April 25, 2001 - Comet Schaumasse and the M44: By now the sky has really deepened in contrast... time to set the scopes in my sacred shaded observing area, and open the lawn umbrella to ward off the "Sutton Light Bank". ( I could have called, you know... but one of these days a well-placed round from the 30.06 should cure the problem. ;) With no distracting sources of light in my peripheral vision, the sky becomes incredible. The M44 shines like a globular cluster, and hanging out to the east, Coma Bernices glows like the M67. I am ready! ("hey ho... let's go!") Come on, LIttle Celestron, let's see what you can do! Homing in on El Nath, I started my quest for the comet... over and over the field I went, where it was "supposed" to be. Grrrrrrrrrrr.... I had this most horrible feeling that I had taken a wrong turn, and lead not only myself, but another down the wrong road! (Patience... astronomer... Persistance...) Everytime I passed over the fuzzy double, my heart would take a leap, sure that I had found it... only to see through "lazy eyes" it's true nature. Finally I found a field that was relatively devoid (curiously) of stars... but there was one, with a ghost perhaps, sitting near it. Imaginousity? Then it affects us both... Pointing the 4.5 at the M44 required only the reflex sight... and with the 25mm sma, the central triples jumped right out! Time to relax the eye... to see what I could "see". As my gaze softened, out jumped a tiny chain of stars just off the bright central triples! Holy katz! Then I looked right at them.... POOF! Gone... Then away... and back they came again! Coolness! I dipped into the accessory case and brought out the 17mm plossl... same effect, but it was not an improvement. It merely restricted the field of view. Now for the 26mm plossl... it rounded the area out nicely, but I think I like what the 25mm sma sees better! So back in it went, and back to the eyepiece I go... I have absolutely no idea of how long I stood there, moving across the field of the M44, watching those little stars tease in and out at the edge of my vision... (I keep hearing Nirvana in my head, "I wish I was like you... easily amused.") all I know is that I had a wonderful time with the study!! Thanks, amigo...
Approximate time: 10:00 pm EST
Scope: 4.5 Celestron reflector
Eyepiece: 25mm Celestron
Sky: 5 LM Clarity 8/10
Location 40.66 N 82.91 W
May 23, 2001 - Comet Schaumasse, Virgo, Lyra, Cygnus, Cassiopeia, Scorpius, Ophichus, Mars, Saggitarius and Capricornus/Aquarius...
Comments: Started the evening off with the "hunt" for Comet Schaumasse... Sitting roughly above Pollux, my smudgie "little friend" didn't present much of a problem tonight! Grandoise? No... But the chase has left me quite familar with it, and I really do enjoy picking the little "oddball" out of a field of faint stars! (So, I asked it if it wouldn't mind sitting still for a moment while I drew its' picture, and it was most happy to comply!) Now, off to Virgo!
Location" 40.66 N
Scope: 12.5 Meade Reflector (RG)
Eyepiece: 25mm Meade Series IV
Sky: 5.0 LM Clarity: 8/10
July 14, 2001 Comet LINEAR AR/2001 - Oh my... oh my... I'm not joking around now. LINEAR goes far beyond what glimpse I had of it yesterday. It is an easy catch in the finderscope in the dark, and the eyepiece view simply blows me away. If I didn't know better, I would swear that I was looking at the M13 out of focus!!! But hey... this IS in focus!! And the cometary core is very bright... Oh MY! (Hey... I will get you ALL to come look at this, even if I have to personally drag you into the yard kicking and screaming!!!)
Brightening "fans" of light within the coma are more than just a suggestion of jet activity. This is a reality!! I had to fetch the 4.5 at this point, because I need to know that every scope can see what I can see... and they will! This is unreal... not since Hale-Bopp have I seen one so fine!!! The tail is a thin, straight line that extends to field of view beyond the comet proper! Get thee out there... and LOOK!! If the sight of LINEAR doesn't get you going... then there's no hope. Find it!! Find it!!! It is so very beautiful....
Location 40.66 N 82.91 W
Scope: 4.5 Celestron
Eyepiece: 25mm Celestron
Skies: 5 LM Clarity: 8/10
Approximate time: 10:45 pm EST
July 25, 2001 - Second star to the right in Pegasus, and straight on 'til morning, correct? BLAT! Wrong answer! I searched all over the place for this crazy comet, with both scopes! It seemed like an eternity passed... and I was getting rather worried that it had faded away to nothing! Swallowing my stubborn pride, I ducked back into the house at the risk of my night eyes and printed a current map. When I stepped back out, a glance to the gathering clouds in the north greeted me! "astronomer" you better get good... and you better get good fast!
Know what? I took all of about 45 seconds to find... (lesson learned, eh?) I was very pleasantly surprised to find that both scopes revealed LINEAR equally well. It was positioned in a decent field of bright stars to give it scale... and it is still wonderfully visible! The halo/coma area has reduced in brightness since I last viewed it, and there wasn't even a slight hint of a "tail"... but this is sure one very reputable comet! (And since I just "happened" to have a pencil on me, and some paper... well... you know!) I might not be able to photograph it, but I can darn sure draw it! And I chose the 4.5 view this time!
