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Observing Reports - August 2003



August 30/31, 2003 - Workin' the Night Shift...

Comments: And payin' my vampyre dues? Oh, quit. I tired of the hours I work at times. I truly like my job, but offer me one better and see how loyal I am. My back hurts, my mind bends and my emotions suffer. Tired, sad and hurting is not the way to go through life.

But there are cures...

Some sky time always fixes me. I can wake up ready to kill the world at 10:30, and if I set the scope out and am under the stars by 11:00? Strangely enough I find myself not so grumpy about being awake. And tonight was such a case... I woke up a bit before 11:00 and could see Mars shining from between the cracks in the blinds where only hours before the Sun held court. I found some clothes and stepped out on the deck to let H run while I assessed the situation. Not bad... Not great, for I'm guessing that about 5 is all were getting and from the looks of the "jump" at best a 6/10 stability. Wanna' play with the dob for a few minutes? OK! That's the spirit! And H bounces around as I pull it out of the garage and chose two eyepieces. I aim it loosely toward the west, uncover it an go for coffee. There's a Messier study I still need there that resides just a touch away from Albeiro... And I want to finish what I started.

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Date: August 30/31, 2003
Telescope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 26mm Meade Series IV and 12.3mm ED Epic
Sky: 5.0 ZLM Stability 6/10
Transparency: Good
Temperature: 60
Begin Time: 11:30 pm EST
End Time: 12:30 am EST

M56 - Very small and concentrated at 26mm and not particularly in favor or resolution. 12.3mm brings up a decently resolved, kernel shaped globular cluster who is definately more flattened to the west. Cluster is fairly close to total resolution with stars revealed over core, but there is still a density behind it.

(It was my intention to stop here, for I have a longing to explore the galaxy fields of Pegasus once again. The NGC7331 calls out for me... Even though I know the skies won't support the rest of what I know is there. No matter, for I crave the NGC7814 again and to visit that edge-on beauty that I've so learned to appreciate over the years! But there is a slight problem. The problem is called clouds... And the clouds are coming to take over. Knowing I'll never have time to draw either galaxy out cold, I head instead toward Cassiopeia and continuing with my Messier studies.)

M103 - Very nice at 26mm, sparse appearing. Much better with the 12.3mm wide field! There's an excellent red star situated directly in the center of this loose, multi-magnitude open cluster. Also sheer beauty is the blue/white double to the leading side! Surprisingly more populated than at first glance, the M103 definately takes on a better appearance with magnification and deserves some study.

M52 - A resolving, rich open cluster that is almost globularesque at low power with bright star to the west. Very fine upon magnfication! The leading bright star is definately yellow and on the upper edge. The total appearance of the cluster is fan shaped, reminding me highly of the M11 and the M71 (globular? no... it's rich open. ;P). It is well resolved and the hundred or so stars that make it up are roughly the same magnitude. Nicely rich, but a tiny bit boring, this is just another example of an open cluster that borders on globular structure.

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By now, those clouds have pretty much claimed the night and I let them. It's almost 12:30 and I've hours and hours of work ahead of me yet. Still, I find myself standing and watching Mars peek in and out from between the clouds. I hope my friends at the Observatory had a successful night tonight at these clouds don't head their way! I wish all my friends, both old and new a wonderful holiday weekend and all the starshine you can stand.

Good to see you're still alive and well.

"Let me sing forever more... You are all I long for..."



August 27/28, 2003 - The Miracle, Magic, Mystery, Majesty and Mystique of Mars...

Comments: So today was the BIG day. If you would have asked me at noon what I though our chances were of viewing tonight, I wouldn't have put much money on our odds. I was not trying to be desultory, only trying to be a realist. This is Ohio, after all... The way the electrical and rainstorms swept across the state last night and this morning do not bode well for astronomical endeavor. But you know a little part of me always holds out hope, don't you? Some might call that faith, but I call it a little voice that just ain't learned its' lessons yet. I have been burned repeatedly, yet for some reason I keep comin' back to the flame. A luna moth that just doesn't know any better... Or an astronomer who believes in kismet.

I packed my things in my car after work, watching the clouds go overhead. Oddly enough I have an order that I like things in... Even though I prefer my personal life in disarray. I answered inquiries in the most upbeat manner I could muster, even though I had the feeling the clouds would win. I meditated myself into a power nap, even though I was kept assuring myself it wouldn't be necessary. I fixed myself a wholesome meal, even though I would have preferred jelly donuts. I took a shower a put on clean clothes simply because I worked today. And I got in my car and headed toward the Observatory...

Because I believe in miracles.

I watched the cloud towers and I drove, smiling because I knew they were pushing away if I could see them. As the miles passed away, the Rayleigh scattering of the sunset bathed the world in hues of orange... And again I smile, knowing the clouds are breaking up, but still holding no great promise. I stop for cappucino before I hit the highway, and the young man's wishes to have a terrific night are more sincere than most, for he's actually looking me in the eye. An omen? Nah. Don't believe in that crap. Exiting toward the observatory, I'm actually seeing blue sky and I'm having a difficult time keeping the vertical pedal on the right from going all the way to the floor.

Maybe there really is a litttle bit of magic about to happen!

When I pulled up to the Dome, I was a bit curious, because there was only one car there. I could see that things had been opened up, but not by who. As I started up the steps, I was greeted by some strangers who were not strangers. It only took a few exchanged words to realize that these were visitors who had contacted me via the web for an opportunity to view Mars. Delighted with their company, I climbed the stars and looked round... Bruce! Ah, Bossman... I knew you'd be here. Rock on! (you wouldn't by any chance by a taurus, would you?) I know one thing... If you're here? The night is gonna' be all right... No matter what the skies bring. Shanghaiing my guests, we carry up my equipment and begin set up. Moments later, the sounds of Jimmy Buffett rocks the countryside and another familiar shadow emerges from the twilight.... Curt! And Trish! Oh, yeah.... Then Greg... And Joe! And the people begin to mill around as twilight descends... There is definately magic in the air.

As we wait for Mars to ascend, I grab the young'uns and we do the learning routine. We stretch across space and time at the speed of light. We explore the constellations. We touch other worlds and taste the rainbow. And when I have them hooked with a multi-media martian program and "walking around in circles"? Ah, my... Like a character actor who knows his lines and cues perfectly - Mars enters stage left.

I believe in magic.

While we wait for it to exit the "boil" of our atmosphere, all scopes are turned to the deep sky as Scorpius and Saggitarius display themselves in ways that we could have barely hoped for. Five different telescopes begin a tour of the heavens, and all are welcome to the beauty we find. I cannot believe how quickly and easily the "Nickle Tour" returns to me! And it is my pleasure to take the sky gems and hand them to eager eyes... And I slowly realize that there's absolutely no one inside the Dome.

I slip away quietly as our guest make their way around to the other scopes. Big Blue stands upright and alone, like a monolith minus the mystery. I started to turn and walk back out the door then... And I don't know why, but I came back. The people came here to see you, didn't they Blue? They came here because there is a once-in-a-lifetime event about to happen and the magic has already started hasn't it? Normally I wouldn't dream of touching you during a "public event"... But as I turn the dome the right way and put my hands on the truss tubes to lower you down, you sing.... You sing the sames songs as that old Celestron that sits just outside your door....

And you touch my soul.

The mystique tonight lies not in Mars, but in those of us who have come to celebrate the event. Look inside youselves, my friends... And see what you have chosen. Each of us has a scope that sings it's own songs... Greg? Only you know what the words are to yours... You love it, do you not? It is creating memories for you that you will never forget... Joe? Curt? Is there not a significance to the scopes you have chosen as well? Bruce? You would not dream of being out here tonight without the Meade, would you? And out of all the scopes I could have chosen, that old Celestron is the one that stands here... And inside the Dome? All that big scope wants is to be turned loose on the night once again... To hear the murmur of people waiting their turn... The gentle sound of the lift... To put the mystery of Mars in the eyepiece... And a set of hands willing to take it and keep it there. All this scope asks it to feel children at her eyepiece again... And to hear the exclamations of those who have never seen become enlightened. And all you need is someone to point the way...

I am deeply honoured.

I do not know how many people shared the magic tonight. I do not remember how many children climbed upon my knee as I knelt in the lift to bring them to the eypiece. I do not know how many hands adjusted the focus, nor how many lives this wonderful old telescope has touched... But I know it gave something to me that is priceless. Between each guest I would readjust the scope, and each time the mystery of Mars would play itself out before my eyes. We went on for hours, as the scope, lift and Mars climbed higher and higher into the starry night. Each person's thrill became my own as I could listen, watch their faces and see their eyes as the majesty of Mars was revealed to them. No gift in the world could have been more precious. And when the last of them as left the dome, and I look below to see that all is quiet again, I look to Mars.


It has been my privelege over the hours to have watched the many changes the surface features of Mars has undergone. What cosmic force drove me to stand still here tonight? I worship it.... For if I had been on the ground, I would have been DSO hopping for our guests, and I would never have seen Mars in this way. I have watched the surface features rotate around each time I have readjusted the scope. I have watched one of Mars' moons slide quietly into view and revel in the sheer power this big scope to deliver! (if you were filtering? you would have never seen it...) I've watched the turn of the polar cap and the features slide by like the topographical map that I've looked at so many times. To whom to I give my thanks? Before anyone else can come inside the dome and change the mystique of this moment, I reach out and hold the framework of the Warren Rupp Obseravatory telescope and readjust Mars once again. I thank you, Big Blue. If your drive had been working perfectly? I never would have looked at Mars so many times... If the others who profess to love and serve you would have taken the time to be here? I would have never had the opportunity that I did tonight. I would have been on the ground and outside the door... I would never have seen the features turn the way they did, nor watched either Deimos or Phobos slide into view. That pleasure would have belonged to someone else... But tonight? You gave it to me.

And so a gift more precious than anyone could understand has been given to "the Astronomer". This one very special moment in astronomical history has become a deeply moving and truly mystical experience for myself. How many people did I tell that you could say: "I was there on August 27, 2003 for Mars..."? And out of all of you? All of you who read... and all of you who were there? I think there is only one person in all of this world that I could look in the eye and tell "Mars was there for me on August 27, 2003...."

You know who you are.

And so our guests wander on... Their moment has come and gone and they are ready to return to their "normal" lives. As you can see, I had to at least try to photograph again, and the results were outstanding. I know that someday I will be able to take the raw data that I have and produce a wonderful shot for all to "oooh" and "aaah" over. But you see how I am, don't you? I've placed a single, untouched frame that will live a short life in my reports here. And yet? There is someone who is perhaps as curious as myself? Senor Joe! Hola, amigo! Are you ready to try? Then let's rock...

Gotta' hand it to you, Joe. Out of all the people who have tried with this crazy cam, you have got to be one of the fastest! (don't you let the quiet demeanor of this man fool you... he's sharp.) We take a bit of footage on Mars, and then Joe brainstorms on a way that we can achieve focus on such a daggone small on-screen image. Perfection! A bit of adjustment with the camera controls... And even I hear myself saying: "Don't you move it. Don't you move a thing." Virtualdub is a tricky program and you've got to be very careful that it's stored your files correctly. And when I double check? I'm glad I did. You know what? Joe didn't move a thing... And I can tell you right now from the raw data I saw go by on the screen that we stand a better chance than I have with anyone else of scoring a great Mars picture. I look forward to cloudy nights and Mr. Berrevoets software!!

And things wind down... As things are wont to do. Even though this sky is beautiful we are all tired. I find Bruce because I've felt his presence right there with me all night... And we sit and talk quietly for awhile. We both laugh as we look up at this dark night and the beauty of the stars. Had this been any other situtation? We'd of be galaxy hopping and still doing it... And our parting words are not about what date we shall try again, for he knows better than anyone...

"Unitl the next clear night..."

As so the night has come full circle. Dawn is not far away and I marvel at the stars of Winter as I make the drive. I smile at Orion as I take my equipment out of my car and look up one last time. Perhaps on another night I would have set back up and had a look at Saturn over there... Or just a quick peek at the M42 again. But not tonight. Tonight it has been enough to know the old Celestron and I have been priveleged to see yet another astronomical event. And tonight I wonder if you went out and looked up at Mars...

