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March 28, 2002 - Comet WM1 and Saggitarius... The Sun...

Comments: Since clear skies seem to be in short supply at the moment, I was delighted to let the Moon go down on me and await my favourite constellation. I didn't sleep very well, and was all too happy to grab a mug of coffee and head out for a morning walk. Since the dob was closest the the garage door, why not? There's still a trail out to the backyard... and Saggitarius is always welcome.

Started off on a reflex hunt for WM1... No luck. Then I just relaxed a bit, and let that old feeling wash over me... and viola. It's still there. Not hard to confuse at all... last time I checked, there's no globulars in Aquila! Just spectacular at how quickly these things move... And to think! Powered only by gravity...

Knowing the dob as I do, I was positive on identification as soon as I put the 26mm in. There is no globular that this scope does not try to resolve, and this is definately a comet! WM1 has seen better days... Wonder how high it will climb before it fades away? Right now I am sure that the 4.5 will pick it up easily, but the change is marked from it re-appearance. Still... it's nice to know it's about.

I'd been missing Saggitarius. It felt rather good just to roam about at will... From the little globulars around the "spout" to the grand cloud of stars in the "steam". The dome of the teapot, and those damn fine clusters... And higher still for the nebulae... I would know them blind.

Could I still swim in the "Lagoon?" Oh, yes... And trail across the bottom and around the handle to pick up more globulars I know by heart. And right at the heart of the galaxy is where Saggitarius stays...

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All this... and the Sun, too?

There's some very wicked activity going on! And spot 9880 is just scratching the magnetic surface...


SOHO image


What no picture can show you is the Wilson Effect... the effect of visually being warped into depression. Any spots even remotely near the limb today display it well! And 9880 is no exception. Not only is this incredibly twisted spot having a field day... AND predicted to be one the edge of M class explosion... It's sitting on the edge of a super massive coronol hole!



And that's not all... Spot 9878 shows twisted magnetic energy, giving it potential to send off M class flares! Wow...

I wonder if that is what brought the clouds back this way?

"Life is overwhelming. Heavy is the head that wears the crown... I'd love to be the one to disappoint you when I don't fall down."


March 27, 2002 - Venus, Mars, Saturn, Asteroid Vesta, NGC1647, NGC1746, M45, Theta Auriga, NGC1664, M36, M37, M38, NGC1907, Jupiter, M35, NGC2158, Wasat, NGC2420, Castor, Asteroid Metis, M41, NGC2204, M93, M46, M47, NGC2360, the Moon, Dancin' with Doubles...

Comments: Pleased that the sky remained clear and that dark was just arriving about the time I left from work, I talked my dinner companion into delaying our carnivorous rendevous for an appetizer of stars...

We started our journey out into the countryside to seek out Comet Ikeya/Zhang, but despite clear horizon, it was not to be found. But true beauty doesn't have to come wrapped in fancy packages, and the awesome sight of the ecliptic plane folding down the western horizon was most satisfactory. From the Moon rising well in the east, through Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and the shining Venus... the snow and ice reflected the moonlight in cold blue perfection.. And the picture it painted was beyond compare.

We watched Venus set into the distant woods, and admired the flat, red orb of Mars through the field glasses. As the sky deepened, it was time to head for the backyard and play with a real telescope.

I find curiousity about Saturn most appealing. Just viewing the rings, Cassini and moons is a pleasurable experience, and I am most happy to share! At 9mm in the dob, Saturn is truly revealed in all its' glory. How wonderful that someone else likes seeing Titan walking beneath! And the little troopers scurrying their way all round the system tonight! The deep wedge of shadow... That unmistakable sense of dimension... Kinda' nice, actually.

Asteroid Vesta required confirmation with a map tonight. And maps lead to curiousity about star hopping... It won't be easy with so much moonlight, a lot of the subtle details will be lost, but I like an adventurous soul... And the dob will rock out open clusters!

While still in Taurus, we hunted down NGC1647. A long chain of stars trailed in the eyepiece, and the apparent doubles and triples made it grand. We passed over blue/white double 103 Tauri in our hunt for the NGC1746... And found it to be a soft concentration of small blue stars, delicately interspersed with brighter white/yellow members.

The M45 came next, along with lessons on how to aim a dobsonian telescope. Although the nebular details of the Plieades are lost tonight, none of the finery disappears... and that red star? Right where I left it last...

Staying as far away from the bright interference as possible, exploring Auriga came next. Theta Auriga is mine. (Selfish? Yeah. Some things I share, and others I do not. I find the natural spectra of this silicon double a black diamond... and I give it to whom I chose.) After some serious work, NGC1664 turned up. Like a forbidden bit of candy, this small open cluster greatly resembles a "Hershey's Kiss"... (or is that Herschel?)

M36, M37 and M38 are simply "givens". But what this great telescope can "give" you is one the smaller cannot. Accompanying the M38 is a tiny ball of averted vision resolvable stars... Its' name? NGC1907...

Up now to Jupiter! Once again, the dance of the galieans are entertaining! Tonight Ganymede edges close to transit, with Io not far behind. I am deeply gratified that someone can view this, and make the connection between "in front" of Jove, and "behind". To "see" distance in a distant object is a reward of its' own... Flipping the 9mm in reveals nice detail on the surface. I can see clean divisions, for it is a very stable night, possesed of the clarity of between weather fronts. To me, it is like a picture... One that I could lovingly explore for days on end. But I have no wish to bore my companion...

Off now to the splendid profusion of the M35. I stand down a bit on this one, preferring at the moment to hear someone else's descriptions, and smiling to myself at what else I know is there. And when it is noticed? Hand the 9mm back... For the NGC2158 deserves to be explored! It turned into something of a lively debate... One which I did not know the answer! Is this little ball of stars a globular, or no?

Wasat came next, revealing its' duplicity to eager eyes... But it is a marker for a hop to NGC2420. This spiral twist of faint stars reminds me of a molecular chain. Very beautiful. Castor? Is Castor. I simply confirmed it, then asked for the eyepiece back to hop on to Pollux, make my mark for Metis. This time apparent asteroid motion made some sense! And lead to the inevitable questions... (hush, now. yes. they move that fast!)

Getting hungry now, we decide to make a quick tour of the southern sky while some things still sit prime. The M41 is a deeply pleasant star cluster, with its' oddities and colors. A tougher one to find is the NGC2204... Tonight nothing more than a soft, spiraling chain of tiny blue points of light.

But there are favourites here... Much easier to find and admire. The M93 is like a fireworks explosion in the dob... The M46 with its' planetary companion... The bright M47 with its' small and large central apparent triples.. And we took on one more challenge.... The NGC2360. It was fine! Soft curls of glittering stars highlighting a superior orange on in the middle. Now THAT gets the appetite going!!

The meal was good, and the company appreciated. And the Moon called....

