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August 29, 2002 - Sky Surfin'....

Comments: Hey! Absolutely beautiful sunny day here... Raced home to set up for solar observance only to remember after I had fetched the camera and Baader film that the 4.5 was a hundred miles away! Silly me...

And those ultra-fine daytime skies turned into a ultra-fine night! Easily a 6.5 ULM... And I've got to be to work early tomorrow! Figures again, doesn't it? But you know me... I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Since my report time is extremely limited at the moment, just let me say that the highlight of the evening was three small galaxies. One that accompanies the M13, one that is closest to our galactic core, and one with a tiny planetary nearby on the border of Saggitarius and Capricorn. The rest of the night was happily spent giving my own self "The Nickle Tour" of all the bright (and dim) studies that I could find with the dob in under two hours...

In other words? It would take me far longer to tell you what I saw than I spent seeing it!!

For now? I'm off to the restful shores of Lake Erie for a few days. Should the mood strike me, I might actually write a report and leave it at Road Trippin' ~ 2002. And then again?

I might not. :)

"It's something unpredictable... But in the end is right.

I hope you had the time of your life..."



August 28, 2002 - Playing in the Dark....

Comments: I wasn't expecting it to happen. I surely hadn't planned on it. The sky certainly didn't look as it it would cooperate at sunset. But, as the song says, "It's something unpredictable..." And when I stepped out a skydark to go swimming?

The stars went down to the ground....

Not exactly dressed for the occassion, I can only laugh to myself at the fine irony as I slip quietly insde the garage to bring out the dob. It looks kinda' loney standing there by itself, for the little Celestron has since been packed and headed northward. Turning on the radio, I reach for the handle of the "Grasshopper", unlatch the brake and go. Rolling along easily on its' wheels, I am mindful of my bare toes as we head for the south field. Finding our favourite place, I slide the celestial print linen sleeve off and throw it round my shoulder like a magician's cape. I don't think Mr. Owl minds if its' blue doesn't match my black!

Now, let's go conjour some stars from the sky...

Whooooo! Check out Scopius, will you? I just love the way it curls down the sky... And just look at the little fine stars below Saggitarius! You wanna' rock and roll with me? Let's go, baby...

Starting with some of the studies I abandoned last night, the M19 is our first mark. I love its' compressed blue form and aching resolvability. At 9mm, this globular cluster delivers to the big scope, with the stars chaining out from the central, flattened core region. M62 is next for us... not as splendid or large as the 19, but it does have resolvable stars at the edges that fray out.

With a nod and a smile toward Shaula, we continue eastward for two more Messier marks, the bright and easy M6 "Butterfly Cluster" , and the stellar profusion of magnitudes and colors found within the M7. Looking up to study the sky for a bit, I dig through my memory for the star patterns I should know by now. The next is a group of three that are quite highlighted in my Tirion by a smudge of ink and a tiny spot of cherry danish. I remember the night quite well, and now all I need do is remember where they are at!

Oooops! Wait a minute... that's the M19. Hey! Quit that... Hehehheeeee... It tickles! Ok, ok!! Come here and look... This is the NGC6293. Sure it's just a little globular cluster, but I want you to put the barlow on it and be patient, alright? There now... See? This one is so cool, because when you can tear yourself away from the central distraction, you notice the edges seem to be made of apparent doubles! Too coo, huh? Now, let's go back to the M19 and go up! (quit smilin' like that... ;) Whoa! Got it... This is the NGC6284.... A spider of stars! Ouch! OK... giggle... I'm sorry, alright? But the bugs have been nibbling at my ankles... ;)

Smiling wickedly again in the dark, eh? I've half a mind to let you find the M9 for yourself! Come on, now... Dobbing is easy! See that star? It's Eta... Now watch this... PooF! It's magic. Now hand me back the 9mm and let's look!

The M9 is simply stunning. I realize that the population stars contained within a globular cluster are supposed to be the same, but this particular Messier definately shows a handful of stars that bear more toward the yellow end in looks than their blue brethern. Well resolved, the stars blow forward in a rather random pattern, yet stay contined in that perfectly globular format. Now let's wriggle it around a bit.. Just a little lower, thanks... Ah! You've got it. This one is the NGC6342. Shine on, you crazy diamond! Shooting off a shower of stars, like frozen sparks, the NGC6342 might be small, but that one is mighty fine! Switch eyepieces now... Now nudge it up there just a bit more... That's it.... Whoa! Yep. Another ambitious little globular, huh? Let's give it a go. Hmmmmm.... Can't pick that center apart, can we? No matter for the straight chaining effect of this one is worth the hunt!!

Tired yet? Me neither! One to do a couple more quickies before we jump into the pool? Good... You take it around to the M22 and just keep the good 26mm, ok? I'll go take the case back to the garage and be right back...

Hehehee... Yeah, I did, didn't I? Well, you jump too if you stepped on something squishy in the dark with your bare feet! I've killed more than one frog, I'll have you know... ;)

Hey! You got it! Gorgeous, isn't it? No real core area... It just seems to concentrate itself toward the middle, doesn't it? No, I'm not going back for the other eyepiece. Here... give me that thing. Watch... Cool little fellow, isn't it? That's the NGC6642, a little star ball. Your turn again, Navigator. Take us to the M28... Yep! That's the one. Nice resolution, not overly bright, and very, very even. My turn... And... There! This little guy is the NGC6638. Yeah, it does, doesn't it? That's it... Avert thy vision! Coolness... You caught the three stars that frame it. Very nice...

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm quite ready to turn the magician's cape back into a telescope cover and get into that pool!

Race ya'... ;)

"So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind. Hang it on a shelf of good health and good time.... Tattoos of memories and my skin on trial.

For what it's worth... It was worth all the while.

I hope you had the time of your life..."



August 27, 2002 - M81 and M82, M51, M5, M12, M10, M80, M4, M14, M8, and Saggitarius...

Comments: Walked outside to a solid 5.5 overhead night and immediately got the blues. Why? Cuz' the south was still buried... Everything from Antares and Kaus Borealis down hidden in "oscurae cloudius". What is it about wanting to view a certain area? It's like bad "gris gris"... If I study the map, it will be cloudy.

Smiling at the perfect accuracy of Murphy's Law, I wheeled the dob out to the west side yard and found a place where I could block the light and still see Ursa Major. Guess it's been a long time since I've seen other things as well. Why not tonight? The M81 and M82 come as easy to me as the M57, and I delight in seeing them again! Even bad sky position never really harms this pair. You can set them against one another, or pull them apart and still they remain two of the finest galaxies for the backyard scope. Let's just say they stick together... through "thick" and "thin". ;)

Since I was in the general vicinity, and the wind was whispering "M51..." in my ear, I had a go at it as well. At 17mm both the "Whirlpool" and companion were distinguishable as galaxies, but not much more. Only the slightest pull of spiral structure is still in evidence. But, you know what? It's still good to see that one as well!

The dob and I head for the south field now, for the western horizon looks fairly clean... and the south is beginning to open up as well! Rockin' my way toward Arcturus, it didn't take too very long (shyeah, rite.. ;) until I re-located the M5. Howdy, partner! It's not going to be very long until this odd-shaped, lumpy structured, and edge resolvable globular cluster is gone for the season either! And remembering my map work, I head for two more...

The M12 hits me first, and I recognize its' loose structure and rather coreless appearance. Individual stars begin to resolve easily at 17mm and I wonder to myself just how long its' been since I've seen it! Or the M10, just a hop away. with its' slipped to one side concentration and intense pattern.... It had been my dream to have one last summer night to fully enjoy all the little things in Scorpius, Ophiuchus and Saggitarius, and I can only hope that day will come soon.

Antares twinkles in the very thin, departing clouds, and I head that way for the M80 first. This tiny ball of stars has made me smile since time immemorial, and it does again tonight as I think of all the sunrises over the years that it took me to find it! Such a pleasant thought... The M4 comes next, with its' huge loose form filling the 17mm. Again, perhaps a memory... Of just how excited I was when I first found it, and a wonderful night spent on the Eastern Kentucky University grounds with Otto, teaching Fred how to find a dso. And lest I forget? I hop to the M14 next...

I feel a brush against my legs and look down to see my old observing partner, Ranger. His ears crinkled with time, grey muzzle against my thigh. So I sit upon the grass and hold him close. How many more nights do we have together, old friend? A year? Two? He heaves a deep sigh and lays down beside me. Curious H has come to join us, but he does so quietly out of respect for Ranger's age. (ha! he respects him alright... respects the fact that the old lion can still kick his young tail up and down the backyard!) So, we sit there, we three... Under the light of the stars. H jumps up to chase a lightning bug, and even the old dog has tired of our idleness and goes off to supervise the play... and me?

I head toward Saggitarius.

Tonight I just feel like walking. No more study. This place for me has always been mystical... A place of discovery. I remember well all the words I have written - And the things I've left unspoken. There is no need for a map here, because I've travelled the road many, many times... As there is no need for words. None can describe...

I suppose all the looking up has got me thinking again, and that is a dangerous sport for me. But, you know, the thoughts are good ones. What's it been? A couple of years now, I think... I still have all those old things. I could never bear to let them go. Just like I can't ever let go of Saggitarius... For me? It is like no other. It changed my way of thinking, put me on a new path. And still that "Teapot" steams out the road of stars.... And I'll take that road.

Straight to the heart, baby....

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road... Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test, and don't ask why.... It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time.

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right.

I hope you had the time of your life..."



August 26, 2002 - [Part Two!] The Sun... M57, M56, M13, M92, M27, M71, NGC6940, M103, NGC663, NGC654, NGC659, NGC637, NGC457, NGC7789, and M52...

Comments: OK! So when I have sky? I grab it... Shoot me for a sinner. :)

During the day, ShockSpot gave me a bark and prompted me to go look at the Sun. Gone is fantastic 69, but it left us a present. A great proton storm! Check this out...


SOHO/LASCO


Doesn't that look amazing?!! While it exited the scene (stage left... ;) it kicked out a mighty M3 class explosion and triggered a CME. What you see impacting the LASCO camera is actually the energy particles!!! Holy Protons... Then, about 56 hours later, Spotty picked it up and began to bark for me to check the monitor. Wish I could have seen it the day it blew it's top!

But, I sure don't mind looking at spots we have now! Spot 85 is a real beauty... but a simple minded one. The umbra is rich, dark and large - while the penumbra is rather undeveloped. Its' most unusual quality is the follower spots which angle across it in a horizontal line, much like Jupiter's moons appear at times. Spot 86 is much more complex, yet less impactful on the eye. There is a major umbra shaped much like a comma, contained within a single penumbra... and yet shared by another lesser umbal region! And when you can "see" that division in the field, you've gotta' check the magnetogram. Because that means an intruding positive field between the two, giving this bi-polar beauty a beta/gamma region worthy of some attention!

Rock on, Sol!

****************************************************

Going to wish my Mother a most happy birthday, I return tired, happy and not really expecting to see the stars. But you know what? There they are, and here I am... Wanna' play?

Darn right I do.

