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October 30 and 31, 2002 - Of Tricks and Treats...

Comments: Hey. The weather here has been basically rotten for astronomy. The days are filled with stone grey clouds, cold rain and biting wind... And the nights? Not much better. After a cursory check on the sky at dark, clouds were all I could see, so I sat myself down with a couple of pumpkins and a sharp knife. What better way to spend the evening than by the fire creating a vegetable masterpiece, eh? Darn right.

After having done what little decorating I do for the season, I once again checked the sky. Still no go. So how about we put together a costume, eh? You might think it strange that a person of my mature years still enjoys "dressing" for Halloween, but it is a custom that I've followed all my life. Who am I to break a tradition? ;) And the cedar wardrobe holds testimony to those many seasons... For I have been many, many things.

And very seldom the same twice.

Deciding on something with an international flair, I smooth the wrinkles out in the layers of silk and velvet, and open a bottle of wine. Time for this old kid to simply relax by the fire... Perhaps watch a program on haunted places and just scratch the dog's ears for awhile. Take it easy...

And I made the mistake of going out and looking up.

What a rotten trick! The total cloud cover we had earlier was now gone... In its' place was a sky as black as the velvet of my costume, and the cold wind had subsided to just a whisper as soft as silk that will join it. The stars were singing! Should I answer the call to harmonize? Aye. Underneath it all, I can be no one but who I am.

One who takes the greatest of pleasures in just curling up here on the park bench...

And dreaming amongst the stars.

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Halloween Day dawned cloudy. Did you expect it to be any differently? Donning my robes and tying my turban on, it was time to head for work. Smiles and jokes are all part of the game! I mean, how could you not laugh at someone who has quite fooled you with a rather authentic costume, eh? Besides, there are actually people who come here just to see how outlandish I can be from year to year! Grinning my way through the day, I was quite ready for "Trick Or Treat"...

Lighting the candles in the pumpkins at sunset, I didn't hold much hope for my yearly ritual of treating the little "tricksters to a view through the 4.5. They would just have to be satisfied with a mountain of candy, eh? But when the first young'un arrived and asked why I didn't have the scope set out, I felt badly because it was cloudy. Smiling because this one remembered having visited here before, I told him to keep watch. If the sky should clear? Come back...

Not more than 15 minutes after I made that statement, than the skies began to open. Instead of a trick, tonight I get a treat?!? Awesome!!!

Hustling the 4.5 out to the front lawn, I made an ultra fast (and surprisingly accurate) polar alignment (you see, i honestly did so for years and years... ) and put the NGC6543 right in the eyepiece and set out the stepladder. So, not only did each "little goblin" get a double handful of candy.... But a view of the incredibly spooky "Cat's Eye" as well! ;)

Would you take candy from the "Sultan of the Stars"?

Of course, the inevitable happens. The older children that I invite to come round after Trick Or Treat time ends, do indeed return. Some of them I recognize from previous years, and their happy chatter about how cool the Moon looks pleases me to no end. But this year, there is no Moon. Now we can really fly!

As porch lights began to turn off round the village, I lead my group out to the darkness of the backyard, and leave them laughing and talking together as I bring out the dob. Turning on the rock and roll quietly, I can feel their anticipation build, for this ain't no little scope! Conversations and questions begin flying at me faster than I can answer... But why try? All the answer are right here.

The lie in the incredible beauty of the M13 and the story of our own galaxy's halo and the formation of globular clusters. What finer mystery is there than the M57, a smoke "Ring" in the sky? (and teachers? listen up... for these kids are absorbing what you tell them.) And when we've discussed what caused it, we turn it sideways and have a different point of view with the M27! Then we began talking stars in earnest... And, well, one thing led to the next, eh? As Vega, Altair, Deneb, Enif, Albeiro, and Algol all come into play. As our group discussions turn to the Milky Way, (they were astonished because you can see it so very clearly from my observing site...) we talk about our galaxy's structure and how we comprehend the outer arm of our own system. What more glorious way to show them stars than the "Double Cluster", eh? And to journey at last to the Andromeda Galaxy....

Finest kind, my friend. Finest kind.

The 4.5 is freed from lockup, and eager hands take the controls to "SkySurf". No greater treat could I have recieved than to hear those eager cries as they view the perfection of the night through their own guidance. And as each searches? The rest are willing to learn the constellations, and realize that a great many wonderful things are visible without the scope! Just a bit of patience is all it takes to show them exactly where the Andromeda Galaxy and the Double Cluster are... without a scope!

One young man comes and put his arm round me, and tells me that I remind him of a Magi. I am very humbled. For I am nothing more than an old backyard astronomer. My desert robes are borrowed. But my love of the stars is true. If tonight you see me as Melchior? Then may this moment last you each and every year at Halloween. (Cuz' next year you might be getting lessons from a gorilla... ;)

When at last they depart, I smile as I put my "toys" away. The sky is still quite beautiful, but the "Sultan of the Stars" is getting rather tired. Time for me to untie my turban and disrobe. perhaps finish the rest of last night's forgotten wine.

Curl up in the chair by the fire... And dream.

"In silent lucidity."



October 28/29, 2002 - ~T Minus Two Minutes and Counting...

Comments: It all started with a light wave. Just one single ray of sunshine that pierced through the clouds, scattered through the window glass, caught the edge of a beveled mirror and painted a rainbow on the wall. Funny how once you learn something, you can never see it in quite the same way again, eh? For once upon a time, I would have seen it as just a pretty reflection, but now I see it as solar spectra. And where there's a single ray of sunshine? There's got to be Sun...

Setting my trusty observing buddy, the 4.5 and Orion filter out, we waited patiently until the clouds thinned enough to take alignment - and off we go! The radical spot series of 162 and 165 has now rotated exactly parallel to where I saw it last. The leader spot has remained awesome! Huge, oil black umbra and crystal-like mature penumbral field still exists, and the shape has only marginally changed in the last several days. What is more of interest is the series of follower spots... They've done more shifting of positions than a complex football play. The one who had an almost "comet-like" shape has remained, but apparently some of them have coalesced for there is another very mature umbra/penumbral in the dispersion field.

Having "virtually" followed the activity during cloudout, I knew this series had been responsible for a decent CME, and I was glad of a chance to both view and film it. Even though the video camera doesn't exactly "rock the house" with its' still, untouched frames, what it does is invaluable to me. The clouds are sweeping so fast today that I would not have had a chance to make a comprehensive sketch for comparison. But, by aiming that simple camera into the eyepiece, I can take a quick, very easy, photographic record to study at my leisure. And the changes in the follower series are dramatic when viewed in this fashion!! Very impressive...

Also "hot" in the news, (thanks for catching me up, mon ami!) is a new series that is about to rotate in on the eastern limb. It has been kicking up a major fuss on the far side and is producing some nice prominences ahead of its' appearance. Although I did study the eastern limb during my intital observations, I merely dismissed some of this action as atmospheric "boil" and cloud effect. But after having viewed through the eyes of SOHO, I just had to take it back out again and power up. Hey! That isn't a cloud effect after all!
And it was worth doing again...

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

Keeping watch on the sky the rest of the afternoon was a mixed pleasure. The scudding clouds produced rapid sundogs, projecting that great spectra onto the sky.... and hiding all but the very most brave of blue holes. I don't know why, but I'd gathered my favourite eyepieces together and was seriously considering heading out for the observatory. But these daggone clouds keep telling me that it's not going to justify the drive!

Next time? I'm listening to my instinct...

No sooner than the sky got dark, Ohio was treated to 5 ULM skies. The Milky Way was singing, the edge of Saggitarius was still holding, and the stars came alive. Afraid those clouds would come back at any given moment, I snatched the Orion SVD8 up and headed for my favourite spot. Practice time! I started off following the rules. Honest. Polar aligned... Going by the book. Fighting with the mount to find the M13, the M57 and M56, each object became like a treasure as I flipped through my retinue of eyepieces delighting in the amount of resolution this scope can achieve. Absolutely sweet... The Orion 8" SkyView Deluxe is one very capable little scope! We're talking about pulling chaining out of the M13, edge stars and braiding on the M57, and clumping on the M56! That's walking toward the edge of what the 12.5 can do, in a very small, compact...

And very stubborn package.

OK. I got mad at it. I'll freely admit that. After well over a decade of using an equatorial mount that when loosened, moves as freely as a dobsonian - this stiff, akward, won't turn this way, won't roll that way, mount got to me. Still afraid the clouds would cruise back in before I got a chance to really use this new scope, I abandoned my P of Patience, tossed the P of Practice up where the cold wind could snatch it away, and went directly to the best P of all... Persistence.

Orion? Meet Taurus... ;)

Breaking all the rules, I started star hopping. I couldn't have been more pleased to see the little M75 again! Nice little globular. And what's more? A bit of a stroll down memory lane to find the NGC6822 and NGC6816. Mr. Wizard's Galaxy does passing well at this aperature! Magnification shreds it, but the good Meade 26mm reveals a faint sheen with a little furball of a planetary nearby. Sweet....

Dancing up, I breeze over the bright, open form of the M26, catch the unremarkable signature of small globular NGC6712 and halt on the M11. Let's really check out the "Ducks" tonight... At 9mm I'm still not real kicked on single star image, but it's rocking out awesome color display, perhaps a hundred very well resolved points of light, and that fantasy underlying "density" that only aperature can achieve. I can forgive your mount when you start resolving things out like that!