Hey. Selene might be past her prime, but I've found out more than one person still appreciates those full curves. Grimaldi's tears are wiped away, and makes a great presentation! Lovely in this light, the soft slopes behind it hint at intriguing possiblities. Riccioli holds the shadows well... Hansteen and Billy capture the attention as well as LaGrange and Piazzi...

But I've something special in mind. Tonight's captivation lay north of Grimadi... Hevelius. The central peak is well highlighted, and the floor of the crater laced by rilles. Next to it lay Cavalerius... who would break through Hevelius' walls. Brightly illuminated on the southern flank is Lohrman... a perfect circle. Other smaller craters dance round, but I know not their names. Does it matter? Not tonight... And the names of the double stars? I know them in my heart...

Say goodnight, now. My moment of saturnalia has passed...

"Just think about it. You'll get it...

Lately I've been skeptical. Silent when I would used to speak. Distant from all around me... Who watch me fail and become weak."


March 23, 2002 - Coment Ikeya/Zhang, Saturn, Asteroid Vesta, Jupiter, Castor, Asteroid Metis, the Moon, Hind's Crimson Star, M79, Gamma Leonis, Asteroid Flora, Cor Caroli, M53 and the M3...

Comments: Started the evening with a trip out away from town to take in Comet Ikeya/Zhang. Tonight visage was somewhat less than spectacular, thanks to clouds still hanging down on the western horizon. To be honest, even though the tail wasn't visible, it was still cool to see that bright coma cut through the atmosphere!

Overhead the sky remained clear, and as the temperatures fell so did the clouds... but conditions were somewhat less than stable. No matter! The clarity has been rockin' for the last two days, and I am simply pleased to be allowed one more night out!

Saturn has lost some of that "hard core" detail, but still the moons are a treat. Titan has rounded the corner, sheparding it's compadres along their journey against the northern belt. Still Asteroid Vesta sails on through the star fields... spacing itself remarkably quickly away from Saturn over the last few days.

Jupiter presents a much better appear than does Saturn. Even at lower magnifications, when the sky holds steady it displays its' remarkable surface details. The fine stuff is hard to catch tonight, but the variations between each zone still make for an excellent view! All four galieans are in the house tonight... Each one play a different game of "cat and mouse" in sky position. It is honestly a pleasure to watch them.... Because each one is so different in apparent size, and even color! Just to see that "dimension" makes what could be a "dead" view come alive!

Journeying now to Castor, and surprisingly enough to find it an easy split tonight, replete with it's tiny orange companion. A bit of a hunt around the field, and much like Vesta before it, Asteroid Metis travels so quickly!!

Shall we have a look at the Moon?

My attention was pulled first to the Southern Highlands... I suppose this is because the proliferation of craters simply grabs the eye and holds it! Such fine detais....

Then I pushed to the north, and I can see Promentorium LaPlace emerging from the shadows...

But just what caught and held the attention? One single, ancient crater...

Copernicus...

All around it, dancing it beautiful detail lay the minor craters of the Moon.... Lambert, Pythias, Draper, Gay-Lussac. The Monte Carpatus stood out in stark relief... Yet the ancient stepped walls, the broken dusty form, the soft interior peak, these are what make Copernicus perhaps one of the finest craters on the Moon...

I felt like doing something a bit different last night. Ordinarily I do not often view just a single star, but the one I'm after is like no other... Hind's Crimson Star is incredible. So rich is its' color that it appears like a single drop of stellar blood on the sky. It is quite worth the time....

Thanks to the extra light, finding the M79 presented something more of a challenge, but I was very pleased to see this globular cluster! Even with less than optimal conditions it becomes very resolvable around the edges... Concentrated toward the center, the fainter stars "halo" this beauty, trailing off into fine chains. Very fine!

Up now to Gamma Leonis, a somewhat "tight" pairing of an orange and yellow star perhaps a magnitude apart. And I push it away in search of Asteroid Flora... Now, here's something fun for you! Flora's motions are contradictory to the others! While Vesta and Metis move basically to the east.... Flora is heading west! (shame on flora, eh? i wonder what she'll find there? ;)

I goofed around for several hours after that, hoping the Moon would move on and allow me some galactic study time.... but that was not to be tonight. Although Selene moved quite predictably toward the western horizon... so did what I wanted to study! Isn't that just the way of things?

Hey, now... That's all right. Because Arcturus has risen quite high in the sky. Leo is passing the zenith, and the stars of Virgo send promise. Before we end the night, let us walk for just a bit longer together...

Cor Caroli is a long standing favourite. Rivaling Albeiro in sparkling blue and orange, the stars themselves appear widely spaced. The B star is only about half the size of the blue primary, but to see this one pull away so cleanly to the southwest is truly beautiful...

The M53 is a challenge tonight. This small globular cluster rather gave me a fight to be found... And when I did, this 65,000 light year distant globular only showed me a soft core, and no resolution. Still, it was good, eh?

But not like the M3.

Some of the oldest stars in the Universe live within this outstanding globular cluster. Rivaling the M13 is sheer size and resolvability, this ball of stars is perhaps 15 billion years old. The nucleas is deeply concentrated, and as you moved toward the outer limits with your eyes, individual members come forth like diamond dust. Over 50,000 members have been resolved with large telescopes, and it is estimated the total number may be as many as half a million! M3 hides in a triangle of stars... it's home in the galaxy country of Canes Venatici.

What a fine way to end the night...

"Followed... Swallowed...

Oh, no..I'm with everyone and yet not. Got to get away from here... I miss the one I love a lot.

I miss the one I love a lot."


March 22, 2002 - Comet Ikeya/Zhang, Venus, Jupiter, the Moon, Saturn, Asteroid Vesta, Asteroid Metis, Asteroid Flora, Asteroid Juno, M44, M67, Jupiter revisited and Studies...

Comment: Unfortunately, Comet Ikeya/Zhang can no longer be captured from the backyard... But, isn't that what wheels are for? And use them I did...

By traveling just a mile or two away, I can achieve a complete western skyline, and although I chose not to dismantle my scopes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the view of Ikeya/Zhang in binoculars! To be sure, these aren't quality asto/binos... but the Comet most definately is! Details are not prominent using this equipment, but to see that bright coma and tail stretching across the field of view with several bright stars makes the trip very worthwhile.

And you know who else is back? Venus! She's low on the horizon, but just as fat and sassy as ever. Thanks to low position and high brightness, it rather "boiled" in the binos... But, hey. I like her anyway... no matter what size or shape she's in!

So I watched them both, until Venus set into the distant tree line, and Comet Ikeyha/Zhang faded into a memory....

Returning to the backyard, I set up shop. This is a great, clear night to hunt some fine, elusive objects. And I've a few in mind, eh? But first off, let's check and see if Jupiter is as great as last night...

