TSP Advanced Observing Program

By Larry Mitchell – Houston, Texas

RULES AND REGULATIONS

The TSP Advanced Observing Program was initiated to educate and challenge observers to locate and observe those objects they might have considered too difficult, if not impossible, to find beforehand. With a small degree of confidence and patience along with good optics, almost anything is possible.

TSP 2020 Advanced Program: The Best of the Rest of the Advanced Observing Programs

This year, 2020, is a continuation of the twentieth year of visual observing of the Texas Star Party Advanced Observing Programs. The Advanced Observing Program was initiated to educate and challenge observers to locate and observe those objects they might have considered too difficult, if not impossible to find and/or see visually, beforehand. There is no better place to push the visual limit than under the dark transparent West Texas sky. Too often observers stop at the “NGC Limit” and never try to locate objects that begin with names like Arakelian, Minkowski, Palomar or Sanduleak. Such Name Intimidation is nothing more than becoming overwhelmed by the seemingly exalted difficulty of the object merely due to its unfamiliar name. A large telescope is NOT required to observe most of these objects.

The listed objects are best located and observed by careful and precise star-hopping. It is most imperative that the observer know exactly where in the field to look when the object is located, especially if some object turns out to be truly “light challenged” in their particular telescope. By using various magnifications and a combination of averted and direct vision along with a large degree of patience – eventually the object will be seen. Give the sky a chance and it will come to you. The standard observing rule is if you think you see the object at least three times, then you probably Really Did See It – Log it – and go on to the next object. But first please refer to the handout for some information about the object, as each is unique and has a story to tell, and knowing something about what you are looking at makes it a much more interesting discovery.

This year’s advanced program concentrates on some of the more interesting and brighter objects that have been listed over the past 19 years. Objects have been listed from each of the previous year’s listings with some years more heavily represented than others. Please ignore the name intimidation factor, as only 8 NGC objects are listed, yet most of these objects may be observed in moderately sized telescopes. In planning your observations, pay attention to both the listed magnitudes and the object size, which will give an indication of the surface brightness of each object.

This year’s advanced program highlights some of the brighter and more interesting objects that have been listed over the previous years. This is – by far – the easiest TSP Advanced list ever published, and will provide some “eye-candy” as a reward for those of you who may have experienced “retinal torture” in the past. An advanced observer may be able to visually see ALL of the listed objects using only a modest aperture telescope. In planning your observations, pay attention to both the listed magnitudes and the object size, which will give an indication of the surface brightness of each object. However, as we visual observers know all too well, the only way to know for sure if something is visible, on that particular night and in that specific telescope, is to LOOK for yourself. Adopt the theory, that within reason anything may be seen, until you have visually proven otherwise.

There are 52 deep sky objects on the observing list, and only 20 objects are required to obtain a twenty-year observing pin. Even if some of the objects were previously observed in prior years, they must be observed this year to get a pin. Those of you who have successfully observed all of the previous years, plus this year’s objects, will also receive a very special TSP 20 year advanced anniversary T-shirt, while they last. As always, some of this year’s objects are very easy, and some may challenge even the best of you, but everybody at this year’s star party should be able to receive a TSP Advanced Observing Pin. As astronomers, we are privileged that we get to view these objects that most people do not even know exists. I urge you to try some of the more seemingly difficult objects, as you may be surprised with your accomplishments.

With patience and good sky conditions the list is certainly well within the range of all observers, beginner or advanced who desire an Advanced Observing Pin from the Premier Observing Star Party…..the TEXAS STAR PARTY.

  1. Any telescope may be used or any combination of telescopes.
  2. Location by Star Hopping is Preferred – The only way to know where an object is in the heavens is to go and find it – Star Hop and be Educated…  Maybe next time you can locate it without a chart from memory – Always the Best Way.
  3. An Advanced Observing Pin will be awarded to those who observe any 20 of the listed objects during the TSP.
  4. Observation programs from previous years may be completed for appropriate pins.
  5. Observations of at least 20 objects may be turned in to Larry Mitchell anytime during the star party  OR
    outside door leading into the TSP Meeting Hall each day between 1:00 PM and 2:30 PM (except Saturday, from 10-11:30 AM).

To those of you who only complete part of the list, but who have worked hard at it, you have successfully completed the spirit of the program.  You have improved your observing skills, learned something about the night sky and hopefully enjoyed yourself…  And you can always get that observing pin next year.  Many people have enthusiastically expressed how amazed they were at themselves for locating and observing these objects themselves and with their equipment

EXPAND YOUR OBSERVABLE LIMITS
THIS IS WHAT THE PROGRAM IS ALL ABOUT

 

I hope you enjoy this challenge as much as I have and that it gives you a new sense of enjoyment and confidence in your abilities to successfully view with your own eyes – Our Magnificent Universe.
Good Hunting – Good Observing – Good Times

 

TSP 2020 Advanced Program:  The Best of the Rest of the Advanced Observing Programs

Download this year’s observing list   (Adobe Acrobat(PDF) version).

Or download this ZIP file containing this year’s program (and prior years) in SkyTools(STX) and SkySafari(SKYLIST) format

 

 


Check out our Observing Program archives for previous year lists!