July 31, 2002 - Venus, M5, M57, M13, the ISS, M27, M71, Brocchi's Cluster, Cor Caroli, M51, M81, M82, M80, M4, NGC6144, M14, M9, M19, M62, B72, NGC6356. NGC6342, NGC6325, NGC6355, NGC6316, NGC6304, M6, M7, M8, M20, M21, M24, M17, M16, M22, M28 and the M11...
Comments: Another superior night, but this time from the backyard! Unfortunately, I worked too late to catch the Sun... But that doesn't mean I'm about to just "forget" a great sky!
Just before reasonable skydark, Venus made its' presence well known, and I was off and running... Experimenting with a variety of filters and the 12.5. When I look up, I happen to notice that I have company... Hey, Myrvyn! You've picked a great night, guy... Want the summer "Nickle Tour"?
But, tonight? The stakes have gone up to a dime, my friend. For I have longed to re-study the Ophiuchus field!
Off we go to the Messiers and a brief explanation of what each object is and how it works in the cosmic scheme of things. The ancient M5 is always good for a story! I was exceptionally pleased with the amount of resolution that could be picked out of the M13 tonight with the 17mm and the braiding structure in the M57 with the same. No central star was in evidence... But, we'll have a go at that on another night!
Breaking to watch a shallow pass of the ISS across the northern part of the sky, we returned to explore some of Summer "Gotta's"... M27 gave a very fine appearance, and edge-resolution just sparkled on the M71. Brocchi's cluster is always good for a smile!
Hopping back across the sky, we take advantage of where I'm set up at in the yard to capture Cor Caroli and a very faded and jaded M51 and companion. The M81 and M82 faired a bit better, but again... the current positions keep them from having that "take your breath away" appearance.
Pulling the dob out to the south field, I am absolutely bouncing with excitement... Why? Because the stars are walking right down ground tonight.... And that means a great appearance of some of MY favourite summer fuzzies!
Tonight? They ain't so fuzzy....
While giving gentle lessons on constellations and star color, we begin tracing our way down Scorpius at minimum of magnification. M80, M4... and when I see a hint of NGC6144? Ooops! I've gone into "study mode"... and have a hard time getting the "tour guide" to come back! Power up.... Returning to the moderate magnification of the 26mm we headed our way down through the Ophicuhan globulars. The more splendid ones, whom I have listed above just aching to be resolved!
When we take in B72, and I can clearly see the "Snake" etched against the background stars? Oh, I am sorry. My friends will quite understand what happened next... For ~T went into "study mode" - notes and all - and didn't come back out of it for some time! Others might find all those wonderful globulars caught in our galactic halo a bit boring... But I sure don't!!
When my feet came back down to the ground, I put the good 32mm back in and we finished the tour proper. Everyone should be allowed a look and the M6 and M7 at a minimum! Then on to Saggitarius to enjoy the finest it has to offer. I think the excitement for what I love to do can be contagious for some people... for Myrvyn certainly caught on to why this is my favourite constellation!
When we had exhausted the nebulae and other fine targets, I showed him how easily to dobsonian mount works... And told him to just go "Explore!" while I stand here and just take a stroll down memory lane. (Still looking up and thinking, amigo...) It wasn't long before I was called back to have a look through the eyepiece at something he had found... Beginner's luck? Nah. The M11 rock and rolls the sky in the dob... But you can see now, after you've found it for yourself, just how much fun astonomy can be, yes? Well, all right... I'm glad you enjoyed yourself!
Unfortunately, duty calls for me and it is time to put the toys away for the night. There is only so much coffee even I can take! The last two days are beginning to make themselves known to me. Heck... The entire month of July has been great to me!
And I can feel sleep wanting to pull me under...
"The only direction I go is down...
June 30, 2002 - The Sun... At the Warren Rupp Observatory...
Comments: Still beastly hot here, and the morning hours remained totally cloudy. As the afternoon progressed, they went to cumulus, and just a couple of hours before I had to leave? Pretty much cleared off!
So, of course, you know I had to go sneak a peek at the Sun!
In the news today, a giant solar prominence has develop.... A rather magnificent one, too! No wonder ShockSpot was barking so loud yesterday...
Looks like we may have company coming!
And that "iffy" day? Turned into the kind of evening we amatuer astronomers dream about. We're talking an easy 6.5 ULM here...
And what better place to spend it than at the Observatory!!!
At first I was a bit worried when I arrived, because there was no one there. No one. That's OK. The Observatory grounds are a pretty and peaceful place.... And I kinda' liked just dragging away some brush and picking up odd litter. Just hanging out... Then Bob arrived and I persuaded him into helping me get the big scope set on Venus. You see, I kinda' had a bit of a project in mind. One that involved a filter and a promise to a friend... And you know how I am about promises!
Damn, Skippy. I keep them!
Needless to say, the results were far more satisfactory than I believed them to be... And when I have shared them first with the friend who inspired me to try? Well.... Let's just say one good turn deserves another! And soon enough it was time for our guests to arrive....
I think I'm going hard of hearing in my old age... (huh?) For what I thought to be fifteen kids were fifty. And talk about a great bunch!!! All of them very polite, and with terrific questions. Assuming a bit more responsibility this time than I have on other occasions, it was my great pleasure to work with them at the "Big Scope" and to get to hear first hand their exclamations over that intial view of the "Ring" nebula!!! That, folks... Is what it's all about.
When down on ground, I had a splendid time answering questions... showing my films of sunspots... teaching them to read a starchart... and how to identify constellations! And watching what seemed like one meteor after another zip past in the pefect skies... In other words? A very good time! When the last of them departed, I couldn't ask for finer company than Gary as we explored through the realms of Cygnus in the quest for the holy "Veil". He's a fascinating man... And how he can make me laugh!
When time came to "close up shop", we were down to three... Bob, Bruce and myself. And you'll never guess where we ended up.... Studying this ultra-fine night with a 12.5" Meade dobsonian. Well, well! Where is the fine irony in that, folks?! ;) I arrived just in time to view the first of the "fim duzzies"... NGC6814. I'm here to tell you, the resolution was excellent! Now, ask me where I want to go, and I'll tell you.... Mr. Wizard's Galaxy. No place else! The Meade 12.5 revealed the NGC6822 as fine as I had ever seen it in the backyard. Absolutely splendid pinpoints of light in this diffuse, wide-spread galaxy... and the planetary NGC6818 was bright and perfect!
Wishing Bob and good night, we were down to Bruce and I... And you guys know me. If they sky is right? I'll sleep when I'm dead, thanks. And in Bruce, not only do I find a kindred spirit, but one who's got a lot more DSO observances in his books than I do! The man has got talent... no doubt about it.... And I'm not leaving!
So, explore we did... those "little things that kill" like the decent galaxy NGC6956... And one that is totally new on me. The UGC11620 (no typo, ok?) was revealed as a small, faint face-on spiral with a stellar nucleas. Rock on!!!
Bruce happily let me explore his notes and equipment, and it was good to make his acquaintance, and I very much look forward to spending more than one quiet evening with him just exploring what he can teach me. Actually... If it wasn't for that darn Selene? I'd still be there.
Guess it's time for me to come down from the hill, huh?
"Down... Oh, Down.... Down... Oh, Down..."
June 29, 2002 - The Sun...
Comments: Thanks to the great Ohio heat wave, the skies remained mostly cloudy during the day with a pattering of rain. But all wasn't lost, because an occasional hole would float by... And I was out there!
Sunspots 39 and 44 continue to dominate the scene. It's been fascinating over the last few days to watch the continual break up of 39's leader spot and the changes in the penumbral field. But 44 is doing it's best to steal the show! The two appear almost as if they belong to the same group... and they should. Both share the same "Fki" classification and a twisted beta/gamma/delta magnetic field. This pair continues to spike the data, erupting several times a day with C and M class flares. Together? They're awesome!
Also in the area is spot 50. Far less exciting in it's "Dso" mode, it still adds up with the other two to make a tremendous area that spans over 20 earth widths! (And by the by... this area can be caught visually be just looking through the solar filter!) Incoming spot 51 is far less exciting that its' complex brethren. Although it is also a bi-polar area, its' beta class magnetic field make it rather simple minded. Therefore... I like it!
But all was not quiet today... Oh, no. ShockSpot hit me not one, not two, but three times!! Holy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof! (and it is, too... would you mind bringing the ladder now?) Three massive gusts of solar wind left the surface, supercharged with protonic particles and phenomenal speeds of over a million miles per hour!
They brought in two 99% and one 92"% confidence levels... And that, folks, means we could spread our solar sails and fly to Andromeda! But... don't buy a ticket for the boat just yet! The solar wind phenomena is highly unpredictable and science isn't fully aware of exactly how it works just yet!
Houston? Save me a seat.
Beautiful Rayleigh scattering at sunset and blue skies above. After having followed a brief rain spell, I thought I might actually get a chance to set the power and violet filter down on Venus... No such luck.
Growling to myself, I hopped into the swimming pool and began my nightly laps. Then a gigantic hole floated over! And it was beautiful. You could even see the stars of Lacerta! Far too late for Venus, but perhaps I might catch the ISS? Going back to the edge, I put my glasses back on and checked the watch. Six minutes... This just might happen!
Oh, it happened all right. A big white cloud came right out of the west at exactly the same time the ISS was to make its' appearance, and I'll be darned if it didn't cruising at the same speed! Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!
Laughing at my luck, I went back to my swim. Those clouds hung out all night long... No matter how often I checked.
So now we know the equation to be true. ;)
"I could even drown... Or pull of my skin and swim to shore. Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see...."
July 29, 2002 - The Sun... A Handful of Meteors... and the Moon...
Comments: Still embroiled in an Ohio heatwave, I snatch at any opportunity to keep tabs on our rockin' sunspot activity.... And 39 isn't the only "hot spot" on the Sun right now! Check it out...
Michaelson Doppler imaging provides a great view of the entire solar surface and allows us a look at companions to 39. Both 44 and 50 have joined right in, making this whole area so complex and beautiful that it is not to be missed!
Telescopically, 39 continues to undergo changes on a daily basis. The leader spot's penumbral field shifts and moves each time it is viewed. Follower spots change size and shape, and the margins that exist within the dispersion field make the entire complex most unique.
Both 39 and 44 share the same "Fki" classification which we have explored recently, while 50's class carries a "Dso" - "D" meaning that it is indeed bi-polar, has penumbrae at both ends of the group, but the N/S longitude is less that 10%. "s" for small symmetrical penumbra, either ellipitical or circular in shape and its' N/S size less than 2.5 degrees, and "o" meaning that it is open, with very few, if any spots between the leader and the follower. But all three share the same beta/gamma/delta magnetic fields that make them terrific candidates for any type of solar activity!
Keeping watch on those data charts is totally rewarding as you see those spikes fall and drop...
A superb area for study!
And Cor and I aren't the only ones who have been keeping track of this great series of spots... Another friend of mine, Alistair Thomson also had the opportunity to view this weekend, and I cordially invite you to check out his excellent photography at:
I've a feeling this spot isn't quite done with us yet, and one thing is for sure...
We'll be watching!
By the time evening arrived, it brought clouds along with it. The fronts continue to move and roll, but never when you want them to! So, I do only what I can...
Somewhere after 11:00 the dome opened, and I was quite happy to take a cup of chai out to the lawn chair and keep watch for meteors. Without stressing timing, approximately once every ten minutes or so, I was rewarded with a bright streak that faded quickly into coppery colored remnants. Luck held for perhaps and hour or more, and by the time the count had reached 8... The clouds came back.
Oh, well... Settling deeper into the cushion, I thought I would just listen to the radio and nap for a bit. Guess I was a bit more tired than I thought, for the moonlight is what woke me up! But the majority of the sky still hides behind the clouds.... Stretching my old bones, I decided to go back indoors for a bit, make myself another cup and catch up with the world.
Around about 2:00 or so, I went back out and the bright silver of the Moon certainly called! Shall we have a look while the rest of these clouds push away? Then grab the 4.5 and let's go...
Maurolycus just walks right out the moment you look, but Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina are the ones to grab the attention! There's a tiny little crater lying between Theophilus and the terminator that just smiles away! Clever little fellow... I wonder what his name is?
Sliding along the Haemus mountains, I recognize Sabine and Ritter as older studies. Beautifully lighted tonight, their stained floors and delicate rings are very pleasing. So many cool little craters around this area... Wish I knew them all! The Archerusia Prominentory is one that I do know, along with carter Pliny. Didn't NASA crash something into this area once upon a time? Hehehhee... Well, at least they did manage to successfully scout the area, for the eastern area of Sabine is where Apollo 11 landed!
A glance up shows clearing skies, so I happily cap back up the 4.5 and set it away to return to my meteor watch. Sure, the Moon is going to trash the fainter ones... But I don't mind. So I pour myself another cup and kick back in the chair just to watch.
It was perhaps an hour or so before I caught another one, and it looked almost like a rocket blasted from the lunar surface! What a pleasant moment... perhaps a bit of fantasy to think you could see Apollo 11 returning home. A few minutes later, another bright streak crossed the zenith, and gave me notice the clouds were on their way again. But they haven't made it here just yet.... And a quick silver arc to the east defies them.
Of course, their march is inescapable. And this time the cover is complete. Time to snooze again? You bet....
When I awoke again, it was to hear the birds begin the morning song. Dawn had crept up on me with silent feet. I had missed the peak time of the meteor shower, but the clouds had probably stolen the show anyhow. Sure. I ache a bit, but it is a pleasant sort of pain. The time will be gone all too soon for sleeping under the stars...
Or just enjoying the clouds as my pillow.
"My pain... Is self-chosen. At least, I believe it to be..."
July 27, 2002 - The Sun... A Bit of Sky... The ISS and an Iridium Flare... The Moon...
Comments: So what's new and happenin' on the solar surface, huh? The day starts off with me growling about the cloud cover and then a friend mails me a great picture of sunspot 39 that virtually turns my world upside down! Why? Because the picture shows some very visible changes from my last observance...
As always, I begin running a data check and find out that yesterday's clouds masked a CME! (well, not that we could actually "see" a cornal mass ejection... it's just the thought, ok? ;) Once again, the twisted magnetism of 39 has produced a spectacular display...
Excitement is beginning to build, for I thoroughly enjoy watching information turn into realities, I head for magnetogram information... Oh, my starz! Check out the changes magnetically and just look at how supercharged Helios has become!
Doesn't that just rock? Just look at the way those fields are pushing through one another! When you get positives and negatives mixing it up like that, something is bound to happen. Next step? Off to check out the monitoring systems of GOES and the x-ray flux data, and watch the spike bottom out. Bottom out? This isn't right! A spot of this size, with this complex of a field just isn't going to drop off the scale. It's building up... Got to be!
Returning once again to Cor's excellent photograph, I look into the complex, marveling over the changes the days have brought. The combination of Baader film and his wizardry with the camera make for some fantastic virtual astronomy! And with his kind permission? (thank you, cor.) I can show you, too!
Isn't that something? I find being able to take a picture of a changing area and being able to study it quite fascinating! And how appreciated it is when you've got clouds....
Yep. I'm still growling about the clouds. I think there is an equation somewhere that relates to it:
Days Off To Enjoy Astronomy + Murphy's Law = Cloudy Skies
But, hey. There's more to life, right? Right! So off I go toward the capitol city with a pocket full of change and a destination in mind. Pine no more for that Fender guitar, Astronomer... For when I return it is with a very sweet sounding Gibson. I must have held thirty guitars while I was there... (Ibanez! I love you, baby!) but the one that came home with me smells like the dob....
