Subject: [tt-watch] My outing at Lowell Observatory
Date: Wed, 04 Apr 2001 03:06:45 -0000
The next day, Monday April 2nd 2001, I emailed an acquaintance who is a very experienced amateur astronomer. I asked him how I might determine what the object that I saw was and I gave him the description and coordinates. Here is the relevant part of his reply:
I have checked this position WITHIN SEVERAL DEGREES (my emphasis) and found no nebula, galaxy or planetary nebula. I did, however, find the following open clusters near your position:
NGC1807 051042 +163200 ~20 stars, Mag: 7.0 diam:~16'/arc
NGC1817 051206 +164200 ~60 stars, Mag: 7.7 diam:~17'/arc
I don't know how accurate the telescope's coordinate readouts are, but with what you gave me, these are the only objects that might fit your discription. Diffuse? Well, I would think you would have been able to resolve the above clusters into stars, yet, it may have been a thin overcast and not possible. Often a tiny closly packed cluster of stars (called an asterism) might have looked like a diffuse object.
On the other hand, it may really have been a new comet you stumbled upon! If my equipment were working, I could easily verify if this object was the above clusters or not. But, alas... :(
Note: it WAS partly cloudy that night but there were patches of clear sky. The sky was clear in the direction we were looking.
I intend to follow up on this by reserving the telescope in another couple of months or so. I also intend to ask my astronomer acquaintance to use his equipment to verify as soon as it is back online.
Subject: [tt-watch] Lowell Sighting (was: Basis for a poleshift)
Date: Sat, 19 May 2001 21:29:24 -0000
I am the person who viewed an object on the night of April 1st at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. I am posting this message because it has recently been suggested that my sighting was a hoax. It was not a hoax. I was there and I saw SOMEthing extremely close to the coordinates I recieved from Nancy Lieder which I requested from her specifically for that evening. There were 6 people there that night. Three of us, including the telescope operator (who by his own admission is not an astronomer but has been operating the telescopes at Lowell for the past 3 years) saw the object. I don't know what the object was. The operator didn't know what the object was. The object was described BY THE OPERATOR as diffuse and of approximate magnitude 11. I have asked two professional astronomers what they thought the object might be based on the coordinates where it was found and the description (both of which come from the telescope opeartor). The reply from the first can be found here [on this page]. Here is the previously unpublished response of the second astronomer:<begin response> [A mutual friend] has passed along your note to him about an object or "something" found in northern Orion in April. As you were advised by [astronomer1], there is nothing obvious closely matching your description at the nominal location, although there are two open clusters in the region. NGC 1807 is only a weak scattering of stars, but NGC 1817 is a fairly rich group of faint stars which would have spread across the entire field of the 16-inch telescope even at its lowest magnification. A look at the Digitized Sky Survey images of the region (http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/skvadvanced.pl) shows nothing diffuse within a quarter-degree radius from the position you give. Your note suggests you were expecting to see something at the location before you came for the viewing session. Did you perhaps have a photograph or make some visual observation prior to this time? In brief, I don't know what you could have seen, and without some sort of follow-up observation we can't determine whether there was perhaps an unknown comet in the area at the time. There were no known comets in the area at the time. The area would have been well surveyed for moving targets by the LINEAR project in New Mexico, so it is unlikely a bright comet would have slipped past them. Hope this helps, [astronomer2] <end response>
I fully realize that this is not a proof of any sort and may raise more questions than it answers but I promise you with all my heart that these are the facts as I know them.