Only to see it looking back at you.

"Fly me to the Moon... And let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars... In other words?"


Seem like I just can't forget you.



August 25/26, 2003 - Mars In The Mist...

Comments: Jane Goodall? Where are you when we need you? You were obviously welcome to the jungle, and now it's my turn, eh? But let's tell the story from the beginning...

It's no great secret that I've been anxious to work with the telescope and the webcam on imaging Mars. This has been a doomed expedition since its' concept. I have the tools, I have the talent, but what I don't have is the karma to bring it into being! Has anyone of you out there ever had something you've wanted so badly... But it just wouldn't happen? (well, duh... ;) It has been that way with the bloody webcam. My friend Cor has shown me how easy it can be. No problem. I thought perhaps that Jeff would be the one to save me, eh? Smart enough between scope and computer to make something like this happen... The one place where all the conditions were perfect! And I do mean all of 'em.... But it lacked one critical element. Patience. Guess I missed the train.

So how to proceed from there? First off, the Ohio weather has got to cooperate with time off. Har. Next step... Automate my observing partner. In other words, for me to pull this off by myself, I have got to use a driven scope. And what better driven scope than a 31"? Next? Facility. Part of the problem in the backyard is running power cords and getting work surfaces that work with scope. The Observatory as it all... Maybe that's why it's an observatory, huh? Again, all the elements are there. Resolving power out the yang... Capability of prime focus... Power source handy... And drive. What more could I ask for?

A really clear night off might be nice.

Well, last night wasn't precisely clear, but it was a night off. Would this be the night I'd catch a red "gorrilla" in the mist? Or am I just wild goose chasing again? I'm a card player. If I can stack the deck in my favour, I will. I know that the settings for the camera will take someone with more knowledge easily at hand than myself, so I invited a photographer friend who is beginning to get into astro along for the ride. Again, two heads are better than one and I would like to see a true "teamwork" photo of Mars come out of the WRO scope. And the dome couldn't have been any hotter than if it were located in Panama, ok? I opened things up and turned on the fan long before anybody arrived and set up my 4.5 outside to play with while we waited on things to stablize. Ron arrived just a bit before dark, and we had a seat at the desk while I turned on the laptop and showed him some of the existing avi files that had been created using a variety of processes. The big scope needs lots more cool down, as does the dome... And right now it's so hot I am virtually soaking. We shut things down to go outside and use the little scope while waiting on Mars to rise... And I see somebody coming up the walk.

Joe!!

(and it ain't no great secret that joe is one of my favourite people, in or out of astronomy. ;)

As the Observatory Director, Joe knows what I'm into and he is a supporter. He also knows it's not going to be easy, but he is one of the very few people that are willing to give me the opportunity to try. He has brought his son along tonight as well, (cool! he's almost a carbon copy...) because we all would like to at least see Mars! As soon as it starts coming over the horizon, Joe and his son head inside the dome and put the scope on it. I've brought an entire collection of eyepieces and filters along and they are at your disposal! Ron and I start a brief tour of what can be seen through a small scope under the current sky conditions... (yeah, just get near the eyepiece in this humidity and everything looks like a planetary nebula.) and just have a bit of fun. Nice stuff, like Mizar and Alcore, Cor Caroli, Arcturus, Antares, (sorry, i could see the M4, but i guarantee you can't.) the M8, (again, the M22 is washed.) the M23, Albeiro, etc... And between targets I hop back inside to see what's going on with Mars.

Houston? We got a problem.

I show Ron how to use the scope himself, and just let him go. You can't hurt the old Celestron, and it loves everybody! And I duck back inside... The drive is slipping. The scope isn't even remotely balanced and the backlash at the moment will make ya' think twice. Hey! No problem. I climb the ladder and set it on Mars. Hola! We got it... And again, the drive is not happy. I leave Joe and his son with the toys and they work on adusting the scope so we at least have a chance with the photography. But it's more than just the scope... You can't believe how hot and humid it is. Let's put it this way... My hair feels like I've been swimming. And how does this effect the image of Mars?

It's a red gorrilla in the mist...

OK, so you think I appear to be a bit scattered, huh? Then you will notice that my high dollar optics kept getting put back in the silca and I didn't expose that CCD chip in the ToUCam for more than seconds. Long and short? We'll ruin it if we even try exposing it. But I came here on a mission, daggone it! And failure is NOT an option When Joe is ready to go, he has the scope in somewhat a better condition. It will hold for a moment or two and Mars awaits. It wiggles, it giggles, it shimmers.... But it's our turn. Ron and I head up in the lift to the eyepiece. I smile as I remember Joe laughing about some of the new dimensions being a bit in the way, so I take the tray far forward of the scope and we basically work of the back half. Using a variety of eyepieces and filters, I opt for the camcorder to "capture" what we can. It's is an incredibly versatile device that takes an extreme amount of punishment and bounces off the floor of the lift (oops) for more.

And by far, my favourite shot was unfiltered...



I gave this one frame to Joe last night after I got home and he performed a bit of his own "image magic" on it, making some of the dark features far more refined. At this time, I still need to clip an avi file out of what the videocamera did on both the night Bruce and I worked together. (missed ya' tonight, boss...) Some of that stuff turned out suprisingly excellent and Cor has scolded me already for not trying to see what's "hiding" inside. Tonight with Ron and Joe produced entirely different features, and I sure ache give Cor's "Registax" a go. But that's a future thing. Right now, that raw data is what I'm interested in more than anything else. We can "play" with it in the future.

Ron and I started closing things up after that. We had been out to look at the Andromeda Galaxy in the small scope and just enjoy a cold Coke. It's nice to have someone to talk to while I double check all the proceedures and make sure everything is shut down and locked up properly. (a slim, dark, technically oriented aries. they work well with taurus.) He helps me pack everything away in the car and we discuss some very viable astrophotographic opportunities. If the 27th pans out, Joe will bring his ultra-fine Celestron and we'll see if the webcam won't finally have an opportunity to work! Ron's camera is terrific, and the discussion of how to shoot Mars as a simple subject is also tossed about. You know, a shot of the Observatory with Mars hanging over it would be right fine, don't you? Grinning in the dark, with heads full of ideas on both our parts, it's time to do that journey again. Ron? I've had a wonderful time working with you this eveing and I look forward to further advertures! Vaya condios...

As I make the slow drive down the Hill, I hit the curves cool running. The air conditioner feels fantastic and the road moves fast. Mars is still blazing away up there, as much a distraction to driving as my own stupid urges. Again, I am allowing myself to think. There a song that's echoing through my head that came around during the old days of my life, and it saved me because it echoed what I had become. A broken, useless zombie that sat and counted stars because it released me from pain. I don't now why I think of it now... But I am. Maybe cuz' I thought I'd forgotten ya', only to see you walking up through the mists of memory. You know, of all the things I thought I could give up, I thought smoking would be the one I'd miss. Funny that... Seems like it's you I crave the most. Oh, well... I carry on, eh? Anyhow, seeing Mars has got me thinkin' about it. I don't think any midi exists so that you can hear how it goes...

But I've never forgotten the words.

"She thinks she missed the train to Mars, and she's out back counting stars. She's not at work, she's not at school. She's not in bed, I think I finally broke her. I bring her home everything I want, nothing that she needs. I thought she'd be there holding daisies, and she'd alway wait for me.

She thinks she missed the train to Mars... She's out back counting stars.

I found her out back sitting naked, looking up and looking dead. A crumpled yellow piece of paper, seven nines and tens. I thought she'd be there holding daisies... She always waits for me. She thinks she missed the train to Mars She's out back counting stars. I thought you'd be there holding daisies, you always wait for me.

She thinks she missed the train to Mars. She's out back counting stars..."



August 24, 2003 - M10, M12, M56, M80, M4, M9, M19, M62, and the M13...

Comments: So what was I thinkin' here? I'm thinking that we're supposed to have bad weather on the way and the sky is clear. I'm thinking that a few more days and I won't be able to snatch the M10 and M12 so easily. I'm thinking by the next lunar cycle that it's going to be next to impossible to hit the M80 and the M4... And I'm thinking I'm takin' out the dob and rockin' the globular world.

You know, each of these beasties are incredibly different from one another. Tonight I chose only the 26mm and left it at that. The M10 and M12 are roughly the same size, but the M10 has a core! How about the M4 and the M13? Again, about the same apparent size in the eyepiece, but the M4 looks like dust while the M13 is whalloping with stars! Again, the M56 and the M80 are roughly the same size, but they sure don't look like one another at low power. M56 is concentrated and bright.... The M80 is faded and jaded. Much better with higher magnfication than low.

Wanna' walk through the lower part of Ophiuchus? The let's dance out the M9, the M19 and the M62. Here we see "galactic" influence! These globular structures are all fairly well matched, but the are oblate! Most notably is the M19 that is highly flattened. I'm trying not to be serious here, but my little ears are ringing with a memory.... I think Harlow Shapely, or was that Ames(?) who had a scale on which he measured the "squeeze"... But right at the moment I'm not recalling it. It's just good to be outside on a warm night and watchig the stars.

I visited the M13 again. I could see the little dust strip of a nearby galaxy and again curse my selective memory. NGC6... NGC62.. Grrrr! Hey, ya' know what? I'm not sweating the petty stuff. Right now I'm ready to cover the old dobby back up and put the sweaty stuff in that beautiful, cool blue circle of water out there. I know I'm tired from the long hours and I wouldn't serve myself getting into studies even though the sky would support at least magnitude 12 galaxies... 13 would be giving me a headache and 14 would be a hallucination at this point. And away it goes. It feels pretty good just to ease on into the water and watch as Scorpius slides into the big tree out here. I can see Mars climbing the branches over in the east and Arcturus is still hanging on, folks. There are times when I wish perhaps I would have placed the pool further out into the yard... The grove of trees in nestles in gets great sun, but blocks the extreme horizon. Ah, well, who cares? You can't use a telescope in a daggone swimming pool anyway!

Besides, who wants to look at the stars when you can float amoungst them?

"Alone..."



August 23/24, 2003 - Just Gotta' Study...

Comments: I am sorry. By nature I am a "joy rider".... One who digs looking at the stars just to look at the stars. But again, there is another very potent half to me - And that one likes to study. Another unprecedented clear, dark night in Ohio means that I cannot sleep the amount of time I should. Even vampyres need rest, especially vampyres who have some major responsiblities to care for. But man!! Ask me to try and sleep while there's stars out there? Well, ask Drac if he wouldn't just hotwire the Red Cross Bloodmobile if given a chance, ok? I've seen the way the summer constellations are westering, and I know how fast the Moon will return. There's things I want from this dark sky.

And I take what I want.

Getting out the maps, my notes, my study eyepieces long before I went to sleep helped. When I woke up before 11:00? Even better. Latching onto the handle of the "grasshopper" I had the dob out in the wide open south field and left it to stabilize while I fixed some coffee and got a shower. I only have so long to do this, and I can't be "sky stupid" this time. No problem. I like my dob. I like my backyard. And I like my maps. I might be slow, but dance with me one time, and you might not agree with the way I "do" things, but you will agree that I know how to do 'em.

Now, let's rock...

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Date: 08/23-24/03
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepeices: 32mm Televue, 26mm & 9mm Meade Series IV
Sky: 6.0 ULM Stability: 7/10
Transparency: Excellent
Temperature: 60
Start time: 11:00 pm EST End: 12:30 am EST

M16 - This one I like the very best at low power so I'm sucking every last drop of emission photonage right into the eyepiece. In the 32mm, the "Eagle" bears up to its' name as it sprawls across the star spangled field like a bird in flight. Aversion brings on fine wisps of nebula the extend away, and there appears to be wells of darkness to the north. At 26mm the stars begin to rock out to direct vision. The most concentrated area is to the south/southeast where the embedded stars shine the most direct, high voltage and strong. At this magnication, it is easy to see the small, dark, "Klingon Bird of Prey" that lies at the heart of this huge nebula. There is something special about this area, so let's power up. At 9mm this dark chevron shows much more cleanly with stars caught at the edge. This is the notch, my friends. The notch the the Hubble Telescope blew apart and showed the world the "Pillars of Creation". A 12.5 scope on a clear dark night will show you this place is, but never as the Hubble saw it. Cruise the lobes of the rest of the nebula as well, and you will see many concentrated areas as bright "pockets" of gas, as well as strands and filaments. It surely is beautiful, and I glad I stopped to study tonight!

