November 27, 2002 - NGC7814, M33 and the NGC604, M31, M32 and M110, NGC752, M1, NGC1300, B33, NGC1973, NGC1975. NGC1977, and the M42...

Comments: Hey. You know, it probably wasn't the best idea for me to go out observing last night. Because my job forces me to be in contact with sick people, I had gotten a flu shot a couple of days ago... And got the flu. But when those ultra-clear, easy 6.5 dark skies came along, there was no way I was going to say no! Digging out my cold weather gear, it was time to get "Ohio Tough" and brave those low teen temperatures to take the dob out for a stroll. The way I looked at it was I was already sick, why the heck sit inside and cry the blues?

Those low temperatures not only made the sky incredibly transparent but put a wonderful layer of crust of the snow. Ranger decided to sit this one out (poor baby, he's getting so old he's breaking my heart just to look at him...) but H was more than willing to run, jump and bite at the wheels of the "Grasshopper" as we kicked on the tunes and headed for our favourite observing spot. Stashing the covers safely into the garage, I chose only my 26mm Meade Series IV tonight. I knew my hands were going to get cold, and I could just somehow see myself dropping a good eyepiece into a snowbank! You know what? It was a good choice.

For a long time I simply admired the sky. So beautiful and so peaceful! The shimmering snow looked like white satin stretched out before me and the black velvet blanket the sky was scattered with diamond hard stars. Here I am. Arms wide open and waiting, baby... Tell me where to go.

As always, I know where I want to be. And it was time to view the edge-on perfection of galaxy NGC7814 once again. It took me awhile to find, but when I captured it at last.... It took my breath away. With the exception of the "Sombrero" (M104) I think this is the finest example of an edge-on galaxy that I can achieve at this aperature. Lean and stretched out, I coud only wish to run my hands across it to feel its' texture beneath my fingers. Yet my eyes can become my hands, and I won't ever close them again. The central nucleac structure of the NGC7814 bulges strongly and averted vision allows that long, deep stretch that only edge-ons can give. Surely all of this is enough to keep me satisfied, yes? It always has... And the very prominent dark dust lane only serves to add to the excitement!

Sighing softly to myself for things remembered, I stepped down off the ladder and tucked my hands into my pockets to warm them back up. All this beauty that surrounds me, and I'm as rusty as a '74 Ford Torino... Kinda' hard to fly when your wings are bent. Strangely enough, I had an urge to visit with the "Pinwheel" galaxy (M33) tonight. I know I have in far too much magnification for it, but I'd still like to give it a go! Of course, you know the dob shredded it... That's why it's not one of my favourites with this scope. But what it did give me, besides all those "knotty" thoughts, was the definative view of the NGC604. Just a wonderful little patch of nebulosity that resides within the faded arms of a distant galaxy... But one that I remember well.

The siren song of Andromeda calls and I go to answer. Like the M33, there is no way at this magnification that I can even begin to do more than study portions of this huge galaxy. I don't mind a bit cruising over the golden core, nor exploring outward in its' arms. Once again, I find the purity of the night to be an increidble asset as I stop to marvel over the knot at the southern edge whose number I do not recall. I know it's two-something... But a round of coughing is quite enough to deal with at the moment. Stepping down for a moment, I go inside the garage to have a sip of hot, sweet tea. When I feel like I've gotten myself under control once again, I return to gaze in awe at the bright and well resolved M32, and take in the superior long form of the M110. You do realize that if we could take these two galaxies away from the influence of the grand Andromeda that we'd find them much more entertaining, don't you? Sometimes I think that you might find the serving girl far more lovely than the "Queen"...

Since the tea tasted rather good, I decided to pour myself a bit more and just enjoy the bright constellations. There's a black wolf shadow that is hell bent on laying down tracks on every stretch of virgin snow that are within his boundaries! When I'm not laughing at his antics, I'm still looking up and thinking... And what I am thinking is that the NGC752 is visible without the scope tonight! Holy Icicles, Wizard... This is one fine sky!! Even though the NGC752 was not part of my observing plans, I had to go visit this wonderful open cluster once again. And you know what? "X" still marks the spot...

Going back once again to the things that I had intended to look at, I refuse to answer Saturn's call. This is a dark sky night, and I am very well adapted. The "Lord of the Rings" will fry my eyes if I even dare to look! And so I go for what I came for... The M1. The "Crab" nebula is absolutely superb with this aperature and this eyepiece. As always, I am struck by the "living" quality. I know my vision is viewed as something odd by most people, but that sensitivity to spectra and other phenomena are my secret. The beautiful ribbons and tendrils visible in the M1 are a joy to behold!

Next on the plan is a little trip to Tau. What I am after is galaxy NGC1300, and I am not disappointed. As a past study, this is one I actually remember how to get to with ease, and to see that great barred structure is fully worth any amount of cold I'm beginning to feel!! A sensational bright core and soft fold of arms... Who cares if I'm about out of tissues? This one is worth it!

Practice for tonight completed, I know I should be heading back in. Duty calls very, very early tomorrow and it will be a long day. The sky has far exceeded what I had hoped for, and yet... I long for more. Gazing at the well risen Orion, I know I cannot leave it alone anymore than I could leave you alone. Taking great care to keep Alnitak out of the eyepiece, I find myself holding my breath (are you kidding? it's a chore just to breath at the moment... ;) because it has been so long. Strangely enough, there are somethings I cannot ever forget how to find, and the long ribbon of nebulosity that contains the B33 is one of them. Searching along its' length I see what I am looking for. The "Horsehead" nebula is nothing more than a tiny notch... But oh, my. That's one ride I can never forget! Awesome...

The cold is beginning to bite, and my head hurts and my eyes water. Taking the short hop to triple nebulae NGC1973-75-77 is not much of an effort, and I find myself glad that I've continued. Who knows how many more days of clouds there will be in the future?! This tiny trio of soft patches of light are easy to push around a bit to enjoy. And so I did...

Deciding enough is enough, I went back to the garage to fetch the covers, but ended up sipping another cup of tea instead and humming along to the rock and roll. What a fine night this is! There is so much more I wish that I could explore... Walking back out to the dob, I still find myself loathe to leave this fantasy sky. Slinging the covers round my shoulders like a cape, I cannot go until I have seen the M42 once again...

Still looking up and thinking.

"Nights in white satin... Never reaching the end. Letters I've written... Never meaning to send. Beauty I've always missed... With these eyes before. Just what the truth is... I can't say anymore.

But ,I'll love you. Yes, I'll love you. Oh, how I'll love you..."


November 24, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: This will probably be my last chance for days on end to look at the solar surface thanks to Ohio's continual cloud cover. Of course, there are still some high thins floating around... Do you think it will be worth setting the scope outside for? Darn right. Show me enough sunlight to cast a shadow...