Turning things round, I headed up the Milky Way in my old, comfortable fashion. Admiring the M27 and M71 in the passive 26mm, and delighting in the powerful displays of open clusters Cr399 and NGC6940. I was getting antsy to galaxy hop because as the sky had continued to darken, we had moved to a very sweet 6 ULM!! But a little bird in the back of my head said to continue on with Practice (probably a canadian goose... ;) so I swatted memory target M15 out of the sky to study. Great at 26mm... Kickin' at 9! Just as with the dob, I get a sense of golden stars. Very well resolved, but not in its' entirety, I was quite pleased to see the furry little signature of the planetary nebula that lurks inside this co-rulebreaker!

And since I'm still shattering convention, it's time to look at the maps and have a go at the "Saturn Nebula". A bit of a hunt, but well worth the effort when found! The SVD8 takes in this high surface brightness, most undeniably blue plantary nebula and gives it structure. No evidence of a central star, but at 9mm its' resemblance to Saturn seen in a dream is undeniable. Now! One more test of resolution, and a great view of the M2! Not even close in brightness to the M13, the ultra-grainy, slightly chainy, ball of stars reminds me greatly of the M22. I am very pleased at the amount of resolution!

Still walking that fearful line that the clouds might come back, I continued to shatter convention and turned the whole setup round to galaxy hunt. Of course, Andromeda simply has to come first, eh? After all, it's not exactly presenting a challenge to find... ;) Oh, my... We've got more than two degrees of span here tonight. NGC206 surprisingly reveals itself when I kick in the 17mm. Pushing the bright influence of the M31 aside, (t wasn't easy with that magnificent golden core smacking your galaxy starved eyes, i tell you..) I continue to revel in the stretched out fantasy of the M110, and firm, well rounded form of the M32. These are cool, but I want to see exactly what sold me on this scope! And the M33 shows me why... Apparently the fast configurations of the SVD8 simply excels at low surface brightness objects! (uh oh... vic? i've got some new questions...) I have often referred the the Triangulum Galaxy as the "Flying Dutchman" because the dob obliterates certain structure. At 26mm the Orion rewards me with the brightest portrait of the M33 I've ever seen!! Now, I wanna' know why...

You like low surface brightness, eh? Then show me the "Veil"...

Turning things round again, I headed back toward double star 52. I'll be damned. (i'm sorry for swearing, but that was exactly what i said when i saw it.) Extending to either side of 52 was a long, lacey looking filament. I could trace it even when 52 moved out of the field of view! Sweet, Josephine... I was entranced. The combination of clean, dark skies and a rich field scope has definately left an impression upon me.

The cold has started to creep in on me, and when I hear my favourite rock station announce the "90's at 9" coming up - I can see why. I've been at this for over two hours! And still no clouds, eh? (ah, "big blue"... i should have gone with my intuition.)

Latching on to this heavy little beast, we head out to the east side yard to get away from an obstructing tree. Turning the set up northward, I take out the map. It's been a very long time since I've gone for this target, and I need the assistance. Hey, hey. Can you guess? The NGC6543 was what I wanted, and thanks to patient guidance of Theta Draco I eventually found it. The "Cat's Eye" is brilliant in this scope at 17mm. It reminds me of the Helix in its' stringy braids, yet holds the depth of the "Ring". It gives a soft sense of blue/green/grey in coloration, but it's major appeal is that absolutely undeniable central star. Now, THAT is what I call fun!!

Smiling, I patted the little black pig's side. You know what? You're alright, kid. I think I kinda' like you. But it's time for me to go warm up a bit, and let something else cool down, eh?

Because every dob deserves to bark in the night...

When I returned, I happily undraped the linen sleeve off the dob. Cassiopeia was simply brilliant and I felt just like a quiet rock on her lap. I've often told others to forget trying to put numbers on everything, and simply enjoy what you're doing... And it's time for me to follow my own advice. I feel so free with this telescope. I don't have to struggle with levers and knobs. All the "Great White" asks is "Won't you touch me? Touch me?" and it will take you to wherever you want to go. John Dobson? Wherever you are, know this... I can never thank you enough.

After having allowed my eyes more than enough time to reaccustom, I was ready. Cepheus still sits fine and easy and there is a pair I want. The good 32mm does justice to the NGC6946 and NGC7023. The soft spiral of the 6946 is a vague halo around a powerful core, and dancing at the edge of the field is the fully resolved, fine stars of open cluster 7023. These two have been favourites of mine for some time, and it is good to see them again. I can't help it if I miss you.

The glittering chain of Perseus is positioned so at the moment that I will not need a ladder. But is it high enough to give what I want? Of course, silly. When you can see the stars through the tree tops of the distant woods on the horizon, you know darn well you can take it out! Why are you waiting? Afraid you've forgotten how to dance in the dark?

Shifting the scope to Algol means I have to walk from memory. My maps don't list this. Neither does Mr. Burnham. It was a present given to me by a friend long ago, and I've never forgotten you. Breathe in now... One... Two... Touch... Just a touch... Mmmmmmmm! Back to Algol... Gosh, you're bright! Must be on the upswing... One... Two... Touch. Drat! Back to Algol. Oh, smack me!! (ouch, ok! if was a figure of speech.. ;) Don't blind yourself on the demon! Easy now... One.. Two... Touch... Oh, so softly... Right there... Ah, yes...

Come. Come here, please. I need you. I want you to see this. It's called Abell Cluster 426. All of these... All of these tiny beauties are galaxies. Yes, there are a few pinpoint stars in the field, but look beyond them... How many? How many do you see? I walk softly away for a moment. As always, I am moved deeply. When I go back to the eyepiece I reject emotion and look again. I can confirm fourteen easily. And then my eye gets confused... I start to blur them together. Or maybe it's just because my eyes are trying to water a bit...

Best walk away now.

Standing at the edge of the field, I give myself two minutes to smoke the whole thing to my head, and feel it wash away. Two minutes and counting...

Auriga's bright stars are calling, and again it's no chore to pinpoint where to aim for the M36, M37, and M38. It's been a very long time since I've seen those as well, and it's a pure pleasure responding to the photons thrown off by these bright, rich clusters. I know of something else quite near the M38, and it's long overdue for a visit as well. AE Aurigae is known as the "Flaming Star" and it is quite a beauty at 17mm. Soft filaments and a hazy halo, much like an airy disc accompanies this unusual star and it's emission nebula known as IC405. Also not far away is a tiny open cluster designated as NGC1893. Much like a tiny "Rosette" nebula, this small open is also haloed by emission, known as IC410. A soft wisp is all you get visually, but I can only imagine what an OII filter would do!

Enjoying this effect immensely, I hop over to the Plieades to grasp at the Merope Nebula as well. This one is always quite fine! The effect of being smeared in the eyepiece is the only to describe it. (and i'm diggin' on the tiny red heart as well...)

Still feeling galaxy minded? The let's walk the dob out to the south field. Aries? I want you. Alpha, Beta, Gamma... Mesarthim! Nice to see you again... Just passing by. And into Pices... Yeah. Right there! Hello, M74! You are very fine right here at 26mm, my little faded friend... Now, let's go "eye easy". Delicious. The core structure is very round and far more intense that the faded arms that curl round. Just stay loose and easy, and it reminds me a great deal of the M51. Splendid!

I'm feeling the cold. I've no idea of what time it is, but Orion is quite cleared the horizon. Let's go zone in on Gemini and the M35... Just because, eh? ;) Top notch colors and totally resolved, I want to study a certain little beast here. Yep. No doubt about it, my dark fantasy... That little open cluster is the NGC2158. Now, let's go warm up and confirm it electronically, shall we?

Although I kept things as dark as possible, I've kinda' lost the urge to galaxy hop. Perhaps the hours I've spent at the eyepiece are beginning to take their toll, or maybe it's because the cold has found its' way into my bones. A small glass of bandy and a few minutes beside the fire feels rather nice, and when I go back out I feel a bit more like just enjoying why I appreciate the 12.5 so much. Like taking apart Rigel, revealing the tiny stars of Beta Monocerotis, kickin' Sigma Orionis apart, and smiling very widely at what I can I can do to the Trapezium. Does it matter what I see? Not in the least...

A quick visit with the M1, and a reaffirmation of Wasat and the NGC2392. The Moon is on the rise, ~T. You've got two minutes and counting...

Saturn? You bet. 9mm walks the Cassini and gives great planetary diversifications. Back it off a bit, and just enjoy the entourage of moons leading the way. I don't feel like playing Encke games. Now, you see me and now you don't....

I'm ready, Freddy. Hurtin' from the cold... Time for me to find a relief pill and hang up my eyepieces for the night. But let's take a glance at the Moon first, ok? Ouch. Plato. What is this? How you remind me night? Hehehhehe... Ah, she's beautiful, this Selene. From Moretius, Clavius, Tycho on down... Take over for me, sister.

I'm ready to go dream...

"You're safe from pain in the dream domain... A soul set free to fly. A round trip journey in your head. Master of illusion, can you realize? Your dream's alive, you can be the guide. But, I will be watching over you. I am gonna help you see it through. I will protect you in the night.

I am smiling next to you..."



October 24, 2002 - M57, M56, M71, M27, M15, M31, M32, M110, NGC7789, and the M52...

Comments: So... Now you're asking yourself "why" am I hounding the same targets? First off, the sky wasn't that great last night. Thin clouds lit by a rising Moon... There's perhaps less than a half an hour before it's going to eradicate things completely. Not a deep sky night by any means.

The only telescope that came outside with me last night was that poor, battered old Celestron 4.5. The only eyepiece that left the case was a chipped and smeared 25mm SMA. I did not polar align and I did not adjust tripod height. I carried it out, whacked it down on the grass in my favourite spot and turned on the rock and roll. Why? Why with such limited time and all this great equipment to chose from... Why chose the very least?

I need reassurance.

"You're safe from pain in the dream domain..."



October 22, 2002 - M11, M13, M92, M57, M56, M27, M71, M29, M15, NGC7789, and NGC869/884...

