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Observing Reports: January - 2003



January 30, 2003 - IC334, IC342, UGC2826, UGC1469, UGC1485, IC356, UGC2955, NGC1530, NGC1569, NGGC1560, NGC1573, UGC3069, IC381, IC391, IC396, NGC1544, NGC1961, UGC3344, PGC17757, PGC17675, UGC3349, and PGC17661...

Comments: So my favourite colleague asks, "Want to go observing?" And I simply don't say no to Bruce. Everything looked like a "Go" the night of the 29th... Radar showed clearing. Stars were out and shining right after sunset... The forecast was great!

And weathermen lie...

Ohio has been getting dumped on with snow. The previous night meant having to borrow a 4WD to negotiate the road to the Observatory... and literally "digging" our way to the dome. On a chance of "maybe"? You betcha. And even if those clouds came back? I got some tremendously valuable lessons in database... So when the chance came again tonight?

I was there.

This time I was back to my "fast" set of wheels. Watching the constellations brighten, and the planets rise, I couldn't wait to get there - Even when I knew what was coming. The adrenaline rush just getting up the Hill had me shaking like a leaf by the time I made it to the top. (oh, you better make it , baby... cuz' i ain't backing you down this icy hill! ;) Bonsaiing across the parking lot, I could see the red lights were on and the Dome was open. Snatching up my gear, I started climbing the steps and hear the silken strains of Megadeth from inside...

Oh, yeah! Let's rock!!

Already into his observing plan for the night, Bruce was already taking down the northern gems. Tossing my notebook onto the desk, I went straight to the eyepiece to take in the IC344. Diffuse, with a stellar nucleas and a faint star at the edge, this irregularly structured galaxy was caught stone cold... I had barely dark-adapted!

And speaking of cold, while Bruce moves the scope I started layering on the clothes and setting up my notes just like they're supposed to be. No sooner than I finish, I hear his sharp intake of breath and realize that what he's found is something out of the ordinary. He comes down from the ladder to offer me the eyepiece with a silent smile.

And I hear my own breath catch...

The IC342 is one mighty fine galaxy. To be terminologically correct, it is very diffuse and very large. It has a concentrated nucleas and unmistakeable spiral structure. Easily held direct, the clots and knots within the spiral arms and dark dustlanes are easily caught upon aversion.

Now. Do you want me to really tell you what it looked like?? WOW!! In the 9mm Nagler it totally filled the field of view! It reminded me so highly of the M51 with the light bleached out of it. Everywhere you bounced your eye, you could see arm structure loaded with that deepening appearance of distant clusters seen in another galaxy! Stars spangled across its' face... Making my notes, I find myself putting my little ratings in the margin and writing mushy, totally unscientific stuff like: Fantastic form!! Incredibly large!!

Now... Come see why.



Photo By: Al Kelly


Yes, photographs reveal more light through their timed exposures... But this picture comes mighty close. When you would concentrate on that bar of stars across the center, all that spiral structure would begin to show. This was one galaxy definately worth being excited about!

Now, let's get back to some science.

UGC2826 - Diffuse and requires averted vision. A faint circular patch with no frontier and no nucleas.

UGC1469 - A very distracting star nearby. But upon wide aversion, shows a somewhat diffuse, patchy shape with a concentration toward the core. Small, and has a very silvery signature.

UGC1485 - Titled spiral! Diffuse, but detected immediately upon eye movement. Stellar nucleas that appears shifted to one side to me. One to further investigate.

IC356 - Somewhat diffuse and large! A stellar nucleas that comes and goes at the whim of aversion. Shifts in concentration also noted that may be spiral arm structure. Definate concentration radiating toward frontiers.

UGC2955 - A stellar galaxy - Almost planetary nebula-like in appearance. Easy enough direct, but requires aversion to see signature galactic halo.

NGC1530 - Diffuse, no nucleas and average brightness. Very even in appearance and requires slight aversion.

NGC1569 - OK... Enough of being formal for now, eh? This one rocks! With a very bright distracting star at the edge, it takes a moment to catch this galaxy... But when you do? Oh, yeah... Elongated, with a clumpy structure, we definately have a shifted nucleas and a dark notch of a dustlane. It is an irregular barred spiral that shows tremendous potential at the eyepiece. It is very much like a miniature version of the M81!

NGC1560 - Although revealed to be and elongated spiral, I can only make out a signature nucleas and a foggy appearing, very diffuse patch as structure.

UGC3069 - Very compact, these small, but well lit galaxies all share a common signature. This one has a dense core (as do most) but the size is so small that they appear to be a "hairy star". Compact is the keyword to these babies!

IC381 - Highly diffuse and requires wide aversion. Faint star on the edge of the frontier. Perhaps a slight ovoid in shape and no defined nucleas.

IC391 - Somewhat diffuse, this one walks and talks silver spiral. Slight aversion is all that is required to make out structure but it shows no well defined nucleas, only a sense of gathering.

IC396 - In a field of faint stars, this galaxy contains a stellar nucleas and is somewhat diffuse. Structure shifts slightly toward an oval and my comments on my notes say, "Rather nice!"

NGC1544 - Diffuse with a stellar nucleas This one makes a nice presentation with a tiny star in the field. Requires mild aversion and is evenly lit.
NGC1961 - Very large and very diffuse. This one screams "I'm a spiral!". An edge star cries for attention, while aversion offers only distracting thoughts of a brightening toward the core.

UGC3344 - Extremely diffuse. Contains no nucleas, (that we can see, eh?) but supports a small, round structure. Requires wide aversion.

PGC17757 - Very diffuse. Sits at the edge of a star and requires the use of trained aversion. Circular in appearance and lacks a nucleas.

PGC17675 - Somewhat diffuse, this small, circular patch requires wide aversion and patience.

UGC3349 - Again, UGC signature. Somewhat diffuse, there is a definate compact structure toward the center. Requires mild aversion and has a haloed structure. These UGC's are tricky beasts, for they appear planetary!

Of course, by doing the record-keeping thing, I've become much too aware of something I don't ordinarily pay attention to - The time. I've noted my sky condtions, logged my scope and eypiece...

And I don't like looking at my watch.

Unfortunately, I'm still a "working" astronomer... As much as I hate to, duty and honor keep me bound. But Bruce always has this way about him...

Just one more.

The PGC17661 is a fine place for me to end the night. Not only is it the last for me, but it is also the hardest I've tried to view tonight. Requiring total aversion and repeated confirmations on the star field, this galaxy is more of a suspect than a captive. It gives me an impression of something that occasionally happens at the eyepiece when your head is turned just right...

Echo star.

Bruce? I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to share your study time. As always, the incredible amount of new studies you hand me could inspire even the most jaded of observers. I really don't want to leave... But I have to. Call me anytime, eh? I'll be there.

Plowing my way out through the snow, it's low gear down the Hill and onto the dry, curving roads and the long straight aways to fly my way to the Backyard. The closer I get, the fewer and fewer stars I see...

Compadre? Tell me you rocked all night.

"Your head is humming and it won't go because you don't know.... The piper's calling you to join him. Dear lady, can't you hear the wind blow and did you know? Your stairway lies on the whispering wind...

And as we wind on down the road...Our shadows taller than our souls. There walks a lady we all know. Who shines white light and wants to show... How everything still turns to gold. And if you listen very hard... The tune will come to you at last. When all are one and one is all.

To be a rock and not to roll...

And she's flying on the stairway to heaven.

There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold. And she's flying on the stairway to heaven.

And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed... With a word she can get what she came for.

And she's flying on the stairway to heaven..."



January 27, 2003 - Mars and the Moon... The Sun...

Comments: What's this then? A reversal in direction? You got it. The skies did indeed clear again before morning, and it was my pleasure to scrape in all the viewing I can before we become socked in with clouds again.

Of course, the cold is intense. Schools have been cancelled and the roads are a joke. But at 5:00 in the morning, the blue drifted landscape and the sparkling visage of Spring overhead gives rise to hope that the Winter will soon end. It is hard not to believe in the promise of Summer when the waning Moon stands between Mars and Graffias. I find myself just standing and staring perhaps far too long at Virgo beginning its' southward shift and Ursa Major riding high over the Pole. A step to the edge of the field is all it takes to show Lyra once again... And Scorpius sings its' silent songs of the return of Saggitarius.

Ah, "Straight to the Heart".... How I miss you.

Wading through the drifts, I set the 4.5 out by the frozen pool. I pat it's solid side as I return to get the camera and my eyepieces - still dreaming dreams of a twenty foot mirror blank - and smiling to myself. Wouldn't it be grand?

Setting myself first on Mars, I can only grin knowing this dirty red orb will swell in apparent size during the months to come. Right now it is small and devoid of detail... And soon it will be the talk of all amateur astronomers. I wonder how many would walk with me into the below zero temperatures to see it as it is now?

Not many.

Beginning to shiver, I turn my attention toward Selene to find myself frozen in place by the visage of the Sinus Iridum. Again, the "Bay Of Rainbows" holds me captive...

Although this temporary frame is horrible, (even by my standards) I soon realize that the fault is not the sky, but the frigid photographer! The LCD screen which I am trying to focus through does not like this intense cold, nor my warm breath... So I simply set it aside.