And I'm on it.


I chose this particular temporary frame because I could actually squeeze both bi-polar beauties 197 and 198 into the same shot. This is one of the most perfect examples revealed by magnetogram information of Hale values. Why? Because each of these massive solar scabs rotate round the surface on either side of the Sun's equator - and they are truly an awesome sight!

Closer inspection reveals 197 to be of a more simplisctic nature. But 198 shows some minor potential, with its' irregular penumbral field and series of finer follower spots throwing some "magnetic mix" into the equation. Running ahead of 198 is another real character named 2001 that had some great faculae going on around it as well.

(yes, i was playing with the baader filter again... ;)

Even this highly temporary shot displays that incredible brightness that is the signature of faculae!

So there you have it. Forecasts predict snow and clouds for the next three days... And this will be the only look I'll get at the Sun for who knows how long! But, it's OK... Somewhere out there I know that Sol is still moving behind those clouds and those fantastic spots are still moving across its' surface. One day soon we'll get to see it again...

And I'll be waiting.

"I'm comin' home..."


November 23, 2002 - The Pegasus Field Study... "Big Blue" takes on Abell 426 and Saturn...

Comments: I had been waiting on sky for what seems like an indeterminately long time. Part of me realizes why these particular galaxies are hard to capture and the other half needs completion. More than anything the sky has to cooperate, and extensive periods between viewing sessions allows the brain to get all warm and fuzzy... I don't stay a sharp as I'd like and both memory and skills begin to rust. They say rust never sleeps.

And neither do I...

I try not to put much emphasis on weather reports, that way I won't be disappointed when they aren't accurate. I trust in my gut instinct and what I can see with my eyes. I watched the clouds parting, leaving a fine silver haze across the blue. I could tell you at that point in time that it would be a fine night to observe double stars, or open clusters. But when I noticed that haze going to a shade that I know well... I knew the sky was going to "go deep". The only questions remains is for how long? Taking no chances I had the 12.5 set up long before the last rays of the sun had kissed the horizon. Dusting my observing notes off, I spent the time in stasis refreshing my memory on direction and numbers... Like cramming for a test, (a thing i haven't done in uncountable years) I knew the conditions weren't going to be perfect but this was as good as it was going to get. OK, Pegasus... I'm through horsing around with you. It's now or never, baby...

Let's get it on.

Starting my intial starhop, it is my way to go for the area which will set fist, so let's shake it on down toward the Cygnus border. Locating multiple system 12 is the key to finding the first mark. The NGC7137 is not a easy galaxy to locate, but eventually you will recognize a loose asterism in the eyepeice and find it centered there. Requiring powers of averted vision, the NGC7137 is at best just a small, round, very even glow. My best guess is spiral in classification. It also appears to have a stellar point at the edge and a soft patch accompanies it on nights of exceptional seeing. My notes indicate that this could more than likely just be an area of very faint, and unresolved stars.

Moving away on the same trajectory, we continue to count the marker stars util we come upon a relatively barren field in the finder. When we see a matched magnitude triangle, that means we've found our marker and it's time to go to the eyepiece. The NGC7177 is not exactly what you would call and "exciting" galaxy. Although it requires only slight aversion during excellent conditions, (and a bit of work tonight... ;) even the best of nights and repeated observations call nothing more from this one that a very even, softly haloed, egg-shaped silver patch nestled in stars. Best guess on this one? Elliptical.

Grinning to myself, for I knew that the hardest of the studies to find were now over, I hopped off the stepladder, flipped my hood back and went into the garage to pour myself a cup of celebratory chai. Yes, indeed... Not the best of nights, mind you. But quite good enough to snatch galaxies! Structure is tougher tonight than on other occassions when I've viewed them... But hey! That's why they are studies and not mere observations.

Now it's time to get "Square"...

Like the bowl of the Big Dipper, (or since i dig squares, we can just call it the "big dip", eh? ;) the Pegasus Field contains many fine studies of which I am only scratching the surface. Most of you wll recognize this general field from just looking a Pegasus itself. There are two stars within the "Sqaure" that are generally visible to the unaided eye on any relatively decent night. And hey, ho, honey... That's where we're headed!

Pushing these two bright ones to the side, we head more toward Andromeda this time. Our mark here is chosen because the general field is an asterism which I recognize (thanks to my strange notes...) and the galaxy we are after has a star directly on the edge. The NGC7741 is a galaxy which can be held direct on a good night's seeing... and with only slight aversion for those "less than perfect occasions" (like now). After many times of studying its' structure, this galaxy is definately an S-barred with the central nucleas appearing very strong. The arms halo it in a rather ephemeral fashion during peak seeing conditions, giving it the ghostly appearance of a "cat's eye". The star we see in the finder to lead us there is now revealed as an apparent double, and there is also another apparent faint double that accompanies it. Splendid little galaxy... And most definately worth the time and effort it takes to find! (but bring a big mirror, folks... cuz' you'll want every drop of this beauty's light!) In all fairness, the are beaucoup other galaxies in this area - but my rules are my rules.

The next confident hop begins with Upsilon. First marker, second marker, and there it is. The NGC7678 is a faded glory. Tonight I see nothing more than a concentrated nucleas and widely averted vision gives me nothing more than a soft donut of galaxy "stuff" for structure. Set in a triangle of stars, my notes indicate that under excellent conditions a spiral formation appears... But that was then and this is now. Tonight? I'm just happy to have found it again!

Grinning to myself, I call on 57 Peg next. (hey, wizard! it's still a double... ;) Triangulate it with 55 and my magic marker star and POOF! We've got galaxy NGC7469. Wide aversion only here, guys. The best I can do is to gather a very round, very small signature with a very distracting star in the field. It's influence turns this one into nother more than a barely perceptible non-stellar event.

Let' rock toward another section of Pegasus and do something a bit more fun, eh? Find pair 83... Now find 81... Got it? The let's go in between... This one is tough, baby... Low surface brightness means walking back off that magnification... And what we see revealed with the power of aperature is a daggone pair. Well, you know what? I don't know the companion's number... So what you're going to get is my best guess. And that is I believe the NGC7769 to be the elongated smudge with the star at either end. The companion is small and almost stellar, leading me to believe that it might possibly be UGC in nature. I could confirm this, but since I started this study without the aid of Megastar, we're by-gosh going to complete it in the same fashion! Wait a sec... Hold your horse, OK? There's three!! I kid you not... Look! Yep. Three. Frandamtastic!