Oh, yeah. It is! And the 12.5 is quite happy to reveal the GRS!! It's a covert little thing, and I see it best using blue filter. So what do we trade off here? Natural color for detail.... It's rather a hard choice for me to make, and after having watched it for 20 minutes or so, I go back to the unfiltered view. It takes some time for my eyes to readjust, but when they do, I find it most pleasant to follow this soft, pinkish grey patch on it's journey across the face of Jove. And it's not alone. Io slips along behind it....

Let's go look at the Moon for a bit, shall we?

Once again, I am totally blown away by the clarity of the sky. Crater Clavius and the entire Southern Highlands have turned into a fantastic panorama of shadows and peaks! The area is rugged and handsome to the eye... And I find myself locked into place studying each tiny detail.

When I looked to the north, I found myself captured...

Plato is exquisite.

Of course I had to drop the magnification on it. There is a part of me that forever quests... And to see those tiny dimples inside of what appears to be a flat and loveless crater is a reward of its' own.

I found myself lost there. Do we do this with a sense of feeling or no? No. The Moon is beautiful, but it is a cold and barren place. "Magnificent desolation..." No better words have been used to describe...

Time for me to move on to Saturn, for such stable, clear nights should not be wasted!

At a minimum of power, the Saturnian moons dance right out. They play along the norther border of the ring system, while Titan follows along behind. So, I up the power... And it takes my breath away.

How I appreciated this big scope!! The Cassini is a bold, black stroke around the outer edges, and the inner crepe ring looks like a dusty brown shadow. Edging along the Cassini itself, brighter markings appear, causing the ring system to look as if it has many divisions. Saturn itself is a creamy yellow, and the shadow behind it deep and satisfying. Although the rings ride rather low, toward the center of the planet itself I see brightening. This is one thing that always staggers my imagination.... Is this a planetary feature? Or is it merely an effect of limb darkening? Regardless of the answer, it is beautiful... And I take it as such.

Pushing Saturn away from me for now, I head in search of Asteroid Vesta. Again, I prize the jump in aperature! Chasing asteroids means time to view something very much like our own Moon... It is "reflected" light... A thing you can see. Field stars generate their own form of light, and when presented with an asteroid, the difference is most noticable.

Shall we hunt down a few more? The hand me those maps and we'll give it a go! Asteroid Metis is cruising not far from Castor.... Flora scoots along just below beautiful double star Gamma Leonis... And Juno skirts along the lower reaches of Cancer! Sure. They are nothing more than little pinpricks of light... But how wonderful they all are! To think that we are able to see such a thing is incredible....

So, while we're in Cancer? Ah, you know it. I had to look at the M44 and the M67. Aperature simply rocks those tiny stars out of the sky!!

Time for me to turn my attention back to Jupiter... To watch Io slide out of transit, and the shadows begin... Transfixed? Yes, I was.

Until the Moon set enough for me to go study...

"Piss on self-esteem... Forward on broken knees. Sick head, blackened lungs...

And I'm simple.

Selfish... Non-swallowed..."


March 21, 2002 - The Moon, Saturn, Asteroid Vesta, Jupiter, M35, M36, M37, M38, M41, Jupiter revisited, M81, M82 and Studies...

Comments: Although the sky decided to clear rather late last night, the clarity was beyond compare. One glance at the Moon through the scope and I knew I would be here for awhile...

The Alpine Valley was what drew my attention the most. Sure. It's an oft repeated target, but that deep scar on Selene keeps me intrigued. (perhaps because we have it in common, eh?) The Apennine Mountains looked jagged and sharp... Each peak throwing itself into sharp relief. Mons Piton, Mons Blanc, Mons Pico, Mon Wolfe, Montes Alpes, Montes Spitzenberg.... All splendid. All fascinating...

Archimedes held court... with tiny Kirch in attendance. The great rille bissected by Piazzi Smyth looking like a bulging vein on the surface. How I have missed the Moon! And in that notch, right there... you see? That is where the Apollo 15 landed...

A cold place, but so very, very beautiful...

When I had drank my fill, I moved on to Saturn. Wow! Hello, little Moons! When just a slight bump in magnification revealed the Cassini, I knew that it was going to be some time before I put the scopes away for the night.

Pushing Saturn out of sight and out of mind, I continued on the trajectory that I knew Vesta was taking... And what a sparkling little gemstone she is tonight! Yesterday I had to avert my vision with the 4.5 to catch it.... But not tonight. The star field itself stays away to the sides... And Vesta twinkles merrily along.

Jupiter? Oh, rock on... I had the 25mm in chasing Vesta, and when I see the north temperate belt jump out at that magnification... (Oh my. I'm definately going to have to outwait the Moon tonight!) Upping the ante on magnification produces oddities... I am not sure exactly how to describe this, but the southern belt looks as if it has a thin, dark line drawn through it.... and the central zone looks... well... dang it! it looks "rippled", ok? Toward either pole, soft striations mar the surface... Too cool.

When I drop the view back, I discover something rather astounding.... the three inner galieans are converging toward each other!?! A triple eclipse?!! You can bet I'll be back to check on this one!

Went in for awhile to warm my bones and fix a cup of coffee... That view of Jupiter keeps haunting my head. And I didn't wait long until I was back out again...

Oh, man. There is no doubt about this! Io, Europa and Ganymede are closing in on one another! How long... how long will it take?!

Almost loathe to leave the view, I hopped my way across the sky to visit with some close favourites while waiting. (and peeking back at the galieans in between!) M35, M36, M37, M38... Yes, yes... Check the watch. Check Jupiter...

Whoa! At approximately 10:45 one disappeared behind the other... and the last... mighty close!!

M41... yes, yes. Very nice... Jupiter! And back I went, totally content to stand and watch at this point.... And at 11:00 p.m.? Three moons became as one...

By now, I was so elated there were no longer thoughts of sleep. The whole sky awaits me... And so does this "great white scope". I let some time pass, and the Moon to dip behind the garage before uncovering it. First thoughts were to journey back to Jupiter and Saturn... But I've been there tonight, and although the "show" was quite fine, I want what I want.

The M81 and M82... And time alone to study.

"Swallowed... Hollowed...

Sharp about everyone but yourself.

Swallowed...

Oh, no. I'm with everyone and yet not. Oh, no. I'm with you and yet not. I'm with everyone... And yet..."


March 21, 2002 - M7, M6, NGC6231, the "Coat Hanger" and NGC6940...

Comments: I was astounded when I woke up this morning and saw Antares outside the window. Still sleepy, I had to convince myself that dreams were only dreams... no matter how good they felt...

And reality is the sky.

Turning on the coffee maker, I tossed some clothes on and stepped out the door. Well... No comet hunting this morning. Too many hazing clouds still reign. But, perhaps... Perhaps a few open clusters might shine through?

Grabbing my favourite mug and the 4.5... H, Ranger and I set off for a bit of a morning walk with Scorpius. The proliferation of stars that is the M7 felt good after so many days of clouds.... But the smile came when I viewed the M6! Daggone... The darn thing DOES look like a butterfly! MSN would be so proud... ;)

The NGC6231 came next.... (and I had to slip into the house to look it up!) Beautiful concentration of blue white stars....

