Observing Reports: March - 2003

March 30, 2003 - M3, M5, M10 and M12...

Comments: I walk with one foot in ether world. Time has become immaterial. My life as a vampyre has affected me deeply... I have difficulty keeping track of the days of the week - or the times that I move through them. For me there is only work. There are only stars.

And there is only you.

In an effort to prepare my mind for the tasks ahead, I need a certain measure of relaxation. A cup of coffee, some tunes and a few stolen moments with the sky suits me. The night is cold, and limited. The sky is like a bowl... And the night swims in a shallow fix like a dark, cosmic alphabet soup. The only letter I can see in my limited imagination is Alpha.

And it is to Arcturus that we fly...

I have only the 4.5 with me. It is a small spoon to taste from, but the flavors of the night are good. The M3 responds very well... A bright and concentrated ball of stars. With the 12.3mm eyepiece, the core is rich and unbreakable. The stars sparkle and fade away from it... Diffusing their way out to the edges in a texture that cries out for aperature. "Come and resolve me...."

Switching positions in the sky, I cry not for that which I might miss. Time marches on, and I am happy with what I get. At low power the M5 walks with 5 Serpens in silent beauty. Like a cosmic top filled with millions of stars, it appears to spin in the eyepiece... Stretching its' way across the limits of averted vision. Pulling its' ancient structure a hundred light years between what we conceive of as the southwest and northeast... and forever reaching toward that one bright star.

I stop to finish my coffee and sing along with the night. I need two marker stars for the next hop and my tired mind has to "see" them. And when the Yeds appear on that superimposed star chart that is my mind... I go.

The M10 has been a long ago and faraway target. How could I have forgotten? Although it is not as bright, nor as rich as the previous ones, it is splendid. Power takes it from a fuzzy ball of starlight to one filled with a concentrated core and the suggestion of resolvability. Ancient traveller! How long have you been in the Night? 100,000? 200,000 years? You are filled with hundreds of thousands of stars and span across 80 light years.

And yet, what seems like such a small movement to the telescope is a jump of another 1,000 light years for the very diffuse companion globular, M12. How like a minature rendition of the M4 you are! No core, no concentration.... Shaped by the hands of the Cosmos. When I put the 12.3mm on you, you sing songs I understand. You walk at the edge... These teasing hints of indivdual stars that call across the distance of 200,000 light years to reach my eyes. So spectacular...

And my reality check moves in. I have journeyed across the Night in numbers almost incomprehensible to me. My own simple world of a short distance to travel, and hours of numbers call... "Come, Vampye. You are needed."

And I have promises to keep... And miles to go before I sleep...

"Tell me... Did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day... And head on back to the Milky Way?

Tell me... Did Venus really blow your mind? Was she everything you were hoping to find? And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there...."

March 26/27, 2003 - At the Observatory... and in the "Backyard"...

Comments: Well, it looked like it was going to be the "perfect night". Mild temperatues, a totally cloudless sky during the day, and only a smattering of clouds at sunset. If Ohio weather patterns hold "true", as the temperature drops - the skies clear. But Ohio doesn't always do what it's supposed to do!

Four of us headed off toward the Observatory... And four stuck it out. When we arrived, chasing each other up the curvy road to the Dome, the skies looked great! It wasn't long until everyone was set up for observing... And each of us left to our own "domain." RAS members Monty and Dave chose the public observing area and set out with a Meade 10" LXS and a NextStar 5 on a Messier Hop, while Bruce and I chose to be inside the dome with the 12.5 and continue with northern galaxy studies.

"For those about to rock? We salute you..."

The NGC2732 was first up, and easily held direct. As a pretty galaxy enlongated toward the star at either end, this beauty is a high-surface brightness study and contains a stellar nucleus.

The UGC4832, on the other hand, is just a whisper where the last galaxy was a scream. Requiring wide aversion, this very diffuse galaxy does not reveal any structure. Upon eye movement, it appears round, but difficult to confirm.

The NGC2748 is a different story... Edge-on, baby! At first revealed with direct vision, this slim scratch of light appreciates a bit of study. Upon eye movement and aversion, a concentrated nucleac structure becomes apparent with an occasional glimpse of a stellar core. Superb!