And sounds like the night.
Passing away the hot hours with chores, practice (hey, my fingers hurt a little today... isn't it great? i finally gave it up when i couldn't make any changes without greeeching against the strings!), and visiting with family and friends. In the back of my head, I kept seeing that grandoise sunpot and the information continually updating. And one better? Those clouds beginning to thin... ;)
Setting up for solar observance, I can hardly wait to see the changes in 39 for myself. I did not take the camera with me, for Cor's photo far exceeds my own capabilities... and what a pleasure it was to compare changes that only a difference in hours can make! It is just incredible to see how the leader spot has broken apart over the days inside its ever-changing penumbra. The followers themselves have make remarkable progress through the dispersion field, some of them have even lost their own sketchy penumbrae... and that, folks, means a class change.
Dropping back the magnification, I begin to examine the entire solar surface. The other minor spots hold a lesser interest for me, but my attention is riveted on the new comer coming in on exactly the same trajectory as 39. Lost in thought, while scanning the surface, an event occurs. White light solar flare! Needless to say, you could have picked ~T's jaw up off the ground!! It looked as if a piece of the Sun simply was flicked away!!! Of all the times for me NOT to have the camera trained on the surface.... ARGH! Photographic confirmation would mean that I could have made a significant contribution to the Wolf program... But far more than that, it would have allowed me to study one frame at a time an event of such short duration!
This is one of those times when I wish I was co-observing with someone so badly. Confirmation would have been nice, eh? So, I am left to the only recourse available. The data... Once again, that bottomed out information provided by GOES shows spike... I turned to every source I know of, but it seems no one else was observing at the time. My final source? NOAA information... 39's classification has been updated to "Fki", which means there is 100% probability of WLF activity. Could this be a chance to actually (gasp!) contibute to real science? Nope. In my mind, science equates to proving facts... And I have no proof.
But what I had was one helluva' good time!
Again, the high heat and humidity invite the clouds back to play during the early evening hours. After having ran through the data, and all the excitement, I thought perhaps a Harely ride might be in order. So, I dressed appropriately and as I opened the door it was to shock my visitor who was reaching up to knock as I was leaving! Oh, my merciful heavens... How long did you laugh at me as I stood there smiling and not knowing who you were? Myrvyn!!! You are one of the original "brat pack"! Good lord, man! All your hair is gone! What has it been.... 12 years or more? LOL!! Well, do come in and let's catch up, eh?
Happily passing a couple of hours with a friend, we eventually end up in the backyard with the 4.5 and a relatively rotten sky. (high humdity = no dob). We toured my favourite summer doubles, visited the M13 and the M5. I was not pleased with either the "Ring" or the "Dumbbell", but my friend found them interesting anyhow. Now, this fellow wasn't even aware that the ISS could be seen... and it was my great pleasure to keep an eye on the clock and present the International Space Station as it made a shallow, but bright pass from the west to the northeast. Splendid, yes? Darn right. Off to another achievable target with the M71 and M11... And then we break again to watch an iriduim flare.
Amidst hugs and laughter, I wish him well and look forward to future visits until he decides to depart for destinations unknown, as is his way. There is a certain comfort in knowing someone for 30 years!
Deciding to take a swim, I keep watch on Selene as it makes its' appearance. The night is still dreadfully hot and humid, but I never mind any kind of observance. It is just part of who I am. So, when we've got a good 90 degrees of elevation? Off I go!
At first I am captivated by the remnants of Hercules... Gone mostly dark, it looks quite unusual without its' companion. A bright wall edge and that teasing peak to the north are all that is left. Continuing to the north, I see an odd looking ridge-like structure, and take my little flashlight out of my pocket to identify it. This is crater Gartner. Only the northern most portion of it still remains clean and defined, yet only 66 miles away its' structure looks as if it has been melted away. Upping the magnification shows a softened, barely perceptible line where a sharp crater wall one existed.
Heading toward the south, and that is left of Mare Fecunditatis looks like a rocky beach. But Gutenberg! Here we have a very strange, almost distorted looking crater... A deep black well with a bright odd-shaped outline. The western wall looks almost as if it has been built rather than formed! And rising along with it? The Pyrenees mountains...
Next for me is the ancient cup of Fracastorius... as eroded and dusty as a horseshoe print in sand. Picollomini I recognize instantly with its' standout cental peak and stepped walls. Metius and Fabricius are also old companions, and I think Janssen is perhaps the finest I've seen it.
Now I need to return to the map for I find myself a bit lost... There is a striking little crater here with a central peak and an intruding crater on its' edge which I am fairly positive is crater Vlaq. Without thinking, I walked back to the house and fetched the camera so I could work at identifying some of these smaller craters later. Sometimes my impetuous nature can be a very bad thing, for unwittingly I had just submitted a fine piece of equipment to something I would never do to my telescopes. Take it from the air conditioning into a hot and humid night... Sometimes my stupidity knows no boundaries. It was tantamount to simply throwing it in the swimming pool.
Feeling sick, I took it back indoors, and returned to cap up the 4.5 and put it away. I wish no more observing tonight. As always, ~T manages to screw up everything I take a liking to....
I'm used to it.
"The River of Defeat flows down.... The only direction I know is down..."
July 26, 2002 - Electric Skies...
Comments: Grey, and very humid here. No chance at seeing the Sun. What very little could be seen wouldn't defy the clouds! And it turned into a similarly murky night...
Or did it?
I went out swimming rather late. There were a few tiny drops of rain and some distant lightning, but nothing to really worry about. I had been out there for some time, and at one point I was crusing along on my back and happen to notice Ursae Major! Now... what's this?
Going back to the edge, I retrieved my glasses. Sure enough... The entire northern vista was opening up, bathed in a soft pink glow. Aurora? I cannot confirm that. Even as the clouds pushed farther on revealing the zenith, the glow remained. But again, it contained no signature "pillars" no any spectacular clouds. Chances are good it may have been some reflected sky glow of some sort. But these stars!!
By the time Eta Aquilae made it's entry, I heard Scotty laugh. Best get your wet hide out of the water, find some clothes and go explore...
So, I did.
The M13, the M57, the M27, the M71 and the M11... How wonderful to see some of the summer favorites! By now the south stood open, and it was my pleasure to take in the M5, the M14 and the M19! Still no Moon... so off to Saggitarius to swim in the M8... marvel over the M22, and fly on the M17. What a rare a wonderful treat!!
I have no idea of where the lightning came from, but it certainly made my heart skip a beat! Looking round, I can see no menacing clouds. Perhaps it was just a fluke?
Grabbing a cold beer from the cooler, the 4.5 and I headed to the edge of the field to watch the Moon rise. This is a very fine and wonderful sight. Who cannot stand in awe watching as the ivory majesty of Selene climbs out of the tree tops? Pick any tree top and focus upon it... The speed which angular distance provides to the rate of ascent is just magnificent!
And there's that lightning again!
Non-plussed, I wanted until I had a good 30 degrees of horizon clearance and then went for a walk on the lunar surface. Mare Crisium looks like a bite taken right out of the terminator! Atlas and Hercules simply steal the show tonight. Atlas has this really great wall-thing going on to the eastern edge along with a muti-peaked interor.. There is also a great shallow interior crater to the south. Hercules is even better. It's rugged walls are to the west, and it's lip crater is very dark and promenient to the south. The interior is quite taken by a large crater, but what really grabs my attention is a sparkle just north of that.
Now the clouds have gently stolen in around the edges. I had my moment, and I took it. It's still very sultry here... and I've a mind to put the scope away head back to the water.
"Down... Oh, down. Down... Oh, down."
July 25, 2002 - The Sun...
Comments: Following up on the current sunspots today, I find that 36 has reached the limb. The two umbral fields of the leader spot are still quite visible... but the followers are fading into obscurity. It must still be carrying one heck of a charge, though! The Wilson Effect makes it almost appear as if it is swimming on the photosphere.
Spot 39 continues to rotate inward... (duh.) and the majority of the field is beginning to erode rather quickly. The leader still shows a very irregular penumbral region, but the smaller penumbra around the trailer spots has shruken considerably. Very fine in appearance, this huge area will be around for days yet!
And so will I...
I had plans for tonight. The dob was out and ready. Otto had an idea, and I really wanted to carry it out. Yeah, guy. I saw clouds... Too bad they were me and thee!
Grumbling, I decided to fill the cooler, head for the pool, and watch for sucker holes. The ISS was to make a grand pass tonight, and I always enjoy catching it! Unfortunately, all I caught was a couple of very pleasant hours of quiet swimming while listening to the radio. No matter. The water was warm, the beer was cold...
And the night was fine.
"The river of defeat flows down... The only direction I know is down.
July 24, 2002 - Of the Sun and Moonshine...
Comments: All right, then. Are we ready to delve just a little deeper into spot 39? Then let's rock and roll!
Now fully rotated into view, 39 displays some tremendous characteristics which we will discuss a bit today. Yesterday we learned that it is "bi-polar"... This is a term assigned to magnetic regions on the Sun containing at least two areas of enhanced magnetic fields with opposing polarities. Cool. We've got that part down... Now let's talk about the Mt. Wilson magnetic classification!
According to our information, spot 39 is beta/gamma/delta... Beta/gamma means the area is bi-polar, but so complex that no single continuous line can be drawn between spots of opposite polarities. Delta is a qualifier to that magnetic class, indicating that the umbrae is seperated by less than 2 degrees within the penumbra having opposite polarity. When combined, B/G/D magnetic classification means that the group is of beta/gamma class, but contains one or more delta spots.
We're getting deep now, aren't we? Good. I dig swimming in water that's a bit over my head!
I depend rather heavily on information supplied by the USAF/NOAA Solar Region Summary page, and in order to use this type of information, you have to understand what those numbers and letters mean!
So, let's take a look at 39 and then discuss MacIntosh/Zurich classifications...
Now, let's take a look at our information. According to the statistics, spot 39 is designated as "Ekc". Let's take a look at what that means...
"E" refers to a group type. In this particular circumstance, it means that it is a bi-polar group with penumbra on the spots at both ends of the group and a longitudinal length of more than 15 degees. "k" refers to the penumbral of the largest spot, or more correctly, the leader. It means that it is a a large, asymmetric penumbra, and its' north to south sizes exceeds more than 2.5 degrees. "c" classfication belongs to spot compactness... and refers to the fact that there are many large spots between the leader and the followers with at least one mature penumbra.
There's still a wealth of information to be explored... Such as correct terminology for visible features, flare predictions and seismic activity. But, hey... I just do this for fun!
And here you though Trix were just for kids.... ;)
In the mood to relax tonight, I picked up that batterd old guitar of mine. I hadn't practiced much lately, because that fine Fender accoustic went with the last of the kids. I suppose only a person who plays can understand this kind of thing. I fell in love with that Fender, ok? The resonance and purity of tone made it something to be treasured.... and I miss it. But, it's all right. For sometimes the music comes from within the soul...
Will it ever get dark?
With a minimum of Rayleigh scattering, the Sun finally departed for points west, and brilliant Venus came out to play. Using the "Ottoman deep violet filter" with the dob is just the ticket. Look, Ma! No more stacking... For that little number takes out Venus' phase in one fell swoop. (I thank you, Otto. Wait until you see what it does with the Moon... It's fun!)
One by one, the stars came out. Hustling a bit ahead of the rising Moon, I visited my favourite summer doubles, and then on a whim decides to try for the M51. Don't laugh, ok? Yep. It was there, but nothing more than a fuzzy oval connected to another fuzzy spot! M81 and M82? A silver oval and an elongated bar. Sure, I know galaxy hopping is pointless right now, but hey! I had to try...
Racing with the Moon, I passed over the globulars and headed straight for the NGC6940. It's one of my particular favourites. I just like looking at that little star cloud that defies the moonlight.
So, Selene... Looks like I'm going to have to comply, yes? Very well then... Let's look. The entire topography is displayed perfectly with the violet filter. Yep. Full alright. But... but....
I've got a good idea. Let's go swimming for awhile, take a nap, and have a look a bit later!
Returning about 4:00 a.m., I bring the 4.5 out to reveal an eastern limb filled with tender young craters. What a rush! Some of these you never see... Scoresby, DeSitter, Euctemon, Baillaud....
There are craters here that defy what little bit of selenographic knowledge I possess... And I can only guess the one bright lipped on toward the south is Stevenus or perhaps Snellius. So, I filmed them, eh? Perhaps Cor will know....
Looking around the sky, I admire the way the constellations have changed. Pegasus is at zenith, Perseus has risen well up, Taurus is beginning to do itself proud, and Auriga calls out to be explored again soon. As I stand waiting for Saturn, I am treated to three successive bright meteors! Ah, they always make me smile...
Before putting the things away, I sneak a peak at our long lost neighbor. Only the ring system is achievable at this low elevation. But, damn...
It's good to see you again.
"My pain... Is self-chosen. At least, I believe it to be. I could even drown... Or pull off my skin and swim to shore. Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see..."
July 23, 2002 - Exploring the Sun... By the Light of the Moon...
Comments: Yo! The new "bad boy" has been named, and it is 39. This one has been rocking the house since before it even rounded the limb... and continues to do so! Unleashing a X4 class flare very early this morning, it backed it up with a coronal mass ejection!! So, what say you? How about if we take a bit of time today and explore virtually and with realtime photographs exactly what is happening on the solar surface? Let's begin by giving you a look through SOHO's MDI camera at the entire surface....
Now we're getting a "feel" for what can be seen through a telescope equiped with a solar filter. MDI's imaging (and we'll get to that another time.... ;) works in a different way.
So, now that we know what the visible photospheric surface looks like, let's take a look at the corona...
Beautiful, huh? Now we can see loops, prominences and flares!
So, are you ready to "get down" on the sunspot that has caused so much excitement? Then have a look through my 4.5 Celestron reflector equipped with an Orion broadband solar filter, through the eye of a JVC camcorder...
We've already talked about what comprises a sunspot. We know that it is a much cooler spot on the photosphere - the umbra is the darkest portion and the penumbra is the soft looking field that surrounds it. We also know that a spot is more or less a magnetic "scab" keeping the energy inside of the photosphere... And we know these "scabs" hold magnetic charges - both positive and negative. In future reports, we will delve deeper into classifications, but to keep it simple and concise for now, spot 39's leading umbra is bi-polar... containing both positive and negative charges in the same penumbral field. Now, let's go to a magnetogram image and check it out!
Looking at spot 39's magnetic information shows something very unique! The negative field (black) has a positive charge (white) pushing through it!! If you look closely at my photograph of 39, you can see the positive charge as a "hole" within the umbra/penumbral field. When this occurs, it causes "sheer" in the magnetic field, twisting it about and causing it to release all that pent up energy! (we'll get into beta/delta/gamma fields in another report, too...) The result? Coronal Mass Ejection.....
Spectacular, isn't it? Now, just think! Approximately 10 minutes after that happens, the Earth is bomarded with x-rays! (kinda' makes the concept of sunblock seem stupid, doesn't it?) But don't worry.... because our own atmosphere protects us from the majority of the radiation. And what happens just a bit later is entirely MORE FUN!
But first, I want you to head toward GOES X-ray flux data and check out what happens with the data when an event of this level occurs. (The page updates dynamically, so please remember if you are reading this report more than two days after this date, the data has changed. Go now... ;)
Cool! You're back... Did you see that terrific spike?! Thank the starz the scientists don't keep all that great information to themselves, eh?