"The say that a hero can save us... But I'm not going to stand here and wait. I hold on to the wings of the Eagle... And watch as we all fly away..."

M72 - At 32mm to locate (yes, i need a wide field crutch, ok?) there is a pair to the south. Low magnification shows a concentration of stars. 26mm shows a bright core area and the beginnings of resolution. 9mm rocks it out! There is a distinct chain at the edge (coffee ring on notes, it looks like i have written the chain is on the eastern edge.) Some stars do resolve over the core area in a scattered manner but do not completely overcome the density. Actually? This one is kind of nice because it is different that the ones like M22 and M4. It's possible to see variants in magnitude here, and the structure is less "sprayed on" looking. Very nice!

M73 - 32mm. Four stars? Check map... 26mm Four stars. Check description. Four stars. OK, then! Let's whack 9mm down on it and see if we can't say something nice about four stars. Oh, you got it... The primary member of this small group is yellow. Very yellow. The power of gold being shepherded along with three finer whites. An apparent blue/red double lay to the north and the M73 itself is at the end of a fine, averted vision string of stars. How was that "four" nice? ;)

M30 - Small but saucy at low power. Definately saucy with the 26mm! We have a bright core and prickling resolvability around the edges. With the 9mm stars blast across the eyepiece, but it won't blow apart the core! (very kewl... ) This one is not so much density, but the stars overlap the stars, if you understand what I mean. There is no "silver shine" behind them. They are clotted on top of one another! A smile to the blue star in the west, and one very decent globular cluster.

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So, am I bad or what? You know I just didn't look at these four objects, don't you? Hey, now... How could I be in that portion of the sky and not at least hunt down the Saturn Nebula? Oh, yeah! Sing me the blues, baby... The Helix was in some tree branches and I probably could have moved around to get it, but I wanted another old favourite who's sliding west. NGC6940. I've asked a lot of people with a lot of scopes to show me this, and I've come to the conclusion that the perfect aperature is 12.5 and the perfect magnification is what the 32mm provides. The NGC6940 is a crystal field of tiny, well resolved stellar points and when seen like this? Will hook you as well as it once hooked me...

Kickin' the 9mm and the red filter in, I came back round for a quick look at Mars. The south polar cap seems to get smaller each time I look at it. I still have a bit of trouble distinguishing finer features, but daggone it... You can see them. The whole southern portion of Mars looks like it's been drizzeled in grey, and one major kick-asterioid wedge just smacks you right in the eye. When things hold steady, my best bet is that Hellas has lightened the atmosphere across the southern zone, making Iapygia and Syrtis Major appear disjointed and exceptionally dark. I cannot confirm this with a software program (and i warn you to watch where you go for a mars previewer, for the blaster worm awaits you) and I honestly don't care if I'm right or wrong. This clunky, oversized old reflector ain't every gon' ta' show them planets with the kind of detail that them fancy , high dollar refractors kin. No sir. Ain't no use in me even tryin'...

Cuz' I ain't nothin' but a DSO hunter. ;)

"In your house, I long to be... Room by room... Patiently. I wait for you there... Just like a stone. I wait for you there...

Alone."



August 24, 2003 - M10, M12, M56, M80, M4, M9, M19, M62, and the M13...

Comments: So what was I thinkin' here? I'm thinking that we're supposed to have bad weather on the way and the sky is clear. I'm thinking that a few more days and I won't be able to snatch the M10 and M12 so easily. I'm thinking by the next lunar cycle that it's going to be next to impossible to hit the M80 and the M4... And I'm thinking I'm takin' out the dob and rockin' the globular world.

You know, each of these beasties are incredibly different from one another. Tonight I chose only the 26mm and left it at that. The M10 and M12 are roughly the same size, but the M10 has a core! How about the M4 and the M13? Again, about the same apparent size in the eyepiece, but the M4 looks like dust while the M13 is whalloping with stars! Again, the M56 and the M80 are roughly the same size, but they sure don't look like one another at low power. M56 is concentrated and bright.... The M80 is faded and jaded. Much better with higher magnfication than low.

Wanna' walk through the lower part of Ophiuchus? The let's dance out the M9, the M19 and the M62. Here we see "galactic" influence! These globular structures are all fairly well matched, but the are oblate! Most notably is the M19 that is highly flattened. I'm trying not to be serious here, but my little ears are ringing with a memory.... I think Harlow Shapely, or was that Ames(?) who had a scale on which he measured the "squeeze"... But right at the moment I'm not recalling it. It's just good to be outside on a warm night and watchig the stars.

I visited the M13 again. I could see the little dust strip of a nearby galaxy and again curse my selective memory. NGC6... NGC62.. Grrrr! Hey, ya' know what? I'm not sweating the petty stuff. Right now I'm ready to cover the old dobby back up and put the sweaty stuff in that beautiful, cool blue circle of water out there. I know I'm tired from the long hours and I wouldn't serve myself getting into studies even though the sky would support at least magnitude 12 galaxies... 13 would be giving me a headache and 14 would be a hallucination at this point. And away it goes. It feels pretty good just to ease on into the water and watch as Scorpius slides into the big tree out here. I can see Mars climbing the branches over in the east and Arcturus is still hanging on, folks. There are times when I wish perhaps I would have placed the pool further out into the yard... The grove of trees in nestles in gets great sun, but blocks the extreme horizon. Ah, well, who cares? You can't use a telescope in a daggone swimming pool anyway!

Besides, who wants to look at the stars when you can float amoungst them?

"Alone..."



August 22/23, 2003 - Night Crawling...

Comments: I'm back amoungst the vampyres again... Where I belong. I watched the previous night go by in a blurring haze of clouds while swimming. It was hot. Far too hot and humid to take out a scope. The skies were heavy and the air oppressive as I did my quiet laps. I watch the clouds as I roll over to rest, seeing them begin to creep in about the edge and begin to slowly swallow the stars. In a matter of just a couple of hours the distant flash of lightning was their answer. Brave Mars hung on the longest. The brilliant red voyeur was as unwilling to give up on our rendevous as myself.

But the clouds won that night.

And this is the time that belongs to the creatures of the night. The owl, the bat, the treefrog, the cricket, the raccoon, the coyotes bawling in the woods... And me. It's that strange time before I go into work. The time of day when all things are still but those of us who enjoy night crawling. For some reason, I chose the old Celestron tonight. Perhaps it, too, has a longing it needs fulfilled in the starlight. And I carry it out to my favourite area and turn on the music. Time to sip a cup of coffee and enjoy my old companion... The darkness.

I was fascinated with the open clusters in Cassiopeia. It has been so long since I've climbed onto her lap and let her rock me! I had half a mind to go back in get some charts so I could keep track of the clusters properly, but this is a quiet time. No numbers, please. (I shall get my fill of that over the next 48 hours.) I know some of these! Such as the NGC457... And this one! This has got to be the M52! (where's my notes? ah, now... cut it out.) And this fine star cloud up here... It's always been one of my favourites, and if I remember right it's the NGC7789. There are many such clusters, small ones that I've toured and identified over the years, but tonight I follow the same advice I've given to many people... Just relax and take them in. No need to identify everything you see. Just enjoy.

Cuz' you can't swing a dead cat by the tail in Cassiopeia and not hit an open cluster.

I know the hour has passed midnight and I'm fascinated by the way things have changed! My word... Just look as Saggitarius setting over there. And Mars! Wow! It's blazing so brightly you almost can't see the constellation of Capricornus. (notice i did say almost... the time to catch all the planets within a 24 hour period is drawing near, m'dear. ;) A fast, bright meteor creases the sky from zenith to south. I give a great big grin to Pegasus above, for I know right now where the M15 lay... And I seek it out. How fine this little "power punch" globular is! But I am still grinning, for I know where I am going next. I am going 2.2 million light years away, my friends. 2.2 million light years away from all my problems and all my things to do. 2.2 million light years away from the grass that needs to be mowed again and the mosquito bite on my ankle. 2.2 million light years away from the thoughts I've been hiding from... And 2.2 million light years away from the cravings I shouldn't be having.

The Andromeda Galaxy...

What can I say besides... Yummmmmmm. The M31 always has been and always shall be the grandest galaxy in the sky! Just look at this, baby... She's spanning over 100,000 light years across. Just think... That golden core region is about 12,000 light years across and the very nucleus itself is a throbbing mass of over 10 million stars that stretch across 50 light years! This is one of the few galaxies that we've ever been able to see things in... over 140 of them cataloged. Nebulae, globular clusters, novae... Just awesome. It spans over two fields of view with the 25mm and the old 4.5. I can't explain to someone who has never seen the Andromeda the sheer size and beauty of this galaxy, but the DSO hunter understands. There is none like it. Yes, it gets almost boring after a few months of study, but how we look forward to seeing it again!!

I can hear myself sigh and I realize I ought to be going back inside and perhaps fixing myself something to eat, or just poke around for awhile. But I cannot just yet! If i am going to visit the Andromeda Galaxy, then it is imperative that I visit the "Double Cluster" as well. Oh, my... You know, sometimes it's a good thing that these sights move according to season. I know I tire of them by the end of the time to which they belong... And when I look at them with fresh eyes? I am in awe again.

Covering the Celestron up, I really did head back into the house, but I left my old observing companion out to enjoy the cool night air. I went about my typical routines of answering mail, showering and fixing a bite to eat. I kept glancing out the window waiting on the Moon to rise, but I don't see it yet. As the hour gets closer for time for me to leave, I decide with about 30 minutes to go to stop and take in just a bit more of this beautifully clear, dark night before I get involved in work.

Will you look at that...

Yeah, I started giggling about then. Couldn't help it! Here I was, so busy admiring the Plieades and wondering if that was Saturn hanging out below that thin slice of Moon, that I didn't even realize who was emerging from the horizon.

Hello, Old Friend. It's been far too long.

I did uncover the scope once again, I need to see the beauty of the M45 and the Merope Nebula again. I just had to walk through Auriga and snatch at the M36, M37 and M38. And then I just stood there and smiled. I smiled as I put the scope away, thinking of a person I know who has yet to see these things. I smile because I know that if you give me six hours on a night like this that I shall give you a memory of a lifetime. I smile as I turn the radio off and lock the doors. I smile as I get in my car and make the drive to the city where I work. I smile because...

Orion rides with me.

"In all, I read til' the day was gone. And I sat in regret.... In all the things I've done. For all that I've blessed... And all that I've wronged. In dreams, til' my death...

I will wonder on."



August 20, 2003 - At the Observatory...

Comments: If you give me four nights in a row, I will seek study. The first night I will revel in the return of the stars... The second will become more serious... The third will have me back in action and looking for a means to go "beyond" what I have done the previous two days... And by the fourth? I don't want to play with Messiers, the Moon, or the "Nickle Tour"....

I wanna' see what's out there.

As you well know, I cannot ask for a finer study partner than Bruce. He is able to combine his knowledge of computer and scope in ways that are beyond my comprehension. He will hand me ten things where I will spend an hour trying to find one. Do I understand what he's trying to teach me when the tools are put in my hands? Yes. I am not stupid. This is a variant on equipment I have used. Do I want to drive? No. If you gave me the keys to a Ferrari, I would drive it... And I would love it! If you gave me the keys to a Ferrari for a year? It would become another car. I'd end up driving it back and forth to work... It would become commonplace. As long as the keys are in your hands? It remains something wanted... Something to look forward to. So if once in awhile I sneek that blue hot rod out of the garage for a run around the block... Even if I never get it faster than 30 mph... It will always remain that "icon" to me. I know what it will do. I've driven it. But I'm content to ride along and wait until you want the Lambourghini, ok?

Then you best be careful of where you leave the keys. ;)

So, by now you realize that we aren't going to use Bruce's 12.5 to go galaxy hopping, don't you... You are catching on to the fact that he's retrained the 31" observatory scope to behave in accordance with his wishes. And you know that the targets are going to go beyond what can be seen in a backyard telescope... And he's gonna' take me further and faster than I've ever been before. Am I willing to take a passenger seat on a ride through the realm? Darn right I am. Show me the way.