Same location and scope. Notes indincate rapidly increasing clouds and approximate time of 11:00 pm EST.
July 26, 2001 - I can see by the placement of the here and there stars that Comet LINEAR is a possiblity... and rather than miss an opportunity at a clear spot, I decide to just be patient and wait. And it pays... Once again, LINEAR has moved an incredible distance in the span of 24 hours. (This comet drives as fast as I do!) My first thought is to do another sketch so I can convey how quickly it passes across the starfields... but tonight the clouds are winning the race!
July 26/27, 2001 - Time now... to look for LINEAR! So I hop to the star where I had anchor last night... or is it?!! 8-O Come on, astronomer... this should be easy. On the contrary! Tonight there are more stars than I have seen in a long time, and I'm having trouble getting my bearings!?! (Are you trying to rock my world? You're succeeding... ;) OK... Pegasus, Cygus, Altair... that one? Uh uh... try again. This one, then? Nope... keep trying. And trying... and trying... (Maps... must have maps...) So I go fetch one!
Pegasus, Cygnus, Altair... Delphinus! Well... what do you know about that! The graceful little constellation pointed the way... LINEAR was not as remarkable tonight, even with the excellent contrast of dark sky. But there's magic here! Even though the comet has faded to a soft ball of light, the field in which it's playing is awesome!! Soft chains of stars surround it... and I simply cannot believe what I'm seeing with it! At first I thought I was picking up a "ghost image"... perhaps a light source somewhere was adding an extra "furball" into the picture. But, "ghost images" don't reveal stars with averted vision! WOW! What the heck is that thing?? About one third the apparent size of LINEAR, a tiny open cluster (or globular?) reveals an inner set of six stars, with four of the brighter ones forming a diamond-shape. About it is a field of nebulosity (or unrevealed stars??) that softens the look.. What a treat!! My initial reaction was to get a designation... But you know what? I like it just the way it is! A delectable little secret...
July 30/31, 2001 - OK... even at just before 2:00 a.m., the Moon is still putting the brakes on deep sky study. (but i can put a tree between me and thee... ;) As soon as I can pick out Delphinus, I'm on the way for Comet LINEAR!
Whoa... lot's of nice apparent doubles in this area! And there it is.... a great "dustball" in the sky! The nucleas is gone for now... no tail, no nucleas, no "fan"... no comet? Wrong! LINEAR is still holding on to some excellent surface brightness! Resembling a soft globular cluster, this baby is still on the move!! I can't help but wonder to myself as I study the comet ~ What's it going to look like when it cruises across the Milky Way?! (could it be that stars can be seen through it? it seems so "transparent"...) And it's heading into one of the most densely populated areas of the sky! Why, were just a hop away from two of my favorites right now...
NGC6940... aaaaaaah! (Thank you... I needed a dose of concentrated stellar affection! ;) And if you don't mind, I think I'll just hang out here for awhile. I like this open cluster... it makes me feel good! And M27? Not bad, but a darker sky is really need to appreciate it more...
NOTE: Notes indicate this study was done under moonlight conditions around midnight on this date.
August 21, 2001 - Next I thought I'd check up on LINEAR... and wouldn't you know it... Heavens Above isn't in the mood to provide info! (No problem... I doan need no steenking maps! ;) After tripping around on the M27 and the M71, I hit on Albeiro and dropped down. Ahhhh! "Thar she blows, Cap'n!" LINEAR is changing faces yet again. Instead of that "out of focus" globular cluster look, LINEAR now appears to have a central nucleas surrounded by a soft glow of light... a "halo" , if you will. There is a small red star to one corner of the field, and a formation of small stars that looks like Pegasus to the other side. For those of us who have followed LINEAR since its' appearance in the northern hemisphere, it's changes have been quite interesting... and here's hoping it still has a trick or two left up its' sleeve!! Interestingly enough, the neighbors appear to have forgotten to reinstate their security light... (gosh, i hate it when that happens! ;) so the "grasshopper", the dog, the sketchbook and I head for the south field.
NOTES: Location is same, telescope now switched to 12.5 Meade Research Grade, no moon, sky clarity 5 or better and stable conditions. Cannot find field sketches!!
August 29, 2001 - Comet Petriew - Location same - very early morning, approximately 4:30 a.m. The sky is perfect with no fog this morning... and that means the dob!! The Plieades are a treasure to the 12.5... it is simply loaded with small doubles and triples, and more color than just blue! The Hyades are their mathmatical selves.. with their perfect spacings that never change. The M42 is totally captivating. I tend to forget from season to season at how truly lovely this detailed nebula is! The Trapezium area is clean this morning, and shows two of the four with little effort. (hey, i probably could have split it... but i've other things to do!) And so I just find myself lost for a bit in that sensational nebular clouds, marveling at the stars embedded there. Not only does Orion dominate the morning skyline, but Sirius is quite into the picture too! Bringing with it, of course, the M41. I was pleased to see it.... even if there was a touch of tree branch in the view! And if I can see this... well... what else can I see?