So, why spot 39 and not spot 36? OK... you're on! Even though 36 is also bi-polar, the magnetic fields aren't intruding into each other lives. If you look once again at the magnetogram, you will see they simply stand against one another, and although that, too, produces sheer, it's rated at a slightly different class. Let's just say for now that it is not as "hot" in magnetic terms.
Since I still have a bit of "space" available for illustrations, and my simplistic photos of both 39 and 36 are still here on this page, let's take a look at the way 36 has changed over the last few days...
So! What does all of these mean for us poor stargazers? It means that the earth will soon be bathed in electronmagnetic energy and protonic particles... When they reach us tomorrow night, these super charged particles will "excite" or ionize neutral oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the Earth's upper atmosphere and provide us with an aurora! (and mess with our satellite transmissions, short-wave radios, etc... ;) In other words? It might actually be FUN!
Now. If we could just put out that Moon...
The drastic drop in humidity and temperatures can only mean one thing... You got it. A beautifully clear sky. Venus shines like a beacon to the west, and the 60% phase reveals itself like a tiny moon. And speaking of Moon... Her pearl grey majesty is already smoking up the eastern horizon! I like watching it rise, for it is perhaps one of the finest demonstrations of angular distance. Shall we go have a look?
Somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind, I hear and see a group of people dressed in horrid imitations of Swiss regional clothing.... can you hear them? Riccolli.... ;) Almost no detail exists along the terminator tonight, save for that silly crater, and Riccolli itself is beginning to wash out. With some concentration, I am able to pick out Olbers and Otto Struve, but it's hard with all that fantasy system of rays and dark maria starting back at you. I don't think I'll ever tire of Tycho at this phase!
Taking a look around at the sky could almost break one's heart if it wasn't so beautiful out tonight. It's hard to believe that Spica is still very visible to the southwest, and that Scorpius displays some of it's lesser stars so close to Selene. Hercules, Ursa Major, Lyra.... All right where I left them last. This would be a galaxy hunting night if it were not for the light of the Moon.
Always curious, I decide to have a go at the M5.. and surprisingly it can be caught! M13? Same story... Far from fine, but it pleases me that they show through all the light! M4? Har... I knew better but had to try anyhow.
I could go double walking, but I'm tired tonight. The very fresh, cool breeze willl make a welcome companion with the warm waters. And I've a mind to just enjoy a glass a wine...
And swim among the stars.
"Down.... Oh, Down... Down... Oh, Down...."
July 22, 2002 - The Sun...
Comments: So, we're one up on the rest of the world! The new, wicked sunspot rotated into view by 7:30 this evening, buried not only in a cloud of hazy sky, but socked in by the Wilson Effect. Coming in on the southeastern corner, are as-of-yet unnumbered area's (let's see... 39 perhaps? ;) leading edges have a slight "boomerang" shape.
But what of 36, you say? Darn right I observed and recorded 36. Very little in the way of change from yesterday, only a slight amount of decay in the central, small umbra regions. The leader is still splitting apart, but oh-so-slowly. The penumbral field, however, has developed a bit of a tail, so 36 might just show us some action yet!
Now, for me? It's time for some laps. There's some blue water with my name on it, and I've a mind to hang out there until the Moon rises well.
Care to join me?
What a beautiful night... The very warm, dry breeze keeping nighttime temperatures at near 80... the approaching storm front whisking away the sky haze... and one bright, near-full Moon on the rise! Swim? Or observe? I'm rotten... Let's do both!
Setting the 4.5 out near the edge of the field, I leveled down on La Lune to see Grimaldi the way it is meant to be seen, a bright, broken ring of mountains with a smooth, dark floor. Toward the eastern edge, its' upslope of foothills look just remarkable with the southern edge outlined by black shadows. Just to the north is Hevelius... broad and low with its' off center hill shining in the sunrise. A bit more north is Cavalerius, not exactly the most outstanding crater on the surface, but interesting because one of the first lunar landing probes made its' touchdown in this area almost 40 years ago.
The second most notable feature tonight is Cardanus, looking much lke a shallow bowl. The Krafft twins are also here, but I find these two tiny rings even more interesting... the Galileos.
The intense rays, dark maria and spanking bright features make tonight's Moon very picturesque at minimum magnifcation... And honestly? It's quite fine with no telescope at all. It makes for a soft and unusual light for such a fine, warm night.
You know what? You can even see it underwater...
"This head full of cries is the weight, tied to my waist. The river of defeat flows down... The only direction we go is down...
Comments: One wickedly hot Ohio day! And where am I? (besides in the pool...) Standing out in the backyard with a black towel over my head and staring into the Sun! So what kind of mind-fried coconut would do something like that?
One that gets off on a bit of study... ;)
Still holding bravely onto the edge, sunspot 30 is so warped by the Wilson Effect it is virtually unviewable. The deep dimple distorts the remaining area so completely that 30 appears as nothing more than two dark patches. Spots 35 and 37 are simple minded creatures. Perfect examples of non-complex spots... and 36? Oh, undergoing just a few changes. The leading large umbra is quietly dividing into three sections, still contained within a single penumbra. There is a noticable difference in some of the lesser areas in terms of spread. Call it a hunch, but I don't think 36 is going to amount to much.
But that doesn't mean that it's not interesting! Check out this...
By looking at the photosphere, we can clearly see where each spot resides... And all that great activity! (and it's active, folks...) Not yet visible on the incoming side is an area that has already tossed off and X3 class flare and caused radio blackouts again! Leading the way for this spot, the area of granulation is 100% darker that anywhere else of the limb, and cut through with faculae. If there is a visible precursor to a "loaded" sunspot, this would certainly be it!!
Now, moving on the magnetogram information, we see that the leading area on 36 is indeed bi-polar. At the point in time which I investigated the information, the darker, larger section holds a deep negative charge, and it is bordered by an equally proportioned positive field. For now, they balance each other out, for it appears that neither one is interested in intruding in the other's area. Oddly enough, the majority of the minor spots are simply negative blips!
Ah, Sol... What a character you are!
The heat and humidity carried its' way over into the night sky making a soft ring around the rising Moon. The water feels mighty fine and relaxing... I could just stay here and let it pull me down. The day had been long, but pleasant. How wonderful to see an old friend again! And how unusual it felt to have someone riding beside me. But, as always, my curiousity gets the better of me, and I finished my evening swim on the Moon...
Crater Schickard walked and talked the moment I looked into the eyepiece. The soft haze made for poor photographic conditions, but one very steady view. Schikard looks almost "blister-like" tonight! Sitting directly on the terminator, it reminds me of Crisium on the decline. The crater walls were very bright, and the interior tight grey and smooth. The shadows at the wall edges, along with its' natural taper gave a fantastic sense of a crater "humped".
Equally eye-catching was Wargentin... known as the Moon's most celebrated freak. Once upon a time, probably a normal crater... but a fissure within allowed molten lava to fill this rather ordinary hole up to the rim! As a result, it appears like an old-fashioned "cheese" to the telescope's eye, and is always good for a smile!
Bright Aristarchus punctuates the northern expanse, and Schroter's Valley is unfavorable tonight. It appears as just the finest of white threads when the view holds. Mairan and Babbage quite make up for it, though... Displaying the inner, most western walls as unusual bright features that defy the dark terminator.
And that is enough for me, now. Time to cap up the scope and go hide from the mosquitoes under the water!
And the Moon comes to join me....
"I could even burn... Or cut off my pride and buy some time."
July 20/21, 2002 - The Sun... The Moon... Playing With Doubles...
Comments: Wow! The solar activity right now is just amazing!! When I got home from work today, I couldn't wait to get the scope out and have a look at 36....
Spot 30 shows a few remainders on the outgoing side. Thanks to its' high magnetic charge, it is next to impossible with the Wilson Effect to draw any kind of focus on. According to the reports, we've another C3 class flare in the area that triggered radio blackouts again! Spot 30 has done its' thing most admirably, and I feel honoured to have gotten the chance to observe it for so long!
Off to the land of Nod with me, for it is a working weekend. As usual, I set the clock just a bit ahead so if skies are favourable I get an opportunity to do a bit of observing before leaving for work. And favourable they were! Time for a cup of coffee and a walk around the Moon....
A relatively clear night means there were so many features visible that I had a hard time chosing which ones to study! To the north, Sharp, Focault and Harpalus keep saying "Pick me!"... as does the splendid visage of Pythagoras. At the southern end Schiller and Phocyclides sit in such a manner that it's hard NOT to pay attention to them!
But there is always just one who takes my fancy more than any other...
Across Humorum's 50,000 square mile expanse lay a very unusual and very old crater. Craters Lee are broken and flooded... Eroded with the passage of time. Their walls have long since been destroyed, and the sharp edges filled in with lava flow. Depite their shallow appearance, they are very visible tonight and well worth a look. Along with them is Vitello, with the 2,300 feet high central peak shining in the reflected sunlight. Beautiful, yes? Doppelmayer doesn't mind being in such fine company...
Now my fascination with selenography has eaten into my available time! So, rather than try for some open clusters, I decided to shoot out a couple of my favourite doubles... Like Cor Caroli, Albeiro, Ras Algethi, 61 Cygni, Iota Cassiopeiae, Eta Cassiopeiae, Almach, and... suprisingly close to the Moon... Graffias. "Scotty's Star" is prepping for a down turn again, while Algol is powering up! I take a few moments to observe RZ and SU Cassiopeiae before I leave, because these two variables shift even more quickly!
As much as I hate to, I have to go...
"My pain... Is self-chosen. At least, so the Prophet says..."
July 19, 2002 - The Moon...
Comments: Rain at last here in the parched lands! Of course, that means I didn't get a chance to view sunspot 30 again today, but ShockSpotter gave me a 99% confidence level on yet another X-ray flare! This awesome sunspot has certainly lived up to the reputation I've given it... And then some! Leaving us with massive potential for lower level auroral activity, 30 should be getting close to the edge. But...
I hear there is a new kid on the block. ;)
Enjoying the showers here... Nothing more pleasant that a walk in the rain after such a long, hot dry spell. At least the grass doesn't feel quite so much like walking on potato chips now! Surprisingly enough, not long after sky dark, I walked outside again and there was Selene. Should I look? It feels like Guam out here... The dob is out of the question with this type of humidity. 4.5? You willing?
Good. I like it when you are...
The Sinus Iridum was the first place to capture my attention. The terminator lay just outside of the delicate circlet of the Juras Mountains. The Promentorium LaPlace shines so brightly! Across the 160 mile expanse, Heraclides echoes the song.... Between them one the splendid moutain range, Bianchinni waits like a punctuation. But! (hehehehee....) Who can listen when Copernicus is talking!
This ancient crater's rugose form captures the eye of the beholder. At this moment, it pulls you like no other feature. Puckering itself up from the smooth maria, this time honored crater deserves all the attention it can get!
Check out Clavius! Even with the 4.5 at mid range, I can seen such splendid contrast... Maybe? Possibly. Go fetch the camera? Let's rock!
And then the clouds rolled in....
"I want to run through you're wicked garden... I hear that's where I'll find you. But I'm so alive... I'm so alive now!
July 18, 2002 - The Moon...
Comments: Ohio is still superheated. The sky was totally trashed with clouds during the daylight hours. So, I did what I always do... Worked them away. Apparently we recieved a few seconds of rainfall in the countryside, because there are a few small puddles on what has been a dry and dusty road, but no sign of it at all in city where I work.
I really didn't figure there would be any kind of shapes on anything tonight, and I was mostly right. Going out about 10:00 to take my nightly swim proved me wrong. There sat the Moon... again! Dusty and ivory colored like last night, but very visible. Oh, why not? The 4.5 never minds a few minutes of my time.
The terminator has moved slowly since the night before. Eratosthenes is now fully in the light sporting its' central peak, and it is Copernicus who lay on the terminator with its' bright walls and dark shadows. The Sinus Aestuum captured by the now fully lit mountain range that is part of Eratostenes make up. Timocharis shines like a little beacon nearby.
Traveling up the terminator, not much else caught my fancy until I reached Clavius. Yes, Tycho looked good, but resolving out those six interior crater in Clavius was what I was after. Funny that... It would seem that crazy, big dobsonian telescope followed us out! Even with the clouds beginning to push over the scene, the barlow and the 17mm is all it takes to make that happen! I tried working with the camera on it... But ended up losing the battle to the elements. No matter. There are other nights, and I'm not going anywhere.
Except for maybe into that pool for awhile....
"Burn... Burn round...
Juy 17, 2002 - Of An Ivory Moon...
Comments: Hey. It looks like it finally may rain here. (might as well, cuz' it's always rainin' in my head...) Clouds might rule the day, but information rules the airways!
Even though I cannot see spot 30 personally, the ShockSpotter at MTOF's proton monitor alerted me that they recorded a 99% confidence level. That means the information was rockin' on the energetic particle flare and X-ray flare monitor. (funny that... i hadn't noticed. ;) That's terrific! All those spikes across the band I had been watching on the GOES X-ray flux monitor have paid off! Reading magnetogram information shows the central portion is beginning to decay, but there are still numerous opposite polarity umbrae contained within single penumbral regions. Know as "delta" class... These bad boys still harbour some very explosive potential!
And even though I can't see it? Check out the beautiful photography of David Peoples....
The results using Baader film with photography are absolutely outstanding! My congratulations to you...
For those who are "in the clear"... Please keep a watch out for white light flares and auroral sightings. As is Ohio's want, the sky always seems to get cloudy after such an event... But hey! That's the beauty part about having friends who co-observe from different locations....
Going out for a swim at twilight and taking a loaded cooler with me, eh? The Moon makes such brief and furry appearances between the clouds that it looks like no observance will be possible. Ask me if I mind being in the water and getting watered as well!
About two hours later? An ivory Moon burned through the clouds....
Wicked beast. Here I am more potted than a plant... And there you are watching me! Hehehheeee... You know what? I can find you blind. Setting the 4.5 toward it reveals some of the most comfortable lighting I can image. The atmosphere has turned it a most unusual shade, but the major lunar features still walk and talk. The Appenine Mountains are glorious, but Plato suffers for the smaller details. Maginus and Tycho are just perfection... Tiny craters are just smattered everywhere! Heading onward, the Straight Wall is a black scratch on Selene's face, for the lighting is not favorable for this one tonight.
I end my tour at Eratosthenes.... 37 miles in diameter and 12,300 feet deep. The western wall is spectacular in this light, but hides the central mountain peak inside its' well of blackness. OK, by me... for the 50 mile long mountain range trails away from it in a manner that makes the inteior details not really matter!
That's enough for me tonight... A handful of bright stars shine through the clouds, and I've a mind to just sit here and watch that ivory Moon fall into the trees along the western horizon.
Like a flame, eh? ;)
"Can you see without eyes? Can you speak without lies? I wanna' drink from your naked fountain. I can drown your sorrows. I'm gonna' burn... Burn you to life now.
July 17, 2002 - In Loving Memory of Scott Truitt...
I visited the cemetary... As I did a year ago upon this day. And placed a white rose upon the grave of a young man. His name was Scott Truitt, and he lost his life very shortly after he turned seventeen. Such a tender age...
Scott was not driving drunk, nor was he on drugs. Scott was not being reckless... He ran off the road doing about 40 miles per hour and hit a telephone pole. It ended his life. I wept in my quiet fashion for Scotty... and I remember you.