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

Date: 08/20/03
Location: WRO Observatory, Mansfield, OH
Scope: 31"
Eyepieces: 25mm Koenig 2", 9mm Nagler
Sky: 5 ULM average Stability: 7/10
Transparency: Average
Start time: 9:45 pm EST

M27 - Awesome! The central star olds and stays held! The southeast lobe is just loaded with direct stars and five of them hold up to continous direct vision. The northwest portion is very full, opaque and slightly flattened. Aversion shows an extension to the northwest (?!). There are also fine extensions like a "halo" to the south, which remind me of the Miliken in the M76. Simply an incredible sight in this huge scope.

(personal note: there is something here to be excited about. something to be very excited about! and this is the revelation of the halo. again, looking a a DSO is more to me than saying "there it is." and logging it. being allowed to study it reveals things, especially at this aperature, that cannot be see by others. tonight it is the halo of the m27. the halo phenomena is common to bi-polar planetary nebulae. the odd thing about it is, that it is usually only seen captured in photographs that stress the hydrogen line. when i saw this, i stopped right then and there and asked bruce to confirm to me what the cardinal directions were in the eyepiece. i make the notation for the expressed purpose of going back to study the m27 in greater depth than i have before. i was not aware at the time of the above observation that this particular, oft-studied planetary had a halo - but i darn well know it now! and all it took was that one minute of seeing something you had never seen in your own scope to learn it...

i wonder where they leave the keys to the hubble: ;)

M71 - Beautiful delta wing of stars. Even the 31" can't break that density. Like a starry curtain, the M71 shades a stellar field. The lacy edge of resolvable stars make this definately a rich open cluster (ok, you can say globular... even we sometimes disagree.) a truly remarkable sight.

NGC6879. Planetary. Swish, kid. (told you if you put me on the field i'd snatch it.) Almost like a stellar point, but it never behaves like a "star". Running just slightly inside and outside of focus reveals a "star" in the field that doesn't possess stellar qualities. Good reason! It's a planetary nebula!! And it's right there...

NGC6886 - At 25mm an easily spotted blue disk that is much easier than the previous. Even this low I can see the beginnings of ring structure, so Bruce ups the power to the 9mm Nagler. Freekin' walk it! Now we've got blue disc, a very signature ring structure that just the slightest of aversion shows the dark center. Hola, Bossman! Come back here and look... I need ya' to confirm something for me. And he did... The 18th magnitude central star! Yeah, baby... ;)

NGC6934 - Caught between a bright red star to the east and an apparent blue/grey double to the west, this globular cluster is finest kind. Superior resolution. Spangled across the core and a noteable chain cuts across the eastern edge Brigt and totally awesome, this globular rates very high with this aperature.

PGC65252 - Accompanying a similar magnitude duboule star, this faint galaxy shows a patchy, slightly irregular structure with a slight central condensation. Faint and lonely? Yes. But totally cool...

PGC65383 - Again faint. Incredibly faint star at edge. Patience and aversion call out a slight central concentration, and movement brings out a slight extension of form.

PGC65405 - Soft, irregular patch that requires wide aversion. Slight structure, and only a "hint" of a core region.

PGC65416 - Underlying a bright and distracting star, this faint, diffuse and large beauty shows itself when the scope is moved.

PGC65348 - Small, round and no great shakes, but its' by gosh there! As the Bossman says: "Maybe only a thousand people have ever seen this, and we're two of 'em. Does anybody but us really look at these things?"

PGC65466 - Overlaid by a distracting and galaxy destroying triangle of stars, aversion and movement don't do much more for this one that to pull a vague concentration out toward the eastern frontier.

PGC65460 - Just a patch, dude. This 16th magnitude galaxy doesn't give me anything more than a small contrast change. Period.

PGC65513 - Very faint, round and extremely dependent on sky conditions. Not much larger than a stellar point. Requires wide aversion and patience.

PGC65528 - Small. Held slightly indirect with a miniscule concentration toward the core. This silvery disc is housed between to very delightful chains of stars.

PGC65721/20 - Interacting pair. "Pices" in galaxies!! While the easternmost has a slightly more concentrated center, the westernmost appears the quickest to the eye. What can I say besides? Sweet! Sweet!!

PGC65841 - Excellent barred spiral. Even nearing 16th magnitude, the bar shows beautifully from the N/S. Soft, spiral extensions. Large, lovely and all on its' own, this one is my kinda' galaxy!

PGC70477 - Small, inobtrusive and very round and even. This one was starhopped! (the man really is good. ;)

NGC7461 - Stellar nucleus, slight concentration and easily held direct. This one appears to be a tilted spiral.

NGC7467 - Slightly ovid with a concentration toward the core. Can be held direct. (probably an elliptical since my notes appear to be so very excited about it.)

NGC7465/64/63 - Bright elliptical is a part of this interacting group. (this one is totally cool because i've got sketches scrawled on my notes - looks kinda' line a "trifid" of galaxies!) The galaxies are very easily held direct and appear to twist round one another. Looking at my sketch shows the ellipitcal to be 7465 and located to the northern half, 7463 appears to have caught some kind of offset central structure to me, and holds the southern portion. The 7464 looks to be about one third the size of it's companions and its slightly round and is below the pair to the west.

PGC70285 - In this same field. And we are talking 17th magnitude galaxy. Now, Bruce has my glasses. I cannot see the computer screen even if I were three inches away from it. But I don't need to see the screen. I need to go to the eyepices and tell you where I see a 17th magnitude galaxy by describing the star field, don't I? It's small, it's round, and it's signature is just barely bigger than a star. And it's right where I told ya' it would be! Now THAT, sir... Is team work!!! And having a partner to confirm a 17th magnitude galaxy, or an 18th magnitude central star means more to me than any Messier study!

NGC7454 - Very bright spiral with a concentrated nucleus and good form. Elongates slightly toward the NE/SW.

By now those hazing clouds and soon-to-be Moon are starting to make faint studies more and more difficult to achieve. Both of us are quite happy with what we've see so far, and there IS a big, red ball that's being hanging just outside that slit for the last couple of hours asking for eyepiece time! Yes, neither you, nor I are particularly fond of shallow sky but the sky is getting more and more shallow by the minute! Let's go have a Coke and come back and take a look at the most talked about subject in town...

Mars.


As you can see, just one untouched, unstacked, unadjusted video frame shows just pretty much how Mars looks when you take a casual gander in the eyepiece. I've watched Mars over the last couple of months, but I haven't said a whole lot about it. It's easy to see how very much the polar cap has decreased from this frame and every now and again, Syrtis Major will pop right out of this video like a black sawtooth demon. Hellas Basin has long since returned to normal, and I honest dig that bluish haze of the Martian atmosphere on the limb.... But I'm not standing around for hours at 4:30 in the morning to try and drag a feature out, ok? Yes. I've looked and I've looked often. Do ya' really need a report everyday? Nah. Didn't think so. I'm not into all the jargon that kind of reporting entails.... Just like I never really cared to "scoop the poop" on Jupiter. But, I will tell you, if you are either new to the sport or a casual observer, please go look right now. There will be several years between close passes, and you will kill for this kind of detail, as fuzzy as it may look, in the year 2004. You aren't going to see canals, and you're not going to see the face on Mars. Unless you have some really high buck equipment and excellent skies, what you're going to see will look like what I've shown you here with occasional moments of better clarity. But you can say...

You were there in 2003. ;)

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

We close things up and ready our vehicles to leave. It has been a wonderful time this evening! Far, far too long since just you and I have shared the eyepiece or even just this quiet moment in the moonlight to talk. It's been an opportunity that I would not have missed, for all too often there are so many people about that true study just isn't true study. I really don't mind the people, but I doubt I would have seen the halo around the M27 with 4 others breathing down my neck waiting for a look. I probably wouldn't have had the patience to wait on the central star in the planetary nebula, nor taken the time to "starwalk" to a 17th magnitude galaxy. These are the times I appreciate the very most.... And I cannot thank you enough when you give them to me.

For now? Time to head back to our different and distant lives. Hopefully the dark skies ahead will bring us other opptunities to put the big scope through some serious paces! Until we meet again? I'll catch ya' round the comos right here in the "Backyard"...

And you know I'll drive slow. ;)

"And on my death bed, I will pray. To the gods and the angels.... Like a pagan. To anyone who will take me to heaven... To a place I would recall... I was there so long ago.

The sky was bruised. The world was black. And there you led me on... In your house, I long to be... Room by room. Patiently. I'll wait for you there... Like a stone. I'll wait for you there....

Alone."



August 19, 2003 - M23, M25, M54, M55, M70, M69 and the M24...

Comments: Three nights in a row? Three? I haven't had that kinda' luck since CA... And if you think I'm going to waste the opportunity by sitting inside and watching television, you're nutz! Yes, I have to go to work very early tomorrow. Think I care? Yes. I should go to bed. Riiite. Try and stop me. I should be starting a new study field, for I'd like to kick some little plantaries around the heavens... But I also want to finish logging my Messiers. Why the sudden quest? Because all these years... all these years of looking at these things and I never realized that people treasure them as a collection of reports. Oh, there's a collection of reports alright! You can read 'em here on-line for the last three years. If you like, you can sit with my old notebooks and go back for almost fourteen! And you are welcome to smile when you see how much trouble I had learning at the beginning...

So, I am beginning again.

These things are being systematically revisited and the correct documentation entered to make them presentable for the Astronomy League. If I am successful, I will join the rank of my peers at the RAS, and will have completed one phase toward my "Sky Master's" cerfificate. Apparently I will also be the first "virtual" club member to complete the work as well. (dang... do you know how much i wish at times i would have kept a bit better track of things? i could have been out snatching them teeny tinies out of the delphinus/saggita border! but no.... i gotta' be stubborn... do it by the book... )

Let's rock.

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

Date: August 19, 2003
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 32mm Televue, 12.3mm ED Epic
Sky: 6 ULM Stability 8/10
Transparency: Excellent!
Temperature: 70
Mosquitos: Friggin' everywhere
Start time: 9:30 pm EST
End time: 11:15 pm EST

M23 - At low power, an almost "stringray-like" formation of fine stars with the thickest portion to the southeast and tapering to the northwest. One high wattage while to the lower right. Magnification reveals many fine, small blues and red. This one, somehow, reminds me of the M41 for some reason. It just has some very, very tiny and precise stars in there.

M25 - Bright, wide open collection with varying magintudes. Best seen at low power, but magnification does reveal a couple of pinpoint reds on the fringes. Again, far better a low, where the patterning seems random with only some chaining in effect.

M54 - Very compact and concentrated toward the center at low. High power keeps that tight, impenetrable core region. This one is difficult to resolve completely in my estimation. There is far more density than resolution due to the tightness of the globular, and clean resolution is only seen at the edges.

M55 - Low power, a fine globular that is slightly grainy with a star to the west. Magnification shows a slightly concentrated core region. It is large and loosely structured and resolves very well.

M70 - Small and compact. Very visible at low power as having an almost stellar core. At high magnification, this tight core region holds intense. This one almost reminds me of a galactic nucleus! Lots of loose density behind the resolution and a notable chain of stars to one side. Very nice and should be easily picked apart by mid-range aperatures.

M69 - Low power shows a small, bright and compact globular cluster. Magnification reveals a concentrated core and many stars resolve over the core region and well as at the outlying edges. This one is almost "clumpy" in structure.

M24 - All right... This one is even far too large for the 32mm... But it's a wonderful "sweeper" to collect stardust! It's not hard at this power when you see the open cluster NGC6603 at the north eastern edge to stop and want to mag up. This is the region of the Barnard Darks... It is easy to make them out, especially the "comma" shaped one, to the northwest. There is also a concentration of stars to the west that I believe holds a Trumpler classification as well, but Messiers are what we're about tonight. And as far as open clusters go?