For the longest time I just stood and looked at the sky. It felt good to see how the constellations had changed! And knowing in my heart that I will have to "practice" these things all over again...

There are two I remember well in Cygnus. (reality check... i know where a great number of things "are"... the sky just won't support it.) The "Coathanger" is still just as superb as I last remember it... and the red star still plays Cap'n Hook! NGC6940? Not nearly as beautiful with smaller aperature... But I know one thing...

I'm glad you're back.

"Swallowed... Borrowed... Heavy about everything but my love."


March 20, 2002 - The Moon, Saturn, Asteroid Vesta and Jupiter....

Comments: Hey. What can I say? You are my "bonne charme de chance"! Clouds not only ruled by day, but ruled by night as well. Trying to keep myself from brooding about it, I did the mental workout thing for awhile, then went for the physical end of it... As I was lying on the floor, I happened to look out the window and saw the Moon. The Moon?!?!! Wooooo Hoooo!

Needless to say, it didn't take long for me to complete what I was doing and head out that door!

Yeah, the sky was unstable. It pitched, it rolled, it waivered... It was GREAT! Exploring the depths of Hipparchus and Albategnius... Dancing around Aristillus and Autolycus... Rounding the edges of Cassini and climbing the Apennine Mountains! And just where did I want to be most of all? (Besides apparently fascinated by that strange flat feature between Manilus and Julius Ceasar... ;) Why, the Apollo 11 landing site, of course! (and you knew that was coming, didn't you? ;)

Eventually when I could tear myself away from the eyepiece long enough, I noticed a sucker hole showing Saturn... Again, poor stability... But who cares?! I can see Titan, and when I chase it out of the top of the field of view, I can see tiny Asteroid Vesta sailing serenely along!! (hey... i might not have caught it in the same field as Saturn... but at least i caught it again!)

When the holes permitted a peek a Jupiter, I did so. Equally crappy? Oh, yeah. No doubts about it. But how delighted I am to see that the great Jove's motions have taken it beyond the starfield where I saw it last... and to see three of the galieans curved out ahead of it! So... Is this the kind of night I dream about?

Nah. It's the kind of night I need....

"Hey. You said you'd love to try some. Hey. You said you'd love to die some. In the middle of a world on a fish hook....

You're the wave.
You're the wave.
You're the wave...."


March 18, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: I don't think I had much more than thrown my keys on the table before I was out the backdoor and setting up to view the Sun! A rare break in our almost continual cloud cover means a brief opportunity to observe sunspots, and you don't have to call me twice!


Photo: spaceweather.com


Sunspot 9866 has certainly been a character over the last few days, erupting with flares and coronal mass ejections... and triggering aurora sadly hidden by the clouds. (At the moment, I shall leave my personal photo so you can compare just how much this spot has changed! Notice the lack of a certain trailing penumbra? Spectacular!!!)

The whole group is really outdoing itself, stretching across the belly of the Sun in an outrageous series of major spots named 9870, 9873 and 9871. If you think they look rather small in the photo... then think again! For any one of these magnetic "scabs" on the solar surface is capable of swallowing the Earth five times over....

Oddly enough, I did not know it at the time, but 9866 was producing yet another CME just hours before I observed it. I've often wondered if this phenomena could be witnessed... Of course, this is speculation, but I've noticed that spots characterized by the Wilson Effect upon appearance generally tend to be the ones to watch!

And today? It was my pleasure...

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The visiblity went to non-existent before sunset. For a brief moment, Jupiter showed itself like a bright beacon in a sea of fog. Did I look? Of course... Not even the galieans came through, but it was still nice to know the equatorial zones exist... ;)

I kept watch on the night. Always hoping that the clouds would break for a moment and allow me just a bit of observing time....

No such luck.

"Swallowed... Sorrowed...

I'm with everyone, and yet not.
I'm with everyone, and yet not.
I'm with everyone, and yet not.

Just wanted to be myself...."


March 14, 2002 - The Sun... and the Night...

Comments: Spent quite a bit of time today viewing the latest solar "hot spot", 9866. Already having caused a major flare and still ongoing with activity, it just kept me captivated. The field around this major group is most interesting... I know the camera isn't doing it justice, so I simply stop and just watch. Something about viewing sunspots just feeds a need...

Perhaps it just feels good to stand here in the sunlight?

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Of course, the warmer temperatures meant no comet chasing tonight... (drat!) For the clouds locked out the sky for most of the evening. But, as always, I kept watch.

Soon enough, the sky did open up a bit. It reminded me of a bowl.... The horizon painted round the edges in grey, tree shadows adorning it. At the bottom of the bowl were a handful of stars...

I thought for a moment to take out the little scope, but the sounds of the night have returned. I can hear the wildlife about me, their whispers on the warm wind. And so I sit myself down... Tonight?

Content to stargaze...

"Warm sun feed me up... I'm leery, loaded up, floating for a change.... And I slip some... Boil away.

Swallowed... Followed...

Heavy about everything, but my love."



March 13, 2002 - Comet Ikeya/Zhang, Jupiter, Saturn, M42, NGC1981, NGC2112, NGC2186, NGC2251, NGC2309, and the M50...

Comments: I was pacing the floor... What can I say? Those tremendous blue holes in the warming spring sky means I have a chance to view Comet Ikeya/Zhang again!

And I was not disappointed...

Ordinarily I would have printed a map, picked a
location in the yard where I thought best and been ready. But, you know what? I figured I would be disappointed because the Comet would be too low for me... so I did none of these things. And I was wrong. Just on a hunch, I left the dob parked in my favourite spot, and carried the 4.5 out into the south field. Loosen up the stops... set the reflex sight on Mars... drop down toward the horizon... and begin a sweep. Within seconds Ikeya/Zhang was in the eyepiece and I was thrilled! This was my first shot on this beautiful Comet without the moonlight throwing me a curve...

Now I need no confirmation. That blue ion tail isn't just a hint. It's a reality! Using the 26mm, just a push around reveals the dust tail is spanning more than 2 degrees.... and that's under poor, low sky conditons! Subtle hints of even a more extended tail exist... But what shows clearly with direct vision rocks!! Unfortunately, there were no stars nearby visible to the 4.5... so judging magnitude becomes something of a challenge.

Challenge? I dig a challenge... Let's go fetch the barlow and have a look!

By upping the magnification, the nucleas of I/Z now becomes a distinct, white-hot "star like" point. And once again, I find myself doing a bit of "guess work" and I don't like it. Magnitude 4.5 for the nucleas? What about the coma? Magnitude 6... or brighter?! ARGH!! What I wouldn't give at times for an observing partner!! Ah, well... Things are the way they are, T... Carry on.

