Astronomical League Master Observer (#93)
Mark earned this distinguished award by completing 10 of the Astronomical League observing programs. Five programs are prescribed for Master Observer (certificate number in parenthesis): Double Star (#393), Messier (#2419), Messier Binocular (#804), Lunar (#644), and Herschel 400 (#406). The remaining 5 programs Mark used to earn Master Observer were: Planetary Nebula (#19), Globular Cluster (#133), Universe Sampler (#90-T), Deep Sky Binocular (#265), and Galileo (#12). Some of his observing logs are listed below.
AL Planetary Nebula Program (472KB pdf)
Some objects are extremely challenging, and completing this program was probably the most difficult visual program Iíve undertaken.
AL Caldwell Program (489KB pdf)
Sir Patrick Moore himself evaluated Mark's log, see pictures of him reviewing log, displaying signed certificate, and looking over Mark's business card.
AL Deep Sky Binocular Program (219KB pdf)
Not having been a fan of binocular observing, the Messier Binocular Program enticed me to pursue the Deep Sky Binocular Program. It is amazing how many objects not in Messierís list can be reached with binoculars.
AL Double Star Program (1.1MB pdf)
Over 90% of the doubles were observed with a very portable 4-inch refractor that served as a grab-and-go scope. Nice challenges interspersed with really easy targets.
AL Herschel 400 Program (1.1MB pdf)
To do this extensive program in a timely manner, one must plan and take every opportunity to observe. As the write-up promises, you will really know your telescope and mount by the time you seek out and observe all 400 objects. Just stick with it!
AL Messier Program (519KB pdf)
Having blasted through these beauties in marathons, using a variety of optics and taking a less frantic pace allows the relatively bright and easy to find objects to be a real enjoyment.
AL Messier Binocular Program (368KB pdf)
Having good vision in only one eye, Iíve not been a big fan of binoculars. But this program forced the issue, and the ease of maneuvering toward a target while squarely facing it made for a wholly different seek-and-view experience. Really dark skies at a remote location on Virginiaís Eastern Shore allowed several of these challenging binocular objects to just jump out.
AL Globular Cluster Program (455KB pdf)
Only 50 globulars need to be observed to earn this award, and the Messier catalog alone has 29 GCs. However, you need to evaluate the concentration class of each object, and you are encouraged to use the same telescope and eyepiece to allow for consistent comparisons. Since I didnít do that when I worked on the Messier program, I got to do some revisiting. The bright Messier GCís are in contrast to some of the fainter choices which gives a nice variety - including spying on a globular cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy! My sketches that the GC Program require are in my RASC Finest NGC logs.
AL Universe Sampler Program (3.4MB pdf)
There are several simple tasks in this program, but keeping a general awareness about a broad range of observable phenomena is the goal. I would likely never spend any time drawing constellations or doing the classical variable star estimates if not for this program.
AL Binocular Double Star Program (373 KB pdf)
Having learned to like binoculars in spite of using only one eye, the zero-time for equipment set-up of a binocular program was very appealing. Plus, itís nice to have some easily accessible interesting objects to view when a scope just isnít available like when travelling.
AL Outreach Program
One of the most popular Astronomical League Programs, it is easily earned by doing what many amateurs like to naturally do: engage the public to see the wonders of the sky.
AL Sky Puppy Program
Okay, this isnít my award, but I mentored my daughter Kelsey when she was at the required age (young observers must complete nine projects before they turn 11 years old). Progressing through the workbook was a good way to involve her in my hobby, and at a level that experts figured was doable by a 10 year old. Researching her favorite constellation (can you figure it out?) uncovered some neat facts about star names and the meaning of some family names (now we know that Cacciatore means hunter).
AL Galileo Program
Trying to finish this in 2009 to celebrate Galileoís 400th anniversary of using the telescope, the Astronomical League excused many of us on the requirement to track the rotation of a sunspot since the Sun was nearly spotless that year.
AL Lunar Program
The Moon is full of a variety of features that this check-list based observing program guides you through. The well-planned program challenges you to see the Moon through different optics, and different phases, and to assess what you are seeing, and gives us deep sky junkies something productive to do while cursing the Moon.
Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Finest NGC Objects
Back in the 70ís when I joined a club that uses a 16-inch Newtonian, I started referring the Observerís Handbook for its listings of deep sky objects that transcend Messierís list. The Finest NGC Objects has been a long-time favorite, so pursuing the RASC award seemed a natural thing to do. Except RASC requires sketches, and I prefer taking a picture over making a picture. Nonetheless, my abilities improved while sketching all 110 entries, and I believe my learning curve has reached a plateau; unfortunately, that plateau is still fairly low. But now I know.
AL Planetary Transit Special Award (Venus Transit)
The Astronomical League developed a special award for those making certain measurements during the Venus Transit in 2012. The requirements for League members include viewing as much of the transit as is visible from your location, to sketch the event as you see it, to include the contact timings, and to calculate the Astronomical Unit in ways reminiscent of the scientifically significant value of historical Venus Transits, or by alternate means for the bulk of us that cannot see all four contacts. See our Venus Transit webpage for more.
AL Carbon Star Program (2.9MB pdf)
A good mix of carbon stars make up the 100 required targets, all of which must be observed and sketched (with a minimum of 5 other field stars) to complete the program. The trick is identifying the specific star, although a few are so obviously red and bright that you will know them from the finder view. Most are reasonably easy if not visible in the finder, but some may be at the low end of their variability cycle -- and a few are not even red at all!
Moore Winter Marathon: Naked Eye and Binocular list (357KB pdf)
To celebrate 55 years of The Sky at Night in April [of 2012], Sir Patrick Moore picked his 55 favourite night sky objects and, over the month, challenged the public to spot as many as they could. The concept proved so succesful that Sir Patrick decided to set a new challenge, selecting another 50 objects. This list is published by The Sky At Night, Sir Patrick Moore's long running television series website. This is Mark's observing log which was submitted to the BBC.
AL Asteroid Program
NASA has a continued interest in studying asteroids for the protection of Earth, development of new space hardware, and for the advancement of space science. So what better Program to undertake to get a taste of some of the asteroid action that has appealed to us over the years anyway? Since this program can be completed visually or photographically, this was a good first opportunity to try the photographic approach on an AL program. As an added challenge, I wanted to complete the Gold level in two or three sessions! Doing so requires showing the before and after position changes for 100 asteroids of my choosing. My approach involved sweeping through a set of asteroids over the course of a couple of hours and then repeating the sequence. More than a hundred asteroids were documented over three nights in spite of losing half of the targets on the first night due to clouds, and all with the Moon blaring away on winter nights of temperatures in the teens!