The IC5291 is the next target. Very diffuse and faded spiral structure, this one requires moderate aversion. During moments of clarity, the outward fold of a spiral arm is easily detected.

Now, let's get "compact"... and the UGC4883 answers. Here's a spiral that's wound for sound! Deeply concentrated toward the core, this tight structure is easily held direct and shows a signature very much like a bright planetary nebula.

The UGC4841 is a difficult, but achievable, study. Very diffuse, this particular galaxy requires extreme aversion. When seen, it gives a slight elongated appearance of a tilted spiral... But little else.

Of course, the fact that the clouds are trying to crowd out the stars might be a contributing factor there! Grinning to each other, we decide to take a break while the M0 passes overhead and see how our compadres on the "outside" are doing with their "driven Marathon". Guess what? It's cloudy out there as well, eh? But both teams are doing what we set out to do... Carpe noctem, baby...

Carpe Noctum.

As we watch the clouds thin, we head back inside the dome. Cranking up the tunes, Bruce made a choice tonight that only a pair of veteran galaxy hunters could end up rolling on the floor and laughing about:

"Born to raise hell...
Born to raise hell!
We know how to do it...
And we do it well."

Darn right! Now let's make use of the great big sucker hole that's passed our way and do what we both do best... Pick structure out of faint galaxies!

The NGC2800 is a sweet little "football" shaped galaxy with a "captured" star. Thanks to this distraction, there appears to be no nucleus structure, but it's still sweet!

The NGC2787, (according to my somewhat strange notes) is easy up and direct. Good reason, eh? I'm a studier... As I watch, those moments of perfect clarity come, and with it comes barred spiral structure. Very fine barred spiral structure! As my mind wanders along this central bar, admiring concentrations and looking for signature, along comes a great spiral arm curling above it! (yep... there's exclamation points in my notes. ;) We like the ones with structure!

Again, those clouds are pushing back... But not soon enough to have an opportunity to peek at the UGC4918. A circular patch of vague "nebulosity" that requires wide aversion, and is soon swallowed by the atmospheric phenomena.

Hey. Them clouds are back.

None of us are too happy about it, but no one is willing to leave. Using the opportunity to take a break, have a bite to eat and a cup of two of coffee, it's time to learn more about the equipment at my disposal. Anybody that "reads here" knows that I've been growling about ToUCam's applications not wanting to work for me... But a few simple lessons later and we're off and running! (i'd blush if i thought there was a need to, but there ain't no shame here. it's a fine piece of equipment, and one that can't be learned overnight.) We make use of the sucker holes and take the equipment back inside the dome to try our hand at stellar imaging. While Bruce handles the scope, I lay on the floor pasted to the screen. Between the two of us, it doesn't take long until we've tag-teamed and captured our first stellar image. Awesome!

By now, Saturn is long gone, and Jupiter isn't achievable inside the dome. Since Monty was still set up outside, we started pulling cords. We yelled at him to set it on Jupiter before the clouds covered it, and like a couple of crazy "AstroMedics" (miss ya', Tim...) hotrodding the "life support" equipment out and hooked it to the Meade. Within minutes we had our first capture on Jupiter! Results? Over-exposed... But how grand it was to see the galieans snap right out like that! We're on the way, Cor...

We're on the way!

Still stickin' it out, and hoping the clouds would pass, the three of us headed back inside the Clubhouse and made use of the time to study a new acquistion. Say hello to a 20" Obsession! The video was fascinating. Such perfect ease of design and portability.... And the combination of the ServoCat and ArgoNavis is awesome! (mike? the argonavis is totally cool... can't wait to hear how you've done with it!) Even though we were patient and persistant, those clouds won tonight.

Or did they?

Packing it up, we all headed our seperate ways. I knew it was going to happen. It always does. As soon as I hit lower and flatter land the clouds sweep away and with it comes the stars. Tired, but not dead yet, I fix myself and cup of chai and opt for some comfortable clothes, an "alternative" CD and the dob. It's kinda' hard for this deep sky observer to just walk away from you, don't you know? I've tried... And I can't.

