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Observing Reports: April - 2003

April 29, 2003 - The Cup and the Raven...

Comments: Legend tells us that the constellation of Crater is the cup of the gods. A cup befitting the god of the skies... Apollo. And who holds this cup, dressed in black? The Raven... Corvus. The tale is a sad one. The story of a creature sent to fetch water for his master, only to tarry too long waiting on a fig to ripen. When he realized his mistake, the sorry Raven returned to Apollo with his cup and brought along the serpent Hydra in his claws as well. Angry, Apollo tossed them into the sky for all eternity. It is in the south they stay until this day...

And tonight it is my pleaure to study them.

The galaxies I have chosen are done particulary for those of us who still star hop. I will start with a "marker" star that should be easily visible unaided on a night capable of supporting this kind of study. The field stars are quite recognizable in the finder and this is an area that takes some work. The scope I chose tonight is none other than my fine Meade 12.5 dobsonian. The eyepieces are study grade Meade 26mm and 9mm. All of the following studies were observed under a variety of conditions a minimum of three times. Each night I have viewed them has presented slightly different limiting magnitudes and relatively steady conditions. My reports reflect the best of any particular time, for not every night presents the same details. I work cold, my friends... My companions are a map, a notebook, a sketchpad, a red flashlight, a mechanical pencil, an exuberant black german shepherd and a cup of chai. I have nothing to guide me and I am not fast. There is no book or program here to confirm structure for me, I can only guess. Out here in the field we work unplugged. There is only rock and roll music, this beautiful dark night,

And my thoughts of you.

Now, let's go between map and sky and identify both Zeta and Eta crater... Then form a triangle.

At low power, the NGC3981 sits inside a stretched triangle of stars. Upon magnification, an elongated spiral structure with a stellar nucleus appears. Patience and aversion makes this "stand up" galaxy appear to have a vague fading at the fontiers with faint extensions. They rock the night when a perfect moment of clarity arrives and it is possible to see tiny star caught at the edge.

When I first found the NGC3956, my intial thought was edge-on structure at low power. Again, I study. It is a very tilted spiral, nearing those edge-on qualities I so admire. A beautiful multiple, and a difficult double also reside with the NGC3956, appearing almost to triangulate with it. Aversion brings up a very bright core region which over the course of time and study appears to extend away from the center, giving this very sweet galaxy more structure than can be called from it with one observation. Oddly enough, on the finest of the nights I studied, I have a notation in the margin that says "possible faint companion". This is nothing that I can confirm... Just one of those odd "glints" that one sometimes catches while averting.

The NGC3955 is a very even, elongated spiral structure requiring a minimum of aversion once the mind and eye "see" its' position. Not particulary an impressive galaxy, the NGC3955 does, however, have a star caught at the edge as well. After several viewings, the best I can pull from this one is a slight concentration toward the core.

The next three galaxies start with an interacting pair and require that you find 31 Corvii... And we're ready to breathe the scope up.

The NGC4038/39 is a tight, but superior pair of interacting galaxies. Often referred to as either the "Ringtail" or the "Antenna", this pair deeply captured the public's imagination when photographed by the Hubble. I ain't got the Hubble. What I have is a quality set of optics and the patience to find them. At low power the pair presents two very stellar core regions surrounded by a curiously shaped nebulosity. But drop the power on it and practice patience. Cuz' it's worth it! When that perfect moment of clarity arrives, we have cracklin' structure. Unusual, clumpy, odd arms appear at strong aversion. Behind all this is a galactic "sheen" that hints at all the beauty seen in the Hubble photographs. It's a tight little fellow... And worth every moment it took to find it.

Also in the area is the NGC4027. Relatively large, and faint at low power, this one also deserves both magnification and attention. Why? Because it ROCKS! It has a wonderful coma shape with a single, unmistakeable bold arm. The bright nucleus seems to almost curl along with this arm shape and during aversion a single stellar point appears at its' tip. This one is a real treat!!

Now that we've moved back toward star 31, let's look to the sky again and fixate on Eta Crater. Draw a mental line between the two, aim for the middle and breath just ever so slightly east...

The NGC4033 is a tough call. Appearing almost elliptical at low power, it does take on the stretch of a spiral at magnification. It is smallish, even and quite unremarkable. It requires good aversion and a bit of patience to find.

The last resides by a star. In order to "see" anything even remotely called structure, this one is a high power only galaxy that is best when the accompanying star is kept out of the field as much as possible. It holds a definate stellar nucleus and a concentration that pulls away from it making it almost appear barred! Wide aversion and moments of clarity show what may be three to four glints inside the structure. Ultra tiny pinholes in another universe, eh? Maybe a supernova... Or perhaps an unimaginably huge, bright globular cluster... While attention is focused on trying to draw out these points, it is then that you notice this galaxy is quite haloed by arms. Another true beauty and fitting way to end this particular study field.

The constellations of both Crater and Corvus hold many, many more such fine galaxy studies. Perhaps another year I shall hunt them all down, eh? But for now... My eye is on Virgo. You know that I've tipped the scope up that way, don't you? I look forward to walking through that expanse of galaxies once again...

But not half as much as I look forward to seeing you.

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

I'm goin' home."

April 27, 2003 - The Sun... Working On My Study Field and the M104...

Comments: WOW! The Sun is positively crackling right now! When a friend suggested I go look? Well... I went and looked. And ran right back in for my camera.

We got "Auntie Hale"!

Let's explain, eh? First let's start by looking at a Michaelson Doppler image of the entire solar surface...

SOHO/MDI image

So now we've got the big picture... Just look at all those gorgeous sunspots! And not only are they hot.. But they are very, very hot. What comes next is a magnetogram. I want you to pay close attention to both the north and south poles. Magnetic energy is represented in black for a negative field and white for a positive.

Notice how on either side of the equator that the magnetic energy moves differently? One leads, the other follows. This "switch" in field is know as Hale Value. So, what happens when you get a sunspot that is on either side of the equator? Besides a magnetic mess, you get anti-Hale! Two negative umbrae, surrounded by positive penumbrae... Yet opposite one another!

Let's have a look at rockin' 344...

Just look at how that twisted beta/gamma field has effected the penumbrae regions! They look like they are virutally reaching toward one another... You can see the "curl" in the penumbral region! After having ran the GOES x-ray flux data, we've snapped off five major M class events in the last 72 hours, and predictions are running 70% for more with the next 24. And hey! There's even an X class warning!! Superior... That could mean aurora just days ahead.

Of course, that means it will probably rain as well, eh?

Here... Have a look at the others before I clean out all of the pictures for April.

This would be the delicate tracery of spot 332 and the following shot is of a complex area designated and 345 and 349...

Told ya' it was rockin'!!

Now this old vampyre is off to nap away the rest of the daylight hours. The night shift is finished for now and I've got clear skies and a study field to conquer.

See ya' in the dark.


Kill the alarm clock. Smash it into bits of buzzing ringing black plastic. Do it mortal damage...

And remember why I set it.

I didn't want to get up. Working weekends put a drain on my brain. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to just have slept for ten hours and let the world go by without me... But clear skies several nights in a row have been a rarity here in Ohio, and I grumble, stumble, and make my way to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. H really is sure of what's going on, but when he sees me put on observing clothes instead of dress clothes, he begins to prance and dance. Hey, hey! We're goin' out!

I pulled the dob round to the south field around 10:15 and uncovered it. For the next 30 minutes or more, I spent my time just happily sipping the "nectar of the gods" and just enjoying the stars. Tonight appears far cleaner to me than last. Coma Berenices sparkles with the fire of perhaps seven, eight or nine individual stars that for some reason really captures my fancy. I think of all the constellations, I find this one the most beautiful.... And it's story as well. For she cut off her hair, her pride, for the safe return of her lover.... And the gods placed it in the sky for all eternity.

Ready to rock now, I head on out to capture my study marks. I've got a very fine, very clean southern horizon tonight and there are definately more stars visible to the naked eye. I open my maps, take out my notes, and begin. Again, they do not come easy to me. Study is a long, yet very satisfactory process... One where I improve on my field sketches, note details on some that I didn't catch in my preliminary hop, and just generally work a bit faster than the time before.

Or did I?