Giggling wildly, I step back down again to regain my composure. After my intial observations, I found out that this galaxy trio is NGC7769, NGC7770 and NGC7771. But, I leave my observations as I originally recorded them in my notes. Because after all, I do this for fun... Nothing more. Who wants a sterile accounting of facts? Well, possibly me... But since I did not go into this venture realizing this as a trio, I can not take credit for it, eh? Love me or leave me... Cuz' that's just the way I am.

And since you've left me with some fond memories and 57 Peg... Why not tell you what lies between it and Theta Pices? For once I've bit off a bit more than I can chew in this area, and it will remain a study field for me in the future. It's a group of galaxies, of which I can only name two: NGC7619 and NGC7626. The are both apparent ellipticals at this stage of the game... They require aversion and patience... But they are not alone.

They have lots and lots of friends...

Feeling the weight of time press upon me, I do my best not to think as I drink from the stars. It does me no good... For to look upon them is as constant a reminder as my starry-eyed thoughts:

"I stood upon that silent hill,
And stared into the sky until...
My eyes were blind with stars and still...
I stared into the sky."


It is from "The Song of Honour", and how I crave it once again! The hour is early, and the Heavens are open for business. Shall we tuck the dob away for now and follow the advice of Incubus and "Drive"?

I'll race you there...

It is strange how silent the Dome is at night with no one around. Our recent snows show me that no one has been there in a long while, and when I open the door and turn on the lights I realize that I was probably the last person to lovingly handle "Big Blue". Taking the red lens off my military flashlight, I walk round the dome inspecting it for snow before I dare to roll back the slit. Satisfied that I could safely open things up and not risk snow or melt dropping onto that magnificent mirror, I turn on the red lights and drop "Seether" into the CD player.

Let's rock.

Making my mark at Algol with the telrad, I start with 40mm and walk toward an old favourite of mine.... The "Perseus Galaxy Cluster". Sure, it's a hunt. Trust me. Suddenly the 12.5 is aperature limited... "Big Blue" becomes the hunter and Abell 426 the prey. Yes, it took me awhile to locate, and with good reason. The 31" mirror of this magnificent telescope was far from ready, eh? Unlike sky conditions, where an object will look like it is beneath clear running water, a warm mirror on a cold night will produce the effect of not being able to focus properly. Realizing my impatience is not to my advantage, I leave it set on Abell 426 and walk outside for a smoke and cup of tea. I really don't mind. It's very peaceful here by yourself, and the snow covered woodlands are quite beautiful.

Returning back to the eyepiece, I am stil not happy with what I see. Usually this galaxy cluster is magnificent! I shouldn't be stuggling like this... And I quickly realize that there is more here than meets the eye of the scope...

Them clouds are coming back.

Simply happy to have viewed this knot of tiny galaxies clustered together, I do my best not to count them and try my hardest to refuse to identify. Sometimes we need "play", and that is what I am here from. I completed my studies... Let's just enjoy these tiny grains of galactic light for what they are! One awesome galaxy cluster...
Noting that less and less stars are becoming visible, it takes me three seconds to hit Saturn. Three? Yeah, three. Give me a year, amigo... And I will point this scope with the ease and confidence that I do the dob! Saturn shows every sign of "atomoshperic limitations". So what? I'm here to tell ya' that you don't have to reveal the Encke Division to me every time for me to find Saturn beautiful! I'm serious, here... Even if the sky stinks, "the King of Ring" still rocks my world! And every now and then, a pocket of perfect stability would happen...

And take my breath away.

So I watched Saturn until it became so veiled that it was no longer visible to the naked eye. Perhaps I would have done better to have stayed in the Backyard and used that hour of drive time to chase other DSOs. And then again? Maybe, I would have just stood there with my eyes watering craving things I could not have. Smiling, I realize that every choice I have made, or will make in the future is because that is what I want. And for now? I want to listen to TAJQ as I sip the last of my tea from the thermos and close things down. Because unlike that galaxy group in Pegasus?

I miss my friends.

"Change has been... And change will be. Time will tell... And time will ease. Now my curtain has been drawn... And my heart must go where my heart does belong..."



November 19, 2002 - A Lunar Eclipse...

Comments: So why didn't I marquee it? Probably because it was an 86% penumbral, and most folks can't recognize the change.

Lunar eclipse are such touchy things. If you're "into astronomy" then you understand the differences between penumbral, umbral and total eclipse. If not, then I don't suppose you'll mind if I tell you just a bit about them? For never will you see the Moon in complete darkness...

When the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon, it projects a cone of shadow. The outer part of this "cone" is called the penumbra. When the Earth totally blocks the sunlight, it is called the umbra. And why, when we are in 100% umbral, or total eclipse, does the Moon still shine? Because the Earth's atmosphere acts much like a lens... Still focusing the light of every sunrise and sunset back to the Moon! Alrighty, then... With that simple lesson out of the way, we realize that to view an 86% penumbral eclipse means just the vaguest of changes will show on the lunar surface.

Or are they?

To know me is to realize I watch the sky at every given opportunity. So just how noticable IS a penumbral eclipse? Let's let the photo of a friend speak for that one...


Photo credit: Monty Meier


So it just looks like a full Moon, right? Wrong. Look again. Even the most casual of observers should notice the the northern area is significantly more shaded than usual!

Aiming the 4.5 that way becomes unfiltered viewing pleasure. Features that generally are blinding have now become far more beautiful - such as Tycho's rays. Some are undeniably bright and prominent, like Keplar. And others? The Mare Orientale was far more prominent that usual thanks to a bit of libration and the subtle shading.

After having viewed through the telescope, I stopped to just simply enjoy what I was looking at. I can never be bored with the Night, for it is always changing. Always beautiful and mysterious! It took perhaps an hour for the penumbral shadow to retreat and La Luna to regain her brightness. The night shadows took on a sharpness that they did not have just a bit ago, and the clouds were happy to try and steal the show at every opportunity. But for now? I'm happy. I think I'll just sit here in the redwood chair, wrapped in my big ol' observing coat and enjoy a glass of wine while I watch the Moon. Hey! Maybe I'll even see a... Nah. Even if the Leonids were an overwhelming suceess...

At least I had tonight.

"Change has come... And change is here. Love fades out... And love appears. Now my water has turned to wine. And these thoughts I have? Well, I now can claim as mine.

I'm comin' home."


Right on back to the stars, baby...



November 18/19, 2002 - The Lenonid Meteor Shower...

Comments: You know I've been sitting under clouds for a long time. My observing reports are mute testimony to that, aren't they? So when the clouds began to break up during the day, my optimism for catching the Leonid Meteor shower began to run high...

Napped and ready to go by nightfall, I had a new videotape ready, the camera charged, the tornado tossed cushion back on the redwood chair, a pot a chai ready, sleeping bag, warm clothes, stopwatch, notepad... In other words? I was ready.