They just don't get more Messier than 24. ;)

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

And so it has been another terrific night!! I thought perhaps about coasting up and snatching the M16 as well, but I don't think I've long until the Moon rises and it will wait. For now? I'm in the mood to perhaps go transpose my notes... Or maybe just do nothing. But one thing is for sure, the constellation of Saggitarius sure delivers like no other! Wow! (i was sneaky... i'll admit it. i peeked at a couple of them minor NGC globulars as well...) I thought about doin' the Wizard's Galaxy... Ain't seen the Wizard in far too long. But sometimes thinkin' and doin' don't always happen. That's ok.

Maybe another time.

"In your house... I long to be. Room by room... Patiently. I'll wait for you there. Like a stone... I'll wait for you there...

Alone."



August 18, 2003 - M29, M39, M71, M27, M26 and M11...

Comments: Two nights in a row in Ohio? What is this... Some sort of record or something? Well, just for the record, the night wasn't quite so fine as last night, but I'm a game player and there is work I can do at the zenith as well. If the skies are finally going to open up, I want to be well-practiced on the Messiers locations so I don't need a map for casual starhopping... And by getting my "M" studies done, I can continue on with either my own private "galaxy quest" or work with Bruce during the long, dark nights ahead. Either way? Hey, hey... "Thar be starz out thar.'''

Let's dance...

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

Date: August 18, 2003
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 26mm & 9mm Meade Series IV
Sky: 5 ULM Stability: 7/10
Transparency: Average
Temperature: 72
Begin Time; 10:00 pm EST
End Time: 11:30 pm EST

M29 - A scattered and not paritcularly interesting open cluster whose general formation reminds me of a "box kite". More noticeable at low power as a formation, at least high magnifcation does draw a couple of faint stars out. There are some apparent doubles, and the major stars themselves tend toward the creamy white variety... Just slightly tinged yellow.

M39 - Best seen at low magnification for its' sheer size. Roughly taking up the majority of the field of view with the 26mm, this wide open cluster reminds me of the M6, "Butterfly". The main stars are definately yellow tinged, while the apparent doubles are hued blue. Quite a stellar field. I think this one would be unrecognizable as an open cluster with a higher power. One day I'll return with the 40mm and see what's up. For now? This would make an excellent binocular or scmall scope target.

M71 - Yes! Now we're talkin'... M71 has always been a "cluster" in debate. Is this a rich galactic open? Is this a loose globular? What precisely does the sequence stars tell us? Well, how about we just look at the daggone thing, eh? With the 26mm the call would be loose globular... Bright, even and definately concentrated. At 9mm? Shattered. Complete and total resolution with absolutely no core region. Toward the south, a much brighter stellar point suggests that this rich "open" possesses both population I and II stars. Motoring the eye toward the northeast, the pattern of the stars seem to "fan" this way, making it very similar to how the M11 behaves. Again, a fine target and one that I know behaves well in small aperature and rocks the night in large. Visit it! And visit it often....

M27 - Always superb. With the 26mm, the glowing green "bowtie" of the zenith definately waivers, rocks, flashes and excites the eye. Again, I can feel myself caught in all the spectral studies I've done over the years to explain the M27's odd properties. This is something I firmly believe that any observer willing to take the time to truly look at M27 will see. It' lives. Of course, I have explained time and time again about how the central's intense ultraviolet radiation excites the rarified gases and does the lambada of doubly ionized oxygen. But realize why at low power, that the "living" quality is so strong. The sock the magnification to it and understand. The central star... The central star pulses!! Is it a pulsar? No. In every respect it is considered to be a binary. But it is a dying star... And dying stars whack out light across the spectrum... And, and... you really don't want to hear this do you? Then just look at the daggone thing, ok? It's got most definate stars caught within the structure itself, and if you are patient and have a good scope? The central will reveal itself. M27 is one of the finest mysteries in the night. Enjoy it.

M26 - Designation, open cluster? To the telescope? A "Taurus" in stars! Very kewl... At magnification, a grouping of stars headed by a prominent member appears to the southern frontier. Drooping down from this, like pinchers, or the horns of a bull, two long chains extend away and almost gather together to form a circle! There is a very dark, very... central portion in this fairly compact open, but I see no Barnard designation in Uranometria. All in all? A very fine open that should perform best with medium to large aperature since it contains several dozen dim members.

M11 - Time for one more before we call it a night? Then let's look no further than the rich and very beautiful M11. At low power, the M11 holds out its' awesome moniker of the "Wild Ducks". There is nothing like the "leader" in the east and the flat out, comet-like fan of the fainter members spewing to the west. I find the M11 very satisfactory at low power, and intense when maginfied. Again, it shatters into resolvability. Now it is possible to see that the members come in a variety of magnitudes and some color. While most appear blue/white, there are perhaps a dozen or more of those fine reds in there that make me appreciate the dob's capabilities all the more. There is definately a central void here as well, but it does not appear like dark dust, just more like random pattern. The M11 is one of the finest open clusters in the summer sky. Shoot it tonight!

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

And that about does it for me, folks. It's a working night and I've done well because I needed the map to find a couple of these. (yes... a "steenking" map... even i am getting old. ;) Mars is absolutely screaming at me through the tree branches to walk the dob out to the south field and kick it. But cha' know what? There's a cooler up ahead. A cooler that contains precisely two iced beers. One for you. And one for me. It's been a fine night, and I'm up for just covering up the dob and putting it away. I'll meet you back here in just about four minutes, ok? And we'll toast the stars. Unless I come back and find I've been dancin' alone, eh?

In that case... I'll take your beer.

"On a cobweb... Afternoon.
In a room full of emptiness... By a freeway, I confess. I was lost in the pages... Of a book Full of death. Reading how we'll die alone... And if a god will lay to rest? Anywhere we want to go..."



August 17, 2003 - M8, M20, M21, M22, M28, M17 and M18...

Comments: And where are these types of nights when the neophyte seeks the heavens? Ah, perhaps held in captive for those of us who have been denied too long... You can tell the seasons are changing. The temperature is dropping rapidly and the sky is almost dark enough by 9:30. I knew with no clouds that the dob was going to be the scope of choice tonight, and it was long out and ready... Along with my favourite eyepieces and my notes. I watched as that sky darkened to black, folks. Not a mimic black... Black. Round these parts the "domes" of city lights are far enough away that they only involve perhaps the lower 5 degrees of sky on a clear night.... And even then it only bleaches the black to slighly grey. Those stars still shine right through!

I stood watching Scorpius begin to rock in its' decline, grinning at Antares. Ophiuchus poured it's way down between it and Saggittarius, spangling the south with stars. And where was I focused when the lights went out? You know it... The one and only place for me.

Saggitarius.

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

Date: 08/17/03
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 32mm Televue, 26mm Meade Series IV, 12.3mm ED Epic
Seeing: 6 ULM Stability: 8/10
Temperature: 56
Transparency: Excellent
Start time: 9:45 pm EST
End Time: 11:00 pm EST

M8 - The "Lagoon" Nebula... What a treat all rolled into one, eh? We have an emission, relfection and dark nebulae candidate and an open cluster as well. When do we even start with such beauty? How about wide field... The 32mm delivers a bright and uncomparable image. The nebulae regions look diaphonus and the eastward open cluster, NGC6530 resolves out in perfection. Sparkles within the nebulae itself are very prominent. Skipping directly down to the 12.3mm I head toward western half and the massive illuminating star and what is commonly referred to as the "Hourglass" region. I find the area to be reminiscent of the M27. and not as "pinched" as the term hourglass would imply. Also nearby is another bright patch of nebula. Dropping back to the 26mm is definately the ticket here. Now it is possible to see some filamentary action along the dividing rift that runs at a slight angle through the center. I can see the Barnard Dark Nebulae to the west, but to understand them is a difficult as seeing them! They are pockets of "nothingness". In a field rich in starlight and nebulousity, these strange, black, rice crispies in the milk strewn bowl of the M8 are definately a strange treat! All in all, I find the most satisfactory view with the 32mm. It gives beautiful field, bright image and more than enough resolution to make the M8 one of the premier Saggitarius deep sky objects.

M20 - Howdy, "Trifid".... Found easily enough with the 32mm, the M20 responds absolutely the best with the field darkening and wide view of the 12.3mm. Stars sparkle throughout the formation, and the dustlane that runs from west to east are clean and well-defined. The lower, or northern portion of the Trifid, is definately more diffuse. It has an elogated shape that sags slightly toward the intersection of the dustlanes. The most concentration area of nebulosity seems to appear to the east, in a bright and almost regular cloud-like formation. The southwest lobe is definately the "treat" here, for it contains ribbon-like qualities to the nebulosity, and the embedded stars definately take stage in this area. Also, the southern edge of the nebula completes the half circle appearance. The dark dustlane does not continue through it.

M21 - Dropping back to the 26mm for this one. Even at minimal magnfication, it is possible to make out a double in the center of this loose collection of stars. Again, the chaining in this group seem to form a "spider-like" figure with the brighter double handful of stars and there are several dozen fainter ones that accompany the general structure. Not a fantastic object, but even at this minimal maginfication it is easy to make out what appear to be around 11th or 12th magnitude stars the are definately within the confines of the cluster.

M22 - An all time favourite. Found easily with the 32mm, I admire it at this magnfication because like the M13, it trys to resolve. With the 12.3mm, it shatters. As an absolute random in structure, the M22 contains no particular core concentration... It just gets deeper as you go inward. Very highly dense, the stars all appear to be the same magnitude, yet your eyes will drive you crazy with the underlying density - saying there is more there. This is perhaps one of the finest of the large globulars, and the stars simply look as if a cosmic graffitti artist had a can of stars and held the spray here until it concentrated into this fantastic Messier. Truly one of the most worthy in any aperature scope.

M28 - Gotta' take it on the other side, eh? On the otherside of Kaus Borealis it is, and for one of the more overlooked globulars in Saggitarius. Very nice, concentrated and with a phat core region in the 26mm, this one appears about half the size of the M22. With the 12.3mm, it shows itself to be irregular. Outliers take on brighter maginitudes than inner stars. The core thickens and clots with density. Instead of splaying evenly out as with the previous globular, these stars knot, clump and chain in a sunburst pattern. Definately a worthy object for study.

M17 - Going back to the 32mm, I tend to appreciate the "Omega" nebula far more at lower powers. Its' bright appearance reminds me of a Nike "Swoosh" set in the stellar field. As much as I'd just love to leave it like this, I am studying so I drop in the 12.3mm to tone it down and give structure. And structure the M17 gives! There are tiny starpoints hidden all over this bad boy. Try to watch one? And other appears... And another... And another... The actual base of the nebula itself is like a cirrus cloud and this whole thing fades like a wing tip. It is possible to see several strands in this fainter portion of the nebula, which seem to originate the the trailing portion where the two sections of nebulosity meet. Very sweet. Again, a tried a true object for scopes of any aperature and observers of any skill level.

M18 - Best viewed with the 26mm to this little "sperm" formation of stars can be correctly called out of an already stellar field. Just a bit south of it's grander Messier companion, the M18 contains several damn close binaries? Let's power up. Yes. Definately. Take the time to mag up on this one, for even I was surpised at the collection of faint stars not picked out with low power. Several apparent doubles are right down in there.

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

Now, never mind this study busines... I have done enough for tonight to continue on toward my Messier certificate. Right now I've got a mind, to just kick that big two inch chunk of glass back in the eyepiece and keep it there. It's been so long... so long Saggitarius. I'm almost afraid to touch you... Afraid I won't remember how. But I remember how to follow the River. And I start at the Heart, and I follow in the eypiece only. Onwards and upwards, huh? Always, baby... Always. I follow this stream of stars and I think. I think about the loving arm of Milky Way curiling round. I think about all the beautiful things I see sweep by in the eyepeice. I know their names. For you see, I've met them before. And I'll be back. Oh, yes. You can count on that.

Always sailing along on the stars....

"Only God knows why... Only God knows why... Only God, knows, why, why, why, only God knows why.

Take me to the river's edge. Take me to the river... Hey, hey, hey...."



August 13 -17, 2003 - Persistence of Memory...

