C. E. S. Dewar
(Biography - click here)

CESD is a member of the Hill Country Astronomers club in Fredericksburg, Texas

Alamo Springs Ranch Observing site - ClearSky Clock (from 1 mile away at Old Tunnel State Park):

All Images on this page are © 2017, C. E. Steuart Dewar. They may be downloaded for any non-commercial use. Any commercial use requires explicit written permission - Thank you.

Messier Marathon, 2017

This was my third Messier Marathon (the second was In 2007) and this time I was taking no chances. In a "Messier Marathon" an astronomer tries to observe as many as possible of all 110 deep sky objects (Clusters, nebulae, galaxies) in a single night using only star charts (no computers or GoTo!). There is a brief window usually at the end of March when the Sun and Moon are both just out of the way enough to see all 110 Messier objects.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words:


The result was recorded on the official SEDS Page for 2017 that reports Messier Marathon results from around the world - this being the only perfect Marathon score so far recorded there for 2017.


Big Bend has Bortle 1 skies and so I headed down there in my camper and stayed at an RV Campground  just outside the Park. Originally, I was going to try the Marathon inside the park itself, but I found a good place on the side of the road near the campground and since the night before, I had only seen one car go by in the space of 3 hours, I figured that would not be a problem. I had a gasp moment when the horizon was filled with clouds that appeared out of nowhere, but fortunately, they dissipated just in time for me to catch M76 and M110 before they got too low. My viewing instrument was, as in 2007, Saturn III binoculars (100mm aperture with 37x eyepieces) and a laser pointer (which I find perfect for quickly locating items). In 90 minutes, I had caught all the evening items, and knew this was going to be a good run. After M92, I went back to the campground for 4 hours since I had to wait then for the remaining Messier objects to rise. As I was packing up, a vehicle sped past me on the road going at least 70mph and with no lights at all(!). I never did see any lights on the car as it disappeared into the distance (maybe they were driving with night-vision equipment? Or maybe they were just inebriated?).


I went back to the observing site a little after 3am and quickly got down to the point where there were only 9 left. Then it was down to three: M72 (a very faint globular), M73 (a weird little asterism) and the one Messier I could not get in 2007: M30 - a globular cluster in Capricorn. M30 doesn't even rise until after 6am, and astronomical dawn was at 6:28 - so I knew there was going to be precious little time. After getting M72 and M73 out of the way, it was now down to the very last one. By 6:25, the sky was no longer inky black, and I realized it was a race against time. As soon as M30 hit an elevation of 3 degrees above the horizon, I started looking for it (I had already checked out the observing site to make sure I could see down to within 1 degree of the horizon). The bowl of stars at the bottom of Capricorn is the pointer, and at 6:32am, I had M30 fully visible in the Saturn III's at an elevation of 3 1/2 degrees. I watched it for another 15 minutes and although the visibility was obviously improving as it gained altitude, this was almost completely offset as the skies got lighter and lighter. This time, I found over three quarters of the objects from memory, so the next challenge is an M-cubed Marathon (Messier Marathon from Memory). The full log-sheet for the 2017 Marathon can be found here. Sadly, my dog Freeway, who accompanied me on the trip and had a great time, succumbed to end stage renal failure a few days later, but at least he was there to participate in the celebration (I got the champagne, he got the carrots - his favorite treat).

Dewar's Eagle Cluster...

In 2007, I posted on Cloudy Nights about an open cluster near Sagittarius that looks just like an Eagle coming in for a landing. Surprisingly, it seems there are no references to this striking visual appearance. The core of this cluster is recognized as NGC 6774 or Ruprecht 47 and is of interest as it might be one of the oldest clusters close to our sun (it's about 1,000 lty distant). It's visible in larger binoculars (my Celestron 15x70's show it nicely). It's located just 2 degrees from Rho1 Sagittarii (mark a line from 62 Sagittarii to Rho1 Sagittarii and go 2 degrees beyond to get right to it). There's a finder chart in the Cloudy Nights post. If you see this object and agree/disagree about its appearance, email me and let me know! For now, until advised otherwise, I am taking dibs on the name the "Eagle Cluster" for this object! I will photograph it shortly and post it here. In the meantime, here's a graphic representation of what the cluster looks like through binoculars (if you look at a skychart, you will have difficulty seeing it, even though it's obvious when viewed). This shows all the brighter stars in the cluster in their correct positions.