Every so often, a long break would come between the clouds and it was my great pleasure to have witnessed 14 bright, well-defined meteors between 6:30 and 12:45 My lesson came not so much by what I observed, but what I was thinking about. Part of me sat in fascination at one point, doing exactly what you're not supposed to do... Staring at the Moon. I'm sorry. I just had to. There was this most beautiful, ethereal ring about it that just captured my attention. Not long after, the clouds parked for awhile...

Returning inside, I went to explore some "virtual" avenues. Following some SpaceWeather.com links proved to be rather exciting for many reasons... After having read about observing meteor showers through television and radio signals, I realized that everything I needed to do my own "listening" experiment was right here on the ground! Guess having danced with a twister wasn't so bad after all, because it had left the outdated television tower on the grass in the backyard. During a cloudy spell, I straightened the bends out of the antenna and pointed it toward the zenith. Running the cable into the garage, I connected it with an old television set that was slated to become recycling dumpster history. When I did as the instructions said, was I ever in for a surprise...

The darn thing worked!!

I am sure that if anyone could have seen inside that garage, they probably would have had me committed. Here I sit, bundled for the cold... And glued to a TV set tuned to static! (shades of "poltergiest", eh? they're heeeeerrreeee.... ;) Absolutely amazed, I turned on the intercom and went back into the house to chat with a friend for awhile. I know he thought I was more than a bit crazy when I would exclaim over the sounds I was hearing! Immediately I began to wish I had blank audio cassette... This is just too cool. But you know me, eh? Somewhere along the line, a little circuit came on and I realized that my video camera would record audio sounds as well.

Catch ya' later, dude!!

Like my junior league attempts at astrophotography, and my efforts with spectroscopy... Where there's a will? There's a
way...

Recording Leonids - 2002

Yeah. It's primative. What I've incorporated here might not work for your browser and if it doesn't, I will be happy to mail you a direct audio if you like. (and I thank my friend Monty for temporarily hosting the wav file so i could even get it away from WebTV) You can also try direct access if you like at:

http://members.tripod.com/~theastronomer/recordingleonids2002.wav

Long and short of it? By the time the peak arrived for Ohio, the rains had returned. My "listening" experience had turned into an outrageous jumble of signals that made absolutely no sense. (and the horizontal hold still doesn't work... ;) I brought the chair into the garage and wrapped in my sleeping bag, happily sipped my chai and listened to static...

And watched the rain.

"Her imagination... Has started stretching wide. And her new convictions? No longer will she hide. She's not branded when the prophets speak words of fire. For the same love she gives... She requires.

So she gathers rain... Yes, she gathers rain. To rinse away all her guilt and pain. So she gathers rain... Yes, she gathers rain. To wash and cleanse and make her whole again."



November 14, 2002 - The Moon...

Comments: As you well know, I am often given to some very impromptu observing sessions... And tonight was one of them.

I really didn't think there was going to be an opportunity. For the most part the sky had looked as though our famous Ohio snows were on the way - or a very least, rain. I had seen the Moon earlier when I was practicing, but by the time I had finished my set it was gone. So, I had simply foud other things to do... I didn't really notice until I went to put my work clothes into the dryer and I struck me that I hadn't turned on the light. Cool! Selene is out and shining... Let's go dance!

Tonight the only scope I saw when I opened the door was the "Ottoman". It has truly been my pleasure to learn to work with the Intes, and right now I just invite it out for a bit of play! Nothing serious... Just the Mak, a 17mm eyepiece, and the Moon.

Sinus Iridum is razor sharp. The terminator is right at the edge of the Juras Mountains, making Promentoriums LaPlace and Heraclides simply shine. Bianchini is perfect as always. I focus myself toward the Rukl atlas for some assistance in crater identification, and take great pride in identifying Maupertuis and Condamine as well. Continuing on my lunar tour I discover Bouguer and a crater on the edge called Focault. Focault? Laughing to myself, I hear an old tune playing in my head... "Dancin' In The Moonlight". It gives me a most genuine smile as I wonder what I would be like to waltz around "the Bay of Rainbows" with you...

Moving on, (and still smiling) the next area to really focus my attention is Gay-Lussac and T. Mayer. Returning once again to the maps. I gently remind myself of the Carpathian Mountains and another small area here called Cape Banat. Bumping over just a bit, I revel in some quiet time spent with the well-lighted Copernicus. And ya' know what? I sure think it's something!

Rheinhold, Lansberg... Frau Mauro! Now I am really captured as the ultra-bright signature of Euclid comes into view and the Riphaeus Mountains look like perfection. Tonight this one captures my imagination. Euclid looks conical for some reason. If we were to be able to study a volcano on a dead world, would it look like this? Brightened slopes capped by an intense ring... Very beautiful. The mountains themselves show incredible relief... Just excellent!

Realizing the hours are going to be long over the next few days, I amost hate to go in because I know that rain is in the forecast. But before I leave I do at least enjoy casting the fine eye of the Intes over a few that I am well acquainted with. Longomontanus, Wilhelm, Hainzel and Mee.... Just good to see them again. As well as Scheiner and Klaproth...

Reluctantly, I set the "Ottoman" back inside the safety of the garage, and gently cover it. It was a splendid observing session, and I'm looking forward to using it again!

Whenever it stops raining long enough...

"So she gathers rain... Yes, she gathers rain. To rinse away all her guilt and pain Yes, she gathers rain. She gathers rain. To wash and cleanse...

And make her whole again."



November 13, 2002 - Coffee and the Morning Planets... Introducing "Big Blue"...

Comments: Glory be! Nothing like a bit of clear sky to wake up to, eh? I was so excited about it, I didn't even get dressed! (and it wouldn't be the first time i've thrown a coat over my pajamas and went out observing in my slippers... nor will it be the last! ;) Starting the coffee brewing, I snatched the 4.5 up and headed for Saturn...

Ah. What a beauty! Titan is being a bit difficult this morning, and there's no sign of the inner moons... But I don't care. After all the rain and clouds it is just a pleasure to know the "King of Rings" is still around! And check out Jupiter... Nestled on the front paws of "the Lion", it looks incredibly bright this morning. Turning the 4.5 that way, at first only two galieans can be seen. Turning my attention immediately to the surface, I began scouring it to look for a transit shadow. It is then I notice that one of them has either just been in, or is about to do just that! Awesome display... It's really been so long that I can't tell you it's name. But don't worry, eh? As the season continues I'll remember the proper names for each of the galieans and their positions. Count on it...

Smiling up and the sky and shivering a bit from the cold, I find myself wishing that I had gotten up a bit earlier so I could have explored. It's OK, though... The rainy season will pass and soon enough those crystal clear Ohio nights will give me all I ask for. For now? Let's go get a cup of coffee and come back just before dawn....

