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January 28, 2002 - Jupiter...

Comments: Chompin' at the bit waiting for the sky to get dark so I can watch a shadow transit on Jupiter... Only to see the clouds transit the planet not more than ten minutes after I started viewing!!

Sure, I felt like yelling a few expletives... But I'm well mannered. Just cap it up, give it my best PR smile and go practice guitar, right? Bloody well right. Didn't want to see it anyway. Happens all the time... No big deal. Besides, I always did want to learn how to play "Epiphany" by Staind.

And you know it charmed, don't you?

About twenty minutes before the event ended, the very last of the heavy cloud swept away, and left me with a somewhat hazy... but very welcome portrait of a tiny, perfect round black hole on the surface of Jove.

You don't know how good it is to see you again...

"I send this smile over to you..."


January 27, 2002 - Takin' it easy...

Comments: Once again, the weather has been unseasonally warm... Not that I mind. Gave me a chance to blow the dust off the Harley, and to scope out the Sun!

Massive sunspot group 9800 has shifted full into view and contains so many areas it almost staggers the imagination! Spread out over an incredible span of miles, this area still harbors the potential to stay active in this pass across our visible surface.

Followed by two more behemoth spots, the active regions abound at the moment. The solar surface is covered with tiny areas, giving it a "peppered" appearance. And 9787? Still hanging on... And about to rotate round the far side!

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Warm temperatures continued into the evening, and left the sky very passibly clear, and I was in the mood just to be out there. Nothing particular in mind... just enjoying the night.

The Moon still shows a heart-breakingly thin terminator, leaving the western edge just ever so slightly "chewed" looking. So, I decided to have some fun with it... and explore in the negative. What a rush! Surrealistic? Oh, you bet! But it really was fascinating to look at the near full Moon in such a fashion! To see the dark turned to light... and the bright turn to black! Highly unusual, it just highlights the lunar surface in a way most pleasant!

(And it seems there is enough moonlight to read by tonight! For once, H is brilliant. He looks like a shepard-shaped slice of night... Prancing and exploring... Digging his clandestine holes.... Rearranging fallen branches... And for some odd reason... He likes to wade through the goldfish pond! Knee deep in the hoopla... That's my H.)

Plenty of time and space to explore... I find myself moving to parts of the yard I don't normally haunt, like the west side. Clear, unobstructed views of the setting Cassiopeia make for a pleasant place to play for awhile. Exploring her double and multiple stars systems.... Stopping to enjoy the myriad open clusters that will soon be gone for the season. Just takin' it easy....

And... well... I got lost in double stars. (yeah, me.) Eta Cassiopeiae with it's tiny red companion just blew my mind. Then it was Iota. Then Almach. Next thing I know, I'm picking on Polaris and moving back to the southside for Rigel... and man! Sigma Orionis IS beautiful!! Iota Cancri, and Castor... Theta Aurigae... Dubhe and Cor Caroli.

The music was fine. The night was warm. And it just felt good again...

"I used to be a little voice... So cold in my shoes. What I chose is my choice. What's a voice supposed to do?"


January 26, 2002 - The Sun... The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn...

Comments: What an intense pleasure to see the Sun again! Even though hazy clouds kept trying to hide its' face... give me a shadow to align by and I'm out there!

Sunspot 9787 has went through some very remarkable changes in structure since I'd seen it last. Following virtually is one thing, but to see the umbral and penumbral areas shift and move firsthand is far more pleasant! It has perhaps two more days before it rotates from view, and it will be interesting to see if it still displays the Wilson Effect when it nears the limb.

Even more impressive is region 9800 which has just rotated into view...


SOHO photo


And, brother... I am here to tell you this one appears just as it does in the picture! This area may have been responsible for a CME that occured just days ago... and still harbors the potential for major activity! The stress lines, breaks in granulation, and the "dimple" effect are in full force, and make this spot.... HOT!

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The Great Grimaldi held court on the Moon last night... In a way that only Grimaldi can! Many times during the lunar cycle, this particular crater is visible even during earthshine, (huh, jeff?) but only displays it's details on two days. During that time, the mounded surface, wall shadows and delicate craters surrounding Grimaldi come out to play! And it is a most pleasant companion...

The Lacus Aestatis and Cruger make for a wonderful counterpoint to the south of Grimaldi, while Hevelius and Cardanus level the show off to the north. Hey. It's bright. It's beautiful. And it's darn near full! La Luna... Love it or leave it. (bye now... you've been fun! now go away... ;)

The clarity of the sky last night continued to be simply excellent... and did wonderful things to the planets! Merciful heavens... Jupiter showed such incredible detail with just the 4.5 I couldn't believe it! And so I filmed.... Watching one of the galieans come out of eclipse was fascination enough... but... but.... babble, babble babble... I filmed it.

And Saturn! Holy Corvus! We joke repeatedly about throwing our "astronomical reputations" into the wind... (hey! it's windy! ouch...) but I swear before all that's holy, that I watched a shadow on the ring system with the 4.5! And I filmed it.... And the details... wow. (Cassini is hard to catch on film... but I'm tryin'!) Once again, I feel like I would be babbling by going into extreme detail. Let is suffice to say the sky permitted the 4.5 to exceed its' limitations last night...

Photo Shoot is a temporary site so I can share my childish attemps at astrophotography. I just like playin', ok? Kill me...

And I like pushing the envelope...

"Disarm you with a smile. And leave you like they left me here... To wither in denial. The emptiness of one who's left alone...

Ooooooh, ooooh, the years burn... Oooooooh, ooooh the years burn. Burn. Burn."


January 25, 2001 - Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon...

Comments: About time I woke up and smelled the coffee, huh? Most usually when I glance at Jupiter, it is merely to note the positions of the galieans... or the clarity of equatorial zones. Sometimes I pay attention... Other times I don't. Tonight I stopped and watched. At moments, the clarity was outstanding, and I could very clearly see areas of contrast toward the poles. Just a pleasant way to pass some time... watching Ganymede slide out from behind... and to see the surface rotate ever-so-slowly. Perhaps one day I shall catch something I wasn't expecting!

And what I wasn't expecting was to see the sattelites of Saturn jump out so easily that close to the Moon! It happened last night... and oh brother... did it ever happen again tonight! They must be placed just right, and picking up a maximum of reflectivity... because the little troopers just stand out so very clearly at the ring edge!! Titan was easy... Iaepetus was no problem... But catching Dione, Tethys, Enceladus,
and Rhea (about to disappear) was quite exciting!!

And, of course I chased the Moon...

Who can resist Phocylides or Schickard? Can you really pass on the humped form of Wargentin? Or just not stand there in absolute awe of all the detail revealed around Piazzi and LaGrange?! That is one place that is outstanding at the moment!

Pythagoras and Babbage were excellent, and Oenopides is starting take shape... Aristarchus is blinding... But I just can't stay away from LaGrange! At magnification there is this tremendous slope that sits right on the terminator... It looks like a wave about to crest, and just sparkles with detail.

Sure, I got a bit lost in lunacy. Do you have any idea of how much it hurts just to look at the Moon and planets when I can see the stars of Eridanus and Fornax on the southern horizon?! I tried, you know I did. And it is impossible to force detail out of deep sky with the Moon shining like that! But, it's ok, eh? Practice shooting stellar spectra... Pick off some double stars...

I've learned to forget.

"The killer in me, is the killer in you, my love. I send this smile over to you..."


January 24, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon...

Comments: The unusual weather patterns had continued, yesterday well into the sixties... bringing fog, rain and clouds to the skies. And the early evening was no exception.

I found things to keep myself occupied, and as I was about to put a finished sticker on the day, walked out to the garage to fetch a Corona. And ended up fetching out the 4.5 instead! Laughing to my self about my own personal "bonne charme de chance", I set my sights on the neighbors.

I was astonished at just how well Saturn played out with the Moon so close! I had figured general shape was all I was going to get... but the backshadow and Titan (who has moved above) came right out! I thought for a moment to fetch a bit more magnification, but it will wait for another night. Jupiter next... just because I like watching the galieans change positions. Cleanly spaced on both sides of the planet, all four are headed our way! Once again, tantalizing glimpses of waiting detail beg me to stop.. take a look! The dob and I will comply soon enough...

The Moon was where I wanted to go, and I just barely had it in focus when a prime feature stood out like no other. J. Herschel.

