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The TAAS 200 History

At The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS) Executive Board meeting of April 13, 1995, Lisa Wood proposed the development of night sky observing programs for Society members of all ages and skill levels. These programs, in part, would include lists of celestial objects for club members to observe. By April 1995, recognition by the Society for the completion of the "Messier", and the "Herschel 400" (developed by the Ancient City Astronomical Society) lists of deep sky objects was underway. Both of these lists represent two levels of deep sky observing skill: the Messier list for beginners using moderate sized telescopes, and the Herschel-400 for decidedly advanced observers with large telescopes. However, these lists are unsatisfactory for (at least) two other recognized skill levels: the neophyte stargazer, and the intermediate observer. The "TAAS 200" list is designed for the latter, and includes the best 200 non Messier objects easily visible from central New Mexico, (objects north of declination -48).

Since the TAAS 200 list "catches" so many bright objects Messier overlooked, or could not see from Europe, it really should be viewed as complementary to his famous list. Also, the TAAS 200 is not an abbreviated version of the Herschel 400 list. While about two thirds of the TAAS-200 objects are also Herschel 400 objects, the TAAS list includes several dozen bright objects (logged by William Herschel) that were somehow overlooked by the Herschel-400 authors. The TAAS 200 is very thorough and includes all objects, after the Messiers, that are bright, large, impressive, colorful, and of historical interest. It does not include "challenge" objects (e. g. the Horsehead nebula, or Stephan's Quintet) which require advanced techniques and very large telescopes, and objects fainter than about magnitude 12. However, brightness alone did not determine the list.

The initial TAAS 200 list was drafted by Society members Lee Mesibov (especially) and Jeff Bender. TAAS members Gordon Pegue, Carl Frisch, Elinor Gates, Bill Tondreau, the late Leo Broline, Lisa Wood, and Kevin McKeown added input and alterations to the initial list. Kevin McKeown summed up and edited the final list.


Observing Strategy

All of the TAAS 200 objects can be viewed with a 6-inch telescope under clean, black skies. Column 13 gives the minimum aperture needed to detect the object with certainty, although for many of the smaller, fainter objects, an aperture of at least twice this size is recommended. A 10 or 12 inch telescope will show all the objects especially well. Tirion's "Star Atlas 2000.0" is adequate for the location of the objects. One of us (KM) strongly recommends low power finders plus star hopping for locating the objects. While star hopping is a slower method, it is a lot of fun, and the observer will better learn and understand the night sky. Telescopes equipped only with "Telrads" or other types of 1X finders are wholly inadequate for the TAAS 200. A two-inch, 8X to12X finder is probably the minimum useful size.

When the observer completes the TAAS 200, he will have also completed about one third of the Herschel-400. A notebook, and the use of black ink is recommended, especially if one wants to obtain the Herschel-400 Certificate issued by the Astronomical League. They require individual observing notes be submitted. The sky conditions, telescope used, magnifications, location, date, and time, along with descriptions, can be recorded.

Objects are designated mostly with New General Catalogue (NGC) numbers, but some objects only have Index Catalogue (IC), or other designations (Collinder, or Barnard (B) numbers for dark nebulae). RA and Declinations are given for Epoch 2000.0. Data for objects was cited from Observing Handbook and Catalogue of Deep Sky Objects, by Luginbuhl & Skiff, NGC 2000.0, by R. Sinnott (Editor), and the Cambridge Star Atlas, by Wil Tirion. Notes were derived from Society members' notes, and literature including Walter Scott Houston's column "Deep Sky Wonders" in Sky and Telescope magazine, Burnham's Celestial Handbook, by Robert Burnham, Observing the Constellations, by John Sanford, and The Universe From Your Backyard, by David Eicher.

Good luck and we hope you have many enjoyable hours observing the TAAS 200!