Feeling my eyes start to burn, I glance down at my watch after I've conquered what I set out to do. No wonder I'm feeling tired again! Two hours have passed and I didn't even notice. Whistling to make sure H hasn't traversed back to the woods, I begin to pick up and realized just how far that Spica has moved since I first started. Putting everything away, I save the scope for last. I need a smile and a glass of wine...

26mm to locate... 9mm to study.

The M104 has got to be the finest example in all the sky of an edge-on. From it's bulging, see-thru quality core region, to the bold dark dustlane, this fantasy galaxy also borders on the edge of color visibility as "golden". It is a quality to the light that I have seen in two other galaxies... And a fine way for me to end this clear, dark night..

And all I need is just one more.

"Now my water's turned to wine... And these thoughts I have? Well, I now can claim as mine....

I'm comin' home."

April 26/27, 2003 - A New Study Field, Delta Corvi, NGC4361, M68, R Hyrdae, and the M83...

Comments: Hey. This is where I belong. Right out here in the south field with my book of maps, my red flashlight, my notebook and my field sketch pad. This is me. Right down to my thermos of chai and my strange taste in music. There's no one here to tell me whether I'm right or wrong. I have only myself to rely on. What I know...

And what I learn.

Perhaps a year ago, maybe even two, I began doing some galaxies studies in this area. Back when I was sailing the "Sargasso Sea" of astronomy I'd enjoy the hell out of them... Never once caring what their designations were. You'd have to understand my mentality, I guess... For when I first started exploring the skies I did everything by "the rules". Then I learned that rules are made to be broken... And after haven been "broken" more than once by life, I gradually learned that even the fire for astronomy can be dimmed. Then along came a muse, and I remembered who I was... What I was... And became proud again.

And pride always comes before a fall.

So, ya' know what? It's time to dust myself off again. Let the pages to those old books fall open... Remember how to walk on the wings of the night, and hop from star to star. The field between Crater and Corvus is magnificent... And I shall earn them. One at a time. And remember how to smile when I see the "RingTail" brought to the eyepiece by my own hands.

So the hours between 10:30 and 12:30 were haunted by a vampyre. One with a book of maps and a big white telescope. One who always dresses in black and crunches numbers for a living. The going was slow, but I've got all the time in the world. Well... At least until I have to leave for work!

And speaking of such? Let's rock to a few well known targets before I gotta' head. Ones like Delta Corvi, with it's well-spaced, disparate companion running ahead to the southwest. The NGC4361 also takes me a bit of time, but this moderately bright planetary with its' kick asteroid central star and oblate shape hued in soft blue is quiet worth the hunt.

Heading toward multiple, Beta Hyrdrae, I keep tipping the dob down until I can see my next clear marker... The back north and to the east for globular M68. This is a fine, well resolved globular with no particular structure, save the fact that the bright stars are sprinkled in a random pattern over the underlying density beyond the reach of a 12.5 at 9mm. Soft, silver blue, this less than large globular would probably be finer at a higher elevation, but presents no difficulty for northern Ohio.

R Hyrdrae comes next, and I silently thank Mike for introducing me to it. It presents no real challenge to find, but it is such a soothing shade of red that it is magnificent on its' own. Sure, it's a long term, Mira-type variable who will never hang out long enough in our skies to see much change in magnitude... But wow! Does it ever give attitude!

And ya' know that this is also a marker for the last stop on tonight's hop. The M83 seems terribly bright after the other studies, but it is an incredibly fine way to end the night. At 26mm, it is an easy catch... At 17mm some structure starts to appear... But at 9mm? Hola, baby... A definately barred structure to the bright core begins to appear and the arms take on vague form. Instead of being over and under, this fine fellow looks to have one arm down to the side, while the other extends up like a greeting...

Hey, ~T? Good to have ya' back, kid...

Now, I gotta' take my machine head and go to work. Shall we just say I have another astronomical set of numbers to conquer? But don't you worry, friend nuit.

I'll be back.

"Change has come... And change is here. Love fades out... And love appears."

April 23, 2003 - The Sun... Jupiter, NGC3756 and NGC3758, NGC3147, NGC3168, UGC5542, NGC3182, PGC30122, NGC3877, V Hydrae, NGC3206, UGC5579, and NGC3220...

Comments: Hola! A cloudless day means I'm solaring. I film my sunspots, make my notes, carefully note faculae and granulation... Along with positioning of spots, both umbra, penumbra and followers. And when I'm satisified that I've done my observances to my own standards?

I come back in to check the data.

Oh, wow man... I don't believe this! What's the odds on just having observed a sunspot that cracked off two massive M class flares and then a CME? Guess my luck is changin', huh? Check it out...


That would be the awesome 338 that coughed off enough protons to trigger aurora! Now... Wanna' go see 338? Then come with me, baby...

(Yes. That's the limb. Yes. Those are noise lines from my severly abused by astro VCR. Ask me if I care! I got better things to do than stress out over a temporary photo, eh? ;)

As you can see, 338 is a well dispersed, magnetically supercharged field of many irregular umbra, penumbra and followers. The daggone thing looks postively shattered! What was really cool, but doesn't show on film is the amount of faculae that accompanied this "hot spot". The granulation itself has simply parted in waves making the whole area a visual kicker!

But, hey... It's not alone, eh? Let's have a go at 337!

Hey, now! I thought this one was cool! We've got three seperate, mature umbrae sharing the same penumbral field? I thought it was awesome! And there was this really cute series of trailers stretched out ahead of it like feelers on a bug...

Dang. Now I'm seeing ants on the Sun!

Playing around with faint galaxies... Listenin' to static on the radio.... Counting shooting stars...

Ain't it grand?


And the day ain't over, folks! ;)

And along comes an e.mail, eh? "Going observing. Be there at 9." I know what I've got ahead of me at work over the next five days or so, and it would be sheer folly to head out across country just to observe for an hour or so...

I've got the drive down to 45 minutes.

Arriving just ahead of dark, I'm pleased to see Mike and the 16" Obsession. Monty has brought along his small Meade as well, and they are already following the remainders of a shadow transit on Jupiter. Hey, now! Jupiter is exactly why I made it here before the "Bossman"... Time to open the dome and point Big Blue that way. It takes a bit to get everything situated just right. (remind me that i'm far braver about traveling up to the top of the dome with the lights off, will ya'? for not only am i out of practice with the 31" but if find myself more than a bit shakey as i watch the floor drop away!)

Once up? Well... Let's put it this way. When the GRS slams you right in the eye and Jupiter fills the entire field of view in a 26mm eyepiece? You sorta' quit noticing you're in a metal basket 20 feet off the floor. All you can see is that magnificent big planet and all that fantasy detail usually reserved for photographs. I tried filming with the camcorder, but not very pleased with the results. Again, I think my astrophotography days are about over... I'm fiddling with equipment more than I am observing!

By now, Bruce has arrived an begins his set up as well. Time to get the feet back down on the ground, for as much as I admire what I'm seeing? I much rather be galaxy hopping to places I've never been. Jupiter is just next door...

Sneaking outside, I go have a look through the Obsession and NGC3756 and NGC3758... And I think I've logged these numbers wrong, but there's nothing wrong with the pair in the eyepiece! A real beauty easy spiral, accompanied by a stetched spiral that lay at odds with it.

Now, let's turn and burn. Cuz' nothing is really... More than a feeling.

NGC3147 is a beautiful, big, direct vision spiral with a very stellar nucleus. Soft structure and a hint of compact arms.

The NGC3168 contains a very distracting star in the field, but it is easily enough pushed to the side of the eyepiece to reveal a small, round, concentrated galaxy. Patience and aversion reveals a stellar nucleus.

UGC5842 is also small and round, but appears much more nebulous. It requires mild aversion and its' diffuse form is very evenly distributed.

The NGC3182 is a bright and compact spiral with a stellar nucleus. Easily held direct, this paritcular galaxy has a sparkling structure. There are hints of things in this one that just walk on the very edge of resolution.

Now! Now we've got one I didn't list, eh? A judgement call... And here's where I revert to my old ways. Use my "cat's eyes" trick... Do it three times and if the results are the same each time, but I'm still a bit unsure? I make a rough field sketch to show what position the ghost form holds against the background stars. Then when I get a chance, I run my findings against whatever information I can find on the web... So here's my astronomical neck on the chopping block again! For I found NGC3188A to be incredibly diffuse. Nothing more than an elongated contrast change whose position matches the data I found.

