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February 28, 2002 - The Sun, Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, and Doin' a Doubletake...

Comments: A bit of Sun today! What a treat... Latest current Bad Boy? 9045...

The actual solar surface is reasonably barren at the moment... A couple of fine groups of smaller spots, but 9045 rocks! Looking much like a yin/yan in its' umbral regions, the penumbra curl delicately round each one. Nice spot!

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Still hazy clouds... Saturn wasn't worth taking much time over, because Titan just barely came through. Jupiter was a bit better to watch last night. Even though surface detail was hard to come by, watching Io slide out from behind the body of Jove was still an interesting experience! (wonder what it was up to back there?)

And again, the Moon wasn't presenting the greatest of possiblities, either. Just one day from full, and still killer-bright even filtered. When my pupil finished contracting to roughly the size of a pinpoint, I found myself just tracing the lines and major features.

Do you want to try some doubles? The we best make it easy ones... Mizar and Alcore, Cor Caroli... Sigma Orionis...

Yeah, it wasn't the greatest of night. I don't want to "win 'em all", ok? It just felt good to be outside, listenin' to the Godsmack CD... singing along to "Moonbaby"... watching H and Ranger wrangling in the moonlight...

And dreaming.

"Demons dreamin'.... Breathe in. Breathe in! I'm coming back again....

I'm not the one who is so far away... When I feel the snakebite enter my veins. Never did I want to be here again. And I don't remember why I came...

Voodoo... Voodoo... Voodoo..."


February 27, 2002 - Dancin' in the Moonlight...

Comments: Winter is far from over here in Ohio. Temperatures plummeted, and blinding snow squalls filled the days. The backyard has once again turned into a snow-covered fantasy...

Tonight the Moon is at perigee.

Steel grey clouds raced across the sky, and strong winds whipped loose snow about in frenzied curls. Above it all, the Moon graced the night with its' silver blue light, bathing the scene in cold, quiet blue. At moments, it would show itself... Incredibly large and beautiful. Vast maria and bright highlights welcome to my tired eyes...

And I recall the words of Gallieo.

"It is a beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the Moon..."

And indeed it is. No master painter could capture the simple beauty of the night. Nor any poet how it feels to stand here in this stark, unforgiving winter landscape just to see the Moon racing along behind the clouds. It is a sensory experience...

To feel the wild wind in your hair... to taste the cold purity of snowflakes on your tounge... to hear the relentless breeze sighing through the bare branches of winter... to touch the frozen perfection of the icicle, like a crystal stacylite, hanging from the eves...

Perhaps Mr. Keats knew...

"What is there in thee, Moon, that thou shouldst move My heart so potently?"

And so I whisper my thanks to the night... the words visible as soft as the clouds above me... to be whisked apart just as quickly by the wicked winter wind.

Je'taime...

" Hazing clouds reign on my head. Empty thoughts fill my ears... Find my shape by the Moonlight. Why my thoughts aren't so clear..."


February 25, 2002 - M3, M5, M13, M92, Alpha Herculis and 61 Cygni...

Comments: Another fine, winter warm morning! And I have the time and desire to go explore a bit... Grab that mug, I'll get the 4.5 and let's go!

Globular, baby...

How I've missed this structure! The M3 does right well with the 114 in terms of resolution. The 17mm reveals a dense core and grainy texture running out to the edges. Nestled in its' triangle of stars, the third Messier contains some of the oldest stars in the Universe! Ten billion years old...

Now how about the M5?

This one doesn't really contain a concentrated core, but again does well in terms of resolvability. The 4.5 isn't going to pick it apart the way the dob can... but the diffuse edges make this globular appear to look very much like a child's top! Spinning away in space, and holding 5 Serpens close to its' influence.

Time for the mighty Hercules!

The M13 just smacks the sky... It's intense concentration is unlike any other! Just the central part of this grand globular is over a hundred light years in diameter! At over 25,000 light years away from us, more than 30,000 distant suns send their light back in a very, very impressive way! Did you know that the first radio signal sent from Aricebo, seeking an exterrestrial intelligent response was aimed at the M13? (E.T. phone home...) A great ball of stars flanked by two much closer ones... The best in the sky! (except for perhaps omega centauri? ;)

The M92 is also nearby. It's entire form is about the size of the core of the M13 at 100 light years... but in the scope, it's perhaps only a fifth of the size of it's much grander companion, and much dimmer... What a difference another 10,000 light years in distance makes, huh?

Unfortunately, those stringy clouds persist around the edges of the horizon. Forget visiting with Saggitarius, or hunting up another comet... Zenith it is! Perhaps a couple of doubles this morning?

Alpha Hercules, my little red and green buddy! It's been some time since I've seen you! Ras Algethi isn't being the most cooperative at the moment... only during little pockets of stability does the green companion sheer away from the red giant to the east. It's alright, though... I like seeing them touch!

61 Cygni is much easier. It's double orange form leaves the stars cleanly seperated from each other to the southeast. It is interesting that this star is the first to have its' parallax measured. (you see? i really do study... ;) We "bulls" wobble... but we don't fall down! And 61 Cygni has been reputed to have a dark companion that may be a planet!

How sweet it is to see the summer stuff again while still in the grips of winter. The constellations of spring slowly turning down to the west means that time has moved on...

Take me with you.

"Freezing... Feeling... Breathe in. Breathe in!

I'm coming back again...."




February 24, 2002 - Comet Ikeya/Zhang, the Moon and Jupiter...

Comments: Hey... You know I had to go get that Comet again last night, don't you? I was very impressed by my first look, and I had to go look again! Last night the western horizon was less than forgiving and it took some time to find... but I/Z still cut right through that thin veil of clouds. We've got to be rockin' a magnitude 7 here! It was in the center of a triangle of decent stars... during moments of clarity, some finer ones also showed in the field, but not often enough that I could place an asterism on them. The worst part? I'm still seeing double on the tail... and I can't confirm it!! (this makes me quietly crazy, don't cha' know?). So I just sketched the darn thing... Perhaps one day someone will photograph it well, and I will get the confirmation I seek. If I'm right? Cool! If I'm not? So what? I'm just another voice in the dark, anyhow...


On now to the Moon... (and i darn well don't need confirmation to know Crater Shickard!) What a great display we have along the terminator tonight... from the Southern Highlands, Crater Shickard sits well into the light, with a spectacular back drop of mountain ranges climbing behind it. Further north, LaGrange (hehheehee.... anybody of there like ZZ Top?) and Piazzi (with hot peppers, please...) really fascinate me! Setting magnifcation down on it reveals sloping walls, singular peaks... and that fantasy look of crater rims suspended in space. Very beautiful.... It captures and holds my attention!

In the north, Pythagoras and Babbage look great tonight! Very well highlighted.... It's pretty cool, this difference between the north and south poles. All the features to the north are much softer, while the southern craters always seem so sharp and rugged... I wonder why it is so?

But I didn't wonder for very long... As soon as I got a glimpse of Jupiter and Europa coming out of transit, I was hooked. Sliding its' way out toward Callisto, the slow, yet very fast, motion of this galiean quite kept me occupied! I kept dividing my attention towards chasing it with the 10mm and the camera, to the surface detail which would pop up each time I would readjust. Waiting on that shadow.... Pleased to see the north temperate belt... And running out of film!!! Sacrafice time? Nah... The camera doesn't do that great on Jupiter anyhow.

How about if we just stand here and watch?

"Candles raise my desire. Why are my thoughts so far away? No more meaning to my life... No more reason to stay."


February 23, 2002 - Comet Ikeya/Zhang, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon... Dancin' With The Dob....

Comments: Ikeya/Zhang... The "new comet on the block"! I was pretty worried that it would be too low for me to catch, but a walk into the south field eliminates most obstructions. And in a matter of minutes I had it in the eyepiece... (i'm sorry! i just got lucky, ok?) Using the 4.5, there is only one decently bright star in the field of view... and the rest is Comet!

And what a great little fellow he is, too! Very bright nucleas, great "fan" that splits into tail pointing toward that one field star! I was thinking that this was going to be a dim one... and hard to find due to the skybright... but I was wrong! Comet I/Z has great form, and appears much like a miniature version of Hale-Bopp! I like it....

On to Saturn... not much has changed here in a night. The moons orbit very slowly around Saturn, with Titan dragging a bit behind and the inner ones cruising the lower half of the rings. So rather than concentrate on endless, mindless detail, I hop over to Jupiter to see the dance of the Galieans. Ganymede is hiding behind the planet tonight, while Callisto sits to one side. On the other, Io is moving toward us.... and Europa is leading the way! Each night you can see it move through this superior star field... and it makes the orbs of Jupiter's moons come alive. I reach for a bit of power to see some nice diagonal markings in the southern belt... and the north temperate becomes a clean line. Pretty place... but the Moon calls.

The entire Mare Humorum area is tonight's attention-getter. Not only is Gassendi well lit and spectacular in its' ancient seat at the edge, but the entire surrounding area is alive with detail. High rock walls, and tiny deep craters... Not far away sits the bright punctuation of crater Euclides. I know that not far from here is where Apollo 12 made it's landing... and it pleases me to see it again.

The moonlight is strong and powerful, casting my shadow upon the ground. H breezes back and forth, like a living nightmare come to call upon a certain cat. (funny that... i haven't seen him tonight! wonder why? ;)

Let's just cover up and call it a night...

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And I had a suprise visitor! (hey, aaron...) Seems I promised this gentleman a look through the big scope if he was ever in Ohio... and here he is! I'm game. Let's turn on some rock... and roll out the dob!

My astronomy friends will recognize the challenge I was faced with here... Too much moonlight! But there are things that are easily understood and achieved even so! Like the M42... always a great example of nebula. And the planets! Saturn was still rocking the house, and giving off that wonderful 3-D effect that dob brings out. Jupiter? Well, you can drive on this one. I've already been there and done that!

The Moon? OK... but don't say I didn't warn ya'! LOL! (laser retinal scan activated.... ;)

Let's do some comparison between the two scopes and a bit of a lesson on sky stuff... Like the Plieades and the Perseus Double. More, you say? I aim to please.... Let's try Cor Caroli, Mizar and Alcore, Castor, and Sigma Orionis! Oh, you like the colors, huh? The how about Betelguese and Rigel... and let's NOT forget we're being QUITE Sirius here!!

