July 31, 2003 - Swimmin' and A Few Stars...
Comments: It's even worse than last night. I wish it would have just rained and had it over with. Right now it's hot, muggy and few sucker holes that are present in the clouds close up so fast that even simple targets are unachievable. You can tell there is some sort of change going on by the aches and pains, eh?
Ah, well. I can handle sitting in the smoky drift of a mosquito coil and practicing guitar for a bit. Like typing, it helps to keep my left hand limber and I was suprised at how pleasant the tunes sounded when once again coming from my own guitar. I watch the clouds as I play, revealing this star and that, wondering just what's happened to spring and summer. In times not so far past, I would have been studying. Of course, I'd be studying now if there weren't clouds! July hasn't been all together bad for me... But somehow I just miss the hunt for those objects I've never seen before. It's just been too long since I've sat with charts and notes, planning my own observing session.
I miss a lot of things.
Easing the Gibson back inside the house, H and I wander out by the pool. Sliding a hand under the solar cover, it didn't take long to peel it back and head for the garage to turn off the pump and turn on the tunes. Swimming in perhaps one of the finest forms of therapy I know. The near weightless state allows me to move in a style and grace that I could only wish I possessed out of the water. Unfettered by gravity, yet challenged by the weight of the water itself, there is an intense pleasure associated with swimming and a handful of stars. If I can't view them? Hey, I can at least swim amoungst the ones I see reflected on the surface!
When I am finished, I am tired and hungry. My thoughts have turned to my homemade salsa, some crispy tortilla chips, a tall glass of iced tea with lotsa' ice and a couple of tylenol. I cover the pool, whistle for H and head back to the garage to turn off the radio and turn the pool's life support back on. It's been a good enough day off. I've caught up on my sleep and I'm lookin' forward to another dreamless night.
Then I see it.
Hanging on the side of the garage near my tomato plants is the original ghost of the night. Spanning almost my hand size and moving its' wings ever so slightly is the soft green with purple markings form of a rare creature. The Luna Moth is all but extinct in this area... Yet here it is. It does not move as it allows me to examine it in the half light coming from the garage. What a glorious creature this is! So ethereal in appearance... Fragile. Almost dream-like...
I stand away so as not to bother it. H couldn't care less about my attention to what H deems as an easy snack. To him, every bug from a bumble bee to a housefly is considered to be food. I suppose he figures I found it, so I get first choice as to whether to eat it or not. He's happy enough snapping the lightning bugs out of the air and wandering about with their greenish/yellow glow stuck to his doggie smile. Then the Luna finally moves its' graceful wings and lifts off into the warm night arm.
Fly on to the stars, my friend. Fly on...
"I take too many pills... But it helps to ease the pain. I've made a couple dollar bills... But I still feel the same."
July 30, 2003 - The New Scope In New Hands...
Comments: It was not beautiful out last night. At best some of the sucker holes held a 4.5 ULM, but for the most part 3 to 3.5 was about it. So why bother with poor visibility? Oh, maybe because I finally had a night off to just relax and maybe because Jon is here and he is willing to take a few minutes out of his equally busy life to look at the stars with me.
You'd have to understand something about my sons. The oldest, Terry, remembers Halley's comet and happy nights spent with Tasco refractor. He's a man now, with a son of his own, and he and his wife take their telescopes out to enjoy the stars as well. Terry remembers it all, from the very beginning to the years when we would travel away from the city to learn. All of this, until the time we moved far away from the lights and other scopes became a part of me. I would drag him away from the telephone and friends to view Comet Hale-Bopp... And break up teen-age parties to stare at planets or view an eclipse. He was there during the learning phases with each new scope. He'd often come home from work at nights to find me in the backyard, waiting to collar him to share in a new DSO I had found. He remembers it all. This 6' 5" slim young man with the very long hair and goatee would totally surprise you from his appearance at his knowlege of the sky! He taught me to appreciate Pantera and I taught him to appreciate the night.
Not so, Jon.
Jon has known nothing but scopes and my love of astronomy since he was old enough to be outside with me at night. I retrieved him as he crawled about on a blanket laid down near the tripod. He grew up adorning the scope with toys and stickers. He used to have a stuffed animal we named "Star Fox" that accompanied us on our observing sessions. There are marks on the tripod of the old Celestron where he used to play about me as I viewed. You see, I do not alter that old scope because it would be like altering the good parts of my past. Many happy hours have been spent together in study... And just as many spent under the stars discussing personal matters. We spent night upon starry night with binoculars exploring the stars. He would help me carry the dob out and set it up. He was taught from day one where eveything in the sky is at, and was one of the very first to set the 12.5 on Neptune and Uranus. He was there with me the first time I wanted comfirmation on Ikeya/Zhang's duo tail. He knew I freaked when I first saw a natural spectra, and he was the one who suggested I get a neighbor to confirm it as well. Now he is a young man in his own right... He finds astronomy for the most part - boring. But every now and again I can coax him into coming out with me... And he knows how to drive!
Carrying the scope out for me, he laughs over it's much lighter weight. A far cry from helping me set up the dob, isn't it? Smiles are genuine as he teases me about polar alignment and remembers that total protocol isn't necessary to having fun. I allow him his head and watch as he readies the scope for viewing. It's good to see that an unfamiliar design is still familiar in it's basic concept. An EQ mount is an EQ mount... Only the stops have been changed to confuse the innocent. He tries for the M4 for a few minutes, and then realizes that a slight cloud cover is toasting his efforts. Switching tactics, he moves the scope around and offers me Albiero in the eyepiece. Smiling, I graciously view his find and we move on to Cor Caroli, Mizar, and Polaris. His grin is wicked as he asks me about "Bacon Fettucine"... and I feel my own smile fade as I tell him to forget it. I don't want to go there anymore. The minutes pass in silence, broken only by the sounds of the rock music on the radio. He's turned the scope toward the near invisible Milky Way and I can see this young man who is taller than I am, bent toward remembering. I leave him alone, happy to just let him go... And when he calls me to the eyepiece? It is to see the M27 once again. Good job! With the faint stars of Saggitta not present... That is truly an outstanding piece of navigation!
I point out the very faded and almost unseeable four stars of the Hercules "keystone". The sucker hole is clearing here and I wait to see if he can achieve something that is darn near impossible for an EQ mount. Overhead... He turns the tripod a little bit and I stand behind him as he asks which side. I point out the general location and stand back and let him go. Score extra points, Orion! For this new short tube design means freedom from hitting the tripod legs, dudes... Zenith objects are uncomfortable, but acheivable... And we both laugh at the re-discovery of the M13 once again! It really is beautiful in this scope at 25mm. Again, beginnings of resolution are seen and I am proud of both my son and this new scope. An old hand stands nearby...
As a new hand at a new scope explores the night.
"I feel like number one.... Yet I'm last in line. I watch my youngest son. It helps to pass the time..."
July 29/30, 2003 - "Starry Nights" and the Aquarid Meteor Shower...
Comments: Well, all right... At last the tempermental Ohio skies cooperated and the "Starry Nights" program for the Hidden Hollow camp kids was on! As much as I would have liked to have been there long before sunset, at least I had my business taken care of and arrived before dark. Knowing I didn't have over long to get set up, I grabbed the old Celestron''s tripod out of the back and headed up the steps as soon as I opened the car door.
And one of the legs fell off...
Well, now. No problem. Just put it back on, eh? Hmmmmm... Apparently the tray has decided to come off as well! Giggling a bit, two of my closest friends accompanied me back to the car just so they could watch me embarass myself climbing inside the trunk with a dress on to retrieve the wing nuts. Gotta' hand it to 'em, though... At least they didn't shut me in there! Three sets of hands later, the 4.5 was up and ready to go. And no. I'm not cleaning the mirror on that scope yet!! I like that cobweb in there! It shows humility...