Tonight the honours belong solely to the 12.5 Meade. I gave the 4.5 Celestron a pat on its' shiny black side as we went by, but I just want to hug this big ol' scope tonight. The southern sky is eradicated by clouds. From about 40 degrees down, nothing is visible.... Yet the dome above and to the north look superior. Just a simple hop is all I have in mind.

M57? You've just gotten too easy, kid. I think I barely glanced in the finder, and there you were in the eyepiece! Splendid little smoke ring, with a fine braiding pattern visible, but no inner star. Beautiful! Now for a hop toward Albeiro for the M56... Gotcha'. Minor resolution at the edges, and a definition of core. Nice!

Hecules is in the clear, so I head for the M13, and kick in the good 9mm. Stunning! It always amazes and humbles me that I actually have the privelege of a scope that will resolve this globular. If there were any way that I could give it to you, I would... For this view belongs to all! And when I've finished drooling, I head out for the M92. Not as spectacular, but one again, those tiny stars are a turn-on!

Now... Can I? M27, here I come. I probably watched that bad boy for 20 minutes or more with the 9mm. Aversion took out the two in the lobe, but not once did I see the central. (Bruce? If you read this, remind me next time we get to observe together to give you the Meade 4000, will you? My mind needs to know if it is a difference between scopes, or a difference between optics...) Perhaps it was the night... I dunno'.

M71 comes next, and this one is not that big on resolution, but I know of one that is! Oh, you've got it... One of my favourites! NGC6940... This star cloud belongs to all, but absolutely shines the best with a 32mm in the dob.

Now, I'm ready to get off the ladder and back down to the ground. Cassiopeia sits very well for that kind of study, and I slip inside the darkened house to fetch a map. It has been so long since I've explored here, that I don't remember the designations for what I know how to find!

(You see, Cor? I can forget... ;)

Starting at Ruchbah , I tip northeast and pick up the M103. Caught between two bright stars, this cup shaped field of faint fellows sports several different magnitudes. Just the tiniest of pushes reveals the NGC663, an excellent kernel shaped open cluster with several bright members and simply hundreds of tiny stars. A touch to the north west is NGC654, a rather mousy little thing, but still quite nice. Then a hop up south for the even tinier and unresolvable knot of the NGC659.

Shifting back to Ruchbah, I hop up to NGC457. Ah, the "Angel".... And between its' wings lie hundreds of tiny points of light. One of the best! Now on to Epsilon and the delta-wing of diamond dust that is the NGC637... Very good.

Stopping for a bit to look up and admire the night, I return this time to Caph. These two I always remember! The exquisite cloud of the NGC7789, and the beautiful tiny reds within the M52....

Smiling to myself, I "free roamed" for awhile, trying to located Comet Hoenig. I know I am well into Draco, and stumble upon the most beautiful double star. Mr. Wizard? Tell me of Eta... The Moon is on the rise, and it's time for me to cover the dob and uncover the pool. The owl and the tiny citizens of the night are singing the most lovely of songs....

And I feel like floating.

"The photograph reflects.... Every street light a reminder...

Nightswimming... Deserves a quiet night.... Deserves a quiet night."



August 26, 2002 - The Moon, the Plieades, the Hyades, the Perseus Double Cluster, M35, M36, M37, M38, M42, Saturn and Jupiter...

Comments: Perhaps it has been the odd hours that I have worked, but I'd rather blame it on the Moon. For it was those silver blues rays shining in through the open window that awoke me long before dawn.... Smiling, I started the coffee and went about the business of gathering clothes. When the Moon looks that clear from inside? I know there are stars outside...

And so shall I be.

Just look at these stars!! Even Selene cannot eradicate the bright forms of Perseus, Auriga, Gemini, Taurus and Orion... Could it be that I've forgotten just how red that Aldeberan and Betelguese are? Or how intense the blue of Rigel can be?? Oh, no... I cannot forget these things anymore than I can forget your face. They are part of me.

Now, let's answer the siren song of the Moon...

Oh, my... Where do you want to dance first? On the beauty of Atlas and Hercules... Or in the splendid shadows of De La Rue?

Or perhaps I should take you here...

To what is left of Mare Crisium...

So we may waltz around Tisserand, Macrobius, Proclus, or Olivium and Lavinium Promentoriums. Perhaps we shall just stop and study the shallow form of Taruntius... Or just enjoy tiny Cauchy and Da Vinici.

Or shall we move on?

Perhaps the multi-ringed structure of Metius, Fabricus and Janssen take your fancy, eh? Or would you walk with me on the gentle upslope to peer into the Rheita Valley?

Or simply smile at Steinheil and Watt...

Neiander, Rheita, Piccolomini, Stiborius, Nicolai, Pitiscus, Vlacq... They are all here for you. And the closer you look at them? The more beautiful they become....

Or would you rather look at the stars?

Then journey with me to the intensity of the Plieades and the precision of the Hyades. Let us revel in the stellar profusion that a 32mm and a dobsonian telescope can make of the Perseus Double. Shall we marvel over the magnitudes and colors revealed inside the M35? Or simply dream over the soft star clouds that comprise the M36, M37, and 38? Ah, you want a fantasy... Then look here. For even the Moon cannot deny the M42 or the six stars we can see within the Trapezium!

Perhaps we should dance on the planets? Then behold mighty Saturn, Lord of the Rings. At 9mm the Cassini is a bold black line, and the planet takes your breath away. Do you see Titan leading the way across the sky? Spare a smile for the "little troopers" marching their way around the edge...

Dawn is coming. But we've time. Let me fly you to Jupiter? Oh, look at that... All four galieans lead the way this morning. Can you see how very close that Io and Ganymede are? They almost appear to touch. And just look at Europa and Ganymede! You can tell they are moving behind... Just magnificent.

Comet Wirtanen? We'll be back...

"You I thought I knew you... You I can not judge. You... I thought you knew me. This one laughing quietly.

Underneath my breath... Nightswimming."



August 25, 2002 - And so the days have passed in a haze of rain and work... I am hungry and tired. I long to see the Sun, the Moon and the stars. I hurt. Therefore I am human. But inside? In all respects, I am missing something fundamentally...

I fed the body. Feasting on all that which I have denied myself... Laughing and talking with my youngest son as we experiment with a cornucopia of tastes and spices. I fed the spirit. There is no finer way to remember you are free then when you ride a Harley... Or to laugh at the antics of a very overgrown black shepherd leaping into the air chasing a stream of water as I clean the pool. (Tony Hawk would be proud...) I fed the soul. Sitting on the steps on the deck, making an accoustic guitar sing songs to the setting Sun... Watching the clouds glow pink with the coming of sunset, and then turning to the color of fire as it heads for the horizon. My hands ache from the abuse I have given them, yet I long for the harmonics. Reaching for that fundamental...

All of these things exist within the boundaries of the corporeal. Yet, what I need more than anything dwells within the mind...

The darkness falls, and still the clouds rule the sky. Venus is no where to be seen. It is as gone as yesterday's news. Save for Arcturus, Vega, Altair and Deneb, the night is as blank as a unwritten page. But, the water is warm once again. Filled to the coping with celestial tears... And oh-so inviting.

It is time for me to shake off the dust of the days. These things that cling like burrs to the hide of a tired coyote... Moving silently, only the ripples on the surface an indication of my presence.

Again, a fundamental...

"Nightswimming... Remembering that night. September's coming soon. I'm pining for the Moon. And what if there were two? Side by side in orbit... Around the fairest Sun. The bright tide that ever drawn could not describe...

Nightswimming..."




August 22, 2002 - The sky is grey tonight. The will be no stars for me. It is one of those times when I miss the pleasure so much...

So very sultry.

I guess I'll swim it away. Watch as the lightning comes closer and closer. The gentle drops of rain coming at last, joining my own on the surface of the water.

And I swim amongst them until the lightning comes too close for comfort... Then laughing, run up under the porch to wrap myself in big, old beach towel and watch it zig zag across the sky.

And just dream...

"I'm not sure all these people understand... It's not like years ago. The fear of getting caught. The recklessness in water. They cannot see me naked. These things they go away... Replaced by every day.

Nightswimming..."



August 21, 2002 - Saturn and Jupiter... The Sun and the Moon...

Comments: For some reason, I woke up early this morning and had the most insane urge to go wander around outside with a cup of coffee. Perhaps it is because the warm summer weather is quickly drawing to a close, or it could be that I simply heard my name called. It doesn't matter either way, for when I stepped out the door the aching bright beauty of the fall constellations greeted me. Taurus, with Aldeberan's deep red eye... The Plieades like a beacon... The chain of Perseus high in the north... The visage of Orion on the rise...

I pad softly across the warm grass toward the garage to fetch out my old Celestron. Battle-scarred, we two... But the oldest of friends. And so we walk together to the edge of the field to visit for a moment with the "neighbors". What a pleasure it is to see Saturn! It is not the awe-inspiring view like the bigger scope will provide, but thanks to a tweak of the screws, the revelation of Titan, Iaepetus, and the "troopers" dancing around the rings are as welcome as the coffee.

And when I had drank it in, I moved to Jupiter low on the horizon...

Oh, my. You are grand, you know it? How long has it been since I've seen the equatorial belts? Or the waltz of the galieans?? No need for an answer. For I remember exactly when I saw them last. The moons are three this morning... A pair to one side, and the other standing a bit away. I did not power up for details. Just to see it once again is good enough for me...

*****************************************************

Somewhere between finishing mowing the back field and cooking my supper, I stole a moment to look at the Sun. Today belonged solely to the Baader. Spot 69 is on the limb and still looking very fine indeed... In the less than a handful of times that I've gotten to look at it, I've noticed the major umbral region does a lot of shifting about. Of course, we know why... But it is still cool to watch a major area like that attempt to subdivide! (one of these days i shall have to monitor SWAN far-side imagining and tell you when a "new spot" is actually an "old one" in disguise... ;)

The Baader does not draw out the Wilson Effect as cleanly, but serves to highlight the next largest spot on the surface, 85, very well. Less complex at this point that its' predecessor, 85's penumbral region is still maturing. There are many other small regions peppering the surface adding a bit more interest to the scene. And, as always, Sol remains an interesting character!

*****************************************************

A very warm night yet again.... The crickets and tree frogs send a riot of sound into the quiet night, their steady rhythm broken only by the owl trilling his territorial call from the big pine. It seems as if we've no sooner traded the direct rays of the Sun, than we catch them reflected back at us from the rising Moon. I try not to growl, but there's enough light out here to read by!

So... You want to put a set of shades on the dob and look at the Moon? Cool! The you put the deep violet filter on and I'll go fetch the map....

Of course, Grimaldi was there as I knew it would be. Hey, laugh Clown... For I don't feel like your empty tears tonight! What captures me are the mature features - huge bright patches and tiny electrified rings of the central surface. Since Selene is still rather low on the horizon, it gives me a pleasant opportunity to sit on the step ladder with the map on my lap and try to identify some of these unusual craters!

Almost dead center are a series of perfect little circles, and I am curious. After a moment to orient, it doesn't take long to identify them as Agrippa and Godin... And then the hunt truly begins as I look to the west to find another such pair in Ukert and Bode! Then to the east for a same name set of Theon Senior and Theon Junior. Above those, a bright circle wants its' name known... Dionysius.