How's come? That's why. Not only is Venus back, but just look at how slim she is! A very slender crescent that requires no filter to pick out form this morning... Good to see you again! That means elusive little Mercury will be along as well!

And I'll be watching and waiting... ;)

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

Halfways clear skies held through the day, and it was wonderful just to hear people excited about seeing the Sun again. I think on some basic level, it is human nature to miss our constant companions in the sky - even if you're not into astronomy!

"Not into Astronomy" is the basic focal point of this particular report. Sure, I'm abstracting a bit, but if you are truly an observer, I'm sure these are issues that you've dealt with as well. We all have families and we all have friends. As much as I enjoy what I do, I do not alienate myself from others. They are part of my life just as surely as the stars are... How do we explain our loves, our needs... our passions! to those closest to us on a personal level?

Especially if they are "not into astronomy"...

I am a firm practicioner of empathy. As wise man once said "Do not judge another man until you have walked a mile in his shoes..." To me, this sums up the human equation beyond compare. If we are to communicate with the others in our lives, then what better way than to introduce them to what is special in yours?

Hey. Come meet "Big Blue"....

I flew them to the Moon... We walked along the slim, black line of Rupes Recta. To me, Copernicus is beyond compare... To them? Just another crater. I try my best here, by centering up Clavius and giving the crater count challenge. The interest lasts but a moment, but at least I tried, eh? Really look at Plato, will you? For the Alpine Valley may have long been healed, but it's left a scar. Please. Please look at Mons Piton and Pico... Aren't they something?

Trying again, I turned the mighty scope toward the Andromeda Galaxy. Stretching out far and wide, I find it incredible... To think! We can peer through the vast reaches of outer space and right into another cosmos! And look here... If you use the joystick just a bit, there's two others as well! Just look at how different each of them are!

Aren't they something?

Trying again, I went to the M15. The amount of resolution this scope gives brings me to my knees. "And I could beg you please... For me?" Stars simply explode in the eyepiece. Really look at this! It's over fifteen billion years old... Amazing, huh? One of the most dense globular clusters in our system. Look at the edge there... See that fuzzy? It's a planetary nebula. This fellow is packed with everything you can think of... neutron stars, X-ray star... Possibly even a black hole!

Yawn...

We come down for a bit. I'm really trying my very best here. Let's walk outside the dome for awhile and watch for some shooting stars... I'm failing miserably here, and I don't know why. All I can do is take you all out here and babble like an idiot and pray that Saturn hurries up and rises before I lose you entirely. Come on...

I know I'm boring. I've been told that many times. But can you bear with me just a few more minutes? I'm aiming blind here... Saturn is still so low that all the finderscopes are pointed into the side of the dome. The very best I can do is turn the telrad on, get a trajectory and hope... We're not going to need a aperature mask, for the side of the dome is providing it quite well, eh? After about 20 tries, I look round to apologize and notice I'm alone. I understand instinctively that there's no real point, is there? And line up one more time...

There it is!

Calling out, I jump off the step ladder happy to vacate the eyepiece for what I think is one of the finest treats of all. Saturn is as big as a house in this scope! Sure, there's a bit of waiver because we're shooting through "sky soup" at this level... But just look at that! You can see all the ring divisions and the little moons and polar detail, and cloud tops, and... and...

I'm boring you silly, aren't I?

It's all right. I understand that neither one of you are "into astronomy". I just thought you might like to come and see what I do, eh? I just thought I'd try...

Closing up the dome, righting the scope, and shutting down the power just takes me a few minutes. I really am sorry that I cannot "connect" with you... It's just gone, isn't it? No hard feelings, eh? I do thank you for coming with me tonight, and I will stay in touch with your world as well. And even for those close to me that aren't "into astronomy", at least for that one moment perhaps you saw that light in my eyes that died so long ago.

I find it here in the stars...

"Well, today she dresses, for the change she's facing now. And in the storm that's raging,... A safe haven she has found. She doesn't care what the prophets say anymore. For the love she had...

She has no more."




November 10, 2002 - Sunspots 180 and 191... Dancing With Twisters...

Comments: Catching an occasional glimpse of raw sunlight meant that I had an opportunity to at least try to study the solar surface today. Cool by me... For I had to reassemble the equipment anyway. And what a rush it was just be be outdoors in mid November with temperatures in the lower 70's! But that kind of activity is going to cause some real problems of its' own, isn't it? Darn right. I know my sky... But we've hours yet. Let's go look at the Sun while it still shines!!

I had to at least try for a temporary illustration of the fantastic 180. Yesterday it unleased a lopsided coronal mass ejection that will roll past our planet on the 11th and 12th, triggering auroral activity. (Like we hadn't noticed this one was active, eh? ;) For now? Let's have a look...


Awesome, isn't it? Although I have only gotten to observe 180 three times, the most noticable change in the spot itself has been the pattern of the dispersion field. The leader spot has remained fairly true to its' orignal form and penumbral field, (although the edges of the penumbra were far more "ragged" in appearance when it was at the center of the solar disc.) but the series of followers have undergone tremendous shifts in position. When we realize that each of these fine "dots" on the Sun are approximately the size of the planet Mercury, and the entire complex itself spans more than ten Earth diameters, it puts a bit of perspective on it, doesn't it? Even the smallest of these areas is pumping out 1000 times more magnetic energy than our entire planet!

Not to be outdone, the incoming side is also showing some real promise. I did some intial filming and observations of 191, but its' really "cooking" in the Wilson Effect. Of course, that means the whole area is so distorted visually that it's next to impossible to do much more at this phase than to recognize the presence of yet another "bad boy" on the solar surface. Magnetogram information at this point is the only critical area of study... And it's twisting already, folks.

Could be we've got another rocker on our hands!

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

So what's this "Dancing With Twisters" business, eh? Hey, hey... This is not a drill. It is a fact of life when you live on the Plains. I knew when I had gone out to observe the Sun around lunch time that the sky was up to no good. You simply cannot have temperatures like that at this time of year and expect to get away with it. The wall clouds were building even then... And things were about to get much worse.

Sure, the dark clouds came and went. But by 4:00 I was standing out in the backyard and watching them spin. This is something you would have to see to understand, I guess. Having spent more than my fair share of time around tornadoes, I know when to go "On Alert". Trust me... Even the dogs knew something was brewing. (chicken H had removed his entire laundry basket full of toys and was happily doing his best to dig a fall out shelter behind the woodburner. ;)

It was well over an hour before the intial official warnings went up...