It's what I am.
And as the kids arrive, all scopes are ready to go. We've got the best of the best here, and these campers are going to get the show they deserve! Everything from the magnificent 31", to Bruce's uncomparable 12.5, Robert's 10" Meade LXS, Joe's awesome Celestron, Curt's new 8" toy, Gary's dob, and Greg's Meade.... Yep. I ain't fit to be in this kind of company. But I swear before all that's holy that the old Celestron was purring as the kid's gathered round it to "oooooh" and "aaaaaah". How many hands over the years, old friend? How many thousands of eyes have looked in this chipped and smeared old eyepiece at the stars?
And all ya' ask is one more night.
The campers laughed. The campers talked. The campers were some of the most well behaved and delightful group seen since the last time! It was wonderful to hear questions again... How good it was to point out constellations and show what's out there! My pride in the AFY knows no bounds. My pleasure at working with the RAS is genuine. I do not write these reports for one group or another - I write them for myself. I know my age, and I know that blindness will become eventual. I do this so when the time comes that I can no longer see the stars that I can remember how good it was to hear people exclaim as they looked through Bruce's scope. I want to hear Robert's gentle voice in the night explaining what is in the eyepiece and see his hat silhouetted against the starry sky in my mind. I want to recall the sound of the lift running up and down to the eyepiece of the big scope and the laughter and pleasure as the innocent get their first taste of the Universe. And if I ever get to the point that I do not want to be a part of astronomy anymore?
Let it remind me of how I love it.
So what did we look at? Well, I know the old, battered Celestron did Albiero, the M8, the M22 and the M17. I overheard Robert talking about the M81 and M82, and I know for fact that the M57 was seen in the big scope. Yes, I am sure Joe had the M4, and I am sure Curt did the "Ring" as well. And I'd say by the 31's position at the end of the night that the M8 was a target there as well. I remember pointing out M6 and M7 in binoculars as well as the M22 and the "Coathanger"... And of all this? The stunning, unfiltered image of the M16 in Bruce's scope had to be seen to be believed. (ah, now... that new focuser is sweet!) Who knows what other treasures the scopes held? Each man is his own master here... And the Universe is free!
And above us arcs the majesty of the Milky Way...
At the end of the night, the kids left among thanks and hugs. It was wonderful to be part of their happiness... To be allowed to share their joy from "first light" to the thrill of a meteor. As their laughter trails down the Hill, it is nice to have an ear to bend... Quiet time amoungst ourselves to talk and become "normal" again. We watch the ISS flyover again, and exclaim over the meteors as well. Mars is coming over the tree tops and the hour grows late for working kids. The old scope is returned to the car and I say my goodbyes. I hope to return again someday! For now?
"I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep..."
I figured I'd be mad when the alarm went off at 4:00. Three hours sleep is not enough for man nor beast... Yet I am neither. The smell of the coffee (i set the timer!) was welcome, and I did not growl as I rummaged about to find clothes. H's excitement is palpable. German shepherds are smart creatures, and he knows by what clothing I've chosen that I am about to go outside. I pour myself a mug of the steaming brew, for the best part of waking up really is Folger's in your cup! Grinning at my own foolishness, (party of two? ;) I turn on the radio softly, put the cushion on my old redwood chair, and settle in with the quilt.
The peak of the Delta Aquarid meteor shower is upon us.
I scan the sky with open eyes, trying hard not to laugh a H's antics as he gallops about in the pre-dawn light. He snatches at the edge of my blanket and tosses pine cones and windfall apples for my amusement. He catches the scent of the deer that come here during the quiet of the night to feed on the ripened fruit and goes on alert. And then I really do laugh, for I can read in his body language that he understands that they are still around... Hiding in the corn. Being a bit more subdued, he comes back and drags half my blanket to the ground and stations himself to keep watch also. He waits for whatever made that scent... And I wait upon the shooting stars.
The predicted fall rate for the Aquarids was approximately 10 per hour. Not amazing by any standards, but from slightly after 4:00 until a bit after 5:00, I counted seventeen bright, short arcs that left no lasting trail. Mars tried its' best to distract me, singing songs about how this would be the only time in my life that I would see it this close and how I had better come look. But, I did look. It was glorious to the naked eye!
And cradled by shooting stars...
"I'm lookin' for the payback... I listen to the playback. They say that every man bleeds just like me..."
July 28, 2003 - First Light...
Comments: Hey, hey. The skies are clearing. And there's a new scope waiting on first light.
See ya' round the cosmos, kid.
By the time sky dark arrived, I was ready to tear the laser reflex site off and throw it away. Got news for ya'... the EZ finder is not EZ to set! My youngest son, busy playing a video game, looked directly at me when I gave my last exasperated sigh and simply said:
"What are you sweating it for? You don't use the finder any way."
You know what? He's right. After so many years of using a small scope, I just go to the general area and let the stars be my guide from there. So why sweat it? I'll get it right sooner or later. Besides... I wanna' see what this little pig can do! OK... First off. Be gentle. I about threw it out the door when I first picked it up. Talk about light! Wow... Taking it out to my favourite spot, the first thing I did will astound you. Yep. I polar aligned. Freeing everything up, I checked my balance and imediately forgave the laser site for being stubborn...
This is one sweet scope.
The new mount is free, flawless and a breeze to handle. (or at least it will be when my hands remember exactly where all the adjustments are... ;) Even with an eyepiece in, it stops and stays exactly where I put it without readjustment. Score one, Orion! Heading off toward Albeiro, color and single star quality are my first concerns. I didn't need to be concerned. Albeiro is precisely the same color combination I see in the dob, and perfectly focused stars as well. Now... How fine will it go? Off to Polaris, and at 25mm a perfect split. Score two, Orion! The collimation is easy and a disparate is precise. Now, what about deep sky?
The M57, "Ring" nebula is the same perfect cheerio as the Celestron delivers. But I'm seeing something at the edge of the field that I'm not too sure about. Shall we say just a bit of abberation? Hmmm... Ya' know what? I'm not going to be to demanding just yet. Let's move on to the M4. Wow! Gotta' hand it to ya', kid... Even at minimal magification I'm getting a sense of resolution, and it makes me proud! M6 and M7? Again, outstanding... But there's still that edge of field thing going on here...
I hear a tapping noise and I look round. Surely this isn't going to fall apart, is it? Uh, uh... It's just the old Celestron pecking on the window glass of my car... "Let me out! I'll show ya' how it's done." I swear that you could see the scope looking out of the car window like a pathetic dog left alone too long. Part of me wants to go fetch it, and the other part smiles and waves. Hey, dude? Who's in the car, eh? Who travels with me, huh? Who's going to show the kids the joy of the Universe tomorrow, huh? You are, aren't you? Yeah... That's it. Lay back down now, old friend. You are part of me and you will be always.
Heading on to the M8, I still find the performance of this small scope to be excellent. The M17 is as bright and fine as I could ask for! (ok, that's a lie... the dob would walk it and I know it... but i also know i can't expect filamentation from a 4.5. ;) My next thought is for the M11... But the mosquitoes have not only found their way through my defense, but are happily making hamburger of any flesh they can acquire!
Yep. I always thought I'd like my eyebrow and nose pierced, but not like this!
Laughing, I cap the little scope back up and give it the loving pat it deserves. For now it gets a place indoors... I want to see how it reacts to warm up and cool down. I want to know if this edge of field thing is the result of the Orion eyepiece or the mirror. I've got a million questions and it's 11:30. Ya' done good, little kid. But right now I've got to wrestle with my own demons and try to get some sleep.
"I've been sittin' here... Tryin' to find myself. I get behind myself. I need to rewind myself..."
July 27, 2003 - Studying Murphy's Law...
Comments: When I got home from the BBQ last night it was dark. Even though I had forgotten to turn on lights, I could see a box on the front porch and as soon as the headlights swept across it, the word "Orion" jumped out.