PGC30122 is only just slightly easier. Small and round, it requires wide aversion. There is a slight concentration toward the center.

Stepping outside for a moment, I wander back over to Mike and the Obsession. He has edge-on NGC3877 up in the eyepiece and that is the structure I admire most. Very easily held direct, this one not only has a stellar core, but a phat concentration that surrounds it as well. It also sports a delightful, slightly off-center dark dustlane.

And what have we here? A bright meteor! Where the heck were these last night, huh? For this one zipped by with a nice -1 magnitude!

He whisks me off to view V Hydrae as well. A beautiful deep red carbon variable whose color I find to be very reminiscent of Hind's Crimson. Very nice!

Heading back in, I've got time for just a couple more. NGC3206 is Bruce's answer. Requiring wide aversion, this smokey, diffuse spiral shows no interior structure. But upon study, I find half of it to be slightly brighter than the other half. Perhaps a more dense spiral arm?

UGC5579 is a highly compact small spiral of even brightness. It requires slight aversion.

So, do we play mind games here? Then say howdy to NGC3220... Seems that no one caught this one a first but me. But then, I'm a brat. I don't look at the charts, I go by what I see. And what I see is a very short edge-on whose stellar nucleus winks in and out. Actually, the whole galaxy winks in and out! And when I call ya' back to look again? Hey, hey... Confirmation is great, isn't it?

Heading reluctantly out, I hear Mike say, "Well, that one just took a magnitude of my night vision." and I stop in my tracks. Huh? He grins and says, "Here. You might recognize this one." Recognize? Are you kidding? The M82 is absolutely unmistakeable! And coincidentally? Absolutely breathtaking in 16" Obsession. Asking permission to move the scope, because you know I've just gotta'... I know the M81 is going to smoke as well. Aaaah.. Geez.... What can I say besides incredible?

Now, amidst smiles and best wishes (cuz' these guys are gonna' be here all night!) a glance at my watch says it's time for me to rock and roll, baby... I'd love to stay but can't...

And I look forward to hearing what I missed!

"Got a machine head. Better than the rest... Green to red. Machine head....

Got a machine head. Better than the rest... Green to red. Machine head. Got a machine head...

And I walk from my machine... And I walk from my machine...."

April 22/23,2003 - NGC2419, NGC3379 (M105), NGC3384, NGC3389, NGC3368 (M96), NGC3351 (M95), NGC3377, NGC3376, NGC3338, NGC3596, NGC3593, NGC3623 (M65), NGC3727 (M66), NGC3628, NGC3226 and NGC3227, NGC3193, NGC3190, NGC3185, and the Lyrid Meteor Shower...

Comments: Oh, hell yes! H and I tried our best to find a cat to sacrafice for clear skies tonight, but apparently just the thought was enough, eh? For somewhere just ahead of 10:00 the skies cleared off and rocked right down to a steady 6. I was psyched up to view a meteor shower tonight, but that's hours away yet, and if you hand me clear skies?

I'm gonna' go study!

I basically kept my targets simple because I'm somewhat out of practice. I didn't realize just how out of practice I had become until I tried looking for the NGC2419! Yes, the "Intergalactic Wanderer" and I haven't spoken to one another so far this season, and as fast as the Lynx is travelling out of the picture, it's best I head out thataway and give it a shot.

At around 300 million light years away from us, the NGC2419 has been shrouded in cosmological mystery. At one time, it was theorized that it was a globular cluster that resides outside the influence of the Milky Way.... But, of course, science is always changing their opinions, aren't they? Also known as Caldwell 25, the "Intergalactic Wanderer" is a sweet little globular that appears more like a density thanks to the nearby presence of a star. By socking the magnification on it, tiny "here I am, and there I'm not" stars appear around this small fellow in looping chains. Once again, the basic round structure is a density... Slightly beyond the resolution capabilities of the 12.5... But not so tough that a handful of individual stars can't be pulled from it! Sure, that requires a fair share of aversion, but the NGC2419 is quite worth the time spent. What a way to start the night!!

Now, I'm off to Leo. I'm sure you've probably already gathered the fact that I've got the dob out and rockin', eh? Eyepieces of choice tonight are 26mm to locate field, 17mm to home in, and 9mm to study. My meteor "listening station" is quite ready to go... But just like the scope? I'm not into "white noise" at the moment, and since I've turbocharged the FM band... Crank up "the Blitz" and let's do some galaxies!

The NGC3329 is a large, dense ellliptical easily held direct. AKA the M105, this large, very even galaxy is easily caught at a minimum of magnification. In the same basic area of the sky is the NGC3384, sporting a bright nucleus and elongated form. The NGC3389 appears somewhat lenticular and while in study mode I am picking up what appears to be stellar points. The NGC3368 is a different story. The M95 has a slammin', direct core region and wispy, ethereal arams that react very well to magnfication. The NGC3351 is really something tonight! The M95 is a very beautiful barred spiral... You can't miss that bright central structure and over and under wispy wreath of arms. Spectacular!!

Breathe in... Breathe out... Let's head for 52 Leonis!

The NGC3377 is a perfect ovid that requires only slight aversion, has a sense of concentration and doesn't improve of magnification. The NGC3367 changes my mind, eh? Appearing almost "barred", it's round signature has an elongated apprearing nucleus region. Accompanied by two stars, this is a delightful small galaxy. How about NGC3338? Hola! A very clean cut spiral with a bright star at the edge. Wide aversion definately achieves structure on this one.... From the stellar nucleus to the diffusion of the outer regions!

Breath in... Chort. Breath out...

The NGC3596 is a small spiral that only contains a slight amount of structure with patient, wide aversion. Saving grace? A very stellar core. The NGC3593 is quite lenticular. Although it appears to be concentrated toward the center, my call on this one is very even. Now let's do a couple of easy, squeezies, ok? For the M65 is a very beautiful, easily direct spiral. Wonderfully dense, this deep, rich, and all scopes kinda' galaxy rocks! Nearby companion, M66 also is beautifully direct. I find myself pausing a bit over this one tonight, for at moments I'm picking out dark patches in structure. And I can never help but grin when my aversion brings up that "finger" of light that extrudes from the southern tip! NGC3628? Edge-on... Very diffuse, elongated structure with no clear cut nucleus. Tonight I find this one kind of confusing, ok? The tips are very diffuse, and appear almost to spray out on wide aversion. While doing this, I get dust lane! This one sure looks awfully irregular....

Breathe out... Algeiba. Breath in...

NGC3225 and NGC3227? What can I say besides sweet sweet!?! This interacting pair only requires slight aversion and really rock. The larger of the two takes on the appearance of a slightly tilted spiral with a concentrated nucleus. The companion clings tightly to the elongated edge and and appears to me to be elliptical. Very even, with only a slight sense of fading at the frontiers. I LIKE!!

Now for the NGC3193... With a high voltage star at the edge, this very round little fellow is concentrated toward the core and requires only slight aversion. But the NGC3190? Edge-on, baby!! As the shallow tip of this triangle of galaxies, this sweet streak has a bold nucleus and with patient, wide aversion gives that great dark dust lane signature that I so admire. Kickin'... And the third? NGC3185 left a mark on my notes... Barred? I'm picking up a bold, stellar nucleus that definately pulls, ok? And a diffuse, but most definately over and under structure thing going on! Very, very nice...

By now, ol' stupid here is beginning to realize that I'm cold. The date has changed and I know I've been at it for over a couple of hours now. But I keep staring into Leo, eh? Page 148 in Uranometria has fired my imagination and those clusters of galaxies seem to burn there positions on the night sky calling me to hunt! But a few thin clouds have started to come back, and when I see a quicksilver signature of a meteor, I realize that I'm just not going to be happy with myself if I don't stop and enjoy what I came here to do.

Watch the Lyrid meteor shower!

Putting away my good eyepieces, I am pleased to see that H had decided that what's in the silver case isn't meant for his inspection. He's being rather silly tonight, for I've heard him twang off my antenna more than once and the ground around my observing area is now covered with ignored branches and other assorted yard oddities brought for my inspection. I give to dob a contented hug, and as much as I hate to cover it up? Hey, hey... It's time. Let's go find a bite to eat, some blankets to ward off the cold, make a thermos of chai, and settle back in that redwood chair...