And a stop at the M41.... It's been a most pleasant evening, and I enjoyed the company. But, I need to go look at my hands now...

Because I want my dreams.

"I'm not the one who's so far away... When I feel the snake bite enter my veins. Never did I want to be here again. And I don't remember why I came...."


February 23, 2002 - Morning Walk...

Comments: I found myself incredibly tired last night... The clouds parted too late to search for Comet Ikeya/Zhang, and after I viewed Jupiter and the Moon I crashed hard. But, sometimes good things come when you least expect them. And when I woke around 4:00 a.m. is was to find black skies... and 6th magnitude stars...

Put on the coffee. I'm going out!

And this time I'm takin' the dob with me. No sooner than I have it uncovered than the Coma Berenices holds my attention. Like the Plieades before it earlier in the night, individual stars come forward. Shall we explore the galactic realm together? I have so missed this...

The edge-on perfection of the M98, with its' bulging central core. You quite take my fancy... Do you know that? I had hoped you would.

There are others. The M98 with great face-on spiral presentation, and soft sweeping arms. The grand form of the M100... the biggest in the bunch! With it's stellar nucleas and two very pronounced spiral arms. The big, round ball of light that is the M88 and it's tiny same field companion with the concentrated core, NGC4394.

Then on to the tilted form of the M88, and wait for the M91 to sail into view... with it's barred beauty! Want interaction? Then let's hop over to the M60, a huge elliptical haloing its' nucleas, and smaller, much fainter spiral NGC4647 with it's intense nucleas.

The classic barred-spiral formation of the M58 is next... but it's form is still not quite as beautiful as the one's we've seen in Fornax! But just a nudge to the southwest is the Siamese Twins, NGCs 4567/68. Oh, now... I like this! Attached... Twisting round one another... Conjoined... That "Field of Dreams" is just a hop away. Should I? I think I should stop thinking so much...

But you knew I couldn't resist, didn't you? Yeah, I went to the M84/M86 complex... I put that big, ol' clunky 32mm in... And stood right there on the ladder, drinking it in. Eyes watering a bit, (from the cold) and guiding the dob back over the field again and again. It really is something, you know?

Time to stop for a moment and wrap my hands around a mug of hot coffee. There is so much here to see this morning, and part of me wants it all... The stars of Corvus are very brilliant, and in perfect position. Do I explore? I know where to go... I found it last year. Perhaps I shall just let it wait awhile. Spring will be here soon enough, and maybe we can take this journey together.

(it would seem that i've acquired a new life form here in the backyard. tis' nothing more than a stray cat whom i fed and warmed last night.... but he's not left me yet. pretty beast. white, with an orange tail and patches on his head... and incredibly orange eyes. stood right up to H, he did!!! smacked him on the muzzle! and he best be very thankful that H minds me well... because he wanted to stomp him into the dirt. and right now? up a tree... with two grinning german shepards circling the base... asking "who's bad now, kat?" ;)

Now that my own paws are warm enough to change eyepieces, let's head over to the M13, ok? It's been a very long time since we've looked at it! And it has not lost any of its' splendor. The incredible amount of resolution the 12.5 pulls from the M13 at 17mm still rocks my world. Did you know this was the first deep sky object I saw in the dob? And the first in the observatory scope... Wow. What a cosmic coincidence! I never thought of that until now...

Let's go take on the "Ring"... (cuz' i owe somebody a donut!) I think some things you never forget how to find... and the M57 is one. The twisted braids that make up the structure are like fantasy this morning. The star fields bright and inticing....

Well, heck! Since I'm playing old favourites, why not the M27?! And once again, the dob steals nebular light and gives me back structure. So grand, it is. It still appears to undulate to me. I know the trick for what it is... but I never tire of it.

And as I look up at Altair, I still wonder.

Scopius has well cleared the horizon, and heading due south. Ready for the M4 and M80? Me, too! I love globular intensity... even when a bit faded as these two are. And those stars that tickle toward the horizon.... Shall we hop on to the M7 and M6? Beautiful brilliant opens.... And if I'm marathoning a bit? Forgive me...

For I see Saggitarius.

As I cross over the border into Ophiuchus, I take a moment to seek out the M62, M19 and M9. These, too, are old friends... and how I've missed them! They bring back such pleasant memories of summer...

And here I am. Alone at last with Saggitarius... Ah, now... And how much I've missed you! I couldn't just walk away and forget. The M8 is still just as beautiful as I remember. It's double handful of stars cradled by soft nebula... The M20 looking like the remnants of a small explosion... The "Nike Swoosh" of the M17, the resolution and powerful strength of the M22, or all the perfect pinpoint stars in the M23. So cold and distant, you are! You make me think of Walt Whitman...

"Just wander off by yourself.
And look up from time to time...
In perfect silence
At the stars...."

And I am very cold now. I think I shall go back indoors for a bit. Perhaps look up some information on where to find another wanderer. One I haven't seen for some time, but may be willing to still speak.

I did not linger long indoors! Having become accustomed to the cold, the heat of inside seems almost unbearable! And I have the information I need...

Once again, I am struck by the beauty of the night...

"It is nightfall; the clouds have vanished;
The sky is clear,
Pure and cold.
Silently I watch the River of Stars,
Turning in the Jade Vault...
Tonight I must enjoy life to the full,
For if I do not,
Next month, next year,
Who can know where I shall be?"

The directions are vague, but it is a hunt I know well... and I call upon the 4.5 to assist me. We've a comet to find, old friend! Are you up to the challenge? Then let's rock...

Twelve degrees off this point... and sweep. Nothing. Return to this point and sweep. Nothing. A bit higher and sweep. Nothing. A bit higher and sweep... Nothing! What is up, here? What am I doing wrong? Not relaxing... Relax and try again.

I was low. Much too low, and a bit too far east. But well before dawn claimed the view, I found it once again. Comet LINEAR WM1 has returned...

And I watched until the curtain of dawn began to claim the view... Mercury just barely clearing the distant tree tops. It has been a delightful morning walk...

And now I am tired once again.

"Now my curtain has been drawn... And my heart must go where my heart does belong...

I'm coming home."


To the warm and welcome shadows...

February 22, 2002 - The Moon and Jupiter...

Comments: OK, OK! So, I was fascinated... I'll admit it! ("i'm a loser, baby... so why don't you kill me?") I couldn't do much more than stand there in open-mouthed wonder as I watch Jupiter slowly slide past the southern tip of the Moon. It was outstanding un-aided... It was outstanding in the eyepiece! (hey, now... i was just out standing in the cold... and getting off on it! ;)

Unfiltered, and despite the glare of the nearby Moon, the galieans still dance off to one side adding incredible love interest to the scene. The equatorial belts stay crisp and clean... But, man oh man! Filter that baby down and put in the 25mm eyepiece and you've got a great show going on here! It's mighty hard to pay attention to all the great detail in crater Scheiner when Jupiter keeps winking at you from the edge of the field of view!!!

But, study the Moon I did. Longomontanus, Phocylides. Wilhelm, Clavius and Mee... Ah, those Highlands! Eternally fascinating... (and yes, in review of the film i took last night, only the leading edge of Gassendi shows... what a difference a few hours can make!)

But where did I end up? As far away from the distraction of Jupiter as I could put myself!! And my favourite area of the Moon...

Yeah, you probably knew this was coming, didn't you? I still find the Sinus Iridum the most beautiful place on the Moon. Perhaps I'm getting old...perhaps a bit too predictable. Perhaps I don't care! When I see that beautiful circlet of the Jura Mountains... highlighted by the Promontorium LaPlace at one end, and the Promontorium Heraclides at the other... I stop. I want to gaze in fascination at the smooth, grey sands punctuated by La Verrier and Helicon. I want to dream over Bianchini...

To me, this is beauty. Simple. Peaceful. Perfect.
The ever-changing face of Selene is my companion in the night. And Jupiter? Ah, he's just along for the ride.... ;)

"Change has been... And change will be. Time will tell... And time will ease."


February 20, 2002 - The Moon occults Saturn...

Comments: I paced the floor... I watched the rain drops chase each other down the window... I watched the sattelite images... I seriously considered finding a cat... ;)

But change did come... and change was here. Approximately 15 minutes before the Moon was scheduled to occult Saturn, the clouds began to break up...

And I was out there.

They never stayed away completely. Nor was I ever given a true, clear hole to look through... But I'm not a picky person. (ha!) I love sky events... and yes, that love faded out and reappeared many times over that fifteen minutes. And I did my very best to capture it!

Care to join me?

I found it very exciting... despite the clouds! Talk about a cosmic tease.... the moment the rings began to edge behind the dark side of the Moon, POOF! The clouds put a complete and total end to the story.

I'm really getting quite used to it, now. No amount of looking up and thinking will bring it back... But for that fifteen minutes in my life?

I was happy.

"Now my water has turned to wine... And these thoughts I have? Well, I now can claim as mine...

I'm coming home."


With my head in the clouds... And the stars in my eyes, baby!

February 18, 2002 - The Sun... Mars, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, M35, M36, M37, M38, and the Perseus Double Cluster...

Comments: Well! I was quite in for another surprise when looking at the sun today! Seems a new spot has taken the place of the old... and it's name is 9830.


SOHO photo


The new grouping is most impressive. (i like the ones that span a large area with lots of umbral and penumbral regions!) All the different variences mean that it's going to be volatile, and it is most definately up for some M and X class activity!

The last hot spot, 9825, is getting ready to round the bend, and had changed considerably since last I viewed it. (seems the regions merged together!) It displayed the Wilson effect most clearly. At the southern pole, some indications of activity... shows cleanly through the scope, too!

(and oh my... you should see the backyard in the daylight! have mercy! it looks as if cattle have stampeded through it.... yep. an 85 lb. cow named "H"... ripping up turf! his prints in the mud look like a grey wolf has been wandering round!)

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What an incredible picture the ecliptic plane painted last night.... (if i could take a picture... this would be the one!) Mars to the west, the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter... All nearly equodistantly apart! Shall we go explore?

Mars is still a flat disc to the 4.5. Gone is all that fantasy detail the summer held. Does it matter to me? No! I'd love to say I walked upon the surface, admiring it's dark regions and polar caps... But I found it beautiful in its' simplicity.

The Moon came next.... And there I froze. Wow! Where do I start? The double punctures of Aristoteles and Eudoxus? The shallow forms of Theophilus and Cyrillus? How about the little hole Arago? Holy Moonbeam! They're all beautiful...