My new scope is here!!
Grinnin' like a fiend, I set it inside. Part of me really wanted to put it together right on the spot, but the other half of me wanted to get in that swimming pool. You've always known that I either listen to one half or the other, don't you? And last night the loud half would have rather went swimming that assemble a new scope.
I shoulda' listened to the other half.
Although the water felt great, and the exercise even better, there was a nice handful of stars out. Nice enough to go scopin'? No. Not even by my standards, ok? If I hadn't of had my "star lust" so satisfied Friday night I probably would have taken the little Celestron out in 3.0 skies anyhow... But right now I'm content to swim quietly and laugh at them crazy pool lights. (they know where i keep the beer... ;) The scope will wait until tomorrow.
And now it is tomorrow. The new Orion short-tube 4.5 Newtonian EQ is assembled and ready to go. It's a grand little beastie, all shiny black and silver. If it performs well, it will take a portable newt to a whole new level, for it's size and weight is around half of the Celestron's. (yeah? well, i'm afraid to put the two of them together right now. i know my old celestron and its' gonna' walk on its' old battle scarred legs and kick the tripod out from under the little guy in the dark. i can hear it skittering around in the garage right now... planning no good with the dob and tryin' to get the mak in on the action. ;) And you know what it's doing outside right now, don't you?
"Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage. And someone will say what is lost can never be saved. Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in cage...
July 26, 2003 - The RAS Annual "BBQ"...
Comments: Ah, life is good! After having enjoyed such fine company last night, it would be hard to top such an act. But, hey... I gotta' tell ya.
You ain't lived until you've tasted Mike's ribs!
In the past, I've always worked during the Richland Astronomical Society's annual "Rib BBQ". After having attended a few such dinners given by the Club and thoroughly enjoying all the good food prepared by what we in Ohio comfortably term "pot luck", I knew I was in for a treat. And the treat was more than just the superb food - it was seeing the rest of my friends again!
How long has it been since I've had the opportunity to just sit and talk with some of you? Months? More? Far too long, amigos. Far too long. I have missed the humorous ancedotes that Mike G. always seems to have. I have missed Mike A.'s professionalism. I like John's ways, Dave's stories, and Terry's continual galaxy quest. Bruce! Oh, my... It's been far too long since we've seen each other as well. It was fantastic just to see you and have you show me all the changes the big scope has undergone in the last few months. I am so ready to study with you again! I have missed it more than you know... And here is Andrea! I know it's been at least 8 months since we've both had the same time off. And Joe... How I have longed for your quiet wisdom and the easy way in which we can communicate with each other.. Why is it that you and I can say a thousand things to one another and yet speak no more than 10 words? Ah, Joe... A million things on my mind and you knew them all. You'll never know how much I appreciate knowing that you understand things without being told. It's a rare gift...
And you are one of a kind. The finest kind...
Unfortunately, the skies kept us from enjoying the stars. But the clouds kept none of us from enjoying the wonderful food! From children to adults, we had our share of laughter generously laced with barbeque sauce. There was plenty of time for me to catch up with Club business and to throw out a few new proposals of my own. Plans are made and finalized for the "Project Mars" and the thought of 500 guests makes me smile! How exciting that must have been during Halley's Comet... You do realize somewhere in time that Halley's was the point my life turned to astronomy, don't you? And if I had been at the Observatory at that time, I probably never would have come back down to the ground! And now we have Mars, eh? Plans for public programs are already running through my mind - From how to present them to actually pulling them off. This is gonna' be so much fun!
Just visiting with everybody has made this weekend one of the best I've had in a long time. I'm back in touch and service with my nearest and dearest with Astronomy For Youth, and like the prodigal, travelin' "AstroKid", I'm home again with the Richland Astronomical Society. All it took was one walk inside the dome and hearing laughter and voices outside to remind me of what I really am.
"Tell me you're the only ones. Tell me there's no other ones. Across the world was lots of fun... But I have found that there are no other ones...
July 25/26, 2003 - Astronomy... Unplugged!
Comments: It was a beautiful day today. Sunny, mild and clear... A day we prize here in Ohio as being the finest of summer.
And one that amateur astronomers knew was going to happen days before.
It felt good to be back on a somewhat normal schedule again. By the time I clocked out from work, I decided I was going to clock out from stress as well. No more problems. No more worries. My group of friends from Astronomy For Youth had already been in contact with me, and since we knew that Friday night was gonna' be all right for astronomy... Plans were in the making. Of course, having campers at Hidden Hollow meant no use of the Observatory grounds. Hey, hey... That's OK. Like many other groups, we have a fall back site. And instead of worrying about where to meet? Well... I just sent this email instead:
Subject: astronomy... unplugged!
astronomy partners for a relaxed observing session. have telescope - will travel attitudes only. the night will include reference maps for those who take longer than 2 hours to find a DSO. for those who take up to 3 hours? awards and congratulations will be given for the most relaxed astronomer. any participant able to find an object faster than others will be asked to aim another telescope at the same object. for those of us lucky enough to find one? points will be deducted if you are able to name your target.
aperature is not necessary. fun is.
this session will be held after a sumptuous dinner at the cracker barrel. 7:00 will be a targeted time, but those arriving precisely at that hour will be asked to pay for dinner. for those arriving before? you will be required to stand outside your car and (optionally) look foolish while waiting on the others. for the one who arrives the latest? you will be required to finish everything on your plate.
afterward the entourage will move at an unhurried pace to the horseman's area at malibar farm. extra points will be given if you lose the group. extra credit will be given if you actually scare a horse into throwing its' rider.
from there we will proceed in a disorganized fashion. for those of you who's telescopes require electricity? you are SOL. (strictly off line). if you so desire, but cannot afford a jr. league telescope - one will be provided for you. if you are battery powered? we will forgive you and ask to plug our coffee pots and CD players into your power source.
mosquito repellent is frowned upon. it is much more interesting at 3:00 in the morning to compare number, size and quality of welts with a red flashlight than to read maps. if you wuss out and use it? we'll ask to share.
last astronomer out will be required to watch the ditches for those of us fortunate enough to be able to sleep and drive at the same time. extra points will also be awarded for bringing a state highway patrol along with you. extra credit will be considered if he's mounted.
this event will be strictly BYOB. if you bring extra, you might be required to share. any receptical capable of holding coffee will be highly prized. any food sources known to be un-nutrious will be classified as "junk" and be consumed on the premises.
all in favour?
say eee eye eee eye ooooooh!!
giddyup, partners... let's saddle them photons and ride!
I would like to get a little more info on the extra points, such as.....does a park ranger count instead of the patrol guy??? what about hot chocolate, does it deduct points for marshmallows??? If I use Skin-so Soft, would Robert use it too??? as it smells soooo good and would be a great addition to his goofy hat???? Is that extra points for the girls???? Is falling asleep considered as relaxed as an astronomer can get??? Pillows!, who is bringing the pillows????? And instead of scaring a horse, what about the rodents? Does it count if they are already dead??? Does is really matter if we are disorganized or organized and can't remember where your shit is? Is there extra points for those of us arriving early for dinner and making fools of ourselves-hence embarrassing other members????? I would really like that one! And if we cannot name something we find, maybe we found something new and can name it after us!!! :) Curt already found the "dumbbell" nebula :)
Other than that, eee eye eee eye OOOOOOOOH!