The Caucaus Mountains are so overlighted that they possess no detail save that of yet another bright ring - Callipus. Posidonus suffers as well, but south of there is Vitruvius, an enchanting ring in this light. From there I followed the rays of Tycho, smiling to myself that just days ago this massive feature was reduced to a small crater. Look at it now! For the brilliant "splash marks" that eminate from Tycho are one of the most redeeming features of an "almost" full Moon!

Standing up, I stretch my old bones, and smile at the stars overhead. It's not often I spend so much time with a low study and it has tired me. I could go hopping about for some open clusters or double stars, but there are still a few fireflies teasing about. Summer is fast coming to a close, and the night is so warm, quiet and peaceful. I think I'll just cover the dob back up for now...

And go for a swim...

"Night swimming... Deserves a quiet night. The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago... Turned around backwards so the windshield shows. Every street light reveals a picture in reverse. Still its so much clearer... I forgot my clothes at the waters edge. The moon is low tonight....

Night swimming... Deserves a quiet night."





August 20, 2002 - The Sun and Moon...

Comments: Well, I'm still keeping up with the ongoing comparison studies between Baader solar filter film and the Orion solar filter... But first, if you don't mind, I'd just like to look at that gorgeous big sunspot!!

69 has rotated well across the surface since I've seen it last, and has continued to expand. It's bi-polar nature and beta/gamma/delta class magnetic activity has keep the flux data jumping! Continuing to be responsible for coronal mass ejections, M-class flares, and more radiation than you can shake a stick at, this beauty has upped its' size approximately 30% since its' first appearance. The leading umbra has a dual lobe with a thread of positive magnetism running through it and the mature penumbra is absolutely huge!! Even the follower spots display awesome characteristics...

Now, without futher ado... Would you care for a look with the Orion filter in place?


Not bad, huh? Visually, the Orion filter is sweet. Easy on the eye, gives terrific granulation and faculae, and the limb darkening effect very well.

Now let's slide the Baader film on...

Whoa! The apparent brightness is astonishing! Gone is our orangey-red companion with the easy going spots... In its' place now stands an ultrabright blue/white monster with black patches on it. Today there is far less "light scatter" for the sky is relatively cloudless, but the image is like looking into a 200 watt flourescent bulb!

Having patience, I run through a variety of eyepieces and see no read advantage to the Baader film. Visually the image, execpt for color and intensity, is virtually the same. Now, let's see what the camera thinks...

Does the word "iris effect" mean anything to you? Well, it should. Because even with the autofocus turned off the amount of light inputted into the camera causes its' internal lens to close down. I can only get split seconds of footage before it "irises" down to where it looks like we are viewing it from inside a diamond shape. But! Let's be true to form here, and give you a shot that approximates the same magnification...


So now, I shall let you be the judge.... ;)

******************************************************

Although I am not overly fond of looking at the Moon as it draws close to full, after I did my nightly laps in the pool, I found myself sneaking a peek anyway. The edge of Grimaldi's upsweep captures my fancy... It is only at this time that detail appears around this most ancient of craters, and I appreciate the scale it gives me.

Aristarchus is absolutely blinding, so I decided to go with blue filter tonight instead of polarizing. Thanks to that move, Schroter's Valley is quite well highlighted as a slender thread to the north. Very pretty, indeed...

Babbage looks great, and so does Schiller. But I find myself looking at a very flat and dusted out crater tonight... It's name? Flamsteed...

So why this crater? Certainly its' shallow appearance and 2100 foot wall structure are nothing to write home about. There are no difficult, tiny craters to challenge... Why? Because 45 miles north of Flamsteed stands the Surveyor 1. A little more than 26 years ago, it made the first "soft" landing on the lunar surface and provided science with more than 11,000 pictures of the lunar landscape. Flamsteed at one time was tentatively scheduled to be the original Apollo landing sight.

Perhaps Mr. Gordsky would understand... ;)

And that's enough for me tonight. I've quite had my share of smiles...

And a fond memory.

"Some people thinkin' that my life is pretty plain. You don't like my point of view, cuz' I'm insane...

I'm not sane. I'm not sane....

I just want someone to say to me... oh, oh, oh, oh... I'll always be there when you wake. You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today. So stay with me and I'll have it made.

You know I'll have it made. You know I will. You know I really will. You know I'll have it made."



August 18, 2002 - At the Warren Rupp Observatory...

Comments: Hey. It was pretty much cloudy all day. By the time I had made it to work, the Moon was not much more than a bright patch in the clouds. By dawn, the Sun was nothing more than a flat red, almost unrealistic looking disc rising through distant grey cloud peaks... And then it disappeared altogether. No matter. I needed to nap more than I needed to look at Sunspot 69, right? Right.

There was a private program planned at the Observatory tonight and I really get a big charge out of participating, but is there actually going to be a program? So, I sent out an e.mail query before I headed for food and rest and it was my great pleasure when I checked back later to discover that "Don't be too put off by late afternoon and evening showers or clouds.  If the moon can be glimpsed between lightning bolts, we are gonna do this..." (Well, alright! I'll be there... ;)

Happily enough, by the time I arrived, the clouds really had begun to thin! Setting up 4.5, I was just going to kick back with my cup of coffee and wait on the others to arrive, and no sooner than I had it ready to go... Dan had joined me. Opening up the dome, it was time for some much needed "parallel parking practice" with the lift and it wasn't long from there until we were off to explore the Moon.

Starting with the glorious Clavius, I had to know what we could do with low power... and the number is 9. Pushing the scope round the surface, I took mental note of what features were easily visible - such as Tycho, Copernicus and Sinus Iridum, and what ones were on the terminator - like Gassendi. Time for a moon walk! While Dan was at the eyepiece, I stood beside him with one of my much beloved maps (its' aura like a treasure in my hands...) and the tour began as I described each crater and its' relative location and appearance. I can only smile as we picked off each "confirmed kill"....

Soon Dan's lovely wife Pat joined us, and re-confirmed the number 9 within the structure of Clavius and I guided her to a place that made us both smile! For Tycho reminds me so much of a rotary phone dial at this stage, and so few us are actually of an age when we can remember what that looked like, eh? Connection made...

Now Curt joins me and it's time to walk the terminator again. And the number? 9.... Ready, steady? Then let's rock! "Autumn's sweet, we call it Fall... And I'll make it to the Moon if I have to crawl. And with the birds we'll share this lonely view...." He has questions, and I've got answers. How high is the central peak in Tycho? 13,800 feet. What are these two crispy critters on the edge? Hainzel and Mee... These mountains? The Carpathians... Stretching 200 miles long and 65 miles high. What's that? Crater T. Mayer.. On the terminator? The Harbinger Mountains, with just the tops of their 5,800 peaks showing. And onto Copernicus and into the "Bay of Rainbows"... The Juras Mountains, Promentoriums LaPlace and Heraclides! That one? Bianchinni... Twenty-five miles in diameter and 10,000 feet deep. No wonder we can't see the bottom! Hey, hey... Don't forget J. Herschel and Philolaus while we're at it! And that blank, loveless eye of Plato... Magnificent desolation? Perhaps, but being allowed to explore the surface of what lies some 240,000 miles away is awesome!

Time for me to head down for a cup of coffee and prep my stuff, for I haven't even reset the finder on the 4.5. (and guys? i'm going to have to come up with a better way of transporting it... the vibrations from driving are definately making the finderscope and collimation suffer.) By now, I had only a few minutes to visit with some of our other members before the folks began to arrive. But we're ready to rock...

While one member tours you with the big scope, John will walk you on the Moon with a dob. Head this way and get lessons on distance and size with some strings, and we'll go to some double stars. Curt will make you taste the rainbow tonight! And while we're at it? Would you like to touch another world? Then check out this meteorite...

And marvel over the majesty of the M13 as only the Observatory scope can truly show it.

Questions and answers, hugging kids, bumping heads in the dark... All of this adds up to a very fine night despite the far from perfect skies. And who knows? Maybe the pretty young lady who took such a shine to the windstatten pattern in a chunk of interstellar metal may someday fly high above the clouds!

Make it a mystery...

"An escape... An escape...

I don't need anyone to say to me... Oh, oh, oh, oh... I'll always be there when you wake. But, I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today. So stay with me... And I'll have it made."





August 17/18,2002 - Chasing A Rock: 2002NY40...

Comments: I growled when the skies cleared and the Sun came out just as I was about to go catch some sleep. I had read how magnificent spot 69 had expanded, released an M5 class flare and coronal mass ejection... And I really wanted to look at it! But, for once, ~T took a pass at solar observing. Why? Because I wanted to be able to get up early enough before work to catch a flying space "rock"... Near-Earth Asteroid 2002NY40.

I was a bit afraid the skies wouldn't hold, but I was in luck. Albeiro was easily visible despite the humid, somewhat hazy, and very Moon polluted conditions. No dob tonight, but the 4.5 is willing to chase with me! (and this time? i even polar aligned... ;) Going to the finder, I started my first mark at Kappa Lyrae, and located a pair of reasonably bright stars that I knew the asteroid would fly past. And fly it did!! All that was required was to keep that pair in the eyepiece, for the apparent rate of motion was almost astonishing...

Keeping "track" soon became easy enough, even without a drive system, and when 2002NY40 cruised the field with Theta Hercules? I was all smiles... I continued to watch as it extended itself way beyond, just chasing that little "wink" across the field of stars. I would have loved to have been able to stay out later and have caught it in the field Tau, but hey....

Duty calls.

"And I don't understand why I sleep all day... And I start to complain cuz' there's no rain. All I can do is chase a rock to stay awake... And it slips my life away.

But it's a great escape."



August 15, 2002 - The Sun... And the Moon...

Comments: The skies are far from great here, but enough Sun to cast a shadow, and I'm out walking on it, ok? Thanks to a very dear friend, I've been given the opportunity to make a comparison between Baader solar filter film and an Orion full aperature broad band filter, and true to form, I guarantee you that I will experiment with it under every possible condition.

Before we go into that however, let's just take a look at today's solar activity... Because it gave me a great big smile!!



SOHO/MDI image


Will you just look at all that activity! Gosh... what's it been? Only three or four days since I've looked at it last? The changes have been remarkable...

ShockSpot send me a "hit" two days ago, but I really didn't pay it much mind, for the visible surface wasn't that active. Then, when I decided to check the data today, I see that we had another CME! Awesome news... I had seen this Michaelson Dopler Image, but had yet to view it firsthand. Waiting for enough light to aim by, I practiced patience, and persistance paid! Going to the eyepiece, and using the Baader film, I was totally blown away by the visage of Spot 69.

Deep, huge irregular umbra... fantastic structure on the mature penumbra... Hordes of follower spots... The existence of plages and lack of granulation between components in the dispersion field... All of this speaks of "something wicked this way comes"... and it's the size of 36 Pacific Oceans! Running through the data, the magetogram is almost as beautiful as the observance itself. We've got a nice, twisted beta-gamma-delta magnetic field going on here! The flux data for the last 24 hours is just great... As a matter of fact, the whole surface is just spectacular! I love watching the magnetograms reveal Hale values...