And moon walk.

Far more beautiful than trying to photograph it is the quiet beauty of tiny orafices, C. Herschel, Heis, Delisle, and Diophantus. There is no struggle now to enjoy the rugged peaks and valleys of Agatharchides. Mee, Schiller, Bayer and Rost are incredible in the morning light.

And sometimes happiness can lie no farther away than with just a few stolen moments on the Moon...

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Hola! Sunshine today, eh? A chance to keep solar watch again? No problem! I dutifully set the little date and time recorder features on the camera, and head off toward some routine observance. (You gotta' follow the rules, you know. ;) I keep watch on all the spots for changes and variations in the umbral/penumbral fields.... But usually there is only one that grabs my attention like no other. And today is it spot 266.

Again, I chose my temporary illustrations not for their photographic excellence, but by what they reveal. In this circumstance, we have a wonderful opportunity to study a Fai classed sunspot. Here we see a bi-polar beauty... Two mature umbra sharing the field. "F" means there are penumbra present on both ends of the leader group... "a" means that they are asymmetrical and irregular... While "i" denotes numerous spots between leaders and followers without mature penumbra. You can see this in my somewhat muzzy photo... and you can see something else!

When two mature umbra regions share the same penumbral field they begin to pull apart. Why? Because they are magnetically charged. Remember your laws of physics. Opposites attract, while similar poles repel. Let's have a look at a magnetogram...


Courtesy of SOHO...


Now we can see what inside that region! Two massive areas of negative charge... What do you think is going to happen? You got it. They'll push each other apart. When they do that, something really cool happens! It will twist the magnetic field around it... And that is why this particular region holds a beta/gamma magnetic classification! And what does that mean? Oh, yeah... Perhaps a bit of a flare? So remember next time you look at the Sun...

Because there's more there than just "spots" before your eyes. ;)

"If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now. It's just spring cleaning for the May Queen. There are two paths you can go by. But in the long run...

There's still time to change the road you're on."



January 26, 2003 - Comet NEAT (C/2002 VI), M15, M103, NGC654, NGC663, NGC659, NGC884/869, NGC7789, M52, M45, NGC1647, NGC1746, NGC1664, NGC1893, M78, M93, NGC2440,NGC2112, NGC2186, NGC2244, NGC2251, NGC2309, and the M50....

Comments: Who would have thought there would be sky tonight? I went in on the "Vampyre Shift" again to clouds and light snow... When I finished? We had gotten perhaps a solid four inches of white stuff. What a drag! The snowplows hadn't even began to touch the roads when I left, and trust me... Adrenaline was running high by the time I made the twenty mile trip back. So I really hadn't given any hope to practicing astronomy... Just figured there would be no way...

And I was wrong, as usual.

Believe it or not, as the sun began to set, those clouds began to back off in all directions! Terribly pleased, I had hopes of taking the 12.5 out tonight... But simply won't risk the chance of stray snowflakes making their way to the mirror. But standing right beside it, a certain little 4.5 Celestron is smiling! It knows it's replaceable... And it definately knows how to dance its' way across the stars.

Just as soon as good skydark arrived, I knew what I was after. There's a comet out there I haven't seen yet, and I'm anxious to find - NEAT. I only had a pretty good idea of where it might be, so I thought I'd start a scan and see what I could come up with. About ten minutes into my pattern, POW! There it was! Talk about someone hustling to lock down a scope and confirm that I wasn't hitting on globular cluster! (hehehheee... and if you believe that? you're hopeless...) Not far from the western most star in the Great Square, a couple of hops south toward Pices is all it takes to turn up this surprisingly bright comet. Every bit as impressive as LINEAR (WM1) was two years ago, Comet NEAT is boasting just a short, slight tail at the moment, a definate nucleas structure, and a magnitude that surprised even me! Trying to judge from the field stars isn't helping much because of NEAT's apparent size, so the 4.5 and I waded some drifts and went to the M15 for a little magnitude confirmation. And the Comet wins, eh? For I would judge it to be perhaps a magnitude brighter and roughly the same size as the M15. Wanting confirmation, I capped up and came back inside (snow and all) to check the data, but the site was down! Figures, eh?

So go or no go... My intial observation of NEAT stands as is.

Well, alright! So far tonight I've seen a comet and a globular cluster. The 4.5's range is rather limited, so that means a routine star hop.... But this is something I never mind. You really don't have to coax me too much to view the M103 and the grand configuration of stars that resemble the ace of spades. You don't have to twist my arm to get me to look at the loose collection of 50 or more stars in the NGC654, or the tightly wound group of NGC663, or the "X" clamation formation of the NGC659! As many times as I've seen the "Double Cluster" over the years, you wouldn't think I'd bother anymore, would you? Wrong. I still get a charge out of this pair under low magnification, and appreciate the loose association and colors of the NGC884 at high power and the more concentrated and multiple starred NGC869 as well. Although the 4.5 can't resolve all the members of the NGC7789, there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking at all the crispy crystals that make up this distant cloud of stars that rivals the apparent diameter of the moon in size! And I always dig the chaining structure seen in the M52... Like arms reaching out across the eons.

Stopping to look about, I realize the clouds are moving in from the southwest and realize I'm going to have to hustle before I lose the night. But where to chose from? Right here it's so beautiful you can count the stars in the Plieades! And the M45 it becomes... Coaxing Alycone to give up her four components with the 12.3mm and to smile at Merope still wearing her gauzy robes of white. I hop on the Aldeberan, and dip to the northeast to stay ahead of the clouds and view the NGC1647. The loose association of similar magnitudes contains perhaps two dozen members, yet there is something about it that says many more are waiting on aperature to reveal them. It just has this underlying density about it. And speaking of dense by continuing northeast, we sweep over brilliant blue-white double 103 Tauri and move about one field at low power to the south west. Ah, yes! An open cluster who I have not seen in a very long time! Thanks to a bit of map memory, the NGC1746 is mine tonight. It holds a double handful of stars compressed toward the center, while round it play small clumps of stars that may be associated with this quiet, yet fascinating open cluster.

By now, the M0 has pretty much claimed the sky, but not a solid cover. Unlike the sometimes diaphonous clouds, between each section the stars still shine in perfection. So rather than give up hope, I simply cap things up, tuck my eyepieces into a safe place where they will remain as cold as I have become, and happily retreat to a position by the fire. It is a welcome break... Time enough to enjoy a cup of chai, and study maps for targets a bit less routine and achievable with small aperature. Although H, with his snow clotted feet and frosted ear tips is not quite as ready to go in, it doesn't take his doggie brain long to realize that if my scope is still out and the music is still on?

We'll be back...

It was at very least a good hour or more before the sky cleared again. Orion had moved high to the south, and I view it longingly, wishing again for apearture to explore the realms of Lepus. Auriga rides high in the sky, the positions of the M36, M37, and M38 and strikingly clear to me as that of the M42. Rather than repeat those targets that I've looked at so recently, I use the map I've just studied and turn toward Almaaz and shift west. Oh, my... Either I'm not entirely readjusted to the night, or this is one faint little customer! The NGC1664 is comprised of perhaps 30 members that follow along a chain... Like a knotted tail from the hollow, open kite shaped end. Brushing past the M38, I continue onward to the southwest for a rather confusing look at the NGC1893. It is an open and very elongated star cluster, but its 50 or more faint members stand out over the surrounding star fields. It reminds me highly of some of the opens in Cygnus... Simple concentrations set against a rich background. No rhyme, reason, nor specific pattern. Just there...

Returning my attention toward the Orion region, I begin my southern hop at Alnitak, and shift northeast for the M78. Reasonably bright, this small circular nebula is happy to yield up two stars to the 12.3mm... But it is just the first stop on a hop! Pushing toward Canis Major, I move on toward the splendid M93, and again wish for the dob. Although this core concentrated open cluster is very satisfactory in even small scopes, I know it explodes with stars under aperature. Hopping north, I head on to sweet little planetary NGC2440. Even at magnification, I can do nothing more with is one than to reveal its' slightly irregular shaped blue coloration... But it is sweet! I like planetaries. Hopping back to the M78, I keep moving east to tackle the NGC2112. Ah, much better! A fine cloud of compressed faint stars and really a challenge with the 4.5 to pick out from the star fields! I aim again toward Betelguese and shift southeast on the hunt for NGC2186. Again, we have a true challenge for small aperature. The NGC2186 is loose and faint, but the perhaps two dozen members that comprise it are happily homed in the star spangled field.

I look round once again to see the clouds trying to steal the show. Not yet! No, no, no.... I brush over the "Rosette" quickly to home in on parent cluster, NGC2244. 12 Monocerotis blazes yellow into the eyepiece, surrounded by its' more blue and white companions. Keeping mind to the fact that the clouds are coming back, I head quickly north to the NGC2253 to gather in its' twisted string of stars. Still hustling, I follow a rather frustrating journey across the sky, but do end up finding the NGC2309. Again, tiny crystalline compact structure is all it will yield to the 4.5.