Yeah, Gassendi was great, and Schiller was definately highlighted well. Copernicus was over-exposed, and the ray system just smacked right out. My favourite area, the Sinus Iridum was well met... but oh my... none of them stood out like J. Herschel! The Moon has an allure of its' own, and perhaps I am the only one who looks into the eyepiece at any given time to see just one feature that stands out above the rest. It doesn't matter to me...

I just like lookin'....

"What I chose is my choice.... What's a voice supposed to do?"


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

Comments: My plea? Guilty, as charged, Your Honor. I chased "sucker holes"... I'll admit it.

The weather had been incredibly warm today for January... upper 40's, I think. And the sky perfectly clear until dark. Isn't that the way of things? But show me a little slice of Moon, one glimpse of a planet... and I'm out there!

Plato was outstanding tonight. A bit of a side bet going on with this one... and I was happy to explore! Because when the view held still... It held very, very still. And I'm quite pleased with what the 4.5 can do! Besides that... I dig the sparse mountains around the crater itself, the shallow rim and fine detail. And hey! Guess what? Pico is still 8,000 feet... ;)

But, where was it my eyes wanted to be last night? In the Highlands... The area of Clavius, where else?! During this phase, all the little nuances come out to play... and I like it!

Stole a glance a Jupiter before capping up for the night... Seems the Mighty One takes well to the thin veil! But, here you have a trade off. Hazy sky might "tone down" Jupiter so the belts simply smack with contrast... But you lose the dimensional quality of the galieans! Oh, they are there, all right. One to one side, the other three forming a soft smile on the other... but I CAN'T tell where they're at!

So much for my attention span... ;)

"I used to be a little voice... So old in my shoes."


January 21, 2002 - The Moon, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Almach, Rigel, Polaris, Theta Auriga, Barnard's Crimson Star, Castor, Sigma Orionis, Beta Monocerotis, and Sirius...

Comments: How I needed to be out there tonight! It's one of those things... well... if I had to explain it, I guess you just wouldn't get it.

There was a whole wide Moon to look at tonight... Fantastic details on the crater chain that runs from Walter to Ptolemaeus... and where did I want to go? Archimedes. Don't understand why... There were plenty of things to look at, like the deep scar of the Alpine Valley, or the punctuation of Aristuillus and Autolycus. I just got lost in the mountains is all. Feeling the need, and I don't understand it. So just latch on the those fantastic peaks of the Apennine Mountains, and visit the Apollo 15 landing site. Just.. forget.

Hi there, Mars! Been awhile since I came to you, huh? Detail at low magnification is long gone... but the splendid red disc remains, and the tiny star that attends it paints a very pretty picture. Perhaps chase Saturn across the sky for a bit? Watch it pull Titan along behind it? A look at Jupiter... to smile at the odd configuration of the galieans? Oh, they're all four heading toward us, alright... But to see three of them gathered so tightly together is worth a smile! The definition on the planet itself is incredible. So many variations...

Tonight I feel like stars. I just want to pick out this one and that one. Just appreciate them for what they are. Be held in awe of the color quality and disparate nature of doubles and multiples. Just needing a look at deep, red perfection.

Wanting that one single star like no other...

"Oh, the years burn... Oh, the years burn..."


January 20, 2001 - The Pleiades, M36, M37, M38, Jupiter, M42, M41, M47, M46, M93, M44, M67, M65 and M66...

Comments: Midnight... And I'm stealing time. I did not want to get up to go back into work, but as soon as I saw that black velvet sky strewn with diamond hard stars... Well... I guess it's not so bad after all.

Just the 4.5 and I... The dogs and a cup of coffee. The cold is almost mind numbing, but it will serve well to wake me up! How quickly the Pleiades has moved across the sky... Let's go have a look, shall we?

Like crystals lit with an inner fire, the Pleiades deliver. Around the cool, blue stars is soft nebulosity... the hallmark of this ancient cluster. Merope still remains the finest, with Temple's Nebula smeared about it like a breath on a frosty night. How very beautiful they all are...

And the clusters of Auriga! So very clear and apparent in their positions. How delightfully they vary from each other! The M36 with its' grainy wedge at the center holding two stars and surrounded by many more... The tiny pinpoints of the ball of light the M37 is, with its' ring of stars at its' center... And the richly concentrated M38, sprouting an antennae of chains, and holding its' trio of stellar companions in a cold embrace! All different....

I spare a glance at Jupiter, for I love to watch the dance of the galieans. Unfortunately, the tube wants to slide down from the mount, because it has contracted so from the cold. No matter... I shall bend over for the mighty Jove anytime! Ah... Splendid. One sits behind the planet, while two come round the front... and the last? Peeking at me from the very edge! Either going into occultation or transit... (appears to be occultation, eh?) and ever so close to the planet.

Off to view the singular majesty of the M42. Shimmering grey/green nebula... One of the first things I ever found! Simple, you say? Yes. You are right. It was simple. But, oh.... Can't you remember for just one second what it felt like to look at the M42 for the very first time?! Look at it again. And remember....

Like the open field of the M41... So filled with glorious stars... The loose sprinkling of the M47, the magnificent cloud of the M46 with its' solitary stellar point... And the starburst field of the M93, with all its' magnitudes...

And will you just look at the M44 tonight?! So pretty against the backdrop of the dark, quiet night. It feels as if my eyesight were sharper that I could resolve it here from the ground. And its' stars are beautiful, in all their many colors... There are fond memories here. And I love the M67 in the small scope! It looks like a galaxy trying to resolve itself.... Fantasy? Yeah. I have many...

But, before I leave this place I go to the M65 and M66.... To let the soft, silver light of their twin ethereal beauty fill my tired eyes and heart. I long to stay in this place...

But I must go.

"Disarm you with a smile... And cut you like you want me to... Cut that little child... Inside of me. And such a part of you..."


January 18, 2002 - The Sun...The Moon... "Star-Grazing"... and Eridanus...

Comments: Although the weather sort of coasted in and out all day, I was out there just aa quick as a wink when I saw the Sun! Only when I have a day off am I usually able to observe solar activity at this time of year... and hey! I'm off!!

Triple area 9782, 9781 and 9783 from last last views on the incoming limb have rotated almost two-thirds of the way across the solar disc! Still holding on to that fantastic formation... And following behind is another great spot... with a double-lobed umbral area and even dispersion... (ahum, sorry... ;) penumbral area. Although it's dark, and rather fantastic, it looks pretty tame at this point.

But you want a wild child? Oh, you found one all right. Coming round the bend is another rockin' spot by name of 9787! Real beauty, too... Wilson Effect in full force, and deep, noticable stress lines! That "dimpled" look is just too much!

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Oh, and how pleasing to see the Moon again! Sure, I'll curse it in days to come... But, I've actually missed the darn thing! I had the hardest time dividing my attention between the Serpentine and Stofler... Both are magnificent. That clean edge of that ridge and the amazing monolith that crowns Stofler... And what happens, I readjust the scope just a bit far to get some "travel"... and WOW! We've an occultation in the making here...

Gone in 60 seconds... off to e.mail the "Ottoman". And I'll be... He beat me to it! Grinnin' like a fool, I head back out... There's a while to go yet, and a whole sky to explore!

Keeping the 4.5 trained on the Moon, the dob and I wandered about freely... Looking at exactly what we chose at that moment! One time the M31, M32 and M110... A few minutes later, the M42. Hop around in Cassiopeia... sucking in starlight. And forever checking back on the Moon....

Wanna' check out the neighbors? Saturn waivers a bit... (thanks... alot...) but Titan leads the way, when Iaepetus drags behind. The inner ones "halo" from one outer ring edge toward the top. Cassini is clean when the view holds still, and the backdrop shadow is wonderful. Jupiter has a great thing going on with the galieans tonight... a close pair! Until the wind shifted, (cough...) I only caught three... But, when it "cleared"? Oh, yeah... two of them are close dancin' tonight!

Head on back over the the 4.5... Yeah, it's getting closer, alright... But... Nah. It's just my imagination. I thought it was going to go into about the center of the dark side, but looks like I was a bit off. (what else is new, huh? ;)

Now, off to the dob to do some more exploring while we wait! How about the Perseus Double and the M34? I get off on collections of stars, and these are bright, rich areas. How about a hop over to Gemini and the M35? The coolest thing about the dob is it reveals that little flirt of a cluster the NGC2158 with it! I know!! The M1..... Aaaaah. Sweet, huh? Not as good as when the sky is really dark, but I love the way it shimmers.