Waiting again on a reasonable break in the clouds, I decided it to make things "fair" by cutting a piece of black construction paper to fit inside the Orion filter to give them both the exact same aperature. I grabbed my trusty camera and set out with both filters and a variety of eyepieces to continue my experiments:

Starting first with the Baader film, and the 26mm Meade 4000 eyepiece, it's time to make a visual comparison. I am not pleased with what I see. Although the spots are quite clear, the amount of haze in the air shows that the Baader film transmits far too much light. Let's try the Orion... Much better! We're taking down some wave lengths here, for the entire solar disc is much cleaner and clearer under these conditions. Dropping in the 9mm shows me a slim margin of difference. The Baader film's basic black and white appearance gives a very clean edge to the penumbral field on 69 and excellent plage definition. Now for Orion... Totally different. Orion walks Baader film on granulation and faculae, hands down... But at the same time loses clarity of edge of field penumbral definition.

Can we combine these two? ;)

Alright, then... Now, let's go to my simple photography. As well all know, given hazy conditions it would be impossible for me to provide you with exactly the same "shot". But this is how we conduct a true experiment, yes? So, for the record, let me say that I just picked one of each untouched comparable frames to give you a temporary illustration.

First the Baader film...

And now for the Orion glass filter...

Now, know this... I did not simply take a minute of footage and let it go at that. I have only revealed two comparable images, OK? When I sit at my end and let the video footage run, I find the close-ups on 69 to be far superior in resolution using the Baader film... in some repects. The Orion filter gives every bit as fine a performance, but without that "hard edge" quality.

Results for today? Under hazy, slightly windy conditions... the Baader film is not the choice. It transmits too much light visually and causes a lot of "scatter". Each time the wind runs across the film, the image shudders. Orion's performance outweighs it today, by providing better contrast and a far more stable image.

Let's just hope a clear, sunny day comes along soon, eh?

****************************************************
Now, I'm off to explore the Moon...

As soon as I went to the eyepiece, the fantasy forms of Albategnius and Hipparchus jumped right out. I drooled around on them for awhile, had a glance at Halley and Horrocks, and then Mons Piton took my eye. Such an outrageous single peak! The scar of the Alpine Valley still runs as deep and dark across the face of Selene as ever...

Then came a wisp of cloud. And another... And another. It wasn't long before the details disappeared entirely, for the night itself is very warm and muggy. And that's alright by me. Time to just cap it up and ease on into the water. Listen to some rock and roll, shut down the thinking circuits...

And wonder if it isn't about time I just disappeared.

"I don't want someone to say to me... I'll always be there when you wake. But, you know, I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today.

So stay with me... And I'll have it made."



August 13/14, 2002 - Hey, hey... It's rains.. Time to rest...

"Some people thinkin' that my life is pretty plain... Cuz' I like watching the puddles gather rain. And all I can do is to pour some tea for two... And speak my point of view. But it's not sane...

It's not sane..."



August 12/13, 2002 - A Double Helping of Perseids...

Comments: I growled all day. The much needed rain had come for us at last, offering the still thirsty crops and wildlife some welcome relief. But my grumblings did not last long, for by the time the Sun had began to set? The sky had began to clear...

Somewhere around 9:00 I went out, and had to gently remind myself that if I took out the telescope to view the Moon that I would spoil my already slim chances of catching a shooting star. Best way to solve that urge is to put myself out of harm's way... In the pool! The earlier rain had put a freshness back into the water, and I have every intention of putting both myself and a bottle of wine into it. Actually, I'm the only that got into the water, for the wine got into me... ;)

"If I, decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive... Will I chose water over wine? And hold my own and drive?"


Since I have absolutely no intention of driving tonight, I chose both the water and the wine. After a few sips, I did my warm-up laps and after that? Floated peacefully, admiring the quicksilver appearance of a handful of meteors blowing us a cosmic kiss. The skies were far from perfection, but the night was as warm and sweet as you could ask for. As I softly drifted from end to end, I though about those I know, and wondered if they, too, were watching. From Britain to the Bayou... Singapore to Sweden, Kentucky to the Carolinas, the Netherlands to Texas, from New Zealand to Canada and everywhere between Florida and California. Sure. We all reside in different "times"... But the Perseids come to us all.

By around 11:00, I had finished my bottle and my quiet swim. It had been my great fortune to have seen a couple of dozen meteors, and the hour has grown late enough for a working kid. Besides... The peak isn't for several hours yet! Time to dry off, head for a warm blanket, and return....

******************************************************

Kill the alarm clock. Smash it into little ringing bits of black plastic and gears. Do it harm. See if it will fly and disintegrate like a meteor.

Like a meteor....

A meteor?!?

Hey, hey... I rather regretted my choice of beverages for at least until as long as it took to start the coffee. While waiting, I stepped out onto the back deck and was greeted by solid magnitiude 4-4.5 stars, and that's all the longer the growling lasted!

Settling into the redwood chair with a steaming mug, it was perhaps a good ten minutes or so before I saw the first one. Then another... then another! By the time I had finished my cup, all traces of sleep had vanished. The rate the skies would permit was perhaps one every two to three minutes! Not bad at all!!

Sneaking back for a second helping...

By the time my next cup was gone, dawn was rapidly approaching and I had the good fortune to see perhaps fifty or so of these bright, very fast, children of the comets. Their beauty was augmented by the ghostly Plieades... the crystaline chain of Pereus... and the stern visage of Saturn. I would have stayed until the Sun cleared the horizon, but I only come out at night.

And the rest of me has to go to work...

"And once again, you'll pretend to know that there's an end. That there's an end to what begins.... It will help you sleep at night. It will make it seem that right is always right. Alright?

We only come out at night..."




August 11/12, 2002 - Chasing the Perseids...

Comments: Hey, you know my luck! Darn right... Closing in on a meteor shower peak and I'm sitting on a bank of clouds...

Don't mind me. I'm not complaining. Several times during the evening a brief window would open up and I'd be out there... Listening to my tunes, curled up in that old redwood chair, sipping my cup and dreaming my dreams....

From about 10:00 - 11:00 p.m., there was a nice clear patch overhead, and it was my pleasure to see a good half dozen of these fast silver streaks. One in particular took my fancy, (doesn't it always?) for it was bright enough and long enough to cut through the haze in several places and let me watch as it swept perhaps a hundred degrees across the night!

Keeping watch, another long lasting clear spell hit around 1:30 or 2:00. This one was much better! The majority of the overhead dome was in the clear, and only the lower 30 degrees or so of sky was obscured. How great these fast little fellows are! For the most part, they were intense silver, very quick, and only traveled perhaps 10-15 degrees before extinguishing themselves... But every so often a slow poke would come along, and the long lasting trail of copper sparks was enough to put a smile upon my face!

Around about 4:00 (peak time, go figure...) the clouds came back for good. No matter.

There's always tomorrow night...

"We only come out at night... The days are much too bright. We only come out at night....

And once again, you'll pretend to know that there's an end..."



August 10/11, 2002 - At the Warren Rupp Observatory...

Comments: The weather had looked chancey here, but as the story goes here in Ohio, chancey one moment can lead to damn fine skies the next. Packing the 4.5 and a variety of goodies away in the car, I spent the hours anxiously awaiting the monthly meeting of the Richland County Astronomical Society and the public "Star Party" which follows. I have come to deeply appreciate the time I spend with these fine gentlemen, for each is as unique as their telescopes.

After having attended to business, it was time to relax a bit before the public arrived... Set up the scopes and enjoy each other's company. While standing at the chart table, pouring over Terry's prodigious and painstaking galaxy notes, I hear my name called out in greeting, and look up to see a smiling Bruce coming up the Hill carrying something in his hand. And the smiles widen as he places it in mine... For it is a 9mm Nagler eyepiece! He walks on, leaving this prize catch for me to examine as he begins his set-up. A knowing look passes between us, for this finely machined set of lenses and metal will eventually answer questions that so long ago had piqued my curiousity...

What a pleasure it was to spend some time with my original mentor, Dan! Far too much time had passed since we had last seen each other, and much has changed since. We chatter away eagerly, catching up on each other's lives. Another smile and greeting brings on one of my favourite confederates, Bob, and in his hands he holds a picture of the "Saturn Nebula" in the most recent issue of Astronomy magazine. The laughter begins as we recall that just nights ago, the "Saturn Nebula" was one of our objects of choice during an observing session! We continue our conversation as we walk down the Hill to where I have parked my car, for I would share with him some things I have brought with me... my precious books. One on the stars by Rev. T. Webb and the moon by Earnest Cherrington. A chance for him to see a bit of Baader film firsthand, and examine a Rukl Atlas. For you see, I travel to this place not alone... My friends come with me.

Returning to the observing area, I continue my simplistic set up, and listen in as Mike expertly adjusts Terry's primary mirror. There are lessons everywhere... All one has to do is listen. I continue to enjoy the company of fellow club members as the public slowly begins to infiltrate. Darkness is arriving, and all eyes and scopes are turned toward Venus. Spending some time with Gary, we discuss the ultra-slim appearance of the crescent Moon just the day before, and rather nag because the tree line from this vantage point obscures it. Joking with one another, we walk away from the dome proper and up an incline to see that the Moon has indeed joined the nightly show... But cannot be seen from where the scopes are set up.

Have 4.5? Will travel....

Whisking it away from just below the "Big Scope", I carry it just a few hundred yards away and do not stress over whether or not it is level... Steady is all I care about. And following me through the hedges are a dozen or more people! All have come to get a glimpse at the Earth's companion, and I am willing to show you just how grand it can be in the 25mm eyepiece, aching with earthshine and beautiful detail around Mare Crisium, Cleomides, Geminus, Burkhardt, Messala, and Langrenus. I smile to myself as I compare these things to that which they can relate to - the size of a state! (and inwardly thank you a million times over... ;) Gary goes to fetch one of his good eyepieces and we set down on Crisium to the delight of our audience. As the Moon moves inexorably into the trees, those who spend time at the eyepiece exclaim aloud as they watch at low power just how very fast those treetops claim the view!

The stars have began to appear one by one, and I return the little Celestron to its' space beside the dome. We each tend to run our own private observing sessions, and my favourite way of beginning the evening is with double stars - Starting with the easy Mizar and Alcore and their stories, and progressively moving toward more difficult ones: Albeiro, Cor Caroli, Ras Algethi, and Epsilon Lyrae. Always I ask the question, "What colors do you see?"... For I have found through my impromptu experiments that stellar color is percieved very differently by sex and age group. From there I move on to the magic of the spectra gratings, and take great pleasure in hearing other's delight in the differences between each of the bright stars. Sure. It's a thing I do a every "Star Party", but isn't fun what it's all about? Taste the rainbow....