So I just dropped the magnification back... and did what I do best. Just stand there and marvel over the beauty of Ikeya/Zhang... and be thankful for the chance. And chase it down to the ground... ;)

After a cup of coffee, it was time to go back out for awhile, and see what else is new in the night. First up? Jupiter! I think I laughed out loud when I went to the eyepiece, for the superior star field into which Jupiter has strayed makes it appear as though there are nine moons! But, I didn't laugh for long, because even at 26mm I can see something going on in the equatorial belts...

Dropping the 9mm into the dob, I realigned and went to the eyepiece... Shadow transit! Oh, heck yes! Where has my head been? It's almost past! (out chasing a comet... that's where!) But I'm here now... And what fun it is to watch! Not only was Io putting on a show last night, but Europa and
Callisto are doing the lambada off to the side, and Ganymede looks as if it's ready to go into hiding! Those ever-changing galieans... Fascinating!

After that? Saturn, of course... But compared to the show I've been treated to so far tonight, the Cassini division lacks appeal, and the slow movements of Titan are predictable. I always look, though... Because you just never know when something special might happen!

The clouds keep trying to haze their way in around the edges... but open spaces still rock out magnitude 5 stars, and I'm not ready to go in yet! Shall we explore the "Hunter" for awhile?

Hey... There is no finer nebula in the sky than the M42. When it was discovered in 1611 by Nicholas Peiresc, it was as beautiful then as it is now. This fantasy emission nebula spanning thirty light years, still shows those dozens of variable stars encased in the tenuous rifts and folds that comprise it. Knowing these wreaths and swirls of racing gases are condensing into new stars are part of what makes it so very exciting! Just think... At almost 2,000 light years away... How many stars have been born in the time that it has taken for this light to reach my eyes? You see? I can never tire of this...

Time to hop on to some open clusters before the clouds try to claim the view. NGC1981 is a very pretty loose open cluster. The double handful of tiny white stars an appealing companion... The NGC2112 is a bit more difficult, for it resides in a great star field... But when you see these tiny stars compressed together, it brings on an appreciation all of its' own.

Hopping on the the red brilliance of Betelguese, I shift southeast to find the loose open cluster, NGC2186. Once again, we are talking about an open cluster that is part of the winter Milky Way. Difficult? No, not really. At thirty or so stars, the NGC2186 most definately walks out of the field. Much more appealing is the NGC2251! Its' brighter, lazy form stretches out in the eyepiece in a twisted string! Possessed with brighter stars, what gives it true beauty is all the fainter ones...

After searching for a bit, I found open cluster NGC2309. Now we have a much more compact cluster to enjoy! And the field stars about it give it character.... The M50 is next, and I stop. Time to make a complete change and go to the 32mm. This diamond-shaped cluster is at its' best with the lowest of powers. A bright yellow-orange star holds court just slightly southwest of the core. There are perhaps a hundred or more stars here, that run the entire color spectrum, and go down as fine as I can see. There is a red one at the edge, with a smaller companion that catches my eye. Opposite of this is a flat, blue "Y"... And the center?

My, God... It's full of stars.

"What I've felt... And what I've known. Sick and tired, I stand alone. Could you be there? Because I'm the one who waits...

The one who waits for you...

Or are you unforgiven, too?"



March 11, 2002 - Comet LINEAR WM1...

Comments: Far too beautiful and clear last night for me to sleep through...

Up well before dawn, and ready to check out Comet LINEAR WM1. Now cruising along the northeastern portion of Saggitarius, and climbing higher each day, WM1 still resembles an unresolved globular cluster. This morning finds it in a rich star field, and I am so familiar with Saggitarius there is no mistaking it. Soft formed, with no visible tail, it's just pleasing to see it once again.

As for Saggitarius?

The pleasure was all mine...

"What I've felt... And what I've known. Turn the pages... I've turned to stone. Behind the door... Shall I open it for you?"


March 11, 2002 - Playin' in the Dark...

Comments: It was one of those cloudy, windy, rainy weekends where I couldn't seem to stay awake to save myself... The day itself was rather nice, with a bit of Sun peeking through between the clouds. My friend Cor had inspired me to go have a look at the Sun, and the latest hot spot that has come round. It's name is 9866, and it is a monster! Displaying the full Wilson Effect, tremendous faculae in the granulation field surrounding it, and beautiful penumbral areas... This one is up for some very serious activity and will warrant keeping an eye on... if the skies stay clear!

And before that welcome Sun had even set, I was down again. Off to dreamland... And when I woke? It was dark. Maybe? I tossed my coat on and stepped out the door. No maybe here... Those tiny, pinpoint magnitude 6 stars in the chest of Orion answered my questions... Get out the scopes!

Let's play...

H is definately into the spirit of things... dancing round like a great, black fool. Ranger is a bit more dignified, knowing by what I've set out that we're going to be awhile. But out of the three of us, I'm afraid I was the most silly of all! Rock on... and ready to roll...

I am sure that any astronomy purist that might have been watching would have shuddered at my techniques. And, at times, I am a bit more constrained than I am at the moment. But right now? Catch me, if you can.... For the 4.5 and I are everywhere in the backyard! One moment snatching the open clusters of Cassiopeia, and the next? Somewhere else turned round backwards hunting up the M65 and M66!!

Oh, yeah! It's one of THOSE kinda' nights!! Care to join me?

So while the big scope stabilizes, we hop the sky with the 4.5... On to the "Perseus Double" and the M34... Up to the M1... Turn left for the M50! Snatch a peek at Saturn and Jupiter! Back behind us again for the M81 and M82... Turn round! Let's pick off the M41, M46, M47, and M93... Up! Up! I'll race ya' to the M35 and the NGC2392... (the "Eskimo"? oh, yes!! come on... let's play with the little one some more... ;) The M45? Cake walk... M44? Naked-eye! M67? Right below it... Auriga? M36, M37 and M38 it is!! Zoooooom! Off to the M42 and M43! Phew... Got 'cha dizzy yet? (hehehehhee... i am!) How long you ask? All of the above in less than 30 minutes... Why? Because I can.

Now, let's cap the 4.5 and walk the sky much more slowly... Doin' it dobby-style!

The M45 is where we head back first. Much more relaxed, and ready to enjoy Temple's Nebula. Very lovely, it looks like it has been "smeared" upon the sky. And let's return again to the M1... Instead of a little glowing patch, we now enjoy the ribbons and filaments of structure. How pleasing this is to the eye!

Say... we have excellent sky! Do you want to try? Then by all means, let's bump over to Alnitak. That faint ribbon is there... just as I knew it would be. The "Horsehead" is not as grand in real life as it is in pictures... but both it and the "Flame" are fascinating objects to study with the dob. And let's take our time... For the days ahead may bring clouds, and not far behind it, the Moon. And the seasons sometimes change far too quickly not to take what you can, when you can... and enjoy it.