Email Message: Reply
park rangers will be considered "open game", but only if they are consuming the marshmallows in the hot chocolate. extra credit will be given if you can talk him into actually taking a drink of a hershey's concoction called "good night kisses"... but this must be presented by gregg.
skin-so-soft will be permitted, but only if applied by another member. points will be awarded if they can do so while wearing robert's hat and making rooster noises. extra credit will be given if robert's hat is all they are wearing.
falling asleep will be considered "as relaxed as an astronomer can get". videotaping such an astronomer while his peers do various things to damage his credibility in the background will result in extra points. extra credit will be given to the first one to publish such photos on the world wide web.
who needs pillows when we have marshmallows?
scaring rodents instead of horses will be acceptable. extra credit will be given if you are able to successfully chase a deer into the observing area using nothing but your eyepiece case. extra points will be awarded if you are able to scare a 'possum into passing out. awards will be given to those coming up with the most creative idea of where to put the incapacitated 'possum. (i.e. - in curt's glove compartment... or a local mailbox.) rodents that are previously deceased should be carefully gathered (as whole as possible, please) so we may study forensic science with our pocket knives and red flashlights. extra credit will be applied for placing the remains on the nearby BBQ grills and gathering wood for a cookout. extra points will be awarded to the member who is able to explain to the park ranger that it is a satanic ritual and that as americans we practice freedom of religion.
any member who has actually got his shit together will be asked to admit that he forgot where he put it.
extra points will be awarded to early arriving diners who are able to procur us a seating area where will we be more likely to disgust on-looking diners. extra credit will be given if we can actually make one of them throw up. awards will be given to the first one who makes a provocative statement that causes the waitress to blush. honors will be given if you are able to produce road-kill, tell them you are on a special diet and you'd like yours medium rare.
any new finds will be properly noted and cataloged. extra points will be awarded to the discoverer coming up with the most creative name. extra credit will be given if he's able to spell in phonetically.
awards will be given if he doesn't bring a phone. ;)
(names have been left to embarrass the innocent. ;)
Needless to say, yours truly here was the first to score extra points. Arriving at the appointed time, but obviously dyslexic enough to park in the wrong spot, I wandered around the Cracker Barrel parking lot and waiting area for 90 minutes with a sign that read: "Foolish - Party of Five". Of course, after this amount of time had passed, I was pretty worried that perhaps another Cracker Barrel restaurant existed that I didn't know about.
I don't know how I missed 'em... But I did.
Non-plussed, I grabbed myself a couple of burgers and headed for the observing area. I hadn't even finished my impromptu feast before the cars started arriving and I knew that somehow, even just a hundred or so yards away that I'd managed to miss my friends. Apparently my luck is still on the same run, eh?
But you know what? It didn't matter. In no time at all I was current with Club business and feeling right at home again. Darkness was coming on fast and it was time to set up the scopes. True to the theme, none of us brought anything fancy. Just ourselves, our love of the night sky...
And each other.
But, you know Ol' ~T... Ever the worrier. This was the 4.5's debut run after repairs, and it seems like it's been short on side of forever since I used my old companion. Would I still remember how? Darn right I did. No one here cares that I don't like polar alignment. No one here frowns upon my strange starhopping methods. Not one single soul minded that I could find all the DSOs the 4.5 was capable of with ease that amazed even me! We are...
Astronomy - Unplugged!
What did we look at? Name it. Every Messier from this side of the sky to that. The Delta Aquarid meteors smiled upon us and Mars rocked the night! We moved between scopes in laughter and shared each other's things like the friends we are. How wonderful it is to talk, and joke, and laugh, and touch, and hug, and share again!! (the human touch means so much... thank you. it's been too long for that as well. ;) There is pure joy here. Nothing more and nothing less. This is what it is really meant to be! We go back to our lives with much more than what we came with...
We have each other.
Regretfully, I do not wish to leave. I can feel the weight of the hours upon me, and as much as I push the nagging voice of responsiblities to the back of my head,... They still exist. Mars has culminated and the Plieades shine with the light of Fall. It felt so good to have someone near me again! I am wanted here. Everyone is wanted here! Accepted and weIcomed for exactly what we are. I know I don't have to go... But the reality check is I need to be awake and aware enough to safely make the drive to the Backyard. Watching the thin sliver of the Moon rise on the way back, it comes to me that this is the best time I've had in a long while.
Just what the doctor ordered!
"And what do you want? I want to change... And what do you get? When I still feel the same?
July 24, 2003 - M6 and M7...
Comments: OK. Who put those stars up there? Everybody knows I'm studying rain now and they are definately cluttering the view of my beloved grey clouds. I suppose after I get done swimming that I should take out the telescope and see if my rain is still around, eh?
Date: June 24, 2003
Telescope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepiece: 32mm, 2" Televue
Sky: 4.5 Stability: 7/10
Start Time: 11:00 pm EST End: 11:30 pm EST
M6 - Beautiful open cluster at low power. Contains several looping chains and various magnitudes of stars. One notable yellowish star in field, but the rest appear mainly blue/white. Lightly populated, perhaps several dozen stars, who's general appearance really does bear out it's common name of "the Butterfly cluster".
M7 - Best seen at low power for the general mass of this bright open cluster spans close to one degree of sky. Several magnitudes are within its' perhaps 100 members, one easily distinguishable as yellowish, and the rest tend toward the blue/white variety. To me, the general shape of this open cluster is almost "Orion-esque". As the southern-most study of Charles Messier, the M7 is also one of the oldest in the sky at an estimated 220 million years.
Yes, my targets for tonight were very simple. Both Messiers are easily found, and I was just feelin' easy. After swimming for an hour or so, all I really felt like doing is putting on something to keep the skeeters away and enjoying a glass of wine. The hour is rather late and I quite have my hands full with both my regular job and volunteer work, and I just didn't feel like much more. But, you know that since I had that grand wide field eyepiece in that I had to at least stop and stroke Saggitarius once for old-times sake, don't you?
Just because it's there.
"I am naked.... Nothing but an animal. But can I take it? For just one more show..."
July 22, 2003 - "Starry Nights" and Cloudy Skies...
Comments: You got it. The rain done fixed another public program. The "Starry Nights" at Hidden Hollow gave way to cloudy skies and the continual threat of more rain. Unfortunately, even though we were ready to do some "under cover" presentations for the camp kids, the inclimate weather has totaled their plans as well.
Ah, well... Can't win 'em all.
It still felt good to drive over to the Observatory, knowing my scope and "box of tricks" were with me. It had been so long since I'd seen Big Blue that I almost felt like I had to introduce myself! But it's OK. I've got a practice victim with me. Although it's a bit hard to pretend that at approximately 6' 6", Greg is a grade school kid, we still had a nice time running through the presentation and making sure of how things would work inside the dome. And they worked quite well, thank you! Some of the distance excercises might have to be taken outside, but even he got a charge out of my "elementary" style.
To the sound of "Taps", we bid the Observatory a fond farewell. A handful of stars shone bravely overhead as we left, but like us, they didn't hang around for very long. And I really don't mind.
Cuz' I'm studyin' rain now.
"Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage."
July 20/21, 2003 - Rainy Days and Mondays...
Comments: Always get me down? Cut it out. Sure... It's been raining. Raining rather hard, actually. As in... Time to drain the pool again?
Hey. I'll drain off the extra. Last night was worth it. The only star in the sky was Vega and it made an excellent companion for a night swim. The water was incredibly warm and for perhaps two hours I spent my time lazily circling the pool watching Vega's cool blue light cut through the clouds. No lightning. No drama. Just quiet slow rolls between the breaststroke and the backstroke, plenty of rock, and a cooler of beer. Time to let off the stress of a demanding week.
The only thing I had haunting me were the solar powered pool lights. Like tiny UFOs, they produce less light than a candleflame and float on the surface. At times they would "gang up" on one side... Looking as if they were plotting a battle strategy. Then one would break away and begin to follow me. Soon they all were following me! My plan? Break my pattern. Swim underwater in the opposite direction then surface on the other side. What fun to watch them all bobbing about in a state of confusion!
Needless to say, I am easily amused.