Leaving my own 12.5 Meade in the comfort range with the 26mm... I wanna' just skywalk on my own. Dumb stuff that comes back to me, like the M4 and M80. When I see the squeezed, blue, flattened form in Ophiuchus, I realize that I've remembered how to find the M19 again... And trip on over to Saggitarius. M22 come first and my memory hasn't all gone yet. A hop over to the M8 and on to the M17... How well do I remember? Sliding back down to Kaus Borealis, I tip it up again and capture the M28. Ah, globulars! How I've missed you! And can I still walk back "Straight To The Heart"? Aye.

To the corner and southeast for the M54... Stay along the "line" and on to the M70 and over and up a bit for the M69... And just for fun? To Al Nasl, for twin globulars NGC6528 and NGC6522. By now, a thin edge of Moonlight is beginning to appear... The night has been a happy one. Filled with friends, laughter and stars... It was only missing one thing:


"Tell me... Did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you finally get the chance to dance... Along the light of day? And head on back to the Milky Way...

Tell me... Did you fall for a shooting star? One without a permanent scar? And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?"

March 24, 2003 - Frustration... and "How to Relieve It"...

Comments: So I'm trying again with the ToUCam, eh? I really want to get the hang of this thing, because the idea of being able to "virtually share an observing session", I think is rather exciting. Yeah, I know that some pretty spectacular photos can be achieved in this way... But I don't think David Malin is going to be getting any competiton from me.

Once again, I start by learning an application at ease. I really don't want to handle the webcam too much because right now the CCD chip is exposed for the adapter and prime focus... So what "practice" I do with it involves nothing more than opening the case enough to allow light changes to be sensed and caught on screen. Confident that I've "got it" at last by taking a snapshot of identifiable colors, I put everything away and await night.

And the night brings clear skies....

Chosing "the Ottoman" for its' precision optics and inherent magnification qualities, I set everything up, aimed at Jupiter and fetched the laptop sans extension cord. (why? cuz' i know that it will only run so long, eh? and sometimes i tend to become fascinated... ;) Everything ready to go? Yep. When I saw a black screen and contrast change, I started getting confident that I was going to capture it at last... and again... nothing. I played with that puppy from everything to "live" webcam shots to "still" photoframes and couldn't "get it." Perhaps the Mak isn't suited for prime focus. And when the prompt came up that the battery was about to croak on me?

That was ENOUGH!

By now I was no longer in the mood to mess with anything even remotely difficult. Although I find the Mak a charming telescope, it still pushes me "Grrrr" buttons to aim. So I happily capped it all back up, set it away, and did the one thing only I could do in such a circumstance.

Cranked up the rock and roll, opened a Corona, and brought out the 4.5!

You know what I want? I want to know I can still do it. I want to hop from the "Double Cluster" to the M76. I want to breeze over the M36, M37 and M38 using only the reflex sight. I want Saturn... Not for the Cassini, but just to see that Titan is away and under... To see the "troopers" dancing ahead of the rings! I wanna' know that I don't even have to tighten down the knobs to see the M1. I want to dance with the Plieades - because they're there.

I want to sip my beer (careful now... it's been almost 4 months since you've drank one!) and grin at the M42. I wanna' hop to the nebula right up there by his chest and not give a fig if I don't remember the designation. I want to look at the M35 and smile because it brings back memories. And I wanna' grin like an idiot when I use a 32mm, 1.25 eyepiece and can see the M44, Jupiter AND the galieans in the same field - because it brings back even more memories!! I like listening to rock and roll and not polar aligning. I like starting on Sirius and just letting the telescope drop in my hands to find the M41... And I like still not tightening anything down and breezing over the M46, M47 and M93.

I want to look at Leo, and not want every galaxy in there. I'm happy with looking at the M65 and M66. I want to look at the M81 and M82 with the scope tightened down and just think about "things". And I want to hop to Mizar and Alcor, because one of those thoughts made me laugh! And I want Cor Caroli and Gamma Leonis, not because I'm picking apart doubles a low power... But just because I can.

And I want the M67 and I want you.

Messier Marathon? Nah. Duty calls. No matter how beautiful the night may be. For now, I've had my happy time. Soon enough I'll be feelin' hollow again...

And the stars will have to fill me up.

" Can you imagine no love, no pride... you deep-fried chicken? I'm your best friend... And I'm always stickin'... Up for you. Even when I know you're wrong.