So let's return to the NGC2392, and pay it the same attention. No longer a fuzzy star, is it? Nor is it picture pefect... But even as it is, it captures you, does it not? Very pretty cyan color... Soft rings of planetary structure... Just a very fine object to stay awhile with.

Let's take a pass at the "Cone", ok? For much like the inner Trapezium in structure, the dark intrusion is also fascinating. (and no, i did not find this in 30 seconds or less, ok? i had to use the map.) The perfect power of that one star at its' tip is what makes this one riveting. The stars of the "Christmas Tree" cluster sparkle all round it.... but not in that dark notch. Special... This one is.

Another, "need the map, please" object tonight is Hubble's Variable. So very blue.... This is also one I don't look up very often. Perhaps I do so to keep the fascination going... Regardless of the whys, the Hubble Variable Nebula is a truly pleasing site. It is almost cometary in strucure, and amazingly possessed with color....

Shall we galaxy hop? Nah... I'm feeling nebulous tonight... Let's go check out the "Rosette", ok? Here we find a beautiful open cluster with wisps of silver braided round it... Again, not like its' photographs. It is but a bright double handful of stars, cupped gently by the emission nebula itself... It's so very large! How many arcminutes does it span? How many light years away?

Let's go ask Mr. Owl...

For it has also been a very long time since we've last looked at the M97. Ah, now... You see why I chose this night to stick with nebulae, do you not? Tonight the "Owl" looks every bit as big a Jupiter... Inside sits a triangle of tiny stars. And it is fine... with its' soft figure "8" of darker material just barely coming through the planetary shine. You are quite something, my friend.

And how I've missed you...

"What I've felt, and what I've known.... Turn the pages, turn to stone. Behind the door... Should I open it for you? What I've felt, and what I've known... Sick and tired, I stand alone. Could you be there? 'Cause I'm the one who waits for you...

Or are you unforgiven, too?

Come lay beside me... Tell me what I've done. The door is closed, and so are your eyes. But now I see the sun. Yes, now I see the sun...

Now I see it..."


March 8, 2002 - Saturn and Jupiter...

Comments: What a change in the weather! Only five days ago we had bone-chilling single digit temperatures, and today near seventy! Of course you realize that an almost 70 degree margin means that clouds are going to rule, don't you?

And so they did...

Early evening permitted at least a peek at the planets. Saturn was less than spectacular. Only Titan was easily visible. I did not bother with the dob tonight, for the sky will not support it. But that doesn't mean I don't still enjoy having a look!

And Jupiter was enough to put a smile on my face. Yeah, yeah... there wasn't any fantastic planetary detail to be seen. Only the good, old equatorial belts... But the fun part was the galieans, themselves! All four are to one side tonight... nothing curious about that, right? Wrong! Check out Io and Europa!! These two sat so close together, I had to do a double take to pick them apart!! What a splendid show watching them trying to eclipse each other....

Then the clouds took care of the rest.

"Like black clouds scarring darker skies.... Oh, they'll be there when I'm gone. Yes, they'll be there when I'm gone....

Dead sure they'll be there."


March 7, 2002 - NGC2366 and NGC2403...

Comments: Started a bit late last night, but for a good reason. Hazing clouds ruled round the edges of the sky, but the dome overhead remained perfectly clear and steady. Decent magnitude 5 stars came easy enough, and when Camelopardis set prime?

Time to do it without the maps...

NGC2366 is a faint galaxy, one not able to be found with the 4.5 no matter how hard I tried to "see" it. But this is precisely the reason why I wanted this big dobsonian telescope... The faint ones. Detectable as low as 32mm as a grainy bar of light, the best view came at 9mm. At this magnification, the NGC2366 takes on structure. Several areas of concentration are seen, making it appear as though it has three centers. Adding the barlow pulls the picture in much closer, revealing that at one end, a notch occurs in the galaxy... Much like a crescent wrench. Opposite of this "notch" is also what may either be a small open cluster, or perhaps a bit of wayward galactic material. Going back to 9mm is much more comfortable, and the lumpy figure of the NGC2366 most definately has earned its' classification as an "irregular" galaxy!

Sketch 'em up and head on...

To the NGC2403. This one is definately a "both scopes" galaxy! Easily bright and recognizable in the 4.5 at 17mm as a spiral, the little scope pulls out a stellar core and definately sense of fading toward the frontiers.

Dob time? Oh, yeah... Now here is some superior structure! Mottling begins even with as little magnification as the 26mm provides! Adequately large enough to be studied at lower magnifications, I find the view at 17mm the most pleasing. Concentrated, egg-shaped nucleas... one soft "horseshoe" of a dark dust lane, and hints of globular clusters that cry out for more! Comply? Of course! So I set the 9mm on it... And glory be... We have what appears to be globular structure in a very "open" looking arm! Not only here, but several knots exist throughout the NGC2403! And yet again, I am making out something that looks like a small, attendant open cluster! (oh, there are nights i wish i had a 16"!) No nearby bright stars as markers, the field is nothing more than some fine chains... But who cares?! Cuz' this is one fine galaxy! (Hold the light for me, will you? Somebody has to draw this thing!)

A fine study. I thank you for prodding me toward 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. Come lay beside me... Because they'll be there when I'm gone..."


March 6, 2002 - Saturn, Jupiter, M35, M36, M37, M38, M42, Sigma Orionis, M41, M46, M47, M93, M50, M44, and M81/82...

Comments: Ah, now... Even though last night was just a bit hazy, you know I had to take the dob out and play, don't you? Sure, it wasn't a faint galaxies kinda' night... But I never mind going for a bit of fun!

Actually, the view on the planets was steady. Titan has danced neatly around the southern edge of Saturn, and now appears to be "behind". (maybe it's just balancing things out, eh?). The inner moons orbit a bit more slowly, and I find their motions quite pleasurable. Just a wink and a sparkle here and there... and set around that magnificently dimensional body of Saturn!

Jupiter also looked good, but lacked the really fine detail tonight. It was not problem making out differing variations in the zones, but I just didn't catch some of the finer stuff I've seen on other nights. Maybe my mind was a bit preoccupied... or maybe the sky just wasn't it the mood! And it's really a shame, too. Because Io was transiting tonight... and that would have made for a very interesting time! No matter, it still was good to see Europa farther away, and Callisto and Ganymede toward us.

Since serious deep sky study is out of the question tonight, do you feel like "playing" for awhile?

As my friend Mike says, these are "GoTo" targets... Familiar landmarks along the celestial highway. And I never tire of them...

M35 with it's brilliant colors and magnitudes, the M36, M37, and M38 for their concentration... I view the M42 with the same awe as the very first time... For even with less than perfect skies, the dob brings out such fantasy structure you cannot help yourself but to stare in open-mouthed wonder. Sigma Orionis is just a favorite... I like its' tiny components. The M41 I appreciate for the delicate chains and tiny red heart... And the clusters of Puppis for their splendid beauty.

