round and fuzzy, along with Gamma and Beta stars in the same FOV. Beta was an easy double with its 6.6th magnitude companion. About 1 degree NE of M57 is a wide pair of 6th and 7.6th magnitude stars. The 6th magnitude star is orange and its companion is whitish blue. The color correction from both eyes was excellent! I have never felt like this through a telescope.

There is another nice object in Lyra. This is an Open Cluster surrounded by the star Delta 2 Lyra. The name of this cluster is Stephenson 1, also known as “The Delta Lyra Cluster”. Through my binocular I saw few stars between the stars Delta 1 and Delta 2 Lyra. Delta 1 is a blue star. The orange star Delta 2 makes the view impressive. The cluster looks to be physically bounded with Delta 2, but actually it’s not. From internet I could learn that there are 19 members in the cluster and are located 1000 light years from us. The cluster can also be seen through small binoculars.
-Rahul Zota

October 1, 2010


I found comet 103P Hartley to be too difficult for the city-bound observers. Yesterday night (30 September) I first tried to see the comet through my 25x100 binos and then tried through 10x50 binos and 8-inch Reflecting telescope. I made this observation from my home’s balcony. I was expecting to see something bright, hazy patch of light shining at magnitude 7 or 8. But nothing appeared according to my expectation. Some astronomy websites show the comet’s magnitude to be 5.9 but there was nothing in the exact location given in the finding charts. My updated version of Starry Night software shows the comet shining at mag 5.86. After few attempts through my telescope operating at 34x, I saw something very faint, some 1 deg 39’ SE of Alpha-Cassiopeia. It was nearly 1 degree North of Zeta Cassiopeia. It was exactly in the same location where the comet Hartley has to be.

My city’s observing site allows me to see 11th magnitude comets. I couldn’t understand why so bright comet was so difficult for me. I then had conversations with international comet observers. They told that the comet is nearly 7.5th magnitude and is very diffuse so the light is spread out over a wide area.
That is why it is more difficult than its magnitude would suggest. I saw in the website that according to last observation made in 20th September by J. Cerny, Senohraby from Czech Republic states that the comet was shining at mag 7.9 and had a big diameter of 16’. It is observable through dark sites. It can be detected through 50mm binoculars with averted vision from dark sites.
-Rahul Zota

September 15, 2010


An icy visitor is positioning itself for easier viewing in the coming weeks. it will be high in the evening sky when at its best, glowing at perhaps 5th magnitude. It should be dimly visible to the unaided eye from very dark locations, and visible in binoculars and telescopes. On October 20th, the comet will be just 0.12 A.U. from Earth. The comet has reached 9th magnitude and is brightening by 0.1 magnitude per day. So right now, before the Moon washes the sky with light, is an especially good time to look for this faint visitor.

As shown in the chart, on the night of Sept 15, the comet is in Andromeda, some 4.5 degrees N-NE of Omicron Andromeda star. On Sept 20th the comet will be just about a half degree from an open cluster NGC 7686. On October 1st the comet will be just 1 deg. 37’ from Alpha Cassiopeia. Perhaps 6th magnitude by then, it should remain at least this bright for the next nine weeks. But it's important to note that, with the comet now just 0.18 a.u. from Earth and closing, its light is no longer concentrated into a small dot but instead is more spread out. So even if you can sight a 6th-magnitude star with the unaided eye, Hartley 2 will be tougher. It's closest to Earth on October 20th at a distance of just 0.121 A.U.

On the night of October 7th the comet will be just 1.5 degrees away from beautiful “double clusters”. This will create great opportunity for astro-photographers and sky observers. On October 18th the comet will pass within 3 degrees south of brilliant Capella. On October 27th after midnight the comet will pass within 4 degrees E-NE of a rich open cluster M35 in Gemini.

-Rahul Zota (Bhuj-INDIA)

September 13, 2010


We enjoyed the phenomena of venus-moon close pairing on the eve of 11th sept from my home's terrace. I used my 25x100 binocs to see the event. A very thin crescent moon was just a degree away from venus. the whole day was rainy and was mini cyclone in my city bhuj that destroyed about 300 trees!!! I couldn't expect to see the event but at the time of sunset the sky became almost clear and we could see moon and venus playing hide and seek with clouds! I captured few snaps through my digicam. I watched this nice event with Gunjan Doshi, Ashwing Vaghela, Karan Zota and Kashyap Thakker.

