Thursday, 19 August 2010

I have a long way to go!

I have just been visiting some of the links on my website. One of these is of the homepage of famed visual deep sky observer Barbara Wilson of Houston TX. On there, she has a page about her astronomy exploits and, on it, she tells us how many things she has seen. As you'd expect, an observer like Barbara has seen a lot. In her own words she has:

"...observed thousands of galaxies, hundreds of  galaxy clusters, completed the Herschel 400, the Messier 110, I have observed all but 25 of the Arp Galaxies, all except for 10 of the Milky Way globular clusters, hundreds of open clusters, asteroids, dozens of comets, several great meteor showers, including the Leonids of 1998, and 2001, planetary nebulae, diffuse nebulae, reflection nebulae, asteroid occultations, lunar grazes, (I once got 36 events on a graze of Beta Tauri), solar eclipses (5 total eclipses), dozens of lunar eclipses, iridium flares, earth x crossing asteroids, supernovae, and never have seen anything in the sky that could not be explained in one way or another."

I hope that by the time I get to Barbara's age I will have a comparable record, but I have a long way to go (I hasten to add that's in terms of things seen!)! To date, I have seen a lot of things out there (and, like Barbara, never anything that cannot be totally explained) but not the sheer amount of objects that Barbara has seen. What I've seen probably numbers in the high hundreds, not quite the thousands, not that I've actually properly counted.

Another visual observer who has seen a tremendous amount is Steve Gottlieb of California, who has notes on the entire NGC catalogue. He is part of the NGC/IC project, which aims to correct discrepancies and errors in the NGC/IC catalogue and, as part of this project Steve (and others) has reobserved the entire NGC/IC and done an excellent job in clearing up the errors. Steve's NGC notes can be found here, alongside those of Jeffrey Corder and others.

These are but two of those who have seen, if not it all, certainly most of it. These people have been observing a lot longer than I have, but it shows what dedication, a lot of clear nights and a lot of skill can bring. My current observing projects - the Herschel 400, Herschel II, then the rest of the Herschels, making the Herschel 2500, plus Arp galaxies and galaxy groups and clusters - will go a long way towards my goal of achieving this sort of accomplishment for myself. This is especially the case as I have done a lot of observing since 1993 but none of it systematic projects. Having a systematic project helps a lot in keeping your observing structured and thus, keeping track of things.
A larger scope will also help a lot, as will a few more trips south of the Equator.

Now, you might ask, what am I doing posting on here in the evening, when I could be observing and catching up with the likes of Barbara and Steve, et al? I wish I was out there, but unfortunately the Moon, clouds and a wrecked ankle after an accident in the kitchen earlier this week (I slipped on a wet patch on the kitchen floor and have torn the ligaments in my right ankle) all say 'no'.
I can't wait to get back into things, once my ankle's better, the Moon's gone and - hopefully - the clouds have cleared.

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