Now, let's check back on the Moon... Whoa. Wait just one hot second here... This one's going to graze!

For the next 30-45 minutes, I stood transfixed at the eyepiece, watching that red star slide slowly along the belly of the Moon. At one point, it looked like it was going to kiss the southern tip! Absolutely fascinating...

At 8:56 p.m. it disappeared.

Just as happy as a little clam, I capped things up to zip back up to my office for a cup of coffee and to check if the "Ottoman" got to see this, too! And even more pleased and surpised to see that he caught at least part of it as a grazer, and Jeff got a shot on it as well!

Grinning like a fiend, (what a natural high!) I waited just a bit longer for the Moon to exit stage right, and the river to rise...

Tonight I want Eridanus.

I had been so fascinated by this area... and so frustrated with the clouds! My hands were literally shaking as I uncovered the dob. So many days had passed since I last practiced! And there are so many things here... Will I remember how to get there? And what they are?

First up in the eyepiece is the NGC1300. Once you see it, you'll not forget. It's bright core and soft shape are revealed in the 4.5... But the dob brings out a beautiful barred spiral galaxy. One after me own heart... No holds barred! Two knotted arms drawn themselves around a thick,
central structure. Very, very fine... It was the first I found in Eridanus.

Next in line is the NGC1332... Once again, a "both scopes" object. The 4.5 reveals the shy oval of an ellipitcal, as does the 12.5... But, aperature brings out a bright, central core.

Still a bit shakey, but with a bit more confidence, I move off to capture the NGC1232. I had some trouble locating it with the little one, but did fall across it, only to see a soft ball of light. And the dob gives me a spiral galaxy! Stellar nucleas, rolled structure, knots in two outer arms... and during moments of clarity... the central whorl of dark dust lanes. Outstanding....

There's more... there's many more! And I can't remember... I can't remember!

But I remembered how to find the NGC1360. It's central star is almost a distraction in this wonderful little egg-shaped planetary. The smaller scope shows only a "shine" with a bright middle... barely. And what I get with the "Great White" is a central star, with a deeper, brighter area to one side, and a bit of transparency to the other. But the sky won't hold still!

Not the smoke screen again! There's so much more here!! Just a little more time, please? But it wasn't smoke... It was a thin veil of clouds headed my way.

But I'll be back...

"To where the river flows..."


January 18, 2002 - M51, M94, M3, M5, M98, M99, M100, M85, NGC4394, M88, M91, M53, M60, NGC4647,M59, M58, NGC4567/68, M89, M90, M87, M86, M84, M49, M61, M104, Vega, Arcturus, M4 and the M80...

Comments: Oh, sure... clear sky! At 4:00 in the morning!! LOL! I knew it was going to happen, because you could just feel it in the air at the beginning of night. I don't know quite how to explain it... It's just a feeling I get. And I listen...

It's almost difficult to conceive how quickly the morning skies have changed! The stars of spring now lie directly overhead... (in prime position, too!) or high in north/south. And, wonder of wonders, the constellations of summer have began their rise! Lyra and Scorpius... Ophiuchus clearing the horizon... And how I long to see Saggitarius again! (but i really don't care anymore...)

Let's walk some deep sky.

M51 starts the journey... and sky position is everything! My starz... You would just have to see how much more pronounced the dust lanes and knots within the arms are! Beautiful beastie... But I don't have long to visit...

As with the M94... you're tiny, but that little smile I saw the other day? Turns you into a barred spiral this morning! The M3 is spectacular! Nice resolution into the first two-thirds of it, anyhow... Then it becomes so dense it would take more magnification and time than I'm willing to give it. The irregular shape of the M5 is what I'm after next... and boy... does it deliver! Delicious resolution that reminds me poignantly of a sketch I did once upon a time...

Now, I want those fields.

Starting with the M98, (I like 'em edge-on! ;) this thin friend shows a slight bulge in the middle... (cool! a "middle aged galaxy"! i love it all the more...) near the bright nucleas. 6 Comae, and a nudge south/west brings up the M99, with the grand, sweeping arms of a face-on spiral. Back to 6 and hop northeast to hit on a big one! The M100 is nice and bright... perhaps a magnitude 9? Very circular in appearance, with a bright, pinpoint nucleas and just the most shy hint of arms at the outside edges.

Off again to the north, northeast for the M85 to pick off a pair. The M85 is a nice, round patch of glow, considerably brighter than the last galaxy, and it shares the field with the smaller, much dimmer round form of the NGC4934. Of the two, I like the 4934 best. The barred spiral of the 85 is nice... but the intense nucleas of the 4934 gets it!

OK... I hunted about for the M88, and had a bit of trouble. Seems it's been awhile since I performed THIS starhop! (All these little galaxies keep getting in the way... ;) I knew which ones I was going after last night... and I had a list for pete's sake! Follow it.... Follow it.... Ignore all those little players, or you'll run out of time! Fine then... Vindemiatrix, Denebola... there. Happy now? (yeah! delirious, thanx!) The M88 tilted sprial form and intense nucleas come right up. And just a touch away is the M91, much harder to see, with just the thinnest bar of spiral structure.

Stopping now to enjoy a cup of coffee and a look about the sky... It really has been a long time since I've done this. How many galaxies did I just sweep acoss that I can no longer name? Does it matter? Yes. In one respect, it matters very much to me. At times I am playful... happy to just hop around the cosmos. At others I am quite serious. Wanting and needing to know I can identify what I look at. Like a favorite tune on the guitar, I must practice.

And dawn is approaching... We've got close to two hours left... let's rock.

42 Alpha Comae... northeast... yep. Globular cluster M53. Nice halo of resolvable stars that encircle a dense, tightly compacted core. Very pretty extensions off the central form! Sweet... very sweet!! Off to Vindemiatrix, and the great, bright (!) elliptical galaxy, M60. Triple word score, here... For the bright core and halo surrounding it that make up the M60 is accompanied by much, much fainter spiral of the NGC4647. Nice comparison, though. The are similar in size, but differ in shape and magnitude! Bonus? The M59 hangs around with them. Somewhere in-between magnitudes, the little bright "egg" head joins right in!

Now, let's touch it west to lock onto M58. An elongated barred spiral, almost identical in brightness to the M59. And just breathe slightly south/west for the Siamese Twins! The NGC4567/68 are cool... no doubt about it! Locked into an eternal embrace, this pair of mating galaxies hold my attention... Upon aversion, it is possible to pick up that one is slightly brighter than the other, and perhaps a bit larger. No matter, cuz' it looks like they are quite happy together!

M89 sits a bit north of this curious pair, nice and round with a bright center, but doesn't hold a candle to the M90. The M90's spiral structure just has those dark dust lanes upon aversion that give it some pizzazz... Like the M87, just a bit to the southwest... In the scope it's a rockin' bright ellipitical, with a distinct nucleas... But what the Hubble sees is a galaxy with a jet coming from a black hole at its center! Wow... Talk about firing up the old imagination... ;)

And you know where I had to go well before dawn, didn't you? Yeah... "The Field of Dreams", baby. Holding the M86 and M84 direct and watching the others come out to play! I don't care what anyone says about my preference on the 32mm for this... It's my playground! I've only got two more on my "list", and plenty of time... Come. Play with me for awhile. I need it so...

I wanted to just stop there. Just tug the dob back over it again and again until the dawn took it away. But, I'm cold, eh? Learned my lesson well... And hopped off to M49. A bright, evenly illuminated oval of a galaxy. And on to the M61 to power up for the dark dust lanes, three sweeping arms with beautiful knots, and elongated core, overlaid with three bright stars. Very pretty...

Observing list done... Practiced. And time to spare! Wanna' stroll around the Sombrero with me? This one does it like no other... It's tightly coiled arms give it density... and that slam/bam dark dust lane makes it exciting! But do you want to know what turns me on? What's inside... That quality.

Ready to experiment a bit? Then you've come to the right place. Let's try that "home brewed" star spectrascope out on Vega first... Wow! Talk about blue! Visually, the blue end spectrum smacks in the eyepiece... now let's see if I can capture it! And we need comparison here... and Arcturus will do just fine. Oh, yeah! We go green on this one! And rockin' out the red, too! Capture it... You do know these are qualities that can be observed without a spectrascope, don't you? Anyone who can't see "green flash" around Arcturus... or blue around Vega... just ain't lookin'!