Hello, M67! What a great old favorite you are! (and still right where I left it, too... fancy that!) And the M44! Still loaded with stars, and ready to come back and play again! A couple of minor adjustments, and poof! There be the M1... and in the dob, it, like the M27, has a very unusual, almost "living" quality to it's light!
I can't tell enough how impressed I am over Astronomer Petriew's find! If I hadn't have been specifically looking for it, I probably would have grazed it over... Not because I wouldn't have noticed it, but because it wasn't what I was looking for! Comet Petriew has very low surface brightness, and is probably roughly half the diameter of Jupiter. It is noticable because there aren't any bright stars in the area... I was pleased very much just to see it!!! Extraordinary.. I guess this is just the year for comets!
NOTES: No apparent field sketches for this comet. I remember making them, but they have long since been lost.
August 30, 2001 - Comet Petriew - Early a.m., approximately 4:30. Comments: Ah, the sky gave a repeat performance of yesterday morning! There is just something about walking outdoors when you first wake up... holding a steaming cup of coffee. When you look up, all you can do is think... (for i've never stopped.) About how very black the sky is, and how bright the winter constellations are... About how the planets look like they are being "poured out" along the ecliptic plane... And about taking the big scope out for a stroll...
Comet Petriew gives me a bit of a search this morning. Even though the sky is very dark, this comet has very low surface brightness, and I haven't learned to predict its' path just yet! It took many sweeps above Jupiter before I located the little furball. Why such a hurry to look? Simply because the Moon will interfere in just days... and during that time, I WILL lose track of it!
NOTES: Again, I cannot find field sketches for this comet.
September 6, 2001 - LINEAR. Comments: I cannot get over what a distinct difference the absence of extra light makes to the south. For years I had just contended with it, learning how to place the scopes in certain areas to avoid the annoyance... and now there is no need! And on a clear night... the stars walk right down to the ground.
Armed with maps, I went out tonight ready to practice and study. One of the most primary targets I had hoped to look for was Comet LINEAR... Was it still there? Oh, yeah... Although it was visible in the 4.5, this one belongs to the dob now. Still in Saggitta, LINEAR has greatly diminuished in both size and magnitude. All that remains is a soft, fuzzy ball heading out into space... receeding away from to wide field doubles. It's been a great deal of fun following it, but it won't be long before it disappears altogether. And while in the "neighborhood", I made a pass over the M71 and the M27. (hey... if i'm on the ladder, i might as well make the best of it, huh?) I am anxious for these targets to take a dip to the west, so I might study them with my feet on the ground.... eyepiece changes are much more comfortable that way!
NOTES: Indicate early evening, using the 12.5 Meade and favourite 26mm Meade Series IV eyepiece.
September 8, 2001 - LINEAR. Began this evening by tracking on LINEAR... (yes, still like looking at it, ok? :) It is still moving gently through Saggitta.. a faint bit of a ball, who trajectory has taken it even closer to a nearby double star! And after I'd had my look, I headed out to the south field to play!
October 17 - Guess who's still in town, eh? Comet LINEAR. (Yeah, I looked at "Bacon Fettucine"... can't resist!) But this is what I'm after. Good old LINEAR is just barely hanging on. It took extreme averted vision in the 4.5 to make it out, and although I could hold it direct in the 12.5, it is one faded son-of-a-gun. Heading out into space, it is. And how I wish I could hitch a ride...
November 11, 2001 - LINEAR WM1. Comet LINEAR WM1.... Hey! I've been following this puppy for over a week now. It started off (for me) at the edge of Auriga... and has now made it to central Perseus! Why haven't I said anything yet? First off, the rule of three. And next? I want to be sure you can find it, too! Last night it made a very good appearance in the 4.5... VERY good! By running an imaginary line between Algol and Capella, all I had to do last night was hit straight in the center of the "chain" of Perseus, and there it was! The little scope's intial reaction is that of a globular cluster... but even with restricted aperature, definate signs of fanning and indications of the beginning of a tail came right out at moderate (25mm) magnification!! The dob shows a clean central brightening toward the core, and the "fan" or "halo" of the comet most cleanly. The "tail" is still just a subtle hint... So, go! Keep tabs on it... It's trajectory has it running south of Algol over the next few days!
NOTES: Observing location is still 40.66N 82.91W. Scope is 12.5 Meade Reflector. Notes have been partially lost, but I had been following this comet for awhile. Sky conditons are at least 5 LM, notes indicate very, very stable since I was splitting doubles. Eyepiece is 26mm Meade Series IV.
November 12, 2001 - LINEAR WM1. Before I go in to warm up and nap for awhile, I take a shot at the latest Comet LINEAR. I suppose my methods are considered unorthodox, but I use line of sight to keep tabs on a moving target. For this I chose the 4.5... Why? Simply because there is a familiarity to this scope that I admire greatly... but mostly because I know if I can track it with the little scope, anybody can! Within minutes of making that mental line between Capella and Algol, I have it in the eyepiece of the 25mm. It has moved well over a full field of view than its' position last night at approximately the same time! The eyepiece shows a bright star at 10:00 and the WM1 at 4:00... But which bright star? So, I sight up the tube, and into the finder. It is Nu Perseii. (And so what did I do, but challenge you to find it by using Nu as a guidestar! Just remember... it never stops moving. ;)
NOTES: Also a very clear night, when using the 4.5, my standard eypiece was always the 25mm Celestron.