I remember when you first came to work with me... and how we laughed! What a fine young man... How many times did I feed you?! Hehehheheeee... I called you "SpongeBob" back then, because you soaked up all that I told you. I remember the first time you sang for me... And how pleasing your voice was! And how we would go through every rock and roll tune that we knew while we worked together...
I remember you coming here to the backyard. You were one of the few who so wanted to see through the telescope. Many nights you were here... We would look at the Moon, and I would tell you of the stars. How you loved to swim with me! And we would sit... As I played guitar for you, and we sang together.
It hurt me very badly when you died, Scott. You see, I was out looking at the stars when it happened. I came in to get some information, and the instant messenger came on... I did not want to believe it. But, so many voices were telling me the same thing... How I cried, my friend! You were far too young and handsome to be taken away just like that! Only days before I had hugged you... And wished well in your new job.
And then you were gone..........
I had a very hard time looking at some of the things I find so beautiful in the night sky after that. For your death left a bitter pill on my tounge. To this day there are some things I never wish to speak about. For I was looking at them when you left this world. But, Scotty? All is not lost, beautiful boy. There is a star with your name on it... And it changes every day.
I know you wouldn't understand a cepid variable, nor would you ever remember its' name. Eta Aquilae.... To me it shall always be "Scotty's Star". It was at its' dimmest on the anniversary day of your death. And you know what? It will shine brightly again. All of our friends may have forgotten you now, Scott. But I have not. Nor will the night...
Godspeed you, my friend.
July 16, 2002 - The Sun...
Comments: Ooooooh, yeah Baby! Sol is still rockin' the house and producing! Massive sunspot 30 continues to expand across the surface, and although SpaceWeather has not reported it, I watched a C3 class X-ray flare happen on the flux data scale. Yeah, that's not much... But this crazy critter is still doing it!
Solar observance today shows not one, but two huge new areas rotating into view...
Faculae parts the granulation like lightning bolts, and the Wilson Effect is just awesome! Talk about wicked!! Looks to me like the days ahead could continue to be vewy, vewy intewesting.... hahhahahah... ;)
"I took a walk around the Moon to ease my troubled mind..."
With the high heat of the day comes the inevitable haze. Swimming away the twighlight hours, I watch the Moon grow brighter and brighter on the surface. No matter how fast I swim, it always stays just a bit before me... Ironic, huh? It doesn't matter.
When I had tired, I set the 4.5 out. Tonight I honestly don't care if its' cooled down, or warmed up. It doesn't matter, because the sky isn't fine. All I really want to do is lose myself...
The beautiful multi-featured Hipparchus will do. The edges just loading with holes... "Down in a hole. Losing my soul..." And the mountains to the north are beautiful, too. Aristotle and Eudoxus seem fathomless...
It's all right... You see?
And even though the view waivered, I didn't mind. I just needed to be out here... Walking around Maurolycus and standing on the ridge of Stofler. Tiny craters so evident that aren't marked or named, just walking right out.
The stars have begun to shine through the haze... But I don't want to visit with them. Scotty's star has gone so dim I can just barely make it out. You are free to go. I am tired in my mind and soul... Hurting. All I want to do is to sit here on the redwood chair, listen to the radio and get very, very drunk.
I would have made an Irishman proud.
"Can you feel like a child? Can you see what I want?
July 16, 2002 - A Morning Walk...
Comments: Well, alright. The skies held on wonderfully while I slept the moonlight hours away, and since I've one more day left, I decided it would be a fine time to explore the morning.
Even before I had totally dark adapted, the Andromeda Galaxy sang like a siren near the zenith. Should I answer the call? Why the heck not... These are the things that are closest to my heart. The golden beauty of the M31 is like no other... In the 12.5 it overfills the field of view at my least magnification. The sheer size and power of this galaxy is quite humbling. A slight push is all it takes to reveal companions M32 and M110... But they pale into insignificance so close to majesty. Upping the magnification one step at a time simply breaks my heart at the beauty. The nucleas will forever remain a mystery, but the grand sweep of the spiral arms shares itself with me. Bumping it up just one more allows me to go to the southern portion, and revel in the star cloud, NGC206. Just the thought of the hundreds of millions of stars that make up the M31 is enough for me...
Journeying onward, I need to use the map to relocate the NGC205... As a member of the Andromeda family, this little egg of an elliptical isn't that grand... But it sure is cool just to see it again! Like the NGC185... We're talking "no details" type of galaxies. The best that can be achieved with my simple backyard scope is a vague sense of thinning toward their frontiers. (although i will admit that the NGC185 has some individual stars along the edge that smack right out.)
Stopping to marvel over Almach (who is still VERY up to its' old tricks of "here i am! no, i'm here!" with it's C component) I head onward toward Perseus for an old favourite. The NGC891 is a very fine example of an edge-on galaxy. Much like the "Sombrero" in all but size, the NGC891 displays a bulging central core, delightful averted resolution at the tilted edges and a most noticable dark dust lane which runs right through the central galactic core. Splendid little beast...
Finishing up my second cup of coffee, I decide to knock back to the 32mm and try my luck at the "Flying Dutchman". M33 might be large, but I am here to tell you, it is NOT the easiest galaxy on the chart! And boy howdy... There it is. There is nothing "sharp" about this huge galaxy. A general brightening toward the center of what looks to be a cloud of silver sheen is... is... like... it, ok? This one is very, very ghostly.
So, we've got just a bit to go before daylight. Do I hear any takers for the Pleiades? Yeah... They're back alright, and much higher than you might expect! The moment the dob tilted their way, I hadn't even fully adjusted to the eyepiece and the NGC1435, Merope Nebula walked away. Such colors and variences in magnitude! Tiny multiple systems are buried within the M45 that aperature takes out in a single bite. Alcyone's four components are quite easy, and the sheen of its' own reflection nebula caught upon aversion. Atlas, so strong in its' blue color displays its' disparate companion well. And that tiny red heart? Ah, it still beats for you... Even caught up in the imagination that sees the "Seven Sisters" in the sky.
Dawn is coming now... The sky is fading away oh-so gently. The silver arc of the Milky Way concentrates toward the southwest, capturing Aquila and Cynus on the decline. As is Scotty's Star... It pushes toward the northeast, and fans out beautifully, encompassing Cassiopeia and Perseus. Algol shines its' light brightly, in variable heaven, I would say! And I tip the dob toward the "Double Cluster" and drink in the stellar profusion. The time has passed away for me to capture more galaxies... Long gone for faint planetaries. But I don't care.
Saturn shall keep me company.
"Tell me... Did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day?
July 15, 2002 - The Sun... and the Moon...
Comments: YES! Sunspot 30 triggered and X3 class solar flare not more than 2 hours before this shot was taken!! Check it out...
Awesome, isn't it? Not only did a major X3 class flare occur, but the power caused radio black-outs in both North and South America! And you want to go one better? The area around sunspot 30 then unleased a coronal mass ejection!! Too cool! (and if you think this kind of information rocks, did you know that almost precisely two years ago... within hours, my friends... the sun also released an x6 class flare that caused event levels so powerful that it was nicknamed "bastile day"? what a coincidence!) Now, check out what happens when a CME billows away....
You see? Never a dull moment on the Sun! If this kind of information doesn't make you want to at least try solar observation for yourself... What will?! There is nothing like it...
So what does all this mean? It means that spot area 30... spanning more than 15 Earth-widths on the solar surface... tossed our tiny blue planet and unprecendented proton storm approximately 15 minutes after it left the solar surface! Then backing it up with a CME blasted us with electromagnetic energy and radiation equal to a mild chest x-ray! (but you'd have had to have been aboard an airplane to have been exposed to the last part... ;) Hey. Fear not, alright? For these things have been going on since the beginning of our time - We just didn't know about them until now!
What's going to happen now? Well, with a little luck, enough of that energy is going to disrupt our own electromagnetic field and excite all those little atoms into giving us an auroral display at mid to lower level latitudes. Perhaps you were watching your satellite television station yesterday... and noticed a moment of complete interference. Maybe your favorite radio station crackled... (i honestly didn't notice 99.7 "the Blitz" losing any rock and roll at the time... ;) Perhaps ground communications from celluar phones took a dive.. (can you hear me now? no? good!) But all of that is in the past now. What you want to look out for over the next two days is a great chance to pick up some aurora!!
(And if this isn't enough for you? New comer on the scene, as of yet undesignated but co-observed, has just rounded the incoming side, and is showing a tremendous Wilson Effect field! Perhaps our nearest "star" will continue to put on a Summer Show for us!)
30? Ya' done good, kid...
It was a great day to visit with Helios, so what say we take a bit of time and visit with sister Selene tonight?
Incredibly enough, we're displaying some "earthshine" tonight, and some of the finest craters on the block! Starting with an old favourite, Posidonius, I run the power up to explore this ancient crater. Its' 3000 feet tall walls are soft, and eroded in appearance with one edge holding the pock marks of more recent craters. The entire 52 by 61 mile expanse appears shallow, but actually contains a great amount of detail. At modest magnification the 8500 ft. high central mountain peak is easy enough... But don't stop there, please. On a steady night, upping the power reveals wonderfully broken and stepped walls. Deep fissures that crease the stone-like floor... An intense central crater... And when things hold steady... The brightenings of other small craters and interior peaks. Posidonius is a fine place to visit... Remember?
Walking back the power a bit reveals the bulging vein of the Serpentine Ridge stretching itself from the orafice of Luther, past the well of Bessel, and upward toward the Archerusia Promentorium. The entire edge toward Posidonius aches with detail... Fathomless Daniel, rugged Chacornac, the circlet of Lemonnier, tiny Littrow, bright peak of Mt. Argaeus and the diminuative Dawes. Hey, Selene? You rock!
Now, let's go see what other part of the Moon we can pick on tonight!
Journey ever southward, and stop to admire Piccolomini... It's multi-peaked interior just great tonight! And I'm cursing the Moon just a bit... For although I enjoy both filming and observing?
I live for deep sky...
"Can you imagine no love, no pride, no deep-fried chicken? I'm your best friend... Always sticking up for you even when I know you're wrong.
July 14/15, 2002 - The Sun... Of Grazings and the Moon... NGC188, NGC6939, NGC6946... Of Wine and Nebulae...
Comments: What a very fine day! Where was this kind of sky when we needed it yesterday, huh? Saving itself for today, I guess... And I'll take it.
Spent quite a bit of time yesterday riding the Harley. What has this to do with astronomy, you ask? Not a darn thing, except for that it is good for the soul. It frees the mind and the spirit. It is simply impossible to worry about this thing and that... All that exists is the road before you.
Time now, to return and persue my other interest... And right now that means keeping watch on killer sunspot 30. What a total treat this one has been! Highly active since the moment it rounded the bend, 30 continues to grow and expand. Check it out....
Spanning more than 12 Earth widths, this behemoth changes on a daily basis. Continual viewing shows the leading umbral regions have coalesced, while the central most has expanded. The finer, more pinpoint umbal regions have continued to expand and move upon their sea of superheated helium, making this entire active area more than worth a bit of study each day!
And we'll be waiting!
Spent the twighlight hours swimming. This is what summer is meant for! It seems like only just last week I was passing by the frozen pool, dreaming of a 20' X 4' mirror blank made of ice... Hehehehee... And wondering at the logistics of making it work. Now? Now I just immerse myself in the reflected star light, and spend my time idle... Just watching the ripple of the waves on the water diffract the Moon and Venus. Moving weightlessly and effortlessly between the constellations that shine upon the surface. Silly? Ah, you bet. You would be surprised at how much richer astronomy can be when you've learned to relax...
And speaking of relaxed, I best go dry off and use that huge dobsonian telescope on the Moon before it dips too low. I had promised my friend Cor that I would work with a 12.5 at imaging the lunar surace, and I am one to keep my promises. So, off I went to grab a tape and a smile... And set sail for La Lune.
Mother of Pearl! Not only does the lunar surface blind, even at crescent phase, but there is something else here as well!
But hey! There's nothing wrong with the view of the Moon through the dob, except for the amount of light makes you about half sick. Stopping the aperature would go a long way to improve this situation, but I've guarded that mirror for years... And I can tell you now that I will not play with anything over the end of this scope except its' cover. I simply will not take the chance. Video photography through the dob at selenography is terrribly overexposed. The camera's little "internal eye" goes nuts. Until I can come up with a video eyepiece, a webcam, or some other device, I'm afraid that all of my fuzzy, slightly out-of-focus illustrations of the Moon will be with the 4.5.
So let's walk the Moon, eh? And see what takes our fancy tonight....
But I didn't stop there... I explored more of the surface as well. For Metius and Fabricus are also beautifully in the light tonight. And perhaps just a look at crater Watt? Because the irony makes me smile.... ;)
While waiting on the Moon to vanish below the western horizon, I piddled my time about with some double stars and cephid variables. So much to learn... and only the rest of my lifetime to learn it in! Of course, having the big scope out and ready means I've got to play my summer favourites while here. Just to see how much resolution I can pick out of the M13 and M5... To crab about the moonlight cooking away the structure of the M51. A nod and a smile at the M57... And perhaps just sit here on the redwood chair and practice until the sky becomes completely dark?
And so I watched... Watched as the silver arc of own spiral galaxy's arm swept overhead. Watched a few swift meteors play themselves out among the stars. And just relaxed....
When I had enough, it was time to head out for some things I hadn't seen in a while. Sure, I need the maps for these, but it is a pleasing experience to pick out your designation and walk the scope to it.
First I crave some study. The NGC188 is a fabulous place to start! Just a few short degrees away from Polaris, the 12.5 easily resolves its' members, with several very yellow appearing ones amidst the whites. It is one of the oldest galactic star clusters known, and although it is somewhat sparse, the fine field around it is a pleasure so far north. I can reveal the field with the 4.5, but not this unusual customer. 32mm in the 12.5 shows a grainy structure, and it requires a minumum of 17mm to start resolution. Very nice... It should be achievable to aperatures around 150mm.
Next is a study that has haunted me since I thought about it a few nights ago... Galaxy NGC6946 and open cluster NGC6939. They make a wonderful same field pair at minimum magnification, but lose a great deal. The galaxy appears as a vaugue, haunting disc with a bright central point, and the open cluster as a swarm of teasing resolution stars. Now, let's split them apart and study again. NGC6946 is one of those galaxies that hold up well to all ranges of magnification. At 9mm, you've got chains of knots that give perfectly symmetrical spiral, and yet still have a sense of more "beyond"... Double that and you lose the galactic light, but the knots become clearly envisioned as distant clusters. My favourite view is with the 26mm and barlow.... For I like my galaxies with a bit of glow! The NGC6939 walks and talks at 17mm. It is very easy to directly hold some of its' brighter members and slight aversion brings out the less magnitudes. I like this pair!
Now, I have a fine night on my hands. Saggitarius is westering just a bit, but still holds position well. I am ready to drop back to the 32mm, 2" set up... move the counterbalance and open a bottle of wine. Yes. Wine. Normally I do not indulge until after observing, but tonight I am more for colors... And I could hit these targets half blind! Now, pour us a glass and let's see what we can do.
M8 comes first. Even at such a miniumum of power, its' interior components resolve very easily. For me, this particular nebula possesses no color. It is a silvery white... nothing more, nothing less. The 12.5 robs all nebulae and gives back structure... So what we see is a beautiful open cluster encased in a cloud of frozen smoke. It is quite easy to see where some areas are more dense than others, and what I refer to as "ribboning" within the cloud.