It's show time.

The Lyrid Meteors are not exceptionally prolific. I think this year's predicted fall rate was around 10 to 20 per hour.... So we're talking about the kind celestial show that most people simply wouldn't have patience for. But I'm not most people, am I? I appreciate each sky happening for being unique and different in its' own right. Unlike the splashy, flashy Leonids and Perseids with their copper colored streaks and bright oooh and aaah show, the Lyrids are intensely subtle. 90% of these meteor trails never exceed more than three to five degrees. They aren't bright, and they are fast! Like the Taurids and Aquarids, they are very sporadic and you may go up to 30 or 40 minutes and not see anything...

But I got time.

Arriving dressed for success, I carried my thermos and old sleeping bag out to the redwood chair. I had momentarily tossed around the idea of bringing out an electric blanket, but went into a fit of giggles when I walked past my meteor "listening station" antenna. Now comprised not only of my tornado twisted metal skeleton, it has been coupled with an aluminum chaise lounge frame. Coming straight from the person who was willing to put a a dang computer on an aluminum step ladder and run 110 to it, you wouldn't think I'd shy away from a bit of comfort, would you? Uh, uh, baby... I know my luck. And I'm getting this perfectly clear picture of Ol' ~T being happliy electrocuted by a lawn chair! Smokin' blanket and all....

But I digress.

Standing in the garage, I can only laugh aloud at the irony of the radio. "Machine Head"? Too cool... And I sit on the edge of the redwood chair and just sip my chai and I darn well don't tune the radio to white noise until after "Californication" has finished! Now, let's tune into static and see what comes of my FM experiment...

The best listenting to visual confirmation came when an oddball meteor dripped through Hercules. What I heard behind me as I saw the meteor appear greatly sounded like a drop of cold water spattering on a hot skillet. The change in "noise" was so abrupt that it actually made me jump! Time? 2:41...

Then things slowed way down.. My count for two hours had only reached 17. Cool. That means that whoever does these things is very accurate. Between approximately 3:00 and 3:45 there was nothing. Not even the tiniest of flashes. But, oh boy... 4:00 brought on some changes!

Hey, I was dozing a bit. I'll admit it. Snuggled under my blankets, bellyful of hot tea, and nothing but minute after minute of dazed vision into Hercules, Coma Berenices, Serpens, Cane Venetici... I was mesmerized. Starting to hear voices in the static... And then I realized I really as hearing voices and came to!

For a brief period of time, (i don't do accurate watches... i do time clock time.) between approximately 4:05 and 5:30 we had real activity. Stormin'? No way. But the fall rate turned into two or three back to back about once every ten to fifteen minutes. I wasn't getting hiss on the radio now, it sounded more like a signal buried inside of static.

By now, the Moon was beginning to really trash things up. It was glorious watching Mars pulling it up from the distant treeline. The faded and jaded Lyrids are having a very hard time competing with the lightening sky, and to be honest? I'm ready to hang it up as well. The night has been most kind to me. My total count for a bit more than 4 hours stopped at 47.

Lovin' up on Leo... Little silver streaks... And one delightful night off.

"Breathe in... Breath out. Breathe in... Breathe out. Breathe in....

Deaf, dumb and well over thirty.... I'm starting to deserve this. Leaning on my conscience wall... Blood is like wine. I'm unconscious half the time... If I had to do it all again? I'd change it all..."

April 21, 2003 - You Just Gotta' Know How...

Comments: So it's raining here again in Ohio. What else is new, eh? It's really easy to be down when you don't see the Sun or the stars... But the most amazing thing is?

There's still people who know how to make me smile... ;)

Let's just say a combination of everything as left me feeling about as useful as a dead nightcrawler headin' for the storm drain. My attempts at just about everything have not exactly worked out, have they? But ya' know what?

"We're all on our backs in the gutter... Only some of us are looking at the stars."

This quote by Lord Byron is written on my office wall in inch high letters at work. Around it are pictures that remind me to keep looking up! From Mr. Wizard to a frosted Discovery... You're all there.

And sometimes? You're right there when I need you.

This composite Moon shot was sent to me by none other than the good Doctor, Victor DeCristoforo. Done with a Logitech webcam, a 12.5 and 4.5 scope and a variety of filters, it certainly made my night! Not only is the man a damn fine astronomer, but brilliant at software as well! (hey... this is someone that could actually figure out cor's "registax" program! ;)

Needless to say, there was another picture that made it up on my wall as well, eh? And suddenly the "vampyre shift" looked a whole lot less dark.

I would like to thank him very much, for it is things like this that continue to inspire me to learn, no matter how down and out I feel. If nothing else? I am most certainly proud to know someone who can look me eye to eye and say:

"You gotta' know how."

Brille sur, Doc. This one's for you!

"Breathe in... Breathe out... Breahe in... Breath out... Breath in......

Tied to a wheel... My fingers got to feel. Bleeding though this arcane smile. I spin on a whim, I slide to the right... I felt you like electric light! For the love... For our fear. For our rise against the years and years and years...

Got a machinehead... He's better than the rest. Green to red.... Machinehead. Got a machinehead... Better than the rest. Green to red...

And I walk from my machine... And I walk from my machine..."

April 19, 2003 - The Astronomy For Youth (AFY) "Star Party"...

Comments: Oh, my... How long since I've been out doin' my "thing" for the public, huh? I don't even remember anymore. I don't even know if I can. But I do know that the two gentlemen who founded this group I considered to be very good friends... And regardless of how I feel? I will be there.

And I'll even bring ya' a couple of customers. ;)

Arriving well before dark at beautiful Malabar Farms Park, (they have ghosts, too, you know...) the weather was warm, the grass had gotten green, the President was all set up, and the sky was loaded with high thins. My choice for the evening was that old, nasty 4.5. Why? Cuz' with a little finessing I can put it in the back of the Camaro almost fully assembled and avoid being on my knees to set things up. Three minutes is all it takes to secure the tripod and put the tube in the scope ring. Polar align? OK. There. I turned it to the north. Readjust the finder that I whacked putting it in the car? Nah. If it's anywhere in the field, it's good enough for me. Collimate? Who cares... I left the aperature stop out of it a couple of nights ago and now it's got a spider web inside.

I can either rock... Or I can't. Plain and simple.

And the hugs felt awfully good, guy. It's been a long stretch of road, and the trip isn't over yet. I know those lines in my face have gotten deeper, but the smile is genuine. It's just nice to see you again... Set things up... And just talk about astronomy at large. It's not long before the Vice President joins us as well... (darn right i could use another hug) And more scopes are set up in anticipation of the night. Apparently "Refractor Boy" has continued to improve on that old scope, eh? For it has transformed even more than when I last saw it...

So let's line 'em up and sacrafice an eyepiece to get rid of those clouds!

As we await the dark, they discuss business and I find myself just wandering around enjoying the change in scenery. How like Bonnie Doone this place is! But it doesn't smell the same. Just something about it reminds me... And I tuck the memory away like a precious piece of candy and start concentrating on the sky... For there is Jupiter!!

I went wide field tonight. Thanks to an equipment exchange with a friend, I am currently enjoying a Celestron 32mm, 1.25 and I highly admire low power eyepieces with every bit as much fervor as the awesome Nagler 9. With such prestigious telescopes only feet away, my "aim" is simple. That scope will turn a planet into a plate, and I'm gonna' put a pea on a plate and show you what else is for dinner.

Let's get it on.

Things quickly became a "cat and mouse" game between the clouds to keep anything in the scope for long. It was a challenge to display the differing types of structure that is so essential to an astronomy program... But if you give me two planets and 10 stars? We can do it. While we wait for holes to move, I am delighted to illustrate physically the size of the Sun compared to the planets and the distance in which our solar system resides. Nothing like realizing by the time I've made that looooooong walk back from Pluto just how fast this could be achieved at the speed of light! It's a concept... And when I see that you understand? I will turn that into light years and whisk you away to the stars...

Jack Horkhiemer? Or Carl Sagan? Nah. Just ~T... And make it chai.