Knowing my time is short, I make the last stop on the M50. Regardless of aperture, this is a real beauty. The varying colors and magnitudes always keep me fascinated. So it is there I stay, feeding on the distant starlight while H pulls at the edge of my coat wanting to play. As the clouds slowing claim the sky once again, I indulge him as I have indulged myself to the stars. He likes frozen sticks and I like photons. What a team!

As I look up, I realize that maybe in just a few more hours that sky just might come back.

"And it makes me wonder..."



January 23, 2003 - The Sun...

Comments: Cold? You want cold? Then welcome to Ohio where the temperatures stand at zero and there's enough wind to rip the fur off a cat's back... So what kind of nut would go out observing in weather conditions like that??

One with a shot at the Sun... ;)

Out of curiousity, I did some research on the incoming sunspot I viewed two days ago and found out that it's designation is 269. And I went on to find out something else, too! Apparently this region was not only "hot" to observe visually, but was responsible for a coronal mass ejection (CME) on the same date! Check this out...


courtesy of SOHO/LASCO...


Just look at the particle stream coming off that bad boy! Such power and beauty... I cannot thank NASA/SOHO enough for allowing us amateurs to share...

And speaking of sharing, would you like to see what spot 269 looks like in person? Then have a look at this temporary frame...

(Yeah, not exactly award winning photography is it? But let's see how you fare under the conditions, eh? ;)


Although the series of spots visible now don't look altogether that active, according to the information we've had three M-class flares since the 21st. Pretty awesome if you ask me! A check on the GOES x-ray flux data shows some very cool spikage, and turns one very cold solar observance?

Into a hot one!

*******************************************************
Unfortunately, the clouds came back... Leaving an ash fine layer of snow to be carried along on the mean winds. This is no cold to be "messing" with.. At sub-zero temperatures, a 20 to 30 m.p.h. wind causes the "wind chill" to be incredible. What exactly is the "wind chill factor" anyway? I think that's what someone once said it would feel like if you were standing outside naked... Somehow I just can't picture our local meteorologist in the buff with a microphone saying... "Yep. Feels like 30 below here in Ohio, folks... Back to you, Jim." Hehehheeee...

Ah, well. There will be other days and darker nights in the future.

"And it's whispered that soon... If we call call the tune... That the piper will lead us to reason. And a new day will dawn... For those who stand long. And the forests will echo with laughter..."



January 21, 2003 - The Sun... M31, M32, M110, M33, M76, M38, NGC1907, NGC1931, NGC1499, M42, NGC2024, NGC1977, M78, M1, NGC2392, and the M81 and M82...

Comments: Oh, yeah... Winter sunshine! How anxiously we here in Ohio have waited to see the Sun, eh? Even those who are not interested in astronomy greet the return of our nearest "star" with squinting eyes born of the days of perpetual cloudiness. How odd it is to see stark shadows once again!

And what a pleasure to use them to aim by, eh?

At the moment, the solar surface seems pretty barren... The spots I had last observed have continued their progression in the most ordinary of manners. The only notable difference is in spot 260, whose decay makes it appear as more of a dispersion field of followers rather than a true spot. Wonderful to be able to observe them dissolving like that!

Of interest is the incoming limb... Rotating into view is yet another giant "solar scab"! Deeply embroiled in the Wilson Effect, this new "bad boy" looks very concave upon magnification. Even the granulation at the edge appears convoluted. So strong does the apparent magnetic field distort the view, that it wouldn't surprise me if this particular area doesn't end up rattling ShockSpot's cage!

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

And I was dancin' in anticipation as I watch that self-same Sun begin it's westward descent. Rayleigh scattering was a such a minimum that I knew I was going to get treated to a bit of deep sky! Although it's still deadly cold here, (9 degrees at 7:00 p.m.) there is very little wind to speak of... And when I can see those stars that I know to be in the 6 to 6.5 magnitude range?

Being cold is the last thing I'm thinking about!

In keeping with my own rules of practice, patience and persistence, tonight I chose the Orion Skyview Deluxe 8". My two eyepieces of choice were the 26mm Meade and the 12.3 ED. My object? Low surface brightness studies...

Following the rules, I honestly polar aligned. Although I am still not overly familiar with, nor overly fond of the EQ mount, I figured I'd start off easy... And it really doesn't get much easier than the M32. Easily visible to the unaided eye, the Andromeda galaxy comes to life at low magnification, overfilling the field of view. Pushing "Her Majesty" off to the side, I really prefer looking at the M32 under magnfication. Yeah, it's another boring elliptical, but it's a fine, bright one! Like the M110... Vastly underrated. I like this stretched out galaxy with the bright core! I'd guarantee you that if you took either one of these away from the M31, that the observing community would find them much more exciting. ;)

After wrestling with the mount for a few moments, I finally trucked across the M33. This... This is the reason I bought this scope! At the low power I chose, instant spiral structure is evident. And I'm not kidding! Just simple aversion and a slight bounce of the eye around the field reveals knots in the structure, as well as a deepening concentration toward the nucleas! At last, a telescope that gives real meaning to the words, "Pinwheel Galaxy"... A true beauty!

Turning my attention toward other low surface brightness objects, the next thought was toward the M76... Also reputed to be "difficult". Ya'll know what? The only thing I find difficult is this cursed mount! Grrrrrrrr... Patience? Forget it! Too little time before moonrise... My backyard. My rules! Pick the stubborn little pig up and turn it around!! Ah, much better... The "Little Dumbbell" bears out it's namesake with pefect accuracy, and takes to magnification very well. Not quite enough light gathering ability to reveal the other things that I know are there, but more than enough resolution to hand me three interior stars!

Picking the scope up and turning it round once again, I headed toward Auriga and a challenge presented to me by Jeff. First came the M38 as I reaquainted myself with the "field." The SVD8 provides me with enough resolution on this splendid open cluster to make me smile! And it also reveals the knotty little presence of diminuative open cluster NGC1907 as well. Hopping away toward my next target before I started feeling "open", te NGC1931 swept into view. Again, I am suprised and pleased at this scope's capability on nebula. The NGC1931 is a multi-structured little beast, and well served by magnification. Jeff's inital question was whether or not stellar points can be perceived within this "bright" nebula. Answer? What part!?! The nebula itself contains several varying areas of filaments and concentration... So, I guess I focus on the deepest of the regions. There are at least a half dozen pefect points of light that ring this region. Unsure of whether or not these are perimeter stars, I began the process of aversion and eye movement... Only to pick up a similar number of "sparkles" buried within the nebula itself. The most interesting feature of the NGC1931 is slightly off center. One very bright point wants to pull itself in different directions, like it's trying to reveal a very close double, or multiple star. Since I'm not real cracked on this scope's star splitting abilities, nor do I have the perfectly stability tonight to crack them... I guess this particular observation still, shall we say, "hangs in the air" for now? But you know what? Its' a glorious little beast... I'm glad you challenged me to look!

And since "I'm thinkin' California and feelin' Minnesota", I thought I'd try the SVD8 out on yet another very challenging low surface brightness study... The NGC1499. Usually categorized as needing a nebula filter, I knew that this scope give me a rockin' view of the "Veil" that surprised me... Why not at least try? There's Minkib... And there is a big grey patch! My immediate thought was that perhaps I had fogged the eyepiece during aiming... But no. This contrast change persisted! And if I'm looking at a cloud? I'm looking at one very steady cloud, people. No structure... No filaments. Totally diffuse. And totally there.

Feeling rather happy with myself, I turned the scope to the southeast to head for Orion. Of course, the M42 is as simple-minded as the M31... And every bit as beautiful. Not quite as filamentous in presentation as with the dob... But again, magnification serves well to pick the stars out of the eagle's wings and reveal the companion M43 as a seperate entity. Pushing away before moonrise, I set sail toward the NGC1977/73/75 to view its' triple structure and pleasing appearance of five stars within.

Curious about the "Horsehead", I hopped back across Orion to Alnitak and touched the scope south. And... And not much. Only the faintest of threads upon wide aversion. Back to Alnitak I go, and stop for a while to appreciate the "fan" of nebulosity that speaks its' name to the frozen night... NGC2024. Still moving within Orion's confines, the M78 comes next with two pleasingly easy stars and excellent definition.

Smiling up at the stars, I am cold but not ready to quit yet. H flies past me, running rabbit fashion. He is as pleased as myself to be out once again! I can see the sky beginning to brighten to the east, and I figure it's about time to step up the pace... For my "dark time" will be gone soon.

Giving Saturn a nod, I prefer to move on over just about one low power eyepiece field to visit with the M1. Kicking in the power, rather than be over descriptive? I simply enjoy it. But I am feeling the cold. Even dressed like an eskimo... Eskimo?

Yeah. That great little planetary right over there, ~T!

Giving a nod to Wasat, it takes me a few moments to find it once again, but am I ever glad when I do! Again, the SVD8 gives great performance on color... For the NGC2392 is a poignant shade of blue/green. Setting the power toward it once again, the central just lights up the eyepiece, and tonight it somehow reminds me of a highly concentrated diffraction ring. The "Eskimo Nebula" is a fine winter sight... and I'll "rub noses" with you anytime!