August 12, 2010


The members of Kutch Amateur Astronomers Club got together on the evening of 10th August to watch and photograph the beautiful trio of planets Saturn-Venus and Mars. The sky was very clear and the Sagittarius-scorpius milky-way was easily visible through naked eye. I had taken my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15 DigiCam to take photos of the trio. Me, Mr. Narendra Gor, Nishant Gor, Ashwin Vaghela, Gunjan Doshi and Archan Soni enjoyed the event from the terrace of our KAAC Office. We're also planning to organize the event on 13th August if weather permits.

July 26, 2010


I purchased 4-inch (25x100) binoculars in July 2009 only for visual comet hunting. My purpose was carry them with me whenever I go out side the city to sweep the evening western skies after dusk. But I couldn’t use the binoculars at their full extent. The problem was that I was using them without a viewfinder. The binos magnifies 25x and has a FOV (Field of View) of 3 degrees. It was very difficult for me to find the object’s exact location whenever I stumbled upon them. It wasted most of time of my comet hunting sessions. Also the binocular was useless during 2010 Messier Marathon as I couldn’t find most of deep-sky objects. I believe in fast observation and spending much time in observation rather than wasting time in finding objects. Those who are using 25x100 binos must have faced problems of locating deep-sky objects and faint comets. They must have to star-hop to get on some particular deep-sky object.

I decided to solve this problem. Firstly I tried my telescope’s finders and tried to build some kind of support system to fix the finder. I wanted to fix the viewfinder on the central aluminum rod which joints two monocular but could not make it done. Finally I got solution while I was surfing the website of Indian Telescope Manufacturer, Tejraj & Co. I found that a bracket is available that can be fit over a telescopic tube. The bracket actually holds a view finder. I also found that a ringed bracket is available that can be fit over a 110mm diameter telescopic tube to support a view finder piggybacked. My Binoculars’ O.D. (Outside Diameter) is 115mm. The ringed bracket comes with two pieces (half-ringed shape) that joints each other with plastic screws. I ordered one bracket and one 7x25 straight-finder scope.

I received the parcel on 26-7-2010. After opening the packet, I tried to fix the bracket in the left sided monocular of my binos. It was rather shorter! However I could fix it with the help of a black wire that comes with cell phone’s charger. I carefully fixed the finder and set the binos on tripod stand.

-Rahul Zota

July 20, 2010


The planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn meet together in the western evening sky just after sunset. On the evening of July 20th, around 8:30pm, Mercury is very low in the west; Venus is in Leo, looking brilliant. Mars and Saturn are in Virgo, very close to each other (5 deg. 47’).

On July 25th, after sunset, Mars (mag.1.45) will be only 9’58” from the 3.5th magnitude star Beta Virgo. Both can fit within my 8-inch telescope operating at 165x! On the 27th at evening, Mercury (mag.0.06) will be just 31’20” away from Alpha Leonis, or Regulus, again a beautiful scene for high magnification telescopes.

After this on 31st of July at dusk, Mars and Saturn will be paired at only 1 deg. 46’ distance! This will be a nice view for the binocular observers! The planets will remain together further in August. There will a mind-blowing scene on the evening of August 13th at around 8:30pm. The three planets Mars, Venus & Saturn will form an elongated triangle. Also a 4 days old, Waxing Crescent Moon will add more beauty to them.

-Rahul Zota

April 23, 2010


We planned to watch the Lyrids Meteor Shower on 22nd April. We choose our regular observing place, Dhosa-Makanpar near the city Bhuj. During that day the sky was not very clear and transparent. We reach there at 11pm. I carried my 25x100 and 10x50 binocs. I saw the first meteor at 12 am. It was around magnitude 0 and crossed through the constellation Bootes. It was bluish and passed very close to Arcturus. I then took rest and wake up at 4am. From that time until the beginning of morning twilight I saw total 25 meteors.

I also observed few deep sky objects during meteor shower. I observed some bright open and globular clusters through my 25x100 binocs holding by hand. Early in the morning before dawn the summer Milky Way was looking stunning! I couldn’t stop my self to observe dozens of fantastic objects in that part of the sky. I first pointed the binocular to Sagitta. The next moment, a fuzzy object entered the field. I identified this less observed object in my life, it was M71.It was very easy and was appearing well along with three faint stars in a row. Next I saw Dumbell Nebula (M27). Wow! The nebula stood out as a very bright, round and big glow.