Another glass, and onto the M20. I am sorry. I make out no color here either. Far thicker looking, M20 glows as white as milk. Even concentrating on the M21 does not improve color. But structure is everything here... Wandering back for another sip and the 26mm, I head back and make the switch. Wow. You know, there are times when this beauty looks almost like its' photographs! But at the eyepiece? It looks "alive"....
Many bright stars are visible within the "Trifid". The dust lane is clean, and well defined. One lobe is most opaque... Like a thick, fleecy cloud and has a beautiful multiple at its' edge. Another lobe contains far more stellar points and has a certain transparency to it in places... The prime feature of this lobe is a wide ribbon toward the frontier and an almost outlined appearance. The third lobe is much more hazy... Diaphanous. Its' outer edges fade like a breath of frost on the cold blackness of space. You know what? The "Trifid" is awesome....
Now, let's finish that glass and head toward the M17. "Omega"? "Swan"? OK, perhaps I come from a slightly different generation, because the deeply glowing, and very silver appearing major portion of the nebula looks like a Nike Swoosh to me. The entire field is littered with stars, and the thin layer of nebulosity surrounds them... Not entirel captured by the central most portion of the M17's grandeur. Filamentation exists upon the boundaries... It is a most unique structure!
On to fly with the "Eagle"... M16 is a fantasy cloud that also appears like living silver to the dob. The faint sheen of nebula is totally embedded with stars and filaments abound. What I am looking for is that dark little "Klingon Bird of Prey".... and it presents itself tonight. It is either a void, or dark nebula within the structure, and caught between its' wings is bright beauty. I search for, and locate the notch that I know to be the "Pillars of Creation"... that incredible Hubble shot that inspires us so. No. The 12.5 cannot "see" such a thing, but it can show you where it is at! Now... if you don't mind? I think I'll just bask here for awhile...
Another small glass? Fine by me... Let's see what we can do with the "Veil". OK... here's the "cup" portion... and a thin ribbon. There are times when I wish I had an OIII filter, for the "Veil Complex" deserves far better than I can throw at it. I have seen what a 12.5 can do to this particular nebulae... and for Jeff and Mark? I remain eternally grateful for the night I saw it as it truly is... Not this "ghost" ribbon I can produce.
And finally color. M27 is quite green to me. The qualities that is unique to this particular nebula are quite in evidence tonight. It shimmers... It glows... It lives! There is a sense of undulation (even without the wine) that causes the "Dumbbell" to appear as the most mysterious nebula in the sky. Its' invisible interior star emits a continual spectrum... and the intense ultra-violet radiation makes those highly rarified gases sing! And sing they do... To the forbidden radiation tune of doubly ionized oxygen. Did you know this fantastic planetary continues to expand 17 miles every second?! No wonder it looks alive! I suppose we all have a favourite, eh? And this one is mine....
Covering up the dob and wheeling it back to the garage, I sing along with the radio. What a fine night it has been! I'm not really ready to go in just yet, but H and Ranger have long since retired. What say you and I just kick back here in the chair...
And pour another?
"Now that she's back from that soul vacation, she's tracing her way through the constellations, hey, hey... She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo. Reminds you that there's room to grow, hey, hey... Now that she's back in the atmosphere, I'm afraid that he might think of me as plain ol' Jane. I was told a story about a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land.
July 13/14, 2002 - At the Warren Rupp Observatory...
Comments: The skies had been very overcast all day... a disappointment to some, and a relief to others. Tonight is "Open House" at the Observatory and the monthly meeting of the RCAS. Arriving a bit early, I was quite happy to help Bob clear away the brush that threatens to overtake the steps up the side of the hill. Deposit coffee making supplies inside the Clubhouse, and enjoy the opportunity to get to know other members with whom I haven't had a chance to spend time. Then we got down to the "business at hand". When the meeting adjourned, most everyone left...
Because it's kinda' hard to get excited about a cloudy sky.
Slowly, but surely, people started arriving. Some from as close a just a few miles away, and others as far as a few hours. They had come to this place seeking a bit of "adventure". But, would we be able to provide it for them? GOES satellite information showed clearing skies were on the way. Would it make it here on time?
Keeping watch on the sky and thinking optimistic thoughts, we greeting our guests and made them feel welcome. Then guess who decided to make our little "star party"? The Moon! Who else? And what better place to start than a walk on the lunar surface... Have 4.5... Will travel.
Setting up on the sidewalk outside the Observatory door, both children and adults gathered round excitedly for their first glimpse of the Moon. How wonderful it was to hear their exclamations and see the smiles. And how rewarding were the giggles of the children as we turned the seleography to "green cheese" with the filter! From the little girl with the blonde pigtails on the stepstool to reach the eyepiece, to the young man who eventually learned to "drive" my scope for me... their laughter and good spirits were contagious. Mare Crisium was out in all its' glory, bright punctuations of Pierce and Pickard easily understood by all. Mare Fecundatatis is also recognizable... and how I thank for you for the book when I tell them it is about the size of the state of California!
And then bright Venus joined the show...
We start with the "natural" view... telling of the runaway greenhouse gases and how its' atmosphere will forever prevent us from seeing the surface. And then of couse, phases and filters.
Behind me, I can hear the dome trundle round in our direction as the sky darkens and the stars appear one by one. While the folks waited in line to see through the "Big Eye", my young companion and I walked them through them mysteries of spectra with Arcturus and Vega... How excited people become when they realize the depth that just one star can hold... And I am so proud of the tall young man who remembered his science classes so well, and told what he knew about spectra. Way to go, dude!
And the beauty of double stars with Mizar, Cor Caroli, Albeiro, Ras Algethi, Graffias and Epsilon Lyrae. The telling of the story of Mizar and Alcore... Watching the smiles in the dark when they realize that Mizar is two and not one! To the "Heart of Charles" we go, and how funny it is that people see colors so differently! Shall we try Albeiro next? And again... perhaps twenty people viewed these same stars, and yet almost every one saw different colors, or none at all! So we try the "kneeling one", for Ras Algethi is splendid just for it's brightness if nothing else. I see red and green.... How about you? And we experiment with Graffias for the same reasons, and again... a wide variety of results! I like to experiment... For the die hards, we go on to Epsilon Lyrae. To me, the "Double Double" isn't clean tonight, but it does spit. To ones who try but cannot see? It's OK... doubles take a bit of practice.
As soon as the sky had darkened enough, the big scope moved on to its' favourite targets - M57 and M13. And while waiting, the little scope took on the M5, M27, M71, M29 and M4. For my two closest and oldest friends? Smile for me... ~T is doing the "Nickle Tour" once again! And how I long to set the big scope on these very same targets. M5 shows its age in the 12.5... and I can only imagine the resolution in a 32". M27 glows like a cheap bowtie in the dark, and I'll bet the Observatory would rip it apart and show filaments far better than my dob. The M71? I put in my bids for you for the next Public Night... Cuz' I'll just bet you will put the OW back into WOW! And M29? Oh, Great One... You will divide those tiny doubles right out of the night! But the M4? Fahgedaboudit... For some reason, the clouds and the Mansfield Light Dome always seem to trash this view. Yeah, the Milky Way is faded tonight... Galaxies and nebulae are out of the equation. But, hey. The true beauty is right here... In the eyes of those who smile at "The Coathanger".
The hour grows late, and the children grow tired. I find myself drifting more and more frequently toward the picnic table... Seeking quiet conversation. Saggitarius hides itself behind the clouds, and the haze despoils our predicted iridium flare. The people are beginning to drift away now, midst handshakes and words of thanks. Sleepy eyed children tug at the hands of their parents... And I smile. Knowing how quickly they will fall asleep in the car... and hoping they dream of the stars in their eyes.
Capping up the 4.5, I wander inside the dome and smile at Gary. Do you have time for just one more? And he smiles back... Come on, kid. Let me take you for a ride.
Cuz' there's no place like the M13...
"Now that she's back in the atmosphere, with drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey... She acts like summer and walks like rain. Reminds me that there's time to change, hey, hey... Since the return from her stay on the moon, she listens like spring and she talks like June, hey, hey...
July 12/13, 2002 - The Sun... The Moon and Venus... Chasing Through The Clouds...
Comments: Still keeping an eye on incredible sunspot 30. Now sporting four massive umbra regions, divided by individual penumbra, the dispersion field continues to widen and turn 30 into an awesome sight! Feedback information on this "bad boy" simply goes off the scale from time to time. Now holding a twisted beta/gamma/delta class field, SOHO predictions have moved from M class flare probability to X class flare activity at 70%!
The litter of tiny components within this area is just breathtaking. The granulation looks "pushed away" from the active area, and the faculae dance round the edges like decorative frosting on a complicated cake. Once again, it is accompanied by a coronal hole that dominates the area on corongraph data.
We're watching you, 30... Go on. Make our day!
The appearance of the Moon and Venus was even more striking tonight than last. But still, there is something very special about being able to catch that thin sliver on the first day, huh? Just barely dark enough to give a good appearance, I set the 4.5 on it to have a look at surface features.
Of course, Mare Crisium dominates the scene with its' smooth grey floor and rough edges. Langrenus is divided by the terminator, but the Sun rises on one of those distant mountains, making it a beautiful sight. Vendelinus is also bissected by the shadow, but this only serves to highlight the much younger crater Lame.
Like bites taken out of the edge of the Moon, these huge, ancient features tease the eye. Old favourite, Messala is also cut away. Ah, sweet Selene. How your presence will both annoy and amuse us in the days to come! Like Venus, who displays it's phat self very well to green filter tonight, you will wax and wane. Those of us who stand waiting will curse your light for deep sky studies, yet we will walk upon your surface as eagerly as a child on the beach.
Abandoning the scope for now, for the sky is not even close to dark, I find myself enjoying my evening swim immensly. Laughing, and seeing just how many laps I can do with one hand far above the water... and taking on my fair share of it through my silliness. A black bear head and paws appear at the side, for H would make sure that I'm alright. He obviously doesn't see the phun in the game... But I do.
Exercise finished, I settle down in the redwood chair with a blanket to watch the holes appear and disappear in the partly cloudy night sky. Going after a cup of spicy, hot tea... I return to find that Ranger has quite stolen my blanket, and gives me a doggie grin when I ask for it back. Nothing wrong with his sense of humor!! That's OK, old boy... You may have it. I am dry now. And we settle in once again to watch H is his never-ending quest to capture lightning bugs.
Far too cloudy to bother with the dob, I set the 4.5 on the "Ring Nebula" when the opportunity arises. You know, even in small aperature, this is one very fine DSO. The tiny, perfect "smoke ring" seen at 25mm still captures my fancy! And minutes later, the clouds capture the M57....
Relaxing again, I notice Ranger continues to "hound" me tonight... for the last third of my chai is gone, and he is contentedly licking his grey whiskers. Brat! Now the sky opens for Scorpius and I start with Graffias and bump up the power. Beautiful double... The primary is off white, and the half sized turquoise companion breaks away easily to the northeast. Hopping down to the mysterious Anatares reveals nothing in the 4.5 but a massive red star with green arc to its' spectra. (yep. playing with the gratings again!) No sooner than I had a fix on the M4, than the clouds came back again.
Smiling at my rotten luck, yet reveling in the warm relaxed atmosphere and great rock and roll, I turn my attention toward Cygnus, for it is in the "clear" at the moment. Albeiro! How fine you are... Your dusty reds and blues a herald of the sumer. And 61 Cygni! Like a double dip of orange sherbert.... Held only 11 light years away from a hungry tounge. For now, the "hole" stays open... And I eagerly take Brocchi's Cluster, the vague and unusual M71, and the ever-fascinating M27 from the sky.
And then I am swallowed again...
Settling back on the chair, I absent-mindedly just keep my gaze trained upward as I scratch Ranger's age-curled ears. Singing along softly with the music, and smiling at the meteor who is quickly extinguished by the M0. Slowly, but surely, the stars of Ophiuchus begin to appear, and even though I have haunted this area recently, I would still take shapes on the M19. And it is still beautiful... 36 Ophiuchi, with its matched magnitudes is also here... and I am allowed a fast, but satisfactory view of the M62 with its' highly concentrated core before the clouds come back.
To the west, Arcturus shines like a beacon... and there be Cor Caroli. ("core care oh lee"? or is it "core cuh roll lee"? no matter. for you are just as beautiful no matter what you are called.) I enjoy this one every bit as much as I do Albeiro, for they are two of a kind. Walking back toward Arcturus, I have a moment to study the M5 in all its' globular fury... The oldest in the sky. Zeta Boo? You're next. Guess what? Hehehheeee... The 9mm Meade and a well tuned 4.5 reveals a matched magnitude pair that orient east/west. Pi is also here, but the components differ just slightly in magnitude, with the dimmer one to the east/southeast. How about Xi? It's little red buddy stands beside it to the north. Now, Arcturus! How fine your spectra shines broadly across the yellow/green band! And a comparison with Vega... Who dominates the blue/violet end of the rainbow.
Settling back for awhile, I watch Scotty's Star. Apparently in the upswing of its cycle right now, for it still appears bright. I like watching variables. I don't really know enough about them to make any kind of contribution, but the cephids amuse me greatly. Why not pick on the M11 while here? And so I do... Longing for the dob, but still pleased with just how well the 4.5 can resolve out this bright wedge of stars.
Well, Hercules! How nice of you to finally move off the zenith enough so that I may play. The M13 walks and talks in any sky, and tonight is no exception. And Ras Algethi? Always finestkind...
Grrrrrrrrrrrr... Sagittarius is winding its way into visibility. I crave to hunt down its' hidden treasures and to drawn structure from its' bright nebulae, but the clouds threaten to swallow you, too.
But not before I've captured the M22 and the fantasy cloud of stars that is the M23. And a chance to love up on an another cephid variable....
"Swallowed.... Hollowed... I'm with everyone and yet not. I've got to get away from here. I really miss the one I love a lot.
July 11, 2002 - The Sun... Venus and the Moon... NGC6426 and NGC6384...
Comments: What splendid weather! Temperatures in the mid to upper 70s and an absolutely heartbreaking blue sky. It didn't take long when I got home from work to set up for solar observance, and judging by the appearance of Spot 30... You can see why!
Now, if it would just teach me some, eh? For I think I've turned into the most boring person in the world. The words "far to predictable" come to mind as I follow my routine of dinner, study, practice and swim... Hey, don't get me wrong. I like my routines, for where would we be without them besides aimless? But every now and then we've just got to break out of them... As Carlos Santana once said, "The only time I've ever felt old was when I allowed myself to become predictable."
So, while I did my laps tonight, by head was completely consumed by the two targets I had in mind for tonight's observing. (well, kinda' anyway... ;) Pushing myself as far as I could go, and then going for just one more. While cruising the edge in my relaxed backstroke, I happend to notice bright Venus had made its' way onto the darkening sky. Giving it a nod, I went back to my routine, and then noticed the bats had come round for their nightly drink. Going to the edge, I stand quietly and watch them nip down to the surface for the precious water that is so hard for them to find right now. I admire their precision flight, even though it appears erratic, and wonder what kind of "signal" they pick up in their little bat heads when they bounce their radar off of water. When they had finished, I started back in... And when I rolled over for some power?
There was the Moon...
When I came back, I pulled the dob round to the south field to cool down, and went back to my routines. (hey! somebody has to cover the pool and set out the trash... ;) Tonight will be the night to finish up some studies, but can I leave that damn mold behind and just call it as I see it without confirming it seventy or more times? Yeah. I think I can do that. Just give me time to cover the pool, turn on the rock and roll, and make us a cup of coffee.