The discussion turns toward cosmology... And we go into structures, yes? A lesson on how this open cluster, the M67 may have been a failed attempt at galaxy formation. Or how the beautiful M35's colors are related to age. And speaking of age? Wanna' see something as old as our galaxy itself? The let me take you to the M3 while it's "in the clear"... Oh, yes... There is more! Just have a look at the absolutely horrible, and yet wonderful visage of the M42 pulled from between the clouds. We go on to brush over the concept of the "Big Bang"... Touching on "String Theory" and "Branes"... It's one thing to hear of redshift and blue shift... And it's another to have some nut in the dark get you to understand it, eh? Or to just make you remember what you once learned in school and "Taste the Rainbow" again...

And now? It's your turn to drive. Loosen the stops and walk away, eh? The scope is yours...

When I return, it is time to learn some more. Let's see what we can do with some stories... Like Mizar and Alcore, eh? After all, we are in the "Horseman's Area"... And since one just clopped by? Let's do it! I tell the story while getting the star aligned, and let you go to the scope. Instantly you see what I'm talking about, eh? And now comes the real reward when I tell you to look at this one particular one much more closely... And when I hear your exclamation as Mizar B appears for you?

I know I've done my job right.

And so we journey to the "Heart of Charles", for there is beauty to be found on even the worst of nights. But you ask about other galaxies... Can I do this? Hey, baby... The "Great Galactic Duet" still sings their songs. They might be light years apart... But they'll always be the One, won't they?

By now the clouds have fairly well claimed all there is to see. But have they? I would have loved to have shown you the Moon... And ya' know what? I can! Here... Let me rummage through my observing kit a bit and let's have a go with this little video camera. And so even though I have taken you to the stars and the faraway galaxies, I can put the Moon in your hands where there is none to be seen in the sky. And the journey continues...

Fare-thee-wells are said, and another round of hugs deeply appreciated. Even if the frets are a bit broken, once in awhile a good chord comes through. I am tired. Time for me to find some meds and throw my old bones in some boiling water. A bad night turned out just fine...

And the companionship was deeply appreciated.

"My pain... Is self chosen...

The pain... Is chosen."

April 18, 2003 - A Walk In The Dark...

Comments: You know that we've been under clouds here or I would have been out. It's not a new concept... A gap in reports simply means that there's no sky. It's all right, though... For it has given me an opportunity to practice guitar and take some very fine lessons in the applications of Megastar and how to make it work for me. The more I learn, the more excited I become about the program and all the varied possibilities it presents!

You will make a convert of me yet.

And I will get on your nerves... I promise. For after happily spending a hour in the spa getting some heat therapy and enjoying a glass of wine? There is no way when I look outside and see stars that I'm staying in! Moon or no moon... Wet hair? I don't care. (my mother would be appalled for she would be sure that's why i can't shake this cold.) And even if I have had a glass of wine? Too bad, lad... I can wind the 4.5 out the side garage door in my sleep...

Let's walk.

Yes. The skies were trash. Jupiter displayed no detail what-so-ever save the position of two of the galieans. The brightest of the lot, Ganymede, sits quite in front of the planet tonight, and with patient aversion, just a wink of Callisto can be seen behind. And what of Io and Europa? Oh, I guarantee you the little buggers are transiting... Just be keeping occasional tabs on the galieans positioning and knowing my luck. They're not hiding behind. No way! Some where in the world, someone has clear skies... And I know they are watching two black dots and two orbs pass serenely over the face of a gas giant.

So what else? R Leonis. Yes, it's a "long term" variable. The constellation itself won't be around long enough for me to see any marked change in this one, but the color is an excellent red and worth a moment's "hop". Just like happy little Delta Corvi over there... Algorab is easily enough seen with the naked eye tonight, but it takes the 12.3mm, patience and aversion to make out it's 9th magnitude companion tonight... Regardless of the fact that they are very well seperated! Of course, Mizar, Mizar B and Alcore perform very well... As does Cor Caroli. Just a couple of doubles to pass the time, eh?

And speaking of time? There she is...

Nope. That's not an orange filter. Just the pure Moon, filtered by our own atmosphere and caught with a video camera. Nothing I do here can be played with or adjusted in any way... All I can do is take you along for the ride...

And let's go check out Mare Crisium. For this is the stage of the Moon that I think brings out the curvature of this lunar feature the very best. As the Moon climbs higher, it gains in brightness and loses that rusty color, making the areas around Tisserand, Macrobus and Proclus wide open to exploration. And since we're explorin'? Go hunt up Columbus and Magellen as well... For they sailed the seas long before me!

And their ships didn't go down...

"The river of defeat pulls down. The only direction I know is down...

Down... Oh, down. Down... Oh, down."

April 15, 2003 - Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter and a Big Green Cheese...

Comments: All hail the Great God Cortisone! Ol' ~T is now quite back on my feet (a bit unstable yet, but it will improve.) and back in black...

And that's a fact.

Yes. The skies were far clearer the night before. And yes. I was prepared to observe Jupiter in style, eh? Let's just say it was good to be back rockin' the dome... But I wasn't quite ready to master stairs, ladders and lifts all in the same night. Crash and burn, baby... Crash and burn.

But all is well that ends well. Everything turned out fine, and although I don't have the time to make the run tonight, there is nothing wrong with setting out the 4.5 and rockin' the backyard!!

Lights out. Guerilla radio...

First object? Mercury. Earlier evening apparitions are not my favoured time to view this hot little planet but I'm willing to take what I can get. The high thins left me with a very spurious image, but I'm seeing what appears to be a 50% phase on the little red guy. Yeah, the night is definately not good... But cha' know what? It's really warm... And Mercury suits me.

And how about Saturn? Well, how about it? Trashed. Very little to be seen except for the clear cut ring system and Titan trailing along behind and to the north. Executing power on it also proved to be pointless, because of sky conditions.

Jupiter? Hehehheee... Whuz' up, big fella'? Yep. Two bold, grey stripes on either side of a white one. Three dancin' galieans that were a smile all in themselves! Now that the Moon has spaced itself a bit away, even the 4.5 will reveal some of those finer field stars... And the dimensionality remains just as outstanding as ever! Even with as little as 32mm, it is impossible to miss their sky positions, disc and color structure. Who needs planetary detail? Just seeing these little sattelites shift and move is worth the trip!

And when life hands you a big green cheese??

Break out the eggs and ham, Sam-I-Am... And let's make an omlette.

You know, by now astronomers are cursing the Moon. Trashin' up the sky, ruining stuff... Bendin' more keys the Uri Geller... ;) But I'm just happy to be allowed to look at it. It looks like every beautiful picture you've ever seen of the full Moon. Good reason, it is full. But hey! Maybe there's somone out there that LIKES full-figured gals, huh? For them? I say "bless you". Filter it down with rose-colored glasses if that's what you've got to do... Cuz' it really is beautiful.

And so I chased the Moon in green. I explored the rays of Tycho, enjoyed the bright punctuation of Keplar, and loved Grimaldi the Emerald. The night is full of sounds once again... Perhaps Kermit the Frog is still singing to Miss Piggy somewhere...

Cuz' it ain't easy bein' green.

"My pain... Is self-chosen. At least... So the prophets say. I could even drown. Or pull of my skin and swim to shore... Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see..."

April 13, 2003 - The Moon and Jupiter...

Comments: I remember seeing the Moon and Jupiter... and Saturn as well when I got back for my second rest period. But hey. I'm beat. Still fighting with the flu and feeling like ten miles of bad road...

Maybe it will be there after I sleep for awhile.

And I gotta' hand it to the Moon. It's a perfectly clear night, and you knew she'd be hangin' out in the backyard, didn't you? Since I need relaxation as well as rest, I grabbed a mug of coffee and the 4.5 and I set sail for La Luna...

You simply could not miss Copernicus and its' fine ray system. It was in total competition with Kelplar as well... Gassendi is pefect on the terminator and Schiller looks like a long, hollow well... But ya' know what? I don't want the usual. If it's not different... It's not me!

So let's go way North...

Ah... Now that's more like it! Carpenter, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Babbage, Sinus Roris and the emerging Harpaulus and Focault!! You can really see depth and breadth in the Juras Mountains now... Tiny Bouguer, (please tell me you don't pronounce that "booger, ok? ;) the small punctuation of Carlini, and even the overlighted presence of the Straight Range between Plato and the Sinus Iridum. I like this...