Still smiling, and still reluctant to go in and leave such a beautiful night, I find myself walking to the edge of the eastern field. My old observing partner sleeps here, beneath this blanket of snow. Gone, but not forgotten, you are. Like this visage of Ursa Major on the rise... You keep watch on the return of all I love. Moving the scope to beside this silent mound, I wonder in my heart if I can still do something I've always been able to... Reflex sight.

I call the M81 and M82 from the sky within seconds. They are old friends... But never old. Companions in the games they play... Both enemy and lover... Builder and Destroyer.

And so very, very different from one another.

Realizing that I have reached my limitations for now, I happily carry the scope back to the garage. I stand in the open doorway, listening to the music and admiring the stars. And I smile once again as I turn on the light to "close up shop"... For the little light bucket has truly been broken in properly tonight...

It's frosted.

"There's a feeling I get... When I look to the West. And my spirit is crying for leaving... In my eyes I have seen... Rings of smoke through the trees. And hear the voices of those who stand looking...

Oooooooh.... And she's buying a stairway to heaven."




January 19, 2003 - The Sun...

Comments: I was surprised to see sunny skies as the morning progressed. The previous evening was filled with fast moving clouds happy to dust us once again with a fine layer of snow. I had gotten up early this morning in hopes of snatching at some lunar or planetary work... But the clouds thought otherwise. Hey, hey! Ask me if I mind sleeping in on a Sunday morning...

Since I had gotten notice from ShockSpot, I knew that something was rockin' on the solar surface. Donning my winter gear, the 4.5 and I set up shop in a much shelter as we could find from the wind and had a go at Sol...


SOHO MDI image


I was surprised at how quickly the last group of sunspots has seemed to rotate away! But, no matter... There's a whole new group for study. 258, the central-most, shows a well matured umbra region and a well executed penumbra. 259 has a more irregular appearance, one that speaks of fast decay and was probably the source of the ShockSpot detection. 260 also looks rather interesting... But I'm rather cold!! It doesn't take long at these temperatures to chase even the most die-hard of observers back to shelter.

But it was fun!

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

And still those snow clouds race over the Ohio landscape. The sky eroded quickly in the early afternoon, handing us even more fine snow! It whispers it's way along the frozen ground, following the wind. It speeds across the flatlands, leaving treacherous stretches of roads and crystalline drifts to fill in the landscape. And the clouds?

Claim the night.

"There's a sign on the wall... But she wants to be sure. Because you know sometimes words have two meanings. In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings... Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgivings..."



January 17, 2003 - The Moon, Saturn, Jupiter revisited, M41, Sigma Orionis, Rigel, Tau Orionis, Mintaka, Alnitak, Beta Monocerotis, M50, Adhara, Dunlop 49 Puppis, and Sirius B...

Comments: A fine, clear night in Ohio... With one exception - Bone aching cold. With the temperatures standing at zero and a slight southern breeze, observing becomes an intense challenge. Despite precautionary measures taken with clothing, the cold will find you.

And it's not nice.

Ask me if I care, eh? For I will dance with you under any circumstances! The weapons of choice tonight? The 12.5 Meade and the 12.3mm ED Epic eyepiece only. Objective? Study.

First off to the Moon... Watching Eta Geminorum dance just a bit away, I realize that tonight's occulation will occur west of me. Despite being well-rounded, and very full there is still a fine amount of detail to be observed around the southern limb and a slight amount of libration toward the western frontier. Keeping only the edge visible in the eyepiece provides the necessary relief from glare to assist in viewing. Small and lovely areas not often observed, such as Rocca, Mare Aestatis, Darwin, Lamark, Byrgius, and LaGrange. Although these "on the edge" features do not reveal any significant details, it is a pleasant journey. This "moon walk" continues to the southern edge to reveal and identify craters Inghirimi, Pingre, the Doerful Mountains and Casatus...

By this time, I have lost feeling in my fingers despite the leather gloves. My lunar notes are scrawled in a rather childish, large hand and I would seek shelter for a while...

Returning once again to the scope, my next point of study is Saturn. Rock on, Ring King! Fully displaying detail enough to make any planetary observer drool, (cautiously, mind you... for it will freeze in a heartbeat.) I take great pleasure in the swept look of the planet's surface and the wide and incredile Cassini Division. At both the interior and exterior of the ring planes are a rather opaque appearing band whose names I do not recall. Returning my mind to focus, my next object is to locate the moons. Locate? Are you kidding? In the 12.5 it is barely a challenge! Titan walks to the south west, while two also accompany it to the west, and the other two lay opposite.

Thanks to the coffee and the insight to place a larger pair of gloves over my better fitting ones, I decide to head toward Jupiter next. Hello, there! The tight configuration and instant view of a shadow transit mean that the Mighty Jove is going to be worth visiting tonight... Many times! The clarity of the atmosphere instantly provides detail to the surface.... And I appreciate those odd markings. But, what fascinates me far more is still that "dimensionality"! I find it incredibly hard to want to eek out hash marks in the EZ, or dark markings in the SEZ when I can see a shadows and moons dancing across the surface! Rather than belabor my already effusive reports, during my entire foray into the artic night, let it suffice to say that I was treated to three seperate events involving the galieans; Io, Europa and Callisto.

Also wishing to view some double stars and open clusters, I took advantage of the sometimes slow passage of Jupiter's excitement and headed off toward the southern skies. My first "hit" was the M41. Easy to find and wonderful under any sky conditions, the star-spangled M41 still intrigues me with it's very tiny red stars. Now, on to Sigma Orionis for my own private purposes. We often speak of "star challenges" in Orion as only the Trapezium. Been there, done that... Try Sigma! As a quintet of stars, it will challenge the observer to the limits. The central A star is a blazing white, the B companion is simply part of it... They blend into one another. Only the slight pull in the "flash" reveals the concept that it is a double. The C star goes disparate. Southwest from the primary, it's form would be lost to the small scope. Star D is quite red, and possesed of a much greater magnitude than C. Cleanly to the east, the D star shows nice seperation and blue star E is spaced even further out to the east/northeast. A fine challenge, and one too often overlooked...

Again, rather than tolerate critique over my somewhat "off beat" observing reports and lack of hard science, I simply chose my destinations between "warming rounds" for their esoteric qualities. I appreciate Rigel for its' unshakeable nature, and its' tiny blue companion as well. Tau Orionis is a very easy double compared to Rigel, but here we have a cirumstance of the primary being blue, and the secondary apppearing as white. Mintaka is more of a challenge, as a brilliant white the bluish secondary to the north of it is far from disparate, but presents itself only to the patient. Like Alnitak... Can you find it's double? Shall I just smile and say, "Yes. Can you?" For you will find it much less difficult during moonlit nights that help eradicate all the emission around it.

Of course, although I am being redundant. I keep revisiting Jupiter. For no reason other than I enjoy watching the shadow and moon transits. The cold is hateful, and I am beginning to get a headache. I keep an eye on the clock as I pass in and out... knowing that I will say or do all the wrong things. H doesn't seem to notice the cold as much as I do... He is simply confused as to why I cannot continue to stay out! His recent penchant for studying liquids turned to solids is remarkable. In other words? He fancies ice. At first I though he was enjoying the vodka of my occasional drink... But no! It's the ice he likes. It's actually quite fun to watch him doing his best at the outdoor watering pan to break some off. He instinctively knows that ice is a source of water... And he knows this "pan" is the source of water outdoors. Clever mutt...

Now, back to doubles. Beta Monocerotis comes next. It's triple nature is a delight to explore. With the primary at a striking white, the similar magnitude blue companions lay easily seperated with the B component to the southeast, and the C star to the east/southeast. Another fine mark easily achieved under the moonlight in this area is the M50. As a very wide open, the colors in this one are striking. Red stars at the edge indicate age, while blues sparkling in the central structure speak of stellar youth! A study in evolution...

After doing a Jupiter revisit, the next destination is Adhara, or Epsilon Canis Majoris. This is also an easy double... As is Dunlop 49 Puppis. Both pairs are widely separated and their secondary stars are far from disparate. But the true challenge for tonight shall be one of the brightest stars in the sky...

Sirius.

Is it possible to view a white dwarf star so near to the influence of one packing that kind of magnitude with an amateur telescope? First off, let me say that I do not find the Meade 12.5 to be an "amateur telescope". Nor do I find my abilities to any longer be considered "novice". What I find is the high wattage star Sirius to be flashing through a series of incredible spectral changes that almost entirely eradicate the presence of a non-flashing point that sits beside it. Like a previous study of the Trapezium area, I desire confirmation. Since I cannot achieve this without an observing partner, I shall call upon Sirius once again with the power of a 31" mirror. Like my musings upon Antares' tiny green companion, I need surety. I don't want this "I think I see it" crap! I want absolute confirmation.

Pssssst!

I think I see it.

"There's a lady who's sure... All that glitters is gold. And she's buying a stairway to heaven. When she gets there she knows... If the stores are all closed. With a word she can get what she came for...."



January 15, 2003 - The M4....

Comments: So, I went out to start my car this morning and there were stars everywhere! Uh, huh... Where were you guys at 4:30 this morning when I had all kinds of time to play, huh? No where to be found...