But... the Apollo sites are what captivated me. As always, I tend to reflect a bit on history... (seems i have a tough time giving up what's past, huh?) And the area sits perfect to just let the mind and heart wander about freely. The areas for both Apollo 11 and 16 are well highlighted, and captured my imagination and attention for a very long time.

When at last I could tear myself away, I moved on to Saturn. What a clear view tonight! Titan has moved from leading the way, to almost following behind now. The inner moons dancing brilliantly, and well spaced all along the ring system. I did drop enough magnification on it to bring the Cassini out along the ring edges... But tonight I'm in this a bit more for relaxation than study!

On to Jupiter... and still we have "guest stars"! The galieans were quite themselves, I assure you. Two to a side, and coming right for us! The field that Jupiter resides in at the moment is quite rich, and several of the stars in the eyepiece are bright enough to masquerade themselves as moons! Taken as a flat field, it would have looked much like a reclining "L" in appearance, but I still can't unsee dimension!

And as I stand here wondering just how many Messiers I could capture with the 4.5 in six minutes... (uh, let's see... eight? ;) I hear the owl. I had heard him the other night in a tree not far away, and how happy I am he has returned to the backyard! I can see H freeze in the moonlight... his every body line signaling "alert!". As the owl trills from the top of the giant pine, I see the fur on his shoulders rise... the only thing that moves is his ears! Best not take this one on, my black companion... I remember a certain Cat who came out a bit worse for the wear!

Since the scope is basically in the neighborhood of the M35, might as well go have a look, eh? Time to get there? Fifteen seconds... Time to admire it? I have no idea! You know I do this for pure pleasure... and the M35 gives it to me. At first glance, this Messier would probably seem a bit sparse and boring... but take your time with it. Because "first looks" aren't everything! As you relax, more and more stars fade into view. For the most part, it is comprised of small, hot blue stars, with some of the larger ones being yellow, or orange in appearance. The dob takes them all out at once... But the 4.5 likes to tease! (can i have it both ways?! ;)

After a bit, it's time to hop to Auriga for the M36, M37 and M38. I understand why Messier "ferreted" these out! Even with the Moon dominating the scence, I can "see" exactly where they are. And these open clusters all bear similarities to one another... and the M35. Of course, they vary in intensity... and number of stars... and basic shape. But like each other, they have their bright stars and dim. And they are so very beautiful...

I took a shot after that at some doubles I had been working on, and was very pleased to see the touching ones pull apart ever so slightly tonight. (omicron remains the same... at perfect focus, it's a snap.)

I stood for awhile, listening to "Collective Soul" through the headphones... looking up and regarding Algol shining in the tree branches. How quickly you have seemed to move on, and change my friend. It's your way. Variable... I can appreciate that. I watch you always... The "Demon" took my heart long ago, and I don't wish it back.

Let's have a look at the splendid double cluster, shall we?

"Change has come... and change is here. Love fades out... and love appears."


February 17, 2002 - M42, M41, M47, M46, M93, M44, M67, Iota Cancri, Cor Caroli and the M51...

Comments: Stealing a bit of sky again, tonight. There is just something I like about getting up to a clear sky... and heading out with a mug of hot coffee and the 4.5 to explore awhile before work.

And yes, these targets are easy. I know them so very well, yet I never tire of their company. Orion is high in the west at this hour, his form beautiful etched in winter bright stars. How lovely to be able to "see" the M42 with just my own eyes! And even more fun with the scope... ;)

Sirius! So bright... and just a tip down to view that splendid open cluster, the M41. Puppis has perfect sky position right now... but before I go running off to those opens, I take a moment to hunt for a particular NGC with the little scope. It gave me quite a run about! Either I'm not all together, Mr. Wizard... or the little one can't catch it! (thus an idea is born...)

Now, on to Puppis to view the wide open M47... Have a smile to myself at how many times I have seen the bright "star" in the M46... but you taught me something new, eh? ;) And take in the profusion that is the M93.

Time to hop off to the M44... just because. And the M67 to enjoy it's tiny pinpoints. Want to try a double tonight? OK... let's see. Map says Iota-1 Cancri. Beauty! Yellow primary, with a blue secondary cleanly breaking away to the northwest. And how about Cor Caroli? Mainly because it a star hop marker... but I like its' blue primary and orangish secondary. Just a "satisfyingly easy" double...

And why I've come here is the M51...

I am trying my best to get you to understand me. If the difference in aperature is seperated by one and a half inches... it might as well be miles. In the 4.5, the M51 is nothing more than a galactic core surrounded by a nebula-like haze... the only "structure" that can be made out is the density of companion NGC5195. If you compare a 6 to a 10... you're stupified, right? There is more structure than you've even dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio. Now... walk another two and a half inches on to that... and tell me. What do you see? What is easy for 6, is a bit harder for 4.5. And what 10 sees doesn't hold a candle to 12.5... And what I see?

Doesn't really matter, does it?

"And I still haven't found what I'm looking for...

And I still haven't found what I'm looking for."


Or have I?

February 16, 2002 - M81 and M82, M65 and M66, Porrima, Algeiba, Struve 1702 and Cor Caroli....

Comments: Well, now! Guess who got to steal a bit of sky before going into work tonight? :)

Let's stick with the 4.5... because it's cold out here! First off, M81 and M82. I still have a thing about these galaxies. I guess I just like the way they show up in the eyepiece... or something! Just make me feel good.

Another such pair is the M65 and M66. They remind me of each other. The same, and yet different! Not even close in appearance, or brightness... Just something about them.

Then I decided to have a whack at some doubles. Porrima for starters. In 1836, even the best telescopes of the day couldn't split this pair... and guess what? The 4.5 ain't doin' so hot at it either! What I "see" looks like a yellow touching pair oriented basically east to west. Either the sky isn't cooperating... Or this pair is VERY close!

Next? Algeiba. Yow! Again... A touching pair. When I catch a moment of steadiness... I can make out that I have a yellow and an orange in my sights... and they run northwest to southeast. The orangish one looks as if it's probably a magnitude or so less... Tough when the sky won't sit still!

Care to try another? Struve 1702 cooperates. A tiny white double that seperates cleanly on the east/west frontier.

And Cor Caroli? Always easy... and always beautiful. With the possible exception of Albeiro, this is one of my favorites.

And it's windy...

"You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains. I bear the burden... Of my shame. Of my shame...

Oh, you know I believed you..."


February 15, 2001 - The Moon, Saturn and Jupiter...

Comments: Chasing between the clouds tonight. Clear after sunset... Put out the scope... Get clouds. Familiar?

No matter. I left the 4.5 set up and set on the steps and practiced Staind's "Epiphany". Apparently the Moon at least approved! So, off we go...

Tonight's fascination crater? Furnerius... Just walked right out of the eyepiece and smacked me! Fantastic central peak... perhaps peaks? Interior ridges... Just splendid!

Mare Crisum presented itself very well tonight, too. Pierce and Pickard rocked right out in the film. Crater Lick has some nice deep-well shadows it's offering...

Saturn didn't look too bad either... When it held still!! Titan has now rounded the bend...

Jupiter? Still making me laugh with all the extra stars posing as moons! Europa seems to be hiding tonight... There's Io and Ganymede, and Callisto is awfully close on the outside track... my bet is that it will probably transit some time tonight. I wish I could stay to watch!

But those clouds keep moving...

How about just dreaming tonight?

"I believe in the kingdom come... Where all the colors bleed into one. Bleed into one.

Well, I'm still runnin'..."


February 14, 2002 - The Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, some studies, M42, M43, M41, M44, M67, M81, M82 and the M50....

Comments: Started the day off looking for Mercury this morning. There was a nice, clean skyline to the east, and I know it should be there! I looked, but still didn't see it. (What I DID see was Scorpius up in full force, the gentle trail of Ophiuchus coming well up over the horizon... Lyra gaining sky position, and Cygnus coming up in the east like the Phoenix rising from the ashes! Too cool... That's means winter is just about over!)

Clear sky means that I got to spend some time with the Sun... and was I in for a surprise! First glance in the eyepiece left me amazed...

SOHO photo


A massive sunspot group with a very interesting character named 9825 dominated the scene!

A bit of power was all it took to get a look at the heart of this one. Almost as if one of them keeps trying to run away, but the other reaches out and drags it back. Splendid display of magnetism... Apparently this pair are up for some X class activity, and possibly M class flares! Outstanding... Now all it needs is a couple of coronal mass ejections, eh? ;)

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And the night felt much warmer...

Started off watching the ISS (yes, again!), and some quiet time with that slender crescent Moon. I knew before I even looked that Cleomides, Geminus, Burhardt and Masala would be the features. But it didn't matter. What matters is just being out here...

And after the Moon ducked down, it was time to take on the planets. Saturn's moons have made very little change, and when the view held steady? Well, I knew I had to practice with the camera and try some filters...

Jupiter gave me a great laugh! The starfield is what made this tonight... Between the galieans and the surrounding stars, it looked like a great T in the eyepiece! Cosmic jokes... I love it. Once again, when things steadied out, a terrific view of the north temperate belt... and I keep trying! (blast it all anyhow! how's come i can see it so beautifully in the eyepiece, but cannot get the camera to focus on it?) Ah, well... Sometimes you get the bear... Sometimes the bear gets you!

Now, back to Columba...

On with the headphones, in with the "Tantric" CD... and off to explore! (that little globular is mighty low... i'll be interested to see if the sky position accounts for it, or if it's just a dim one.) Ah... the music is fine! ("Is there something that's you're tryin' to say?") And still I require the maps... But hey! "I can take it."

So, after some time spent in study... I was ready to just relax. Let the 4.5 do the work now. Hop off to Orion and visit with the M43 and M42 for a bit.... The nebulae are much brighter, but lack structure in the small scope. Still... it pleases me. As does viewing the M41 as other might see it...

Maybe a hop over to the M44 and M67 for a bit? (oh, you'd like this music... very smooth, excellent accoustic guitar...) Just to relax, mind you.

And how about the M81 and M82? ("You there, alone in the dark... Shadows sinking into you...") I appreciate the 4.5 on this pair, because it keeps them in the same field. Together...

I see Algol twinkling through the bare branches of the maple tree. Crazy demon... Suppose I should head toward the east field and check out Perseus? Nah... Even I'm beginning the cold.