For example, if you request an image of NGC 6774 from the Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), you get this image:

which only covers the core of this open cluster.

Astrophotographs - Most Recent

It's getting cold here (even in Texas) for staying out all night imaging, but I had a new F7 reducer for my C-11 Edge and wanted to try it out with some new capture software. This was just a first quick attempt on the Orion Nebula (M42). It picked up a little bit of the color, and while still clearly showing the four stars of the Trapezium (that light up the gases that form the Nebula). This was a set of ten exposures of 90s each with a ZWO color camera (captured raw and then converted to color and stacked, stretched in Nebulosity 4.0). Also included at top is M43 (Running Man Nebula). The photograph pretty closely matches what you see through a large amateur telescope visually.

The August 2017 total eclipse was an extraordinary event. I traveled to Alliance Nebraska for the eclipse as this was on the centerline, and historical records for the past 20 years indicated it had the best likelihood of having clear skies on the eclipse line.  First, a montage of the ingress and egress of the moon as well as totality. All these pictures were taken with a Sony RX100-M3 camera at the 600mm Zoom setting. Solar film was taped to the front of the lens for the pictures (except for totality, when it was briefly removed).

As the totality ended, there was a brief display of the beautiful Diamond Ring effect as the sunlight starts to spill over the edge of the moon:

Finally, during totality, stars became visible and if you look closely, you can see first magnitude star Regulus, which was near the Sun at this time, as a tiny white dot in the photograph:


These photographs of the Europa transit of Jupiter were taken with an Edge11HD on a Mach1/GTO mount with an ASI-1600MC camera. Software includes SharpCap to capture the images, Registax for stacking lunar/planetary images, and DeepSkyStacker for the Deep Sky Images. All images were then processed further in Photoshop.

Taken moments before Europa starts its transit. The Great Red Spot is just turning into view on the lower band, and just to the right of center a little lower is Red Spot Junior (Aka "Oval BA") -  which was first seen in 2006 and is still visible some 11 years later (there's a white, oval just below it) along with several large bluish festoons looping down from the upper band in this photo.

An hour later into the transit, Europa's shadow is clearly visible above the top main band and Europa itself appears faintly as a lighter round spot on Jupiter to the right of the shadow). The moon off to the left is Io.

The next set of photographs here were taken with an AstroPhysics 130GTX on a Mach1/GTO mount with an ASI-1600MC camera. Software includes SharpCap to capture the images, Registax for stacking lunar/planetary images, and DeepSkyStacker for the Deep Sky Images. All images were then processed further in Photoshop.

Mars - on August 8/6/2016 - at this point Mars was only 12.3 arc seconds in diameter and the phase is clearly visible. This was a stack of 200 out of 500 images. Seeing was below average.

Saturn - on August 8/6/2016 - a stack of 200 out of 500 images (Seeing was below average)

M27 (Dumbell Nebula) on September 20, 2016 -  stack of 10x120s exposures

M4 globular cluster in Scorpius. This was a stack of 5x60s exposures.

M20 - the Trifid nebula - stack of 5x60s exposures

M1 - the Crab Nebula - stack of 7x120s exposures

NGC 2024 - the Flame nebula = stack of 4x120s exposures:

And M17 - the Swan Nebula - a stack of 10x120s exposures

The following photographs were taken with either a 5" TeleVue NP-127 APO, Celestron 9.25" SCT, Celestron 8" SCT, TMB 105/650 APO, or an 80mm WO Super APO on a Vixen Sphinx Mount with a Toucam II webcam or SkyNyx 2.1c Camera. Images were acquired with K3ccdtools and then stacked and processed in Registax. Images were sharpened and tweaked with Adobe Photoshop. All images (c) 2005-2016, C. E. S. Dewar..