I didn't bother with the maps tonight, for this pair of targets has vexed me beyond limits of reasonable sanity. Why? Because the incomparable Mr. Tirion has a mistake on his Cambridge Star Atlas. Conferring with the one person whom I trust totally, I find the designations and positions to be correct, but the numbers are wrong! So, if such a noted authority can make a mistake?
Then I have no fear.
Heading for Beta Oph, the last remaining globular cluster in the study series awaits me. And awaits me... and awaits me... (perhaps i should have taken the map after all!) Nah. The problem is not where it is at. It is me. You just don't jump into the deep sky like that until you've learned to swim! So back to the routine I go... And perform a simple DSO hop to get me accoustomed.
Back to Beta, and a very short drop. At low power the NGC6426 is quite hard to distinguish from field. It is just a handful of precision stars gathered together and caught in a fine silver haze. High magnification destroys it... But in the middle works very well, and 17mm delivers. Again, in terms of globular structure, this one is more of a hint than a hit. My best guess is that the stars that resolve themselves are not truly part of the globular, they just happen to be in the way of the view. Just a silver halo, with a few tiny glittering diamonds set inside...
Back to Beta again, and this run is for a galaxy.... the NGC6384. "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Hehehehheeeeee... No, what we have here is a very dim structure. At 26mm NGC6384 shows a tilted "cat's eye" appearing nucleas, surrounded by a faint sheen of galactic signature. 9mm rips it totally apart, and all that is left is the core, and 17mm doesn't make it real happy either! But here I Practice Patience and Persist. By concentrating on the held direct field stars, my averted vision gives me a sense of spiral, more notedly toward the bottom. Look at it? And you get nucleas and haze... Stay widely averted? And the senses work overtime!
And speaking of overtime, I've had enough for tonight, thank you. Yes, it is gorgeous out. The sky is really walking and talking, but the hour grows late for working kids.
Just one more day...
"Piss on self-esteem. Forward on busted knees... Sick head, blackened lungs. And I'm simple. Selfish. Non-swallowed..."
July 10, 2002 - The Sun... NGC6517, NGC6539, NGC6535, M19, NGC6284, NGC6287, M14 and NGC6366...
Comments: Had to sneak a peek at the Sun today to see if there were any great changes. Suprisingly enough, we've a new spot on the scene, just rounding the limb as 19 rotates away. Spot 30 shows a nice granulation pattern around it, but a minimum of dimpling. Spot 19 also displays granulation, so between the two? The Sun looks like a giant orange in the sky! Check it out...
The current "rip" of a coronal hole is beginning to close a bit, but is still producing a fair amount of solar wind that could trigger some auroral activity. But more interesting than that is the magnetogram information... Spot 30 not only goes off the "deep end" scale for negative magnetic energy, but also display a perfectly matched positive field that not only borders on it, but curls directly inside it. This one will be worth keeping an eye on as it makes its more than week long passage across the surface.
Race ya' to it... ;)
Satisfying my sometimes voracious "appetite", I spent the waiting hours until dark building an observing plan for tonight. The object? To finish off a very intensely pleasing field study of Ophiuchan globular clusters. My time will be limited, but well spent...
Now just keep me from pacing until it gets dark enough! Hey. Don't get me wrong. I sure appreciate the warmer weather, but once I've had my supper, practiced guitar and done my laps? I am ready to skywalk... Not sit around watching H try to catch lightning bugs! Hehhheheheee... Ah, live it up, ~T. That time off will be here soon enough, and you may sleep the days away....
Both scopes out and ready, and me chomping at the bit. I watched my marker stars come out one by one, and when the M4 was bright in the 4.5? It's time to go...
Starting at Upsilon, I head northeast with the 12.5 at 26mm until I find what I'm looking for.... NGC6517. Not bad at all! A decent sized globular with a condensed nucleas that extends upon aversion. Now, let's power up. Again, the nucleas cannot be opened up, but it is surrounded by a soft haze of thin resolvability. This one looks like a cosmic yo-yo being dangled from a sting of tiny stars. Trying my luck with the 4.5, I see that it can be found. Most magnification it will take from the small one is 17mm, and at best just looks like a small, furry spot.
Going back to the dob, and dropping back to 26mm, I continued past Tau until I locate the NGC6539. HA! Just try and pick it out of the field... Dropping in the barlow, the best I can achieve with this one is a super-fine texture with an upright, elongated core area. It fades out very evenly, where it simply turns into field stars. Once again, I give the 4.5 a go at it. OK... Talk about a fim duzzie here... If I did not have the power standing right beside it to compare field stars, I doubt I would have made the call on this very soft, just caught at aversion, ball of grey light.
Clearing my head, I watch Beta for a bit, until I can clearly see the small smile of stars below it. These are my markers from the next hop, and I go to the finder to help me along the way. When I identify what I need to see, I go to the eyepiece and drop past a fine, tight double... And there it is! NGC6535... At this magnification, a stellar core surrounded by a soft nebular appearing haze. Now let's rock it, shall we? At magnification we see a swirl of fine stars, and a very soft appearing, lack concentration core. The perimeter stars resolve well, but the nucleas dissolves. Very hazy... 4.5? Forget it, kid. You can't touch this one.
Now, let's drop back and shake it on down to the M19. Ooooooh, yeah! Sing me the blues, baby... I wish they all were as fine as YOU! I like what I see! What's that? Oh, yeah... Study field... Study Field.... Study? Oh, all right.
Flipping north of the M19, I head to another recent study, the NGC6284. Yep. There's my little arrow pointing right at this splashy little globular, so we're on the right track. Keep bumping us north, partner... Say what? OK, let me look. What the.... Hand me the barlow.
At best, NGC6287 is nothing more than a stellar point furred with a handful of pinpoint stars nearby. It does not resemble a globular. It looks like a very tiny version of the M11. Going back to 17mm reveals a circular/oval formation of stars to one side. This one is no great shakes... Just another globular cluster pulled apart by our galaxy's intense forces. Interesting? Yes. Worth spending 15 minutes to find? Well.... ;)
Now let's turn and burn before I have to get some shut-eye...
Howdy, M14! You're our guidepost for this one. Put that delicious globular in the eyepiece at low power and go to the finder. Now, run it out to the northeast, and you will see a bright star, with three to the southwest, and two the southeast. The bright star is what you want. Center it up, and let's go to the eyepiece.
NGC6366 works will with the 12.5 at 17mm. A very hazy, grainy patch of light. Drop in the barlow? It closely resembles an unresolvable open cluster, but brighter members can be held direct to one side. I am sure you can do it, but this one is faded and jaded, baby.
Faded and jaded....
"Warm Sun, feed me up... And I'm leery, loaded up and loathing all this change. And I slip some and boil away...
July 9, 2002 - Ah, the welcome welcome rain... So warm and soft and slow. It came after darkness fell, and I had to go walk in it. The smell was just incredible. The parched ground dries as quickly as if falls, and the thirsty leaves uncurl themselves to touch the drops.
And I would taste of the Universe...
"I've put my trust in you. Pushed as far as I can go. And for all this? There's only one thing you should know...
July 8/9, 2002 - Rockin' The Night Away...
Comments: It had been a long, straight stretch of road. I've grasped at the sky when I could, and suffered the consequences. Tired has become my middle name, but I do what I chose because I want to. And for that long road ahead? I drive fast...
Finally a day off has come my way, and I pass on solar observance to catch up with my friends. Rather than spend the early hours idle, I chose to nap instead. There is another clear night in the making, and I'm ready.
Let's rock and roll...
By 10:30 the skies were dark enough to begin, the 12.5 was ready, and I start it with a routine DSO hop. I cannot stress enough the importance of Practice, I merely Persist at it. The walk to the M3... Cor Caroli and the M51... M13, M57 and M56... M27 (you wily scamp! you exhibit those spectral qualities i live for tonight!) and the M71... M10 and M12... M80, M4 and NGC6144... You can see where I'm going with this can't you? Darn right.
I'm going globular...
"Bright beings! That ponder,
With half closing eyes,
On the stars which your wonder
Hath drawn from the skies,
Till they glance thro' the shade, and
Come down to your brow...
Like -- eyes of the maiden
Who calls on you now --
Arise! from your dreaming
In violet bowers,
To duty beseeming
These star-litten hours..."
Are we ready? Then let's grab the maps, the case and the red light, make for the south field and do this, for I have missed you so much more than you know...
Starting in Ophiuchus, let's go for NGC6356. Flattened and angular in appearance, this globular displays and concentrated mass for a core upon magification. The edges are lumpy, and ever so slightly resolvable upon aversion. While in the area, let's drop in on the M9. It literally explodes in the eyepiece! While complete resolution is impossible, the amount that does is pleasing. The stars seem to spin away from the center. The beginning edges of color appear toward the perimeter, where the population stars change, and it turns into doubles rather than chaining structure.
Let's get more difficult. The NGC6342 is very small, with an almost stellar core. Its' tiny components "halo" it, as if drawn by gravity toward the nucleas. The NGC6401 is very odd! A stellar point with an unresolvable mass to one side. The stars on the opposite are very loosely constructed, with one very fine, tight double nearby. The NGC6325 is also very small, and this one is dim. Globular? Har... It appears more like a Hershey's Kiss of grainy light, with a plume of stars where te little piece of paper would be.
On now to NGC6287... Much better and much brighter! Caught in a stellar field, several very dark patches lurk nearby. Is this the effect of dark dust? I see no Barnard classifications marked on the map, but then... If he marked them all, we really wouldn't be able to read it now, would we? The NGC6287 drips from the sky. The core area defies magnification, but the resolution on the frontiers make it worth the trip!
On we go now... NGC6284. Splash! Small and intense, and asterism like an arrow points the way to this lovely and unusual globular. Like a stellar "spider" caught in the web of the night, the deep unresolvable core of this one is exceptionally highlighted by the chains that make up its frontier structure. And the M19? It kicks!! Beautiful flattened globular, it gives of an intense silver blue light. The interior defies any amount of magnifiation we throw at it. Concentration is the name of this one's game, and it carries it off splendidly all the way to the outer limits, where it softly fades away into stellar field. A real beauty...
Now for NGC6293. Here we find a tiny, stellar globular whose components appear to have shifted, or gravitated toward one side. Caught in a field of sparkling apparent doubles, this one isn't the easiest in the batch, but the amount of small globulars that reside in the halo make this one a bit easier than some. Kinda' like the NGC6355, huh? This one is almost a stellar point, barely bigger than a good sized star, the surrounding field makes it a difficult study to pin down. But you know what? When it won't resolve to the dob at low magnification as a single star... Chances are damn good you've found what you're after. Magnifiy it up, and when a haze surrounds it and you know you're in the right field. That be the one...
A bit easier is the NGC6316. Small and intense, it is highly reminiscent of the M80. The core area appears "cupped" by aversion resolvable stars, and those that can be held direct give it an appearance of being encircled. Now for the M62.... Sweet! Large and intense after so many difficult studies, this low rider still reminds me of a gone to seed dandelion. Absolute perfection of orb, it is soft and full of resolvable points of light. It looks as if it awaits a cosmic breath to blow its' seed far and wide... It is intense, and a very worthy globular.
Let's head for the NGC6440. Wow... That's weird. A blank field?! Oh, there are stars there, but far fewer than the continual background "noise" we've grown accoustomed to. What stars are there a perfectly able to be held direct, as the NGC6440 also is. Nice and tight, this brightish globular has a soft corona about it that curls lovingly around a concentrated central core. Bracketed by stars of equal magnitude, this particular globular should be of interest to mid-size scopes.
Whew! Now, lets sit here for a bit. Spending time between the red light, maps, and the on again, off again glasses routine has my head spinning! The music is fine, and I've a mind just to lay here on the grass for a bit... Look up and think, eh? And a smile for all the random (or perhaps not so random... ;) meteors I've seen so far. Behind me I can hear H splashing away in his pool, and I envy him his abandon. I can see Ranger's ill defined presence on the deck, and I know that he is at rest. Poor boy. He grows very tired, this old companion of mine. I know his days are numbered... And I try to make his remaining time as pleasant as I can. He seldom refuses to come out observing with H and I... But he seems to find contentment more easily now then he once did. Rest, old friend. Lay on your rug and let the light of the stars fill your tired old eyes...
While H continues to thrash in the water, I watch Scotty's Star. It's at a low point in its' cycle at the moment, and as dim as I have seen it in awhile. Variables are quite trick, and I think it would be fascinating to study them some time. Humming along with the radio, I start laughing when I hear the Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Californication".... What fine memories that song brings back! And through the parched ground, I can feel and hear the doppler effect as H senses me at ease. Best get to our feet now, before a hundred pounds of very wet, black german shepherd decides to attack!
Going back to the 12.5, Saggitarius is not quite prime yet, but the southern skyline is clean and worthy of study. Let's head for the spout of the "Teapot", dream on some chai that I have waiting for celebration of completion of study tonight, and rock!
Twin globulars, NGC6522 and NGC6528 lay in a field of profusion. These two tiny globulars make their mark just barely largers that the stars which form a wedge between them. They offer very little in terms of resolution, not much more than pinpoint concentrated cores. Their soft, slightly fuzzy comas are what sets them apart from the field.
On now to NGC6244. The intense curl of stars that wrap around this one's midsection are almost spiral galaxy-like! The core is hazy, and very ill-defined, but definately shifted to one side. This one does not fit in well with the classifcation of globular. But the NGC6638 does! Caught in the center of a rope of stars, the NGC6638 displays nice mass and outer edge resolvability. Upping magnification, and with slight averison reveals two single stellar points to either side of the globular proper, while wide aversion brings on hints of chaining at the perimeters of the structure.
How about the NGC6642? What a little beauty! A highly punctuated central region is highlighted well by edge resolvability. It smacks the eye with its' diamond dust qualities. But hop the scope over to the M22 for me, will you? Cuz' it always takes my breath away. Just absolutely intense... I will set the observatory scope on this one!
Let's head for the NGC6544. Almost open cluster in appearance, it is spread far and wide, with only a slight central gathering. Very, very open is the best way to describe this one. Again, I am reminded of recent studies.... And I guess the populations stars are the only way to tell some of these crazy things apart! For I have seen opens that resembled globulars far more than this one!
Now, let's work it. NGC6552 is a soft silver teardrop on the face of the night. The core area upon magnification and aversion appears almost X-like. It's decent size fades evenly away toward the frontiers. The M75 is small and tight. One "bullseye" of a globular. Residing a in a splendid field, the doubles play round the edges while apparent bright members hover nearby. This one is quite cometary! And you can see why Mr. Messier might want a second look and what resides so far from the known center of our galaxy...
Ready to shake it on down? Then let's walk the M54 for fun. Very pretty with a nice intensity, the lower half of this easy globular is cupped with chaining structure. The M70 resides in a superior field, and here it speaks globular. Perfect unresolved circular structure, and oh-so even! Aversion hints broadly at grain in the structure, and makes me wish I had a bigger scope! And the M55? Yeah! Complete resolution is possible, like the M13. But! It requires patience and aversion at magnification. This one looks as if tiny crystals were drawn together, with absolutely no core. It is just a beauiful ball of stars....