So let's go check out the M50 for a while before we call it in..

Just because...


"I have spoken with the tounge of angels. I have held the hand of a devil. It was warm in the night. I was as cold as stone....

And I still haven't found what I'm looking for..."


February 13, 2002 - The ISS, the Moon, Mars... Taking requests, Saturn, Jupiter... Exploring the South, M46, NGC2438, NGC2440... NGC3653, NGC3681, NGC3684, NGC3686, NGC3691...

Comments: Started the evening off by heading out to catch the fly-by of the ISS. It's something I hadn't done in awhile, and I still find it pleasing. Knowing it is indeed the Space Station, where it's going to appear, when it will be seen is fun! I just kinda' like watching it grow in magnitude as it reflects the setting Sun's rays... and its' steady course and speed. Yeah. I'm weird. Ask me if I care? ;)

Also present just after sunset is a heartbreakingly slim crescent Moon. Details are hard to come by at this phase, but visually... just that great "earthshine" is enough to reflect upon!

Mars? Toast. It's been a lot of fun to watch it swap positions in the sky, but all that remains now is a red disc in the scope. But it is pretty cool knowing that it's hung around this long! My guess is that we've been able to see it in either the morning or evening skies for pretty close to a year now. Not bad, huh?

So I went in to warm up for a bit, and do some map work. (guess what? tirion doesn't list that particular ngc on his maps!) When I returned it was to excellent sky dark, (a steady 6) and I was off on a hunt. Double star first, thanks. This one will set the fastest, so off we go! This particular one is in excellent position at this time and the 4.5 at 25mm takes it out just fine...

Now for a walk out into the field, (because Sirius hasn't gained high position at this time) to hunt down an NGC I've never seen. And I am very, very impressed to see the stars of Columba!! (and yeah, i had to look that up on the map, too! i like this "new dark field" stuff... perhaps i'd do well to sabatoge that light before it even has a chance to be turned on again!). I found it, amigo. Now let's see if I can find it two more times! ;)

Let's hop off to the planets now, before it gets too cold to turn set screws or change eyepieces, ok? Saturn rocks tonight! Even the 4.5 is swallowing the moons... Their positions have barely changed since I saw it last, but it is very clear that they are gathering around the one ring edge where Titan walks. Setting the dob on it is to reveal the Cassini very wide at the ring edges, nice wedge of shadow behind the planet... and tonight? Limb darkening! I like it!


Now for Jupiter... Well, hello! What a starfield! All four galieans present and accounted for, and much to far away to be presenting any shadow transits, but the killer is all the stars in the field make Jupiter look as if it has many more moons than four! (well, i know it does, but not that we can see, eh?) Let's kick the power down, put in blue filter and see what comes up. The north temperate belt is what. Very nice, crisp dark line. I am not certain of the terminology, but equatorial zone and south equatorial zone show some diagonal lines... and the south temperate zone looks like it has a bunch of soft "skid marks" on it.

Now let's go warm up! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

So, now we've let that stranger Columba get as high as it's going to. Grab the maps, and let's walk! (you know, i hate working with red light. it might make re-adjustment time quicker, but it kills my sense of color!) A little bump here, a sweep there... Yep. There's a couple of things here you might find interesting... a small galaxy or two, a tiny globular. I look forward to exploring more!

Now... I want to see something I've overlooked because I prefer lower magnifications. M46... gotcha'. So when Mr. Messier found this bad boy in 1771, he thought those faint stars were nebulosity, huh? And you say there's a planetary here, right? Then let's have a look-see. LOL! You are not only right.... you are VERY right! At the northern frontier IS a planetary nebula!! Fuzzy looking little beastie... It's degination is 2438... Shame on me for always staying at low magnification on opens.... Seems I've been missing something, huh?! ;)

Since we're feeling positively planetary, baby... Let's just drop the scope on down and pick off the NGC2440! Not exactly a perfect circle, is it? And thank the stars my sense of color has returned, because this one sings the "blues"!

Now, let's go sit beside the fire in the dark for a bit... (hey... 20 degrees takes a bite out of my hands, ok?) And let Leo gain position...

Taking a pass on recent studies, some map time means heading toward a nice grouping in Leo. These small, intristically faint little galaxies reside about in the center of the triangle made between Zosma, Chort and Denebola. (and i'll be darned if i didn't walk across more of them when i was there!) Let's just stick with the ones I know for now, and try to pick them apart.

NGC3653 appears elliptical to me. Just another little evenly lighted furball in the hindquarters of the Lion. No sense of fading frontiers at 300X... nothing. But NGC3681 delivers a bit more! It's faint, it's small... but it's darn near edge-on! This one is very soft....

Now how about a couple of same field spirals? Sheesh! Again, faint stuff. NGC3684 shows nothing more than a nucleas with galaxy fur surrounding it. NGC3686 is also a spiral, and it's nucleas seems twisted upon aversion. At least if I can't rock out much structure, it is in a nice field!

Last on the Leo "hit list"... NGC3691. Ouch! Also very small and faint, this one almost looks like a barred-spiral to me. No wonder I haven't tried to tackle these very often! They're tough, baby... Tough!

I stood for some time with my hands warming in my pockets... just looking up, trying not to think. Lots of sky out there. The winter stars are so brilliant it's hard not to just stop and admire the view. The cold almost burns and still I'd love to hop all night. But it's been a long day... The days ahead of me are going to be very demanding. I'll kiss the face of the sky some other time, eh?

Because it is so very cold....

"And if I kissed those lips... Would there be healing in your fingertips? Oh, it burns like fire. This burning desire...."


February 12, 2002 - Jupiter, Saturn, and Walking Into the "Trap"...

Comments: Hey, that crazy unpredictable Ohio sky! One hour you might look outside and it is totally cloudy... the next? Totally clear! And if I see stars?

I am gone.

Last night I was filled with questions. There were things that I had purposefully left undone. I wanted answers... not could be, or maybe. I needed to find my own answers.

And I knew the dob would give them to me.

I pulled it out and uncovered it, knowing that it would need to stabilize for a bit. The 9mm and the barlow are out, too. Open and cooling... It is a decent 5 kinda' night... and what I'm going to do requires that view be steady. While I'm waiting, might as well open up the 4.5 and look in on the neighbors, eh? Why not?


Europa and Io made a pleasant team... If I could "see" the field as flat, I would have said they were side by side... but they're not. Just tracking round the planet, and heading our way... as is Ganymede and Callisto. All on the same side, and incredibly dimensional. Jupiter itself looks excellent, and I thought perhaps to power up... But I really don't want to warm the other eyepieces by handling them.

Saturn was quite fine, too. Even at lesser magnification, the Cassini is distinct at the ring edges and the backshadow dark. Very yellowish tonight... Walking on the "edge" is at least one of the smaller moons, with Titan just ahead of it. There were moments of clarity, and it appears that some of the other moons are congregating toward that edge with the others.

Very well. I've procrastinated long enough. It's time to walk into the "Trap"...

Those who know me, also know that I have seen into this area with a bit of an unfair advantage. I have my reasons behind it. And if you know me, you know that 99% of the time, I observe alone. There is no one to call to the eyepiece and say... "Look at this! Tell me what you see...". I wanted time at the observatory, because I wanted confirmation. Beyond a shadow of a doubt type of stuff... And tonight I want what the dob can do.

As soon as I had it centered... I knew. Those scallops are there in the dob, not as pronounced, but most definately there. And those stars I seek are there, too. There is no other star close to H. The pentagon remains...

The "Trapezium" is there... Oh, my. It is there. I asked for answers, and I have found them. Yes. The 12.5 will do it. It is enough for me.

But is it? The observatory scope pulled far more stars out of this area than the dob does. Eight? Are you kidding?! There's more than that! No matter how patient I was, those tiny stars that I have seen with my own eyes did not appear in the area... and now I have MORE questions!! What in heavens name is the magnitude of the others I have seen?!!!!

Stop it, T. Let somethings remain a beautiful mystery in your life...

And so after having spent perhaps an hour looking into the heart of the M42, I went starhopping... Put Sirius in the 32mm and explore...

There is so much more out there than just a handful of stars...

"And I still haven't found what I'm looking for..."


February 11, 2002 - Jupiter, Saturn, Wasat, Mekubda, Tegmeni, Acubens, Rigel, 20 Tau Orionis, Mintaka, Alnitak, Theta Auriga, M36, M37, M38, Struve 698, 45 Espilon Persei...

Comments: Not the greatest of nights... I'd rate it close to a five because I can hold the star below Mintaka with concentration. So what do we do, eh? I have to be out here, you know that. This is the only place where I still allow thoughts and feelings to mix...

And I've never quit looking up and thinking.

So let's look up Saturn, ok? Odd, when the sky is like this. I can barely make out that Titan leads the way tonight, and at least two others dance off toward the pole side of the rings... yet the Cassini holds steady?! But only the Cassini... No brighter ring. No crepe tonight... Only the deep wedge of shadow that Saturn casts back on its' own rings.

Jupiter again, presents a mystery. Funny that I can make out the temperate zones... but no definitions in the equatorial belts. Nevertheless, the galieans are always a treat. Europa sits to the side, just a bit behind the planet. Io walks to the other side, so very close to transit. (oh, "Io"... how well i remember you! you were my teacher, charlie. and i miss you...) Ganymede and Callisto come toward us, completing the circle of the dance.

It's cold tonight. The wind sighs lonely through the branches of the great pine. I miss the owl, too. But, I have the stars...

A hop to Wasat, to enjoy this bright yellow star and to the south/southwest its' disparate red companion. Mekbuda in yellow with it's companion to the east. Tegmeni is much different... For the two yellowish companions seem to match one another in size and magnitude... still standing apart in the east and west. Perhaps one more before leaving? Acubens.... Also very disparate, but its' companion at the northeast is far gone.

Hey, Orion. There you are. Show me something, will you? Like your great star, Rigel and it's tiny southwest blue companion? Or 20 Tau Orionis? With it's blue primary, and its' southwest far away fainter secondary... Just like Mintaka... opposite
in position and still far away. But not Alnitak. It holds its' almost southern secondary close to its' bright influence. Or shall I just stare into Betelguese... Did you know this star is the only one besides our own Sun that astronomers have ever seen features in?

