1977 History

History of the Ursa Major Project circa 1977

By David P. Kratz

Observing deep-sky objects is a most rewarding pastime; however except for the Messier list, there is no short concise list of non-stellar objects which is within the reach of amateur telescope. So in the spring of 1974 I decided to choose a conveniently placed constellation and draw up a list of all the deep-sky in this constellation which are within reach of the amateur instrument.

Once I had decided to draw up a list of objects I called my friend Bob Calhoon over the telephone, and we agreed the obvious choice for the constellation was Ursa Major, due to its high Right Ascension which makes it available for long periods of time throughout most of the year. For the next four hours we drew up a preliminary list of objects (the list ended up being a good deal longer than originally expected). Over the next several months the list grew to its present size of 109 objects, all of which are galaxies except for the Owl Nebula. Bob and I now had a list of objects in Ursa Major; however, we noticed that some important information such as visual magnitude for the complete set of objects was missing from the list. We therefore decided to make a project out of the list; a project which would tell the amateur astronomer just what the appearance of these objects are in the amateur instrument. Since, in general, the more accurate the appearance of the object is known; we decided to enlist the help of others in our project.

So in the spring of 1975 we sent to Ed Hall, the editor of N.J.N.N., a copy of the list with a short description of what the goals of the project were; however, due to funding problems N.J.N.N. folded before our article could be printed. We had selected N.J.N.N. because we knew that N.J.N.N. was sent throughout the country and reached many an observer.

With this setback at hand, we then decided to put the list in our local club's newsletter (Baltimore Astronomical Society) newsletter. Believe it or not; however, we had trouble doing this, for no one wanted to type the list; however, after several months of attempting to get the list printed Bob Calhoon finally persuaded the B.A.S. to print our article. So in February 1976 B.A.S. newsletter our article appeared, without the list of objects! After a little more persuasion we got the B.A.S. to reprint the article with the list for March 1976 issue of the B.A.S. newsletter.

In the meantime a new astronomically oriented group (The Active Amateur Astronomers of Maryland) was forming in central Maryland. This group of astronomical observers of which we are now members very willingly printed our project in their June 1976 issue of their journal and unlike the B.A.S. newsletter which just reaches local members and a few outside the clubs, the A.A.A.M.'s journal reaches many clubs throughout the nation (and even outside of the U.S.A.). In fact, due to the A.A.A.M.'s journal's widespread correspondence, the Ursa Major was even presented at the I.U.A.A. (International Union of Amateur Astronomers) convention at Grenoble, France by Kenneth E. Chilton F.R.A.S.,. The project was well received at this convention. Also due to Mr. Chilton we are presently in correspondence with the Webb Society of England who are working on a similar project.

If this project proves to be successful we may very well do the same thing for other constellations.

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