Above me I can hear the happy sounds of the lift moving up and down, and the laughter and awe as people view the M57 for the very first time. And as they come out of the dome, we dance on the splendid, bright open clusters: M6, M7, M24 and M11. I cannot see their expressions in the dark, but what I hear is music to my ears! And it is about this time that all eyes turn toward the northeast horizon as we watch the majestic pass of the ISS... In full glory tonight. Brightening as it climbs up to meet the Sun, and sailing onward as it makes its' journey toward the southeast. Just awesome...

Now I'm ready to go globular, and it was about this time I made the acquaintance of Monty, another star nut actively involved in yet another Ohio based organization. He had travelled a good distance to be here with us tonight, and we will make his stay a fine one! As each person comes by, we explore the riches of our cosmic halo through the apparitions of the M4, M22, M28, M19, M13 and M71... and behind me I can hear the big scope move my way. Glory be! We're going for the M8.... ;)

Taking cue from what's going on about 15 feet above me, I start the walk with the little Celestron toward the world of nebulae. Trust me, there is not a thing wrong with the picture of what this little scope can produce with the M8, M20, M17 and M27! I'll warm 'em up for you with four and a half inches of mirror, and then you rock their worlds with thirty two!! And all this time, I never knew what the M27 would come to mean to me tonight...

Now, it's my turn on the lift and at the "Big Eye"... but not until we've watched a fantastic -7 magnitude iridium flare! And then it is my pleasure to be your guide. Off we go to explore the "Lagoon" and on to the magnificence of the Andromeda Galaxy!! You never knew it could be so beautiful, did you?

The hour has grown late for most people, but not for some of us. Amidst thanks and handshakes, we thin to ten, then six, then four. Dan and I had thought perhaps to use the big scope after everyone had gone, but we prefer to spend another night alone together. For the man can teach me... And I would learn. He, of all people, knows how anxious I am to put this behemoth scope through its' paces! There will be a time in the future when I can aim this scope with the practicd ease I do the 4.5 and the 12.5, and we both look forward to that day. Almost regretfully, we begin the process of closing down the dome for the night... But the night is far, far from over.

Returning outside the dome, Dan and I join Bruce and Monty at Bruce's awesome 12.5 Meade pier mount. Time at last! (and i am sooo ready....) We arrive just in time to view galaxy pair NGC7332 with its' perfect structure and faded companion NGC7339. Then we move on to NGC6934... I give a shy smile to Bruce as he teasingly admonishes me with "Where have you been all night?"... For he would see us both complete the Herschel 400 studies series and earn a certificate. Hey. We only come out at night.

And here I am.

Dropping the studies for now, he readjusts the 12.5 for the M15 and puts in the Nagler 9mm. I can see his smile light up the dark. "Here. I want you to see this!" And up the ladder I go... I don't know whose jaw opened wider... Mine for the perfect resolution, or his at my annoucement that the planetary within showed itself so perfectly! (hehehheee... gotcha'! ;) And it was pefect. From that slipped to the side grin of core structure at the lower half - to the furry planetary at the top. This scope rocks!! (geez... i never knew that.)

And then he turned my world upside down...

Those of you who know me best understand that I have had a fascination with the M27. I have never quite been able to understand why I have been able to sense apparent "movement" within this nebula. I have done studies on it, and know of its' strange spectral qualities. I have viewed it repeatedly over the years, always with a sense of longing to solve the mystery. Tonight a man with a 9mm Nagler and a 12.5 Meade answered every question I've ever had... For when I went to the eyepiece? I saw the central star. Nothing could have prepared me for this. Nothing. I have seen through my own scope, upon aversion, those hints of ones in the lobe. But, he told me to stare directly at the middle and I did as he told me. Every few seconds the central star would make a direct and perfect appearance!! He stood below the ladder laughing up at me, for he knew what I was seeing... and he knew how much it meant to me to have my question answered. "Why does the M27 appear to move?" Answer? When I view it in my 12.5 with less superior optics, I cannot resolve that central star, but my mind and eye can "see" its' pulsing nature!!

I know I was chattering like a magpie, so rather than look like a babbling fool in front of Dan and Monty, I walked away for a moment alone. Bruce understood completely, for like myself, he seeks to unravel cosmic mysteries... And it is time for me to share a cup of chai with him while the others take their turn and the eyepiece and try to understand the five hundred bits of information I just rattled off in three seconds through my excitement!

I held it direct, dudes. I held it direct....

After we had finished our cup, we bid Dan goodnight amidst promises to return in the very near future. As Bruce recalibrated the computer and scope back toward study, Monty and I went in search of Comet Hoenig with the 4.5. Bright meteor streaks were flying everywhere, and I was quite curious as to what the little scope could do with this comet under darker skies. It didn't take long before I found it once again, and we were all pleased to view this fairly bright, large interstellar Traveller. (hey, navigator? i've still got the touch, baby... ;)

Now it was time to get serious. Bruce and I appreciate each other very much... For both of us are very experienced at picking detail out of faint studies. Using his self-programed, and totally excellent computer system, we can instantly confirm observations against the data base... But how much more fun the game is when you can go to the eyepiece and call the shots without looking at the screen! We both are notekeepers, and I dig his style... Where mine are somewhat randomly scattered in bound notebooks, loose bits of paper, and throughout my rambling reports - His are in neatly organized notebooks, categorized by constellations, and data-based in the computer. It is my pleasure to view them, seeing some of my own studies over the years done in someone else's hand. He walks twice around my own experiences, and sometimes thrice! Too cool... Come this spring we're taking a chainsaw to the treeline at the Observatory, though... Cuz' you've got to bulk up Fornax!

And speaking of notes, would you care for some excerpts from mine for the evening's studies?

NGC7006 - We went back to 7006 because I had questions on this one also. As a recent study, I found the 7006 to have a stellar nucleas, and for good reason... It is a star. There is actually a star that superimposes itself over our most distant globular cluster. Thanks, guy! Once again, the 9mm Nagler's quaility blows my 9mm Meade Series 4000 out of the water...

NGC7042 - Definately brighter in structure than the 7006, this galaxy shows noticable spiral structure.

NGC7043 - Two magnitudes dimmer than the last, but again shows delightful spiral arms.

NGC7457 - The third in this group. Definate sense of spiral, stellar nucleas and one arm extended toward the dimmer pair.

NGC7042 - Diffuse and difficult, averted vision only type of galaxy. Another fuzz patch...

NGC7156 - Huge and very difficult due to low surface brightness. Highly diffuse, and reminds me of the M33 in texture.

NGC7463/65 - Beautiful edge-on! Thinking about you, partner... Pairs with nice bright ovid NGC7465 who as a semi-stellar core.

NGC7464 - Also part of this group, best seen while concentrating on the NGC7463. Possibly elliptical, averted only.

NGC5131 - A sweet and easy spiral.

NGC5121 - Yes! Edge-on again!! For you, baby... Fadeded, but quite in the field with massive amounts of unresolved stars.

(Monty? Sorry to leave you in the dirt like that, man... But, we're quite pleased when you can pick up on it! Because faint galaxy studies are a practiced artform... Just remember, ok? Practice - Patience - Persistance....) Now off for some more of the Herschel studies!

523 - Distracting star at the edge, but a large, easily viewable elongated spiral.

528 - Mottled textured - Slight nucleac structure. This one turns very pretty when the eyepiece is tapped!

M31 - What can anyone say about the Andromeda Galaxy that hasn't already been said? Spanning as far as five eyepiece fields of view, the core area is simply unpenetrable, but the dark dust lanes reveal the location. Now let's get what's inside....

NGC206 - Damn, the Nagler has done it again! This knot of stars within our neighboring galaxy can be completely resolved!

M32 - Beautiful and bright! Simply stellar nucleas and soft folds of galactic material surround it.

M110 - What gives? This is far better than what I pulled out of the big scope just a few ago! Seeing a soft structured nucleas here... With great elongation!

M33 - NGC604 - NGC595 - NGC592 - NGC588 - Just superb! It's not often I get to see theTriangulum so fine! We could even see the bright nebula NGC604 easily within the faded arms!! It didn't take long before we located NGC595, a quite easy directly held patch of nebula with the nucleas of the M33 itself! We seek next an area similar to our own M8... And we find it in the NGC592! A splendid nebulous patch with at least two directly resolvable stars. Last we go for a huge open cluster within the 33, the NGC588. This one is a bit more difficult, and what we find is a concentration within the field that contains no real resolution, just a fine grain, like powder.

Time now, for another cup of chai... A few minutes to lie on the warm grass and watch the bright meteors scratch the sky... And off we go again!

NGC1060/61/67 - Galaxy trio. The 1060 is by far the brighter and shows some nucleas. The 61 and 67 are foggy patches, but easily held direct.

NGC1066/67/62 - Another trio. Easy enough to hold the 1066 direct, but edge-on 1062 and elliptical 1067 seem to bleed together.

NGC1193 - Open cluster. Faint grainly texture, another almost powdery in appearance.

NGC1348 - Open cluster. Hey! This one looks like a giant cosmic ameoba... Various magnitude stars play with each other inside an elongated star cloud of structure.

NGC1491 - Bright nebula. One high voltage star at the edge, with a few caught within an irregular soft cloud of emission gases.

NGC1579 - Soft nebula structure boundaried by faint stars - Low surface brightness. Much improved by dropping back to the 25mm Koenig.

NGC1582 - Open cluster. Appears like a bass clef of multi-magnitudes. There is a sense of pattern to this open cluster. The chains of stars seem to curl round on themselves.

NGC1605 - Still picking up magnitude 11 open clusters on the verge of dawn. Some difficulty capturing stucture thanks to the approach of light, but glad to have found it!

NGC1624 - Open cluster. Far brighter and much easier! It's many magnitudes make for a very fitting final DSO...

And we end our session with Saturn. After hours spent with faint studies, this one eats the eyepliece alive! No little ball here, folks... The Nagler once again has shown its' perfection. The ring system is icy white, and the Cassini a bold, black line held easily completely around the center. At the edges, the fine exterior ring shows itself well. Toward the planet itself, the dusty appearance of the inner ring is spendind... And the orb? Oh, my... Creamy yellow in coloration, deep limb darkening effects, notable variations in the polar regions, definate highlight toward the equatorial zone, and over it all? The soft shadow of the rings themselves. Tolkein? This is the real "Lord of the Rings"!!

Shutting things down, I see Bruce smile once again... There's always time for just one more, isn't there? And his choice please me to no end, for we would finish this night just as I had the night before... With the M1. We're two of a kind, you know it?

The dawn has began to stain the eastern skyline, and I only come out at night. Packing my things away, I yearn for a long ago and far away sandwich. Monty, it was a pleasure to meet you guy... I look forward to meeting the Wayne County Astronomical Society, and hope to be able to attend your "Star Party" on September 28. Bruce? Ah, man... I don't have the right words and you know it. I'll bring the tea and you bring the Nagler. Anytime, mon ami....

You know where to find me.

"We only come out at night... The days are much too bright. We only come out at night. And once again, you'll pretend to know me well, my friends... And once again, I'll pretend to know the way... Thru the empty space. Thru the secret places of the heart...

We only come out at night. The days are much too bright... We only come out at night.

I walk alone. I walk alone to find the way home. I'm on my own... I'm on my own to see the ways that I can't help the days. You will make it home okay...