And I set the power down.

Oh my, yes. Babbage has two interior craters inside and Pythagoras contains twin peaks. There is also a small, rather indiscreet crater that lay between J. Herschel and Babbage know as Robinson. But what really gets my little motor running is the extreme edge. Now we're talkin'! They really don't show as anything more than a crater "lip" but they have names.... Cremona and Boole. Just outstanding.

And I can feel myself shivering. It's not excitement... It's cold. A few weeks ago I would have been thinkin' it was warm when the temperatures were in the thirties... But my current state finds me somewhat less tolerant to the cold tonight. I whistle for H, and he happily brings me something soft in the dark. Something wet and chewed... Something that looks rather amazingly like one of the foam spacers from my eyepiece case.

Let's just say it "was" from my eyepiece case.

I really didn't have the heart to punish him for it. But he understood that I totally disapproved of his thievery. After a gentle scolding, we both went in for another cup of coffee and a shared peanut butter sandwich. He stood by the door, looking rather dejected because he figured I wouldn't let him back out with me. To be honest, I wasn't planning on going back out. Figured I'd just set the scope away when I left for work...

But I never could resist brown eyes.

So we head back out for a few minutes to sneak a quick look at Jupiter. With the 12.3 ED, I was very pleased to see the north temperate belt. It's a bit faded from last I remember it, but a pretty prize catch with such small aperature. Decent, swept looks to the southern zones... Nice definitions of some type of activity, but not intensely clear aroud the southern equatorial. To me, the real show stopper was the galieans. Just three that I could see tonight... Angling their way toward the planet in that fantasy display of dimensionality that I so admire.... Like a time stop replay of Shoemaker/Levy heading for a impact.

Now I really am chillin'... As much as I'd like to stay and split some doubles, I'm not really well and I've got work to do. Better just to go warm up and do the old honour and duty thing, eh? Hang around in the world of numbers and forgetfulness...

And try not to let it get to me.


And I had every intention of using this cloudless day to look at the new sunspot and do some planetary studies later... But things don't always work out, do they?

Yeah, my pain is self-chosen. I've gotten to the point now where I walk worse than Ozzy Ozbourne and it is about time to swallow my pride, forget my crusade to lose weight, and do some steroids again. Life is just full of choices, isn't it? Shall we work on being slimmer? Or do we like walking?

I'm thinking that being able to make it to the scope might just be preferable.

I don't advocate medications for pain, even though they are prescribed to me. I shy away from things that make me numb... But reality check? Last night I couldn't take the pain anymore. By the time I had finished with all I had to do for the day, it was a herculean effort to do two steps. I remember poor Ranger and I hope his end was painless. So, I do what I gotta' do and "take a pill". While I sit and wait on the sweet forgiveness of old wounds to heal, if feel defeated and betrayed by my own weakness. I watch the Moon... And I see something I never noticed before..

There's a rabbit up there.

"The river of defeat pulls down. The only direction I know is down...

Down... Oh, down.... Down.... Oh, Down...."

April 12, 2003 - Rockin' the Sun...

Comments: No. I don't have my dates screwed up. Those who know me well, also know that I would some very funky hours at times (lovingly called the "vampyre shift") and my days and nights might seem disjointed, but they aren't mixed up.

When I got back for a rest period, the skies were absolutely clear. Sun shinin'... Birds singing'... Grass growin'... Just looked like a really good time to whack the 4.5 out on the lawn and have a go at sunspot 330 before it ducks around the limb!

Check it out...

Yeah, the shot is "drawn back" a little bit more than usual, but I like to include the limb whenever I can to give it more scale. It doesn't matter anyhow, cuz' it's only temporary!

Magnifying 330 was a real treat. Just days ago a singular umbra was surrounded by a very even, perfectly normal penumbral that was vaguely shaped like a coma. Today it is quite clear to see that the penumbral field itself has literally dispersed around into a small series of followers that almost appear to bracket the major structure. The umbra itself is a tough call to see major changes in, for as it rounds the limb the spherical curve adds a dimension of its' own.

Now, to be a good little scientist, I should be checking the GOES x-ray flux data to see if we've had any C, M or X class flares in the region... But to be honest with you, I was given a crate of old "Guitar World" magazines and I'm dyin' to try out a couple of new songs.

Just sing myself to sleep...

"I could even burn... Or swallow my pride and buy some time. This head full of sighs is the weight tied to my waist...."

April 12, 2003 - Of Standing Up, Falling Down, and the Sinus Iridum...

Comments: I have a wonderful friend who lives in the Netherlands. We have conversed for many years now, either by e.mail or making "appointments" with each other to visit a private chat room. This man is a quiet genius... Developed "The Abberator" and the "Registax" program... And one heck of a nice guy besides. Recently the technology has become available to me to simply "talk" to one another whenever we've a mind and are both "on-line" at the same time. After a rather joyous reunion a couple of days ago, he turned on his webcam and I was able to watch "live" as we spoke to one another.

Of course, you know this is the same fellow who has encouraged me to use the webcam in the firstplace, eh?

Excited, we both decided to meet before I left for work tonight and try our first go at a "live" broadcast of an observing session. After my success the previous day with photographing the Moon, I was sure this was just gonna' be a piece of cake! Getting up a bit early, I took out a ladder, perched the laptop on the utility tray, and started running power and phone lines. Hot dang! I've got enough "reach" to get us out into the backyard and onto the already setting Moon! Telescope out... Lined up... Focused... Ready to connect. I really figured I had this one aced, folks. What can be easier than just holding the webcam to the eyepiece and turning it on?? Hey, I'm not only off my knees now... I'm actually standing up!

Click on connect. "Howdy!" And we are good to go, yes? No. So we try... And try... And try again, eh? Not only did I fall... But I fell flat on my face. I simply don't have the speed or the power to do that. But, thank the starz this fellow is a real friend. Cuz' after all? Friends are the ones who watch you fall down, laugh at your clumsy asteroid, and tell you to get up because you look stupid laying there like that.

So, it's another lesson learned. I still had a good time having my friend right outside with me while I observed. God only knows I could have done the same thing with WebTV, but that's another story. I really am trying to learn new technology... And I really miss the way things were. Remember the times we used to just sketch craters and share even if we had to use the postal service to mail them? Ah, my....

We say our "goodbyes" and it is also about time for me to leave for work. I disconnect my cables and take the equipment that I'm not giving up on back inside and return with a last cup of coffee to put the scope away. And you know I've gotta' look... I remember a story I once wrote to that same friend when he was feeling bad. It was nothing more than a fast piece of science fiction... Meant to make him smile. And low and behold! For that very same place in which the story was set is now in the eyepiece... As calm and beautiful as it has always appeared to me.

The Sinus Iridum.

I waltz around the "Bay of Rainbows" alone now. The Promentoriums LaPlace and Heraclides stand in silent attendance. The beauty of the soft rilles which fill the floor are mute testimony to my solitude. The bright Juras Mountains hold them captive, and the singularity of Biachinni is more apparent now than it ever has been. Helicon and Leverrier are like two Musketeers... Missing the third.

And I feel down...

"My pain... Is self-chosen. At least I believe it to be."

April 11, 2003 - Morning Coffee and the Milky Way...

Comments: Well. What do you know about that? The daggone weatherman was right! Just before 5:00 a.m. Ohio time, the skies simply rocked and rolled! Since I'm already up, I took a pass a writing last night's reportand decided to grab me cup of coffee and the 4.5 and head for the south field.

Let's dance...

Sure. The targets were absolutely simple. I haven't been up more than 30 minutes and I'm really not in the mood for maps. But since when did I need a map to find the M4? Outstanding...

Walking east across Ophiuchus, the M19 and M62 are also globulars of long accquaintance. And what a pleasure to see the M8, M17, M22, and M24 again!!! Just the cat's asteroid, I'm tellin' ya'... And I realize that I've got no business out here horsing around in the backyard when I've got to go to work... But I'm not leaving until I've seen the M11 again!

Time to "Drive"...

"Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there.

I'll be there."

April 10, 2003 - And the Moon!

Comments: Well... I did ask for the Moon after all, didn't I? And although the sky was still pretty hazy, I figured it has simply been too long since I had been out prowling around on the lunar surface...