The M50 and the M44 remind me rather poignantly of each other... Perhaps it is only I that associate some things, and that really doesn't matter. Both capture my fancy... They are different! And yet they are the same...

Although it is not a real "galaxy kinda' night"... the M81 and M82 is the last destination for me. I look at them and try not to think... but still do. The 32mm just barely keeps them in the same field of view, and the night itself robs some of their beauty.

But I don't mind...

"What I've felt... And what I've known... Turn the pages. Turn to stone. Behind the door... Should I open it for you?

What I've felt... And what I've known... Sick and tired, I stand alone. Could you be there? Because I'm the one who waits for you...

Or are you unforgiven, too?"


March 5, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: Wow! Much warmer today... Running clouds and a bit of Sun. What more could an astronomer ask for? So view the Sun I did..

Massive area 9845 is about to rotate round the bend, but still holds potential for M class flare activity. Although this particular photograph doesn't show it well, the field of granulation around this group was spectacular, and, oddly enough there was no Wilson Effect this time. Perhaps it's magnetic energy has already been spent?

There are a few other minor areas... and one really decent large one. But, all in all, the surface is somewhat devoid of activity at the moment.

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

And a 40 degree jump in temperature means those clouds hung on through the night, effectively ending any chance of further field studies. That's OK, though...

Because it feels kinda' nice being warm.

"The door cracks open, and there's no suns shining through. Black clouds scarring darker skies.... No, there's no suns shining through.

No, there's no suns shining..."


March 4, 2002 - The Plieades, M42, Saturn, Jupiter, M35, M44, M81, M82, NGC2976, NGC3077, IC2574, and still studying...

Comments: Real winter here. No joking around. The cold is intense and hurtful. The ground is like concrete. Any liquid exposed for more than moments will begin to freeze. So, why... you would ask, would one go out in such weather?

Because the sky is perfect.

Radio on, Cap'n. Let's journey! As the scopes stablize, my first visit is to the Plieades (M45). Using various magnifications to pull out soft structure from the Merope Nebula. It is a very fine and beautiful cluster at low power in the 4.5, but there are times when I want the resolution that the dob can give me!

Next hop is to the M42... because I want confirmation on structures. I lack the technical jargon associated with deep sky studies, but that big lump of grey matter between my ears knows what structure must be visible in known targets in order to make judgement calls on new ones. And when I have seen the scallops again, I know I've chosen the right night! (and it was very hard to resist the call of Alnitak... "hey, astronomer. wanna' go for a ride?")

Time to make at least a cursory pass at the planets... again that grey matter at play. This is a stability check, is it not? At what minimums will detail rock? The 4.5 at 25mm snaps Saturn into perfect focus. Titan has pulled away to the side, so it accompanies the giant's walk across the sky. When ever so slightly averted, the inner moons wink round the rings. One lays directly below Titan tonight in line of sight, and it is easy to see that they have spaced themselves out along the leading edge, yet encompass roughly half of the ring structure itself. The dob at 17mm sends the Cassini into perfect structure, the deep shadows and dimensional qualties pure pleasure.

On to Jupiter... Sticking only with the 12.5 here, and leaving it at 17mm, the central equatorial zone looks "swept" somehow... The north equatorial belt is easily much darker than the southern one, and the north temperate belt is a clean, dark line. Many soft striations appear both above and below either polar region. No hard edged type detail... just a very noticable difference in texture. A push around the field pulls the galieans from the sky. My guess is that Io is hiding behind...for Callisto appears to be ever so slightly behind Jove from our point of view, while Ganymede and Europa are stretched ahead. Very nice... I enjoy a peek at the neighbors.

The M35 and M44 are also "dob only" targets tonight. (hey! i've been aperature starved, ok?) The reasoning behind these is both esoteric and disciplined. I am "warming" myself up, in my own fashion... Perhaps this is a thing you understand? I am excercising my eyes to see fine detail and color. For when I study, I am most serious about what I do...

(Time now, to step inside the dark garage. Although there is no heat here, just the wind break make it seem so much warmer. Lose the leather gloves for a bit, wrap my hands around a hot mug of coffee, enjoy the tunes.... "This is how you remind me... of what I really am." Despite the intense cold, Ranger has chosen to be out tonight, and he has followed me into our dark shelter. He presses himself against my side in a time honoured fashion. He wears no military issue artic garments... only his thinning grey coat. And so I open my overcoat and wrap it round him, pulling him close into my body heat. We sit for some time, we two.... watching H crush ice from inside the open doorway... with the stars of Leo in our eyes.)

Warm again, it is time to take to the field...

I shall not belabor this report with my field notes on the M81 and M82. There's enough stuff here to write a book from! ;) Comparison work is what I have come here to do, and this splendid area of the sky sits very well for study.

NGC2976 is the next target... a member of the M81 and M82 family. It is detectable in the 4.5... but that is all it is. A soft, elongated smudge that requires averted vision just to make out form. The 12.5 does not rock out detail in an expected fashion either! Now we are talking about being able to hold this galaxy direct, which means averted should bring out structure... What structure?! A tear drop, grainy-looking patch on the night with a bright star at the edge, tapering off into a chain of stars... That's it. No sense of a nucleas.... no apparent fading at frontiers.

NGC3077 is also detectable in the 4.5... as a very soft glow of galactic light with extreme averted vision, and one pinpoint star nearby. The dob at differing ranges of magnication changes the picture just slightly. I find my most pleasing view to be with the 17mm and the barlow. Egg-shaped elliptical... evenly lighted, BUT! There is a certain amount of degeneration at the edges... a sense that the light is being eroded away. Several field stars are also visible. A chain of three varying magnitudes to one side, and an elongated rectangular structure to the other.

IC2574 is next. Welcome only to the dob! (it's really not very hard to find, ok? you know the 81... and the angle you must take to find 3077? simply continue to extend that same angle and roughly triple the distance... viola.) OK, now... what do we see here? Mr. Wizard's Galaxy! LOL! No, wait.... that was on the border of Saggitarius and Capricorn, yes? ;) All right, I'll be serious... but only for YOU! Once again, a elongated, lumpy bar of light! This one shows "lobes" of concentration at either end of it's structure. Not only does this one appear as "lumpy"... but there are a great many field stars that accompany it... like very precise open clusters! They are vague... and when the dob presents you with vague light in the presence of pinpoint stars, I would venture to say that this galaxy is accompanied by some nebulosity! Right? Wrong? It's a study... and I'm not through yet!

And still the study continues... venturing off into Camelopardis. I obey my rules of three. (targets found, sir!) And I require more nights of study before I reach a confident level. But they are grand!

For now, I think I'll just put the scopes away. Stand here and drink in the starlight... Who knows?

Maybe I'll get to see a meteor...

"Lay beside me... under wicked skies. Black of day, and dark of night... We share this paradise..."


March 3, 2002 - Saturn, Jupiter, M44, M67, M81, M82 and Field Studies...