I know you can, and you can..."



August 9/10, 2002 - The Sun and Working With Baader Film... A Quiet Evening - Meteors, the M14, M12, M10, M9, M19, M22, M28, M8, M20, M17, M11, M71 and M27... Chasing Morning Comets (C/2002/04 Hoenig & C/2002/06) and Meteors - M31, M45, M36, M37, M38, Saturn, M1 and the M42...

Comments: Thanks to the generousity of a close friend, I now have the opportunity to do some comparison work with Baader solar filter film stacked against the Orion's full aperature broad band glass filter. I am keeping a very open mind on this, and if you read my reports then you're along for the ride as I start my experimentations. It will take some time before I am able to hone my skills between the two, for they present things in a very different "light"! Without further comment at the moment, let me present a temporary shot taken of the largest spot available at the moment, 61...

As you can see, I have to do some work on the art of perfecting focus for a single un-retouched frame!

Right now, I'm not too sure what I think about the Baader film. In one respect, I can see edge details on penumbral fields in much sharper, cleaner contrast than before... and the fields themselves have a certain "appearance" to them I am unfamiliar with. On the other hand, I can see there are some things, such as faculae and edge granualation that are missing from the picture. So, for now? I will continue to experiment with the two filters.

And time will tell, eh? ;)

*******************************************************

Quite in the mood for a quiet evening, I wheeled the redwood chair out to the south field, plumped the 4.5 on the grass beside it, and sat down with the guitar to practice for awhile. The temperatures are warmer, the skies are decent, and I'm not in any aching hurry to start a new study field with the Moon so close in the future. What say you? How about if we just kick back here and scan for meteors and walk the night for fun?

Works for me...

Eventually the guitar gave way to the radio, and the lawnchair gave way to observance. Sure, these objects are a bit "Nickle Tourist" in design, but I just enjoy looking at them. The many globulars that course across the heart of our galaxy are very fine even in a small telescope. With the limited aperature of the 4.5, we are pretty much confined to anything magnitude 9 or brighter, but hey! The globulars a small scope can pick up would make Shapely proud, ok? The Ophiuchan M14, M12, M10, M9 and M19 are all quite different from one another, and easily achievable. The Saggitarian pair, M22 and M28 lying on either side of Kaus Borealis are always easy targets, and ones to be just enjoyed.

Now, shall I pour you a cup of tea while we just sit here and relax? Good. It's quite pleasant to just watch the sometimes very fast and bright precursors to the Persieds scratch the sky! The silhoutte of the little Celestron makes for a fine portrait against the starry night. Perhaps one every five to seven minutes a blaze will cross through the constellations, and some leave a lingering trail. So peaceful....

Shall we walk through some nebula? I'd like that... The bright M8, M20 and M17 are very fine in the little scope. And after we sit for a bit longer? Let's have a go at the M11, M71 and M27. Sure. This stuff is easy, but there are nights when easy is a good thing.

And an easy chair even better...

******************************************************

So, I'm breaking the law. With a threat of rain and clouds in the future, and no work this weekend, means I am quite free to be back outdoors at 4:00 a.m. with a cup of coffee and a dobsonian telescope! And for some reason, that darn 4.5 and a couple of dogs followed along for the ride...

Those who know me best also know I quite take a fancy to comet chasing... And there's two I've a mind to see!! The first is Comet Hoenig - C2002/04... I got my first look a couple of nights ago at the Observatory through a 16" Obsession, and I want to see what I can do with it. After a wild goose chase through Cassiopeia, I finally found the little traveller firmly ensconched in Cepheus. Wow! You've moved, eh? And my next move is to put the 4.5 on the same target... Through the 12.5, Comet Hoenig is relatively bright, with a stellar nucleas and soft haloing field. Through the 4.5 it is picayune. It's is a pleasure to have captured this interloping fur ball with both scopes!

Next on the "hit list" is recently discovered C/2002/06. By 4:45 a.m., Orion has cruised up the horizon very well and I start my search. Again, I have one on my hands that has moved significantly since last I saw information! Finally located in what will eventually by Orion's upheld arm, (right now he sleeps with his arm under the pillow, ok?) the new "kid" on the block is right fine. At this point, a central brightening is what I see for a nucleac structure, giving this one the overall physiognomy of an unresolved globular cluster. Hastening to put the 4.5 toward it, I am rather pleased to see that except for being slightly smaller in appearance, C/2002/06 is quite viewable with smaller aperatures!

Thinking about another cup of coffee, I cap up the 4.5 and laugh out loud at a splendid bolide racing across these winter bright skies. H comes out of the shadows trying to figure out why I'm making noise, and I reach out a hand to comfort him. He's turning into a great observing partner. At least he's not stolen anything recently, or dug up a deceased pets. Let's just hope he knows how to keep his distance from the skunks! The meteors are still flying... How can I just go in now, when all these great things are hanging around? Easy answer...

I don't.

So, off I go to walk around the Andromeda Galaxy, have a visit with the long-time-no-see open clusters in Auriga, pick apart the Plieades, and marvel over Saturn. Super fine, this morning! Iaepetus and Titan lead it across the sky... At 9mm the Cassini is a deliciously sharp line caught toward the ring edges, and I don't see the troopers just yet. Perhaps they're hiding?

Dawn is coming, and Orion has fully cleared the horizon. Ready to go in yet? Ah.... That's the way I like you! Then let's go have a look at the M1... Dawn is putting a crunch on it, but it's vague form is still visible. And one better? The M42...

I've missed you.

"I needed you more... And you wanted us less. We could not kiss... Just regress. And it might just be... Clear, simple and plain. Well, that's just fine. It's just one of my names.

Don't let the days go by.... Glycerine."



August 8, 2002 - NGC6231, NGC6242, NGC6281, NGC6153, NGC6192, NGC6216, M11, M71, M27, M57, M56, M29 and NGC6940...

Comments: Still very cool here, and it feels so fine. Spent some time working at a study project and when I had taxed my functions to the point where it shut me down, I just pushed the "off" key and walked away. Time to be unplugged for awhile! Just grab that guitar and head for the backs steps for some practice while I watch the sky darken. Putting in about an hour, I can feel my fingers begin to weaken, so it's time to set it aside and go for a swim. Hey. It's cold! Darn cold, actually. After a few laps I begin to warm up and it's not so bad, but the time for the night swim is definately coming to a close! But those cooler temperatures mean a mighty fine sky, and I've a mind to study tonight....

Taking out the dob and a variety of eyepieces, there are some things that I'd like to do some justice. The NGC6231 open cluster is one of them.... At 17mm this one turns into a beautifully tight open with complete resolution in a rather random pattern. The various magnitudes contained within this cluster make it rather special, for in the eyepiece it looks a great deal like a miniature Cassiopeia on a clear night in decline. Very nice...

Next up is another open, NGC6242. Here is a splendid cone of various magnitudes, also best seen and resolved with the 17mm. Oddly enough, the random patterning of its' stars remind me of the constellation in which it resides... Only turned a bit, eh? It's members resolve quite easily and the field when dropping back down to 32mm is excellent.

NGC6281 is next, and I rather like this one at 26mm. Here is where it appears much like a many pointed diamond being grasped by a chain of brighter stars. Upping the ante resolves it completely at 9mm, but it loses the quality of an open cluster at that magnification. Go low... this one deserves it!

Shooting for a much harder target, I head for planetary nebula NGC6153. Check it out!! Delphinus is swimming the other way... :) Once again, caught in a pattern of stars that resemble a constellation, this planetary is barely larger than the field stars around it. Best view is achieved with the 17mm and barlow, where it takes on the appearance of a unfocusable star. Actually, this one is kinda' cool simply for the star field in which it resides! Once I've seen it as a true planetary, I can still pick up that form with as little as 26mm, but I don't honestly think at that magnification I would have noticed it on a sky surf.

Now for another open, the NGC6192. Very rich, this soft spoken gathering shows no real rhyme nor reasoning to the star patterns. At 17mm I sense there may be more stars that are beyond my reach, but it looks just fine! Last is NGC6215, whose curling patterns in the 17mm look very much like a globular cluster trying to form. The stars seem to be of the same magnitude, and pull together in a circular fashion. Not bad!

The hour is growing rather late, but this is a very fine sky. Even the little wedge of Telescopium is making an appearance tonight! Since I've spent my time at studies, I feel like just a bit of play. Care to join me?

Dropping in the good 32mm, I hop away to fly with the "Wild Ducks" for a bit. Sure, this is not "heavy" magnification, but what it delivers is eye-popping, jaw-dropping field, ok? And when the M11 looks like that? I sure don't mind! As with the M71... Ghostly, grainy and totally odd shaped! The M27 is a great little green bowtie on the night, and I have to smack my hands a bit not to want to power up on it and explore! We can do that another time...

The "Ring" is ultra-fine at this low magnification. The perimeter star, (you know, the tiny one?) is a perfect pinpoint of light beside an equally perfect little glowing ring. There is just something so "clean" looking about the M57 at this magnification!! Like tiny globular M56... Just a perfect little "hedgehog" in the night. ;)

Before I go, I take on the the tailed kite form of the M29, and again I am very pleased that at low magnification, the brighter members delight the eye while the lesser ones make a pull at concentration. And speaking of concentration, there is one place just meant for a 32mm eyepiece. It is the NGC6940. Hey, I know you're tired of hearing about it. But you know what?

I still want it.

"Don't let the days go by... Glycerine. Don't let the days go by... Oh... Oh.... Oh... Glycerine. Glycerine. Glycerine.

The bad moon will rise again... The bad moon will rise again...

At it will fall around me."




August 7, 2002 - Closer To the Heart...

Comments: Tonight is one of those times when I do what I do out of pure love and nothing more. There was no need for the accessory case, because I don't intend on using anything but the good 32mm. There is no point in reassembling the 4.5, because the dob stands ready. There was no tiny red light, mechanical pencil or notepaper, because I don't intend of making them. There were no maps, because I don't need them.

All I want are the stars...

Walking out to the wide open spaces of the south field, I stand for the longest time just admiring the majesty of Scorpius and Saggitarius. The stars touch the horizon tonight... Deep places of hidden beauty. The Eagle and the Swan fly upon the river of light. Their visage is something I will hold in my heart forever. There will come a time in my life when my eyesight will dim and my body will weaken. I am old enough to know that just around the corner waits a new journey. And when I close my eyes the last time in this world? Let it be with no fear...

For I will be going home.

Such beauty in this place! Stars gathered together in magnificent balls like seeds of time. The silver sheen of countless nebulae, spreading their waves and ribbons on the emptiness of space like dreams. Thousands upon thousands of stars strewn across the black velvet of the night... the endless riches of a cosmic jeweler.

To speak their names would break the spell, although they whisper to me in my mind. These are old, old friends of mine. I have come to them with my tears and fears, my pain and sorrows... They know of my laughter... And my pleasure. I have sang to them, and drawn their images. When I weary... I see them in my heart.

There is no place I would rather be.

"Could have been easier by three.... Our old friend fear... And you and me. Glycerine... Glycerine...