Of course, a certain fear is associated with this. Both of my sons were coming for a visit today, and the old time "House on the Hill" gang was assembling for my oldest boy's birthday. All of them traveling... And monsters are on the loose. I watched the system go past overhead breathing a sigh of relief... It's going to drop, but at least it's not going to drop here. It's moving away from the direction they are taking... Satisfied for now, I went back inside and up to my office to review my solar footage. I didn't stay long... Not more than 10 minutes after I sat down, H let out a cry that I never really want to hear repeated again. Glancing out my south facing window, I could see the edge of a huge black wall cloud approaching from the southwest...

Something wicked this way comes.

Shutting things down immediately, I grabbed only what I could not replace. Two video tapes and the box I keep my past observing records in... In the strong box and tucked in a "hidey hole", Then I went outside. This is not good. This is really not good. I can only hope that they are racing ahead of this and remember the lessons I taught them.

By now the weather alert radio was screeling its' hideous tones and warning us to take shelter. I am not a fool. I know what's on the way... And I'm not going without my boys. Seconds later an entourage of headlights came flying up the street... No sooner than they started jumping from their cars than the winds began to lash us from all sides and the rain beat down. There's no time. Do you understand me? No time. Grabbing the flashlight and the radio the whole gang headed right back into the cars to seek shelter in the village's church basement. There's no time.

And so, my friends... You will recognize the fact that if I'm writing this, we all made it through quite safely. But we were touched, eh? Less than four miles away. Other were not so fortunate, and many people lost their lives. According to the reports, my beloved Lakeside Strand was ripped up in its' entirety and dumped in Erie... All around us the twisters danced, and we danced with them.

Smiling and laughing, when the danger had passed the "House On The Hill" gang hopped back into their cars, turned up the rock and roll, headed out across country and made short work of a delightful Chinese buffet. Terry, my son? Happy Birthday to you... Betcha' won't forget this one for awhile, eh?!

And me? I curled up with a blanket beside the window to watch the last of the lightning and fell asleep to the sound of thunder rolling across the plains...

No ruby slippers for this kid... ;)

"December promise you gave unto me. December whispers of treachery.... December clouds are now covering me.

December songs no longer I sing..."



November 9, 2002 - Public Night...

Comments: Ah, now... Don't you just know that the last scheduled "Public Night" for 2002 just had to be clouded out? Just another lesson is astronomy, eh? You don't make a date with the sky... She makes a date with you!

No matter. I still have the most wonderful of times just attending the monthly RCAS meetings. I like the sense of "community" - or "family", if you will. I know my hands were shaking when you handed me that set of much revered books, Mike... Thanks are not enough. I think you of all people understand exactly what they mean to me. And Dave? Thanks for the trade, eh? The chesire eyepiece will serve the Club very well... Monty? The software looks fascinating!

So here I sit, my arms loaded with treasures... And I've got a big mouth, eh? Hehehheheee... We learn by asking questions, do we not? And anytime you tire of my "learning curve"? Just say "~T... Shut up." And I will comply. Momentarily... ;)

Of course, we are all anxious to view the Leonid Meteor shower, and plans are made for a group to attend at the Observatory both the night of, and the Saturday prior to the shower's peak. I wish my work schedule would allow me to attend every function, but if not? You know I wish you all the best... And I look forward to helping with scheduled programs! So, if we cannot observe tonight? Why not haunt the local eatery?!

Cuz' there's nothing finer than sitting at the "Round Table"... And listening to the "Knight's Tales"...

"Why throw away your basic needs? For ambiance and vanity..."



November 8, 2002 - Saturn, Jupiter, M42, M41, M44, M65, M66, M81, M82, M51 and Venus... At the Observatory...

Comments: Hey, hey... Nothing is sweeter than a fine sky holding for you while you rest. After last night's fine explorations, I wouldn't have been angry if we had been back to clouds. And trust me... I surely wasn't mad because it was still clear!!

Hustling myself ready for work, I grabbed my four constant companions and headed out the back door - these two dogs, a cup of coffee and you.... But which scope to chose from? I realize the Intes legendary capabilities on planets, and I know I'm going to be kneeling in the grass to use it. The 4.5 means cheese easy set up - just whack it outside the door and open it up - but it's aperature limited, eh? The Orion SVD8 is off the mount... So that leaves just one!

And if I can't have the one? I don't want none. ;)

Cool down convention aside, (hey, hey... it's within 5 degrees of outdoor and i ain't practicing rocket science here...) I uncovered the dob, went for the good 26mm and took aim at Saturn. Holy Mo! Talk about stellar field.... Not only did the tiny troopers jump right out at me, but a host of fine stars as well! Titan is lodged firmly in front of the planet at the moment, and shining like a beacon. Iaepetus must also be our direction, for the normally low surface brightness little buddy is absolutely easy! Tethys, Rhea, Dione... Marching their way toward the backside of the planet at the ring edge... And what a ring! Even at this minimal magnification, the Cassini looks very bold at the edges, and the beautiful yellowish body of Saturn itself dances with grey striations. Magnificent!!

Reminding myself that time is limited, Jupiter comes next. Once again, a highly stellar field!! Because some time has elapsed since I've visited Jove last, the dimensional quality of the galiean moons blows me away. The three strung out to one side are so noticably distant from one another that it arrests the eye! Despite it's bright influence, the eyepiece dances with distant points of light, and it is somewhat hard for me to concentrate of surface features. Trying to remember my nomenclature, I seem to recall that fine dark band as being the Northern something or other... The next one up is relatively devoid of detail, but the whiter band shows some great hash marks that look something like /////... (how professinal, eh?) The Southern band looks mottled, and both polar zones looked windswept somehow. Perhaps this year I will get into some honest surface study...

And perhaps I'll just say to heck with it and galaxy hop, eh?

Making a cursory pass over the M42, (you'd have to see in during a quality sky with the DOB to believe it... the tendrils alone could freeze you in place far longer than you expect!) and a run over the M41, I decided to visit that fuzzy patch of light that's ghosting itself ahead of Jupiter. We're talking about the magnficent M44 here... And all the variences in magnitude and color are simply amazing!

Stepping down off the ladder, I snatched my cup and stood laughing and hooting at the multitude of bright meteors. Each rebel yell brought a pair of gleeful dogs round for a romp through my observing area - For they have missed the sky, too! A glance at my watch tells me I still have plenty of time, and Leo's position means there is a pair I can squeeze in the same field of view if I can only remember how to get there...

Are you kidding? I count Messiers in my sleep. ;)

With the M65 and M66 just barely able to fit into the eyepiece, I delight in their dualities. One a great silver oval, and the other with its' fine "finger" of light. Heaven help me, for I can remember exactly where they are at, but for the life of me I can't remember which is which this morning!! Does it matter? Not at all.