Comments: Once again, the weather behaves in strange ways. At times there would be snow flurries... yet the sun would be shining! Incredible blue holes in the sky, framed by menacing dark clouds...

For whatever reason, I still kept watch on the sky. The late rise of the moon will buy me some quality dark time, and if a window of opportunity opens... I will be there. Such a window did occur, and when I stepped out, I knew I had to fetch the dob. The sky was absolutely black, magnitude 5-6 stars easily picked off with no dark adaption... Time to head? You bet...

As the big scope stablized, the 4.5 and I decided to visit the planets for a bit. Oh my... Saturn is still doing some very splendid things right now. Titan still leads the way somewhat, but is starting its' slow arc "above" the planet. The inner moons are coming slowly round with it... and it will be only days before the are lost from view.

Jupiter itself was grand! The view held very steady despite its' somewhat difficult position for the 4.5. With Europa in transit, Io sits slightly behind the body of Jove tonight... but the real smile comes from Ganymede and Callisto! Making a very close and very pretty pairing... Although I can see that detail would be very easy to pick out tonight, it's far too cold to goof around much. Already I can feel my fingers ache, and a bit of true study is what I've come here for... Not to dance with the planets!

Time to uncover the dob, and point both scopes toward the M44. Just beautiful.... The profusion of magnitudes show well in either scope, but what I wanted to see was those tiny, fine stars that mean quality sky. And a bump to M67 proves to me what I'm after.... An incredible grainy cloud in the little scope, and resolution in the big one.

Let's rock....

Starting with the 4.5 aimed at my favourite galactic pair, tonight is meant for studying structure. The view is far superior to the one I got just days ago... and I find myself locked in place at the eyepiece! Simple averted vision on a great night can do so very much... And a touch of magnification makes the view even better! One problem, though... The cold is beginning to hurt.

So, I took a bit of a break. The rest of me didn't mind staying out, but my hands wanted in! I don't think there are any gloves on earth that can stop the cold from seeping through...

When feeling at least returned to semi-normal... (feeling? oh, i felt them alright! i don't know what was worse, the hurt from the cold... or the pain when they began to warm back up!) I headed back out to set the dob on the same area. Oh, wow... At 26mm they will not fit in the same field, and the M81 shows itself as a great, tight spiral. A bump away, the M82's spindle form and strangeness blow me away... Here is what you've been looking for! And I add a bit more magnification and note the detail...

Once upon a time I studied the M81 and M82 family group... and it's time to do so again. And what a pleasure it is to find myself with my maps and notes, scanning the skies... I take a certain pleasure in this... And tonight is no exception. When I had located the things I was looking for, what I found was myself incredibly tired...

And cold.

"The door is locked now. But, it's open if you're true. If you can understand the me... I can understand the you."



March 1, 2002 - M81, M82, M44, M67, M65, M66, Saturn, and Jupiter... The Perseus Double Cluster, The Plieades, M42, M41, MIzar and Alcore, Cor Caroli, Sirius, Betelguese, Rigel and the Moon...

Comments: Hey, it was hazy around the edges. But I didn't care. That morning I had witnessed a horrible accident between a tractor trailer truck and a small car. My head keeps playing that horrible, hollow BOOM over and over again... and my eyes still see a single twisted piece of chrome frozen in mid-air. There was nothing left of the driver's side of the car. The truck went through it. An eterninty passed before the rescue teams came... And the memories, both old and new, will not leave me. I need out....

Turn up the rock and roll. And take it to the stars...

Comfort? Yes, these things bring me comfort. First up, I wanted to see if I still had the touch with the 4.5. Answer? Yes. Smacked the M81 and M82 out of the sky in less than one minute! My point? Oh, heck... there is no point! I just wanted to see if I could still DO it. (and perhaps just to have a wee look, huh? ;)

There was still plenty of time before the sky got "light" to hunt up a few other objects and keep my skill sharp. Like the M44? Well, not a whole lot of skill involved in finding it... just a whole lot of peace in viewing it again. And of course, you know with the M67 so very close, that I had to go look at that amazing star cloud.

Could I still do the M65 and M66 just as easily? No. Not nearly as fast as the first pair... but after I bit of a hunt, they turned up. The sky quality was very poor, but it was great just to know inside myself that I could find this pair even in the fur. Averted vision sure helped to bring them out once they were in the eyepiece... but it's mighty hard to "surf" the sky averted. (nah... ;)

Time to visit the planets...

Saturn captivated me tonight. Made me a complete, total, willing slave. Even as little as 25mm brought the sparkle of the inner moons out to play... and how I could use some play! So, little by little I kept increasing the magnification, and finding myself lost in detail. The little scope will never reveal the Cassini as anything more than a fine line at the edges, but I wanted to walk that line tonight. I needed to see Titan pulling Saturn along behind it, and the rest of the satellites gracefully escorting the planet just ahead of it's rings. There was a certain comfort in the shadows... That intensive effect of limb darkening was very pleasing.

When I had drank my fill, I turned the scope toward Jupiter and dropped back the magnification. The close visual pairing of Europa and Io taking my attention. Ganymede sits just a bit behind, while Callisto comes toward us. Up one in magnification and the north temperate zone focuses easily...

And H barks in a fashion that I know is not play. I stepped round out of the shadows, and made the walk to see what he was doing, and found a shadow figure standing in a pool of light beneath a street lamp. Perhaps the music was too loud?

Calling H back, I went forward to see what this visitor wanted... Rather late to be out selling candy, is it not? Ah, well... Ranger and H still do chocolate. And as I walked away, something stopped me... I found myself turning around and saying,

"Hey. Do you want to see something cool?"

Perhaps tonight I just needed a friend, and the cosmos sent me one. Welcome, Seth. Let me take you on a journey...

Parents called for permission, we began again at Saturn. At first, we had a bit of trouble... Because my eyes and his were very much different. But no sooner than I taught him how to focus... and heard "I SEE IT! I SEE IT!! I SEE THE RINGS OF SATURN!!!" We were off...

To Saturn and Jupiter! Light years away to the "Perseus Double" and the mystery of the Plieades... Lessons on starbirth in the M42... and the splendid bright profusion of the M41... And, of course! Just the simple beauty of the stars...

I never did change the focus back for my eyes. Even blind I can tell you what is in the eyepiece. This is about pleasing another tonight... Not myself.

We did the "string" thing, looked at models, had hot coco and admired my meteors. We watched video stuff, and looked through the books... and learned "how" my telescopes work. And waited on the Moon...

When it rose at last, you know what reaction was recieved, don't you? And I let him go... Use the cables... Enjoy my young friend! And tell me what you see...

And when I gently reminded him of the late hour, he left with thanks... On both our parts. And I went off to sail to the Moon on my own...

Embraced by the night.

"Come lay beside me... Tell me what they've done. Speak the words I want to hear.. To make my demons run."