I don't know what it is tonight, but somehow I feel like I've lost something. Perhaps it's just missing... (H?) Nah. He's here, galloping back and forth... trekking up the fresh snowfall. Just a touch of melancholy... It will pass.

Perhaps a bit of time in Auriga will cure it? Theta's silicone beauty and companion star are very touching. I like the "silveresque" spectra to this star. It is as cold as metal. Maybe the M36, M37 and M38? Hey, hey... I do like looking at open clusters. The M36 in blue/white profusion of doubles... The M37 very rich in stars, its' trapezoid figure cut through by a chain of fainter members... and the cruciform structure M38. These open clusters date back to the 17th century... So very old...

Come. Let's think of new things. How about Struve 698? Not but a bump southwest of M38, is where you find it, and oddly enough for Struve doubles... it's red! Another perhaps? 45 Epsilon Persei... And I have to wait for this one to become apparent. A great blue/white primary... and during a moment of stability, the green looking companion of the north just barely breaks away.

And here I stand. The sky still spread before me. The night, young and dark. Shall I journey to the M81 and M82? Perhaps work my way through Leo for a bit? Or maybe I should just go back to Orion, and get lost, huh?

Then a meteor flashes it's way from southeast heading northwest.... Its' train is long and twisting, lingering on for seconds in the sky. And I stand smiling at Algol...

Because I still feel.

"I have run... I have crawled. I have scaled these city walls... Only to be with you. Only to be with you..."


February 9, 2002 - The Sun... At the Observatory...

Comments: How dull the Sun seems right now! After having become accustomed to seeing so many rockin' sunspot groups, to be reduced to four makes it appear almost blank! (i'm getting a bit spoiled, arent i? ;)

True, the spots that show themselves now are giants, no doubt. But I sure miss those wildly violent ones!

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

At last, the evening has arrived... After a most pleasant dinner spent with the RCAS meeting, (hey! these guys speak my language! i could listen to them talk all night!) But, I'm getting a bit antsy. How I've longed to spend time with that magnificent 31" mirror at Rupp Observatory! And now I have a chance, again...

Race ya' there...

First up? Jupiter! And what a view!! When the atmosphere held steady, the temperate zones and polar regions became so definite, that it was a pleasure to behold. The equatorial belts crisp, clean and well-defined... and details! Gosh, I love it so! The galieans themselves appearing as tiny "planets"... caught forever in their orbit around the gas giant. Fantastic!

Dan asked me if I wanted to have my questions answered about the "Trapezium"... and I am ready now. You know that I have shunned hunting down this area with the dob. Why? Because I wanted a real, "live" person to be there with me...

And I can think of none finer than Mr. Everly.

At 51mm, resolution on the "Trap" begins. Vague hints of what lies within. There is no M42 here. Only the "Trapezium" with it's dark intruding cone. As with the 12.5, six come forward into easy view... But you can "feel" there is more. Much more...

At 32mm... all questions are answered. They are here. Those fabled members locked in long ago star birth... They have color. Did you know that? Some of the fainter members are quite red... dancing with the hot, blue primary stars. Did you know the region is encased in a nebulosity of its' own? How it made me smile to see this "strange" nebula! It is scallops... Repeated over and over again. The dob has never revealed this structure to me, and it is like a present! A fantasy come true...

But the best is yet to come.

I honestly tried to film it. The observatory scope rocks these stars out so brightly, the camera should have had no trouble picking them up. The problem is me. I have not learned how to mate the 1.25" camera lens to the 2" eyepiece. Inwardly, I cursed myself for not having brought the sketchbook with me. But I did not linger on those thoughts for long.

I began memorizing the starfield.

Burning it into my braincells. Making a mental image that I simply cannot forget! Then it happened. Like a Wizard waved his magic wand across the eyepiece, the view shimmered ever so slightly... There, revealed before me, tiny stars embedded within the "Trapezium's" nebulosity that I had never dreamed of.

(Please keep in mind this sketch was made from memory... I just wish so much I could have handed the view to YOU!)

I honestly don't remember whether I laughed, or cried out loud... But it was enough to make Dan look at me and smile saying... "You got a moment of clarity... Didn't you?"

If I saw nothing else this night, it would have been all right. For I can still close my eyes and see this place with all the beauty and intensity that only a "touched" moment can possess.

And I hope I have given it to you...

From there it was a leisurely stroll through the body of the M42... To touch on this star and that.. A walk to the M43, to enjoy its' "seperateness" when taken apart from the Great Orion Nebula. Time to have a laugh at the "Fishmouth" that appears so huge in this magnificent telescope!

On now to Alnitak. And I quite suppose you know where we're heading here, don't you? Damn Skippy... "The Horsehead"! My turn to drive? Oh, you got it! I know this place! Once again, this behemoth scope buries the 12.5. Where I make out the thinnest, most etheral ribbon of nebulosity on a great night, this one rocks out a broad band held direct... even with the skies going bad on us! Frandamtastic!!

And, yes. Those clouds were coming to steal the show. They were coming on fast....

The dome trundled round toward Taurus, and we were off to find the M1. Could we see that neutron star pulsing at its' heart? The vast, endless starfields of this area made for very exciting moments at the eyepiece, while Dan aims with the telrad just inches away. Racing against the clouds is a sport best left to the smaller scope, because this one requires just a wee bit more than a nudge with the knee to move!

So down to the ground we went, to step outside the dome and assess the situation. Both of us would have chased all night. We know that about each other. And both of us know those moving clouds spell "The End"...

Nah. It's just beginning... I'll be back.

"I have climbed the highest mountain... I have run through the fields... Only to be with you. Only to be with you..."


February 8, 2002 - Saturn, Jupiter, M46, M47, NGC2423, NGC2421, M93, NGC2482, NGC2467, NGC2489, NGC2567, NGC2309, and the M50...

Comments: Into every observer's life, I guess a little relaxation must fall. Although the skies were quite clear after sunset, and the stars called... Right now I'm not listening.

So, I spent the first part of the evening in a dark room, blowing the suds off frosty mug and smiling at anyone who cared to take on a challenge! Billiards is a game of geometry and physics, with a bit of hand/eye coordination thrown in for good measure. And you know what? Some nights theAstronomer just can't miss... ;)

The drive home was quite pleasant. (i assure you that i indulge very responsibly and comply by the rules.) The area in which I live is very sparsely populated and there are vast stretches of farm ground over which the constellations preside in the beauty of the night. What a pleasure to stop the car on a lonely stretch of road just to take in the vista! By the time I made it back, I knew I could not just spend the rest of the night indoors!!

Saturn sang a siren song, and I listened for a bit. Appreciating the fact that you urged me to clean it up! Without the "flare" the dance of the moons are much easier to spot! Tonight the inner ones led the way across the sky, with Titan dragging behind. At 9.7mm, the Cassini was exceptionally clean at the outer edges and I picked up on surface brightenings. It puzzles me a bit. Do I see this because of the natural limb darkening? Or is it indeed a fact?

Jupiter came next, and what a fantasy field of stars in which it resides! The galieans teamed up on either side, and the sense of depth perception is so hard to look beyond to see surface features! Shall I magnify more than the 90X I'm using? No. I think I'll save this honor in hopes that tomorrow will bring me clear skies and time on the hill.

So, out to the south field with the dob... And on to Puppis!

The 5.0 - 5.5 skies had held, and the M46 was easy pickins'. Such a wonderful, concentrated cloud of stars with a bright one inset along the southern frontier. A virtual cloud, singing its' stellar "blues" from 5,000 light years away!

Shall we journey to Mr. Messier's Mistake? I love the clever story behind this one. Seems Sir Charles instructions for finding this cluster takes you to a part of the sky where nonesuch exists! But I have no trouble finding the M47. It is crisp, and well resolved. The brighter members stand away from the crowd, but the dob reveals those faint stars that give it great contrast. And it shows a very intriguing double in the center!

Traveling on to the rich field of stars where the NGC2432 resides, I find this vague cluster as a series of tight doubles and chains. It's only clue to it's NGC designation is a handful of brighter stars. Much like the NGC2421... with its' brighter companions seeming to form an asterism that looks much like a backward letter 2.

But, in the eyepiece the M93 explodes! Here are your bright stars! This open cluster has great texture... very complex. The tight series of doubles that fill this area make for a very splendid open! It speaks very loudly and proudly... Yet in the same constellation lies the NGC2482, a very gentle, soft-spoken type of cluster. It reminds me of the willow tree...

When we find the NGC2467, it's time to stay awhile. This is a very peaceful, beautiful open cluster. Gentle nebulosity folds itself around the brighter members of the stellar gathering, and even the dob cannot resolve all the grainy structure. It is a restful sort of open cluster...

Two more? The let's journey onward to the NGC2489. It is not spectacular, just a gathering of loops, chains and tight doubles. The NGC2567 is much more interesting! It's bright members throwing a zig-zag of photons back to the eye!

And so I stopped to listen to the music for awhile, and send my regards to the night. Ranger holds court from his blanket on the deck, and when H sees that I've stopped for awhile, he discontinues his noctural ramblings and wants to play! The great, black beast is learning to be gentle in his enthusiasm (a very appreciated effort... ;) and "Tag" in the dark takes precedence over the stars. I even up the odds a bit by pulling up my hood... if you want to play "black" in the shadows... then by all means... let's play. >;-} When he gallops away, I hide and scare him on his pass back. Then when I run, he gallops back and leaps at me to "tag" me gently on the shoulders. I'm glad he's learning... Because he used to knock me down!!

When I'm done engaging in frivolous behavior... (try it sometime... a bit of laughter and play won't harm you... trust me. ;) It's time to give the "Rosette Nebula" a shot. And I don't like what I see. Far too faded tonight, only the cluster itself has definition. I' m cool with that. Clusters it is then! And the NGC2309 is a very compact one, set on the edge of a great looping oval of stars....

Then I found the M50...

Oh my. How many times have I sold this open cluster short? No more... Please go and look at it. Its' myriad colors are a delight to the eye! There are so many red doubles and tight blue triples... and everywhere... STARS! It is a fitting end to the night for me. Although there are many more places to which I could travel, I stay here.

It has captivated me...

"Still the window burns... Time so slowly turns... Some one there is sighing. Keepers of the flame... Do you hear your name? Can't you see that I am cryin'?

Momma they try to break me. Momma they try to break me... Still they try and break me..."