And Monday has turned to rain. But I ain't letting it get me down, brothers. I took care of some legal matters with style and grace... And I'm tired of depression! (it's depressing, ok?) I fixed myself a nice lunch, put on some old clothes, and went for a walk in the rain! I'm thinking about studying rain now. Rain and the astronomy psyche. I have determined that I like rain. I want rain to stay around. The car washes are free, and wading through puddles barefoot is fun! There is no need for this Sun study business... The rain is far more friendly! And who wants to look at the stars when you can study rain, eh?
You see? I'm serious.
On a very bright note for the day? Jerry brought the piece to my mount for the 4.5 back. It has been re-tapped to accept a grade 8, cadium plated bolt that fit perfectly and the old Celestron is now back and ready for action. It might not be exactly the same, but it works!
Who cares? I'm studyin' rain.
"Even though I know...I suppose I'll show... All my cool and cold-like old job.
July 20, 2003 - M14 and M19...
Comments: I am the weekend Vampyre. As always, I find my "night shifts" demanding, and I retaliate against the stress by practicing a few minutes of astronomy whenever possible. Watching the beautiful sunlit skies as I force myself into sleep, I wish my compadres of Astronomy For Youth all the success they deserve tonight. The Ohio weather has stopped us from to many sessions, has it not? But tonight... Ah, tonight shall be your night, amigos!
Waking for a second time just before midnight, I find myself rested enough and decide to make some coffee and check out the stars. Of course, I am missing my constant companion, the 4.5... But don't you worry about old Celestron. Not only is its' original mount currently undergoing repairs, but a new mount and a companion 4.5 are on the way. Besides, I've got the 12.5 to play with! The skies are clear and I've got an hour to spare.
Date: July 20, 2003
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 26mm & 9mm Meade Series IV
Sky: 4.5 6/10 (warm, slightly fuzzy and unstable)
Time: start at midnight, end at 1:00 a.m.
M14 - At lower power, the M14 appears round, fairly bright and contains an obvious concentration toward the core. It has a very grainy texture that tries to become pinpoint and resolve at the edges. With the 9mm, the M14 shatters into stars. While many single points are visible across the core area, the deep density of this particular globular says it cannot be fully resolved with this aperature. This density spreads almost entirely out to the perimeters of the globular, but definately deepens toward the center. Long chains extend away from the structure, and aversion makes the stars pattern appear slightly flattened. Several small groupings of stars reside at the edges. On a curious note, the M14 was the target of the first CCD image! Wow... I'd love to have CCD eyes on this one. Bet you could resolve it fully then!
M19 - Definately oblate at low power with a suggestion of texture and resolvability. Upping the magnification makes the M19 appear like a crystallized blue gas flame! The stars seem to literally "reach up"... Appearing as, and in, a "stellar swarm", a handful of precise stars appear across the core, but it does not resolve fully. Mostly random in pattern, this close to the galactic center globular is a fine sight. Many apparent doubles lay outside of its' influence, and the field is concentrated and quite fine at aversion. It can't be shattered... But it sure is nice!
After that, I just swept around in Saggitarius for a few. Of course I looked at some more Messier objects, but I'm not particularly in the mood to do more than "graze" around at low power. By 1:00 the influence of the Moon is becoming a very deciding factor on sky conditions, and I decide to just stop there. Offering the half Moon half a smile, I chose not to look... And the same holds true of Mars. Another time...
Now, I'm off to work. It's been a pleasant time, and as always...
I wish you the best.
"The world is a vampyre... Set to drain. Secret destroyer.... Hold you up to the flame. And what do I get? For my pain? Betrayed desires... And a piece of the game."
July 16/17, 2003 - Messier Studies... A "Geek" Trajedy... Mars and the Moon...
Comments: Really a beautiful day today, sunny and mild, almost no clouds... Looks like this is going to be a fine night as well! I did my duty at work, went through a lot of unpleasantness in my personal life with as much calm as I could muster, power-napped, and waited on sky dark.
I need out.
Of course, the promise of a fine night meant e.mails from some of my observing partners. I hung around in cyberworld for awhile waiting on confirmation, but the dob was out as soon as the Sun quit the sky. I can dance alone. And there's studies I need to do. As the sky deepened, all traces of clouds had gone and the stars were walking down to the ground again. I had my maps and notes ready to go, and stood for the longest time grinning at what very few stars I could see that I knew belong to the constellation of Centaurus. Yes, this location does not permit views into Centaurus, but it doesn't stop from me from remembering what lay below the stars I can see!
Beauty. I can only remember the beauty.
Readying myself for study, I turn on the rock and roll, get my observing table ready to go and it's time to start:
July 16, 2003
Begin Time: 10:15 pm EST End Time: 12:00
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 26mm Meade Series IV, 12.3mm ED Epic
Seeing: 5.5 easy Stability: 7/10
M3 - Beta Comae is the marker for finding this incredible globular cluster. Absolutely outstanding at low power and locked inside a triangle of high voltage stars, the M3 tries to resolve itself even under this low magnification. With a very apparent concentration toward the core, it's time to put some power to it. Several different magnitudes resolve across the face with a density behind them that is just gorgeous. The structure away from the core appears almost as long strings over the starlight. As the very first true discovery of Messier, this fine globular cluster is extremely rich and holds up well to even lower sky position.
M5 - Beautiful and strikingly "top-like" at low power, 5 Serpens (a double, dude!) in the field helps to complete the picture of this grainy and evenly distributed globular at low power. As one of the oldest clusters known, you sure can't see her 13 billion years in her face! At high power, the stars take on the appearance of halos, rings, and even splayed in some areas. The very rich central portion and its' underlying density appear huge and what lay "behind" the revealed stars evolves nearly out to the edges where the resolution is pinpoint and precise. She holds her age well.
M68 - Small and powerful at low magnification, the edges try to resolve themselves out. Higher power brings on a silvery-blue appearance and a prominent chain of stars cut across the dense core. A handful of red stars lay along the well resolved fringes and apparent doubles occur with varying magnitudes. A very fine little globular!
M13 - What can you say? This is absoutely the "grandaddy" of all globular clusters. Striking at even at the lowest of powers and the most humble of aperatures, the M13 graces the zenith and history as being one of the first deep spaces places that Aricebo bounced a friendly signal toward. At higher power, the M13 becomes almost a religious experience. Splendidly resolved, the little dark area still fascinates me as much as the red star buried toward the riot of stars that is the core. The M13 has no equal, save that of Omega Centauri for structure, population, and resolvability. Finest kind! (and little smudgie galaxy NGC6207 is just a bonus!)
M92 - At roughly one third the size of M13, the M92 presents a very powerful concentrated presence with a distinct core at low magnification. The 12.3mm eyepiece shows a tightly compacted center, and although brighter stars show against the core, I cannot resolve it completely in my opinion. A noticable straight chain cuts across one edge, and the entire globular cluster stays concentrated until it reaches its' boundaries, then shatters into a finer field of stars.
M80 - Located roughly halfway between Graffias and Antares, this compact globular is not so shy to aperature. At low magnification, this little powerpunch is shephered across the sky by two accompanying stars and will not resolve. At power, the core still remains unresolved. Two fine chains of stars seem to bracket it, while a distinguishable arch of resolved stars appears at the edge. Beautifully dense, this small globular is a worthwhile study.
M4 - If you can find Antares, you can find the M4! (and if you scoot antares "out of the picture"? you can find small, loose globular NGC6144 as well. ;) As one of the nearest of the globular clusters, this huge structure is powder perfect and incredibly even with minimal magnification. Higher power reveals a linear concentration the cuts across the majority of its' structure. This baby fill the field and appears nearly as large as the full Moon! Total resolution is the name of this one's game... With thousands of tiny, pinpoint perfect star points. Chains arch gracefully this way and that and there are a few very prominent red stars in the outlying area. Tremendous globular cluster!