Argh! I have a headache.... And I see why when the radio announces the time. Great galaxies! I've been at this for over three hours! Now you know, eh? They don't always come easy to me... All about me appears green from so much time spent with the red light and the maps. The concentration that it requires to pick structure out of faint, distant objects has fried my brain pan. Taking care with my equipment, I flop myself down in the redwood chair, ready to doze for a bit and recharge the circuits. Turning my back on the south, I face the north to reaquaint myself with the constellations of Cephus and Lacerta. Tracing the faint stars in my mind... and remembering past studies. One hits me so very clear... a galaxy and an open cluster. Man, I must be tired. For the sky looks positively pink. Dreaming a bit on where I shall go next... Thinking of a starhop for Observatory Night... I'm losing it. Cassiopeia that is... Pink clouds are covering it. Pink? Pink?!!
It took me about three minutes to make it up to my office. A fast check on the information was all I needed to confirm. We've got aurora tonight! (and now i've got a smile to take back with me... and a cup of chai... ;) Settling back into the cushions, I sip at my hot mug. Ah, this is the life! The display is not the finest I've seen, but I am quite willing to snuggle down here with you for awhile and watch! And when my belly is filled with warm... I find myself drifting away.
"My draught of passion hath been deep--
I revell'd, and I now would sleep--
And after-drunkeness of soul
Succeeds the glories of the bowl--
An idle longing night and day
To dream my very life away..."
And when I awoke? Oh, how the sky had changed! Saggitarius, instead of climbing into the night had begun it's decline. Aquarius had taken it's place. The "Eagle" flies high, and Pegasus rises...
Roaming back out to the south field, I stretch my bones and clear away the cobwebs of shut-down. I pour a cup of long gone cold chai from the thermos, and it still tastes good. Taking shapes on what is left of Saggitarius, I visit with the M8, the M20 and the M17... Such beauty in these nebulae! Notes left behind for now, I will study them in detail on another night. What's left of this one, I devote to pleasure.
And the M11 aims to please. Very much...
Still smiling at the absolute resolution, I am my sights at the only one I can remember in this area at the moment, M2. This one is also a very striking globular in the dob. The rest has done my eyes well, for even at 26mm resolution walks out. And I'm walking out on studying for now... and going on to another (yep, another... ;) globular. The M15. Why? Cuz' this one breaks the rules. For the most part, globular clusters tend to look blue, but M15 is golden. Perhaps because it is a source of X-rays... Or that it may contain a nuetron star or black hole is what shifts its' spectra. Maybe it's because it contains a planetary nebula... Does this speak to you? Then it should.... Because the M15 isn't playing the globular game the way it should, eh?
Aries, huh? Funny, you don't follow that pattern any more than I suit Taurus! But what you've got is damn fine, and I remember it well. Hello, Mersarthim! Two beautiful blue/white stars forever matched in intensity and atop one another. Quite fine...
Shall we do Andromeda again tonight? No? Then the "Double Double"? No...
What I want is Algol.
"From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were -- I have not seen
As other saw -- I could not bring
My passions from a common spring --
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow -- I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone --
For all I lov'd -- I lov'd alone --
Then -- In my childhood -- In the dawn
Of a most stormy life -- was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still --
From the torrent, or the fountain --
From the red cliff of the mountain --
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
Inautum tint of gold --
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by --
From the thunder, and the storm --
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view--"
Ah, such perfection. Now one last sky song before I go. I should rest, but the night has been so beautiful. M34? I'm calling you.... Show me your splendid open form before I go.
Just one more time...
"One thing, I don't know why
July 7/8, 2002 - The Sun... M81, M82, M101, M109, M108, M97. and the M51... The Perseus "Double Cluster" and the Andromeda Galaxy...
Comments: Now, you know I had to go look at the Sun today. The summer months are a rare treat for me to do extensive solar observance, for the shorter days of winter (while great for stargazing!) means the Sun has gone too far west by the time I get home. So while it's there? I'm lookin'!
Spot 19 still remains the single most interesting area on the solar surface, and it has divided cleanly into four seperate regions...
Isn't that awesome?! Solar "rip" would be more like it! I don't believe I've ever saw anything like that... Sometimes it pays to explore that information!
And so comes the time to leave 19 alone. It will be on the edge tomorrow, and lose itself there. It's been quite an interesting area to keep watch on, and I hope you've enjoyed it, too!
Now let's get some night...
I'm losing Ursa Major to my favourite area. It won't be long now until the bowl is into the big maple tree, and I think tonight would be a grand time to explore it and let it go...
Starting with the M81 and M82, I take great pleasure in them. It's been a very long time since I last looked, but even less than perfect sky position doesn't harm this pair. Using the 12.5 at 17mm still brings mottling and the break out of the M82, and the dense central and fading away of the M81. Somehow, I am glad I took the time to view them once again.
On now to the M101. OK... This one doesn't fair so well tonight. Its' arms are far less pronounced than I last remember, but when I drop back to 26mm and avert? Viola... There they are! Now, how about M109? Yeah! Guess the lower power works the best tonight, for the barred structure jumps right out! Nice silvery haze all about it, too.
Shall we jump to the M108? Cuz' I still dig ya', edge-on... More white than silver, the M108 distinctly shows a dark dust lane through the longest part, and four very bright (compared to the rest anyhow!) areas hit the eye direct. Cruising on to the M97, I am a bit more disappointed... For Mr. Owl seems to have lost one of his eyes tonight. I know just how he feels....
I'm rather tired from the hours I've been keeping, but it's rare for Ohio to have such a long, dry stretch and available dark sky. So I think I'll hop on to one last galaxy before I put the dobby away tonight. The wind keeps whispering "M51" in my ear...
And I'm listening.
Hey. It's the best. I've seen a lot of galaxies come and go. I've for sure seen structure and core area. I've seen companions and spiral arms... But none like this one. It is impossible for me to describe what true beauty just the right set of circumstances and the right scope can do. All I can say is the grand sweep of M51's spiral arms, loaded with all those knots of stars makes me smile like no other. Again, it reminds me of a fantasy silver blue party favor... Uncurling itself toward its' NGC companion. Totally fascinating!
Now, I'm tired. I saw something this morning as I was leaving for work, and I think grabbing some sleep and going for a morning walk will suit me just fine....
First thought? Kill that %$#@**^! alarm clock. Smash it to bits. Make it bleed...
Then I remembered why I set it.
Pulling the dob out into the backyard, I didn't even look that direction. Only to make sure the sky was clear before I went back in to put on coffee. After a few sips (drink the first cup... it kicks.) I took my mug, grabbed a blanket, and headed out.
Have mercy. How long has it been Perseus? Look at you! Climbed so high and proud into the sky while I slept.... Tossing the empty cup onto the crispy, dried grass I headed out... My hands knew the way, and within seconds I was viewing the "Double Cluster". Man, oh man... I had forgotten just how rich and beautiful this is! So many, many stars....
But what I've came for is shining its' silver light my way. That tiny smudge on the sky has my attention, and I'm going to give myself to it.
At 32mm, the Andromeda Galaxy takes your breath away. It overfills the eyepiece! A push and nudge bring its' companions out to play... The little round fellow whose name I cannot remember... 32? And the cigar shaped edge-on... 110? But how can I even look at those when this one gives itself to me so willingly? Darn right... I'm looking back. Over and over that splendid galaxy... From the concentration on the edge, to the very fine dust lanes.
This one is golden.
Satiated, I covered the dob back up and poured myself another cup of coffee and went back out to watch the slender orange slice of the Moon rise. I kept scanning the horizon, hoping for a glimpse of Mercury and Saturn, but saw nothing. Slightly disappointed, I went back in and started my reports. Oh, well... huh?
And the something happened...
I am not a believer in things of the spiritual world, but I swear it was like somebody was shoving me in the back. Just get up, ~T... Get up and go take one more look....
Sometimes when you ask for nothing, you gain everything.
For there in the sky, just below that thin ruddy slice sat the magnificent visage of Saturn...
"It starts with one thing, I don't know why. It doesn't even matter how hard you try. Keep that in mind. I designed this rhyme to explain in due time. All I know... Time is a valuable thing. Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings. Watch it count down to the end of the day. The clock ticks life away. It's so unreal... Didn't look out below. Watch the time go right out the window. Trying to hold on, but didn't even know. Wasted it all just to watch you go. I kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart. What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when...
July 6/7, 2002 - M5, M107, M80, M4, M12, M10, M19, M62, M14, M22, M28, M54 and the M55...
Comments: I have found THE definative way of beating the "Summertime Blues"! Simply volunteer to work the night/morning shift, that way you avoid all of those pesky, annoying problems... Like waiting on the sun to set and the sky to get dark. You just sleep away the afternoon and evening hours, then wake up to clear, dark sky... And growl loudly when you have to leave it!
Tonight I was feeling decidedly "globular" and in the mood to take out that poor, neglected Celestron 114 for a run. As always, my old black companion delivers... And tonight was no exception. Starting with the unusual and ancient M5, I adjust myself to sky hunting and totally enjoy the elongated evenly structured globular at a power this scope is unaccustomed to! You got it... the dob's good 26mm got the honors tonight.
Kicking back down toward Ophiuchus, I keep in practice by hitting on last night's new target, the M107. Still a splendid little globular, I find myself smiling once again at the sky for never having looked! In all honesty, once upon a time I dreamed of running a Messier Marathon. Those were days long before these... A time when I was so serious. I know that I've seen all the Messiers with the 4.5 at one time... But that was then, and this is now. Perhaps my laid back attitude is wrong... But it's right for me. I ask for no one's forgiveness nor understanding. I ask for nothing. So many things have changed over the years.... But the stars never do.
Locating the M80 tonight was a snap. Poor little guy! Most of the time I try to hunt it down just before dawn, and that always sells it short. Dark sky gives it a very highly concentrated appearance, and how great it looks caught between two stars. The M4 is always a giant dustball to the 114, but I will admit that Meade's eyepieces have the old Celestron's beat hands-down. There is some resolution to the edges tonight, more notably toward the southeast, and a slight protrusion just above it.
On now to the M12. Yeah! We've got even structure here tonight, and excellent resolution. The faint "box" of stars that is its' sky signature is very clear, and the upper half shows magnificent stars cut away. Then to the M10, and delighted to see some core structure. There is most definately a concentration toward the mid-half of this globular, and as the stars fade away from it, I see it is less even, and know that the dob would probably reveal this as chaining. But we're not using the power tonight... We're just hoppin' for the fun of it!
M19 comes next, and I am charmed by its' slightly "egg shaped" form. Once again, a very even, almost sandy appearing globular. (so many grains you'd think it was a health food cereal!) I darn well like the M62, for since I'm thinking breakast here, it looks like a sunnyside up egg whose yolk has slipped a bit to one side! But, put plenty of pepper on that one, for individual stars wink in and out with clarity upon aversion. M14 is the last for me in Ophiuchus, and I'm very pleased with how bright it seems! Again, this is another I rarely look up and don't understand why. It's easy enough to find, and although it lacks a deep, unresolvable core, it's slightly flattened form is very satisfying to the eye!
Now, on to Saggitarius...
Smacking my hands a bit, for I would go nebulae hopping on a night like this, I center my concentration on the M22. Yeah, baby.... This one is mighty fine. Much like the M5 before it, the M22's globular classifcation "bleeds" everywhere. Noticably pulled at a diagonal in the eyepiece, this one is quite intense. A beaufiful curl stretches up, like a finger beckoning one to further explore the riches of the Saggitarius region, and the edges resolve all over the place! M22 is definately one of the finest kind...
Heading on before my time runs out, the M28 is next on my game plan. Well, well! You might be small, but you pack a power punch! Go look in a smaller aperature telescope for me, will you? And tell me if I truly see a single bright star at the bottom of this one... Or if I'm going crazy. (well, i've always been crazy.... it just keeps me from going insane. ;) Now, let's drop to the handle of the "teapot", for the M54. Not again! Just like the M28.... Very small, very intense, and one very prominent star at the edge. Why? I thought all globulars were created equal... Their size and population stars the same? Odd... Oh, well... Perhaps I just need more coffee.
Last for me before leaving for work is the M55. This is one character I know quite well from chasing an asteroid across its' face last year. (that was fun, wasn't it?) Tonight it seems rather brighter than I remember it, but we've got truly great sky here tonight. (the temperatures dropped! yeah!) The M55 is pretty average as far as globular clusters go... It gives off a certain sense of concentration toward the middle and powder fine texture to its' stars. Most worthy...
It's time for me to cap up now... Write a brief report and head my way on into work. I hate to leave this kind of night, for I know what the dob would do to this kind of sky. But, it's ok. There will be other nights like this one....
And I'll be waiting.
"Could you be there, 'cause I'm the one who waits, The one who waits for you....
July 5, 2002 - M4 and NGC6144, M80 and M107...
Comments: Hey. I'm tired. "And I start to complain, cuz' there's no rain..." The long hours are starting to wear on me and the lack of sleep is beginning to hurt. I spent a very long time in the pool this evening, simply thinking and yet not thinking. Doing my laps in a offhand way... forgetting to keep count... Just going on until I am exhausted. Floating and dreaming... Watching the stars above. When I could move no more, I dried off and set sail for Antares.
I didn't even try to split it tonight, it is only a bright red marker for me to find the M4 and the splashy little NGC6144. The Milky Way glittered and shone, calling my name loudly, but I just wanted a peek and the tiny, tightly packed M80. Saggitarius sang its' songs, but I didn't listen to them. I don't care. I have come here for one thing. One thing I seemed to have overlooked in all this time... Do you believe it? A Messier that I do not have notes on...
Surprisingly bright, the M107 carries tremendous potential for resolution. Notably globular and grainy with core concentration in the 4.5 at 25mm, it begins to pick up outer resolution at 10mm. And the the dob eats it alive. Exterior resolution begins even with as little magnification as the 32mm provides, and each jump improves the view. Best look at this one happens with the 17mm and barlow, for the M107 is quite beautiful.
The interior core will not reveal itself in any manner other than a very uneven mass. Rather than being concentrated toward the middle, it has an odd, almost M-like configuration. From there, the stars splay outward, like sparks from a white hot ember. The closer to the frontier, the more the resolution improves, and random structure turns to a series of delicate chains. The very notable chaining continues until the stars themselves stop their profusion and turn into field. Very bright and easy enough to find, I can only wonder to myself exactly "why" I've never looked it up!
Maybe I was just saving it for a night like this....
"What I've felt, what I've known... Turn the pages, I turn to stone... Behind the door, should I open it for you? What I've felt, what I've known... Sick and tired, I stand alone.
July 4, 2002 - The Sun... Venus and "The Rocket's Red Glare"... Walkin' In My Sleep...
Comments: Ah, here it goes again. I am sure you've heard the phrase "hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth of July"? Yeah? Well, here in Ohio we know what supposed to be "knee high" by now, too!
And hot it is. The Sun is just two days away from reaching aphelion, and you'd think that at 152.6 million miles away it wouldn't heat things up like this, wouldn't you? Sure, it sounds weird to think that the Earth is the warmest when the Sun is farthest away, but it's really quite simple when you think of it. The majority of the northern hemisphere is land mass, so when our planet is on its' 23.5 degree northern tilt on its' spin axis, the Sun shines longest on land mass. Unlike water, which retains the heat, yet cools the atmosphere at the same time, the longer "days" mean hotter weather!
And speaking of hot... Let's go check out what's happening on the solar surface today.
Check out the coronal mass ejection!
So, once again, Sol puts on a delightful show. (hey, i might not have fancy equipment... but what i have is drive, dedication and desire.) Thanks to all the great information readily available on the web, and my cheap old Orion filter...
At least I always have a good time.
For a while there, it looked as if we might get some much needed rain. The skies turned dark and cloudy, and a few precious drops fell from the cheeks of the sky. By the time twighlight arrived, the clouds had moved on, and brilliant Venus came out to play.