February 7, 2002 - The Eridanus/Fornax Cluster, M79, NGC1964, Hind's Crimson Star, M42, NGC869 and NGC884, M44, M67, M94, M3, M63, M106, M98, M99, M100, The "Field", and the M104...

Comments: Another fine, cold night! All day the skies had been cloudless... Offering up that purple/blue look at the zenith that makes one anxious for dark to arrive. As the Sun set, the "glow" stayed low and that is a very good thing indeed. By 7:30 or so, I was able to hold magnitude 5 to 5.5 stars direct, so it was time to go. Uncover the dob and let's rock!

And directly to the Eridanus/Fornax Cluster is where I went. The area fascinates me. I cannot help it. For so many years I dealt with a security light in the south field... and I missed so much. Oh, these "stars" were always there, and my then neighbors were always quite willing to turn off the light if I asked... But you know the way of things. Not wishing to be a "pest" I didn't ask often. Now? Now there is freedom...

At about 50X, the galaxies appear rather small... but the dob eats light. The stars are perfect tiny pinpoints, with each NGC a soft smear. As they move, I chase them. Willing my hand to put on paper what my eyes can see. I can never match this beauty. I cannot convey all the stars! Even my words fall far short.....

And so I watched as it began its' graceful arc westward and Lepus climbed high into view. I turned the light this time upon my map instead, to find globular cluster, M79. It is rather small, and I chose to up the ante in magnification to about 90X. Let us push aside the 12.5's ability to gather light, and think about resolution. I am quite sure these two go hand-in-hand, but seeing is believing. The 4.5 sees the M79 as nothing more than a powdery looking ball of light at 90X (10mm), yet the 12.5 sees the same globular with a 17mm eyepiece resolving around the edges! You cannot help but love this big, ol' scope...

Again to the maps to find spiral galaxy, NGC1964, and into the case for just a wee bit more. The 9.7mm delivers just a bit less than 160X, but it is enough to pull out structure and make this galaxy a bit harder to follow! (try it sometime... do not use a "drive" on your telescope. and see how quickly your eyes learn to appreciate less magnification!)

So I take it back to less... for the 26mm delivers very pleasing views of the sky. And without the map I am able to remember R Leporis, Hind's "Crimson Star"... and enjoy its' deep red simplicity. I am reminded of another such "red" star in Cephus and I feel moved, eh? Enough to just stand here with my hands jammed down into my coat pockets, staring into Orion, and thinking nowhere thoughts. Listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers CD from long ago...

All of Orion is before me. Shall I seek out the "Horsehead"? Do I want the tiny triple nebulae tonight? Maybe hunt on my own for the "37"? No. I want what I once had and go to the M42 to try and find it. Spread out far more than the 26mm can encompass, I push the scope around the edges and drink it in. There is dimensional qualities in this nebula. Each rift and fold parting its' own way through the space it shares... Stars locked inside this fantasy cloud, peering at me from behind their veils of light. And how softly it bleeds away into the night! The notch where lies the Trapezium, the companion M43. Are there "Sleeping Gods" there? Do they still smile when they remember us? It's not important. For all it's beauty, the M42 is a cold place. A wall between us and evolving stars... Add a brick, baby. Because I'm cold, too.

Time to change the CD to Tantric, eh? I like the Walkman... because I can rock and roll as loud as I like and disturb no one. Let the music fill my head and the stars fill my eyes. I feel like wide open clusters now... filled with color and magnitude. Dense with photons... And NGC869 and NGC884 delivers. They're spinning away to the west, but still quite visible with the unaided eye. This is one worth the change in format, so I return to the 32mm. ("nothing can be lost if there's a new way, a new way, a new way... yeah.") Wow! Plain and simple. So many...
Compare? This eyepiece offers roughly the same magnification in the dob as the 25mm in the 4.5. But what you see, except for similiarities in the starfield itself, are like night and day. The little scope simply cannot rock out and hold those tiny stars like the big one. It cannot resolve that background graininess into pinpoints of light. But what it does is bring back the wonder of the first time I saw the "Double Cluster"! Now it's little mirror bears the scars of time. But you know what? The stars still shine through it. Right fine...

Compare again? Also unaided visually is the M44. Unlike the "Double Cluster" before it, the M44 is far looser in structure and richness. But it makes up for it in color! A very wide variety of magnitudes... In the 12.5 it is both simplistic and complex at the same time. The little scope resolves perhaps 2/3 the amount of members, and still presents a very pleasant look at the cluster. M67 is far different. In the 4.5 it appears as almost galaxy-like, and resolves into the hundred of pinpoints that it is in the 12.5.

(And I repeat myself... and I repeat my targets. I feel so... so... I don't know how I feel inside sometimes. But I know I am cold. Perhaps a break is in order. Cover it up and walk away from it... Just because I can. Fix myself some coffee and practice the guitar for awhile. Let the sky change...)

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

And change it did. For the weight of the day caught up with me, and I awoke in the chair dreaming of rain... OTTO! How loudly you must have called, for the guitar leaned against the arm of the recliner hit the carpet with a dischordant, unhappy sound in my run to the door! I need not have worried. For the sky had stayed... Only I had been away.

My cup had long gone cold, but the thermos still contained the hot nectar of the night. I've had enough of the useless sentimentality, let the radio call the tunes and let's galaxy hop... Orion is long gone. Leo rules the night. Coma Berenices is an irridescent call to explore, and I feel welcome in the arms of Virgo.

First stop, the M94. A steady core, this one has... Its' spiral galactic arms a soft halo round it's center. A restful kind of galaxy. Whereas the M3 is intense! Yes, yes. There is no point in comparing a globular cluster to a galaxy... but hey! I just miss the M13, ok? And the M3, while not as bright, sure has the right stuff!

After a bit of a hunt, I found the M63. A wonderful soft spiral galaxy, with a concentrated nucleas. It's dust lanes aren't truly defined... It just gives off a nice impression of spiral structure, and it resides in a very nice field of stars. M106 was also a search, but it made for a good laugh! This is one sloppy spiral galaxy! The form itself is an oval patch of light, with no discernable core... but the funny part is that it looks like it's dribbling galaxy "stuff" all over the place!

I hold my coffee in one hand and red light in the other, looking at the map and seeking something I haven't done in awhile. Ah! There we go... Now let's go get it!

M98 walks on the edge. It has a stellar core, and usual structure. Yes, it is a spiral... But it appears as if one arm has gone AWOL! I keep averting my vision, expecting it to appear, but it never does. Only a soft "C" that cradles its' center in a most exciting way!

Now let's see if I can find the next without going back to the map. Sweep. Nope. Sweep. Nope. The heck with it. Give me back the map! Because the "Pinwheel" is quite worth looking up. (but i'm not thinking, dammet.) Very stellar core, nice sweeping arms, and a great hint of grainy structure that make this rather large, face-on galaxy a pleasure to meet eye-to-eye.

Do you want excellence? The let's have at it. The M100 also takes me for a merry ride in location, but takes my breath away when I find it. Here are broad, sweeping arms... a concentration of light that narrows to intensity at the center... distinct dustlanes! What a galaxy!!

Will you allow me some play? The let's get the "Field"... How I love that tease! All the galaxies here turn me on. Watch one... "see" another. Watch that one... POOF! Another appears... Ah, it just makes me smile. Rather like a lunatic, too, I might add. Perhaps I'd do well just to wipe that idiot grin off my face, eh?

Very well. For to visit the "Sombrero" is to stand in awe...

" Now deservingly this easy chair... But the rocking stopped by wheels of despair.

Don't want your aid. But the first I've made, For years can't hold or feel. No, I'm not all me. So please excuse me. While I tend to how I feel...

But now the dreams and waking screams. That ever last the night. So build the wall, behind it crawl... And hide until it's light.

So can you hear your baby cryin' now?"



February 5, 2002 - The Sun... The Pleiades (M45), NGC1647, NGC1746, M1, Saturn, Jupiter, M35, Castor, Wasat, NGC2392, NGC869/884, Algol, and the Perseus Galaxy Cluster...

Comments: Yep. I stole a look at the Sun today. The major features truly haven't changed that much since I last saw it... but the fascinating 9802 sure has!

What makes it different is its' proximity to the limb. Now it appears stretched out (dimension is a remarkable fact!) over the curve of the approaching edge. Its' umbra/penumbra regions have changed very little... But WOW! When a series of spots get ready to round the bend, the scope sure rocks out the granution and faculae that accompany them!

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

Another dark, cold and clear night. Magnitude 6.5 stars still litter the body of Orion... and the Pleiades shine with a cold fire. How beautiful these winter gems are! So many, many tales and legends passes down over the centuries about the "Seven Sisters"... Their story, so bittersweet. I can understand why so many have been moved to poetry... From the book of Job, to Edgar Allan Poe... From Milton, to Tennyson...

"Many a night from yonder ivied casement, where I went to rest... Did I look on great Orion, sloping slowly to the west. Many a night I saw the Plieads, rising thro' the mellow shade, Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid..."

Such an overlooked Messier, the Plieades. Let us go visit Alycone and her companion stars... lovingly embraced by van den Bergh 23. The perfection of lonely blue/white Merope embedded in Temple's Nebula (NGC1435). There are so many riches here... Chains and knots of faint stars unrevealed by small scopes... The tiny red heart that waits inside...

So many depths to Taurus. The Hyades spanning four degrees... rich in hundreds of bright stars, doubles and variables...

And hidden gems.

The NGC1647 is one such. At first glance, a couple of dozen uniformly bright stars greet the eye of even the most modest scope... but hidden within are hundreds more. So many close doubles here...

NGC1746 is yet another. It has a concentrated central region of about 20 or so stars... yet many more lay scattered round it in tiny knots. A quiet and lovely cluster...

The M1 speaks much more loudly.

History? Discovered in 1731 by Brittish (what? the Brits had sky then? amazing... ;) amateur astronomer John Bevis (and his faithful assistant Pierre Butthead... ;) this supernova remnant contains at its' core a tiny spinning neutron star that flashes a beam of energy off and on thirty times a second. This "star" is all that remains of the original that went supernova in 1054, and is the first visible pulsar to be detected visually.

What can be seen "visually" in the 4.5 is an ethereal cloud of green that teases the eye. It has a quality, like the M27 that those sensitive to spectra can pick up... making it appear almost "living". The 12.5 sees it as a fantasy swirl of filaments and ribbons... but it stays the same unusual grey/green that hints at so much more.