Comments: Running over the same old list of targets, ~T? Darn right I am. I am so uncomfortable with all this "new telescope" business that half the time I don't know whether I'm going up or down! One shows "image correct" which totally blows my bell curve at the eyepiece, another functions like what I'm used to, but it's not the same scope... And both work on an unfamiliar mount! So, what's the answer?

Practice.

Tonight's sky was at least a magnitude or better than last night... So off I go with the Orion SVD8 to do some practice. Starting with the M11, I'm staying "true" to polar alignment, and from a dobber's standpoint - that's a lot more difficult that you can imagine. Sure, the 4.5 is equatorially mounted... But after having become accoustomed to the dobsonian, polar alignment ceased to be of any importance. I just set the scope where it was most comfortable and had at it. Not so with the SVD... It weighs too much to be simply carted around wherever I feel like. So, I guess (for the time being) I shall have to follow the rules, eh? Even if that means taking longer than I think it should to find a comfortable way of spotting that delightful and decently resolved "fan" of stars that is the M11. Even sitting in a bit of "sky soup", the SVD8 produces some very nice resolution with the Meade 26mm.

Heading toward Hercules before the Moon catches up with us, I find myself groaning inwardly at the "hunt" once again. I mean, the M13 IS right there, isn't it? (giggle... OK, mister.. i remember "patience".) It feels like fishing, but I'm accoustomed to catching what I go after, and although it takes a few minutes, I find it. Awesome! The better sky definately produced finer images and I'm pleased to see far better resolution than I did last night! A peek at the map, and we're off to the M92 as well. Small and ill-defined at this magnification, I resist the temptation to go for the 9mm and simply remained pleased that it shows a concentrated core.

Heading up, I doan need no steenking maps to find the "Ring". And I am smiling here... Quite ethereal looking in this scope, I am more than pleased to see the return of some of the faint and quite glorious field stars that accompany it. The M56, (howdy, hedgehog!) took a bit more of a search, but the scope was in a much more comfortable position this time, and it didn't take too long to find this small, slightly lopsided globular cluster with the star at the edge.

Continuing to "look up", (cuz' you know i've never stopped...) I slide past Albeiro and on to the M27. Wow. And I really mean, wow! Even at this moderate magnification that "living" quality snaps right out at 8" in aperature. Just the slightest amount of aversion is all it requires to make out the star buried in the upper lobe of this high quality planetary nebula! I hung on this one for quite awhile, because I am very impressed with what the Orion can do on this particular target. Reminding me that time is short, the rising Moon bids me hurry on to the M71 to also enjoy its' odd form as well.

Now, laughing like a little kid, I started sweeping the Cygnus Milky Way. What a dandy little scope this is! I see open clusters go by that I know I'm familiar with, but don't really stop until I hit the M29. Locking things down, I stand upright for a bit to stretch my tired muscles. One of these days I'll get the tripod height just right....

Searching round for Enif, I find I have to loosen up the scope rings and roll the tube to even think about finding the M15. Again, I'm pretty much "fishing" because the Moon says I don't have time to be goofing around with the maps! Just use the instinct, ~T.... It's always served you well, hasn't it? Well... At least when it comes to astronomy, eh? Now... where are you? Sweet..... A rich field of stars surrounds this concentrated core and edge resolving globular cluster, but this magnification doesn't allow a look at it's interior planetary. That's all right... There's still plenty of time and dark skies ahead to explore!

And thanks to the ever-brightening Selene, my dark skies are about to be totally trashed. (hey, they already are...). Once again adjusting for uncomfortable positioning, I was diappointed in the NGC7789. Far, far too much ambient light to turn this cloud of fine stars into the true beauty I know it can be...

But it can't eradicate the "Double Cluster". Once again, the SVD8 proves a very worthy instrument as the diamond hard qualities of the NGC869/884 asserts itself. The beauty is in the colors Look at all those red giants... Just fantastic!

Wish you were here...

"The walls you build within... Come tumbling down. And a new world will begin...

Living twice at once you'll learn."



October 21, 2002 - The Sun... M13, M57, M11, M27 and the M31....

Comments: Receiving a notice from ShockSpot today meant that I really best shake it on outside during my day off and check out what's new on Sol. Setting the trusty 4.5 out, I chose the Orion filter for my observations today, fetched my notebook and sketchpad and opened it up...

Better go fetch the camera.


Already well past the limb, a very volatile and complex spot series labeled 162 absolutely dominates this temporary frame. The leader spot is comprised of a massive black umbra region combined with a dense, very mature penumbra. Finer examination reveals that penumbra to simply "trickle" down the line in a series of fainter, more fine spots that lead directly into the highly complex follower series. Here we see significant amounts of irregularity and bright areas which may be plage corridors, mean a twisted magnetic class. The second spot, nearest the limb, designated as 165 shows great amounts of faculae - a general parting of granulation - around its' forming penumbra, but lacks the Wilson Effect. Very impressive series!

Now, let's go see why ShockSpot sent me the alert...

A quick run through the magetogram validates my visual information. 162's Fhi bipolar classification shows twist in its' magnetic construction, earning it a beta/gamma label. Oddly enough, the second in the series, 165 is unipolar and is holding alpha class. OK... So we've got to "reactors" here... what's the flux data say? A brief look at the graph shows and awesome drop and spike in X-rays, generating enough energy to have caused an M class flare yesterday. Terrific! That means we are once again up for aurora at high latitudes...

I hope it hurries ahead of the Moon.

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What a disappointment when darkness came along. After a beautiful, almost cloudless day, the evening finds us buried under a thin cloud layer that obscures all but the brightest of stars. And to complicate matters even more, by the time it was actually dark enough to "see" those stars, the Moon was on the rise and lighting those clouds up - further obscuring the stars.

So why bother?

To be honest with you, this will be a great opportunity to put the Orion SVD8 to the test under conditions that closely approximate what someone living in a high light pollution area might experience. So turn up the rock! And let's roll...

With only two of the "keystone" stars visible in Hercules, it took me a few moments to find the M13 - but find it I did. Operating solely with the 25mm Orion eyepiece (cuz' that's what you'd get if you bought the scope outright...) I was quite pleased that despite the conditions the outer edges of the M13 showed beginning signs of resolution and more than its' fair share of grainy texture. Not bad...

With only Vega as a visual reference, I went to the finder and was pleased to see Sulafat. Show me two stars and I'm on it... Now I really am surprised! Even though this "high light" situation means I'm not capturing stars I would ordinarily see in the dob, there is a perfect little smoke ring fixed right in the center of the eyepiece. Howdy, M57! You only thought you'd hide from me, didn't you? Not bad at all....

Want to keep flying blind with me? Then let's hold onto the three stars that I can see in Aquila the Eagle... The M11 presented a greater challenge to find, but produced a surprisingly clean image. Several dozen stars resolved out quite nicely, and the background texture I'm used to seeing was quite present!

Now, let's get really tough! Cygnus is barely revealing Albiero (very nice, thanks....) tonight, and there is not even a visual trace of Saggitta or Delphinus... Think we can hit it? Pleasuring in the fact that the SVD operates much like the old 4.5 in "sky surf mode", it takes a few minutes, but the little glowing cloud of the M27 shows itself at last. Great view? No. But I'm quite surprised that it's even visible!

So let's push the envelope. The Moon has not only risen, but it is very well risen. Cruising through the edge of Pegasus, only Alpha is easily visible, but it doesn't take very long before I can just make out the one star I need to find a galaxy.... And there it is! The M31. At this point, I'm not only surprised, but very surprised. Locking things down, I walk round the end of the scope and look in. Yep. There couldn't be any more light flooding into it than if we were positioned under a streetlight! Yet in the eyepiece, the Andromeda Galaxy shows itself quite well, and with patience and aversion, I can make out the M32 and M110 as well, but I doubt a novice could.

All in all, I was quite pleased with the performance of the SVD8. Single star quality and edge of field leave something to be desired, but I really should have checked collimation after remounting it again. The little beast might be more "touchy" than I thought, eh? No matter. At this point it has shown me exceptional views under the worst possible conditions. Well, not quite the worst...

It could have been totally cloudy.

"If you open your mind to me... You won't rely on open eyes to see."



October 21, 2002 - The Orionid Meteor Shower...

Comments: Hey. I was a bit disappointed when I got up around 3:00 a.m. to cloudy skies. I have a weakness for certain things, and meteor showers are one of them. But, rather than go back to bed, I started a pot of coffee and sat down to read. I had started to doze in the chair when H became very insistent upon going out. Grumbling a bit in my semi-somnolent state, I went to the door and low and behold... Orion shines to the south!

I could have kissed that daggone dog...

Hustling into my cold weather gear, I filled the thermal mug, snagged the walkman and a sleeping bag and headed off to the redwood chair. There's just something about the smell of this antique chunk of lawn furniture that I like... (wonder why?) Many happy hours have been spent upon the worn cushion, dreaming my starry dreams. There is no finer place to place to observe than here in the shadows...

Join me.

Shedding silver light far and wide, Selene is doing her best to steal the show. The bright forms of Saturn and Jupiter call for exploration, but I've no intention of answering. Right here is where I want to be, patiently waiting with you for the arrival of the children of Comet Halley. And they did not disappoint.

Around 4:30 a.m., the activity started in earnest. For the most part, a dull silver plume would simply appear in the sky, like a soft scratch that the moonlight quickly heals. Approximately a half hour later, face-on activity began, like several small supernovae suddenly erupting from the same basic quadrant of the sky. I was just being "eye easy"... Looking nowhere in particular.

Then a "star" fell from Orion.

