About Cosmic Voyage


Welcome to Cosmic Voyage. I'm Bill Ferris, creator of this site and your host.

Cosmic Voyage offers something of interest for amateur astronomers at every level. The Getting Started section has valuable information for beginners, including advice on purchasing and maintaining your first telescope. The Deep-sky Observing and Planetary Observing sections feature sketches of galaxies, nebulae and the planets. I've dabbled a bit in astrophotography, and share the lessons I've learned along with some of my better photos in Astrophotography. Sketching is where you'll find my thoughts and advice on drawing what you observe. The Glossary features definitions for many common astronomical terms. If Cosmic Voyage doesn't have the information you need, my favorite Web Links will.

It is my hope that Cosmic Voyage will become your port of departure into the exciting world of amateur astronomy. Thanks for visiting.

About the Author

My interest in astronomy dates back to a Christmas when I was a teenage boy. Wrapped beneath the tree was a very special gift from my parents: a Jason 60-mm refractor. Their gift allowed me to explore Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the rings of Saturn and the polar ice fields on Mars. That little telescope initiated a lifelong relationship with the night sky. I've been a stargazer ever since.

Today, I own several telescopes including an 18-inch (457-mm) Obsession. Most of the more than 1,000 observations presented in Cosmic Voyage were made with a 10-inch Meade Newtonian, which I purchased in March 1994 and used many a clear night until that scope was sold in July 2006. My most-used eyepiece with the 10-inch was a Meade 8.8-mm UWA, which produces 129X magnification across a 39-arc minute true field of view. That magnification equates to a 2-mm exit pupil in a 10-inch aperture, which is excellent for most deep-sky observing. I typically reach for a 12-mm TeleVue Nagler Type IV when observing with the Obsession. That eyepiece, combined with a TeleVue Paracorr, produces a magnification of about 200X (2.3-mm exit pupil) in the big Dobsonian.

I live in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I'm blessed to observe under some of the darkest skies in North America. This region of the southwest U.S. is treated to 100 crystal clear nights a year, on average. Also, the quality of the skies is very consistent. If it's clear, it's transparent. I rarely make limiting visual magnitude estimates. However, a good fried routinely goes to magnitude 7.3 at our dark sky site. I judge the quality of a sky by the appearance of the Milky Way, the zodiacal light and Gegenschein. The richly marbled texture of the summer Milky Way as seen from a true dark sky site is almost unmatched, in my opinion, among the natural treasures one can experience on this planet.

It's funny. Some people say looking at a starry sky makes them feel insignificant in comparison to the grandness of universe. My experience is just the opposite. I never feel more connected to the universe than when standing beneath a canopy of stars. The simple joy of observing the night sky confirms my place in God's creation.

That place included working for Lowell Observatory from February 1997 to October 2000. I started as a tour guide on the Public Program staff, an experience that was a true joy. I had the pleasure of sharing my interest in astronomy with thousands of visitors. And on public observing nights, I often had the privilege of operating the venerable 24-inch Clark refractor. This is the same telescope that Percival Lowell used to study Mars, the same telescope that V. M. Slipher used to gather the first evidence of an expanding universe, and the same telescope used to study the Moon by the first Apollo astronauts. If your travels bring you to Flagstaff, visit Lowell. It is a place rich in history and discovery.

I worked as an observer for the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) project from June 1998 to October 2000. My job was to hunt near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and comets. You can learn more about these potentially threatening bodies by reading The Spaceguard Survey. There are estimated to be some 800 NEAs larger than 1-kilometer in size. This is considered the threshold size for an object that, if it impacted Earth, would produce a globally catastrophic event. During my time with LONEOS, I had the good fortune to discover or co-discover five comets and 12 NEAs. In June 2000, the astronomer who heads the LONEOS project, Dr. Edward Bowell, named an asteroid after me, an honor for which I am forever grateful. Asteroid 10937 (Ferris) equals 1998 QW54.

Because the LONEOS telescope was robotically controlled by computers, I was also able to spend many an hour outside the dome at the eyepiece of my 10-inch Starfinder. Most of the sketches and observations you'll find in Cosmic Voyage were made during these observing sessions. I hope you'll find them as enjoyable to read as they were for me to make.

My Earth-Crossing Asteroid Discoveries

Designation Type Semimajor Axis (AU) Eccentricity Inclination
Minimum Sun
Distance (AU)
Est. Diam. (km)
1998 WP7 Apollo 1.21 0.43 22 0.69 0.3
1999 RQ28 Amor 1.91 0.42 4 1.10 0.3
1999 RP36 Amor 2.21 0.41 5 1.30 0.6
1999 VN6 Apollo 1.73 0.37 19 1.09 0.5
2000 GW127 Apollo 2.27 0.73 7 0.61 0.5
2000 GG147 Amor 1.79 0.36 28 1.15 1.0
2000 HR24 Jupiter Crosser 4.96 0.17 16 4.10 15
2000 HO40 Aten 0.74 0.53 6 0.35 0.2
2000 KA Apollo 1.34 0.47 7 0.72 0.2
2000 KB Apollo 2.22 0.79 56 0.47 2.0
2000 KC Amor 2.26 0.47 11 0.63 0.3
2000 KN44 Amor 2.79 0.57 27 1.19 1.0
2000 KX43 Apollo 1.10 0.55 34 0.50 0.8

My Comet Discoveries

Designation Type Semimajor Axis (AU) Eccentricity Inclination
Minimum Sun
Distance (AU)
Est. Diam. (km)
P/1998 QP54
Periodic comet 4.24 0.56 18 1.88 -
C/1999 K2
Long-period comet - 1.0 84 5.16 -
P/1999 RO28
Periodic comet 3.47 0.65 8 1.23 -
C/1999 U1
Long-period comet - 1.0 96.4 2.92 -
C/2000 J1
Long-period comet - 1.0 98.8 2.55 -

My Asteroid

Designation Type Semimajor Axis (AU) Eccentricity Inclination
Minimum Sun
Distance (AU)
Est. Diam. (km)
1998 QW54
Main Belt Object 3.22 0.04 4.7 - 9-18


All original graphics, drawings, images and content are the copyrighted intellectual property of William D. Ferris. Any commercial use of copyrighted material on Cosmic Voyage is expressly prohibited. No graphic, drawing, photograph or other image on this site may be displayed or printed without my permission.

Star charts presented at Cosmic Voyage were created using the desktop planetarium programs MegaStar and Skyglobe, and are displayed with permission. MegaStar is available through Willmann-Bell, Inc..

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URL: http://www.cosmicvoyage.net
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Comments and Suggestions: wdferris1@gmail.com

Revised: August 9, 2008 [WDF]