Before leaving Taurus, stop to consider the much cleaner and sharper Saturn. (yes, i tweaked it. the time i spent made me miss a shot at the fornax cluster... but you were right. it needed it.) The Cassini a fine black line in the rings, with the crepe cradling the center. It cuts across the body of the planet dramatically. And round the edges dance the moons...

Since the pupils are contracted, might as well go visit Jupiter next, eh? See what's new with the galieans? Again, I appreciated the time I took earlier.. because at the very edge of Jove sits Europa about to transit! Yes, yes... the striations are very prominent... but I happen to like events! And so I follow it for a bit, until it is swallowed by the glare of Jupiter itself.

Since the M35 is so nearby, I stop to take in it's loose form and delight in its' small companion cluster. Head on for Castor, smile to myself at what else is there, and head for the disparate Wasat. What I've come for is the NGC2392, discovered by Mr. Herschel, I do believe, because it's color is more cyan than most planetaries. It makes a very attractive contrast to the orange star nearby.

As I stood looking up, a meteor scratched the face of the sky. Do I still think? Oh, yes. Every moment of the day...

So I go to Perseus, and make the change to the 32mm. The soft sounds of Bush, playing "Comedown" fills my head.... and the NGC869/864 fills my eyes. So many stars...
Eta Persei is here. It's brilliant orange form with its' disparate double sheering away to the east-northeast.

And the demon still has my heart. Algol's rapid changes still keep me entranced. It is my marker for things remembered and long treasured.

Like the Perseus Galaxy Cluster...

"Excuse me while I tend to how I feel... These things return to me that still seem real."


February 4/5, 2002 - Gotta' Play...

Comments: Now, you honestly don't think for one moment that I could just cap up after Eridanus and walk out on a 6.5 night do you?! Heck, no! Let's go get warmed up a bit.

And play...

First up... Doubles. Let's push the 4.5 and see what it can do! Mintaka... far too easy. Disparate, yes. But far too wide. You asked for Alnitak? Then let's see what she can do... Bingo! Using minimum magnification, 25mm (36X), we get hint. During moments of clarity, in between (cough, cough) waves of smoke from the neighbor's woodburner, the reddish yellow companion makes it's presence known. But I want accuracy. With the 17mm, at approximately 53X, it can and will take it out. But now I see hints of something else! Solution? One step higher... 10mm (90X) Viola! Tiny blue companion sheers away to the other side! Now, let's head for the 12.5 for a minimum confirmation. 26mm (59X)... Swish. All three. So there you have it... The 4.5 can split Alnitak at minimal magnification. (and the camera can record the B star with ease!!)

Now for a coffee break while the Walbash Cannon Ball belches smoke.... (cover the dob will ya'? cuz' i don't want any crap on the mirror!)

So this time I've got a couple of four-legged companions that want to join me... Cool! The more the merrier! Crank up that rock and roll and let's head for the "Trap"!

First what you've always known the dob could do... six stars in the Trapezium at 17mm (90X) minimum. But what you're probably NOT aware of is what the M42 looks like at 17mm! Holy, Saint George... you can't see it all! At this magnification in the 12.5 all you can see it the dark notch in which the "Trap" resides, and the three bright stars off to the side. It's everywhere... (and, incredibly enough, the camera can capture three of the "Trap" stars and the outliers...) And I do mean everywhere. You can push the entire central structure of the M42 out of the field of view, and two fields over it's still bleeding away into space! The dob reveals ribbons and folds, stars embedded within... very surrealistic. But back to the business at hand, eh?

Let's take the 17mm and put it in the 4.5. Okey, dokey. Four. That's it at 53X. (ah, the cultured voice of Eddie Vedder! "Yellow Ledbetter"...) Let's try again... 10mm (90X). Four. Again? Barlow... 180X. Five stars. Wow. Let's walk the dob...

(H is really being a pistol tonight! i don't know where he got the doberman lessons, but everytime i bend over to get in my case he's nipping my behind! shooooo! be gone with you annoying dog!!)

I stood and looked at this for a very long time. Because I know what this scope can do... And my guess is the 9mm would be all it would take. But you know what? I don't want it.

What I really want to do is go hop!! (thanks to "nickleback", i am reminded of what i really am... a miscreant with a big telescope and a great night!) Rock and roll...

Hop off to Saturn, and drool on the rings and moons... Stop by Jupiter and wonder where the fourth one is hiding! Then on to the M35 to pick off the little companion cluster. And on the "Eskimo"... whoa! "Eskimo"? Aye, aye!! I forgot to look! I don't believe I forgot to look...

And when I go back to Alnitak, I kick back in the 26mm... It is there. Giddyup! The little notch of the "Horsehead Nebula" reveals itself. I think that's three times this season... Wow! It's worth being cold over, anytime!!

(the old dog wants back in now, and it's probably a good idea. i'm having trouble turning the set screws because i can't exactly feel my fingers at the moment! so let's cover up and go warm up...)

When I'm ready to go back out again, a certain black german shepherd beats me to the door, dancing in excitement as he sees me putting on my coat. From his station beside the woodburner, the old black, tan and very grey Ranger looks at me with contented eyes. He is willing to pass the torch on to his younger, stronger companion. I suppose I gave him a quizzical look, for he sighed quite loudly and rose to his feet. But when I held the door for him, he turned round a went back to his place beside the stove. So sad when they get old... But he's earned his place by the fire.

But I digress, yes? Then simply shut me off. To walk in this place is to spend a night with my heart and mind... and journey to the stars.

By this time Leo and Ursa Major have gained excellent sky position. I contemplated Auriga for a moment, but that would mean some serious contortions and time on the ladder. Let's just dance on some galaxies and leave the clusters for another night!

First choice is M105 and companion galaxies NGC3384 and NGC3389. How bland elliptical structure seems after the granduer of the earlier evening's barred-spirals! (oh, great. now you're thinkin' that i'm thinkin' that what something looks like is important, huh? then think again, because superficial is not my style...) So let's hop to the other members of this area and enjoy the silver beauty of the M96 with its' sharp, bright core... and companion M95 with its' stellar nucleas and ghostly arms. Tantric plays the tune now... And "Astounded" is how I feel...

Ready now for the M65 and M66? If I dropped the magnification back I could put them in the same field, but eh... I just don't feel like it! I'd rather just study their spiral structure seperately, thanks, because they are quite different from each other. (hehehheee.... i still get a kick out of that little curl of light in the 66!) But the real turn-on in this area is the NGC3628... I like edge-on! Scratches on the night.... Dig it.

I remember something about the hips of Leo... there is a grouping there. But end up settling for a pair I remember between Zosma and Chort. The NGC3607 and NGC3608 are small, but fine ellipticals.... and galaxy hopping is my favourite pass-time!

(i stop to watch that crazy H for a bit. he has something white he's carrying about. i'm not really sure what he's up to, but perhaps i best check, eh? oh, my. seems he's found a bit of plumbing supply somewheres... let's hope it's not from here! )

Time to hop off now... my hands are warm again. And M97 looks like a very likely candidate. Mr. Owl! How lovely to see you again, my friend. And, of course, I galaxy hopped. For me there is no pain when I do this. Stress does not exist. Only sheer wonder at the fantasy form of the M101, the soft sheen of the M109, the power of strong edge-on M108... and the delight in the M81, M82 and their family members.

But before I go in to get warm again, the M51 bids me to stay awhile longer...

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

And it was a good thing I covered the scopes, for I fell deeply asleep while warming my own old bones. When I awoke at last it was to find the Moon had claimed the sky... But the stars are still just as bright and beautiful as they were a couple of hours ago... Just moved a bit is all. ;)

I guess I was meant to look at the Moon this morning, for I did not grumble and put the scopes away. I took my cup of coffee and my camera with me... And it was mighty fine.

There was the "Straight Wall"... absolutely perfect detail. And Mons Wolff! WOW, amigo! The light was hitting that one just right!!! Funny how just one spot grabs your attention more than any other, isn't it? I mean, here I am... with the "Straight Wall" on the southern side.... a perfect Plato on the north... and where am I staring? At one mountain!

Hey. Maybe I'm over the hill....

"Momma they try to break me... Still they try to break me."


February 4, 2002 - The Eridanus/Fornax Studies...

Comments: The deep cold gives perfect clarity to the night. Magnitude 6.5 stars shine within the body of Orion, and the heavens walk right down to the ground. Tonight I come alone. No maps, no pencils, no notes... Just the telescopes, me and you.

It is time.

Starting with Alpha Fornacis I find a beautiful, disparate double, a "white" star with its' yellow/orange companion. But this is not about doubles, tonight. It is about deep sky, and Alpha is merely a stepping stone.

And so I hop to Beta, for it is my guide to the NGC1049 to the southwest. Only the dob may reach for this one. The NGC1049 appears to me as a very soft, very faded globular cluster. It is like a "ghost"... seen, yet not seen. An ethereal hint of what lies beyond our cosmos.

Next stop is north, and slightly to the east for a galaxy revealed in both scopes... The NGC1097. In the 4.5 it shows as an upright bar of light that pulls at the tips. The 12.5 reveals a barred-spiral. (So you want power? Should I give you what you want? For they are very simple equations... You may use my calculator if you like. ;) NGC1097 is truly beautiful. The central portion of the galaxy is evenly illumated from end to end, but, at each of those ends lay the spiral arms, twisting away opposite of each other into space.

Next hop is Omega... again a double star. Much closer in magnitude this time! And pulled apart easily enough with both scopes at a minimum of power... but again, just another port of call. So I head back for Alpha, and north and a bit west into the border of Eridanus in search of NGC1232. The 4.5 can only make out of soft circle of light... a signature I know. The 12.5 reveals a spiral galaxy, but not an exceptional one. It contains a very "stellar" nucleas and fades out evenly towards its' frontiers. Aversion plus magnification can only add just the most wispy of hints of a single spiral arm.

From there I head for Tau4, for this is an oft repeated target! The NGC1300 is a "both scopes" kinda' galaxy... and I can appreciate that. The little one shows are very bright core and transient arms upon aversion that remind me of a cat's eye marble. And the dob holds it direct, allowing for study of perhaps the finest barred-spiral I have ever encountered. It's nucleas is a bright point of light set within its' structure, the "bar" itself being rather ephemeral, and almost nebula-like in appearance. But, two very well defined arms wrap round it, with mottled indications suggesting giant clusters of stars in this faraway island universe! A most fascinating galaxy...