Coming in at a magnitude far outshining Sirius, this magnificent meter emerged around Mintaka, swelling in magnitude enough to cast as shadow opposite of the Moon... And then fell. Exiting the night due south in a fiery train of silver and copper colored "sparks" that seemed to hang upon the atmosphere... Twisting and turning until they themselves burnt out. Absolutely magnificent...

For a period of perhaps fifteen minutes or so thereafter, activity ceased. Not one stripe, not one flurry, not a single quicksilver signature. Nothing. I decided about that time to go fetch another cup of coffee and a bite to eat. Whistling for H to join me, (cuz' he likes peanut butter sandwiches, too...) we head back in to stand by last night's embers to warm up a bit. Oddly enough, Ranger must have caught a whiff of meteor dust, for he grinned his wise old dog grin, and asked to join us. While the two dogs run happily off into the silvered shadows, it's time for you and I to settle back in. We've awhile before dawn...

And then something really strange happened.

The radiant changed! Fat silver meteors began to appear on a very regular basis, but intead of emanating from the Orion region - They're coming straight out of Leo! I don't know what gives, but I'm not complaining!! (get up and let's turn the chair a bit more toward the east, shall we? cool... thanks.) For a time period of around an hour all activity came directly from the east. Perhaps a dozen or more delightful bright short arc streaks cut their way across the pre-dawn sky. Early Leonids? Or misdirected Orionids? It really doesn't matter that much to me...

As long as you're around.

"I will be watching over you. I am gonna' help you see it through. I will protect you in the night...

Because I'm lying next to you. In silent lucidity...."




October 20, 2002 - Alpha Hercules, Epsilon Lyrae, Beta Lyrae, Beta Cygnii, Delta Cygnii, Gamma Arietis, Gamma Andromedae, Eta Cassiopeiae, and Polaris...

Comments: Time for a bit of practice? I know the Intes MK67 is supposed to be sharp as a tack, and tonight I'd like to see just what it can do with some double stars. Sharpshooting doubles is not my forte', for I believe most masters have preference for testing optics through the use of high magnification. Me? I want to see just how "low I can go" and still cut them apart cleanly.

Tonight I pick the 32mm as weapon of choice. and away I go. Since these are all familiar double stars, there is no real point in the recitation of the positions of the secondaries. More than anything I am familiarizing myself with the scope, and what it will achieve. Beginning with a fast, loose sweep of Saggitarius, I am pleased to see that during movement I can still instantly pick up on contrast change that signifies deep sky objects. Perhaps this will sound strange to you, because the Moon was indeed very full, and there's no real point of trying to study a nebula or globular cluster, but I wanted to know when I'm "sweeping" that the change is still evident. I may be weird, but since I do not use either GoTo systems or setting circles, it is critical that I am able to make out this type of signature at the eyepiece. You can't find a faint fuzzy if you can't see it!

Enough of that now... I'm digressing.

Tack sharp star images at a minimum of magnification with perfect color correction is exactly what the MK67 delivers. Every one of the double stars listed above were perfectly seperated... Even the very difficult ones like Epsilon Lyrae and Delta Cygnii showed a clean, albeit fine line of seperation. And for the terminally curious? Not the first hint of the C component in Almach.

Now, let's get rid of that Moon and see what it will really do...

"Commanding in another world... Suddenly you see. This magic new dimension...."



October 19, 2002 - Malabar Farm...

Comments: Well, the weather situation had looked pretty bleak according to the forecast. Not only were clouds in the picture, but a full Moon as well. But ya' know what? It aint rainin'... ;)

Heading off with "the Ottoman" tucked securely inside the car, I had packed as much literature, toys, etc. that I thought might be helpful toward a public star party. I was anxious to work with the Astronomy For Youth group, and it had been a great deal of time since I had last visited historic Malabar Farm. Arriving just a bit before dark, I was glad of the extra light (and the extra hands, thank you, guys...) while setting up an unfamiliar scope and now slightly familiar mount. What a pleasure it was to see my friends once again! "Refractor Boy" Curt and his ever-improving designs, (and his delightful, intelligent, and very funny wife Trish) his daughter with her small reflector, Robert and that splendid Meade (and a rather ancient-looking and quite fascinating scope that needed only a stone lighthouse beside the sea with a grizzled grey-whisked keeper to point it across the storm tossed waves...), "MeadeMan" Monty, Joe with (suprise!) one of those terribly fascinating new designs called "SkyWindow", and both Kenny and John with six and eight inch Meade relfectors... So, as you can see... The Intes MK67 was in good company.

As the darkness fell, handfuls of people began to trickle in and the whirring noise of "GoTo" systems filled the night as the ultra-bright Moon climbed ever higher. And where am I? Pointed at the one thing I knew I could hit positively with an unfamiliar scope... The Moon of course! I must say that the inherent magnification qualities the Intes possesses simply blows my mind. At 40mm, the full figure of Selene quite sufficently fills the eyepiece for study. (and by the way, otto... just what in the heck do all these little knobs and stuff do, eh? thank the stars i'm not even trying to use the russian mount just yet! the clock drive alone probably requires some type of phd just to turn on... ;) Now, I'm just teasing a bit. This is just simply the first time I've used this scope, and I have faith in my "learning curve".

The Moon was indeed bright and beautiful. When the clouds parted, perfectly crisp detail could be seen around Russell, Cardanus, Riccolli and (quite fittingly) Mare Orientale. It was my pleasure to step away from the eyepiece and let those whose curiousity lead them here to have at it! Slowly, but surely, the "spaces" between clouds open up and as soon as Arcturus shows itself, I'm headed that way to check out the legendary "airy disk" the Mak design is so capable of. A beautiful, almost holographic like halo forms itself around "the keeper of the Bear", and as I try to bring the star to pefect focus, I realize I need to have a few long talks with Vassilly... For there are some very poignant Russian phrases I'd like to learn! (ok, ~T... keep thinking rock and roll here... "if i put my mind to it, i can figure it out... if i put my mind to it i can figure it out...").

Damn Skippy.

Realizing that I had made a judgement error in tripod height, I enlisted a bit of aid to get myself off my hands and knees (thanks again, guys..), and headed toward the next clear and simple target while people behind me waited for a look. Mizar and Alcore? You're next in the limelight, and it just feels kinda' good to stand here and tell your story while others watch your "in focus" beauty. Then off to Polaris, (no clock drive needed, eh?) to leave you fixed for a bit while I wander round for a look at this SkyWindow design!

It really is fascinating. It's a perfect mirror plate about the size of a magazine. Above it is mounted Joe's awesome binoculars, and the plate itself moves to take in the sky. Despite enough light to read by, Joe produced some very splendid views of the M13 and the Andromeda Galaxy!! Can you imagine pointing a pair of very powerful binoculars just inches away from a mirror and producing spectacular results? I'm telling you, the little beast is just amazing... And I can't thank Joe enough for sharing!

Seeing a window of opportunity open up around Hercules, I find myself down on my knees again taking aim at the.... Whirrrrrrr... Oh. you got that, then? No problem! Sinking a bit lower into the wet grass my two guide stars in Lyra are perfectly evident for the... Hmmmmmmmm.... Click! Oh, you got that, too, eh? Epsilon Lyra? Hehehheeee... The "Double Double" it is then! And even with as little as the 40mm, I can see a clean and perfect split immediately. Unfortunately, others do not... So, Joe suggest I magnify it. No problem! Into the box I go, and start making some switches in the way things are rearranged. All set, I go back for focus and....

Упрямый телескоп!!!!!

And I've got a lot of practice, and a lot of questions to go.... Eventually, my patience prevails and I get the image I seek, but by that time the clouds are rolling back over the scene and our two small components now are happily "touching". Ah, well...

Grinning inwardly, I brush off my wet knees, return the setup to what I started with and simply put it back on the Moon. Never have I ever wanted my old scopes and my old ways back more than I did at that moment. I've been thrown into a whole new world, and I don't even know the language! But, there is a lesson here. Like all things, using "the Ottoman" will be a learning process. Its' focal length does not behave like the reflectors I am accustomed to... The scope itself is like nothing I've ever used. But you know? I dig a challenge... ;)

Not long afterward, the clouds claim our beautiful moonlit night. Slowly, those who have came begin to filter away and but a handful of us are left, scopes secured, to stand and talk and joke in the night. It's a good feeling, this fellowship. Reluctantly, I set out on the road for the backyard, watching the skies clear to perfection. Perhaps there was a time in my life that I would have set that scope back up straight away for some more practice... But, I know I have to work tomorrow. For now, I am simply content to fix myself a cup of sweet tea, wrap my tired, cold and aching bones in a blanket and watch the Moon from my window while I wait on sleep to find me.

Missing my muse...

"Relax, child. You were there... You only didn't realize it, and you were scared. It's a place where you will learn... To face your fears and retrace the years.

And ride the whims of your mind."



October 16-18, 2002 - The Moon and a handful of stars....

Comments: Aperature fever? Real fever. Cloudy weather? Under the weather. The last few days have been mainly spent pursuing sleep (oh m'gosh! i must be dead... ;) as ~T struggles to set my physical self back to rights again.

A few days ago I took a leap of faith and purchased a used Orion 8" SkyView Deluxe. Holding down a cup of tea near the fire, I was very pleased with its' ease of assembly and suprisingly rugged construction. I did a quick visual alignment of the optics and mustered up just enough energy to set it outside on the deck in hopes of catching a fleeting glimpse of the Moon and a couple of stars. Feeling tapped from the effort, I found myself wrapped in a blanket and back in my chair seconds later. I think I'll just have another cup of tea and wait for the mirror to cool down a bit.... Feeling old.