By now it's close enough to midnight to call it that. Part of me would like to continue on with Messier Studies, for I know the clarity of the sky would certainly support more globulars and opens - Even with the encroaching light! But... Well...
This was coming up over the trees!
Mars and the gibbous Moon had cleared the treeline! Knowing what was to come, I also knew that I would serve myself better to put away the dob and try to catch a couple of hours nap to watch this pair's progress across the night. Part of me wanted to take the 4.5 out for a look-see on the Moon, but the rest of me knew there were plenty of time tonight... And clear skies to support it.
After having put away my things, I stood for the longest time just looking at the Milky Way. The "Great Rift" is highly visible here, even with moonlight corrupting the picture. But it lacks something, baby... It's just not the same. Giving it a nod, I decide it's time to take that nap.
I'll be back.
Excited, I find myself awake well before the alarm. At 4:00 in the morning, the world is very still outside and the fantasy vision of Mars so close to the Moon is enough to move one's soul. The camera was charged and ready, and I figured I might as well take a cup of coffee outside and get the 4.5 ready as well.
Setting up in one of my favourite spots, I uncovered things and started to take aim. Something is wrong here. Something was wrong a couple of nights ago, but I blamed it on my being tired. Something is wrong with the mount. It's just not right. So, I tighten things back up, and forsake comfort for polar alignment. Something is still not right. This doesn't angle this way and never has! Holding on the the OTA, I started hand checking all the parts to make sure nothing had come lose.
And then it came apart in my hands.
My heart felt like someone had carved it out and thrown it down on the ground. Not my Celestron! No. No. This cannot be. It came apart. Feeling sick inside, the least of my concerns was my night vision. I turned on the interior garage lights and carefully to the parts back inside where I could see. Oh... This is not good. This is not good at all. I have metal shavings inside the fitting. Carefully removing the OTA from the tube ring, I also dismantled the counterbalance and went in search of a socket to put it back together.
And I can't.
You'll never know how it felt to stand there, knowing that a spectacular showing of Mars and the Moon was about to happen and your primary scope for lunar viewing just came apart in your hands. As I look at it in pieces, I feel a deep soul mourning begin as I realize that I've just lost my solar viewing companion. To me, this little scope was everything. I felt sick. I know it has served me well, and put up with my abuse for almost fourteen years... And nothing last forever, does it? You told me that things happen in threes... It doesn't work like that for me. Everything bad happens to me at once. My personal life has been torn to shreds, and my favourite scope in laying in pieces at my feet. It hurts...
It hurt as bad as losing you.
But I'm a survivor, baby. I don't lay down in the fields and die quietly. I assembled the "Ottoman". Carrying it carefully out to the driveway, I realized I only had minutes to try and catch this... So forsaking stabilization time and right angle finder, I used your adapter and put in the eyepiece I commonly photograph with. And couldn't bring it to focus. You see? There are no threes in my world. Still not ready to give up, I called on the power of the dob. Knowing in my heart that this choice is going to totally overexpose any type of photograph I can hope for, I still go on. I will not be defeated by adversity.
Taurus is rock steady.
Resigned, I realized that this is not the end of the world. It is only a well-loved and well-used telescope that has reached the end of its' working days. I have only to save and it can be replaced. And you? You will be spared my horrid photographs of the Sun and the Moon...
And then I looked up.
I can only see the beauty. Mars hangs at the dark edge of the Moon with a mocking attitude. Its' splendid red color rocks against the pearl grey of Selene. And from somewhere, a bit of quiet finds me... I go back to the eyepiece leaving my glasses on. They will darken on their own, giving me a beautiful filter with which to see the small dark markings and wink of a polar cap on minature Mars. They will tone down the brightness of the Moon, so I can see Atlas, Hercules and the ultra-fine vision of Posidonus. And I watch until I can tell it has begun to move well away, as the skies around me lighten and the birds begin to sing.
Covering up the dob, I return it to the garage and oh-so carefully return the "Ottoman" to its' case. My coffee had long gone cold and I was ready for another cup. Picking up the camera from where I had discarded it on the ground, I started back toward the house. As much as I swear I won't look back?
Sometimes I still do...
Returning with a steaming mug, I put the headphones on to play a bit of Candlebox, because it's how I feel. And I watch the Sun overtake the stars.
"Now maybe... I didn't mean to treat you bad. But I did it anyway. And now maybe... Some would say your life was sad. But you lived it anyway. And so maybe... Your friends they stand around they watch your crumble... As you fall unto the ground. And then someday.... Your friends they stand beside as you were flying. Oh you were flying oh so high!
July 15, 2003 - Of Lightning and "Starry Nights"...
Comments: Hey. I was pretty psyched up about tonight's "Starry Night" program. I'll be the first to admit that I've gotten very attached to working with people of all age groups and I was looking forward to doing a public program. But... You know how it goes in Ohio.
You don't make a date with the sky. She makes a date with you.
It was a wise decision to call the program off. After we got dumped on with rain, the change in temperature meant the humidity went through the roof. The sliding glass doors were totally covered in condensation, and it reminded me highly of how the tree frogs hang on the windows in Mississippi. Well, here in the Heartland, there isn't hundreds of them... There's only one. And ol' Kermit kinda' prefers the picture window where the light mesmerizes the insects. Good luck, little bud... And watch out for mosquitoes. You'll eat right fine on those!
But, you know me. I keep watch on the sky. Always. By 10:30 the clouds had departed in all cardinal directions save for about the lower thirty degrees of stormy horizon. Cygnus looked fantastic, and Lyra charmed with all it's might. Like I said, I'm sorry. Even as much as I sometimes abuse my equipment, it would be totally foolish to take any scope out. There's always tomorrow, isn't there?
Darn right there is.
But it was not a lost cause. I poured myself a very cold glass of pinot, and nodded at my guitar as I went by. Life is good, dude. And there's not a thing wrong with watching the fireflies light up the trees like Christmas... Seeing the stars shine overhead...
And watching lightning twenty miles away.
"Are we havin' fun yet?
July 14, 2003 - M9, M10 and M12... The Moon...
Comments: Later moonrise tonight means just a chance to buy myself some time with these clear skies and my on-going attempt to repeat the Messiers. To me, it's exciting to do them all over again... Often times I have looked only briefly at these magnificent objects because my own "vision quest" leads me toward that which I've never seen. Doing the "Messier List" has put my head back in the game.
How you remind me, eh?
So let's do it and do it right. We've only got about one hour until Selene invades the night again... And the stars are walking and talking.
Date: July 14, 2003
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 26mm and 9mm Meade Series IV
Sky: 4.0 easy Stability: 6-7/10
Time: start - 10:00 pm EST end - 10:45 pm EST
M9 - Located roughly halfway between Sabik and Xi Ophichuii and slightly to the east, this magnificent globular cluster is one of the closest to the center of our galaxy and simply rocks at low power. By upping the magnification, the M9 takes on a slightly "squeezed" appearance. At first it apppears to be totally resolved with the 9mm, yet I still catch an underlying density behind the concentrated core region. The star chains seem to twist away from the core similar to a pinwheel - not straight... just a slight twist. The outlying stars are significantly fewer to the leading edge. Several red stars hang out on the fringes. Overall, it gives the impression of some type of blossom about to open up. Very nice!
M10 - Using both the Yed stars as reference points, 30 Ophichus is the key. Wow! At low power the core of the M10 is very striking... At magnification it proves to be impenetrable. The stars are clustered so tightly against one another that they cannot be resovled individually. The outer edges break apart nicely, though, and the entire globular cluster appears to be cradled in yellow and yellowish/red stars. The chaining effect in the particular study shows them to evolve directly outward from the core in a truly "star burst" fashion. Tight, concentrated, and very bright, this incredibly worthy globular cluster smacks in the eyepiece.