Comments: How easy is it, for we, as humans, to take a selected bit of our memory and push it from our minds? Is it possible for us to take a chain, or sequence of events and simply tell ourselves that they no longer exist? Are we subtly able to alter our own thought process... Tailor it to our own needs? Can we sublimate by nothing more than a few spoken words? Ask Metallica...

"Fortune and fame... Mirror bane. Gone insane... But the memory remains."

There has been a subtle change in my life. Actually it's pretty daggone drastic when viewed through the eyes of someone who shares these particular "patterns of life and death"... Yet to an outsider? This would be no big deal. A small change in the way I do things is all... And to accomplish it? I allowed another to control my mind. Whoa! Wait! Control my mind? Control... ahem... the mind of ~T? Huh uh, brother. Not gonna' happen. Only I control MY mind! You can beat me, break me, batter and bruise me... Set me on fire, it'll probably amuse me... And chances are? I'll be back for more... I'll look you in the eye, and tell you with a smile... There' ain't nothing you can do... See? There I go again! So, is it possible? Is it possible to take a very stong-willed person and change them? Yes. If that person wants that change, hypnotism will reinforce your very mind. Any suggestion you ask a hypnotist to make to you such as the cessation of pain, the erasure of unconstructive thoughts, or simply kicking a very bad habit... Works. It works just like the computer our minds are. We might block it from conscious thought, yet a little "pop up" window in our minds will keep reminding us constantly that it is there.

So, where does this lead in astronomy? I was asked to change my ways for three days. I did not need to change eveything in my life - simply break a pattern. A pattern that has been a part of my own self-destructive behaviour for far too long, and that is smoking. It is no great secret. It is not evil. Yet it was a little monkey on my back that followed me right into my love of the stars as well... I was asked just to do away with a fixation. My change in mannerisms did not need to include stopping what I love to do... Just stopping what I don't love. I hated the fact that I was a smoker, it had become a source of deepest shame to me. One that people rarely took pity upon. And of all things I do astronomy, the one time I smoked more than any other was when I wrote those reports. A cup of coffee... And a smoke. I would read my notes, write them here, and never look back. But could I change that one thing for just three days?

Apparently I did.

The days have passed. I speak once again. Has my own force of will allowed me my memories of my own observations over the last few days? Oh, quit. Try and stop me. The peak of the Perseid meteor shower was a complete and total bust. All things considered, I had a hard time sleeping anyhow and kept getting up to check on the no-go sky. Around 3:30 a.m., I decided to take a cup of coffee out to the garage and have a "listen" at low frequency for the offspring of Swift-Tuttle entering our atmosphere. Sitting in the old redwood chair, I hear the signature hiss, and the occassional crackle, pop, hum and screech... Practicing relaxation methods, I find myself trying to drift off to sleep and I let it go for now. The Leonids will be along soon and I'll be back.

And the lights went out in Ohio. Actually the power went out across five states! They just blame it on Ohio. ;) There was a day of clouds here.... A bit of storm. At the beginning of the evening, the Summer Triangle was brave enough to try... But they didn't try long. I had hoped the sky would clear just so I could see if it actually was darker without neighboring city lights, but it didn't happen. I swam for awhile, in hopes of perhaps working on doubles or just trying my hand at a full lunar shot, but it never cleared off. Oh, well... Another night. There will be another night.

I stayed up late on purpose. Often when I don't work the next day, I change what I do just because I can. Heck, I can eat a dozen glazed donuts for dinner sitting naked on a piano bench and drink milk right out of the carton if I want to, cuz' I can do whatever I want. And what I really want? I don't do anymore. It hurts and I want and I will not let it beat me. I want so bad.... And here you are... You took my mind off of it and put it towards other things I want and deny myself. It is a persistence of memory, the watches melt and time bends... I recall having looked at the Moon with the violet filter. This one is really a trip! The very bright points of light that are miniscule relfecting craters absolutely glow with this filter and it is a really cool adventure with a map to identify such features as Menelaus, Manilus, LaLande, Dionysius, Descartes, and oddly enough, Thebit. It was also an incredibly steady night, and Mars was incredible at power. The good 12.3mm ED made Mars look like a "confection"... I don't know quite else how to describe it! Topped with the electric polar cap and simply drizzled in albeido features, the "Red Planet" simply held rock steady tonight. Thank goodness it's far steadier than my hands! But cha' know what? I'm all right. And this brings us to the Astronomy For Youth "Star Party" weekend! Is that chancey Ohio weather going to cooperate?

"Listen to me very closely now.... Fully relaxed. Fully aware. This is going to be a non-cloudy weekend.... A non-cloudy weekend... See this phrase in your mind. Let it light up your thoughts like a neon sign... A non-cloudy weekend."

Dang. I'm gonna' have to practice that more. Seems like "Nuit" has a will a bit stronger than my own! The "Mars Night" at WRO had been cancelled due to the rain, and Robert and I sat inside the car and watched it pour from our observing site at Malibar Farms. No mantra was going to clear the skies on command, and very few, if any people would be willing to try and stick it out. Except for maybe Robert, Curt, Trish, Greg... And me. We are "AFY" and we will rock you! And believe it or not? We had guests! We had enough humidity to curl even the straightest of hair, and a force of will to do what we do regardless. And ya' know what? It was a success! (my "mars media" program goes wonderfully with soul coughing's "circles"... them little kids were bopping up and down and by the second round of pictures remembered everything i told 'em... from phobos to polar caps!)

Of course, the clouds pushed in... the clouds stood still... the clouds played pinnocle on the hill... And the folks came and went. We smiled and showed what we could. Hey, hey! The new little Orion has officially lost it's virginity. It has now been used by others (i almost envy it... ;) and been practically placed in Public Service. It was the first in the group to catch Mars and hand it to willing eyes and I was proud of it. Perhaps I could learn a lesson or two, eh?

And the next was patience....

It was well past midnight. Curt and Trish had left for home and Robert, Greg and I were all that were left. The clouds had pushed thick again, and the low ones rolled over the top of the hill, emerging from the trees like a sentinent mist with a will of its' own. It would wrap itself around you, leaving you wet and cold and doing unspeakable things to your optics. I had wrapped the new little Orion in my starstuff quilt, and put it away. Only the tiniest slice of Moon is to be seen, and Mars is playing games. Still, I stay to talk to Robert and Greg.. And we practice patience, eh? You could feel the climate change around us in a matter of minutes, and one by one the stars came out again. It turned into a pleasant experience, one where an idea would be tossed onto the table and one or the other of us would go to our cars and bring back the idea to test. Mars showed itself incredibly stable and so did the lunar surface. The hours passed warmly and quietly... I thought about heading over to the Observatory to do some imaging, but discarded the thought. The hour is late, and the "Boss" usually doesn't hang around if there's moon. I guess it's time for us to say our goodbyes and head our seperate ways until plans bring us back together again, eh?

The Astronomy For Youth "August Star Party" has been a success!

I almost regretfully get back into the car. Time to go and which road to chose, eh? The one to the right looks clear... It's the one I came on. The one to the left is shadowed in mists. There's adventure there! Unfamiliar territory... Which do I chose tonight? Take the one you know... This alternate route looks a bit scary in the dark. It's been too long since I played those games and I'm not sure I remember the rules! (let's see now... don't pass on a double yellow.... solid yellow on the right means a drop off... solid white in the center means you bloody well can't see what's coming at you until it's there.... and the pockets of mist means it's all a big game of chance....)

I think 65 ought to do it.

And I thought of you when I got back because I did something without even thinking twice... I've been flying and there's a reason I want to set the little scope right back up. I could see that things were exceptionally steady, and tonight? Tonight I want the Moon...

"Fly not yet; 'tis just the hour
When pleasure, like the midnight flower
That scorns the eye of vulgar light,
Begins to bloom for sons of night
And maids who love the moon."

And the persistence of memory...

Yeah, yeah, yeah.... The Altai Scarp. Beautiful in its' own right because it is part of a huge, concentric impact region that is amongst the oldest on the Moon. But that ain't it. Of course, Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina and you're getting warmer. I'm catching "glints". Glints that happen in optics costing three times as much for the same aperature. Glints that I know to be tiny features and just how well will this little cheap scope resolve? Show me, baby...

Show me.

Yeah, you're gonna' laugh at this frame cuz' it's not stacked and tracked and cleared and razor sharp. You know what I say, don't you? Yeah. Figured you would.

The glints I'm seeing are peaks inside of Cyrillus, the central of the "three ring" circus of craters here. Before you make fun of my single frame? Stop to think that those little "glints" you see inside that crater are less than one quarter mile high.... And they are 239,000 miles away. Resolved out in all the splendor of a LeGault photo? Hell no. Captured in 30 seconds and put up here on a temporary basis to share, because I still find wonder and awe in what others consider to be simple minded? Hell yeah. Feel free to match me untweaked single images anytime. One minute to take it... And one minute to produce it.

And the only thing smokin' is your brain!

Heheheheee.... Ah, well. I stopped to look at Mars for awhile again on my own as well. Let's just call it a bit of quiet Utopia on my part. Eden's just another world for nothing left to loose. I might Lacus a bit here and there... But I find I'd rather be dumb than smart. What was that old Pink Floyd song? "I have become comfortably dumb?" Of course, I'm grinning because I know better. The Moon and the "Warrior" have given me a few minutes of calm. Enough to make me realize that no matter what path I chose?

It means nothing without you.

"So I guess I'll keep on walkin'... With my head held high. I'll keep moving on... And only God knows why."



August 11, 2003 - The Sun!

Comments: The Sun shines in Ohio?? Well, kinda'... maybe... sorta'.... sometimes! It seems to me that the only time the Sun actually puts in an appearance is while I'm at work, or too late for me to get a clean shot at it for solar observance. So when those towering whites decided to break up a bit today, you know I had to go and try! Looking at the solar surface through moving clouds is eerirly similar to viewing the Moon under the same circumstances, but when clouds shut you out with a solar filter, you lose it. Period. But I had yet to break that new little Orion in on the solar surface... So away we go!

OK, cover the cheesy finder. Now for the filter. Does it fit? Yes. Not quite as snugly as it did on the Celestron, but safe enough. Take aim. Go to the eyepiece... and dang. Not half bad! Watching the clouds race over the surface, I couldn't help but smile as I see a resemblance to Mars here... And as they sweep over, one very prominent spot series named 424 walks into view on the western limb...

(yep. and that's a big ol' cloud coming to snack that bad boy right up! ;)

424 is a sweet, compact, bi-polar beauty holding a beta-gamma field and Ekc classification. It's penumbral field is quite mature and slightly irregular. The umbra region is rich, dark and well formed. During moments of clarity, a few small followers are easily spotted along with some granulation and just a slight amount of the Wilson Effect. 429 on the incoming limb is also a triple treat. It is still maturing as the penumbral fields are small and not yet well formed. No follower spots seem to be present at this time, and the group is compact and very well spaced.

Curious as to why ShockSpot barked at me, since there have been no apparent recent eruptions, I turned my study toward SOHO and the coronograph. Holy cow! This is why... Check out the massive coronal hole activity!



SOHO - EIT Fe XV image


No wonder! The protons flowin' outta' that baby ought to be kicking off aurora all over the place! Isn't it beautiful?? And I can never thank SOHO enough for allowing we amateurs to share in the beauty. You guys rock!

And so I have now broken the new little Orion in for performance on solar. What do I think? I think the little scope has earned its' place. So far it has given me great images of the Moon, Mars, selected doubles, a bit of DSO and now the Sun. What I need is a scope that I can use. So the issue is not edge of field performance here.... Having a "workhorse" scope back is! It's light. It's portable. And it's doing the job I needed for it to do. Now let's see how it handles the years of use and abuse I put a scope through. The study grade Meade 12.5 is guarded carefully... It does not travel. The 8" short-tube Orion took being handled before me and shipped across the United States with ease. The 4.5 Celestron walked every night with me for almost 14 years and still stands waiting. The Intes Mak scares the heck out of me. I like what it does, but I don't really like using it. And now? Now we have an Orion to torture...

And I'm just the evil spawn of Satan to do it. ;)

"Still I ain't seen mine. No, I ain't seen mine. I've been giving... Just ain't been getting. I've been walkin' down that line."



August 10, 2003 - Mooned...