Don't let the days go by. Glycerine..."




August 6/7, 2002 - The Sun... At the Observatory...

Comments: The difference in pressure systems has this half of the world breathing a sigh of relief. Gone is the sweltering humidity and ever-present heat haze. The temperatures have fallen a good twenty degrees and the sky simply walks and talks!

And I'm listenin'....

Took the little scope out to have a look at the Sun, and was highly pleased with the amount of observable faculae around the southeastern edge! These bright "cracks" in the granulation pattern are always a welcome change of pace. The dispersion field on the outgoing side, along with the remainders of 51 show beautiful perimeter plages, and yet the Wilson Effect is not as startling on this one. 57 is a bit more complex, and still shows some magnetic qualities that could produce some activity, while 61 is quite simple minded. Oddly enough, 57 moves just ahead of a very nice coronal hole... But it's time on "our side" is almost over!

******************************************************

The incredible day sky turned into an equally incredible night sky. Heading toward the Observatory to help with progam for the "kids", I am awestruck the moment I hit the top of the stairs. Gone is the usually assortment of dobsonian telescopes, and in their place stands Mike's 16" Obsession, Bob's 10" Meade LX and Joe's 8" Celestron Ultima... Needless to say, that battered old Celestron 4.5" was feeling rather intimidated by such fine company! (stay in the car, kid... the big boys have come to play... ;)

Mouth open, (tacky? yes... but that's just how i am...) I went from scope to scope admiring what most of us simply dream about. The Obsession was already set on Venus when I arrived, and the bright skies made for a perfect half circle. (wow! you should see this thing! it's beautiful...) Bob and Joe were quite happy to show me how the go-to functions operate and their scopes while it was still light enough to learn easily. I thank them for that... and access to their equipment. For if you teach me?

I will learn.

Going into the dome, I was very pleased to make the acquaintence of Keith, one of our more "mysterious" members. He is another such as myself... into travelling and adventure. His tales of the "Star Hill Inn" have left me quite anxious to go there! I can see where it would be an absolutely perfect spot for the members of a certain "Around the World" gang to meet. Complete privacy, on site scopes and library, and in a clear sky setting? Oh, man... Just perfect!

And now the darkness has come, but it isn't quite time for our guests. Bob gives me complete access to the Meade LX and tells me to have fun! Oh, you know it!! Grabbing my notes and charts, I'm off...

To the M11 by 9:40... the M6, M7, M62... Rockin' resolution on the M19! M14... Cutting resolution on the M4 by 10:00? Wow! This scope is amazing... M22 smacks right out with full chaining! Mr. Wizard's galaxy comes next, and the Meade's quality shines right through... You know? It's damn fine for a 10"!! The beautifully open N6558, and the NGC6384 walks out its' silver galactic sheen with just the slightest of eye movement. The NGC7006 is just perfect, with a splendid bright center and edge resolution and awesome stellar intruder on the field. I like this comparison thing.... for I remember very clearly what it looked like in my 12.5" dob just last night! The NGC6712 reveals its' X-like central core and edge out resolution, and the NGC6803 isn't quite resolvable... But, hey! It ain't THAT dark out yet!!

By 10:20 the kids had arrived wired for sound. (you should have heard this group walking up the hill!) and it was time to start the night off with a bang and view an iridium flare. Thoroughly psyched up now, hey move in groups from scope to scope. Some are inside the dome awaiting their chance to view the "Ring" and they are clustered about each scope like globulars in the halo to get a look. One asks to use the binoculars, and it is echoed by another. I immediately feel guilty, for the ones here are not meant to be handled by children. But you know what? I can fix that... And so I sprint (carefully, mind you...) down the steps and fetch mine. Short of dropping them, there is nothing they can do the these that I have not already!

It wasn't long before I realized I had made a very big mistake by leaving the 4.5 in the car. Finding one old enough to assist me, we went a fetched it up and set up in minutes. Regardless of its' age and size, the little Celestron is a reality check. Here is a scope you may put your hands on! And I will take you to where ever you ask... (vega? oh! one brat in the crowd!!! out of all the stars in the sky, i cannot hit vega with the EQ mount. ;) And away we went... The "Nickle Tour" once again! You know, it gives me such pleasure to open the stops on this scope and show them how to sky surf. No amount of money could replace the sounds of their exclamations! (except for perhaps enough to buy a meade LX....)

Break time now, to watch the ISS fly serenely by, and to sneak a moment to myself. It's quite cool to stand in the shadows and just listen at times...

Eventually we end up with one of my now very handled diffraction gratings, and I accidentally stumbled upon a phrase while laughing and talking about spectoscopy to these fine young men - "Taste the rainbow..." As the program came to an end, and we high fived as they chattered their way down the hill, I could hear their voices drift back to me...

"Dude... I tasted the rainbow."

Does it really get much better than that? YES! For it was only minutes later that Mike turned up Comet Honeig in the Obsession. Let's just let my notes speak for this one:

"First views of Honeig just superior in this scope. At 14mm this bright baby fills the field of view. As with all incoming comets, their resemblance to a globular is apparent, but this scope picks the cometary core right out and makes it walk and talk aloud! The coma still remains very even and diffuse and the presence of a dimmer star contained within it is quite fine. This scope ROCKS!"

Not long afterward, he turned up the NGC7331. Very sweet... Splendid bright core and two companion galaxies walk right out. Is an Obsession telescope everything it's crack up to be? YES!!

Heading inside the dome, it is my turn at the M57. Tonight is the night folks, for that interior star is an absolute reality. Thanks go to Jerry for keeping it "on hold" for me!

Want to go play with that Meade some more? Oh, yeah... ~T is quite in heaven! Beep, beep.... fzzzzzzzzt... Beep. Get 'em! And here my notes just go wild:

NGC7009 - Saturn Nebula. Perfect color correction on this scope. Every bit as well as the dob! And perfect in shape.

NGC7492 - Nice little globular with extorior resolution.

NGC7727 & 7723 - Soft, silver oval same field galaxies, spiral structure nicely apparent.

M72 - Excellent resolution!

M2 - Even better than the last!! The resolution the Meade brings out is awesome...

NGC7448 - Sweet... Tilted edge-on stretched between two bright stars. I like...

NGC7332 - Very stellar core! Great halo... Long reaching arms for this edge-on!

NGC7729 - Very decent elongated streak of galactic signature.

NGC6946 - A faded beauty, but how amazed I am that a 10" can capture it!

NGC6939 - Perfect resolution.

NGC6940 - Just too awesome for words!

M76 - The "Lil' Dumbbell" is very bright and well formed. Absolutely compares to my dob on this one!

NGC7293 - Faded, but there. The light dome takes a bite out of the Helix.

In the mean time, Joe catches on to what I'm about, and turns up one to make me smile! Say hello to the NGC653... "Cat's Eye", baby! We had a rather good laugh on this one, and I shall be polite... (for now. ;) Hey, Joe... Where are you going with that gun in your hand? Your 8" Celestron is a real performer!

By now, Jerry has the Observatory scope set on the Saturn Nebula, and I am just thunderstuck. No words can describe to you what this scope is capable of! Unless, of course, you should happen to get a view of the M15...

"Absolute resolution. Absolute! The flattening to the side was never more apparent. The interior core is literally gone, and what exists to our backyard scopes as a core is reduced to a crescent wedge of resolvable high magnitude stars to the lower edge. The chaining effect will simply take your breath away as the big scope eats the structure alive."

Of course, we are all tired by now... Myself included. I cannot thank Bob enough for allowing me time with his scope. Joe? Jerry? Mike? My appreciation of your equipment and skill have made my night! The hour has grown quite late and my mind is full and happy. The drive home will be spent happily singing along with the rock and roll and thinking about all I've seen.

And what I miss...

"Don't let the days go by... I could have been easier on you.

I couldn't change though I wanted to..."



August 5, 2002 - Swimming Amongst the Stars, Summer Field Studies and Time To Play....

Comments: The heat has been so nasty here. The day was filled with grey clouds and the kind of humidity that makes one feel "steamed" to go outdoors. There was no Sun today, but we did have a brief and very welcome rain. I stood beneath the shelter at work and stretched my hands out to catch the drops, wishing so much that I could just walk in these cool tears from the sky. Just as quickly as it came, it was gone. I laughed to see the tiny sparrows race from their hiding places to wallow in the run-off and take their turn at a swim! Their playful abandon could only be matched by the gratefulness of the parched ground. The smell was fantastic...

The humidity returned, along with the heat and oppressive clouds. There is a promise that the front will move away and everything in nature holds its' breath in anticipation. Relishing the freedom of no work tomorrow, I am in no hurry for anything. I find myself wandering out to the back deck being followed by a pair of dogs and a Gibson guitar. And so we four play... H and Ranger are chasing one another about on the still damp lawn and splashing in their pool while my fingers dance across the strings. The curious hummingbirds hover before me, turning their heads this way and that, before they zip off to visit the flowers that entice them. What a melodius sound this one has! Where the stolen moments with a Fender taught me the joys of easy play, this one brings me the pleasure of resonance.

The clouds are slowly beginning to thin, and there is a certain freshening to the breeze. Perhaps the weather predictions are right? Smiling at the last of the summer fireflies, I call the canines back from the grassy field and put the guitar away. It is my time to swim now, and the heat of the days has left the pool feeling like a 10,000 gallon bath. Slipping below the surface, I can feel the stress float away while tired muscles breathe a sigh of relief. The first of the laps are dedicated to speed and power, but when I begin a series of quiet rolls, turns and dives, I can see the stars are beginning to shine through the mottled night whispering their names...

Arcturus, Guardian of the Bear... Mizar and Alcore, the Horse and Rider... Dubhe, the Back of the Bear, Polaris... Thurban, the Dragon... Cor Caroli, the Heart of Charles... Ras Algethi, the Kneeling One... Antares, the Rival of Mars... Shaula, the Sting... Al Nasl, the Point... Vega, the Falling Eagle... Deneb, the Tail of the Swan...

And Altair.

I am in no particular hurry to leave this place. The waters are warm and soothing. I want to hold on to the wings of the eagle and fly, but the night is still young. Let it age and deepen a bit... Become magnificent.

And so the time slips quietly by... Soft ripples on the water sending waves across the reflected starlight. My ever-present rock and roll reminding me of "who I really am"... The occasional bright meteor making me laugh out loud! For now, it is enough to float here, knowing in my mind where the M13 resides, and seeing the M57 in my heart. The delicate stars of Lacerta and Saggitta are beginning to shine through as the temperature drops and the clouds vanish. How grand the dark rift of the Milky Way! And the arched back of Delphinus....

Nunki, the Proclamation of the Sea...

It is time for me to dry off now. There is a chill to the air and the night has become most fine. Let us take out the dob and find something to eat, eh? Look over the maps one last time, take the notes and perhaps walk the fields of a summer study? Time for a cup of hot, spicy tea... Just sit here on the redwood chair surrounded by the enticing scent of roses and jasmine as our eyes adjust once again. Crush a spearmint leaf, and breathe in its' refreshing scent... Are you ready?

Then let's rock.