November 13, 2001 - Comet LINEAR WM1? I had one HECK of a time finding it last night! I would keep going back and back to the area that I knew it should be in... but couldn't see it! (patience... patience!) After what felt like the twenty-seventh pass, I finally picked up a round contrast change in a rather empty field.... locked it down, and sighted up the tube along the trajectory path. Visually this is in the right place. Mentally? Hehehhehhee. You gotta' be nutz to chase a comet in the first place!
November 16, 1001 - Overhead remained quite clear, though. But, I'll not take chances with the big scope's mirror. But the 4.5 wouldn't mind a run! So I had a look at the "Double Cluster" and the M34. I stood for a very long time admiring Algol telescopically. On the downshift right now, it just seems so unusual to see this star so dim! But that is in the nature of this variable, of course. And its' rapid changes are what make it so very interesting.
Comet LINEAR WM1 was a snap tonight. Even with the the far from perfect sky conditions, the little glowing snow ball was only half a finder field away from Algol. It's apparent diameter has greatly increased over the last few weeks... from about the size of the M15... to definately as large as the M13! Now it will only gain in magnitude as it continues it's upward climb... and I hope it reaches naked eye visibility! It's already sporting a decent nucleas and a "fan" spread that will eventually turn into a trail. It will be fun to see how long I can keep tabs on this one.
November 21, 2001 - LINEAR WM1 -
November 30, 2001 - The clouds and misty rain still rule. No chance at all, is there? I guess Saturn and the Moon waltzed on...
and it feels so hollow inside.
"It must be your skin that I'm sinking in. Must be for real, 'cause now I can feel. And I didn't mind, it's not my kind It's not my time to wonder why . Everything gone white and everything's grey... Now you're here, now you're away. I don't want this, remember that.
I'll never forget where you're at.
Don't let the days go by...
I'm never alone, I'm alone all the time... Are you at one, or do you lie? We live in a wheel where everyone steals. And when we rise, it's like strawberry fields. I treated you bad, you bruise my face, Couldn't love you more, you got a beautiful taste,
Don't let the days go by
Could have been easier on you ...
I couldn't change, though I wanted to.
Should have been easier by three,
Our old friend fear and you and me.
Don't let the days go by...
Don't let the days go by...
Bad moon, gone again.
Bad moon, gone again.
And it falls around me...
I needed you more, you wanted us less. Could not kiss, just regress. It might just be clear, simple and plain... Well, that's just fine, that's just one of my names.
Don't let the days go by.
Could've been easier on you, you, you
November 28/29, 2001- The sky has wept almost continuously for the last 48 hours. Still very warm for this time of year... and I'd much rather it be cold and clear.
Chances of catching the Moon/Saturn occultation tomorrow are looking pretty dim...
"We live in a wheel, where everyone steals. But when we rise, it's like strawberry fields.
Don't let the days go by..
I could have been easier on you. I couldn't change though I wanted to...
November 27, 2001 - The Moon and Jupiter...
Comments: I had truly figured this night to be lost to clouds. Every time I checked the sky, the Moon was nothing more than a glowing white pearl seen beneath a milky sea. But, the weather is still unseasonably warm... and just to be outside at night in a light jacket feels pleasant.
I set the 4.5 outside and centered up on Selene... and at first glimpse, I darn near just capped it up and set it back. It was nothing but fur. But the radio sounds mighty good, and Ranger and H are having a fine time playing. It's not going to hurt anything to stand here and just look for awhile, is it?
And as I watched, the clouds began to thin... and very gently some of the surface features began to appear. At first it was nothing more than the contrast of the maria... then bright Keplar. Soon the quiet cove of Sinus Iridum began to show itself, then the massive area of Shickard. I almost looked up, just to see if there was a sucker hole coming, but I didn't want to break the spell. Slowly, but surely, Schiller took form... and the shallow structures of J. Herschel and Pythagoras.
(Of course, H managed to scare the heck out of me by fetching a corn shock... complete with dried ears of corn... and whacking me on the chest with it. I cannot stay angry at this beautiful creature, because his sense of humor is so impeccable. So I chased him round the yard a bit... just playing. If you call him "Sneaky Thief", he will run like a rabbit... and what a laugh that is to see almost a hundred pounds of black shepherd run with his front feet between his hind legs!)
And when we had romped for awhile, I returned to the Moon... just enjoying nuit.
"And mid-time of night; And stars in the orbits,
Shone pale, thro' the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
'Mid planets her slaves, Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves
I gazed awhile...
On her cold smile."
(And I swear I heard Ranger laughing from his rug on the deck, while H methodically removed every kernel of dried corn from the cobs. ;)
Before we went in for the night, Jupiter made it's presence known. And I had to at least look... you know that. Only a occassional wink of two moons cut through the sky gloom, but the contrast of the equatorial belts was splendid! Not detailed, mind you... but the filtering quality of the clouds made the differences in brightness so very apparent.