Comments: Yeah? Well, it's an insult to injury. I finally get a night to myself that's clear and you know what happened, don't you? Darn right. The Moon took a real "bite" out of the night. Ask me if I care? I still practice astronomy anyway!

Walking out the door to set up the scope, the first thing I saw was a bright point of moving light that couldn't have been anything other than the ISS. Simply nothing in the sky behaves like the ISS, and I set the little scope down and walked out to the back field to follow it's progress. Man! I'll bet that phat old Moon is just beautiful from their viewpoint! Looks like they flew right into it... Now let's see what they might have seen, eh?

Despite thermal issues, I set down on the lunar surface anyhow, and tonight I chose yellow. It took about 10 minutes for the view to quit popping in and out on me, so at least the new little beast has a relatively quick stabilization time. I must say that Grimaldi looks quite nice in sunshine colors. It is never exactly the most outstanding of features, but the sad clown is a constant reminder that the Moon is about to reach it's max and turn the lights down soon enough. Euclid looks like a bright beacon, and Aristarchus is very impressive as well. Keplar absolutely rocks in this light! Talk about reflective.... And Copernicus, and Tycho, and... and... And that's enough. I really like the Moon. Really I do. But why does it have to hang out on a clear night?

I've been Mooned.

Ah, well. Life isn't exactly that bad. I don't mind practicing on some doubles at mid-range power. The "Double Double" is both a hunt and a challenge using an ill-aiming laser reflex, but I'm pleased enough when I "fish" it out of the sky. The little Orion performs well, and I'll see if I can't shim up the finder for better accuracy. Again, there is nothing wrong with Cor Caroli, with it's soft orange and lavender colors. Nor is Albeiro to be considered lightly, as it is much brighter and far more vibrant in it's orange and blue. Polaris quite happily gives up it's disparate component at minimal magnfication... and my "fishing" expedition continues. It I have this right, I go to Antares. Ha! Forget pickin' the little green dude out with this scope, ok? Not gonna' happen. But above it, Al Niyat will seperate cleanly as a nice disparate that's easy to find when you're working... Shall we say... A bit "blind"?

I can't help but smile as I watch H play about in the moonlight. He looks all the world like a black werewolf as he stands on his hind legs to havest the unwary lightning bug. He moves through the neon bright night, just like me... Happy to be outdoors and under the stars. We are shadows caught in the blue moon light. I see Cygnus above and take a shot on Collinder 399. The "Coathanger" always makes me smile in its' simplicity. A truly beautiful little formation best seen at 32mm... The "Cap'n Hook" of the night!

Closing things up, I look no further than the silver surface of the swimming pool. It's bathwater warm right now and I can think of no finer way to end the evening that chasing the reflected Moon around the surface in slow, lazy stokes. I am quite happy here to float on the surface and stare up at the stars. This is what summer is all about!

Now put out that Moon.

"I've said it too many times, and I still stand firm. You get what you put in.... And people get what they deserve."



August 10, 2003 - The Moon, Meteors and Mars...

Comments: Yep. I am the vampyre. I really don't mind my strange hours on alternative weekends, because they sometimes provide me with opportunities I wouldn't otherwise have. And tonight it is an ivory Moon, a fleeting Mars...

And shooting stars.

Setting the new little 4.5 out to stabilize while I ready myself for work, I had the mug of coffee ready to go as soon as I had showered and dressed. Time for this kid to do a little "Moon Walking" before involving myself in hours and hours of numbers and data. Sweet, sweet serenity! And the favoured lunar view of the night? Tycho.

Oh, I know that sounds stupid. Schiller looked just fine... And I always dig the little domed Wargentin. I like Schicard, Reiner Gamma, and the odd Oenopides... But Tycho captured and held my attention, OK? So, why? The why is called a "blue filter" tonight. Ordinarily I don't use colored filters on the Moon, but for some reason I just felt like it. With blue, the view is very soothing. It tones down the glare and allows one to see overlit features in a "new light". And gentlemen? Tycho rocks. Following the ray system is like viewing where a huge impact has occured and getting to see the damage first hand. Morbid? No. It's just ultimately cool. These rays are features we only really notice when the Moon is either full, or close to full. It is not anything that could keep you studying for hours and hours, (like all those little bright points that i wish i had time to indentify! ;) but it is a very satisfying thing to do while you enjoy your "wake up" coffee.

But I ain't alone out here.

Obviously the Perseids are going to be a real success this year. It seems like every time I gaze round the sky I see at least one! I like these crazy things... I like knowing I'm looking at the offspring of Comet Swift-Tuttle... I like envisioning in my mind how our planet would look from a different viewpoint in space as it passes through the debris trail... And I like the thought of what our atmosphere might look like from space when one of the grains passes through. Does it light up? Can you see a trail? Ah, curiousity... It killed the cat, eh? Meow, dudes. Maybe a cat sacrafice is what we need to clear these skies!

Smiling, I decide to take a quick peek at Mars before heading in to work. Suprisingly stable!! Again, I am mapless and clueless to the features, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them! Look at this! We're seeing details on another planet! There's a polar cap with a shadow around it... And what the imagination could deem as land masses... Just too cool! (and by the way? the 12.3mm ED Epic performs flawlessly with this little scope.) Yeah, I might not be able to call that Tharsis, or Sirenum, or Arcadia with any kind of authority... But could the Martians call Italy, or Scotland of the daggone Dead Sea out without a previewer? Hehehheheee... Ah, Mars!

I love ya' just as you are.

"Maybe I forgot... All the things I miss. Oh, somehow I know there's more... There's more to life than this."


August 8, 2003 - Chasing Rainbows...

Comments: Aaaahhh... A couple of days of peace and contentment to continue on with my studies of clouds and rain. This practice of astronomy seems totally silly when faced with such a great opportunity to study in-depth the weather on our own planet! Who wants to see what's happening on the surface of Mars when we can study the obscurations in much more detail on the third rock from the Sun?

Well, maybe I do.

Passing the cloudy nights away, the Celestron is repaired once again and stands in its' place of honour in the garage - ready to be taken out on a moment's notice. It was nothing major, and a simple dot of LockTite on a bolt was all it took to assure me that at least that particular well-worn component on the mount will never fail again. But, the old Celestron is retired now. I waxed its' black sides and gave consideration to removing the fine thread from the OTA left by an itinerate "astro-arachnid"... and changed my mind. Someday, perhaps... But not now. There are too few "fine threads" left for me to hang on to, and this one has seen the light of many stars. Let it be.

Hey, Wizard... Did ya' know Dorothy has been chasing rainbows? It's been too long since she's dreamed... And when a "dream" came along? At least she was brave enough to follow through with it. She might not have the "right stuff" to find that pot of gold, but she did think of you when she passed through the hallowed halls. She had a song caught in her head when she walked up on stage and it carried her through.

"Need I look round? Make it a mystery. The dawning of a brave new world... Is this just a start?"

I thought of Dorothy when I walked outside tonight. She chases rainbows and so do I. What alter-ego lay behind us all? One who is willing to stand up and take a chance at something new and exciting... And the other happy to munch a bag of popcorn, watch a scary movie and look at the Moon. And how fitting the scene...

The terminator lay just to the west of the Sinus Iridum - the "Bay of Rainbows".

Does everything happen for a reason? Do cosmic forces combine to bring certain individuals to places, times or events? Mysticism is not my way. Taurus walks in the here and now. And what I see is nothing more than one of my more favoured of lunar features. I am watching to see how the new little Orion reacts to cool down and warm up, and I can definately see a difference between it and the Celestron. In the longer tube 4.5, thermal issues showed themselves showed themselves as an extended waiver of image until stabilization is reached. In the short tube design it is like drawing a "curtain" over the image. One moment provides perfect clarity and the next will go to out of focus. There is no "wave" between the two. You are "in" or you are "out". That's it.

I have also noticed the Orion short-tube 4.5 focuser. It works like a real champion but it is short and very fast. Now, to those only observing something optically, that doesn't present a problem. I'm in focus. Perfect. But... For trying to work with a camera? It's going to take some practice. Again, I chose my trusty little JVC digital camcorder to see what it will do with lunar surface features through this scope. Let's try Gassendi...

I have learned through practical experience that the best way to achieve focus between eyepiece and camera is to set it on a feature, hold it steady as best I can, and use the focuser from there. It is best to start out this proceedure with focus for 20/20 eyesight - for that is basically what the camera "understands". So leaving my eyeglasses on, I focus - the go to the LCD monitor screen and fine tune as much as possible. Now I miss the Celestron! While the Orion performs flawlessly for visual, to the camera - This short, fast focus becomes a problem. Even the slightest motion confuses the camera's internal focus memory and it becomes very difficult to achieve fine edge. But... All of this is a learning process. I never take a first attempt to indicate how any scope will perform - Especially when sky conditions are "iffy" at best! So, for now? I show you my beginning attempt at video photography with the new design and I will continue to work with it - Just as I did with Baader film and the webcam.

Webcam? Hmmmmm... I wonder how the webcam would react with this scope!??!

Hush, now. It's been a long day and the vicious, blood sucking mosquitoes don't realize that "Off" was designed to keep them away. I see Mars sparkling through the tree branches and I wish those who are giving programs tonight only the best of views! And a little part of me wants to see as well... So I carry this ultra-light little telescope out to the south field.... Only to watch Mars slide behind a cloud. Grinning at my luck, I look up to see the hazing clouds hiding what few stars were present just a while ago. It doesn't matter. It's a warm night and I think I'll just turn the radio on, take the solar cover off the pool...

And see if mosquitoes can scuba dive.

"It's been so long... Since I've been home. I've been gone. I've been gone for way too long..."



August 5, 2003 - "Starry Nights"...

Comments: If anyone other than a resident of Ohio had seen the sky around sunsent last night, they would have said that any type of astronomy program would have to be cancelled. Between the clouds and a occassional big, phat raindrop it sure looked like there wasn't going to be any way we were going to pull off a telescope session for the Hidden Hollow camp kids no matter how much we'd of liked to. Still, the invitation to go was in the air and I don't often turn down such an opportunity.

And I'm glad I didn't.

When I arrived, Robert and I were the only two there. We had a pleasant chat and not long afterward, AFY member Greg joined us as well. With storm clouds still pushing around us, we had perhaps an hour or so before the kids were expected and it looked as if the "Cloudy Nights" program was going to be it tonight. Still, there might be a chance seeing as how the Moon keeps peeking in and out, and in short order, Joe arrives. As both Greg and Joe set up, I realize I had better take the Celestron out of the car just in case. Carrying the mount up the steps, the unforgivable happens again.

The tube ring assembly came off and clattered to the concrete.

(ah, baby... you're falling apart on me!) I know it wasn't anything major. Last time I took it apart? I knew the wrong bolt had come undone, but left it packed in the car anyhow. As Robert and Joe sought the best way to re-assemble it, I could see that I was going to have to remove the felt liner to reattach the nut and rather than take the other half of the assembly apart to correct it in a growing dark situation, I simply suggested I put the old beast away and we fly with what scopes we have. It is a certainty now. At least in my mind, anyhow. The old Celestron has now become officially retired from public service. If I continue to beat around this well-loved and well-used telescope, it is only a matter of time before another piece fails and the optical tube clatters to the concrete! It had its' last night it asked for. I will re-manufacture the mount once again and it will work. But no more will I torture this scope. We've both been through a lot together. We've seen our share of knocks and bruises and still conquered the sky together.

It deserves a more noble ending.

Other than that? Perhaps 30 minutes or more before our "guests" were to arrive - things went smooth. The Moon came out... And stayed out! It didn't take long to run through the most prominent of lunar features and have them set in mind to answer questions. The vision of the "Straight Wall" in Joe's Celestron was absolute perfection. The addition of his SkyWind and Greg's little Meade would be all we would need on the outside and John had us covered on the inside with the 31". Dew soon reared its' ugly head, but corrective measures were immediately taken and from the loud and rather boisterious sounds from below... We knew it was time to rock.