Can you imagine no first dance? A freeze dried romance? A one hour conversation? The best chai latte that you ever had . . .

And me."


March 24, 2003 - The M3, M53, M64 and M94... The Moon and Venus...

Comments: Yeah, yeah, yeah... I slept, OK? Or at least I tried. Anybody that works odd shifts can understand what I go through, and I dare anyone of you who loves the night to comment on the fact that I can't leave at least a moderately clear one with no Moon alone...

So, somewhere around 1:00 or so, I turned the radio back on, snatched up the 4.5 and went back out. There's no one here now to beat my over the head with my book of maps because I decide to go out in the middle of the night. H is a bit bewildered, but still a willing companion, and we set up quietly. I can barely make him out as he moves to the edge of the field with his ears turned toward the woods. The coyotes are quite back, and yipping in the night. I didn't realize how much I had missed these sounds... Like the peepers... Until they have returned!

Setting Arcturus in the finder, I pass on looking at it for I am well dark adapted. Sliding along the line I know in my heart, the M3 takes my breath away when I see it once again! I suppose only the winter months can make one appreciate the lack of globular clusters... And what a way to start another session! M3 still rocks the house, dudes... And absolutely kick-tail core region, deep, rich and beyond resolution with this aperature. Fidgeting in my pocket for the 9mm, I can't help but smile as I see individual stars begin to resolve themselves out!!

Now a bit of map work... Because it's been a long time.

M53 is also a very sweet, albeit small globular. Nice, intense core region and a certain "graininess" to the texture that makes me wish I had chosen the dob! Back to the maps for a few minutes... Then a hunt round. Then the M64. Woo hoo! Tear drop shaped galaxy that orients with it's more narrow portion pointed toward the northwest. I can detect on aversion a patchiness toward the center of it, but nothing I can hold with confidence. (dang... i should have got the dob!) But noooo... If others can do it with limited aperature, so can I. Besides... I like the 4.5. It's comfortable. And off we go on another hunt! This time toward the M94.... And hunt. And hunt... And hunt a bit more. When I turn it up, I find it to be a very small, round patch of light with a crescent shape of concentration on its' southern border. As it reaches toward that star to the north, it definately fades away.

Feeling rather galactic at the moment, I look to the very well risen Virgo and know it's pointless. The sky has already brightened to the east where Sister Moon is about to join the picture. I realize that's probably why I had so much trouble locating the M94 and decide enough is enough for now...

But is it?

I watched the perfect orange half Moon rise out of the trees, wondering what it might look like. Capping things up, I whistled for H and decided to go park in a chair for a bit and nap. And ol' H knows, folks... He knows when that scope is left out that I have every intention of coming back!

And shepherds never sleep...

Along about 5:00 or so, he wanted to know why I wasn't up. He whuffled. He whined. He pulled my hair. Who needs an alarm clock, eh? So I smiled, scratched his ears, put on a pot of coffee, and when it was done? We went back out for a Moonwalk.

Again, I am deeply impressed when I have the time to look at the waning Moon. Sure, the features remain pretty much the same, but things look much differently! This morning what caught my eye more than anything was the differences in color in the Mare Ibrium. Come... Have a look for yourself!

You see? There really is a rather lovely difference there. Nothing major... Just a difference in texture. The sands, instead of glaring pale grey, now take on a slightly bruised appearance - almost as if they had shifted some how.

And I've slept a bit late to do much else. The dawn is coming and the Moon sits in Saggitarius. I stand and drink my coffee watching what hours ago was the Moon staining the eastern skyline silver, but now is the Sun staining it a deep shade of pink and orange. There's still a wee visitor on that eastern skyline. One I haven't mentioned for a very long time, even though I have watched it fall back toward the Sun on many a morning drive to work.

Let's go look at Venus.

You know what? She's still beautiful... Even if you think she's phat. The thin clouds that accompany sunrise provided just enough natural filter to reveal her 60% phase with ease. So if your tastes run on the side of "shallow sky"? Then don't look at her.

Cuz' true beauty comes from within.

" Now that she's back from that soul vacation... Tracing her way through the constellation, hey, hey. She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo... Reminds me that there's time to grow, hey, hey.
Now that she's back in the atmosphere... I'm afraid that he might think of me as plain ol' Jane... Told a story about a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land.
Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day? And head back to the Milky Way? And tell me, did Venus blow your mind? Was she everything you wanted to find? And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?"