M12 - Shifting one finder field away to the northwest of M10 brings up the easy M12. At low power, it appears similiar in size to the M10, but far more grainy and with no apparent core region. Trailing behind it is a very visible series of four stars. At power, the M12 shatters. Complete and total resolution over a core density that seems slightly shifted off center. In one direction, the star chains are fine and appear to spray directly outward. In the opposite, they seem to clump, or gather together more randomly. Again, there are many red stars in the outlying field. The overall impression this particular globular cluster gives is almost "spider-like". Very cool...
So now I've done my studies. How I wish this were a "no Moon" night! I can tell by the clarity that galaxies and nebula would be rockin'. Ah, well... I can feel the weight of the days catching up with me and I'd probably be sorry if I did stay out all night. I'm sorry about a lot of things...
But not this.
It's what I am.
"It's not like you... To say sorry. I'm always waitin' on a different story. This time I was mistaken.... For handin' you a heart worth breakin'. I've been wrong. I've been down. Into the bottom of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream...
July 13, 2003 - The Sun... and Moonrise...
Comments: No, I haven't gone round the bend yet. It is still the same date, just later in my day/night... whatever it is. And speaking of going round the bend? (or maybe it's coming... who knows? ;)
How about a look at 405?
It's not alone, though. 401 is making a great appearance with its' multi-structure and 407 is small and quiet. (yes, 403 is gone, despite the number sequence. remember differential rotation?) Other than that? Hey. It's just good to see Sun in Ohio again. I am ready to remember once threatening to steal a shoe...
And go swim.
I should have been sleeping. The stars only know I've put in enough hours over the last few days that I should be exhausted... But I'm not. The beautiful weather means a great opportunity to catch up on outdoor activities like mowing, car washing and sitting quietly on the porch swing. Seems the only thing I neglected to do was to cover the pool back up. Good reason...
It's going to be a beautiful night.
And I was not wrong. I had lit a couple of torches I keep by the pool to chase away the blood sucking, seven pound mosquitoes and by the time the last of the light was leaving the sky, I was in the water, quietly staying near the edge to watch the bats come down for their evening drink. They are very inoffensive and rather graceful creatures - who only wish a quick drink before they are off to conquer the night. By the time the stars started to come out, they were quite finished and I was left alone to listen to the music and "lazy swim".
How beautiful the stars are tonight! Despite the brightness, the major stars of each constellation were present, lending a wonderful ambience to a summer evening. I speak their names; Spica, Arcturus, Zed, Deneb, Alberio, Mizar, Dubhe, Phecda, Polaris, Altair, Lyra, Antares... And they smile down from above. And I slowly swim until I can swim no more. Then I go to the edge of the pool to watch the eastern skyline.
I don't care how many years I have done this. It fascinates me nonetheless. To me, there will always be a small thrill with watching the full moon rise from the trees. How quickly it seems to move! Like a fanciful hot air balloon who seems to come quietly out of nowhere.... Thanks to our atmosphere, who needs a telescope when it appears so large? The maria look as if you could reach right out and touch them... And I stay until it has risen well above the distant trees, aware that melancholy will overtake me if I stay any longer.
Time for me to rest.
"This is how you remind me... Of what I really am. This is how you remind me... Of what I really am."
July 13, 2003 - Mars and the Moon...
Comments: Welcome back, Vampyre. I can't say I like working the night shift as well as the day, but it pays well... So I ain't complainin'.
As always, I seek a bit of astronomy as relaxation. When I'm under the night sky, even if it's moonlit, I find a certain peace. In this world I do not allow numbers to exist. I do think think of profit and loss. Although my time is limited, and I must keep watch on it... I don't think of time either. There is no stress. There are no deadlines. There is only me. My scope.
Apparently the dark wedge that I can see in the scope but not on film is still Syrtis Major. But, the daggone thing looks disjointed! The entire area above it should be a soft wash of grey with an oval of lightness that signifies Hellas Basin. Of course, you are aware that a dust storm blew out of Hellas just days ago... And apparently it has produced some obscure seeing conditions. Without resorting to either aperature or higher quality optics, I'm gathering this particular dust storm has softened the features.
And maybe my brain is just going soft. ;)
Turning my attention toward the Moon, (even though i said i wasn't going to...) I still found some of the details very nice. Mare Orientale is making a shallow appearance on the limb, while the details inside of both Ricolli and Cardanus make a brief period of blindness worthwhile. As I stood smiling at Antares (just a vibrant red this morning! or is it night?) I couldn't help but wonder if there were any bright stars around the Moon. After all, it is in an incredibly stellar field at the moment! Dropping the magnification back on the 4.5 to whatever the 32mm equates to, (no math here, remember?) I scanned the Moon just a bit away from center and noticed perfectly cool blue star. Awesome! I haven't got a clue as to what star it might be... But it was quite bright and very blue. Chances are good from its' position that just a while ago this was a "grazer" and I hope that some fortunate soul somewhere had a chance to look at it as well.
Now, I gotta' git.
"And it must have been so bad... Cuz' living with me seemed to damn near kill you.
July 12, 2003 - Mars...
Comments: Yes. The Moon was quite bright. I simply didn't feel like bothering with Grimaldi, thank you. So with my limited amount of time before heading in to "vampyre" land again, I decided to pick on Mars.
Guess what? It ain't the same.
Even though I decided to use only the 4.5 Celestron, the 12.3mm should have racked out some significant details. Huh uh. This isn't what I was seeing a little over a week ago in California! Now listen, I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday, and I know the features change with the time zones... But that much?? What we were seeing there at midnight should at least pretty much correspond with what I see at 3:00 a.m., shouldn't it? Yes. It should.
Since I haven't taken the time to download a Mars Previewer, and I simply didn't take a map with me, let me just describe what I see. The polar cap is still coming on very strong. It is highlighted by a darker undermarking. The upper third (or is that lower? ;) is completely indistinguishable. Then a darkish, elongated patch that doesn't expand across the entire visible surface... Then nada. No bright ovals. Nothing. Perhaps I would do better next time to use the maksuktov of the Red Planet, 'cause I sure ain't seeing any great details crisply. I had read about the Hellas Dust Storm, but shouldn't that simply have made the feature larger? More reflective? Hmmmmm...
Oh, well. Your time is up.
"It's not like you didn't know that. I said I love you, and I swear I still do."
July 10, 2003 - The Sun, The Moon, Arcturus, Vega, Capella and Altair...
Comments: A stolen moment with the Sun today. Got a look at new large sunspot group 403. As a triparte structure, the major umbrae look pretty mature from my slightly fuzzy vantage point and the penumbrae aren't particularly large or involved. I had hoped to take even a rotten image of it since SOHO is down, for it keeps my own solar studies where I can reference them if I chose, but no go. By the time I had fetched the camera and something to shield it with, the Sun had disappeared back behind the clouds.
Ain't that the way it goes?
Astronomy For Youth had a presentation scheduled for tonight that got cancelled because of the clouds and threat of rain. It was a good call because the skies aren't exactly cooperating. But, you know me.... If I can see it?
I gotta' at least look.
Smiling to myself, I set the old Celestron down on the area with the 12.3mm. How wonderful to be able to stand here on Earth and view the Mare Humorum, knowing that it's roughly the size of Arkansas. Gassendi itself is amazing... Perhaps one of the most ancient of craters on the lunar surface. At around 287 miles wide, Baldwin believes that Gassendi was formed by a planetoid that struck the Moon during its' volcanic period. This huge impact shocked the surface so much that it actually left concentric damage that matches Gassendi's concentric edges at an incredible distance of 594 miles! Then along came the lava and filled the floor of Mare Humorum... Even the ancient Vitello, located directly south across Mare Humorum was filled in by this flow.