About an hour later, I realized that I couldn't leave it out there, no matter how attractive the possibility sounded. Bundling up to ward off the "chills", I had to at least sneek a peek through this scope at the Moon. Again, I'm faced with a unfamiliar mount... But is it really that unfamiliar? Would I remember those kind and patient lessons taught to me by Mr. Wizard? Darn right. My hands remembered exactly where they should be in the dark. And viola... We have Moon.

I knew immediately when I focused in on the Sinus Iridum that there was a slight problem. And when I walked the magnification back, I saw a nearby star that was going to either occult or graze and I knew for a fact that "tolerance" wasn't going to cut it with this "fast" scope. Ordinarily, I would have just fixed it then and there... But you know what? I simply didn't feel like it that night.

The following day my hands felt a bit less shakey, so before dark, I dug out my laser collimator and slid it into the focuser. A couple of very minor adjustments were all it required... And a wait on a hole in the clouds. Once again, I went no further than the deck... Vibration and all, folks. I just didn't have the "ooompf" take it any further. When the Moon had cleared enough to take a shot, I ducked back out and opened it up. YES! Gassendi gave absolute perfect performance, Now for the real test... Epsilon Lyrae. Outstanding. A touching set of pairs, but cleanly double stars as soon as a viable pocket of atmosphere allowed. Who says a rich field scope can't take on doubles?

Feeling excited, I started hopping through Cassiopeia a bit, pleased that Iota was more than easily seperated, and hunting down some open clusters despite the Moon. And then it felt like I couldn't hold my arms up any longer. All the fight is gone out of me... Capping things up, I simply had to go back in a sit down for a bit. As much as I like to explore, I just can't. After a bit of rest, I still feel so weak I'm afraid to challege the whole set up, so I just take it apart so I can put it away safely. And I'll be darned if I feel like putting it back together again... Putting the scope itself in its safe nest of a box, I removed the counter balance and just brought the mount and tripod in and let it sit. And sometimes...

Sometimes good things come from bad.

Disappointed in my own weakness, but forgiving at the same time, my eyes keep wandering back to the EQ mount as I watch (gasp!) a movie. Surely there has to be.... Nah. Look... Just look at this... And what do I end up doing? Sneaking a certain MK67 out of its' black bag and checking out the mounting plates. Nope... They don't match. But an evil grin spreads across my face as I truly examine it...

I can make it match.

The next day finds me feeling a bit better, and out in the garage in search of a piece of aluminum plate. Once again, my hospital bed parts serve me well, and I find exactly what I need. Using a bit of ingenuity, (and heading back into town for a metric tap, cuz' nothing is THAT easy...) I find myself with a small plate that becomes an easily removable mate with the Intes bracket and allows me to mount the Russian design scope right onto an American mount without compromsing either!

Spaseba, Comrade... ;)

When darkness falls, I find myself wandering back to look at the scope regardless of how I feel. The Moon is quite "out"... Want to go play? But for some reason, I find myself looking beyond the Intes. Standing right behind it is an old an familiar friend. One whose odd wing nuts hold the accessory tray in place... One whose tripod legs are as scarred as my own... One who asks for nothing, yet has given me everything....

My teacher.

And here we stand together in the night, that old 4.5 Celestron and I... We dry the tears of Grimaldi together. We walk across Shickard hand in hand, and smile at the humped form of Wargentin. It flys me across space time to view the now faded Andromeda Galaxy, and makes me smile at the richness of the Double Cluster.

And forgives me when I feel old and tired.

"There's a place to hide... A doorway that I run through in the night..."



October 15, 2002 - Just Me, "Big Blue" and the Moon...

Comments: Where to even start? I've seen the geography of the Moon through many telescopes over the years. I remember my daze spent with a Tasco, thinking it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. The first night I brought the 4.5 into the backyard, the Moon was full... and it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. Along came the 12.5 a few years later, and the age of "laser retinal scan" was born! And yes, I have seen the Moon more than once at the Observatory... But tonight?

I'm going to study it.

Slipping a CD into the small stereo, I'm not wanting the classics tonight... It's time to rock the dome! Head filled with "Tantric" at a volume loud enough to discourage wandering wildlife, it's time to shut off the lights and go for a ride. Our destination is only about 239,000 miles away... And I want to take you there.

(One brief glance and Whoa! OK... Back down for the filter... ;)

Plato was there in all its' magnificence. With all the power I can put on it in the backyard, it cannot compare with what this does. The interior craterlets that we have sought after for so long are strikingly clear. There are five. Two of them are side by side, another breaks away not far from them. The remaining two? One is about a fourth of the distance of the diameter away from the edge, and the fifth is at the very edge of the wall shadow. And the walls and shadows! They don't even look real... The walls look like cut slabs in places, and the shadows they cast are not soft at all. They are razor sharp, and on the smooth floor of Plato, they stand out in stark relief.

The mountains are beyond incredible. I simply cannot describe... Although I'm going to keep trying! Piton is so perfect and so solitary that it looks like a pyramid. And like varying pyramid structures, Pico resembles one in the Aztec design. Who would have though Erathostenes could have been so outstanding? And Timocharis?! Oh, my... forget the camera. Hand me my sketchpad! The rilles around Timocharis are beyond belief... It looks puckered!

And oh, my. Copernicus. There is no way that I could even begin to think about drawing Copernicus. Incredible.... Simply incredible. The interior has two soft looking series of mounds within it, and from these mounds grow mountain peaks. There is a shallow, ditch-like line that creases through there, and all about the smoother areas of the interior surface are scattered what appears to be huge boulders. The exterior walls are a true fantasy land. Eroded, creased... huge! And all throughout them are tiny pepper marks of impact craters the not even the Rukl begins to touch.

And then I bumped it just a bit too much and saw Clavius...

At this point, I have been at it for a couple of hours... And it blows me away. Running the lift back down to the ground, I find myself outside for a break. Tea time? Darn right.... As I sit here in the dark with my arms wrapped round my knees, I can only look at the Moon with wonder. Oh, Galileo... Did you ever dream that one day we could be so fortunate? You paved the way for us... And many who followed thereafter found this Moon to be a beautiful as I see it tonight. They dedicated their lives to its' exploration and mapping... And I am only an old soul who's great privelege it is to enjoy your work.

Somewhat sobered, I return inside and change the CD to something a bit older. Not regressing, mind you. Just in the mood for Collective Soul and "The World I Know." I close my atlas, fold up my notes and discard my poor sketches. It's time to set the camera aside, for it doesn't do it justice. And when I go up again? It is with the eyes of an ancient child...

And moon walk.

"So here it is... Another chance. Wide awake, you face the day... Your dream is over.

Or has it just begun?"




October 13, 2002 - The Sun... The Moon... And A Handful of Stars....

Comments: What a welcome break in the clouds! As a matter of fact, so welcome that today I am more into being "visual" than being in a study mode. Fantasy spot array 137/140/144 is approaching the limb and giving some very awesome views! 137 with filter B shows the Wilson Effect so cleanly that I'm actually motivated enough to try to capture it on film....


Not about to be undone, what looks to me to be our latest "hotspot" group 143 and 145 are showing massive amounts of irregularity in the umbra, penumbra and follower spot series. Of course, I'm curious.... A quick review of the X-ray flux data shows we're snapping off some major C-class spikes - and my money is on this particular group to be the cause of it! Those erratic patterns seem to be a signature of a diversified bi-polar group, and that means CME potential. (limb! limb! i'm going out on a limb here!! ;)

And speaking of limb, the incoming side shows three more very prominent spots. 154 and 149 look very decent, but new boy 158 is just cooking in the Wilson magnetic distortion, and the faculae are so bright around it, it just arrests the eye. Sure, I know this to be a common effect as a maturing spot rounds the limb... But I've seen a lot of spots come and go, and one's that "broil" in the field usually turn out to be some very interesting ones to watch!

Now, I'm gonna' go watch the back of my eyelids for a couple of hours, eh? The hours have been long, and this kid needs sleep...

Perchance to dream, eh?

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

And I couldn't have dreamed up a more perfect clear sky...

I had left the 4.5 set up, just draping a towel over it to keep away any dew or dust. It's harvest time here again, and the tractors run through the fields that border the backyard, kicking up dust and running the wildlife toward the woods. You know I'll not risk the "dusting" the mirror on the dob, but I retweaked the collimation on the 114, and I was very anxious to see how it would perform!

Oh, my. The Moon presented itself with such aching clarity that I was totally lost for who knows how long on the lunar surface! Sketch? Are you kidding?! The beauty is so blinding I wouldn't even know where to begin.... For one crater would lead to the next... And to the next... And to the next...

And so they did.


As you can see, the north just begged for exploration. The 110 mile long, and 1 to 13 mile wide scar of the Alpine Valley was simply so clean, I had to contain my excitement long enough to take a brief picture! Enough... Time to drop the power on it and just walk that terminator!

Aristotle and Eudoxus were simply amazing. Their interior ridges and multiple peaks supported everything I had to throw at it. Tiny craters leaped to life... Ones with obscure names like Kane, Mitchell, Edege, and Sheepshank. (all right, who tied the knot on the moon?) A and B craters identified on the maps kept their hard-edged quality. The Appennine, Caucasus, and Haemus Mountain ranges reflected the light in such a way that they appeared like snow covered peaks seen on a relief map. This is just too awesome!

Menelaus, Auwers, Manilus, Boscovich, Julius Ceasar, the Ariadaeus and Hyginus Rills... Outstanding! Agrippa, D'Arrest, Rhaeticus, Theon, Lade... Holy Chromium! Then I go into the Southern Highlands!! Hipparchus had all of these great little edge craters, identified with letters, but looking absolutely huge in the eyepiece! Some that I'd never really identified before... Like Airy, Donati, and Faye!