Since I was "dressed for success", I figured what the heck... Set the 4.5 out and goof around for a few minutes. I had really hoped it would be possible to take a swat at Comet Kudo/Fujikawa, but there's no way it can be seen from Ohio right now. No way.

Shivering, I was beginning to think maybe this wasn't such a hot idea after all... Because it's mean cold out! The single digit temperatures and slight wind find there way through you instantly... So I just stood there grinnin'... Admiring the way Mars is moving back the other way, and just how bright Venus really is. (people ask me all the time what that bright "star" is they see in the morning... hey, hey! do i look like the kind of person that might have answers? ok... ok... i do, huh? ;)

Check out Scorpius...

Ah, Antares! Rival of Mars, you are! Antares... Antares?!? M4! Setting the beautiful red star in the eyepiece, I move the scope gently... Just the way I know how. And there it is. Oh, my... Just as big, diffuse and beautiful as I remember you. How good it is to see you again! Quite honestly, it's good just to see the constellation of Scorpius for that matter. It brings back rather pleasant dreams of summer...

And you.

"Dream on... Dream on... Dream until your dreams come true."



January 14, 2003 - The Sun...

Comments: Hey! Just try and catch this moving target between snow clouds today... But, if you give me a shadow to aim by and the time to do it? You know I'm gonna' go look...

Hot news today on Sol is that one-time "bad boy" 247 is pretty much dissovled now... It appears toward the left half of this very temporary frame! (yeah, the "sun shots" aren't so great so far this year, but i only use them to study and they'll be gone soon enough.)

I think it's rather cool to watch a major sunspot area like 247 disintengrate! Usually the crazy things erode on the far side, (shades of gary larson) but we got to follow one this time!

Other intensely noticable changes over the last few days also include spot grouping 255/51. This one's (255) umbra/penumbra region also matured very quickly and dropped into a series of followers. 251 continues to develop, but shows no real sign of gaining any more mass. Newcomes 254 and 256 have now rotated inward about a quarter of the way, and look quite normal indeed. Just nice to see some solar action!!

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

And those snow clouds I chased between? Ah, don't you know they're back and happily dusting things with a fresh coat. No moon, planets, or double stars for me tonight, thank you. I'm drivin'... And as for that morning chance to chase a comet?

What can I say besides...

"Dream on... Dream on... Dream on..."



January 13, 2002 - The Moon...

Comments: Ah, you know it's been a long time runnin' at work. I got home to have to take a pass at solar viewing because it was sitting in thin clouds and dipping a bit to far west for good viewing. By the time it got dark, I was pretty much too hungry to care about the fact that the Moon was looking good... But I did set the 4.5 on it for a few minutes while my supper was cooking. Gassendi... The Sinus Iridum.... Features I've looked at countless times...

I thought I'd come back out later and do some double star work, and maybe hop to some planets and open clusters... But those clouds beat me to it. And you know what?

It really doesn't matter.

"Sing with me. Sing for my year. Sing for my laughter. Sing for my tear. Sing with me... Just for the day. Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take me away."



January 12, 2003 - Vampyre Shift... The Moon, Saturn, M36, M37 and M38...

Comments: Ah, don't you know the clock is still stuck at 3:00 a.m., baby? And yep... I must be lonely. I got up hoping to see a few stars, but all I could see were clouds. The long hours tear right at my brains again, so I decided to just go back to sleep for awhile longer. I woke up when I had to and got myself ready... And when I stepped out the door to leave?

Oh, you know it.

No, time... I got no time. So, for what it's worth? I drove to work singing along with the CD player. Orion rode over my left shoulder and I was headed straight toward Saturn. Jupiter smiled down through the sunroof, and Venus and Mars kept me company on my coffee break.

Ain't it grand?

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

And the day stayed very clear indeed. Not perfection, mind you... But after so many days of cloud isolation, everything looks good! Actually, I had planned on some solar observance, but my body thought otherwise. Sometimes the hours I work are tough, and no sooner than I sat down, I was gone to the land of Nod. By the time I woke up, all the urge to go out had left me...

But it returned, eh?

When I went to the door, that big, phat Moon was teasing me about staying inside? "Come on, ~T... You know you want to look at me! Why are you hiding like that?" Well, Ms. Moon... Probably because when Ohio weather clears up in the winter, it means it is incredibly cold as well!

And I wasn't wrong.

Dressing for the occasion, I whacked the 4.5 down just outside the garage door and cranked up the tunes. First destination? Why, Luna, of course! And what can I say besides WOW! Copernicus was the first feature to blaze right into the eyeball... Then I fell head over heels in love with the Straight Range and Plato! And I made a fatal error, eh? Killed my programming altogether and looked at the Southern Highlands...

Kinda' hard to concentrate on much else with Tycho, Magnius and Clavius looking like that, huh? I remember this phase from a long ago sketch, and tell myself that time was not important. What IS important is here and now... And those craters don't get much more here and now than they are! Again, I experimented with the Orion 12.3 ED Epic... and I am very impressed. No, this temporary shot was not taken though it. When it's a bit less cold and the hours a bit less demanding, I'll use the camera mount and give it a shot... But for now? I just like looking!!

And while that eyepiece is in... Why not give Saturn a go? Again... WOW! A perfect, crisp image with the 4.5 and a very defined Cassini?? Oh, yeah... I like this eyepiece! But more so than planetary details, I was hounding out the little moons. Let's be a little less formal at the moment, OK? Titan was walking below Saturn on the leading side around the eight o'clock position. The three inner moons are not exactly happy about just a bit of sky haze, but reveal themselves (hey, i'm taking a chance here...) as one following directly behind the ring system, one walks below on the following edge around four o'clock and the third appears as if it is on the same line of sight as Titan, but between the rings and said moon. Am I right? Hey, hey... Chances are better than average that these are the correct positions, just as inverted as I am. ;)

With temperatures in the lower teens and a bit of wind blowing, the cold was becoming something to reckon with. It had already found my hands and feet quite well, and was doing it's best to run me back inside. "Bang, bang... Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon her head..." By the time I made it round to Auriga, my eyes were continuously watering and the cold was beginning to hurt! But, you know me... I just had to peek at a couple more before leaving.

Choice? The M36, M37 and M38. There's a certain "bright" nebula I've got a mind to pick apart and I was working on location with ease. Unfortunately, I didn't realize just how close the Moon was going to be, and it definately took any nebula right out of the picture. But, I don't mind... These three open star clusters are worth visiting under any conditions! Again, the new eyepiece does a superior job at resolution and although I can't take the cold anymore?

It was fun just singing with you again.

"Sing with me... Sing for the years. Sing for laughter... Sing for the tears. Sing with me... Just for the day. Cuz' maybe tomorrow the Good Lord will take it away..."



January 11, 2003 - In the "Field of Dreams"... The M104... and the Sun...

Comments: Awoke to a fine, clear, and very cold morning. The call of Venus was so loud and strong that I knew I had to at least walk outside to look.

And all I could see was south...

Virgo sat in such a prime position and clarity of the sky was so rich that I stood frozen in my tracks. Around me, H bounces in his exuberant fashion and I almost feel like joining him! Why not? It seems I've forgotten how to play here recently... After having tagged him with a few snowballs, I realized there was something I wanted to see very badly. Something that only that big, ol' dobsonian telescope and you can give me...

The "Field of Dreams"....

Pulling the scope around to the south field, I put the 32mm in the focuser and tucked the new 12.3 into my pocket. What I want isn't power. It's play! A chance to walk right back over the top of a pleasant memory... A memory of a fine time and and fine study... And you. How the galaxies dance! I remember the M84 and M86 instantly. As I look directly at them, the two edge-ons that embrace them from the sides appear. And more... And more... And more... How I smile! As I laugh and clap my hands in my excitement, H comes running. Too bad, my friend.... That I cannot hold you to the eyepiece! Would your doggie soul be as moved as mine?

I realize that I should be more descriptive, but now is not the time. I plan on stepping up my Virgo studies this year if the weather permits... But, this cold, fine morning was meant was meant for pleasure! Nudging the dob back to Spica, I make the lateral shift to call one more from the sky before I prepare myself for the work day. Another place that rates high on my list of fond memories and perfect galaxies...

The M104.

Sighting roughly on where I know it to be, I go to the eyepiece and gently touch the scope. And when I take it in? I takes my breath away... Hands numb from the cold, shaking, searching in my pockets for the adapter and the new eyepiece, I feel something in there that I am not sure what it is. I take it out and hold it in my hand and smile. It is yet another memory of a time and a place... Found again in my pocket and as treasured as if it were gold. Making the eyepiece switch, I readjust the scope again, for I have let it travel in my reveire...

What incredible beauty! How could I have forgotten the deeply concentrated, almost stellar nucleas? How long has it been since I've seen the way the central portion of the galaxy concentrated and bulges? Is there any edge-on galaxy out there whose dark dustlane is so bold? Ah, my... Even at the edges of the dustlane the galaxy looks like it's trying to resolve. In the mind's eye you can see how it would look if you turned it... So, incredible. The ethereal, "see through" qualities of the M104 make it truly the finest edge-on I have ever witnessed.

No matter where I have seen it...