With the young folks settled in on the slope behind the Dome, I gave 'em an even shorter warm-up than I had planned, ("light speed", mr. christian!) and turned them loose to view lest those clouds interfere again. And they had a terrific time! Perhaps 40 chattering young adults, boisterous and energetic, shooting questions at us and livening up a rather somber and damp group in ways that only the young can. Questions were answered, the Moon was viewed and double stars became the object of choice. As the evening wore on, the skies steadily improved at it was possible to show them the infamous "ET", (aka NGC457) as well as a rising Mars. In short? What would have, could have, and should have been a cancelled event turned out just fine.

As they made their way back down the Hill as noisily and happily as they arrived, Joe turned the Celestron once again toward Mars and the detail was simply astonishing considering conditions and position. By now, the midnight hour was upon us and it's easy enough to see that Mars is going retrograde. I look forward to seeing it creep into Saggitarius in the coming weeks.... As much as I look forward to seeing it pass the closest to Earth that it shall ever be in our lifetimes! But, it is late... And I head inside the dome to with John a pleasant evening. And where does he have the 31" pointed?

Darn right. Mars.

Unable to resist what would be my first opportunity to view Mars this year through the "Big 'Un", I stepped through the door and up to the eyepiece at low power. Wow! And as I viewed, he handed me the adapter and a higher power eyepiece and I made the switch.... Double wow! It might not be as perfect as a photograph, but my hands immediately wanted my sketch book. And I mean REALLY wanted my sketch book! I haven't done anything but a lunar crater here and there in a while, but this? Oh, this... This deserves to be done the old fashioned way! Just to sit with blank paper and transpose what is seen in the eyepiece via the hand into a reality. But that old clock keeps ticking... And I am bound by honor and duty. I have a job to perform in just hours and I will be there rested and ready to go. Saying my final goodbyes, I take a look around. Joe is packed up and I stop to talk to him as well. As we ponder the weighty issues of nothing in particular, and early Perseid flames in the northeast with enough silent force to cast a shadow. It's been a truly terrific night despite what could have been a call-out. Perhaps karma was on our side tonight?

Let's hope it keeps on shining.

"People don't know about the things I say or do... They don't understand... About the sh*t that I've been through."



August 4, 2003 - A Real "Sucker" Hole...

Comments: Well, well... Not too long after sunset, those continual Ohio clouds started to thin out and I was dancin' and prancin' to get out for a bit of practice. Right at the moment the clouds seemed to participate with a bit of lunar work, so I headed that way. Albategnius and Hipparchus were absolutely outstanding, but as always, I am captured by a particular feature and tonight the oft-visited Alpine Valley caught and held me. Waiting on the stringy clouds to pass, I watch this beautiful little one to thirteen mile wide and one hundred ten mile long feature. To me this will always resemble some type of "scar" on the lunar surface. As natural as it is, it always looks as if it was somehow "created" by an outside influence. Who know exactly how it came into being? Perhaps a meteor grazed along the surface at one time, carving an immense cut through the Appennine Mountains only to bury itself in the surface, or continue along its' destructive trajectory. However it came into being is a mystery to me...

And I like it.

About that time the clouds decided to hide the lunar surface and turn that half-slice of light into a "Werewolf Moon". Thanks to their darkening influence, it helped to open a delightful portion of the sky and the faded Milky Way was the answer to the loss of the Moon. Hungry for new and different things to show through a small scope, I went for Gamma Delphini. Even though the sky is unstable and I'm getting my fair share of waiver, the little blue and yellow stars of this close, but not too close double revealed their nature. Not bad! I think this will make a fine addition to future programs and another "dance of the doubles" is duly noted as an easy target for a small scope.

Still, I want something different. It has to be bright enough to be understood and reasonably easy to achieve. Scratching my head a bit, I stand looking at Cygnus and hounding my memory for anything that I can think of. Some of the terrific NGC open clusters are out of the question for small aperature... Hmmmm... I know that the M29 is right there, but it's not sufficiently cool enough. Daggone it! 61 Cygnii? I'm on it... Sweet! Another double to add, but again... Not dramatically cool. Think rabbit... Think!

And then I remembered the "Blinking Planetary"!

Hustling to snatch up an old Tirion's chart, it didn't take too long before I had the general area down and started cursing the bush league telrad on the little pig. Hey, now... Some stars would be nice in the finder for this one. Keeping Theta as steady as I could with things loosened up, I went to the eyepiece and properly identified Theta against the map by noting the two small stars that accompany it. Still enjoying the sweet balance of this scope, I moved just a hair up and east to correctly identify apparent double 16 Cygnii and turned the chart to correspond with the eyepiece view. So! Little NGC6826... Where are you? Patience is its' own reward as I follow it for a bit. At wide aversion only, the "Blinking Planetary" makes its' appearance, and I learned a valuable lesson about this object. It's gonna' have to be a whole lot darker and a whole lot more steady for a untrained eye to see this one. Just moderate aversion still shows the stellar point, and it really takes eye tricks to see the nebula under current conditions. Still, it is nice. To be true to my own methods of practice, I take the scope off the target and go back to practice finding it once again.

And the clouds find me before I find it.

Ah, well... At least I did make it out for awhile tonight. This old target will make a nice new addition to future things to look at. Sooner or later the Moon will be out of the picture and most people ought to be able to see it. I start thinking thoughts about Mars and hoping that if I go in and just be patient a while longer that it might make an appearance later tonight, but these clouds sure look like tough customers. Let's just hope the month of August gives us a bit of cooperation and we'll get to see the Perseids and well as the Mars appartion. We be living under a continuous wall of water vapor and it gets old. Not a thing I can do about it, though...

Except to wait it out.

"And when your walls come crumbling down... I will always be around."



August 3, 2003 - "Houston? The Eagle has landed..."

Comments: It was before the Sun set. I wasn't expecting it from the day's rain, but for just a bit the skies opened up and offered a dynamic view of the crescent Moon in a bright blue sky. Of course, my immediate thoughts are to turn that new little telescope toward the surface and do something I commonly despise...

Look at the Moon before it's dark.

Running along the edge of Serenitatis, I am thinking thoughts about the crashed Ranger expeditions and double checking my lunar atlas for the Apollo 11 landing site. Wouldn't it be magnificent if I could capture tiny craters Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins? It's something I haven't done yet... And I'd find it very satisfactory if I could just manage to get a dark dot on film that signifies their location. But... It ain't dark enough! The Moon looks like a pearl blue fog hazes over it and I know that any type of photography is totally pointless. So, I just figured it wait it out for a bit. Put the scope and camera in the garage to stay fairly stable with the outside conditions and have a go at it later.

I haven't mentioned that I'm back on vampyre hours have I? Nah. I do it all the time, so it really doesn't mean that much. It probably wasn't a good idea to forgo some sleep between shifts, but I don't always follow the rules. And as the Sun set, my strangeness expanded no further than taking the Harley for a putt along the backroads. I was just getting off on watching those clouds tower on the horizon, and seeing the Sun peek through a hole casting magnificent beams against their angry grey. Some of these clouds were beautiful white, and I can't even hazard a guess as to how far they reach up into the sky! Seeing the storms pass on by made me think of Dorothy, and just how much she misses talking to the Wizard. I guess there's a lot of things going on in her life right now that she'd give anything to talk over with him... But hey. She's an old woman now. He doesn't care any more. She can handle it by herself, huh? It's really too bad he doesn't check back every now and again, though... Maybe, just maybe he might be proud.

By the time I got back, it was starting to get cloudy again. Figures, doesn't it? And by the time darkness arrived, it was total. Who knows about this weird Ohio weather this year? One minute it's storming and two hours later it's clear. At least we have the unique distinction of never being boring. I know these clouds arent going to pass over soon, but still, I'm anxious to see what the little pig will do on the lunar surface. Yeah, I'm tired, but instead of calling it off, I decided to have a sit in the recliner for awhile and rest.

Boy, did I rest.

When H decided to check and see if I was still alive, I came to. It took all of about three seconds when I looked over at the picture window for me to see the deep yellow crescent of the Moon had westered all the way down into the tree line. Curses! Foiled... again! Yeah, I could probably walk the scope out across the back acre and find a horizon where I could set it down on the Moon, but I doubt it. I can only see a star or two here and there, so I'll bet the view wouldn't be that great after all. There aren't even enough stars out there to form a constellation and any thoughts of study are simply stupid. Seems like all we get is one night here and there to look at the stars now, and it will wait for another time.

Right now I'm payin' my sleep dues.

"I guess that's the price you pay... To be a hotshot like I am. Broken plans and one night stands... Still I can't find love."



August 2, 2003 - Warren Rupp Observatory "Public Night"...

Comments: Hey! It's another "Public Night"! Whaddya' think happened? Darn right. It rained. Not only did it rain, but the lightning and wind were so bad around my area that the power went down as well as the tree branches. About 40 miles away, the little "Observatory On The Hill" enjoyed its' own brand of severe weather as Richland County was under a flood warning.

Enough to put a "damper" on any observing session, huh?

Well... yeah. But I always head that way on the first Saturday of the month anyhow. Even if the weather is rotten and the skies isn't promising anything but more clouds, the Richland Astronomy Society holds its' monthly meeting on that date and I go because I enjoy them. No matter where life takes me in the future, I'll always feel a bond with these guys. I've gone through my fair share of hazing around them... But hey. They still put up with me and my strange ways!

As always, Club business is Club business. By the time our meeting was winding down, we were really surprised to see people beginning to arrive. (are we really that surprised? after all, it is our open house... ;) Don't they realize you can't practice astronomy under the clouds? Heheheheee... Well, a few of us "odd fellows" do anyhow. As some of the other Club members tour our guests through the Dome and Clubhouse, explaining the telescopes and their operations, I sneak down to my car to grab the few things I lovingly refer to as my "Astronomy Traveling Road Show". (sorry, celestron... but you still look cool napping in the trunk like that!) The one I have with me tonight is basically geared toward dark skies... Especially dark skies with clouds. This is nothing more than a very general introduction into the basics of astronomy... An overview of our own solar system in terms of size and distance. It is little more than a pleasant presentation, done with ordinary objects, yet extraordinarily precise in their measurements. It is just a fun thing in which everyone becomes involved and they learn a whole lot more than what they came with. Sure. One of these days there's gonna' be a real joker in the crowd. There's always got to be someone out there with more perfect factual information than what I present.... And to him I say: "Here, here, brother!" For as I teach?

So would I learn.

As we go through my impromptu program, the thin slice of Moon peeks out from between the clouds and Joe hustles and sets up the SkyWind allowing our guests a view of the lunar surface. Thanks to a little multi-media, the exploration of space continues... Even under the clouds! Our guests hang around to talk for awhile, and we are happy to do so as well. How many fine and cloudy nights are spent by astronomers doing just this? Watching overhead and somehow hoping them clouds will get gone... It's the Ohio Amateur Astronomer's Club nightly passtime!

As the night progresses, we realize those clouds are here to stay. Amid thanks and handshakes our guests leave with invitations to participate in future sessions. I gather my silly stuff back up and tuck it into its' little zip lock bags and box to be put away in the trunk of my car should the need ever arise again. I have many such odd "tricks of the trade"... I could fly you along at "Light Speed", or I could take you on a leisurely "Moon Walk"... The choice is yours! Shall we visit the cosmos from the eyes of "The Traveller"? Or does the thought of "Night Lights" turn you on? There's happiness and astronomy out there folks... Even on the worst of nights. From "Tasting The Rainbow" to just "Listenin' In"...

We gotcha' covered.... Just like the clouds!

We say our goodbyes and it is time to leave. The dome is secured and business has been taken care of. The clouds have won again, and yet another WRO/RAS Public Night has been jinxed.... Or has it? Seems to me like the smiles were genuine and the laughter was free! Kinda' nice after all the stress, isn't it? Just remembering what we are and what we love to do. It doesn't matter if we didn't get to show Mars, and it certainly doesn't make much of a difference if only a star or two came out tonight. They came out for the folks who held the magic ball against the side of the dome... And that's all that really matters! It's been a lot of fun just being with my friends again, because like Keith said... "It's not the place that brings us here, but each other." I couldn't agree more. Around these parts people remember my name...

Cuz' they're likely to be screaming it later.

"Everybody knows my name... They say it way out loud. A lot of folks mess with me... It's hard to hang out in crowds."