(and i had to go run back into my office and see... yep! shows on film! say howdy to my boss... and i'm outta' here! it's still dark!)

Wanna' wheel it out for Scorpius? Darn right. The M4's faded form is still visible, even though the sky has begun to brighten in the east. And you know me...

Nothing like the challenge of finding the M80 just before sunrise... ;)

"Walk upon my journey... I must go."


January 14 & 15, 2002 - Sky? Are you kidding?! We're talkin' Ohio, here... Feast or famine. Those beautiful, deep sky nights are gone for now. In it's place are the lead grey clouds of winter, the relentless cold wind, and the crazy swirls of snow.

And thoughts of returning to Eridanus? Hah!

"Find yourself another soul to hold..."

January 12, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: And so I slept until the Sun woke me up! And what a way to start the day...

Good ol' 9773 is nearing the edge now. One day of clouds and POOF! It will be gone from view. The delicate chain of 9772 has changed its' dispersion field very much from last observance. It is just a pretty tracery of Jupiter-sized black dots.

Central spots 9779 and 9778 are still holding strong and dark as ever... Like drops of midnight oil (burnt more than my fair share of THAT this weekend! ;) waiting to be emulsfied, they sit alone on the orange face of Sol.

But those "bad boys"? Ah! Check 'em out! 9781, 9782 and 9783 are full into view! (and how i wish i could run this footage for you as a sequence instead of an individual shot... the clarity and detail are outstanding!) The stress lines and fractures are nothing short of amazing. The Wilson Effect has toned down considerably. But, the penumbral fields have changed just since yesterday!

What a fine study our nearest star is!

"Give me a moment. I've got to get this weight up off my chest. Don't feed me sorrow. Pain is a poison I digest..."

January 12, 2002 - Back to Ursa Major...

Comments: So here it is. Almost 1:00 in the morning... Eridanus still in my eyes... And the stars still out and shining...

There is no rest for the wicked... ;)

Off to Phecda, and over for a galaxy hop. Here I stand with two galaxies in the same field of view, and three maps with conflicting numbers! (Some one at the back of my head keeps saying, "Hook up the Magellan! Hook it up!" and I keep ignoring it. That's what I like best about astronomers... they might be great at math, but they're rotten at transposing numbers!) Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that the terrific spiral with the decent nucleas, bracketed dust lanes and faded arms is NGC3982 and its' little elliptical companion here is the NGC3972. And one more? The NGC3998 as a ball of elliptical light nearby. If I'm wrong, shoot me!

Next hop over brings on two I'm much more comfortable identifying, NGC3988 and NGC3888. They are same field, small spiral galaxies. Both evenly lighted, roughly the same magnitude, and same size. Small!

Want another pair? Then let's hop over and net the NGC3929 and NGC3718. The 3929 is rather plain as galaxies go... But the 3718 has terrific reaching arms and a great S-shaped dark dustlane! And since we're just teaming up here, let's take a hop to NGC3756 and NGC3738. This is another pair of odd balls... The 3738 might be smaller... but the core is WOW!

Now for the strange and unusual... the NGC3690. You need to find this one! The information I have says it is just one galaxy. But it looks like two interacting! As far as magnitude goes... it's about average for my studies... around 12 perhaps. But it's not hard to pick up on that weird, twisted core! It's like yin/yan... and it makes me think.

I head off for one more... because the hour has grown very late and I have began to feel sleep catching up with me. The NGC3619 and NGC3613 are my last hop for the night. Once again, a pair of same field galaxies. Just a bit different from one another is all. The 3613 appears to be an even elliptical that is a bit brighter than the shy oval of spiral 3619. But they look very fine together. Very fine, indeed.

Tired and happy, I began to slowly pack things away... trying my best to keep my eyes away from Spica. The need for rest weighs heavy on my head... but my heart! Oh, how my heart would rather stay here and explore! Already there are plans for hopping through those galaxy fields...

And so much that I would see.

"Why give you answers to the questions you have yet to ask? Silence is beauty... Words can only complicate the task."

January 12, 2002 - The Sun... Jupiter and Saturn, Exploring New Frontiers...

Comments: What a wonderful suprise to see the Sun again today! And, although the phrase is probably rather tired, rockin' with sunspot activity! That enormous and volatile customer, 9773 (pictured above) just grabs the eye and keeps it there! So many rich and different textures between the umbral and penumbral areas (happy?) make for a highly interesting target. Even if you only follow this one virtually, you are not wasting your time!

Nearby sits a delicate chain of spots know as the 9775, and same field is yet another known and the 9772. These are not shy features, folks. One the otherside of the solar disc, three really "bad boys" sit well into view, the erratic looking field of the 9782, displaying fantastic stress lines and scorch marks... the singularity of the 9781, and the outstanding Wilson Effect warping the entire area around 9783! But there's more, eh? Central on the solar surface are two more magnetically charged beasts... the 9779 and 9778! Incredible scabs on the body of Sol... I find them fascinating!

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And what is up with this weather?! Clouds took over the sky in the afternoon, which turned to rain.. and then to sleet. Fine, then. I'll just sit this one out. Wrong! By 9:30 or so, I could see Orion through the window... (but I watched the end of "A Knight's Tale" anyway... ;) Wanna' play with me, huh? Oh... you're on!

And so is the coffee...

Tiptoed the scopes across the ice and set up for south field. If you're going to show me something I've not seen before, then I am quite willing! While the scopes cool down I just standing here, sipping at my cup and enjoying.... meteors! Some fantastic random activity that spawned eight of them targeted toward the east where Leo rises. The tiny flurry kept me laughing at these incredibly bright, white streaks! Observing the lay of the sky to the north shows the terrific pale green cone of auroral activity, but no skyshow. Just a soft, pale mound of interference, reminscient of the Zodiac Lights... bracketed by Ursa Minor and Major To the west, Cassiopeia and Perseus are climbing trees together, with Andromeda slowly sliding down the western belly of the sky. But the south? Oh, I shall come for you tonight, my friend!

Off now to check up on the neighbors... Jumpin' Jupiter! How I love the crazy dance of your moons... Io peeks out slyly from behind the planet to one side, while on the other, Europa begins to pull ahead. Ganymede and Callisto have teamed up together, and it won't be long until the path of their orbits transit the face of mighty Jove! The face of the planet itself shows the lines of the years quite clearly. Fantastic division and underscores between both the north and south equatorial zones... and lest I begin to babble here, let's just say there are many more markings besides.

Saturn is up next... and what have you to show me tonight? Tiny Iaepetus and the unmistakable Titan... the "Little Troopers" still keeping time around the ring? Of course. But what I came here to see is the Crepe Ring so well defined against the planet, and so very dusty and diffuse in the dark gap. The Cassini cutting through at the edges highlighted with a brighter ring to the outside of it. The limb darkening that gives it dimension along with the lighter areas that seem to be more noticeable near the ring. And that wonderful wedge of shadow...

Enough! Time to make a mark for Vesta... (she's looping! ;) and head toward unexplored territory!

You know these new stars fired my imagination last night, don't you? And you know that I had to study what in the heck I was looking at! And you, more than anybody, knows I have my own rules of observation and I will not break them. There be galaxies here, too! A diffuse one... a couple of bright ones. And a planetary... I took the dob as low as it would go... into areas I've never studied! These things are as high now as they ever will be for me... And the window of opportunity is very small. Very small, indeed. And I pushed the envelope...

"A thousand little wisps,
Faint nebulae.
Luminous fans and milky streaks of fire..."

--Alfred Noyes

The area is very beautiful indeed. The enigmatic Eridanus... I hope to return again.

"Walk upon my journey... I must go. To where to river flows..."


January 11, 2002 - IC434, NGC2440, NGC2360, the Hubble Variable Nebula, NGC2264, the "Cone" Nebula, NGC2903, M65, M66, NGC3628, NGC3593, NGC3607, NGC3608, M95, M96, M105, NGC3384, NGC3389, M101, M109, M108, M97, M81, M82, NGC2976, NGC2787, NGC3077, M51, M94, M64, M3, M53, M41, M44, and the M67....