        Moon in the Pleiades on 08Apr2008. Canon EOS10D at ISO100, 4s at F6, TMB 105/650 at Prime Focus
        This image was featured in Sky & Telescope Magazine's February 2009 issue (page 72).

Sinus Iridium - TMB 105/650 at F31 with 5x Powermate, SkyNyx 2.1c Camera.
The two craters near center are Helicon (25km) and LeVerrier (20km). Note the subtle striae in the Maria areas.

Total Lunar Eclipse on February 20, 2008. Saturn is at lower left. This photograph was taken shortly after the end of totality as it moved out of the umbra. Canon 10-D, Sigma 170-500m Zoom at 500mm.

Moon during totality. This was taken with a Canon SD-500 digital camera held up
 to the eyepiece of my Saturn III binoculars (39x100mm).


Sun on Jan 27, 2008 - Canon 500 digital camera held up to the eyepiece
of a Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope (Double Stacked).

Venus Transit on June 5th 2012. Canon 500 digital camera held up to the eyepiece
of a Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope (Double Stacked).

Mercury Transit of May 9, 2016 - Sony RX-100 camera held up to eyepiece
of a Coronado H_Alpha Solar Telescope

Mercury Transit of May 9, 2016 - Sony RX-100 camera held up to eyepiece
of a Coronado H_Alpha Solar Telescope. About 3 minutes before egress.

Mars, showing rotation in just one hour.


Mars on morning of 19-Sep-2005 (3:30am EST). Image taken with TeleVue NP-127 (5" APO) at f52 (2x/5x TV Barlow/Powermate)


Mars on morning of 21-October-2005 (1:45am EST). Image taken with TeleVue NP-127 (5" APO) at f52 (2x/5x TV Barlow/Powermate). Note the several dust storms at the top - such as the prominent one over Solis Planum.


Mars on evening of 29-October-2005 (11:15pm EST). Image taken with TeleVue NP-127 (5" APO) at f52 (2x/5x TV Barlow/Powermate).

Mars on evening of 28-October-2005 (11:45pm EST). Image taken with a William Optics 80mm Fluorite APO at f60 (2x&5x TV Barlow/Powermates). This is a remarkable image from such a small scope (compare with image on left with the 127mm TeleVue Scope!).



Europa Just about to exit Jupiter (10 0'clock position) with Io off to the right and a bit more aggressive sharpening to highlight surface details

Europa transit across Jupiter on 1-May-2005 (black spot in second and third images is the shadow of Europa). Third image shows Europa just exiting (around the 10 o'clock position). Second and third images also show the Great Red Spot (which is actually a pale orange at this point) on the left side of the lower equatorial band).

Jupiter on May 17th, 2006 showing GRS and Oval BA (Red Spot Jr.) just
below and to the left of the GRS (C9.25-Toucam Pro)


Slightly lower contrast version taken in 2nd week of May, 2005 also with Europa and Io


International Space Station flies by Jupiter on night of July 8, 2006 - single frame
of AVI shot at 60fps-1/200th sec on SKYnyx camera
A short movie of the ISS as it whizzes by at very high speed can be seen by clicking here.


Image of Saturn clearly showing the Cassini division in the rings. The Crepe ring is also visible (esp. right in front of the planet) as is the South South Temperate zone and South equatorial belt, and perhaps a hint of what would be the equatorial band (on the right side). Taken April 22, 2005

Saturn, November 12, 2005, 3:30am EST, TeleVue NP 127 (5" APO) at f26. Note the prominent storm at the top edge of the South Polar region.


Saturn in June of 2009 as the rings are closing. Televue NP-127 at F26 with SkyNyx 2.1c Camera and Registax. Note the small white spot at top, just right of center - this appears to be the storm which has shown up in several other astrophotographs of Saturn taken at this time.

Saturn in June of 2009. Imaged at F16.5 on Rick LaRosa's 28" Webster scope with a SkyNyx 2.1c Camera. Tethys is just barely visible as a small spot above the Cassini Division on the right side.