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

And still those blue skies danced today! Each time I glanced outdoors at work I could see sunshine, and I only hoped that it would hold for just a bit of solar viewing! Guess what?

I got lucky.

Sunspot groups 247, 250 and 251 are putting on an incredible display and span perhaps one quarter of the visible orb of the Sun. 247 has definately undergone some changes since the last veiwing, with the follower spots continuing to disperse. Both 250 and 251 have incredibly deep mature umbral regions, and hold their penumbra rather close. Only one has developed a series of followers! The incoming edge holds yet another "giant" designated as 254. The Wilson Effect is evident, but not as strong as I have seen it before. Right now the solar activity is running high! I am surprised at just how rich the entire surface looks... Too bad it doesn't send some warm my way!

Dream on, ~T...

"Half my life is written in these pages... I've lived and learned from fools and from sages... You know it's true. And all my feelings... Come back to you."



January 9, 2002 - The Sun...

Comments: Yeah, yeah... It was out today! As a matter of fact, there were no clouds at all this morning. I couldn't believe how bright it was outside! Just being in the sunlight was almost painful after a short sleep and the long hours in the dark...

At least it was painful until I looked at it, eh? ;)


SOHO MDI image


Holy Cow! I can't believe how much that sunspot 242 has changed in just a matter of days. For all intents and purposes, it looks like it's trying to dissolve! The major portion of the umbra has definately shifted and broken up into a greater series of follower spots... But that's not all! On the incoming side is a new grouping that looks mighty powerful.

Like slick, black oil spattering on a orange dinner plate, series group 247, 251 and 250 appear to be bristling with magnetic activity. The irregular penumbra field and the way in which it is dispersed around 247 captures the imagination. Even the followers show signs of maturing penumbra! This gigantic solar "scabs" are plugging the Sun's magnetic leaks, but the way the granulation parts around this area, it looks hot! There was an usual feature between them that is equally intense. The presence of a plague corridor means that we are quite probably up for an explosion or minor flare directly from this region.

ShockSpot? Keep barking... I'm listenin'!!

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

Although I was hoping to spend a quiet evening dancin' in the moonlight, apparently Ohio weather had other plans for me. Just before sunset, the dark black clouds that speak of more snow began drifting over the beautiful blue that I had enjoyed seeing all day. It's alright. I've had a good dose of astronomy for now...

And the sunset lighting up the bottoms of the clouds was incredible!

"I know, nobody knows... When it comes and when it goes. I know, it's everybody's sin. Sometimes you got to lose...

To know how to win."



January 8/9, 2003 - Jupiter and shadow transit, NGC2903, NGC2357, NGC2415, NGC2493, NGC2500, NGC2541, NGC2756, PGC25755, NGC2820, NGC2814, IC2458, Dubhe, M81, M82,NGC2805, NGC3079, NGC3073, NGC3225, NGC3107, NGC3395/96, NGC3434, NGC3413, IC2608, IC2604, NGC3501, NGC3507, NGC3524, UGC33588, and the M51....

Comments: So today he fooled me, eh? When I stepped through the door from work, my son told me: "Hey. You got a phone call from some guy named Bruce." Phone call? Bruce?? The smiles got mighty wide then, partner... Because I knew that one of my favourite observing buddies thought something was going to happen tonight! Just a bit later, he returned the phone call and we began the debate of the chances of an "iffy" sky and heading toward the Observatory. Would I be willing to take the chance?

Darn right. Let's rock.

Waiting a bit later for the happy Moon to begin it's descent, we arrived at the Observatory about the time that most people are considering calling it a night. That's what I like the most about astronomers... Because this is where our "day" begins! Time to open things up, get things assembled, prepare notes, make coffee, and rock and roll, baby...

As soon as things were ready, the first target of the evening was the mighty Jove. Since there was still just a slight amount of hazy cloud cover left and the sky was a bit bright, it was a fine choice. Who can resist? And to make things even better...

How about a shadow transit?


Caught totally unprepared, (which is a real shame because i now have the equipment and technology at my disposal to do far more superior photographs...) I missed photographing a double shadow event by mere minutes. But, that's alright... I managed to rummage through my observing bag and at least set the video camera on it. It's no great secret that I'm not much of a planetary detail observer, but I do enjoy events and it was my pleasure to have witnessed Io and Europa doing their "thang" across the surface of Jupiter!

(For the record, we were using the 12.5 Meade and the majority of observances were done using a 9mm Nagler, but we are also using the new Orion 12mm ED design eyepiece. Despite some "not so good" preliminary findings with the new design, I am happy to report that it performs excellently! Superb eye relief and crisp, bright images. All in all, an impressive eyepiece.)


With the Moon now satisfactorily out of the way, it's time to start the deep sky dance, and we begin with a nearby favorite in Leo... The NGC2903. As a very finely presented face-on spiral galaxy, tonight shows a softly concentrated nucleas, faded spiral arms and notable dust lanes. This one makes a good showing because it tends to want to resolve out toward the outer edges.

And speaking of edges, you will find tonight's observances laced with a particular favourite galaxy structure of mine... Edge-on! And we begin our tour with a fine one: The NGC2357. Very sweet... Easily captured upon slight aversion although it is of low surface brightness. No dark dustlane in evidence and no signature nucleac bulge. Very evenly lighted and quite delightful! Next on the hop is NGC2415... Bright, easy spiral structure with a concentrated center. Hints of dark dustlanes, and easily held direct spiral arms. Very structured! NGC2493 will be our next port of call, with a prominently stellar nucleas and delicious structure. One easily held direct spiral galaxy!

Now for the NGC2500... You'd like this one, Wizard. At first glance, it appears as a large face-on galaxy with no real concentration toward the nucleas... But this is a very odd one! For some reason I stopped on this partiuclar galaxy because I was making out something with averted vision that confuses me a bit... There are knot-like structures appearing in the spiral arms! Although I am sure that this one is probably classed as a spiral galaxy, there is something very peculiar about it! One very fine target that would make and excellent study with more aperature...

Next stop? NGC2541. Another face-on spiral with an electric stellar nucleas. Again, we have evidence of structure for slight aversion brings on more than just hints of spiral arms. One fine target... As is the NGC2756! Although not identical to one another, the NGC2756 is also possesed of a stellar nucleas and I most definately make out some over and under spiral arm structure. Also part of this grouping is the PGC25755... As one of the more elusive of destinations, it clearly shows upon aversion as a small, soft circular companion galaxy. Very fine!

Continuing our studies with galaxy groupings, we move on to the NGC2820. SWEET! Just one spectacularly slim edge-on galaxy!! My notes also include a rough sketch here, and show excellent elongation, even lighting and very impressive slim structure with a star caught at the edge. Also in the field is the NGC2814... Also edge-on! Differing slightly in size, magnitude and structure, the NGC2814 shows itself as just a tad bit more lenticular than slim... But, oh my! They look very fine together!! Companion to this pair is the IC2458, a very small, circular patch of wispy galaxy caught at the perimeter of the NGC2820. Here again, I refer to my field sketch (kinda' hard to miss because i annotated the heck out of it... ;) because it sits so very near to it. Although they do not react to one another, they still make a fine team.

Oddly enough, I find myself contemplating this thought as Bruce turns the telescope on Dubhe as he recalibrates. I am left on my own to observe this fine double and it always makes me smile. It seems that out of my recent observing partners, I am the only one who has a fondness for double, variable and spectroscopic star "work". Funny how things work out like that sometimes... There might be a chemistry that brings observers together one one level... But not at all on another. How fitting it is that these thoughts are foremost in my mind as we move on to our next set of galaxies...

The M81 and M82.

Here we have a particular study that runs across all levels, does it not? From both chemical and physical... And walking around the proverbial edges of spiritual! Of course, I am not given to that particular course of study, but in this case? Ah, my... Perhaps it was a bit of cosmic intervention, eh? "The Great Galactic Duet" shall always remain a favourite of mine for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was because this pair was among the very first of galaxies so excitedly captured with the then new 4.5... Or maybe because it was there that I realized the then new 12.5 behaved differently with precisely the same magnification... Or it could be simply because I love it. The study charmed, intrigued and excited me like few else have! No matter what the circumstances are behind them, what they present tonight in the telescope is enough to make two very veteran galaxy observers smile and make all kinds of contented noises! The M82 with its' broken form, clotted with stars and sending out that polarized light that to me shows a silver signature... Or the M81 that is so incredibly dense that it appears almost golden. Both partners... And yet they react on different levels.

And still... There's only one like no other.

You're a pretty hard act for someone to follow, you know that? But they're tryin' anyway... Next up is NGC2805. Appearing in the eyepiece as a large, diffuse, low surface brightness galaxy with a milky appearance and no real definitions. Very smooth, with no real concentration toward the core area and requires wide aversion.