Comments: OK... So the night looked like it had flat lined. Clouds prevailed at sunset, the forecast was for snow... Hey. I thought there was no chance. So I napped away the hours...

When I woke, two dogs wanted out mighty badly. I comply. Door open... dogs out... look up... Holy Mother of Pearl!! No dark adaption, lights on inside... and there's the M44! M44? But... but those stars and between 7th and 8th magnitude! That means... that means...

I'm gone.

Both scopes set up in minutes. Left to stablize while I fetch some maps, some coffee and warm clothes. Looks like a galaxy night out there... And I want it!

Did the usual goofing around with Jupiter and Saturn while waiting on the mirrors to hit peak. Have you seen the field around these two? If it weren't for the fact that two of the galieans were coming toward us last night, I don't know if I could have distinguished it or not! (lying like a rug, too...) Both planets are in very concentrated areas... making for a superb show. While viewing Jupiter, the image began to sharpen, bringing out detail in the equatorial zones. A hop to Saturn brings out the tiny moons and the Cassinni. That means the scope is ready. And so am I...

And Alnitak is where I go. That beautiful "Flame" shows a dark vein in its' middle... and I know what that means! I push it away off the edge, head for my two tiny marker stars, see the "drift", and wait. Sure enough! There it is... the tiny "notch" set in this thin ribbon of light, known as the IC434. Tonight the "Horsehead" is mine!

Big grin pasted on my face, I find it difficult to move on right away. There's lots of sky waiting... but let it wait, eh? (OK! OK! i'm walkin'...) There is another place that I had wished to return to, the NGC2440. Positively planetary, baby. You are quite correct! Siamese twins inside... Two stars, interlocked together... Performing a cosmic dance, and creating beauty. One fine planetary nebula!

Let's go check out the NGC2360 now. I like its' stellar concentration. A hundred or more faint and lovely stars... This open cluster is like crystal dust. Well resolved, but each member very tiny. A "starburst" in a field of many!

Armed with a map now, I head for Monoceros, and one that also eluded me the other night. The Hubble Variable Nebula. (only a problem when i can't remember where it was!) This is the most blue object I have ever observed!! It looks like a badmitton birdie, and the color is outstanding. The color of a fine sky! And just how fine is it? Let's go see...

Oh, yeah. The "Christmas Tree" cluster! NGC2264's triangluar shaped is unmistakable. Lots of variences in magnitude, with S. Monocerotis blue/white duplicity stealing the show. And another "toughie" is right here... The "Cone Nebula" pushing its' way back toward that bright star on the southern end! I don't often get to see this one, like the "Horsehead" before it. And when I do, I tend to freeze in place. I think you could steal up and walk away with the little scope and I'd never notice. I count myself very lucky tonight!

By now, Leo has well risen and I need galaxies! Memory challenge? The NGC2903. It took a few mintues for me to hook back up with it, but I was pleased that I remembered. What I didn't forget was this very pretty spiral galaxy with a bright core and faint, knotted sweeping arms!

Nor can I forget how to find the M65 and M66. Little treasures in either scope... but I want the big one! M65 comes to life as a spiral galaxy, it's nucleas spread out far and wide. The M66 is brighter and shorter than the M65, but that crazy line of light from the southern tip makes it special! Nearby, the NGC3628 awaits. Edge-on!! Very grainy, this warped, pencil-slim galaxy sports a great dust lane that widens out at the edges. The NGC3593 comes next, with its' bright, elongated core. The outline of this one's spiral arms is very diffuse, blending well into the background at the edges.

Let's head back over for the M95 and M96. Once again, viewable in the 4.5... but structureless. With aperature and magnification, the M95 turns into a barred spiral, with a stellar nucleas. Surrounded by wispy arms, the center seems to have a fuzzy fringe about it. Crazy thing! The M96 is a silver/grey beauty in a starless field. Easy to spot, its' intense core is far sharper and brighter than the ghostly wreath of it's arms! And there are many companions here... The NGC334 shows its' elongated oval form signifying an elliptical with a bright nucleas. And the NGC3389, as a pale, thin streak of light that glows very evenly from edge to edge! Magnificent galaxies...
Let's go for a few more, eh?

We've got Ursa Major now. A nod to Mizar and Alcore... then off! Starting with the big, flat spiral galaxy, M101, I walk the power back a bit... because this one is diffuse. A very fine face-on spiral, it's loose arms show some indications of knots as they extend outward from the core region. Hop up to Gamma and head for the M109. Great barred spiral, the arms appearing as if they are coming from a grey nebula. Nice...

On to Merak and the M108. You'd like this edge-on beauty! It's unusual because it doesn't bulge a bit in the middle... It's very flat looking. Milky white, there are four bright spots that highlight it's form... and through the long axis runs the signature dark dust lane! Not far away sits Mr. Owl... the M97. The darn thing is as big a Jupiter! Has it eyes? Oh, yes. But they are not like the intrustion of the "Cone" or the notch of the "Horsehead". Its' dark side appears as a slightly darker figure 8. Nothing more. With a tiny triangle of stars inside and one outside the edge!

Dubhe? It's just not that difficult, ok? It's just small. From here I start a fall line... and... and... babble... babble babble... babble babble.. babble... babble! I went inside the "bowl"... and got lost!! What do I do here? Go to the map? Play? What?! I chose pleasure, mon ami. All these tiny little galaxies make me smile!

Now for the M81 and M82. Readjustment time for the big 32mm. Move the counterbalance? Eh... Nah. I'll just put my gloves on the back, cuz' I'll only be a moment! (or two, or three, or four... ;) I want to look at them same field. Once upon a time I had a splendid picture that looked so much like what I see here! OK... enough. I walk alone. So can they! The nucleas of the M81 absolutely shimmers... For awhile, as it spins its' way outward, the field stays even. Only at the very edge can you make out any arm structure... and it is faint! The lumpy spindle of the M82 shows far more detail... And what do I do? Go to the 4.5. You know it's not the same.... not even close. But for some reason it gives me something else I need.

Perspective.

When I finish, it is time to search the field about this pair. Studies from other times are also here in the form of the NGC2976, NGC2787, and the NGC3077. Two spirals and an elliptical. Why are they studies? Because they belong to the M81/M82 family. Like Andromeda... ;)

More? Let's rock...

Cor Caroli has long since cleared well and Arcturus is sitting good! And M51? The treasure... I speak of many galaxies. Many of them show fine detail and I love them for what they are... But the M51 is the best. The mightly "Whirlpool" is like a fantasy come true. His strong arms sweep round, filled with resolvable clusters. Dust lanes are not a hint, but well defined. The NGC5194 seems quite happy just to be near it. And I know how it feels.

Come now, let's hop and bop... because there's something I wouldn't mind seeing tonight either! ;) On to the colorful Cor Caroli, and over to the barred spiral M94. Small, yet lovely. It's central bar appears as an ethereal smile. M3? Yeow! After all this faint stuff, I had quite forgotten the beautiful concentration of large globular clusters! WOW! Resolvability!!! Shall I just say it was rather intense?! And the M53... So tiny in comparison, with its' core slipped to one side. Last stop here? The "Blackeye"... The tear drop shaped M64 is very pleasing. Small, but very luminous, the curvature of its' interloping dark dust lane makes it!

Smiling, I started to head back to put things away. It has been a rather incredible night and I'm still just a wee bit excited! Then a meteor falls across the face of the sky. And it makes me think...

I set the dob back down on the M41. There are stars far below Canis Major and Lepus that I do not recognize. And I go to the eyepiece. I would hand you it's beauty if I could. Like the M44 that inspired me tonight... I must look at it, too. You make me follow the rules... And the M67?

Because I want to...

"And I don't ever want to feel... Like I did that day. Take me to a place I love... Take me far away."


January 9, 2002 - Saturn, Asteroid Vesta, Jupiter, M31, M32, M110, NGC884 & NGC869... A "Re-Visit", The Cassiopeian Clusters - NGC457, NGC663, M52, NGC436, NGC637, NGC129, NGC129, NGC225, NGC7789, M103.NGC659, NGC654, NGC1647, NGC1746, M1, NGC1664, NGC1893, M36, M37, M38 and the NGC1907, IC405 "The Flaming Star", M35 and NGC2158, NGC2024, M42, the "Trapezium", M43, NGC1981, M78, NGC2237 and the M50...