There was no "cutting edge" clarity to this view... but how pleasing it is... how "right" it feels... just to be out here in the night.
Where I belong...
"I'm never alone. I'm alone all the time. Are you one? Or do you lie?"
November 26, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, M44, M67, NGC2903, M95, M96, M105, M65, M66, M81, M82, M51, and the M3...
Comments: Still not quite out of the habit of waking up early... but it's a fine morning. And I would take a walk.
Chose the dob this morning. I was just in one of those moods where I didn't mind hanging off the ladder for a bit, and it was worth my while. The planets, I checked on... but didn't really make a study of. It looked unusual to see Saturn tilited the other way. The Cassini is still a nice, fine line through the rings... and the moons have orbited about a quarter turn since last I looked. Jupiter seems beyond bright... almost painful to the eye. It is hugging the galieans close to it this morning, with only three visible. I simply cannot "unsee" the dimensional quality... and two were toward Earth, while one has begun its' journey behind Jove.
On my way to a galaxy hop, I stopped by to say "hello" to the M44 and M67. They are just the type of place you can't quite pass over... even if you don't take the time to study them thoroughly. I look at them because I must... and I know you probably don't understand that... but if I need to explain, then I know you wouldn't.
Leo is making a fine show of itself right now... still spitting meteors and lodged in a perfect position near the zenith. It's been a very long time since I shot for spiral galaxy NGC2903... and it took me several minutes to find it. But it was worth the hunt... This one shows exquisite structure. Bright core, graceful arms and just enough hints of knots and clusters to make it a very interesting galaxy. I've often wondered why people don't view it more... for they tend to favor some of the smaller galaxies in the area. No matter. Their loss...
So let's go look at the smaller ones, eh? Tickle the belly of the Lion? M95 and M96 are such a pair... The M95 has a great, bright core.. but wispy arms... while the M96 is a silver beauty... alone in the field and possess of a intense core area. Near by is the M105... but not alone. It's elliptical shape gives up no structure... only a gradual brightening toward the core... but the beauty of this galaxy is the two faint scratches that attend it. I don't really feel like powering up this morning... (save it for later, ok?) nor do I remember the other two galaxies designations at the moment. But it is a nice sight.
The M65 and M66 are next. M65 is also a lovely spiral... but for me, the "kicker" is the M66, shooting out that "jet stream" as it moseys across the cosmos. They are both delightful, bright galaxies... achieveable in even small scopes. And I remember how very excitied I was when I first found them with the 4.5. One of those odd triumphs that only Ranger and I shared.... And he is still here with me, this old dog. H is not far away, dragged around what city folk would probably quite rightly call a small tree... but Ranger sits here by the scope. With his crinkly ears and patient temperment...
So what else to chose from? The sky rocks with clarity... stars down below Puppis that signal I could drop down even lower if I wished. Spica well up in the east, telling me that the Virgo fields will soon be on the way. Procyon whispering a song that reminds me of the Hubble Variable... and the Cone. Do I want exotic? Nah. I want my old friends...
The M81 and M82. When I take that final "dirt nap", I have a feeling that this pair will be the last in my eyes. There are far more splendid galaxies out there, but I just have a fondness for these. What was it Ottoman said? "A champagne taste on a beer budget?" LOL! How about a champagne budget that prefers the taste of beer? Sure. We've all seen these galaxies... over and over again. But I never tire of the super-structure of the M81... with it's deep, bright nucleas and soft spiral arms. I've never quite lost my taste for the edge-on oddity of the M82... filled with more lumps than grandma's mashed potatoes. To me, they are beautiful....
So, I take a shot at the "Whirlpool" galaxy. How long has it been since I looked at you last? Months? It is fantastic. Out of all the galaxies I've seen, this one contains by far the most detail. The spiral arms are so definate... the core so bright and perfect. The knots of clusters and nebula so very visible... and the little spin-off companion, still clinging on to the end. Like the last curl of a party favor... still waiting to make it on it's own.
About now I had considered going back in. The dawn will be along soon enough, and I've a day to start. I stop to speak to Cor Caroli... because I appreciate some doubles for their beauty, not their difficulty. And as I regard Cor Caroli and Arcturus, a spark lights up in my mind.... globular cluster! Maps? Huh uh, baby... Either you remember, or you don't. (and i'll not hunt you anymore.) But I'll make a pass... because hope dies hard. And there it is...
M3! Now this has truly been a long time. What a terrific globular cluster you are! Wow... I don't remember you being so large, eh? And just check out the resolution around the edges!! I have to resist the temptation to go fetch more magnification... for this is only a morning walk, not a study! But, boy howdy... does it ever make my day just to see it again!
Now let's see... wasn't there one just below Arcturus? ;)
"I don't want this... remember that. I can never forget where you're at...
Don't let the days go by... Glycerine."
November 24 & 25, 2001 - Clouds, wind and rain...
"Everything's white.... now everything's grey. Now you're here... Now you're away."