Next up is a galaxy trio starting with the NGC3079... Incredible edge-on! Oh... Oh, you'd like this one! Not only does it have awesome elongation, but the root, the core, pulls and flattens in a lens-like fashion... It doesn't just bulge... It lives! All along the frontier spangle tiny stars of incredibly dim magnitudes, and while you're watching them? POW! A deep, dark dust lane just reaches right out and grabs you!! Here again, in my notes I have make a field sketch. But, instead of just a small one in the margin? It takes up the whole lower half of the page! (and you can see where i must have been really excited and broke the lead on my mechanical pencil and couple of times making notes... :) With it, the NGC3073 is far more quiet. Easily seen with slight aversion, it is just your basic, even tempered galaxy. Diminuative PGC28990 is also part of the picture but requires wide aversion. Actually, you can see the little PGC rather well, because I can't quit staring at that great big fantasy of an edge-on! Really sweet, Wizard... I hope you get to see it one day!

Next stop on the hop is NGC3107. It is a very small, evenly distributed patch of galactic light that shows some concentration toward the nucleas, but remains a toss-up on structure. The NGC3225 fairs much better as a detectable face-on spiral. Once again, I am seeing structure. Wanna' make the call? You bet! I see one definate curl of an arm toward the bottom with a faint star at the edge. Very nice...

Hey! Now we truly do have an interaction going on! The NGC3395 and NGC3396 are a mating pair. Almost heart-like in appearance, the two are inseperable. One galaxy shows a more highlight nucleas than the other, but they are locked in a lover's embrace that has lasted for a million years. How familiar they seem! Very much like the "Antenna" galaxies, or the "Ringtail", but without the extenstions. Awesome!

Next up is something that brings a grin to my face! There is not one, but two edge-on's dead in the eyepiece! The NGC3134 and NGC3413 are a beautiful presentation of two slim edge-on galaxies that lay at odds with one another. Woo hoo! Two at once? Too much... ;)

Now for some harder stuff. Let's locate the IC2608. It is a small, very round evenly lighted patch with an incredibly faint star caught at the edge. If you can't do wide aversion, you can't see this one! But as IC's go, the IC2604 is a bit easier. Here we have slight aversion, and form! Caught in the act with a couple of reasonably bright stars, the IC2604 shows as a very irregular formation. Nice!

Starting to get tired, I find that I've misplaced my little bitty red light, so the note for the next two are written on top of each other... Literally. What I can make out is the we viewed galaxy NGC3501 and it was another incredible edge-on. Very long with a central bulge. The NGC3507 is also in the field. It is faint, and has a slightly different structure, but is also slim enough to be considered an edge-on (in my opinion) as well.

Obviously I found some light somewhere, for I have notes on the NGC3524. (i think i swiped bruce's light...) Very even in appearance, requires wide aversion. No nucleas present but does have a small faint star at the edge. Another sweet capture here is the UGC33588... and me and my big mouth, eh? UGC's are tough, right? You know it. So here I go to the eyepiece, and one second later I'm calling out that it's stellar! Am I right?

Hey. You know I was.

Now, I am really beginning to feel the pinch of long hours and no sleep... And I'm not the only one. We step outside to refresh a bit and just drink in all the glorious starlight. I'm ready to go, but Bruce just has this way about him that keeps me there...

Wanna' see one more?

All I can do is grin, for he has chosen one of the finest of galaxies for 12.5 inches in aperature. None other than the M51.... When I go to the eyepiece I see it as I saw it once long ago. Then, it moved me to sketch... My own lame attempts at trying to share what I see with you. It is as beautiful now as it was then... Perhaps even more so. Trying to resolve itself, the distant knots of star clusters cry out in their perfection. The dustlanes coil lovingly around the concentration of the core. The companion is caught at the end of the bright, outer arm singing its' own song of structure. It is a vision... This galaxy. One that I share with you in both my heart and mind.

None finer.

Bruce? I cannot thank you enough for taking the chance and going observing with me. I don't know whether it was by coincidence or design, but the amount of edge-on galaxies we observed tonight gave me a much needed "photon fix" and wiped away the blues. If I could have changed anything tonight my only wish would have been that I was a bit less tired so we could have danced until dawn as always. Monty? I thank you for the upgrade in "virtual" equipment and I will do my best to put it to good use. Mr. Wizard? How I wish you would have been with us, partner. And for my friend Kyle? It rocks, kid... ;)

Now, I gotta' roll...

"Every time that I look in the mirror... All these lines in my face getting clearer. The past is gone... It went by. Like dusk 'til dawn... Isn't that the way?

Everybody's got their dues in life to pay."



January 8, 2003 - Jupiter, M65, M66, M81, M82, M51, Cor Caroli, M94 and the M3...

Comments: How long? How long has it been since I took a morning walk? Far too long, my friends. Apparently the skies have changed...

And so have I.

I woke up a bit ahead of the alarm this morning and began my routines. Perhaps one of the most dangerous parts about living where you don't need to cover the windows is the fact that you can see out of them, eh? For when I walked past an eastern one, Venus did everything except for peck on the glass for my attention! To be honest with you, I tried to ignore it. I'm too busy growling and feeling out of sorts with the world at large to be going out with the telescope right now. By the time my first taste of coffee was ready, I was slowly beginning to realize that I'm not happy when I don't follow my heart. Even if it means just a few stolen moments at the eyepiece, it is what I want. It is what I do.

Go! Do it!

At 4:30 in the morning here in Ohio, Leo rides on the zenith. The skies are really singing, and the weather is colder than I want to think about with a wind that makes me wish for Summer. Jupiter dances just before the Lion, like a plaything left for its' enjoyment. Shall we take just a peek? Even with as small an aperature as the 4.5 the brightness flame broils my still sleepy eyes. Whoa! Yep. There it is, there's the moons... and that's enough! We'll dance with you another time, Jove... You'll kill my dark adaption! Cuz' I really don't miss you...

The M65 and M66 are what I really want. Just a quick look at these two galaxies together... That's all. I know how much more there is to be discovered and studied in Leo and the beautiful Coma Berenices, but I don't really miss doing studies right now. What I miss is just seeing the stars!

I was surprised that I found the M81 and M82 so quickly. (hey, it's really cold out here... you'd be quick, too!) I didn't take the time to do eyepiece switches, for the 25mm works just fine and puts them in the same field. Just good to know they're still around and that I know how to find them... Like the M51, eh? It pleases me to know that even though the finder is a bit off on the 4.5 right now, (yeah, i whacked it on the door taking in out, ok?) that I still know how to find it!

The reflex still works...

Next call? Little fella' M94. Very small galaxy with an unusual concentration toward one edge in the small scope. For the life of me this morning, I can't remember if I've ever studied it in the dob, and I have to squish the urge to be scientific and wonder about structure and classifications, lest I betray the fact that I might be honestly missing it. Hustling onward, I stop for a few moments to remember just how much I enjoy the "Heart of Charles". Cor Caroli is definately an easy split, but it's not the duplicity of the pair that I admire....

It's the colors.

On to Arcturus, and now I don't mind frying my eyes a bit. I wanted to know if the "green flash" still lay behind this orange beauty and I am delighted to see it again! Once again, my reflex and memory serve me well... For although it took several passes in the general area, it didn't take long before I found the M3.

I know I must have made some weird noise when it appeared in the eyepiece, for H came to make sure I was alright. Oh! Wow... I had forgotten just how awesome some globular clusters could be! Caught inside its' triangle of stars, this ancient ball of stars rocks my morning world. Just look at that concentration toward the nucleas and the way it fans out toward the edges!! If I remember correctly, this one spans about 200 light years in diameter, and resides some 40,000 light years away from us. Oh, my... It sure is incredible! What are you, some 15 billion years old? And still hanging around for us to look at, eh? Population star are...

Stop it, ~T. You don't miss this. Just think about how cold you're starting to get and the fact that you've got to go to work, ok? And for gosh sakes...

Put that scope away before you start liking it again...

"Cuz' I ain't missing you at all..."



January 6, 2003 - Chasing the Holes...

Comments: Who me? Never! And always...

I hadn't really given much thought to astronomy. Seems like everytime I looked out a window today at work it was snowing. No real hurry to leave, eh? And all it took was a bit of sunshine...

Of course, I'm not really missing you at all. Chances are good that those moving clouds are going to cover everything up before I make it to the backyard... So why hurry? Since I don't really care anymore, then you won't mind if I go out as soon as the car keys hit the table will you? I mean, doesn't everybody go out to do their solar viewing in dress clothes? Hehehhheeeee...

Let's dance!

Man... I had forgotten just how beautiful sunspots were! Biopolar beauty, 242, just arrests your attention in the center of the orb of Sol. Deep, irregular umbra regions set within the fine, filament-penumbra.... Delicious little follower spots... Granulation... Wonderful! And at the edge rides 243 with all the great faculae going on around it... WOW! Even though I hadn't missed trying to "read" the Sun's information visually, I guess I'll have to, since I'm here and all. Although 243 gives the appearance of being an active spot, it's too compact in my opinion to be very active. 242 with all its' differing magnetic qualities should be our "bad boy" of the moment!

Thinking of how long it's been since I filmed a spot I decided to go fetch the camera and give it a go. Wrong. Dead battery. Oh, well...

I don't miss it either.

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

Of course, by the time the Moon became very visible, those clouds had returned. Hey, who cares? I saw Sun! But ya' know what? By some strange coincidence... My camera got recharged.

And the holes came back.