The next hop is also toward a pair, but I cannot cram them both into the same field of view with the 26mm. Like I care, huh? The M81's bold nucleas and stretched out form is such a pleasure after all this time.... Why, just even the slightest of aversion this morning shows the tips of the spiral arms! Dig it.... Just a breath away, that lumpy form of the M82 still reminds me of kite string wrapped round a stick. (did you ever fly a kite? great fun... like dressing for halloween, i still buy a kite each year during the spring and fly that baby... when we get too old to play, we get old, eh? ;) The notch along its' structure is simple and clean... The stars themselves are curdled in patches along its' irregular form.

Still grinning, I take shape at another I know in both heart and soul. Hey, there.... How long has it been, M51? Too long... Just look at your strong arms! Wow.. Just look at all of the knots of distant clusters and the deep, dark dust lanes. Just look at that brilliant nucleas! I see you still hold your little playmate captive, don't you? Oh, man... You send me everytime you're around! Like no other...

Putting my toys away for now, I finish up my morning routines to head for work. As I am walking out to my car, I stop to gaze over the now barren land to the east, admiring the dawn staining the sky like. What's this? Stopping in my tracks I could no more not look than I can not smile...

Venus has returned.

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

Although the skies eroded as the day went on, they stayed passing fair for a private program at the Observatory tonight. As always, it is my great pleasure to help in any way I can!

Hustling the Intes and the 4.5 into the car, I grabbed up my field notes and my favourite lunar book and headed out. It seemed like the sky was darkening far faster than I was allowed to go! (yes, officer biddle... i appreciate your kind warning and i am behaving myself. ;) Watching how quickly the Moon was lowering to the west, I knew I was going to have to hustle two scopes together the moment I arrived.

And I wasn't wrong.

I was surprised at how many guests had already arrived when I got there. John already had the club's 10" Meade set up and the dome opened, and there were anxious faces everywhere! Starting assembly for the Intes, I knew immediately there wasn't going to be time. We needed a mobile scope to capture Selene before she went into the trees... And we needed it now. Two wing nuts and one bolt later the 4.5 was ready to fly. With a crowd of people following me (and by crowd, i mean three to four times as many as we normally have on a public night) we kept moving up the Hill, through the hedges, and where ever it took for every last person to get a look at our glorious lunar surface! And tonight? You get a two for one bargain as well... Cuz' there's a right sweet occultation in the making as well!

Like the Pied Piper, the 4.5 led the people back down to level ground where the "Nickle Tour" began in earnest. While some went ff to stand in line for a peek through "Big Blue", others hung round while we toured the Milky Way. What did we look at? Ah, now... If you know me, you know exactly what targets were prepared in advance and executed, eh? Big ones... Little ones... Everyone had their turn at all the scopes. While I would set the 10 on something new, I simply gave the older ones free reign with the 4.5 to explore.

In other words? A magnificent time...

Eventually Monty, Joe and Mike joined us as well making the circle complete. Our laughter joined that of our guests as ~T prepared to eat the dustcover for the scope. (pass the salt and the A1, will you? it makes eating a bit of crow much easier... i thought it was castor, honest! ;) After recovering from my bout with dyslexia, we all went on to have a magnificent time viewing Saturn in our variety of scopes and magnifications. (cool to watch how fast it runs in an undriven scope at high power, isn't it?)

As our guests left, we trickled down as well. The clouds were starting to come back, but hey... It was still a great night. Loading a CD into the stereo I am more than happy to spend some alone time at the eyepiece of "Big Blue" with a fuzzy Saturn for as long as I can still see it. And when it's gone? Time to level the scope, close the dome, shut down the power and head on back to where I belong.

Right here with you...

"Why follow me to higher ground? Lost as you think I am..."



November 7, 2002 - The Sun... The "Ottoman" and the Moon, Almach, Albeiro, Epsilon Lyrae, M57, M31, M32, M110 and the NGC869 & 884... The 4.5 and M56, M15, M27, and the NGC457... Walking the DOB thru the Pegasus Study Field...

Comments: Hoooo YEAH! Finally a break in the clouds... Sure, the afternoon skies were still hazy, but give me enough Sun to cast a shadow, and I'm on it!

What a surprise! The two major groups I studied last have made some dramatic changes in their appearance since the last I saw them. We're talkin' about 176 and 177... Obviously the one has undergone a mitosis... For I don't remember it being subdivided in the umbral region! (and neither does my study photos...) Oh! Hey... Before we go any further, let's have a look, eh?


SOHO MDI imaging


Isn't that spectacular? Remember the rocker I told you about the was just rounding the limb? Well, it's name is 180... and you cannot miss it! Stretching about 10 Earth diameters across the center of the solar surface this one is definately being a "bad boy"! Not only is it very complex in magnetic design, with irregular umbra/penumbra fields, hoardes of followers, and enough plague action to keep any solar viewer happy.... It's also holding that great beta/gamma/delta class and ready to knock out some X-class flares! Very, very fine spot to check out!!

And, as always... I'm checking in. ;)

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

Still giving me a break at this end of the world, the clouds stay away after sunset. The appearance of the slender three day Moon gave me a wistful feeling - and this time I followed my longings.

Mounting the "Ottoman" back onto the EQ, it was definately time to take it out and learn to use this grand scope. Taking care to move the tripod legs well up in advance, I honestly polar aligned and went back to doing things "by the book". It's time to Moon Walk....

Despite a little bit of atmospheric "boil", I was exceptionally pleased at the crisp, clean edged images. Mare Crisium was simply beautiful. The mountain range along the western edge look wonderfully tall, and the eastern slopes and magnificently lit. Approximately 40 miles away stands the undeniable shape of 81 by 92 mile crater Cleomides. At nearly 5 billion years old, Cleomides is almost as ancient as the Moon itself. It's striking interior craters look almost unfathomably deep and black, while edge crater Burckhardt displays its' many rings.

Of course, the first craters I learned are here as well... Geminus and Masala are old friends of mine. And Endymion and I have a nodding acquaintance as well! Now, before she goes into the trees, let us take awhile and enjoy Mare Fedcunditatis and all those great little black carters in the interior and near Langrenus as well!

Feeling rather exhilarted by the cold wind and actually getting the use the Intes again, I thought I'd continue on with a bit of practice. Gamma Andromeda was a true pleasure as I am learning to revel in "airy disc"... Albeiro was equally as entertaining, and Epsilon Lyrae? Damn, Intes... Very fine at all ranges of magnification!