Now back to Tau4, and a shift north and a bit east to return to the "River". NGC1332 is our next stop, an ellipitical galaxy. Just a silver oval in the small scope, and not overly improved by aperature. With the additional light gathering ability, the NGC1332 now contains a much brighter nucleas, and very even form.

So let's go south back down into "the Furnace" and breathe the scopes east to capture planetary nebula NGC1360. Say hello to a ball of greenish light in a small scope and go for aperature. Now we're talkin'! The planetary now stretches itself out and reveals a bright, almost distracting inner star! When you can peel your concentration away from it, averted vision reveals a certain vagueness... almost a transparency inside one very kicking planetary!

Just a touch southwest of here brings up yet another bright,barred-spiral, the NGC1398. Once again, we're looking at easily distinguishable in either scope... but what get's me is WHY does this area of the sky contain so many barred-spirals?! What "string" resonates in the vast reaches of space that spawns this structure?! What musician of the cosmos calls this tune? I want to meet Him...

And the radio plays in the night... keeping me company. Shall I take you on a radio journey? For you see, I often do far more study than you give me credit for! Let's go the Chi1,2,3 and drop southwest for the NGC1316. Hey up! Just another ellipitcal, right? Wrong. The NGC1316 is THE radio source for Fornax A. (i wonder if it does rock and roll? ;) The little oval smear of light shows well in the 4.5, but the dob brings up a bonus! For just a tiny bit north of "the Source" lies a companion known the NGC1317!

Let's hop back to the Chi triangle, and go for yet another. For a degree east will bring on another, the NGC1365. What can I say but Blitzkrieg, baby... Blitzkrieg! Now, do not take that in a skin-headed sense. For the German language has many subtle nuances... The "blitz" is lightning, and "krieg" is war... and very truly the NGC1365 resembles a "lightning war" frozen in the form of a barred-spiral galaxy. There is no "hints" in form here. The 9th magnitude galaxy shows well in the 4.5, and comes alive in the 12.5. The central core is Z-shaped, very definate and bright. The central bar continues to hold up to direct vision, bracketed by two arms that differ. One tends to diffuse away a bit, but the other holds a very solid brightness. Lightning....

(and i am shivering now, for it is very cold. but perhaps it is excitement? for i've waited a very long time to show you this...)

Come with me, now. And be thankful that our feet are upon the ground! I am going to take you to a place I've found. A playground in Never-Never Land... And tonight the sky grants us permission to go there. Together.

One degree northeast of NGC1365...

First I hand you the 4.5. In this new "field" you will see two ellipticals, the NGC1399, and the NGC1404. You remember how to play this game, do you not? Look at those galaxies, yet feel the field with your eyes. Ah.... I see it. I have your attention now, don't I? But play there for a bit, while I move the counter-balance on the dob, and put in my favourite eyepiece. Come now. This is for you. Watch them dance....

With the wide-field eyepiece in the 12.5, the Fornax Galaxy cluster is stunning. How many do you see in one degree? Nine? When you touch the scope, how many in the field? Twelve? Fifteen? Yes, of course some of the we have already visited. The tightest portion of the cluster also has designations: NGC1374, NGC1379, NGC1380, NGC1381, NGC1387, NGC1399, NGC1404, NGC1386 and NGC1389. So tiny, and so very beautiful. You can see now why my heart has ached to return to Eridanus. It shares it's soul with Fornax.

And tonight it shared with us...

"Keepers of the flame... Do ya' hear your name? Can't you feel your baby cryin'?"


February 3, 2002 - The Sun... and Studies...

Comments: What a rush to see the Sun today! (perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder?) I was simply amazed at the number of outrageous sunspots! And 9802? Still holding on... and still incredible!


SOHO photo


Very few pictures can actually do the Sun justice... It is truly an eyepiece experience. All the different textures, shadings and dimensions come alive in the telescope in a way that no photo can express... (although Cor does a magnificent job of sitting you right down on a particular area with a webcam!)

I stood in fascination watching these beasts, the little voice in the back of my head realizing on just what scale these are! (even the smallest of them would swallow the earth whole...) And it is a great treat to see one coming in on the edge, for the "depressed" look the Wilson Effect causes is fascinating! Of course, the clouds tried their best to hide it... But for that kind of show, I'll wait them out.

******************************************
And wait them out I did. By the time the sun had set, the sky was totally clear and cold... leaving wide opens fields.... and delicious dark.

Last night was about purpose. A plan. (yes, me... the miscreant of the astronomy world... being disciplined! surprise, surprise.... ;) It was about continuing my challenge studies in Eridanus and Fornax... and ignoring the rest of the beautiful sky. Do you have any idea of how incredibly hard that was for me?! All that stuff... just hanging around up there in that beautiful black sky... and me... not wanting to play for a change!

And study I did. For I had forgotten a great deal of things since my last visit to Eridanus. Fortunately, that awesome barred spiral called NGC1300 wasn't one of them! Very elegant in structure, my guess would be magnitude 9 (although my research indicates it to be a 10). The reasoning behind this is because it holds direct vision very well. A very unusual galaxy... a nice change from bland ellipticals!

Can I remember? It's been so long.... But I did relocate galaxy NGC1332 again on my own, and planetary NGC1360. I was nervous, I'll admit that freely. (of course, i may have just been shivering from the cold... it's hard to tell... ;) The comfort of my maps is here. They will show me the way.

And with them I explored Eridanus and Fornax, making additional notes and drawing up my own starhop plan to be repeated from memory. Over and over again, until I feel confident in myself and what I see.

Because I may not have this chance again.

"Still the window burns... Time so slowly turns... Someone there is sighing..."


February 2, 2002 - M47, M46, M93, M44, M67, M65, M66, M81, M82 and Jupiter...

Comments: A workin' night... But I can think of no more pleasant way to begin than by being with you for a bit. It both relaxes and invigorates me! These stars of the M47... Oh, si. They're scattered, but remind me so much of a tiny Scorpius seen far away. The M46 is much more concentrated. A basic "cloud" of pinpoint stars, with a very bright one set in a dark notch of sky. But the M93 talks! (and i like listenin' to it... ;) It is an explosion of differing magnitudes. Like someone shot a burst of sparks into the air and they froze there for all eternity. Some hotter and brighter than others... some just a mere twinkle. No matter... for it is my favourite in Puppis. And it may hang around as long as it likes.

A bit of cloud pushing in around the edges... but nothing serious just yet. Let's go have a look at the M44. What kind of seeing conidtions, you ask? How about no work aiming on 44? It's right there. You can't miss it. You can feel it with your eyes... Just begging to be resolved! And the scope complies. At 4.5 I can't see the minor members that I know are there, but it does pick up on the colors. Yeah, it overfills the field a bit, even at 25mm.... (225X ;P happy?) but it is a very grand object. Also a varying magnitudes and loose structure. Reminds me of the Plieades... And the M67? Hey, hey... my my... This one is still one of the best open clusters in the sky! Makes me miss that one I used to hang out with in Vulpecula... "ol' what's it's name"...

Those clouds are putting the moves on the sky... Wanna' galaxy hop a bit with the 4.5 and be descriptive? Works for me... Let's head for the M65 and M66. Using the same eyepiece, these two share the field of view as faded little "cat's eyes" at first glance. They are quite easily held direct, but require aversion to discern some detail at this magnification. M65 is an elongated oval of silver light... no structure, just a slight thinning where it heads toward the 66. The M66 appears to be a bit larger in the small scope (duh) and takes on a more "thick" appearance. Two stars angle back toward the 65, and it is along this frontier that averted vision makes out the "thinning" of spiral structure. (i want the dob... the dob, i tell you!) Hey, I'm just teasing. There is something about the silver sheen of galactic light that turns me on no matter which scope I chose.

So wanna' go for another while still in the mood? Then we best head, because those clouds are threatening! M81 and M82 it is. Finestkind in the small scope. Even at this modest magnification, with the low light gathering ability of the 4.5, we've got structure! M82 is a slim bar of lumpy light with a star attached to it's central region. It has a faint curve to it, like a gentle wave... And it most definately diffuses itself at the E/W poles. The M81 speaks spiral. Very nice bright core region... even distribution of galactic light toward its' large oval edges, and aversion brings on the hint of arms toward the M82. And then the clouds wipe it out, and... and... argh!

Oh, very well. A check on Jupiter before capping up? Hah! I can see the little pairing of the galieans from last night has danced round the otherside... and one is... one is... flat? Gone? Huh? One look up and I see why... Clouds.

But I'm still thinkin'...

"And now I'm off to find the hero of the day. But what if I should fall by someone's wicked ways?"


February 1, 2001 - M42, M41, M36, M37, M38, NGC457, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon...

Comments: Ah! A bit of sky again... and how I've missed it. It took me by surprise, for it had been cloudy all evening. But, you know me... Always willing to go out for a walk.

And I just felt kinda' easy... Nothing difficult to locate, like the M42. It really is splendid, and I don't think I'll ever tire of looking at it. The same can be said of the M41... Although I am using the 4.5 tonight, the concentration of stars is still most satisfying. (a little sparse compared to the dob, but i have my reasons tonight.) The clusters of Auriga dance out even at that modest aperature, but the whole point of this is to scurry out to the west yard to look at something in Cassiopeia.

I call the NGC457 an "angel". It has a sloping structure, very similar to oriental architecture. At the feet of this angel lay two bright stars. The "body" is comprised of diamond dust and laid over this is several bright stars that give rise to my imagination. It stands with its' wings at it's sides, spread ever-so-slightly, in open invitation. Ah well, so much for my imagination! Perhaps you will see the NGC457 as an inverted V... or maybe you will just see it as a bunch of stars. Me? I don't care! Just as long as I can see it... ;)

The hour is rather late and the Moon is on the rise. Shall we have a look at the neighbors before calling it in? A moment to ponder on Saturn.... with Titan walking at its' side? Or stop to admire Jove and the dance of the galieans? Maybe... maybe just a walk on the Moon?

Even dusty clouds can't always hide away the face of Selene. There's a nice "wall-like" structure spanning the mare tonight. A pleasant way to pass the time.

Just because I like the night...

"Mamma they try to break me.

The window burns to light the way back home. A light that warms, no matter where they've gone."