Why not grab the 4.5 and go?

And go we did. Although the Southern Highlands did everything but play the bagpipes to get my attention, the one area that took my eye and held it was to the north...

Plato stole me away a long time ago, and I guess I've just never lost my fascination for it. Because the hazy clouds are still mucking things up, it's just nice to stay a mid-range magnification and enjoy that wonderful expanse of the Appennine and Caucasus Mountains curving there way gently around Mare Ibrium. The shallow appearance of Aristillus, Autolycus, and Archimedes are still quite fine. Not to mention the bright points of both Mons Piton (still 3,000 feet... ;) and Mons Pico as well!

Of course, it's quite obvious I am still playing with the camcorder, huh? So why not give the webcam a try as well? Hola, brothers... It images very well without using prime focus. But I've got to learn to adjust the sensitivity yet, for those intial shots from last night are overexposed.

Curious, I turned my attention toward Jupiter next. Still hanging around with the M44, I could only make out two galieans and no detail save for the equatorial bands. Again, I try the webcam. And again, the webcam focuses on the brighter of the points of light and the M44 does not show on screen. Yet the stinkin' galieans do!! Hey, hey... I'll get it right.

One of these days...

By now those thin clouds have started to thicken, and I cap things up and set them back. The weather reports says clear skies tonight... But I think he's kidding. Even so, I find myself stepping outside a few times... Just hopin'. And during one of those trips I saw something that really made me smile!

Shades of Dr. J. Allen Hynek...

I have often been asked if I believe in UFOs. Wellllll... No. I don't care what my beliefs were some twenty-mumble years ago when I was setting the National Science Fair World on fire with my UFO projects. Then it was my great privelege to meet Dr. Hynek, and he told me to study the stars. And since then? I can't believe in what I can't confirm. So where is this taking us? To me outside looking to see if it was clear and seeing a formation of lights that alternated in colors... twinkling off and on in sequence... just hovering there and keeping a perfect straight line right dead in the center of a clear spot in the clouds.

Hey, Doc? It was Orion's Belt...

"Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes..."

April 10, 2003 - The Sun...

Comments: Yes. I am still alive. But hangin' in "Cloud Central", baby... So ya' gotta' know that when the Sun parted the clouds just enough to cast a shadow, that I had to go look!

And it was brat nasty.

I knew from ShockSpot's responses that we were definately being buffeted by protons from a major solar wind stream and one look at SOHO images shows why:

SOHO EIT Fe XV image

Talk about a major coronal hole! But there's a bright curl, isn't there? And that usually means a major sunspot...

Now, let's go have a look!

"Admiral? Thar be whales here!"

And our "whale" is named 330. Sure, he looks pretty ordinary... But if you could see just how huge it really is, you'd be impressed! Magnetically it's not exactly "hot". Yes, bipolar. And yes, has a beta/gamma field... But with the exception of the curl coming off the penumbra field?

This one looks pretty lazy.

Of course, this could be due to the fact that I am vitrually shooting though a cloud to capture it. You can tell by the "bleached" look to my temporary frame that the sky wasn't cooperating. (hey... it didn't last night either. by the time i made up my mind to "go for it" and get up the equipment the clouds came back!) So, I am a bored astronomer right now. Willing to take potshots at the Sun and hoping to at least get to see the Moon again...

And just missing the stars and you.

"It's driven me before... And it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around. Lately, I'm... Beginning to find that when I drive myself my light is found."

April 5, 2003 - Of Clouds and "Star Parties"...

Comments: Of course, you realized that since my reports have been pretty vague for the last few days, that Ohio has been immersed in clouds and rain. No great secret, eh? For no matter what goes on in my life, observing is part of it.

The WRO/RAS had scheduled it's second "Public Night" for tonight, and chances were right slim that the weather was going to cooperate. But, sometimes things change... And I had the 4.5 packed and ready to go in addition with my observing gear should the night cooperate and we get a chance to study.

The evening began with our monthly RAS meeting, and it's always my pleasure to attend. Although I do not involve myself heavily with the politics, I am an activist... A contributing member with ideas and a mouth... And the willingness to carry out what I project. Club business is, of course, club business... And has no place being reported here... But I was both very surprised and pleased to see a member that I don't often see in attendance. Looks like the night is gonna' be alright!

After the meeting was done, it was time to re-install the newly recoated secondary on both the 31" and the Club's 10". It was my pleasure to watch hands more experienced than my own baby the big scope back to life. Drive gears ready to go... Back in operation! But, there is a surprise here... And that particular member made it happen.

Welcome to MegaStar.

Let's just say through his expert tutelege, that I have more than a passing knowledge of the program and how it works... As well as a rudimentary knowlege of how to make it work for me. What a honour it was to stand by and watch as the encoders were hooked to the laptop and the screen once again displays the position of the Big Scope! It was all I could do to keep from running around inside the dome like an idiot, whooping and hollering "It works! It works!" But noooooo... I play it cool, eh? Stand on the edge of the crowd and grin. Just happy to be there.

Little by little, the club members head there own ways... But we stick it out. There's a slim chance that the sky will clear, but even if it doesn't we have the pleasure of each other's company... And there is so much more for me to learn. Tonight it is about having a cup of coffee and a quiet time together. It is time for me to learn about the past and how things came into being. And I listen, Teacher...

I listen to everything you say.

You tell me about how the way things once were, and how you became involved. You spoke of your passion, and I feel myself moved... Recognizing these things from within myself. You tell of the days of glory... And the days of pain. You tell me in honesty how things came to be... without hard feelings. You speak the truth of the history... And history can be re-written. You show me things I never knew existed inside the Clubhouse... An array of Astronomical League Certificates that bear the names of that long ago fire... Why are they hidden? To me, these are achievements. They should be displayed in pride and honour. And your name is among them many times, is it not? And so are names of people who still frequent there today...

As my fingers fly over the keyboard, I watch your face, reliving those times with you. How I wish I would have known you then! How grand it would have been to be a part of it all.... And you tell me about burn-out... And again I recognize things within myself. Remembering a time when I was "on fire" for astronomy... To find myself years later nothing more than a warm coal that still walked the night out of love for what I do. Yet something brought you back here, didn't it? Whatever weird cosmic ray that came from the sky that returned you to this time and place some sixteen years later...

Was the same one that gave me the courage to set up that battered old 4.5 for the very first time on "the Hill" not far away from you. And oddly enough?

Here we are.

So will history be re-written? Yes. It is a story that needs to be told... Given back to the Warren Rupp Observatory to whom it belongs. No politics... Just the way it was and how it came to be.

As for me? Hey... I'm only a writer. When it comes to astronomy? You are the Master and I am nothing more than a willing apprentice. You have given me new insight and meaning to both the Club and the Observatory. Even though the night has been cloudy, it has been far from a loss. I feel even more priveleged than ever to be allowed to share. And if there is anything I can do to make things "happen" again? Know this... Whatever tomorrow brings?

I'll be there.

"Should I... Decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive? Will I... Choose water over wine? And hold my own... And drive?"

April 4, 2003 - A New Stargazer Is Born...

Comments: Hey, hey... The promised call came. This voyage of discovery between my oldest son, his woman, and the circle of life has come to fruition. What I've watched grow between them, I keep hidden behind my secret smiles and my wisdom of the years. I understand. I've been there and done that. No one can teach the lessons of life better than life itself... And when you call me?

I will be there.

Smiling up at the handful of stars that grace the night sky, I make the journey across the state of Ohio... Enjoying my cup of chai and jammin' to Ozzy Osbourne. Oh, I shall be a real treat as a role model, won't I? The answer to that is yes. For in the end you will find me the one, rock steady presence that never waivers. I may not be everything you want me to be... But I am always exactly what I am. The one with the hug when you need it. The one who knows how to be quiet when I have to be. The one with the right words of encouragment. The one who feeds you when you're hungry, and can let you go your own way.

The hours were long... Very long. Part of me ached to take the pain away, yet all of me knew that this is the way things have to be. I can do nothing more than stand by... Again, with a touch and smile... And wait. I stay well out of the way, for the long, long hours have left me wide open to the common cold and I have no wish to pass on my germs to others. Was I hiding? Heck no! I am there, but respectful. And when at last the moment arrived, I was told I was wanted there... And I washed myself up, donned a surgical mask, and stood behind my son...

