Happy Holidays!!


Santa is shown in his sleigh speeding by Spica just before he disappears behind the mountains..

Or maybe it’s the ISS making the rounds early Christmas morning…..guess it all depends on what you like to believe….

Merry Christmas to all and may you all have wonderful 2010’s.

2010: The Year We Make Contact


2010: The Year We Make Contact

An observing project in honor of Arthur C. Clarke

Becky Ramotowski


This year may have been the “year of astronomy” but 2010 is the “year we make contact”.


This observing list was made in honor of Arthur C. Clarke and we’re going to kick it off December 16 in celebration of Clarke’s birthday.


The following objects were selected after I sat and watched 2010 twice in succession, so I hope you enjoy the journey through space as we visit some things that will be obvious and some that will just make you think.  Some of the targets won’t make any sense unless you are familiar with the movie and Mr. Clarke.  A few were added just for fun and there’s also a sci-fi twist that has nothing to do with 2010 but leaps forward to 2018.


This endeavor is not meant as a contest but awards will be given to each person that sends me a detailed log of their observations.  The award is a dimensionally accurate (3D only and non-functioning) replica “monolith” made by me.


If you participated in my “2001: A Space Odyssey” observing adventure and received a “monolith” after completing that list, this award will be just like it, but slightly different.

I’ll post a photo of the award later, but believe me, you will want one if you are a sci-fi fan of any caliber.

**Just posted one above, so you have an idea of what it looks like….sorta.


You’ll need to log as many of the objects as possible and include the date, time, location and instrument you observed them with.  Sketches will be required for a few of the targets and will be noted. 


I’m not too picky about details but if you are too vague I’ll wonder if you are just trying to earn the award without really admiring the beauty of the objects.  If you can’t see something because you don’t have enough aperture or your sky is impossible-just say so.  Do your best, that’s all I ask.


As always you’re on the honor system, so if you cheat or fudge, you are only deceiving yourself and not being enriched by the splendor that waits.

Along with the objects listed below I will occasionally add a few more to the list throughout the year as timely things come up such as newly discovered comets, novae, or interesting shuttle passes- especially Discovery since it will be one of the required targets.


All of the observations should be completed by December 16, 2010-the awards will be presented after that date.


Please watch my blog at http://astrobeck.com/ for updates.

You can also follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/astrobeck


Okay, let’s make contact!



     I.    It’s Full of Stars

a.   Omega Centauri 

b.   M 5

c.   M 15

d.   NGC 2477  07h52.3m  -38 33

e.   M80

f.     IC 2177   07h05.3m  -10 38’


   II.    Two Suns

a.   Sirius

b.   Albireo

c.   CMA h3945


  III.    All These Worlds

a.   Jupiter-shadow transits-log at least five of these

b.   Europa-Identify it on a sketch with Jupiter along with the other Jovian moons

c.   Io-Identify it on a sketch (see above)

d.   MACSJ0717.5+3745    RA 07h 17m 31.00s  Dec +37° 45′ 39.60″

e.     Skynet Northern Perimeter


 IV.    Easy as Cake

a.   Space Shuttle Discovery- Scheduled to launch March 18, 2010.  I’ll post viewing info when it becomes available.  This must be logged.

b.   Delphinus-Sketch it

c.   Cosmos rocket bodies-  need to view any 12 and list them (use Heavens-above.com for sighting opportunities)

d.   TRMM satellite –observe it once, but you’ll probably see it a lot during the course of the year without even trying

e.   Solar Halo- this is a required target

f.     Lightning


  V.    Will I Dream

a.   M42-The Orion Nebula

b.   NGC 1999

c.   NGC 2001

d.   Sun’s reflection on water


 VI.    The Answers are Bigger than the Questions


a.   Sea of Tranquility- a sketch

b.   Crater Leonov

c.   Crater Orlov

d.   Geosynchronous Satellites- Observe one and indicate which one it was

e.   NGC 1984

f.     Pluto- If you have adequate aperture, plot it in two positions.

g.   Groombridge 1830

h.   NGC 149 Galaxy in Andromeda   RA 0:33.7   DEC.  + 30:43

i.     Stargate Cluster/ Struve 1658  RA 12:35:43.5  DEC -12:01.29  this is required



VII.    Hot Dogs  


a.   Alpha Canis Majoris/Sirius Try to spot the “pup”.

b.   Alpha Canis Minoris/Procyon and its companion.

c.   The Astrodome-this will be easy for Houstonians and is required if you live in Houston.



BTW- You should REALLY watch 2010: The Year We Make Contact if you have never seen it.

Thirteen minutes with Orion

While waiting on some Geminids (before the snow started to fall) I made this 13 minute exposure of the mighty Orion as he moved across the sky.  If you don’t know Orion, it’s time you met.

Just look east after dark for his three bright belt stars rising almost vertically.  It’s a sensational sight!


Whenever I see Orion like this, I know the year is winding down and it’s time to  rest and take reflection of the past year and plan for the one ahead.

Orion is on the right side of this frame.

old Moon


At last night’s local astronomy club meeting, we had a “white elephant” gift swap.

You know the kind where you take turns drawing numbers then selecting a gift and then stealing from each other?

Well, I eventually wound up with two Antares eyepieces.   A 20mm and a 40mm plossl.

The above is a quickie hand held shot that was taken through my 3 inch refractor with the 20mm plossl.

As you can see, it’s not that great, but it reminded me of the older analog photos we used to see of the Moon when we first began taking pictures of it.  If you are old enough, (I’m not- but I have a collection of old magazines that go back to the 40’s)  you remember the black and white “centerfold” shots that Sky and Telescope magazine used to publish, well this image reminded me of those so I’m sharing it here with you.

I made this one this morning at 9:30 a.m. while the Moon was setting in the west.