The Moon

Clavius - taken with a TMB105/650 Refractor at f31 with a SkyNyx 2.1 Camera

Gassendi and Mare Humorum taken with a TMB105/650 Refractor at f31 with a SkyNyx 2.1 Camera
Points of interest: waves of lava flow in Mare Humorum, many flooded craters, rilles in floor of Gassendi

Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel are the three craters at left on the terminator, with Hipparchus and Albategnius to
the right with some nice rilles showing at the South end of Hipparchus. TMB92SS at F26 (F5.2 with 5x Powermate)
SkyNyx 2.1 Camera with stack of 500 images in Registax.



Plato and Vallis Alpes. Taken with a TMB105/650 Refractor at f31 with a SkyNyx 2.1 Camera. Points of interest:
 craterlets on floor of Plato -- largest is only 2.2km (1.3mi) across -- and the elusive rille in Vallis Alpes
which is a fine catch for a 4" Scope.

Another photo of Vallis Alpes - this with an 8" SCT (Celestron C8), SkyNyx 2.1c Camera. Again showing the elusive rille
on the floor of Vallis Alpes


Rupes Recta (the "Great Wall"). Taken with a Celestron C8 on a Sphinx Mount at F25 with a SkyNyx 2.1c Camera.
The smallest craters in this image are barely a mile across. Note the rille on the floor of the right side of the crater Arzachel.

The three craters named after the Apollo 11 astronauts in the Sea of Tranquility. The smallest crater, Collins,
is just 2.4km(1.5m) across.
The Apollo 11 landing site is just slightly below the midpoint between Collins and Armstrong.
Taken with a Celestron C8 on a Sphinx Mount at F25 with a SkyNyx 2.1c Camera.

Moon with Saturn III Binoculars - Canon SD-500 digital camera
just held up to the eyepiece(!)

Moon taken with William Optics 80mm SuperAPO at F6 with SKYnyx Camera - mosaic of two images on an undriven(!) AltAz mount.

Moon past first quarter. TMB105/650 at F12.4 - mosaic of two frames from SkyNyx 2.0 camera

Venus, Moon and Jupiter on evening of September 6th, 2005
Canon 10d, 70-200mm zoom at 150mm, 1/90th at f4

Moon, Venus and Jupiter on evening of September 7th, 2005
Canon 10d, 70-200mm zoom at 70mm, 2s at f11, Iso200


Comet C/2006 M4 (Swan) on night of October 28th, 2006, 2 days after outburst when it suddenly brightened by two full magnitudes.
To the right of comet Swan is M13 - the huge globular cluster in Hercules. 8x30s @ F2.8 with 200mm lens on Canon-10D.

Messier Marathon 2007 Results: 109 out of 110
This was the second Messier Marathon** at the Morganton, GA observing site. Final tally was 109 out of 110. This is a near-perfect score as M30 is not really visible from this latitude (common wisdom is that you have to be South of 35 degrees to even have a vague chance of catching it, and this location was at 34.923 N). I was pretty sure I could see M30 (it was getting pretty light by then), but my observing partner could not confirm, and the deal was that she had to be able to see it as well for it to count. All observing was with the Saturn III (39x100) binoculars.

This year, it was also very cloudy - in fact for around 4 1/2 hours (11p-3:30a), it was completely overcast and so no observations were recorded. Fortunately, the clouds just cleared up enough by 3:30am to allow finishing up a near-perfect tally!  The score and those of other astronomers is listed on the official SEDS.ORG web page!

The Messier tracking report for all the objects is here (observing notes are general notes when the objects are in ideal observing positions, not when observed for the Marathon!).

**In the Messier Marathon, you have to observe as many of the 110 Messier Deep Sky Objects in a single night without any mechanical assistance (no go-to scopes or setting circles!). We include NGC 5866 as M102, and also include M110 which at this point are pretty universally accepted as part of the list of 110 objects that make up the Marathon.


And now for something completely different....


On April 1, 2005, CESD stunned the scientific community with the first ever images of the super-massive black hole at the center of the M31 Galaxy taken during a heavy thunderstorm with a PST solar telescope

The ever intrepid CESD braving severe thunderstorms on the night of April 1
in his epic, breakthrough endeavor....




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