The binocular weights 5 kg hence I was observing objects in a sleeping position. My next target was M11, looking similar in size and shape to M71.However many stars in this cluster were well resolved by the big 4-inch glasses! Now I scanned the Cygnus Milky Way. I began from Alberio to Gamma Cygni. On the way I stumbled upon many fine and rich open clusters. The star studded view was superb! I don’t have words to describe it! I then scanned the field of Pegasus and Cassiopeia. I noted a big glow in the vicinity of Beta Cassiopeia star. It was nearly 3 degrees from Beta. After reaching home I found it from my planetary software. It was NGC 7789, and open cluster shining at magnitude 6.7. It is home of about 300 stars.

March 22, 2010


On early morning of March 22nd, the sky was thankfully clear. I decided to observe the comet C/2009 K5 McNaught which shines at magnitude 9.3 in the constellation Aquila. I used my 8-inch reflecting telescope for this observation. I used two eyepieces, 40mm Plossl and 25mm Kellener. The comet was within 1 degree from a 5.5th magnitude star 28 Aquila. I set my telescope to the star and from there, around 42’ NE; I saw a bright and big glow. It was very easy to notice at first sight. I then used 25mm eyepiece giving 52x magnification but I think the comet was easy in 40mm Plossl.

-Rahul Zota

March 15, 2010


Kutch Amateur Astronomer’s Club (KAAC) organized its 5th Messier Marathon on 13/14 March 2010. We choose Mirzapar Forest Nursery as our observing site. The site is very close to my city Bhuj. It is only around 5 km away from Bhuj that’s why I had a fear in my mind about the site’s situation and the sky’s darkness especially at east. This was my first experience at this site. We got there at 7:45pm. We were six guys, me, Mr. Narendra Gor, Nishant Gor, Ashwin Vaghela, Fenil Patadiya and a new member Rajesh Doshi. Fenil Patadiya had traveled from Surat to join us in this event. The ground at the venue was uneven and it took 15 minutes to choose the right place to set our equipments. There was a bright lamp in the place and it was disturbing to see the stars high in the eastern sky. After removing the lamp we settled our equipments. We carried my 8-inch reflector, my 25x100 and 10x50 binocs, and Mr. Narendra Gor’s 8x40 binocs. Fenil Patadiya brought his 7x35 Celestron binocs. So we started around 8:15pm.

As we started late we missed 5 objects in the first session. We missed M77, M74, M110, M76 and M52. Nishant located M33 through his 8x40 binocs and I located rest of objects. The first session was as usual less fertile. But then we located every object in the second session and also every object of the first half of the third session. During this session we had few visitors at the site and they liked the view of Saturn, M81-M82 and The Beehive Cluster. I intentionally left the Virgo-Coma galaxies unobserved because it was on transit and very high overhead. My scope has an alt-azimuth mount and I cannot see exactly overhead through this scope. I decided to wait until pre-dawn when this part of the sky gets towards west so I can get all galaxies later. During this time I set M104, M102, M83 and M68. I observed M102 for the first time in my life.

Around 3:30am we decided to have a walk around our observing site of forest nursery. After getting back I finished M13, M92, M57 and M56 and then I decided to hunt the Virgo-Coma galaxies. I took the finder chart and located Rho Virginis star and made a star hop toward M60, M59, M58, M89, M90, M91 and M88. Then M87 was easily located. But I missed M85, M98, M99, M100, M84 and M86. This is for the first time I missed 6 galaxies in this region. Too sad :( .

Now I was ready to find all objects located in Ophiuchus, Scorpius and Sagittarius region. I used my 10x50 for bright objects and 8-inch scope for faint globulars. Folks presented at this time were really very happy by watching M8-The Lagoon Nebula. They also liked the view of the great globular cluster Omega Centauri through my 25x100 binocs. In the meantime I set my scope to M13 in Hercules and slightly moved it to a very faint galaxy NGC 6207 (mag ~12) which I had seen through a 16-inch Dobsonian at Nainital in 2008.

At last the final M-objects rising through the light-polluted eastern skies were difficult to locate. We gave up hope to glimpse them as dawn began. However, I last saw M15 through 10x50 and then I showed it to folks through 25x100 binocs and at the end our last score was 93 objects out of 110. This number was very low than we expected. I am sure our score would be at least 100 if the site was darker. We saw most of objects through my 8-inch and 10x50 binoculars. My 25x100 IF giant bino was useless without a viewfinder. It was just a showpiece for visitors. At the time of windup, a crescent moon attracted everyone and Mr. Narendra Gor took a beautiful video. Nishant Gor, Fenil Patadiya and Ashwin Vaghela were helping hands.