With the Moon now out of the picture, I figured it best to continue with at least a few DSO practice runs so Otto won't be ashamed of me at public demonstrations. Fortunately, the M57 came quite easily. The lowering postion in the sky made it so! (i'm sorry, but i'm still having trouble learning to use the mak design with ease...) M31, as well as the M32 and M110 were not only easy to find, but I was very pleased at their appearance at 40mm. The "Double Cluster", although it should have been easy to find, (because i can see exactly where it is at...) presented a bit more of a challenge, but I met it, overcame it, and enjoyed it! (so please... let me say that i have never appreciated cor and otto's observations, or jeff's sincere talents at finding difficult studies more than i do right now. it's a very fine scope, but seems akward in my hands. i'll never forget my patience, practice and persistance... and one day i'll do you proud. promise. ;)

Of course, for some odd reason, that old 4.5 had followed me out the door as well. Just like these crazy dogs, eh? And I long to use it as well... Hey. No one's stopping me, right? Darn right! Let's give the old kid a photon blast as well....

First up? Mr. "Hedgehog" himself.... Nice, phat little gloublar cluster - both well seen and well understood in the limited aperature of the Celestron. As is the M15... The stellar field at low magnfication makes this one (or should, anyhow... ;) an equally interesting example to use for future "Nickle Tours". The M27 is still in very good position yet, and although the 4.5 is going to cut it apart as beautifully for study, it does make it very bright and reveals the "living" qualities of this spectrally superior patch of gas! On now to Cassiopeia... A brush over her opens a minimal aperature, and keeping in mind that the people whom I'm going to be showing this to will not pick up, nor understand the very fine clusters, I decided that the NGC457 was the best of the lot and practiced going off axis and returning about a dozen times or so. (thereby assuring that the finderscope could be 83 million light years off and i can still find it... ;)

So... practiced "To Go" objects are ready for public presentation. I'm feeling confident that the DSOs for either scope can be found in a snap, and what I've chosen to reveal through either scope will make even the youngest of "star partiers" glad they came!

Ready to play?

Putting away the other two scopes, I pulled the DOB out to my favourite spot and started the process of cool down. A quick check of the finder shows it to be spot on. Now, I'm ready to duck back inside for an hour, have a cup of coffee, review my notes, and go back out for some serious study. I did not reconnect the Magellan unit. If I am going to call these studies my own, they will be so because I earned them. I have two hours before I must break for rest, and I have every intention of finding my marks.

Cuz' if I'm gonna' ride that "Crazy Train"? It will be because I laid the tracks.... Not bought a ticket!

"Don't worry about. Don't speak of doubt. Turn you head now, baby... Just spit me out."





November 2/3, 2002 - Pegasus Study Field... M42, M41, M93, M46, M47 and NGC2362...

Comments: The night is my oubliette. It has always been so. Waking to clear, dark skies... I grabbed my notes and my walkman and took the 12.5 out for some study. I am rather disappointed in myself for I reconnected the Magellan system. So much time has passed between studies that I cannot find these faint objects without assistance in the time frame I have tonight. Once again, I find myself walking in the distant light of faint galaxies...

Thanks to computer confirmation, I achieved my study marks for tonight in less than 90 minutes.

Since it is quite cold here, I decided to just tip the dob down in case of frost and go warm up for awhile. Work will consume me here shortly, and a meal and coffee will be welcome. If the sky is still clear? I'll go back out for just a few more before I go.

M42 required no guidance... And I went no further than the 32mm. It was grand just the way it was. M41 is also a given. I like the curl of stars and the memories it brings back. M93 required the map. Sweet Sue! What a beautiful open cluster... It looks like hundreds of stars explode in an elongated fashion. Perhaps a handful overlay a well resolved density. M46 also required the map. Again... A dazzling open cluster. Very rich field of stars - like a cloud of diamond dust - with a bright one at the edge. (mmmmm... isn't? nah... wasn't there?.... forget it, ~T. doesn't mattter.) M47 was a short hop away, also confirmed by the map. Very loose open cluster of mainly blue sequence stars. Well resolved and posesses a variety of magnitudes. Faint double in the center. NGC2362 is also a very loose open with Tau Canis Majoris as its' centerpiece. Perhaps two dozen varying magnitude stars present. That's enough for me. Duty calls.

Another oubliette...

"Don't scream about. Don't think aloud. Turn your head now, baby.... Just spit me out."




November 2, 2002 - Meteors and Coffee... The Sun...

Comments: Hey. It's no great secret that I work some pretty funky hours, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was up at 4:00 a.m. I surely wasn't awake when I passed by that eastward facing window and saw something a bit unusual. Hunting round for my glasses, I decided it wasn't a reflection after all... It was a thin sliver of orange Moon!

Clear skies? Suprise, suprise.

Growling about, I put some coffee on and tossed a couple of logs in the stove. It's getting mighty cold here in Ohio, and this morning was no exception. Dogs dancing about in anticipation, I could see Sirius before I even opened the sliding glass door. Throwing a blanket round my shoulders, I stepped out onto the deck with them. No sooner than I looked up than a brilliant meteor creased the starry skies! Totally awesome...

Of course, I'm wide awake now and seriously considering taking the 12.5 out for a stroll. My curiousity about studying the Hubble Variable Nebula needs satisfied, as well as some quiet time with dark sky. Dressing for work, I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed toward the garage. I hadn't even reached the door when another bright fireball made a visually "sizzling" appearance to the East!

To scope, or not to scope?

You know what? I chose not this morning. There is just something very fine about seeing Orion, Leo, Cancer (you couldn't miss the M44!) and Ursa Major again. Add a very generous sprinkling of quicksilver meteors and a cup of Folger's finest and I'm a happy camper! One who is quite willing to eat my granola bar while looking up.

And one who still laughs out loud when the meteors dance across the sky...

"Why drink the water from my hand? Contagious as you think I am..."


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

Of course, working an early shift also means getting back here in enough time to do a bit of solar observance as well! And trust me, I was chomping at the bit when I saw sunlight for those work hours to end....

Pleased that the sky had stayed clear, I hustled to get the 4.5 set up, grabbed my camera and went for it! Hello, there 176 and 177... So you're the two big bad boys who've been kicking up such a fuss before you rounded the corner, eh? Then let's have a good close look at you...


Well, well.... Not exactly complex souls, are you? Nice, phat umbral regions. Decently dispersed and mature penumbras. A few minor spots series in between, and and rather unremarkable series of follower spots that appear to lack the active dispersion fields. Looks like you've spent your energy, eh?

Rounding the limb, spot 179 looks far more entertaining. Locked in the Wilson effect, the faculae around this flare activie spot is most remarkable! (and yes, i filmed it, too... but i can't be shed of the noise lines across the bottom, so forget using it... even temporarily.) Looks to me like if there were one just bristlng with magnetic energy, this would be it!

For now, that's enough. This kid has hours to go, and miles before I sleep. Perhaps, with luck, I'll have a chance to observe before I go in tonight...

And maybe I'll just be happy that I go to see the Sun, eh?

"Just tilt my Sun toward your domain... And your cup runneth over again."