Captured by my own thoughts, I figured I really ought to get the camera a give it a try. Wrong. As soon as I turned it on, I got the message: "Condensation Detected. Function Stopped. Please Wait." OK. Another lessoned learned. Don't take the camera from an air conditioned house into a humid environment.... And so I waited. And waited. And waited. The evil half of me wanted to put the camera in the pool just to see what the "message" might read. How about something like.... "Deep Water Detected. Oh Sh*t I'm Drowning. Please help."?
Giggling from my own silliness, I decided to just go fetch a beer and have a look at the stars while the camera levels out. I enjoy a hazy view of singles stars because it enhances their natural spectra... Like the green fire that accompanies orange Arcturus. The red and blue flash that is a unique signature of white Vega. The gold and green that accompanies creamy white Deneb... And the brilliant blue and green that signifies Altair. Each unique. And each beautiful.
When at last the camera decides to cooperate, I run a very quick film of Gassendi and take a hopeful shot at Schroter's Valley. After having reviewed it? It was a no go. These hazy clouds eradicate fine features. I even had trouble making out the triple central peak in Gassendi. Not that it matters... The are only simple illustrations that are not adjusted in any way. I can give 'em "attitude" easily enough, but I like 'em natural. And speaking of attitudes? Hand me another beer, will ya'? The night is warm...
And if feel like visiting them clouds.
"I've been wrong. I've been down... Into the bottom of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream...
July 9, 2003 - A Furry Moon and Two Stars...
Comments: You think I'm kidding, don't you? Well, I'm not. Ohio simply can't shake that rain and clouds that's been following her for months now. What's it been? Since October or November since we've had normal weather patterns? I'll tell ya'... It's downright hard to "feed" that astronomy "need" when the skies never seem to cooperate. I've even gotten to the point where I'm willing to set up the scope just to look at something like this:
Because I wanted to know.
Somewhere between the rainshowers and dark today, we had some patchy sunshine and I saw the Moon while draining some water off the pool. (need 3,000 gallons? i shall give them to you for free. we got close to 3 inches in approximately 30 minutes yesterday. when people aren't crabbing about minor tornadoes ripping their stuff up, we're busy bitching about fish swimming down our main streets.) I am not a fan of looking at the Moon during daylight hours with a telescope, but I highly appreciate the dimensionality it presents. So, I kinda' stood there and watching the Moon and just thinking.
My thoughts aren't quite as deep as the water, but they are pure. Astronomy For Youth is giving a presentation on Thursday night and if the weather cooperates, I know the Moon is going to be a very big part of the program. It would be incredibly easy for me to simply look up what features were going to be visible at the time and plan a presentation around that... But it ain't me. My guess from three days ago was that we'd have Gassendi to view, and now I'm curious to know if my reflexes still work. Part of me itches to just set the scope up right now and confirm the terminator's position - And the other half says "Wait. It'll get dark." I always listen to my other half.... After all, it was the one that told me Sinus Iridum would be there!
So, while skydark brought on "hide and go" Moon, I found other things to do. I flipped all the illustrations for "California Dreams" over to the laptop where I can add them ten times easier than through WebTV. I wasn't sure what my reactions would be when I went through the video, but I found it to be very pleasant. It reminded me of all the incredible things I had seen and my own promise to remember only the beauty. And now I want to know if my memory still works on the Moon!
Yep. Sinus Iridum.
"It's not like you... To say sorry. But I'm always waitin' on a different story. This time I was mistaken... For handin' you a heart worth breakin'."
July 7, 2003 - A Little Bit Of Moon...
Comments: Yes. There was lightning in the skies. No. I wasn't going to hide in the house. So, despite H's protests, the 4.5 Celestron, the 17mm Sirus Plossl and I went out for a little bit of Moon.
At first I thought to study the area around Plato, but I don't feel like looking into its' loveless eye tonight. The Alpine Valley is bleached out, and although the mountain ranges are quite lovely and Eratosthenes looks pretty daggone good, I wanna' go south. Forget the "Straight Wall"... It ain't doing if for me either. I can see a place ahead, and it looks just about my speed.
Did you know that it's walls are still nearly three miles high even though it has been battered and broken by over fifty smaller craters? Really spectacular... Maginus will seem to disappear by tomorrow night when it becomes overpowered by Tycho just below it. Above it is also an incredible feature. What appears to be a tall mountain range is the beginnings of Clavius - who will also steal the show.
Maginus isn't alone, though. Small craters Pictet and Proctor figure quite prominently in there as well. The highly unusual Saussure shows very well as a double outline, where it has invaded a far older crater. Moretus is also comands in this picture, with its' walls a massive 13 miles thick at the base and rising approximately 13,800 feet off the floor. By dropping in the 9mm, a tiny wink of an interior peak shows against its' inner black well. More than a century ago, the good Reverand, T. Webb described this peak as the "loftiest yet" and guaged it's height at 6800 feet. Awesome, huh? Talk about shades of Glacier Point! (can't help but wonder how the Milky Way looks there... ;)
Despite the continual threat of rain, it still provides for a very satisfactory observing session. And before I go? Let's give a glance toward small crater Simpelus at the pole...
We both enjoy our natures.
"This is how you remind me of what I really am. This is how you remind me of what I really am."
July 5, 2003 - Five-Star "Hotel Ohio"...
Comments: Wow. I can't believe how green it is here. It's like looking at the world through an emerald filter. It was stormy as soon as I stepped off the plane, but at least I didn't have to walk through the rain. It felt good to drive again, and even though my rock and roll station kept breaking to inform me that a tornado warning was in effect for one county south, I didn't mind. I was driving ahead of it and it would buy me hours ahead of the storm.
I was surprised when I arrived, to see how well everything had been cared for. There was a nice note telling me when everyone would be back around. A large, exuberant black german shepherd bounces around me like a yo-yo on a tight string... Either he's happy to see me or he just wants the McDonald's bag that followed me home. I'm really not sure of which, but it's ok. While he eats his burger, it will buy me time to throw my stuff back in the house. The colors, the smells, the space... Everything seems so different and yet so familiar at the same time. Is this really home?
I dunno' anymore.
One of the first things I head out to do is check the pool. I need it. I don't know whether it would be more satisfactory just to swim until I can't move any more... Or just sink to the bottom and stay there. What ever I chose, I chose to wait until dark to enjoy it. And I do. After all, this is Ohio, isn't it? Seems like a mighty fine place to be right now... Nowhere, Ohio. And as the sky fades to dark grey I find myself in the water, laughing at the black bear head and paws that keep appearing over the edge to check on me. What a lifeguard! (and thank heavens he hasn't figured out the ladder yet...) Above me ride the storm clouds, but we have stars in Ohio.
All five of them.
The only "sky" I have here is the handle of the Big Dipper and Arcturus. Hey. I'm stayin' in real five star accomodations now, aren't I? It would probably be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. But I don't care. I am content here to try and stretch away some of the aches and pains. There is a real sky show going on, though. Seems all the fireworks were cancelled because of a big storm on the 4th, and apparently some of the neighboring towns decided to have them tonight. Even though they are around twenty miles away, I can still see the sparkle of color. Rather nice, actually. And nature is about to provide her own light show here in just a few minutes... For that lightning creeps closer and closer.
I suppose I should quit the water. Only a fool swims during a lightning storm. But again, I don't care. I swim until I am exhausted no matter how much H screams his displeasure. Less than gracefully climbing the ladder, the big chicken heart stands at the sliding glass door with his eyes rolled up white with fear. I feel sorry for him. When I've dressed again, I allow him to sit on my lap until the shakes have passed away... At least I remember how to give comfort. With the dog tattooed to my side, we go back outside to sit on the deck and watch the last of the storm pass over. My eyes are dry and I'm fine again. Luxury hotel?
Nah. Just back in Ohio.
"Never made it as a wise man. I couldn't cut it as a poor man stealin'. Tired of living like a blind man. Sick of sight without a sense of feelin'...