Comments: Man! What an unusual day we had... The temperatures made it up to almost 50F and wiped out a good 2/3 of the snow! No problem, eh? (There's plenty more on the way... ;) Oddly enough, despite the radical change, the sky was clear after sunset... and just got more and more transparent as the temperature fell and the darkness followed.

Started the evening with the 4.5 We've found a new friend for the "World Backyard" with a Celestron 114... and although I use the small scope every bit as much as the dob, I chose to take a stroll down "memory lane"... and see some things as I did for the very first time! Saturn, with it's beautiful system of rings and tiny moons, pulling Titan and Iaepetus along "behind" it, and how the barlow pulls out limb darkening and shadow. (Asteroid Vesta is mine, ok? For it is nothing more than another "star" in the field... but I'm just tracking.) Then Jupiter with it's belts and moons. I can't "unsee" it, no matter how hard I try now. The three galieans to one side are most definately coming toward us... and after having read Cor's report, I guarantee the center one that is ever so slightly ahead of Jove is the one he watched transit. And the fourth? To the otherside... and roughly flush with the planet. Even a low magnification I can see many variences in the equatorial belts, but the deep sky calls me, mon ami. It always has...

I set the 4.5 on the golden beauty of the "Andromeda Family"... mindful of the first time I saw it! How excited I was! (and i still am... ;) The "Galaxy Hunt" arouses me like nothing else... and when I find one, the pleasure is still deep and intense. So multiply that by three... because they are here in the range of that little scope. And my... how they make me smile!

When I can get that glazed over look out of my eyes, and wipe the drool from my lips, I head off to Perseus for the "Double Cluster". With only slighty averted vision, you can see it without the scope... But use it. Because I want every last drop! Is it boring? Oh, hell no! That field is so rich with concentration it will never lose attraction for me!

And you know I'm aching for that big ol' scope, don't you? Once I had a taste of it, I could never leave it alone again...

So I whiled away some time while it cooled down. A bit of this... a bit of that. Always with an eye to the sky, afraid of the clouds return. But I needn't have worried. Because the dark...

Just got darker...

When I uncovered the dob, my first thought was for the M31. It's just moving away so very quickly! And, like all things I have affection for, will disappear all too soon.. So, I spend some time with it. Pleasing details on all three... and just a push away the other members toward Cassiopeia make their tiny stands. I get off on galaxies. Just can't help myself!

Since Cassiopeia itself is so close, I figure it to be time to enjoy it also. (It won't be long until Leo rules the night and I'll be lost again! ;) Tracing along the constellation, I stop to admire each open cluster. NGC457 with its' twin bright stars and swatch of diamond dust... the NGC663, a cloud of fine stars, the M52, with scores of stars, but one stand out on the edge... the NGC436, like a breath on a frosty window... the NGC637, a "delta wing" of pinpoint lights... the group of the NGC129... the delicate circling embrace of the NGC225... the absolutely awsome NGC7789 (playing favourites here.. ;) the loose collection of the M103... the NGC659 with it hundreds of faint stars overlapped with brighter gems... and the shining stars of the NGC654. They are all incredibly beautiful... Always fresh. Always engaging. Always worthwhile...

Let's go play about in Taurus for awhile before I get emotional here, ok? It is my sign, after all... And much like me. Simple. The Plieades and Hyades are comfortable... But there are hidden depths. The NGC1647 is one... A nice chain of stars and filled with doubles and triples. And the NGC1746... A pretty interaction of magnitudes with a terrific close chain of 5. And, of course, the M1. Oh, man... What I wouldn't give for you to see it this way. Filamentous and pulsating... That wonderful, mysterious supernova remnant that holds my attention for perhaps far too long!

On down to Auriga now... and wanting this to be a bit more difficult than usual. The NGC1664 is what I want. Set in one sweet field of stars, this kite-shaped cluster is most pleasing. Not so the NGC1893... more of a shy gathering of stars. The M36 and M37 are easy enough... well practiced and well loved targets. But the dob gives something the M38 that no other does... the NGC1907. Compact and varied, it sits right in the field with the M38. It compliments it well. The last stop here is the IC405... the "Flaming Star". And it, too, holds me in place.

When I can breathe again, I feel like tackling the "Twins"... Because there is more here than meets the eye, too! M35... a decent open cluster. But it holds a secret. The NGC2158. Also a tiny, compact open cluster of faint magnitude... but this is what the dob was made for. To capture and hold those faraway stars...

(About this time I thought I would hang it up. I know it's late, because I'm cold and a bit tired. But oh my, my... the sky was as black as H! And by the way, where exactly is the beast?! Ranger is right here on his blanket... But where is H? One whistle is all it takes, and he comes flying out of the shadows... carrying a pine cone. Cool. No problem. Let's go slide inside the dark garage for a bit... Sneak a cup of coffee from the thermos... Listen to the radio... And watch H toss around the pine cone. Pine cone?!? Nah... It couldn't be. No way. I buried it this time. H? H? Oh, no. He's studying forensics again... For he's found that damn half-cremated, frozen and buried hamster body! UGH! I should have named that hamster Lazarus... because it keeps coming back again and again! YUCK! So much for a "Christian Burial"... This time it's going over the neighbor's privacy fence. Here H... Have a mint.)

OK, then... We're warm. We're fueled. (We're disgusted... ;) Let's go get Orion...

First stop, the NGC2024... The "Flame" nebula. Not bad... Not bad at all! But that IC object I'd like to see? Huh uh. The soft smear is there... but no "notch" tonight. Let's go to the M42...

I can hear myself draw in an involuntary breath. It is spectacular! This is the climax of all nebula... Ribbons and filaments... hot young stars embedded within. Powerful... Dazzling... Worth every moment of the wait! I can feel myself glaze over again... It puts me in a trance. And leaves me there! And within? The "Trapezium"... I am a 17mm and six are clear. What do I want to do? And music makes up my mind for me... Because I can hear "Glycerine"....

"I don't want this... Remember that. I can never forget... Where you're at."


Perhaps one day. But not this one...

So, I let it be... and head off center for the M43. Seeing the "Fishmouth" makes me smile! I wonder how often other people have looked at this never knowing it isn't part of the overwhelming grandeur of the M42? Splendid little fellow... Spend some time with it!

Now for a pass over the triple faint nebulae, and on to the pretty white open cluster of the NGC1981. It is a loose collection, but a recent challenge object for me, and I am pleased to have found it again! And another? The M78! Terrific little tight nebula, glowing softly round two hot young blue/white stars! Most interesting.

Betelgueuse... Betelguese... Betelguese! And hop on over to the NGC2237 and the soft curls of the "Rosette" nebula. It swirls softly round that open cluster... and it feels nice. Then to the M50 to enjoy its' array of colors... a chain and a knot. And then what do I do? Ended up getting lost... Searching round for the Hubble Variable. It's been far too long...

I miss you.

"He sees my good days... Then he kisses me one day. I am what I am. Now that is love..."

January 8, 2002 - The Moon... The Sun... Jupiter, M42, M41, NGC2362, M47, M46 and M93...

What a pleasure to wake up to almost clear sky today! The holes between the clouds were big, wide and slow moving... and I be fast!

At first I just stood and marveled at how very quickly the spring constellations have claimed this early time! Leo has already began its' westward descent, Virgo smokes up the south, and Ursa Major rides high in the north! Where has all the time gone? My, how it flies when you're having clouds....

So let's race them to the Moon...

One of my favorite areas, the Sinus Iridum, is very well met this morning. As is crater Schiller, and the flat form of Gassendi. So where to adventure? Locate Euclides and drool over the Apollo 12 landing site? Suits me for a bit. Keplar? Aristarchus? Both quite fine. I know! Pythagoras... Cool. There it is. But do you really want to know what takes the eye? The Carpatus Mountains... Seeming to stand out on their own volition, this overlooked area of selenographic landscape captures the imagination. Soft, high peaks and deep warm valleys invite the caress of vision. The lip of crater T. Mayer well into the highlight... counterpointed by all of the deep dark wells of Euler, Brayley, Bessarion, Milichius, and Hortensus.

Fascinating...

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And the Sun shines! As soon as it reached a place in the sky where I could access it away from the drifting snow from trees and rooftops, away I went! And what a fine Sun it is...