November 23, 2001 - Mars, the Moon, Saturn, the Plieades, Jupiter and the M42...
Comments: Flying solo... in a less than perfect sky. (hey... that's all right by me. i've got a lot to learn, and the rest of my life to do it.)
Mars is first, and it's color changes from earlier in the year are rather astonishing. Gone is that soft, orange/yellow look it carried... for now it looks almost pink. Forgive my somewhat grisly analogy, for it reminds me of blood washed over stainless steel. That kind of pink... not your goody-goody soft color. The vast maria are still visible, but not in the "head on", detailed way that they were earlier this year. It looks more finite now. Like a stained ball bearing, reflecting a red light... hard-edged... cold... and distant.
The Moon offers in only the way that the Moon can. "Here I am. Love me, or leave me." I don't think it really matters much to Selene. You can visit any time she's there... and she will give you all. Walk away? No problem. The next time you come back around, you will find her changed... but still just as willing.
Plato was perfection last night. Right off the terminator, and easy on eye. The mountain ranges that encircle it sharp and defined... pushing gently into the deep grey sands that are the substance of this crater. And inside? Sparkle and fade...
The "Straight Wall" made a fine appearance, too. The sense of sunlight reflecting off that long ridge is a very compelling picture... with its' shadow washing back from the angle of the light.
Archimedes was no less beautiful, for I like the unusual boundaries of this one... But for me, Eratosthsenes was by far the best. It's depths appear almost "conical". All the way down the interior slopes are rugged rock walls... ending in a lipped crater at the bottom... and yet dissected by a wall of its' own. The mountains that surround it cannot compete with the height of the crater walls. I guess depth perception is what makes it so very beautiful...
Saturn comes next. And I knew by the sky quality that there would be no revelations tongiht. But that does not make Saturn any less. The argon-like mystery of the rings continues to delight me... the Cassini a wide dark groove cut through the ephemeral "stuff" that comprises it. No... there was nothing to be seen beyond it, for the view is softened by our own atmosphere. But to see those tiny orbs of far away satellites orbiting on about their business is quite thrill enough! To think about how far the light had to travel to show this shadow against a gossamer substance is fine by me! The effect is amazing... It looks like you could reach out, and hold it in your hand.
The Plieades are next... and no new "discoveries" are made. My aim is simplistic... to learn. The encompassing nebula around the stars make it every bit as beautiful as a picture. One that we've seen many, many times before... but does it not still please you?
Jupiter has risen quite well enough, and I am ready for a look. Nothing fascinating tonight on the surface? Hah! To "watch" Jupiter is fascination in itself!! The changes are slow, and minute... but so THERE! And speaking of there... I did something a bit unusual. I pushed the planet itself away, and focused solely on the galieans. And what a collection they were! Gathered together... and absolutely spell-binding. Perception? Oh, how do I explain?? It is not hard to see that each one is a different size... nor is it difficult to see that they are different distances from each other! This handful of other little worlds, hanging together to one side of the giant...
And I have come to see the M42. You know this. All of my words are so well used, that I am at a loss to describe. But do I need to? The tenuous rifts... ribbons of "star stuff"... vapor in a vacuum...
In a purist sense, it is a religious experience.
And what I have come to see? It is there...
"It must be your skin... I'm sinking in. It must be for real... because now I can feel. And I didn't mind.... if it's not my time. It's not my kind...
To wonder why."
November 22, 2001 - Morning Walk... the Moon, Comet LINEAR WM1, and the Cassiopeian clusters...
Comments: Some things I do, I do because I find them aesthetically pleasing... Such as a good cup of coffee, watching my breath in the cold air, examining frost crystals on lighted windows... and visiting the cosmos in the mornings.
No particular targets in mind. No game plan. Just the 4.5 and I.... and some time to kill before work. Some folks read the morning paper... I look at the M42. Others might like to watch the news... I like watching the M65 and M66. Some might like a big breakfast... I'm hungry for the stars of the M44 and M67. Sure, I like watching cartoons! But not when the M81 and M82 are right there...
Yeah. I'm strange. I'll admit it.
And what does the night bring? Championship "sucker holes"... Great open spaces between the clouds where for fifteen to twenty minutes I would have a clear shot on an area, just to watch the "curtain" be slowly drawn over it. That's fine by me... I was born a sucker just a minute ago.
The Moon was the first target to have the veil lifted, and it was splendid. Hipparchus crater sits right in the spotlight... and its' interior crater chains and soft depressions sit well in the present lighting, with craters Halley and Horrocks making lively counterpoints as "wells" of shadow. As a curiousity, just above it is a bright "X" hanging out on the dark side of the terminator... the "bridge" of the crater rim on Purbach or Walter, no doubt... but it is one of those unusual appartions I recall seeing in the past. Very nice...
I find myself drawn to Stofler, (geez... wonder why?!) But walked the magnification way back just to look at the area as a whole. It is really a huge area, and the massive system of overlapping craters is a nice place to study. With a different angle on the light, it makes the other side appear... and those sheer faces of lunar landscaping are fantastic!