And then the surface simply exploded into so many small, dark craters that I just laid the map and the notes down and enjoyed it. Hundreds upon hundreds of tiny impact craters combined themselves with idenitifiable features, and what most consider to be a "dead rock" turned into a major fantasy of exploration.

Realizing that I was consuming all my observing time with the Moon, (who cares!) I did take the time to head off to a couple of easy doubles, duly noting that Eta Aquilae is on the upswing again. Epsilon Lyrae was just perfect. A steady, slim, black margin exists between both sets of components and I would curse Selene's presence if she hadn't of been so beautiful! Ras Algethi is also clean and perfect in it's red and green. Albeiro makes a fine color change, as does sweet Gamma Andromeda. Ruchbah comes next, and I end up sliding my way down the belly of the northeast sky and just hanging on "the double cluster". Such simple minded targets, I know... But there are nights when I just like things simple.

And this was one.

"You're laying safe in bed... It's just a bad dream spinning in your head. Your mind tricked you to feel the pain... Of someone close to you leaving the game..."



October 11, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: Surprisingly enough, we had only a partly cloudy day here... With ample enough "space" in between those white, fluffy masses to do something I haven't done in awhile...

Solar observe!

Today, rather than play with the camera and Baader film, I'm afraid I reverted to my "old school" methods - the Orion filter and my sketchpad. Drawing the heliographic landscape was rather good for my soul, because it was simply loaded with fine spots, granulation and faculae today! Then, taking my sketch back to my office, stage two ensues. Time to travel the information highway...

Thanks to SOHO and NOAA, the wealth of information available to the amateur makes doing this type of thing a pleasure. Care to share?


SOHO/MDI


As you can see, we have some very decent activity going on. The most major player in this game is spot 139. It's Mak classification of Dko, is very accurate. The umbral region appears like to globular masses and the penumbra is strikingly large and irregular. By very nature of the way it appears, there is no doubt this is a bi-polar beauty, and definately supports its' beta/gamma/delta class. Oddly enough, though... When I run back the X-ray flux data, it's most even! Apparently this one is due for some X-class flare activity, but the readings are totally normal at the moment.

Yeah, 139 is great, but 140 is the one that fooled me! I would have almost bet you my sketch this was a unipolar alpha spot, but again, checking the information proves me wrong! There is no doubt whatsoever when you view a magnetogram and see those bordering fields that the spot is bipolar - but it's just too regular! This is a prime example of a Cho class spot. The umbra region is perfectl symetrical, as is the maturing penumbra. And to prove me even more rusty? The daggone thing is beta class as well!!

(whoa, ~T... better go back to school, eh? ;)

Bright faculae steal the show at either end, cutting their wide swathes through the darker fields of granulation. Around some of the lesser spots, a hint of plage activity is seen - that "frontier" line we've discussed once before. All in all, it was a pleasure to both sketch and view Sol.

I hope we meet again!

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

And those warmer temperatures caught up with us, didn't they? What was a beautiful Fall day turned into an equally beautiful night. Warm and pleasant, but totally cloudy. Still, it felt very good just to be outside. Time to hold onto that splendid new hollow body and make it sing...

Practing some difficult rifts, I watched a few dark holes float by. I could only smile to myself as I recognized these stars. Funny thing about that, you know that even if the night is hiding, those stars are still there, eh? Kinda' like music... I can sit here and struggle learning to play "Drive", and out of nowhere will come a song I haven't practiced in years...

And just "be there".

"Hush now, don't you cry. Wipe away the tear drop from your eye..."



October 10, 2002 - Gamma Delphini, Struve 2725, Eta Aquilae, Struve 2391, and the M11...

Comments: Why is it when one actually has the time and inclination to explore the stars, the sky doesn't want to cooperate? And so it was tonight... A phrase comes to mind here, one that I tell people who try to make a "time" to come and view with me... "You don't make a date with the stars. They make a date with you!"

Watching holes appear around sunset was encouraging - but the amount of Rayleigh scattering wasn't. Even if things cleared up, this would not be a nebulae or faint galaxy playground! So why bother? Because I can. If nothing else for the simple reason that it relaxes me! So, do you want to go chase that opening in the clouds? Then follow me...

Gamma Delphini is first stop on the drop. Despite less than perfect conditions, the view is decently steady and this is a delightful double star. Easily bright and seperated with as little as the 26mm in the dob, the color really comes to life at 9mm. Seperated by perhaps a magnitude, the primary star is golden hued. Leading the way across the sky (that means it's west, doesn't it? ;) the B companion shears away very easily and I find it quite cyan in color. It is these types of stars that take my fancy - For one day I'd like to understand spectral classifications in depth. Or maybe I'll just enjoy them as they are, eh?

Like the much tighter and more difficult split of Struve 2725, just a nudge away. Both white, and in opposite directions of the previous double, so with dyslexia duly noted, the perhaps one magnitude seperated B star is headed north. Or is that south? ;)

Continuing on the drop, I pause to take in Eta Aquilae - "Scotty's Star". Variables can be difficult when clouds interfere with watching their phases, but that doesn't mean that they're not entertaining! Especially those cephids... Whoo hoo! Expanding and contracting - Constantly in change of temperature, color and spectral class.... The visual light curve is just awesome! To think, at one point in its' pulsations, the light waves actually cancel one another out! That makes this "bad boy" star do a rapid drop visually... Fun, eh?

(hello, R Scuti... i don't know much about you, but i know you're also a variable... and a small one that makes big changes. keep hanging around, will you?)

Next on the path through clarity is Struve 2391. Not visual unaided tonight, but easily enough identified in the finder. Yeah! Disparate... And tough... Wisps of clouds are starting to come back, but not so soon that we can't see this tight pair of whites sitting side by side... Ooops. Sorry. That means the B companion is basically to the north, and leading just a bit... West?

Come now... I'm only trying to make you smile in the dark. It lights up my world...

Here! This will make you smile! The M11 with the power of aperature and a 9mm eyepiece. Kickin', isn't it? Simply hundreds of stars resolve their way right out of the sky, and perhaps a thousand more lie behind the intensity in perhaps the magnitude 14 range. Once again, those colors come into play, don't they? For the most part we've hot, bright blue/whites... But go "eye easy" and you note there is more than a generous smattering of yellows and reds as well. Not bad considering it's about a hundred million years old and is only about 6,000 light years away from us! But there's something much closer...

Those dratted clouds.

"But baby, it's OK, it's OK, it's OK, baby... Looks like we've been bitten by a smooth criminal..."



October 9, 2002 - The Draconid Meteors...

Comments: OK! So they weren't anything to write home to mother about... (hi, mom! ;) But I really dig all "sky happenings", so it was my pleasure to pull up a lawn chair, turn on the rock and roll, tuck inside a sleeping bag, and just sky watch for about 90 minutes this morning.

As offspring of Comet Giacobini-Zinner, these babies are fast! At no time during my observance did I catch any that left a lingering trail or spanned more than five degrees or so. Their lightning-like appearance almost catches you by surprise! As for a fall rate? My haphazard timing shows approximately 10 per hour. (and as fast as these came in, there may have been more that i just plain didn't see!)

At any rate, it was still quite grand to enjoy fine, clear morning skies. (i'm glad you pinned me down, for it was mighty hard to leave that scope alone!) A mug of coffee, some Staind and Nickleback in the walkman...

And some pleasant thoughts of you.

"You left me standing here... Such a long, long time ago. Don't leave me waiting here...

Lead me to you door."



October 7/8, 2002 - NGC7814, NGC7479, Renewing the Pegasus Study Field, and the Hubble Variable Nebula (NGC2261)...

Comments: I had gone straight from an all-nighter "Star Party" and right back into the world of work. My standing joke of "I'll sleep when I'm dead, thanks." might just come true! But don't worry, this kid isn't ready for the "dirt nap" just yet. Those that know me personally also know I have a rather quirky habit when I work nights. I like to observe before I go in! I find it very relaxing, and it opens my mind to the job at hand.

After having been a participant with so many GoTo systems recently, I've found myself truly missing an honest study. I mean no disrespect, for I enjoy the speed at which they find their targets - But, it's just not for me. I happen to like my maps and my red flashlight. I've had a long-standing love affair with my mechanical pencil and my notebooks. Just like my 12.5 dobsonian and myself... Pure and simple, and totally at ease.

In review of some of the things I've done in the past, I find that it has been over a year since I did an article for my friends at AstroTalk (astro.geekjoy.com) and "Pegasus - One Wild Galactic Ride!" needs to be re-visited. It's not been that long since I re-walked Stephan's Quints, and the stars only know that I've perhaps over-studied the NGC23 and 26. So why not drag out that map? Hit on a couple I haven't seen in a while, and start a new study field?

I've got two hours... And you're on!

Yep. It took me a bit to relocate the NGC7814, but I was quite happy when I got there! Since the temperatures here in Ohio have fallen to near freezing, the sky is wonderfully transparent and the slim, edge-on form of the 7814 takes my breath away. What a beauty! Soft spoken, yet possessed of a prominent dark dust lane upon patient aversion, this is the kind of galaxy I think perhaps only myself and Mr. Wizard can appreciate. A slight thickening toward the central structure and excellent elongation. My, oh my... Quite worth the few minutes it took to find!

As is the NGC7479... Again, it took me a short while to find, but it was very rewarding. The central structure is easily apparent upon direct vision, but avert, go "easy" and listen to tunes? And you will find that two graceful spiral arms will come out to play. A stellar point resides at either side of the central structure, and is also accompanied by one other forming a slightly flattened triangle which brackets this galaxy. It is toward this apex that the brighter of the two spiral arms curves gently, for the one below requires wide aversion and patience to see.