SOHO photo


The most recent group we had been following, 9767 is getting ready to make it's disappearing act. This has been an interesting group, with fast changes to the spots themselves and the field surrounding them. Another interesting character has come well into view now, 9773. The views on it today show that it is going to be another unusual grouping worth keeping an eye on! But there's a bad boy coming round the corner...

And I like the way he looks!

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What do you know about that? The early evening was predominated by cloud... but the sky always surprises me! Later in the evening, I went to let the dogs out... and there stood Orion! Oh, what the hey... It wouldn't be the first time I've put sweaters and coats and boots on over my night clothes... and I'm sure it won't be the last!

So, out with the 4.5...

The score on Jupiter last night? 2 to 1 for the galieans! Right decent detail on the equatorial belts, but I crave deep sky!

And M42 delivers. I don't think I'll ever tire of looking at this fantasy nebula. At 25mm I can just make out the wink of three Trapezium stars, and it's a bit cold to be playing with eyepieces! (i'd be right angry if i dropped on in the snow... ;) Regardless, the nebula itself provides a very satisfying view! Now on to Sirius and drop down for the M41. Quite pretty... even in the 4.5! By knowing what stars lie beyond the capability of the small scope, it makes me push myself visually to see just how many I can find averted!

Since I'm in the area, I hunt about until I find the NGC2362. This one is quite pretty in it's own right. A very subtle sprinkling of stars that appear to surround Tau... almost as if they are orbiting it. Not densly populated like most star clusters, it is just one of those pleasing finds for a cold winter night.

Hop off to Puppis now, before it gets too cold, for a look at the M47. Also a very loose, sparse field of stars, the M47 looks like it's tumbling from the sky, with a bright pair at the edge. M46 gets the juices flowing, however! This is more like it!! The 4.5 reveals a great, grainy patch of stellar landscape, with a few bright, easily resolved members involved. And the M93? Oh, yeah. A wonderfully rich, concentrated band of several dozen stars, many of them easily resolved. This one is a great tease in the small scope, because I know it as a wonderful burst in the dob. But you know what? Who needs it tonight?

I'm satisfied... ;)

"I walk through these fields, because he knows who I am....

January 7, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: Hey! It quit snowing!!

Sol kept sliding in and out... leaving me with the most tantalizing of glimpses of sunspot 9767. But what I did get to see I found very arousing. The formation of the grouping has changed yet again. The umbral areas swelling to mighty proportions, ensheathed inside the softer penumbra. Both led and followed by spots of a lesser nature. It has gone from being corraled to free flowing... and making its' way toward the outgoing edge in just a matter of two or three days.

There are three more active areas also present on the solar surface, but the racing clouds prevented me from doing much observance on them. Maybe the sky will be a bit more cooperative in the future, eh?

I can wait.

"I drive on the straights... because he's my companion."

January 4, 2002 - The Moon... The Sun... Jupiter, Saturn, Mesarthim, Almach, Eta Cassiopeiae, Theta Auriga, M103, NGC663, NGC457, M52, M34, NGC884 and NGC869, M36, M37, M38, M35 and M42...

Comments: Hey... I was up, ok? And so was the Moon.

Apparently old T here seemed to find Albategnius rather fascinating through the eye of the camera! Sure... there's tons of other stuff in here. But that camera seems to keep going back and back to this one! Can't say as how I blame myself... It is rather interesting, isn't it?

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Still following that tremendous sunspot with Cor... But thin clouds had other ideas! Only the most tantalizing of glimpses peeked though... Enough to see how far it had rotated... Enough to see the other almighty on is gone... (and i was alerted to the fact that a massive, twisted CME had occured! and inside i can't help but wonder if it was the really "depressed" one on the "edge" yesterday!) Enough! It was pleasant just to be allowed a peek! But know what? I don't mind. We've plenty of snow predicted for the days ahead, and I am always happy with what I am given. Even a rather soft edged look at today's sunspots!

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When I came home from dinner at my parent's house, it was to find my boots, gloves, pencils, and notepaper strung out all over the floor! Nothing chewed up, mind you... Just taken out. Apparently there are a couple of dogs who don't understand why it's dark and I'm not home yet! Perhaps it's a hint...

So my old friend the 4.5, Ranger, H and I embarked upon a quiet journey...

Saturn has very little appeal tonight. Only tiny Titan has the power to cut through the haze that the reflection of Saturn causes. But still... Just to see there really are rings around that distant planet is great! Jupiter really lights things up, and only two of the galieans are present. Perhaps they are in transit/eclipse... and I thought for a moment to fetch the dob and see. No. It's very gusty tonight... it would make the image shudder and only serve to frustrate. Let's just try something else, ok?

Mesarthim? (Ah, now... Just by sweeping across the star fields, I see this is a much better choice!) Ordinarily, this blue/white pair splits easy enough, but tonight they feel like touching. How I envy them! Almach presents itself much better, with it's tiny green companion sheering away neatly from the golden primary. Eta Cassiopeiae also did very well... presenting a splendid color contrast with it's yellow primary and tiny red attendant.

So, if stars are the choice tonight... Then let's go look at a highly unusual one... Theta Auriga. When I first stumbled across this particular star, I was challenging myself to new doubles... but found myself drawn to the star itself. As my friends well know, I have a certain "fascination" for spectra... and an ability to see qualities in a star that others might not. Theta is one. I can only compare it to a black diamond. Ordinary diamonds reflect yellows and reds... high quality ones reflect more greens and blues... but the very best ones reflect purple and black. Take the time to look at Theta... It's a gem.

Up to a bit of open clusters? Hey! Let's rock!! Pull up a chair, Cassiopeia... and let's see what you've got. M103 isnt too bad, a grainy patch set between two bright stars. NGC663 is a bit better, a wedge of tiny points, superimposed with brighter ones over and around it. NGC457 is considerably better... Many individual stars resolve in a pattern resembling a diving rod. But the M52 is splendid. And how like a globular cluster it seems to appear!

Perseus? You bet. The M34 walks right out. And you know that the "Perseus Double", NGC884 and NGC869 are always outstanding! The entire constellation of Perseus is simply a stellar field. I love to just "run" over it! And perhaps make a pass at Algol from time to time?

Ready for the M36, M37 and M38? Yeah, the M36 isn't exactly the most interesting monster at the mash... but that double in the center sure is nice! M37 is a gathering of miniscule points of light, but set within it is a great circle of stars... With a nice, bright orange one set in the center! M38 is much, much looser... It has the dubious distinction of wanting me to fetch the larger scope for it! But, a dozen or so stars in and around the cluster itself resolve well for the little one.

M35? There's your resolution. No haze here! Just a tremendous gathering of small blue stars, with the brightest of the lot showing strong hints of yellow.

How about the M42 before we call it a night? Yeah... Angel's breath on the sky, baby!

Simple pleasures...

"No, I don't want to ever feel... Like I did that day. Take me to a place I love... Take me all the way. Hey. Yeah, yeah..."


January 3, 2002 - The Sun... Saturn, Jupiter, Asteroid Vesta, M77, M74, M31, M32, M110, NGC2392, M81, M82, and M108...

Comments: Oh, and don't you know the sky was heartbreakingly clear on the way in to work tonight! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

But, as luck would have it, it stayed clear and allowed me a chance to do some solar observance. Friend Cor and I have been chasing a tremendous sunspot group since it rounded the bend and released a CME. This is one fantasy spot... It covers a tremendous area, and from what we've watched, changes in just a matter of hours! There is one large umbral (for you, jeff!) area surrounded by a slightl irregular penumbra... but shepherded along by a fantastic array of smaller ones!

The entire solar surface is littered with activity... but on the outgoing edge sits a real beauty! The Wilson Effect has so distorted the area, it is impossible to get a clear focus on it! Spectacular...

****************************************
Started the evening by enjoying a bit of time with the planets. I supposed I hustled a bit over Saturn... As a matter of fact, I know I did. My first impulse was to merely check out the positions of the moons, and I stuck with that. The two outer ones are flung away, as if Saturn has them in a tether, and is spinning them round itself. The inner ones still waltz around the ring edge on the opposite side... content to let the others steal the show!

Jupiter is still displaying some rather extraordinary amounts of surface detail. Neither the 4.5, nor the dob will ever pull fantastic resolution on a planet... but when I see those multitudes of "bands", I take notice! Oddly enough, even the camera pulls them out, but not with the clarity the eyepiece provides. And the galieans? Three coming at us, and one left behind.