Aquila, the Eagle will take us upon its' wings for tonight's journey. Beginning the anchor at Delta Aquilae, we hop to the NGC6749. Amost cometary in appearance at low power, even magnification and delightfully deep skies do very little more than reveal its' presence. This globular cluster is a tiny, faint fellow! Hopping away to the southeast we find a much more rewarding one. The NGC6760 is also very small, and only hints at granulation. It's best view comes with the 9mm where it fully becomes apparent as a globular cluster.

Now to Tarazed, and a brief look at the "Double Dark Nebula", B142 and B143. I find Barnard dark nebulae to be interesting, but somehow not exciting. I realize that in their own right, to knowingly view a pocket of obscuring dust to be a charming find, but they are, shall we say, devoid of emotion? Shifting a bit west and down, the NGC6803 is a sweet little planetary, and to the dob it looks like the M57 in the 4.5. At high power, it lacks the charm of the "Ring", but delivers. A tiny bit down brings up the NGC6804, who's outer shell is far less bright, but inner star is definate!

Let's move back to Altair, have a smile at "Bacon Fettucine", and work between the borders of Delphinus and Aquila. Shifting south of Delta, we capture a very faint and difficult galaxy. The NGC6956 is part of a chain of three stars, but the third of those stars is the core of the galaxy itself. Only a faint halo that surrounds it gives the clue of its' true nature. Hopping back up to Epsilon, it is a short drop to the NGC6928. It is possibly an edge-on galaxy, this soft streak of light. It has either an off-center core or a soft star intruding on the edge.

Continuing south, we locate a very deserving small globular cluster... the NGC6934. Very sweet and bright, this fine fellow resides in a great field of stars and presents some resolution best seen with the 17mm and barlow. In the finder we see a soft circlet of stars south of the center, and readjust accordingly. Now, push the scope west just a bit toward Beta Aquilae and find the NGC6906. Very small and lenticular, this small faint galaxy has a stellar core, best with the 17mm only. Nearby is possibly a small open cluster and several apparent doubles and chains are in the field. Faint? Yes... But treasured.

Now, let's go back to the nose of the Dolphin and move toward Pegasus. I think of you when I see this one, Mr. Wizard.... For you would like it very much! At an incredible 190,000 light years away, this magnitude 10 globular cluster is the most distant object in the Milky Way. To the eye of the 12.5, it is very beautiful. 17mm is all it takes to reveal a bright central core surrounded by a halo of unresolvable stars and bleeding into striking resolution at the edges. There are many apparent doubles also nearby, looking as if they are being drawn toward this ancient traveller in the night. This one is truly the best of the study field!

Time now, for another cup of chai and the chair. It was a most wonderful time, and I would sit for a bit to sort out the notes. The air has gone very cool, and the change in temperatures leaves me feeling as exhilarated as the stars have! Would you care for just a bit of play before we call it a night?

I'm game....

Off for a hop around the westering Saggitarius, a peek at the M15 and a drool on the Andromeda Galaxy. A pass over the incredible "Double Cluster"... and a long halt at Kemble's Cascade. I can feel the weight of the work and hours upon me, and I would love to just stay in the place and await the rise of Saturn and two as-of-yet unobserved comets... But you know what?

I'm ready to dream.

"If I treated you bad, I'll bruise my face. I couldn't have loved you more....

You've got a beautiful taste."



August 4, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: I did take a look at Sol today between the billowing clouds. It was enough to see that 39 is gone, and only the remnants of 44 and 50 remain, caught deep in their magnetic pocket. A few other stragglers exist across the surface, and from the looks of the faculae and the beginnings of a dark umbra, there is a newcomer on the limb. This last series has given it a rather hard act to follow! Because before departing, our lively group decided to pass off another decadent flare before rounding the bend.... What a great show they've put on!

And how priveleged I have been to see it.

******************************************************

The clouds continued into the night. I don't mind. I am tired from the long hours, and the warm water feels most welcome. I swam quietly for several hours... Floating peacefully... Slipping along and silently as the clouds overhead. From time to time a bright star would show through, and I know who they are without the constellations to guide me.

They are old, old friends...

"I'm never alone. I'm alone all the time.... Are you one? Or do you lie? We live in a wheel, where everyone steals... But when we rise, it's like strawberry fields."



August 3/4, 2002 - Working on the Study Fields... Uranus and Neptune...

Comments: Another working night, but I always get up just a bit early in case the sky is clear. Good fortune held for me, and I did manage a bit of time before leaving to study. The fellows are hard!! Well, perhaps they really aren't that difficult... But somewhere between reading the map and being distracted by the visage of the Andromeda Galaxy on the rise, I had some difficulty concentrating. I don't know what my problem is here lately, but I'd almost rather sky hop to the easy ones than pick apart dim studies.

Nah... ;)

Since I did take out some charts and things with me, I took a moment to hunt up Uranus and Neptune. Still hanging around in the holy house of Capricornus, their blues orbs sit on either side of the constellation's "smile". I read somewhere that one of them is going to be making a close appearance with a bright star, and I'd just kinda' like to catch something like that!

Now, I'm off again to work. The time passes much too quickly for me on days like these...

And there are things I miss so much.

"Don't let the days go by... Glycerine..."



August 2/3, 2002 - The Sun... Amazing Meteors... and the Moon...

Comments: Just one last look at you?

One the limb, fantastic sunspot complex 39/44/50 is traveling "warp" speed. Deeply embedded in the Wilson Effect, all detail is lost to the magnetic qualities which govern it. But what is not lost is the fantasty structure of granulation, faculae and plages that surround it as it is leaving. Trying not to look directly at the limb, I concentrate my focus toward the follower spots, where the activity is the most noticable... But the limb keeps drawing me back! Why? Because it looks distorted...

No. This is not a "heat" effect, ok? I've been observing the Sun long enough to know the qualities of the edge, and how it appears when you pick up shimmer. What I see is steady... Perfectly steady. It gives the appearance of studying a orange skin. The "dimpled" look of the Wilson Effect when spread out of a truly large area is quite awe inspiring!


As always, it is very difficult for me to chose just one frame.... Even if it is just a temporary illustration! What you cannot see is how each reveals a different detail. In one the faculae are most apparent... In another granulation. And yet another? Plages. But one thing remains a contant... The warped edge! Unfortunately I haven't had the time to do much interior study of what's happening magnetically right now, but hey.

All I wanted was to see you again...

*******************************************************

Partly cloudy skies ruled the earlier evening hours, and the temperatures held high long after the Sun had set. Dividing the sky in heart-breaking sections of perfect clarity and perfect obscurity, I chose to simply swim tonight and go "stargazer". The water is as warm as a living thing, and it is truly a pleasure to swim quiety while listening to the radio and just dream.

But all was not quiet...

The night is alive with bright meteors! It seems like every time I would roll and come round for another lap, one would scratch the sky. Feeling rather content, I followed a huge hole in the clouds as it approached the zenith and captured one of the finest bolides I had seen in some time! Emerging from somewhere behind a cloud, I first caught it in Draco as it arched and burned its' way totally across the zenith, sparkling and finally fading away in the general direction of Capricornus... The lasting train shimmered and held in coppery colored sparks for what seem like an enternity before they, too, faded away. Very fine...

Feeling a bit tired, I decided to hang it up for the night. Let's go nap for a bit, eh? For the hours will be long and I shall miss the night.

*******************************************************

Up for work long before sunrise, I really wasn't going to go out. Honest. But, sometimes I just have the hardest time saying "no". And who can say no to such a beautiful companion as Selene?


As always, I am captivated by the welcoming arms of the Sinus Iridum. It is no real secret that this is my own personal favourite... And perhaps there are some that might understand why. No matter what lighting it is presented in, the "Bay of Rainbows" is perhaps one of the most incredibly peaceful looking areas on the lunar surface.

Glancing at my watch, for my time is limited, I head south toward a very splendid appartion of Schiller. Also stealing the show on the terminator is Epimenides and Mee, with their bright lipped edges defying the shadows. Stretched out beside it, Schickard, Nasmyth and Phoclides also look quite fine. Of all the unusual ones, Euclid and the Riphaeus Mountains put on a real presentation! Keplar sings a bright song... But I must go now.

I'll remember you...

"Now, everything's white... And everything's grey. Now you're here. Now you're away. I don't want this. Remember that... I can never forget where you're at..."



August 1, 2002 - The Sun... Of Meteors and a New Study Field...

Comments: Still cookin' here in the Heartland... Despite the blistering temperatures, I did take a few minutes to view the Sun and wish super complex 39/44/50 a civil adieu. Nearing the limb, the fantastic series of spots has now become distorted by the Wilson Effect (or else that was sweat running in my eyes! nah... ;). While that takes some of the sharp edge detail out of the spots, what being near the limb brings forward are the huge amounts of faculae and observable plages within the area. Quite honestly, I found the faculae more interesting than the spots themselves for the entire area is shot through with these bright "cracks" in the solar granulation. Remembering well their appearance as a precursor to 39, I can't help but wonder if they are associated with certain types of magnetic fields. (A question to be happily explored on a cloudy day, thanx!)

When I decided to have a look at the data, ShockSpot sent me a 92% confidence level again and I went to check it out. Currently we are experiencing a G2 class storm which means that any of us above about 55 degrees should really keep an eye out for aurora!

Or maybe just some gamma rays, huh?

*******************************************************

Between the extreme temperatures and pushing myself a bit, I find myself hurting. It's not often I bother with the chemicals that will put it to sleep for awhile, but tonight they are welcome. Having found some solace, I went out as the skies began to darken thinking that perhaps a leisurely swim would do me good. The sky itself was rather chancey... A few, thin bands of clouds making the bright stars that appear without my glasses look as if there were several Milky Ways. Enjoying the warm water and the soft rock and roll, I find myself peacefully floating... Just contemplating the stars.

The amount of meteors I saw last night was pure pleasure. Even optically limited, I cannot miss those bright streaks that appear every few minutes or so! In a relaxed mode, I refuse to keep count... I consider it a gift from the sky gods. For a very long time, I simply enjoyed the sensory input I was recieving... Then I made the mistake of putting on my glasses. Ah, ~T... You know better! The amount of faint stars visible in an area I have been most curious about calls to me.

And I comply.

No maps for now. Just the dob and I in a quiet sweep over some old/new celestial ground. These stars are a drug within themselves, for when I am there? I feel no pain. As I pass over some of these things, my long dark-adapted eyes pick them out... And I make mental note of the most comfortable position to set the "Grasshopper" in for viewing. Just the most gentle touch of the hand re-adjusts the scope, and I drink in the starlight. So very fine...

I should be in bed now, for the days ahead will be demanding and it will be some time before I complete a new study field. Overhead, the meteors still play, like celestial fireflies. How I enjoy seeing them! I wheel the dob back into the garage and go to cover the pool. Like my glasses, it was perhaps a mistake to touch the water. Its' warmth calls like an embrace... And tonight?

I feel like being held.

"It must be your skin... I'm sinking in. It must be for real. Because now I can feel. And I don't mind, if it's not my time. It's not my kind... To wonder why."