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The Observer’s Challenge

The purpose of the observer’s challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing.  It is open to everyone that is interested, and if you are able to contribute notes, drawings, or photographs, we will be happy to include them in our monthly summary.  Observing is not only a pleasure, but an art.  With the main focus of amateur astronomy on astrophotography, many times people tend to forget how it was in the days before cameras, clock drives, and GOTO.  Astronomy depended on what was seen through the eyepiece.  Not only did it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allowed the first astronomers to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky.

Before photography, all observations depended on what the astronomer saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations.  This was done through notes and drawings and that is the tradition we are stressing in the observers challenge.  By combining our visual observations with our drawings, and sometimes, astrophotography (from those with the equipment and talent to do so), we get a unique understanding of what it is like to look through an eyepiece, and to see what is really there.  The hope is that you will read through these notes and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece studying each object, and looking for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.  Each new discovery increases one’s appreciation of the skies above us.  It is our firm belief that careful observing can improve your visual acuity to a much higher level that just might allow you to add inches to your telescope.  Please consider this at your next observing session, as you can learn to make details jump out.  It is also a thrill to point out details a new observer wouldn’t even know to look for in that very faint galaxy, star cluster, nebula, or planet.

A word about the editing: When we started these back in 2009, I was a hard-core technical writer and I abhorred the use of first person. In technical writing, that is usually a big nono and I took these challenge writeups to be in the technical nature. When our contributors would submit their material, I’d convert all their first person information to third person narrative. Sometimes it would present challenges to make the phrasing less awkward, but I made it work. However, when Rob would present it on the web site, he’d convert them back to first person! After a few years of this, he finally convinced me to go with first person since these were the words of the contributors and not simply dry technical descriptions. Roger, my partner in crime was neutral but saw it both ways and it was up to me to make any changes. I finally relented and realized that though it went against everything I knew about technical writing, these challenges aren’t technical papers! A lot of that stemmed from when we used to quote references in each challenge. We since realized that references were not only unnecessary, but opened us up to legal and copywrite issues. So in each of the challenges below, I’ve not only converted all of the older challenges to first person, I’ve deleted all of the references.

Secondly, you will notice there are no brand names mentioned with few notable exceptions. That’s where I draw the line and refuse to budge. The last thing I wanted to do was turn the Challenge into a TeleVue or Brandon or Zambuto or Meade love fest or product indorsement. There’s enough of that nonsense out there already. I’m also hypersensitive to one particular brand and don’t want to perpetuate that any more than it is already. You can read more about that on my Astronomy page if you care. Equipment brings out the “passionate” people, the politically correct term. I have a less polite word for it, but won’t mention it here. If you want to see what I’m talking about, just go to the Equipment forum on Cloudy Nights and you’ll soon figure out what I’m talking about. For that matter, just look at most of the Deep Sky Observing threads at Cloudy Nights and you’ll see brand names liberally sprinkled throughout almost every entry. That’s not the purpose of this project and never will be. I’ve done my best to edit all of that out. What you get is the size and type of telescope, the length and magnification of eyepiece (if available), and that’s it. I’ve had to compromise with the camera equipment simply because I don’t know enough about it to generalize. Until I do, the model and brands stay in there. In that case, the camera equipment doesn’t usually lead to the crazy arguments caused by other brand names anyway, as far as I know. The Challenge is about observing, not equipment!

The main forum for the Observer’s Challenge is on the Las Vegas Astronomical Society web page at http://www.lvastronomy.com/. However, I’m also presenting it here as an alternative location, cross-pollination so to speak. It’s also available on Roger Ivester’s web site at http://rogerivester.com/.

The Challenges, as presented here and on Roger’s site, are in a slightly different format than what you see on the LVAS site. Rob Lambert has edited them down to his personal preferences and for web expediency for the LVAS site. He used to plug them in as HTML. Now as .pdf versions, he’s compressed them and deleted repeat information. What you get here are the full versions. Each is a stand-alone file so that no matter where you jump into the challenge, you know what’s going on. I’ve also not compressed the images as much (except the images of the contributors) so you can see them better.

They’re presented below in .pdf format. Just click on each one to download it.

THE OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE

FEBRUARY 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE M-1

MARCH 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE NGC-2403

SPRING 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE SUPPLEMENTAL – VIRGO DIAMOND

APRIL 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – MARKHARIANS CHAIN

MAY 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – LEO TRIO

JUNE 2009 MONTHLY OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-13

JULY 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-27

AUGUST 2009 MONTHLY OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-002

SEPTEMBER 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE NGC-7293

OCTOBER 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-253

NOVEMBER 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-891

DECEMBER 2009 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-474

JANUARY 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-2264

FEBRUARY 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-2903 and SUPPLEMENTAL

MARCH 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – IC-405 IC-410 NGC 1893a

SPRING 2010 SUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-51

APRIL 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-4889

MAY 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-4631

JUNE 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-5907

SUMMER 2010 SUPPLEMENTAL OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6826

JULY 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6543

AUGUST 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-188

SEPTEMBER 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-7331

OCTOBER 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6888

NOVEMBER 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – IC-342

DECEMBER 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-77

JANUARY 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-1333

FEBRUARY 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-2261

MARCH 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-2419

APRIL 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-3190

MAY 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-97

JUNE 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-102

JULY 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6645

AUGUST 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6819

SEPTEMBER 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6946

OCTOBER 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-7380

NOVEMBER 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-281

DECEMBER 2011 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-33

JANUARY 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-1502

FEBRUARY 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – THETA ORIONIS

MARCH 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-2362

APRIL 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-3115

MAY 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-64

JUNE 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-5353

JULY 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-17

AUGUST 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-22

SEPTEMBER 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6826

OCTOBER 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-7023

NOVEMBER 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-55

DECEMBER 2012 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-457

JANUARY 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-1579

FEBRUARY 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – MEL-71

MARCH 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-46 NGC-2438

APRIL 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-2672

 MAY 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – PORRIMA

JUNE 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-5466

AUGUST 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6791

SEPTEMBER 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-7044

OCTOBER 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – IC-5146

NOVEMBER 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – IC-1747

DECEMBER 2013 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-40

JANUARY 2014 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-1491

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