In the north, the deep scar of the Alpine Valley sets the stage. So much different is this area... the opposition of the two poles always makes me curious. W. Bond, Barrow, and Meton surely possess the same "make up" as Stofler... yet these "soft" looking craters are so different! They looks as if some cosmic wind has caused a dust storm... and the sands of the Moon have shifted, gradually filling in what may have been sharper craters once upon a time. Are they drifts? Or were they formed differently? No matter, for the earth bound wind has revealed an area of the sky I've been waiting for...
Hello, Comet. The light and the atmosphere has definately "put the hurt" on you this time, hasn't it? Tonight you look like a flying globular cluster... making your way across the galaxy, and heading toward worlds unknown. After a few moments, the "fan" becomes a bit more obvious... but so do the clouds. Later, yon Comet...
And I end the evening by brushing over the fields of Cassiopeia. Enjoying the gatherings of the stars...
And the calm of the night.
"And your wise men don't know how it feels to be....
Thick as a brick."
November 21, 2001 - NGC752, Comet LINEAR WM1, Saturn, M31, M32, M110, the Moon, and Asteroid Vesta...
Comments: OK! This is more like it... clear sky! But lots of moonlight... trashing up the view. Right? Wrong!
It had been several days since I'd last tracked WM1, and I was just stubborn enough that I refused to fetch a map. After all, it is a challenge... First hit. No way. Next try. No better. Next go... Hey, now! What's this? Easily distracted, I ended up spending a great deal of time contemplating open cluster NGC752 in the 4.5. A real beauty... but not LINEAR. So, I locked the scope down, stood back and just looked at the sky. (Drawing those mental lines again... ;) There is where it started... this is where I saw it last. The M31 is right there (and naked eye... even with the moonlight!) and there is the Plieades... My trajectory line has it running right about... there. Bingo.
Comet LINEAR WM1 has gone through some magnificent changes since I've seen it last. Sitting in a field with a tiny chain, and a "box" of stars, the latest "snowball in space" has brightened at least a full magnitude. The nucleas of the comet is exceptionally bright... and the "fan" is very pronounced... very! It is also encased is a soft glow of "comet stuff" and the beginnings of a tail are visible... even under a light corrupted sky with an aperature limited telescope!
November 22, 2001 - LINEAR WM1 - In the north, the deep scar of the Alpine Valley sets the stage. So much different is this area... the opposition of the two poles always makes me curious. W. Bond, Barrow, and Meton surely possess the same "make up" as Stofler... yet these "soft" looking craters are so different! They looks as if some cosmic wind has caused a dust storm... and the sands of the Moon have shifted, gradually filling in what may have been sharper craters once upon a time. Are they drifts? Or were they formed differently? No matter, for the earth bound wind has revealed an area of the sky I've been waiting for...
Hello, Comet. The light and the atmosphere has definately "put the hurt" on you this time, hasn't it? Tonight you look like a flying globular cluster... making your way across the galaxy, and heading toward worlds unknown. After a few moments, the "fan" becomes a bit more obvious... but so do the clouds. Later, yon Comet...
NOTES: Left moon observance in so time is easier to track. Location is same, scope is 4.5 Celestron and 25mm eyepiece. Time is early evening.
December 2, 2001- LINEAR WM1 - Yeah. "It's been awhile..." hasn't it? A long while. Long enough to make me doubt. Confirmation would be nice, ok? So I checked out Heavens Above current information earlier, and had penciled an "X" on my map, (hey now! it's MY book, ok? ;) and took it out with me because I needed it for my study fields. But you know what? I like to challenge myself. I knew what three stars to look for, and I knew about where it should be. And when I relaxed, and did what I do best... I found it.
Comet LINEAR WM1 has went through some rather remarkable changes. The magnitude has increased tremendously. We are talking about as bright visually (to me, anyhow...) as the Andromeda Galaxy... so we're homing in close to a 6... and nearing naked eye brightness. Tonight finds it sitting at the end of a chain of stars, and most impressively "comet like"! The nucleas is very precise... the "fan" (coma?) is well pronounced... leaving the basic body of WM1 at roughly the size of the M13. And gentlemen... we've got tail! Pushing away from the beastie to the northeast, and going out of the field of view with the 26mm... WM1 rocks equally well in both the 4.5 and the 12.5!!!! And since I'm in Cetus... ;)
NOTES: Indicate using both 4.5 and 12.5 for comparative views. I was deep skying that night, so skies had to be at least 5-6 LM. Location is same.
December 5, 2001 - LINEAR WM1 - As with the Andromeda Group.... infinately easier than the "quints", and just simply magnificent to behold. I don't care how many times I see certain things.... They always take my breath away.
Like the "Perseus Double Cluster".... boring? Nah... You would just have to see what the dob does to this.... more stars than you can shake a stick at! But the object here I was after was the "Perseus Galaxy Cluster".... And, oh m'gosh... sometimes I am very powerfully reminded of exactly why I wanted this big dobsonian telescope in the first place! The beauty of such a collection... and being allowed to view it... touches something inside me. How do I describe? Perhaps that is why I seek someone who understands.... It is a thrill that only another astronomer could comprehend. And after I had spent an hour and a half of my dark on "old friends"... I realized I'd best go hunt down WM1 and get on with some studies! There were no real "changes" in our current comet from my last observation... but I really wonder if what is being dubbed "the Christmas Comet" will actually still be visible from the northern hemisphere by then! This one MOVES! And it moves fast.....