And since I'm practicing patience, don't you think it's about time I started a new study field? (~T says looking up and smiling... ;) There's many more wonderful things for me to discover on my own in this area, and it is my pleasure to begin to work on finding them. I managed suceess with two of my destinations, but ya'll know me. I follow my own rules. When I've observed what I'm after a minimum of three times under varying conditions and can take you there, and tell you what they are without the map? Then I'll tell...

Off to work with me now.

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

Since what I had to do tonight was just finalize some details and run reports, I found myself finished long before dawn. Heading out on the highway toward the backyard, I suppose I should have been a bit more selective about what I put into the CD player, for I find myself instantly depressed. Such a stupid thing to do. I know it's a result of many things... Too little sleep coupled with stress and my own personal issues, but it's here nonetheless. The farther I distance myself from the city the more I notice the beauty of the night has not left me just yet. And it is here alone that the stars still call...

Making myself a cup of tea, I decided to sit out on the deck and just watch the sky in hopes of catching a few Draconid meteors. Saturn and Jupiter are just so bright, and the perfect form of Orion standing in the south paints a peaceful picture. Sometimes all the chai in the world can't cure the "blues"... But perhaps finding the "one" again just might?

And there's none more blue than the NGC2261...

Pulling the dob out of the garage once again, I hasten quickly over the M50 before I distract myself from my goal. Again, it has been so long since I've practiced this target that it doesn't come easy. I was very thankful that dawn was perhaps 90 minutes away! Ah, and don't you know... There it is.

The Hubble Variable Nebula isn't one of the most exciting deep sky objects in terms of looks, but then again, I don't care what something looks like... It's what you are that I find beautiful. In appearance, the Hubble looks like a very bright blue badmitton birdie, and this morning it is pleasingly direct. Its' high surface brightness supports magnification very well, so I dropped the good 9mm down on it to find it very even in appearance, only slightly ragged out at the wide edge, and no sign of R Monocerotis.

Now to relax... Where most might recite a mantra? I think about my lessons.

The NGC2261 captures my imagination both then and now for its' unusual properties. Like many things I enjoy studying in depth, the Hubble produces strange and erratic spectra. (keep thinking... the more you remember, the more relaxed you become!) It is also a real life engima. To my recollection, no one has ever pinned down its' distance nor has its' variations in structure ever been predictable. (see? ;) The variable star that is a part of it has never been precisely catagorized, and it is believed that its changes in structure may be due to dark masses causing moving shadows around the fueling variable. (another one that "moves"! dig it...) And the spectral absorption lines are not normal. And... and... And that's all I remember.

I know there's much more to it, and it will make a very fine personal study over the long winter months with both the dob and the observatory scope. But for now? It has sang the "jazzy blues" to me...

And this time I liked the tune.

"Many times I've been alone, and many times I've cried. Anyway, you'll never know the many ways I've tried.

And still they lead me back to that long and winding road..."



October 5, 2002 - At the "Hidden Hollow" Star Party...

Comments: Day Two brings about conversations on the weather. Ordinarily, the weather is a topic left to "small talk" when all other subjects are exhausted, but amoung amateur astronomers? It is of the utmost importance! And news of a clear night in the making is a cause for excitement....

The daylight hours are happily spent enjoying solar observing with spot 137 in the limelight. According to our information, this complex little delta class area passed off a decent X-class flare and left northern Ohio with a splendid chance of aurora. What a present after all the rain! It really did me good to see so many other amateurs who also enjoy solar viewing, and Thousand Oaks? Your filters are outstanding!

Now, best head for the Skyview Lodge to listen to lectures. I was particularly interested in two of our guest speakers, and it seems that I'm not the only one! What a pleasure it is to see faces still smiling that I met in the rain last night...


Hey, hey... We all know his name. I seriously doubt there is anyone in the astronomy community who doesn't have at least one of his books, or hasn't read an article he's had published. The man is truly an "astronomy legend".

Mr. Phil Harrington....


I like the way the man talks. He pointed out some basic truths that led many of us "scopists" along the path of astronomy... Learning to love the night sky through binoculars. I never realized until I listened to this lecture what a truly important role that binoculars have played in my observations! It was simply a thing I took for granted until now. I learned more about types of binoculars in fifteen minutes than I'd ever known! (and by a stroke of luck, the one's i have are very well suited for astronomy. phew! ;)

Like at least one other "big kid" in the RCAS, I took advantage of Mr. Harrington's presence for an autograph. Silly? Heck, no! For as a "dobber", there was an article he once wrote about the Obsession/Discovery line (and quality dobsonians in general) and aperature fever that I thoroughly enjoyed, and although I'm not into vindication, this particular article came at a very good time in my life. There are far too many folks in the astronomy community who sneer at those of us who love our aperature and simplicity of design, and tout that our optics aren't quality. For such a noted authority figure to defend this style of telescope, and tell the world it is not only capable of splitting demanding double stars, giving perfect color correction, and knocking down deep space objects that your high dollar, small aperature scopes can't even begin to touch with perfect clarity? I say thank you.... It is an honour to have your signature! (gosh, if i brought everythng of yours i had around... we'd be all day!) Although I'm jumping "sync" just a bit here, I would also like to say how much I enjoyed our conversations, and giving you a tour through "Big Blue" later that night. You are truly a scholar and a gentleman...

And speaking of scholars and gentlemen, there was another speaker that I was also anxious to hear!

Mr. Richard Fienberg....


Do I hear an "amen" from the choir? ;)

Rick's lecture was on astronomy and the 21st century... A fascinating overview of the changes we have seen in just our lifetime in both equipment and theory. From the our roots with the Tasco telescope to "strings and things"... The man knows his business. And what's more? Our paths crossed many times over the duration of the "Star Party", and he's just downright nice to talk to... Personable with a Ph.D., would be a good way to describe him. Of course, I can be no one but myself. Once you get to know me, we might easily take the topic of our conversations to a "scholarly" level, or you might just be standing there talking to a grinning, dyslexic fool. (generally i favour dyslexic fools... ;) Even though I don't remember exactly what this particular conversation was about, I do remember smiling as I walked away, singing a snippet of an old rock and roll tune, "It's better to burn out".... When I hear him echo behind me, "Than it is to rust..." Hey, hey... my my. I guess rock and roll never does die.

Rick? I like you very much.

Visiting with the vendors, and drooling over purchased treasures come next. Orion ED 9mm... OOooooh! (hand it over, curt!) Talk of what the evening will bring and... Hello! Darn right I remember you! How could I forget? Unless, of course... "I've got space in my head". ;) Sure, I'll see you later. Count on it.

Now! It won't be long until the Sun sets and the party really gets started! Time for some of us to head toward the city and find some sustenance. Some go here, and others go there... But I'm capturing Robert and eating some real food! Since I only do red meat once in a great while? I'll race you to the Outback... Better yet? You drive!

Returning just as the sky is getting really dark, we walk up the Hill toward the Observatory to find more telescopes than I've ever seen here at one time. All manner, from cassegrains, refractors, and reflectors to radical new designs, such as a fixed set of binoculars which focuses on a movable mirror plate, called a "Skywind". Of course all my friends are here, like Bruce with the 12.5 Meade, "Refractor Boy", Curt, with his ingenious designs, Terry and his 8" Meade dob, (funny, that... the ED eyepiece performs entirely differently between a reflector and refractor... wish i had one to study with!) Monty and his 10" Meade LX, his friend Dan with an Orion 8" Skyview Deluxe (and don't lose track of this one, for I guarantee you it will play a very big role in the near future. ;) and Joe with his superb 8" Meade cassegrain. And you know I walked around and talked to people! From "Jr." ( i remembered! ;) Schrantz who hand ground his own 12.5 Edmunds mirror blank to form an outstanding dobsonian, to a fellow who apologized for just having an 80mm rich field refractor. (dude? don't you dare apologize for this scope! i used one precisely like this once-upon-a-time, and the "Pup" is a very fine scope!) Folks? I think I've found Nirvana...

Going from this one to that, I soon give up the attempt to make notes. Too much at once! After making the rounds of just one section, it was my turn to head for the dome. Retreating to familiar ground, and doing my "thang" with the public. In between spells are spent with other responsibilities and snatching peeks from other scopes as I go by. Not enough hours in the night!

Then along came a spirit...

We had spoken together many times, exchanging smiles and looks. At one point I actually apologized for my strange behaviour, explaining that he looked amazingly like someone rather close to me... Someone that I missed very much. Apparently no offense was taken, for this particular gentleman and I eventually wound up spending some time together after my responsiblities had ended.

And the "spirit" just happens to have a 12.5 Discovery dob...

Well, all right! It doesn't get much better than this does it? Not only does the man "talk the talk"... He "walks the walk" as well! You could put me in a crowd of 500 people - All with similar interests and an outstanding variety of equipment, and there would still be just one to stop me in my tracks. Only hours ago I had Mr. Harrington autograph an article about just such a scope, and just like "magic"? Here it is...

Ah, my. "How you remind me", eh?

It was my great pleasure to make Victor's acquaintance on a more personal level this time. The hour had grown late for some, but since my tour of duty was over, it was good to find someone to play with. And what a telescope! I'm here to tell you that the Discovery line is absolutely everything you could ask for! Yeah, I was a bit naughty in the things we chose to look at... But there was a very good reason that I had you aim at those particular stars or objects.. (hehehheh... you knew all along that there was a bit more lurking behind that beatific smile of mine, didn't you? ;) I wanted to see just what this telescope could do, and I was not disappointed! Stiking color correction and absolute perfection of image... I like you and I like this telescope!

Sharing knowledge, we hopped to some things that required a precision instrument, and once again I find the Discovery telescope outstanding. Other things were just plain fun, eh? Silicon stars and doubles... Exploring the world of spectra with some of my toys. Using the maps to discover that little patch you thought was nebulosity near the M35 to be a open cluster, and then resolving the heck out of it. And hey! Isn't that Orion? Then let me show you what this big scope will do to the "Trapezium" that others only dream about.... The Discovery takes out six without even trying!!