Before I take off for "Never Never Land", I stop back by Taurus to keep tabs on Vesta... Still sailing away.

Now, if you don't mind... I need deep sky! Although Orion looks mighty tempting, I chose to shoot for my two of my latest study galaxies. the M77 and M74. Two very delicious studies in spiral structure. The are revealed in the 4.5, but lack structure. They come "alive" in the dob! Such twist... Seems almost like you could see them move if you had patience enough!!

When I've had my fill, I head for the Andromeda Group. Sure... I've visited them rather often, but I don't mind doing so again! The M32 will never take on structure... and the M110 is grand in the big scope... but Andromeda herself? Wow... From the intense golden core, through the faint dust lanes, to the ragged northern edge, and back to the south to stand in awe of the 206... it delivers!

Still feeling something, I guess...

So, I felt like a hop to Gemini. Shoot me for a sinner, because I wanted to check out the NGC2392... just rub cold noses with the little "Eskimo". It's a little green/blue beauty at lower power, highlighted dramatically by the orange star that sits nearby. Push up the magnification and you get a rather concentric set of brightenings... Very pretty.

But, I still feel like roaming the galaxies.

By now superior dark has set in. We are talking black sky. Just my style. And off to the M81 and M82. 32mm will put them in the same field as the dob, 26mm splits them apart, and 17mm
is where I stopped. Such a pretty pair. One a pool of crystal light spiraling around a gem of a nucleas... another a lumpy spindle of silver thread. Both magnificent.

I had thought to hop down and have a look at the M97... but I guess "The Great White" had other plans for me. For as I began my walk, something grabbed me! Edge-on... No matter how cold I am starting to get, the M108 warmed me right up! Had I truly forgotten this one? (damn skippy, because i had to look it up on the map!) A evenly spread stretch of galactic light... with four bright spots! So, so... freckled looking! I don't really see a bulge in the center that signifies edge-on structure... But I am not complaining!! And sometimes... in moments of clarity... a dark dust lane runs through the long axis.

You need this...


"Take me to a place I love... Take me far away..."


January 2, 2002 - Nothing but clouds, baby...

Nothing but clouds.

"And I don't ever want to feel.... Like I did that day."


December 31, 2001 ~ January 1, 2002 - Of endings... and beginnings...

Comments: I find myself procrastinating far too long in writing this report... Because I know when I finish I will have ended a chapter in my life...

And began a new one.

This will be the last report of 2001... and the frame saved to begin 2002. The old reports page will be archived.. My words sent to an "retirement" home where they belong... Part of my past. Do you know how hard it will be for me to push that erase key? And watch all that I have worked on for the last year dissolve away in a split second of electronic time? Ah, then... You know how I feel! I shall print off a copy to add to my observing books of other years... other times... And take faith that what I have stored in another server will not disappear...

And if it does? I will start again.

Began the evening by teaching some of my younger extended family members about the night sky... How rewarding it feels to say, "Here! This is the Plieades... And there! Let me show you the ecliptic plane.... the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter! And over here? Mars! See these stars? That's Orion's belt... and there? That's the M42... where stars are born. This "M"? That's Cassiopeia..." If I can give nothing else in life... perhaps just for one moment in time I gave "the next generation" something of myself. Maybe they will remember me for it...

Upon returning home, I set the scopes out to cool. The Moon had well risen, the sky was clear, and it was so beautiful just to see how the moonlight bathed the snow covered fields in blue light. Above it arched the black canvas of night... studded with the diamond hard brightness of winter stars. Time to end this year as I began it...

How beautiful the slow waltz of Saturn! Its' tiny moons triangulating it with perfection... the others keeping watch from outside the system of rings. I hold myself to my promise to watch for details I may have missed while deep in my eternal fascination with the moons.... and it is there. I had always assumed the crepe ring to be the shadow of the rings upon the surface of Saturn. The true shadow lies behind it, to one side of the planet, giving depth perception. Limb darkening enhances the effect... and again, I am deeply reminded of how it appears like a ball set within a vinyl record album. Each ring division sings a song of its' own.. Be it darker, or lighter... wider of thinner... transparent or impenentrable... Saturn's system of rings will hold you in a trance. And I am in no hurry to leave this place...

Near me, Ranger lies upon a blanket I have put down to keep him warm. Despite his age, and the single digit temperatures, he is my scopin' buddy... My old partner in a familiar dance.

Around us, H cavorts about, oblivious to the cold, and deeply engaged in playing with.... of all things... a brick! ("and the wisemen don't know how it feels to be... thick as a brick." ;) Ah, but he learns quickly... and well. For each time I move the scope, or reach into the case for an eyepiece... he watched my every move. He has learned my body language perfectly, and knows when we are going out or in... if I'm moving to another part of the yard... or if I have no intention of leaving. H is an eager young partner... full of vitality. One who always looks a my case with a twinkle in his eye... as if to say "I could steal this from you..." ;)

On now to Jupiter... and the 4.5 comes first. Wow! First thought is for the galieans... three bent toward us, and one "behind" the planet. But the detail? Oh my gosh... When the 4.5 walks it out, I cannot wait to set the dob upon it. At 9mm it swells into the field of view, unleasing an orgy of striations. The dob will never provide clean, hard edge detail... but I don't mind. For you see, I am a galaxy hunter... but tonight Jupiter offers me satisfaction... and I will take it. From the ubiquitous soft, smooth, delicate shadings that exist both above and below its' famed belts... to those hard-edged, highly defined equatorial zones themselves. A tasty treat. And I am in the mood to indulge...

When walking back down off the power, it is my turn to enjoy the moons! Each one different, each one in their own place in space. How can anyone look upon the galieans and NOT see that they are dimensional?! And how quickly they move!! For in just the matter of time it took me to study Jupiter itself... perhaps an hour or so... the one has come from behind, to stand beside Jove! Eternally locked in the dance... I find them fascinating.

Time to go indoors for a bit. The hours have slid past me unawares... and the cold has found its' way through my many layers of clothing. (and the camera battery has gone quite dead... ;) Let's go recharge a bit... and when feeling returns to fingers and toes... Return.

And that magic hour approaches... Time to end one year and begin another.

It is custom in my part of the world to shoot a gun at that time... and who am I to break with tradition? (hehehhee... my choice? two semi-automatic rifles and my favorite old 12 guage shotgun... ;) Once the formalities have been dispensed with, guns returned to the cabinet where they belong, and spent shells taken away from H's reach, I am ready to "shoot" the Moon....

And what a magnificent player Selene is tonight! Mare Crisium will knock you down, and drag you away by the hair to claim you as his own. The shadows sit just right to highlight the "curve" of this outstanding feature.... Making it appear almost "blister like"... smooth and shiny, only broken by the tiny orafices of Peirce and Picard. Promentorium Agarum seems to stand out with a life of its' own, while Craters Lick and Shapely add interest to the walls of the boundary.

At the other end, Crater Rheita seems to stand out... it's central peak sitting high and proud above the soft texture that surrounds it. The runneled surface of the Southern Highlands still sits in wait... Its' day will come. So I return again to Crisium... and drink my fill.

The hour has grown quite late. Frost has long ago formed on the body of the Celestron...But still, I am not ready to leave. I return to Taurus to make my mark for Vesta... smiling to myself at how quickly it, too, has moved. This is a time honoured dance... and I know the sky well. It is a new year... and I seek the peace that Cassiopeia provides, the excitement of Peseus, and the strength of both Gemini and Auriga. These open clusters I view are old, old friends... I both know them well... and not at all. And I love them.

I have needs, just like anyone else... and right now I need to see Jupiter again. Earlier details so rocked my world, I want to look again! And as soon as I go to the eyepiece, my laughter brings H to my side... The Moons! Those crazy little, ever-loving moons... Not only has the one moved out from "behind" the planet, it has come towards us!! I will give Jupiter credit for one thing... It keeps me amused!

I begin slowly putting things away. I really don't want to leave this place, but my hands and feet have become quite numb. I saved the dob for last... and left in the 32mm. Why? Because I still need... And it will give me something...

The M81 and M82....

"Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner... Sometimes I feel like my only friend... Is this city I live in... This city of Angels. Lonely as I am.... Together we fly..."



Is this the beginning? Or merely the end...