NOTES: Scope is definately 12.5 only. Skies had to be at least 6 LM because I had studied both an Abell cluster and Stephen's quints that night.
December 7, 2001 - Finding Comet LINEAR WM1 was a snap tonight. Just a field away from Beta Cephii, or Diphda, if you prefer, the 4.5 sees it as sitting in a relatively empty "space". I don't sense that it has gained any brightness of more detail, but I know I LIKE what I see! A stellar nucleas, highlighted by a great fan, encased in a "glow" of ice particles, and showing one minor tail spiking it's way toward the northeast. A little beauty, it is. The dob is out here too, and so I set it upon the Comet. You would like this type of comparison!! The 12.5 reveals many more "background" stars... but does not improve detail within WM1! (makes the "tail" a bit more apparent, but not that dramatic....) I guess when it comes to brighter comets, lack of aperature doesn't hurt you any! (LOL! I guess what I'm trying to say is there is only so much detail that can be observed, and this is a case where either telescope works equally well... ;) It still amazes me how quickly WM1 has cruised the sky... and in a matter of days, it will be gone for me, too. Vaya con dios, yon Comet....
December 9, 2001 - Ready for a bit more? Me, too... So let's walk it back to the good 26mm and head toward the ever-changing Algol. A push here... a pull there... and voila! The two round forms of the brighter galaxies appear.... Now we can walk it down! (But let's stick to the 17mm, ok? The view is far more pleasing...) Averting away, Chief! What do we have tonight? Oooooh... soft and touchy. It's very hard to resist the temptation to look directly at the galaxies as they appear... but to do so, is to lose them. So relax now... listen to the music and tell me how many you see? Six? Seven? Eight is the magic number for tonight. This is one incredible field for the patient... Much like dipping into the Virgo fields, the Perseus cluster also does NOT reveal astonishing detail... But for me, just to be able to SEE this amazing little collection gives me a thrill! Ready to rock a comet? Yoohoo! MY kind of fun! Let's go do it! Now, let's drop back to the 32mm, ok? Magnification, (in my opinion) does very little to "improve" cometary structure... "field" is everything! On to Cetus...
Glory be... This little bugger MOVES! I quite have a feeling that my friends in the southern hemisphere are already picking up on WM1! Still, it is a beautiful little snowball... The tail quite stretches away now out of the field of view, but I'm only catching one. Very nice structure. It has been a wonderful experience keeping tabs on this one... and I shall quite remember it for some time to come!
NOTES: Change to 12.5 scope and 32mm eyepiece
December 10, 2001 - It wasn't long until it became dark enough to start to scope... and I was ready! First some of those "summer" favorites that are passing away... like Albireo, the M27 and the odd-ball, M71. I know I can chase Cygnus down in the east side yard for some time yet... but the lower the sky position, the worse the clarity. So I shall enjoy these "treats" for just a few more times before I bid them a civil "adieu" until next season... By now, real dark has started to set it... and the dob has settled enough to start to get serious. I have truly come to appreciate open clusters far more than I once did... and the NGC6940 is no exception. I still greatly admire this glittering cloud of stars... It gives me peace.
There are so many stars in Cassiopeia that you might barely find her recognizable. But I know it well, and I would visit with two of them before I move on... My favourites of the set, the NGC7789 and the M52. Both of these cluster, albeit varying in form, are possessed of an uncountable number of stars. It almost boggles the imagination that so very many of them could exist in one place... But, how very glad I am they do! Ready to head out to the south field? Because WM1 is getting to be one tough customer. (no problem! tough customers are my "speciality"... ;) Darn near into Pices Austrinus, my fantastic friend, the "Comet" resides in a chain of bright stars tonight. How many more nights do I have with you, my friend? One? Two? Let me not count them.... For if I never saw you again, I would still treasure the time we had together. Always...
December 11, 2001 - LINEAR? Oh... I don't want to say goodbye! But, it looks as if I'm going to have to. Tonight I can sit down to watch... and amigo, that means it's low. Real low. WM1, the "Traveller" is cruising toward a field of decently bright stars... and heading way beyond my reach. (I hate the little weather icons that appear on my home page... because they say rain for the next two days.) It has been wonderful watching the WM1 go through changes... and race across the sky! When I first caught it, it was in Auriga, (if i remember correctly) and I watched it move through Perseus and head for Cetus. From a tiny, faded ball of light... to a full fledged comet sporting a tail. It's like a child that has grown up and moved on.... and I am not one to want it here in the nest. But how very, very much I have enjoyed the time with you! Fly on, Traveller... Godspeed.
PERSONAL NOTE: Although I do not always communicate everything perfectly, this was very much a time when I was still learning. I had no idea all of those years ago that the notes I was taking would some day be of value!