Heading toward yet another Small Town, USA, I managed to find a spot where I could enjoy the fireworks and still admire the sky. And what luck! The show took place with Venus in full view....
While my youngest boy and his friends punched at each other and horsed around in ways that only teenagers can... (my oldest son is smart. he ate the proffered cook out, then found other places to be. ;) I found a quiet place, where I could just enjoy the fine pyrotechniques...
After a quiet drive filled with loud rock and roll and one wired astronomer, I could barely wait to get the backyard and experiment with my own explosives. No sparklers here... nor bottle rockets. This kid likes to play with baseball sized artillery shells that go FOOONT......... THUMP! and scare people. The really fun stuff is the rockets that PWISSSSSSSSH up a good two hundred feet or more! (i love it! my old testor rockets never blew up in the end like that! ;)
And through it all shone the stars....
After I quite finished breathing sulfur and playing with fire, the younguns went away to do their own thing. Now it is time for me to celebrate my own independence.
Time to turn up the tunes and let Cassiopeia rock me. From the beautiful M103, filled with all the colors of myriad stars, to the profusion of the NGC663. I reach out to touch the angel I see in the NGC457, and smile at the resolution in the delta-wing shaped NGC637. The massive cloud of diamond-dusted stars of the NGC7789 is next, so full of light that even the dob cannot reach it. And in the end, (does it really matter?) I find myself held captive by the rich and resolvable M52. Its' single star leading the way for the others to follow. I find myself again thinking of globulars that never quite formed, and wondering what its population stars consist of. But enough, ~T... The hour is quite late, and you will regret it when you find yourself bound to duty at sunrise...
"What I've felt, what I've known...
July 3, 2002 - The Sun... Reporting On The Current Study Field... Just Kickin' Back....
Comments: Yeah. Uh huh. Right. Way to go, ~T... Where's the great Solar Swami when needed, huh? (in the pool, where else? cut me some slack! it's HOT here... ;)
Well, our dormant appearing Sol has awoken... and when it rocks? It rocks in a BIG way! Sunspot 17 literally tripled in size, blowing its' single field appearance apart and letting off a powerful X-1 class solar flare. And where was the little scientist who has 5,000 hours of sunspot footage on file for comparison? Paying too much attention to 19! Heheheee... Well, maybe not "that" much...
But... Thththththht that's not all ffffff folks! Our double umbra friend, 19, has undergone some serious changes as well. The once singular penumbral region has now also divided as well! You should see the GOES x-ray flux data, and the magnetograms! Not to mention the LASCO/EIT camera's video footage.
Fascinating stuff... ;)
The early evening sky embraced the heat haze, but I've plenty of time to wait it out tonight. Made a run across the countryside to visit in another Small Town, America to watch their fireworks display. A bit of pyromaniac lurks in my soul...
By the time I returned, I was feeling fully charged and ready to take on the night, but the night wasn't quite ready for me! Opening up the 12.5, I set sail to stay sharp on those "easy pickin's" DSO. There is one particular galaxy that I've in mind, and that is where I head first. The atmosphere has quite robbed it of some of its' glory, but it doesn't belong to me... Tonight the M51 and NGC5195 has found itself to be another notch on the tripod leg of a good friend's telescope. Dave? That was one very fine piece of work! I knew you could do it...
Still in the mood to practice, I headed next for that daggone M5. Once again, I find myself thinking of someone else. Jerry, myself, and a very pleasant young man whose name I do not recall at the moment, spent a great deal of time at the Observatory the other night looking for this "odd ball" globular. Is brain freeze common for those of us who have gone over... cough cough.... years of age? For when I look at the sky tonight, I can tell you exactly where it is. Simply run a line between Cor Caroli and Arcturus.... Starting at Arcturus, just hop about a third of the way to CC, and there you have it! Next time, Jerry? Simply smack my head a bit when it sticks like that. The information is in there, but sometimes you have rattle my gourd a bit to retrieve it!
Feeling myself on the road to relaxation, I visit wth Cor Caroli for a bit... and then on to Ras Algethi. I have needed desperately to unwind, and the pure, bright colors of Alpha Herculis take me there. The music tonight is so fine... Seems like every song the radio plays is a favourite! Wandering back toward Arcturus, I find myself drawn toward Spica. And the quest of yet another friend! Sky position is low, but it is achievable. John? You might not be able to catch it, but I did for you. The M104 is definately not motivated anymore, but that thickened galactic structure still keeps its place in the "Knight" sky....
Turning the dob south, I head toward Antares. Perhaps? Nah... Some phenomena only occur once in a lifetime, and a naturally occuring spectra isn't on the menu for tonight. The reflection nebula that accompanies this red giant does not come forward either, but the beautiful open form of the M4 and small compact globular NGC6144 are worth the look. Now on to Lamda, (very pretty Shaula!) for a very fine and easily capturable globular just a hop east. The NGC6441 and brilliant yellow G Scorpii share the same field. How fine the region of the galactic halo is! For when I push up to view awesome open M7? Another tiny globular, NGC6453, joins the show.
Now I have been procrastinating long enough. My current study field sits just fine and although I am not totally pleased with the results? It's time to let it go....
Starting with Epsilon Lyrae, time to hop north and try once again for a galactic pair that's driving me crazy. The designation is NGC6702/03. I see no pair. At best I see a tiny ovoid of silver fur... No pair, no structure, and one mighty big pain to try and draw out. Returning to Epsilon and running a dry line directly toward Delta Cygni, the galaxy hunt continues. NGC6745 is another next-to-impossible galaxy. A tiny streak of light that shows no core and no definition. The only way that I can even positively identify the darn thing is the existence of a noted double star nearby! Continuing toward Delta, I try for the last time to locate NGC6792. No go. No go?! Yeah, I can't find it, and I'm going on!
Back to Epsilon, and a pause to clear my head. Smiling at the irony, I sing along with the radio for a bit... Just groovin' on the night. And when I can positively identify Eta and Theta Lyrae? I'm gone...
Just a hop southeast of Theta is a most wonderful and unusual open cluster. After having studied globular structure, and thinking "haloed" thoughts, this one will take your imagination and carry it away, amigo! (yeah, YOU... ;) The tiny stars seem to swirl round one another in an almost pinwheel like formation. This open has the dinstinction of appearing as an incompletely formed globular cluster!
And now that I've your attention, Mr. Wizard... There is another that I think you'd find equally fascinating! Return to Eta, and let's suck down some starlight while the dob drops east. Beauty! The NGC6819 has covered my field notes with all those excited marks that means... "Hey. I REALLY like this one!" Hundreds of stars lay in the boundary of resolution and non/resolution. It is a concentrated mass... And it looks like yet another globular cluster that was incomplete in formation! Now you look... (i'm right behind ya', partner.) while I fetch the 9mm from the case. Absolutely awesome! Those dob defying stars are just incredible...
Last stop on the scheduled hop? Head toward Delta Cygni. Do a double take and shift northwest for the very open, and not very spectacular NGC6811. Only the fact that dark dust obscures part of the stellar profusion in this area indicates it to be an open cluster. 6811 is nothing much more than a simple chain, with a few Y and V pattern stars nearby. But hey! Can't win 'em all...
Pulling the dob out to the south field, I just had to pass by that warm pool. And have some very serious thoughts about mosquitoes not being able to find me! So why the heck not? There isn't a soul around... Remembering a lesson learned not long ago, I tipped the scope down and capped it up. And slipped into those silent and warm waters... Aaaaaahhhh.... Even without my glasses the silver arc of our galactic arm embraces the night. Blurred, like being out of focus, the stars shine on, bouncing their reflections on the surface of the water. It feels so fine, and I could stay here all night... Just cutting quietly through the water and admiring the sky.
How long I was there, I do not know. Time seems absolutely irrelevant to me... Mr. Hawking? Time is only what we make it... Nothing more. And when Saggitarius has reached its prime? Then the time has come for me to walk with the Archer.
Drying off and dressing, I head back out to the 12.5. As I always have, I find the treasures here to be transcendatory. When I have left my study head behind, I can see nothing but the spiritual nature of the true beauty of the M8. I lose my sense of self when walking with the M22, and feel all stress fade away at the M20. How the M17 can make me smile! And how the M24 can sober me... Everywhere I look are opens, globulars and nebulae. One moment in can fly with the "Eagle" and the next touch bottom with the M70. So relaxed... I feel myself being to tire. But before I go? There's a galaxy I remember. One with a planetary nebula for a partner.
And I will always remember just where to find it.
"Lay beside me, this won't hurt I swear. The stars love me not, they love me still... But I'll never love again. They lay beside me. And they'll be there when I'm gone...
July 2, 2002 - The Moon... M57, Epsilon Lyrae, NGC6826, the Study Field, and the M11...
Comments: Up before the dawn to try and catch Mercury and Saturn dancing low and close together on the southeast horizon, but no luck. As with sunset, sunrise also pushes a wall of cloud before it... and the temperatures must drop significantly for me to get horizon. But all was not lost! There was the splendid visage of La Luna that I could explore...
We've know each other for some time, eh? And the best part is being able to put a name with the face. Humidity ran rampant. At 83 degress at 5:00 in the morning, it didn't take long before the optics began to haze. Still... I was delighted to be there. The Straight Wall is but a ghost of its' former self... and Plato is as blank and loveless as its' always been. Archimedes faired very well! It's 51 mile structure cleanly outlined by shadows.
Now, I best get ready for work. As I was driving, I caught the Sun rise through that wall of cloud. How like mountains they look! About me people drive in their blind way... Off to start their days. But when I've parked? I take a moment to admire the sky once again. I find a rare beauty in seeing both Sol and Selene less that a hundred degrees apart! And a hundred degrees will be foremost on people's minds today. But then, I think in slightly different terms. Now, let's get duty finished. We shall siesta the hot part of the day away... ;)
Considered some solar viewing, but soon gave up the idea. With intensely clear skies and temperatures peaking above 100 degrees... Being in the direct sunlight for a period of time did not directly appeal to me. Actually, closing the curtains, turning up the air conditioner and sleeping for a couple of hours worked rather well! And when I spend my time "in the Sun" today? It's surrounded by clean, blue water... ;)
The dramatic drop in humidity continued into the early evening hours. After all the crabbing I've done lately about sky quality, my chance has arrived... and I best use it!
The 12.5 has been out stablizing since the last rays of the Sun quit the backyard. I did my laps. The dogs went swimming... and H did his laps. (appears that he's more into drinking his pool water than anything else... that and standing in it up to his chest and dropping sticks into it so he may have an excuse to put his head below the water!) I walked. I practiced. I read maps. I even watched the "Twilight Zone".... And it seemed like it took forever until the sky got dark!
But when it did? Oh my....
First stop on the hop is the M57. Now THIS is the way I like to see the "Ring"! At 32mm there is a perfect little circle with a dark center. Held direct, no tricks. At 26mm and the barlow, I have braiding in the structure and a perfect tiny star I can hold direct at the edge of the nebula itself. Drop in the good 9mm? And here you go... wide aversion brings on that teasing glimpse of a central... but the darn thing won't hold still! At one moment, it looks as if it is directly in the middle. At the next? More to one edge... I don't get it. But I don't sweat it either. I've got bigger fish to fry tonight.
Epsilon Lyrae is absolutely no challenge what-so-ever. Steady as she goes... and that's what I'm looking for. Well... that and a certain planetary known as the NC6826! With easy double 16 Cygni in the field, this planetary doesn't look like much at mid range power. Just barely larger than 16's primary. Look right at that puppy? And it dims down 2 magnitudes or more. All that you can see is the white, magnitude 10 dwarf... Avert even slightly and you have flare all over the place! One of my summer favourties....
Now, speaking of summer. Go find my notes, will you? I've got some projects in mind in this area, and with my marker stars so easily apparent, there's work to be done. Oh? What's that? Of course you may look... for two sets of eyes are better than one. (But hey... We can't tell until we follow the rules... ;) By 11:00 the sky was perfect... by 11:30? There were so many that I had to slip inside and fetch a better map. The whole area is just walking and talking tonight! Unaided eye magnitudes? At very least a six... And quite probably better. It has some time since I've seen this type of rare clarity. With Hercules at the zenith, you can even see a dim patch where the M13 belongs! The Milky Way is an absolute river of starlight, with tiny resolvable stellar points glinting along its' surface like crystal dust. Needless to say, the studies I had in mind were easily captured... And I don't want to go in!
So let's just go play for a few minutes, ok? The M11, "Wild Duck" cluster is one I haven't visited with since I chased asteroid Hebe. It's stellar profusion and magnitude almost blow my mind after such faint studies and concentration! What a way to end the night, eh? The hour grows late, and this kid grows tired. My mind aches to explore the "Double Dark" nebula... and to walk the fields of Ophiuchus and Saggitarius with you.
Maybe some day soon...
"What I've felt, what I've known...
June 1, 2002 - The Moon... The Sun... M4, M6, M7, M9, M19 and M62...
Comments: Still beastly hot out even at 4:30 in the morning! Took my coffee out on the deck after I disintegrated the alarm clock, to be greeted by the beautiful Moon. I am tired, and rather out of sorts this morning... not particularly in the mood to take out the scope. But you know what? It's all right... I've never minded just standing here and admiring La Luna. I can tell by the terminator that Ptlomaeus should be in the highlight, and the beautiful mountain ranges of the north are probably spectacular. Even though time doesn't permit me, no one can stop me from looking, eh?
Did I mention that it's rather hot in Ohio right now? Smokin'..... That would be a good way to describe it. I couldn't wait to jump in the pool after work and shake away the dust of the day. And when I had cooled down? Oh, you know it.
I had to go look at the Sun.
Now I know why I always check it out! We've a massive divided area that's just rolled into view, and it looks to be one fine one!
Seems our nearest "star" isn't quite as dead as I thought! A huge solar prominence has occurred and shaken things up a bit! Just magnificent, isn't it? Like I said.... Never a dull moment!
Now let's go find a shady spot and wait on the night...
Unfortunately, for the part of the world I live in, high heat means clouds when the Sun goes down. The entire sky turned the most unusual shade of lavender! Wicked skies...
Figuring chances were next to zero of having the type of sky to go DSO hunting, I turned on the radio and crawled back into the pool. It's really hard spoiling yourself like this... Floating almost as weightless as space in warm water. Just moving about so free in the dark... Watching Venus hang out in the west. Digging on the fireflies lighting up the big pine like Christmas... Seeing the Scorpion come out in the south...
I don't even think I dried off. Just grab some clothes and the handle on the "Grasshopper". Heigh ho.... Let's go! Let's go and resolve some stars out of the M4 and it's neighboring tiny globular cluster. Let's drop down to the M7, and caress all those different magnitudes caught in fine chains and groups of multitudes. Let's take on another great open, the M6.... and smile at the resembalance to the MSN logo.
And let's go get a couple of the easy ones in Ophiuchus... Because it's been so long I don't remember where they all are! Angles, angles... Memory? Don't fail me now...
Sabik... Well, alright! There be the M9! Follow the line.... (hello... seems the little ones are still here, but i'll be darned if i know their designations.) Down, down... Toward Scorpius... Viola! M19... You I know well! And a drop lower... Ooops. Not it... Back up... Drop... Ah Hah! Yesssss....
All this and M62... ;)
"Lay beside me, tell me what I've done... Speak the words I wanna hear, to make my demons run. The door is locked now, but it's open if you're true. If you can understand the me, than I can understand the you...