Watching his son being born.

When I know that all is well, I take my leave. These two young people and their child are part of me, yet they have their own lives to live. They need me no longer. Perhaps one day this new "stargazer" will seek me out, curious about his roots. And you know what? Where ever. or what ever I may be when that time comes... I'll be there. Just as I am.

Rock steady.

"What ever tomorrow brings... I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes...

What ever tomorrow brings... I'll be there. I'll be there."

April 2, 2003 - The Sun... and the "Nickle Tour"...

Comments: I was shocked when I looked at the Sun today. I had no idea that it had developed so many spots recently! As the "most of the time" dutiful little astronomer that I am, I began my observations at the limb noting faculae, granulation and spot patterns. One major grouping labeled as 323 shows some remarkable seperation in field... And the whole thing rocks! Look at this:

SOHO MDI image

But there's something. Something very important and rarely caught on film. Something that made me go back inside and get my camera. There's a light bridge on 325.

Now, I realize that this picture is grainy and contains noise lines... But I chose this frame because it was one of the few without so much "disturbance". Minute after minute of video footage clearly shows an unmistakeable light bridge crossing the center section of 325's umbra.. I used a variety of magnifications on it and can absolutely confirm it. I know for a fact that "crossing browsers" may not show this phenomena as clearly as I can see it... And I urge anyone who is interested in seeing more pictures of this to contact me at:

I will be most happy to share my nasty jpgs (and my excitement!!) with you! And whatever tomorrow brings?

I'll be there, dude.

With hopefully more sophisticated capture equipment and the same view!!!


And the night brings on easy, breezy, warm and pleasant 5.0 skies. Time for this kid to break out the 4.5 and practice the "Nickle Tour"!

So, you're asking yourself, why would anybody who scopes this much need to practice simple, bright targets? Because you have to, dude... Every scope I use aims differently, even if the targets are still exactly where I left them last! None of them use GoTo systems or "Drive", eh? With the strong possiblity of actually having our first "Public Night" in months, I know that a group of people aren't going to want to stand around waiting ten or fifteen minutes for me to find a DSO bright enough for them to understand. Ya' gotta' know what scope is capable of what for the type of night you're having... And one glance through the finder of the 4.5 will tell you that reflex is the only way you're gonna' find it! (hehehehee... want a real challenge? use my old "workhorse" once.. i'm ashamed to say it, but you can barely see saturn in the finderscope! dirty? you betcha'... it gets used... ;)

So, I'm off, eh? Practicing how to find easy doubles, open clusters, galaxies and nebula that smack the eye at small aperature and low magnfication. I run from one part of the sky to another... Lather, rinse and repeat. And repeat again... And repeat again... It's a pleasing way to spend time, for it feels magnificent just to be outside in shorts and a t-shirt again. H is feeling playful and so am I! I itch to study, for the night would definately support the dob and oh, let's say "Copeland's Septet"... But the reality check is nine out of ten people couldn't see them if I put 'em on a black platter, eh?

But cha' know what? I guarantee they can see the M35, M36, M37, M38, M45, M1, Saturn, M42, Sigma Orionis, M41, M95, M46, Jupiter, M44, M67, M65, M66, Cor Caroli, and the M81 and M82... And I promise not to keep 'em waiting too long!

After a cup of chai and a great big smile, I still find myself feeling playful. I'd like nothing more than to pull the dob out and just rock the night away... And I also know that I need to recover from the long hours I've been working. So I opt for a practice of another kind, and just take the acoustic out on the steps with me.. I've watched the cosmic strings vibrate, and it's time to make some music of my own.

And the sky answers with the best bolide I've seen in a very, very long time...

"It's driven me before... And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal.. Lately, I'm beginning to find that I... Should be the one behind the wheel..."

April 1, 2003 - April Fool?

Comments: Hey, hey... There's no fool like an old fool... And old is how I've been feelin'. Still trying to regroup from a long run of strange hours and feeling a wanderlust unusual for me.

Wanna' come along for the ride?

The day started off typical spring. Moments of sunshine followed by rain... But when you told me the skies were going to clear? I figured it was a joke. But you weren't kidding. By the time the sunset arrived those clouds had thinned way down and I was scrambling for location maps for both Comet Kudo-Fujikawa and NEAT. Although the sky really doesn't warrant the kind of aperature I'm gonna' throw at it tonight, I just wanna' hug that dob.

On the Eridanus/Fornax border, NEAT has now taken up residence in a part of the sky that's getting tough for me. Tough in terms that I had to work my way to Kappa via the finder thanks to thin clouds and skybright. And the race is on, eh? Can I pick off a magnitude 10 study before it catches in tree branches? Answer? Hey, hey... There's a smudgie at 17mm in the field with a two stars. Notably toward the dimmer of the pair. I should have brought my maps out for DSOs, to double check and make sure I'm not picking up a small galaxy.

Wanna' have a go at Kudo-Fujikawa? No problem there. The biggest challenge this one presents is getting me to quit splitting Rigel and go hunt! In an incredibly stellar field, Kudo-Fujikawa's "signature" is also reminiscent of a small, compact and very diffuse galaxy. I can still make out no tail and no coma. Even at magnitude 11 with the 12.3mm in the dob, I'm having a bit of trouble holding it direct. Yeah, it's not me... It's the sky. But it was still fun!

From there I made the switch back to the two inch eyepieces and chose the 32mm for a drive around. I know that if I'm having trouble with 10th and 11th magnitude studies that most galaxies are going to be out of the question tonight. But, like I said... I'm feelin' old and tired... Afraid of rust. And Oz never did give nothin' to the tin man. Let's see what we can see and just enjoy being outside...

Heading off toward Saturn, I took pleasure not so much in watching Titan running along with the planet as much as I got off on still being able to see the M1 in the same field of view. I had to keep smackin' my hands because they wanted to reach in my sweatshirt pocket and call out the power... Even when I knew it wouldn't help. So, before I could change my mind, I hopped off to Jupiter and had a smile at all four galieans, the Mighty Jove and 75% of the M44 still rockin' in the eyepiece. Do ya' realize just how many stars in the "Beehive" are eradicated from Jupiter's bright influence? Even when I push it out of the field of view to look at the M44 proper I can still see exactly what direction it lays in. Again, I have to remind myself not to growl, eh? For there is absolutely nothing wrong with this stunning wide field view!

From there I just got the urge to hop. Even if I can't study... I can still put in a little power... and I can still have fun! And the M35, M36, M37 and M38 are fun, even if they are "old" targets. Like the M42 over there... It's not going to be around much longer and I know I'll miss it when it's gone. (i know i'll miss a lot of things when they're gone... but hey. they'll be back again, and i'll love them all the more for it.) I slid down to take in the M41 and hopped back up around Sirius and starting pushing my way across the east and northeast section of Canis Major, scanning around.. To be quite honest with you, I stumbled on a patch of filamentous nebulosity filled with stars that I'm not precisely sure of the designation on... So hey, I just won't comment!

Still cruising, I ran across the M50. Hey, now... I do know it's scattered, colorful open signature. One I remember!!! Grinning a bit, because I am breaking the rules, I just went back to do the M46 and M93 because I like open clusters that hold similiar magnitudes and appear as large clouds of stars. (yeah, yeah... there's a couple of bright ones - and even a planetary nebula in there as well, but for the most part they're wonderfully even.) Just like the M67...

Feeling the need to be in another galaxy, I turned the dob around from the south and take aim on the M51.... What a drag. The skies are still kinda' rotten and don't support the beauty I know is there. Part of me wants to say, "why bother?" But the M81 and M82 are the reason... Better sky position? Nah. Maybe them high thins are a little thinner there or something... Because they are definately more impressive tonight.

Turning around again, I decided to set my sights between Betelguese and Prycon. The Cone Nebula is absolutely out of the question tonight as well, but the Hubble Variable (NGC2261) responds well enough. Still just as blue as ever, aren't you? And ya' still look like a badmitton birdie to me...

And now? I'm tired. My head hurts. I hurt. But I'm alright, don't cha' know? Always am...

"Sometimes I feel the fear... Of uncertainty. Stinging clear... And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear... Take the wheel and steer..."