Whisking him away to "Big Blue", we pester Jerry as he's ending his program to let us up to sock some power on the "Trap". (hey, guy... your perserverance is an inspiration in itself.) After a few eyepiece switches, we have what I'm looking for... Eight and more! Seeing those inner stars reveal themselves in that scalloped cloud of nebulosity is an awesome sight. (what's that you said? bogart?! oh... i was being a bit of a scope hog wasn't i? ;)

Giving Jerry our thanks, we head back to the Discovery to play around a bit more, and give me a opportunity to meet some of the other members of the Akron based group. The winter constellations keep climbing into the sky, and some real beauties like the M41 are in their prime. And Jupiter is beginning to come on strong... Realizing that I have to work the next day, and regretting the fact that I must go, we say our "goodbyes" and I go back to Bruce where I've stashed my stuff. And Bruce always knows how to keep me there just a bit longer....

Wanna' see this?

When Saturn rocks your world, you've got to at least step to the edge of the field, and say... "Hey, Vic? Come and look at this!" And he complies... Perhaps, I'm not ready to leave just yet?! Looking round about us, we notice most everyone has turned in for the night. The dome stands open, but the big scope is no longer being used.

Would you like to play for a bit longer?

Laughing like kids, we duck inside the darkened dome. It's not often during a public demonstration that only two people get this chance, and we're off to Saturn! Seems we're both willing this time... Quite willing to trade in immediate crisp detail, to wait on that moment of clarity when the power of aperature turns it into BIG crisp detail!! Hard to believe that's only a 25mm isn't it? Now, let's have a go with this old, cheesy video camera, eh? And see what we can do....

(As always, I sometimes have difficulty in chosing just one frame to illustrate. The video format isn't the best suited to astrophotography in a "frozen" form - for one frame shows surface detail with aching clarity, while another defines the ring divisions so clean it will break your heart! And yes, I really wasn't paying that much attention to focus at the moment either... But since it is only a temporary illustration, I'll leave it for now. Perhaps the future I'll continue to try with different eyepieces and film speeds... And then again? Maybe I don't honestly care anymore. Riiiiiiiiight.... ;)

After we'd had our fill of the amazing Saturn, I persuaded my "spirit" to set the scope, while I turned the dome, on a blinding Jupiter. And like the night before? Where there are two... All too soon there will be three... Then four... Then several scout troops of sleepy eyed children awaiting their turn at the Mightiest Planet of them All!

I was never more appreciative of my new found friend that I was at that moment. Running the big scope for a crowd requires two people, for the operator is basically blind as to what's below the lift. Needless to say, my "l'esprit du coeur et la nuit" made the finest tour guide I could ask for. (You'll never know just how much.... For taking small people close to the eyepiece meant me being in a very akward position, and just knowing there was a smile and a hand when we dropped meant everything.) On my knees, the big scope brought me down to "kid size" for operator clearance, and those knees supported more than one child as they clamoured up to gaze in awe at the magnificent Jupiter. Their smiles and exclamations made it all worth the while....

When at last the dome had emptied, the dawn was not far away. Victor stayed around to help me close up shop, and I felt a bit guilty for I had to leave for work and couldn't return the favour. Saying our final farewells, it is time for me to go. The "Hidden Hollow" Star Party has given me something extraordinarily special over the last two days... A mixture of dreams and memories....

And a reminder of what I love.

"Why leave me standing here? Let me know the way."


October 4, 2002 - At the "Hidden Hollow" Star Party...

Comments: Hurricane Lilli has made her presence known here in Ohio. Yesterday's deep, massive cloud cover and thick low pressure system kept us under wraps, giving way to gentle rains. It's really an awesome thing to watch weather fronts via satellite and then translate it to visible sky. For as the day began? Sunshine ruled, but you could see the "spin" in the clouds. Wave after wave cruised over... Giving us that tantalizing glimpse of blue - and then snatching it away.

Heading toward the Observatory around noon, I tried to be as optimistic as possible. The national "Hidden Hollow" Star Party was about to begin, and things weren't looking good...

Usually I am a loner. That's just the way I like it. But today I have a guest with me. And my guest resides in a black zippered bag riding shotgun in the Camaro. Nope. It's not a body. But it is an embodiment. For my friend is none other than Otto Piechowski. Perhaps you may remember my visit with "the Ottoman" at EKU last year, and perhaps you know this fine gentleman personally, but what you need to know is that he has generously donated his very fine Intes MK67 to public service. As a working member of the RCAS, it is a deep honour to be deemed "caretaker" of this valued scope... For it is more than just a fine set of optics to me. It is the love, kindness and wisdom of the hands that guided it before me. And it will shine on in the eyes of all who come after...

Ottoman? Welcome to the Hill...

Spirits remained high, despite the weather. I have had a very fine time working closely with Joe, and I look forward to spending some quiet time with him in the future. It was truly a pleasure helping to organize things, and at registration meeting those who had traveled so far to join us. There was a gentleman who was there long before the others, and his face seemed hauntingly familiar. Soft spoken and friendly, I enjoyed our conversations very much. I kept wondering why he looked like someone I ought to know, and then someone smacked me on the head. Just a gentle tap, mind you... And formally introduced me to Richard Fienberg, the editor-in-chief of "Sky and Telescope" magazine. Coolness... (I kinda' just liked "Rick", too! ;)

The clouds gave way to rain. Not a transient rain, either. This was your good, old-fashioned, all day and into the night Ohio soaker. The kind that puts a real "damper" on a Star Party. Although it kept the attendance down... It didn't work on the attendees! It felt so good just to sit by my most favourite of compadres, Robert, and just be there. Smiles and laughter were free as stories and legends of "star parties past" were handed round the hall. Umbrellas became make-shift swords, and children big and small wore happy faces beneath their ponchos.

Go on, then! Rain!! We dare ya'....

And then the long arm of Lilli lashed us. The hours of rain diminuished to a trickle, and one by one, stars began to shine. As we wandered away from the shelter, the wind came down like a hand... Bowing tree tops low and ripping away their leaves... Snapping branches off like an angry mother seeking a switch. And then? It was gone. The "sucker hole" widend and deepend, giving way to that "slice of heaven" that all were anxious to see. First came the anxious campers, wandering around the puddles to stand by the dome and gaze at the stars. Then Monty and I fetched our binoculars. When there are two? It becomes three... And four... And the shadows come alive with folks setting up their scopes to do what they came here for.

Star party...

"The wild and windy night that the rain washed away... Has left a pool of tears. Crying for the day..."



October 2, 2002 - M13, M92, M56, M57, M27, M71, NGC6826, NGC6940 and the M15...

Comments: Hey, hey... Don't cha' know there's rain on the way? And it looks like it's going to be just in time to put the hiatus on a certain "Star Party"...

Star? Party of one?

For the moment, skies are passably clear and I'll take the table in the dark corner. Craving the simplicity of the dob, it just looks like a very good night indeed to turn on some music, fill my thermal cup with some tea, and enjoy a warm October night. And I cannot think of a better way to spend it than with you....


Watching globular clusters come alive with aperature and resolution is soul satisfying. The westering Hercules still offers some very fine views of M13 and M92, as does Lyra with the M56 and M57. Targets that have been repeatedly viewed over the summer months that still bravely cling to the sky the way the last of the black walnuts do to the tree. Long time studies, such as the M27 and M71 offer themselves up as the "comfort food" of the night. Having consulted the map earlier, it was time to have a go at the NGC6826 as well. The "Blinking Planetary" is nothing more than a parlour trick of averted vision, but sometimes I like parlour tricks, eh? Just as I like the very rich cloud of resolvable stars designated as the NGC6940.

As much as I hate to turn my back on the summer, the seasons are changing. It is time to reacquaint myself with another section of celestial playground once again. Take an easy "Star Hop" from this place to that...

And just stop to marvel over the little power punch of the M15. I like things that don't always follow the rules - like a globular cluster that contains a planetary nebula. One that emits scathing amounts of X-rays... meaning that it could contain a neutron star or possibly a black hole. One who's slightly more golden stars don't follow the "blue book" descriptions. One that's core is simply unpenetrable with all the hundreds of thousands of stars that comprise it. In other words?

One that makes me think...

"It always leads me here... Leads me to your door."




October 1, 2002 - Less Than 500 Miles...

Comments: There are times when astronomy, or the practice of astronomy can lead a person down the road less traveled...

And then you find yourself on the freeway.

A generous offer put me on the highway today. One I couldn't refuse. (And the next time someone tells you what it's like to drive around Washington, D.C., or perhaps Chicago, Detroit, Raliegh, or Boston? Laugh at them, will you? I've been there. Tell them that an old kid in a fast car... one who forgot the map and the instructions on where to go... managed two of the major cities in the United States during rush hour traffic and logged well over two hundred miles in less than 3 hours. Construction zones and all... ;) And what was this offer?

Nothing more than a chance to have dinner with a very dear friend.

There is a lot more to this picture than meets the eye... Of course, our dinner conversation was directed around our hobby, but it was much more than that. A request was made of me, and for this person? I'd do anything. I'm not trying to be deliberately obtuse. Any who knows me realizes I am a "notekeeper", and my feelings for this person and what transpired tonight will directly relate to the future, and so I record it. There will be a time very soon when things are "official".

So why bother? Because as I journey back, marveling over the magnificence of big cities brilliantly lit at night... I bring something with me. Something very special indeed. It is more than just a piece of equipment...

It's a piece of my friend.

"The long and winding road... That leads to your door. Will never disappear... I've seen that road before."