-Rahul Zota (KAAC-Bhuj)

February 16, 2010


1. Betelgeuse
2. NGC 2169
3. Zeta Orionis
4. Sigma Orionis
5. NGC 1981
6. NGC 2377
7. M43
8. M42
9. Iota Orionis

Orion stands well in the sky after evening twilight. There are many favorite objects for the amateur astronomers including The Great Orion Nebula (M42).
I decided to star hop in this constellation on the night of 13th February 2010. I used my 8-inch f/6.5 Newtonian Reflecting Telescope operating at 32.5x, 76x and 162.5x magnifications.
1. Betelgeuse: Our starting point is Betelgeuse or Alpha-Orionis and is located 640 light-years away from us. Betelgeuse is a semi regular star and second brightest in the constellation Orion. Betelgeuse is a Red Supergiant and one of the largest and most luminous stars known. For comparison if the star were at the center of our Solar System then its surface might extend out to between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. In my 8-inch reflector at 76x, the star looks brilliant orange.
2. NGC 2169: This is the 6th magnitude Open Cluster lies some 7 degrees N-NE of Betelgeuse between the stars Xi and Nu Orionis. This cluster is also known as the “37 Cluster” because its shape. Through my 8-inch at 32.5x, I can see 11 stars in the cluster which makes the shape like the number 37. At 76x, I can count 12 stars.
3. Zeta Orionis: Like other Belt Stars, Zeta is a 2nd magnitude blue-white star located about 1500 light-years away. In the 8-inch, Zeta is a blaze of cold white light. This star is also known as Alnitak.
4. Sigma Orionis:

Sigma is a dazzling quintuple star with a fainter triple in the same view. The brightest component is Sigma AB, itself a pair separated by only 0.2” and very hard to resolve in amateur telescopes. My telescope working at 76x shows me the component C. The component D was very hard to resolve at this time however I
have observed it a couple of times away from the city lights.
Struve 761 is a triple star system viewed in the same field of view along with Sigma Orionis. My telescope shows all the three components A, B and C at 32.5x.

5. NGC 1981: A very fine, big and loose Open Cluster at the top of Orion’s Sword. The cluster fits well in my scope’s field at 76x. The most eye-catching feature is the three 6.5 magnitude stars. The top most star of these three is a double but I couldn’t see it at this time. The companion is an 8.3rd magnitude star.
6. NGC 1977: NGC 1977 is an open cluster surrounded by two diffuse nebulas NGC 1973 and NGC 1975. You will need an O III filter and a dark sky to have a glimpse of these nebulae.
7. M43: A small patch surrounded of Nu Orionis star. This nebula is also known as the Comma Nebula.
8. M42, The Great Orion Nebula: This is the most famous emission nebula in the sky and the most favorite site for almost any telescope user. In my 8-inch scope at 32.5x, the nebula looks great much like photographs, showing two bright, outstretched arms, tulip-like enclosure. In the middle of the nebula is the quadruple star Theta 1 Orionis. A landmark feature here is the intrusion of a dark nebula that extends from the east almost to the Trapezium. This feature is also known as the Fish Mouth.
The Trapezium is the group of bright multiple stars seem to have blown a hollow for itself deep inside the nebula, and we are looking down into this hole as if into the much of a bright green cave. The brightest star in the Trapezium is Theta C. To its northwest and northeast are A and D. This time through my 8-inch reflector at 162.5x, I could see only four main stars of the Trapezium, A, B, C and D. No E and F were visible because of moderate sky conditions.

9. Iota Orionis: Iota Orionis is a dazzling star at the bottom of M42. The star is also known as Nair Al Saif. Through my telescope at 76x, I can see its companion which shines at magnitude 7.7. The companion is at 11” from Iota.
-Rahul Zota (Bhuj-India)

January 16, 2010


To watch the Annular Solar Eclipse we organized a program at Indirabai Girl’s Highschool. I stayed in the school with Gunjan Doshi, Archan Soni, Harish and Ashwin Vaghela. About 800 students saw the eclipse by projection and sun viewing goggles. Also our club members including Mr. Narendra Gor went to Rameshwaram in South India to watch the eclipse. Few of our members stayed in nearby cities of Bhuj to show the eclipse to peoples and students. Throughout Kutch District we showed the eclipse to about 4500 students. Through my telescope using a filter I saw two sunspots. We also tried to measure earth's radius in this program.
-Rahul Zota