Of course, you know I haven't really missed seeing the dark holes of Pierce and Pickard inside Mare Crisium. Huh, uh... Not me. I haven't given a second thought to the Lavinium or Olivium Promentoriums... And I couldn't care less about that beautiful rille that runs along the edge called Dorsum Oppel. I mean, doesn't everyone feel like yawning when they see such a tiny little crater as Swift accompanying Pierce? It's really no big deal to see Glaisher, Greaves, Yerkes, Lick or Tebbutt. And why on earth should I care if the Rima Cleomides is visble, or the wonderul ridges inside of Trailes?

Because it means I've got sky...

And you know I've got clouds as well, but give me five square degrees of night, and I'm happy. And when that "hole" opened up for Saturn? Oh, I am on it.

Can you see the M1 with Saturn's bright influence with a 4.5? Darn right you can!! Now... how to describe, eh? At 26mm they both fit into the field of view. If I pushed Saturn to the edge, the leading edge of a bright star appears opposite... It's below Saturn! OK... Let's try this again. (told you i was rusty.) Picture Saturn... The "Little Troopers" dance just ahead of the ring system... so they are going west. Titan is trailing behind... So it's to the east. And the M1? It's below Saturn! Hahahhahaaaa... Ah, my. You'll never know just how good it is to know you're there.

But I ain't missing you at all, eh?

Just like I hadn't really missed looking at the NGC457 or the NGC7789 in Cassiopeia. Nor had I given much thought to M15... (whoa! it's on the run...) Of course, the M52, M34 and M76 are no big deal... And I couldn't have cared less about looking at the "Double Cluster". Why bother with the Plieades when I've seen it so many times? Or the M42, for that matter? Goodness only knows I've seen the M35 enough to last a lifetime... And it doesn't matter if Algol is on the downshift or Theta Auriga's companion shows. (you believin' any of this yet? ;) Of course, I'm only target practicing between clouds to see the M36, M37 and M38.

Because I haven't been missing them either.

"And there's a message that I'm sending out, like a telegraph to your soul... And if I can't bridge this distance? Stop this heartbreak overload...

I ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, I can lie to myself. And there's a storm that's raging through this long distance line tonight...

Ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, I can lie to myself.... Ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, I ain't missing you, ain't missing you, oh no, no matter what my friends might say, I ain't missing you ..."



December 31/January 1, 2002/2003...

It rained today. Not the kind rains of summer, encouraging things to grow and giving welcome relief to parched ground. No, this was a December rain. The dim rumble of thunder in the distance, the drops warm enough to melt the snow... Yet they feel like cold tears on a frozen smile face. It swells the banks of the overburdened creeks, and lay upon the winter hard fields like sheets of liquid glass. This rain and I are old friends.

Because that's all it ever does...

"Seems like everyday's the same and I'm left to discover on my own... Seems like everything is grey and there's no color to behold. They say it's over... And I'm fine again. Again... Try to stay sober when it feels like I'm dyin' again...."


I know it's a natural phenomena. I know I'm not alone. We're all tired of the cloudy days and nights. Sooner or later those clouds will part and the Sun and stars will walk back into my life again. I might be dreaming... But, I believe it. This faith is all I have. I hold onto it like the warm that holds onto my empty coffee cup.

"And I am aware now, how everything is gonna' be fine. One day... Too late. I'm in hell. And I am prepared now, and everything is gonna' be fine. One day... Too late. Just as well."


It's the end of the year. I've got no complaints. It's been kind to me. I've seen more of my dreams realized in this one year than I could have ever dreamed possible. Why should I feel depressed just because it's cloudy? After all, it's just another night. There's nothing any more significant to it than watching the odometer in your car roll over to the next set of numbers. That's all it is...

Just a new set of numbers.

I head out across country to keep with a tradition that continues in my life, rain or shine. For as long as I can remember, the majority of my extended family meets at my Aunt's home - "The Farm". It's always a warm and pleasant place... Filled with foods prepared by many hands. All of these aunts, uncles, cousins, and ever-expanding circle of relatives gather here. We exchange hugs and kisses, tell our stories, and marvel over how the children have grown. The laughter here is free... And the love is genuine.

How good it is to see these people! It is a constant... As sure as the stars above. Yes, there are some that could not be there.... And we all feel the loss of our beloved "Uncle Herman". But is he lost? No, my family. How could he be lost when we remember exactly what it's like to hear his laughter in the other room? He can never be gone as long as we can remember...

Just like the stars.

Amidst even more hugs and kisses, we bid each other a "Happy New Year"... And go on back to our lives. It is the way of things. A constant... And we know that we shall see each other again some day. And if we don't? We'll remember...

Heading back across country, I marvel at the beauty of the night. You would have to understand Ohio's open plains to understand what I am about to tell you. The flat land allows you to see in all directions until the very curvature of the Earth blocks the view. The clouds are like a thick blanket above... And here, deep in the countryside, the glow of distant towns lights up the bottoms of those clouds like the warm glow of fire. They look almost like you could reach out and touch them... Gray sands kissed with soft orange light. In each cardinal direction you can name those cities... But I'm headed for that "Dark Zone" over there, eh? And I know that even though there are no lights?

There are no stars as well.

"I feel the dream in me expire... And there's no one left to blame it on. I hear you label me as tired... Cuz' I can't see to get this through. You say it's over... I can sigh again. Again... Why try to stay sober? When I'm dyin' again..."


Patting my full belly, it's time to find some "soft clothes"... Time to build a fire and open a Corona, eh? "Star Trek IV" awaits me, and I'm ready for it now. I can only smile as the tale plays itself out. Somewhere in time Ranger still howls along to the whale song... Because he's not gone either. Not as long as I can remember him. H feels no such compulsion to join them in their eerie melodies, but he's more than happy to pester me with a variety of toys and allow me to rub the hair off his shiny hide. The hour of midnight is fast approaching, and I take out the 12 gauge and load it with a single shell. Ah, tradition....

Around 11:00 or so, I notice a point of light on the window that doesn't jive with any reflection. Smiling, I can only shake my head.... I don't believe this! Is the Great Cosmic Joker actually going to smile my way???

Believe it...

"And I am aware now, that everything is gonna' be fine. One day... Too late. I'm in hell. And I am prepared now... Singing everything is gonna' be fine. One day... Too late. Just as well..."


Hey, hey. I can see Orion! And some stars in Perseus and Auriga... Have 4.5? Will travel! And just how far would I travel to see something I love? How ever far it takes, baby...

How ever far it takes.

How about 520 light years to visit with Betelgeuse? A red supergiant who is a variable of the first magnitude. What a massive beauty! It is estimated that the circumference of this fantastic star may be a large as Jupiter's orbit around our own Sol. I like watching its' "flash" through the thin clouds. I catch a beautiful blue end spectral shift, and the colors delight me. Shall we speak to Rigel as well? Then I shall go 900 light years to see you... To be dazzled by your white hot beauty, and know that you are one of the most luminous stars in our galaxy! At 9mm all I can make out of your small companion is a blue shift in the spectrum. I know you're there... And I'll wait to see you again. Mintaka, Alnilam, Alnitak... 1600 light years. An eternity caught within my eye...

Shall we fly to the sixth brightest star in the sky? Tis' only 45 light years away... Capella! It is a soft, fine shade of yellow... But oh, my! What a spectra it casts through the haze! There is blue caught with in it, but the flash... the "fire"... is red! Or shall we journey 110 light years together to view Theta? My beautiful silicon star... How like a black diamond you are! You flash every color of the spectrum... But you flash one color that I have only seen in this one particular star.

You wear black.

"And I'm not scared now. I must assure you. You're never gonna' get away. And I'm not scared now... And I'm not scared now..."


In the distance I hear the sounds of shots being fired into the night. The time has come! A new year has begun!! Smiling, H and I run back to the house to fetch my own firearm, and salute the night and the time. We've done it, my friend! We've done it again...

Those numbers have rolled over.

Ejecting the spent shell, it take I before H can. It's time to pass the swab through the barrel and use the oiled cloth to wipe it down and put it away again. A fine piece of machinery... Never raised in anger, and never will be.

Time for us to journey again... Onto Perseus we go! To Algol, "the Demon", eh? You and your dark star companion lie 100 light years away... And how you shine! You are the "key" to everything, are you not? And how many know that? Would I change you? Never... You change yourself.

"And I am aware now that everything is gonna' be fine. One day... Too late. I'm in hell. And I am prepared now... Singing everything is gonna' be fine. One day. Too late. Just as well..."


Shall I just go light seconds away? To see only the form of Saturn? To know that Jupiter still has those dark belts upon it's surface? Always. No matter how near or how far. I keep looking up and thinking of you, mon ami... And sometimes?

You smile back.

And so the old year has ended and a new one begun. It has been my privelege to journey across the night with you once again. We often speak of faith, and again I will tempt it. As always, by this time my reports have grown so lengthy that they must be eradicated from WebTv and placed into a "retirement home". This frame will be saved to both begin... and end... yet another year with you. Ah, this is life! We begin. We end. The key will be pushed and the words will be gone. Does it matter if they exist? No more than I do, mon ami.

And I'm always wishing you the best...

"And I'm not scared now. I must assure you. And I'm not scared now... I am prepared now... And I am fine.

Again..."