March 23, 2003 - Comet Kudo-Fujikawa, M45, M35, M36, M37, M38, M42, The ISS, M41, M65, M66, M67, M1, Saturn, Jupiter, M44, M81, M82 and the M51...

Comments: Yep. Same date, different time. Walking dead? Nah. Anybody capable of accidentally inhaling rat poison and shaking it off with a few sneezes and a nap is not going to be terribly disturbed by the lack of a few hours sleep! Besides... I got a kid to photon train.


Very well, then. You don't want to hear it, and quite frankly neither did I... But I've got a grandson that will be here in just about three weeks. As luck would have it, both of my long lost sons turned up on the same day, and as that day darkened to night? There they were, eh? And the stars as well. They've long been used to my eccentricities, and oddly enough my oldest son chose a woman who also enjoys telescoping. (go figure, huh? ;) So as the skies darkened, my suggestion was we take this party outside and go on a comet hunt. Starting with the 4.5, it didn't take very long to realize this instrument was going to prove futile at hunting a 10th magnitude comet, no matter how easy it's position was. Fetch the dob? Nah. As easy as that seems, the skies really didn't warrant aperature at around a 5.0 with only 6/10 stability. Besides, I need practice before Public Season with the "Ottoman"!

Carrying it out gently, I capped up the 4.5 and put it away. I'll never get good with the Mak, until I learn to use it. The mount is still stiff, unforgiving, and a royal pain in the asteroid, but like many things... I'm learning. Starting with the 40mm, I bumped immediately to the 32mm. Just a wee bit more suits the occasion! Aiming for the clump of stars where I knew the comet to be located, it didn't take very long to spot the little "out of focus globular cluster" parked near a magnitude 6 (approximately... you can smack me if i'm wrong.) star. No tail, very little in the signature of a nucleus, but most definately Kudo-Fujikawa!

At last, you little beastie... I've found you.

Sharing the eyepiece, I could only grin to myself as the comments: "That's a comet?!?" was passed around. You see, these two boys grew up picking their teeth on Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake... They've been dragged more than once away from phone calls to girlfriends or video games, and forced to look at a LINEAR, or confirm a duo-tail on Ikeya-Zhang. To them? This is nothing. To me? It's a catch!!

NEAT? You're next...

And so we begin the "sky wander"... Sure, it's a random choice, but it's a random night. Time for this old kid to re-learn the "Nickel Tour"! Aye. The objects are simple... Such as the Plieades, but if gathering photons and learning to love them comes from the blood? Then let's give a stargazer-yet-unborn a vampyre photon transfusion! Sweet and blue, the M45 is worth a few oohs, and aahs...

So we hopped. Easy targets like the M35 and it's classic differences in magnitude and color. Down a bit deeper for the crystalline tiny stars in clouds found in the M36, M37 and M38. And who can resist the spectacular M42, eh? Let's feed some nebulae in there as well...

By now they're bored. Yeah, it was cool, but not half as much fun as getting ice cream, renting videos and heading back out. Apparently my once every couple of months visitation is about to come to an end... So I stop to talk, hug, kiss, touch a tight belly to feel the movements within, and threaten to hunt them down if they don't at least call when the baby is born. They climb into the truck and off they go... And I smile again, knowing that I'll see my oldest again some time very soon... For he's taken the youngest with him. (hehehheee... this oughta' last about three days ;) And I settle down with a cup of chai to admire the sky...

And see movement.

Only one thing casts a signature like that! Straight and true as an arrow, it reaches the zenith, and the beautiful flare of the Sun reflects off the ISS momentarily allowing it to shine brighter than even Jupiter. It's somehow peaceful... Knowing they're up there. In this war torn world, full of its' politics and violence... it gives me a sense of pride to know our dreams still fly on... And another set of lights fly back in...

"What the heck was that thing?!"

Suprised to see that they had come back, I laughingly explained that they had just witnessed the International Space Station fly over. And after one last hug, they leave again. But they leave me with something more this time....

I had them looking up.

I go on alone. No fear. It's my way. Laughing at H slipping in and out of the shadows, singing along with the rock and roll. It's only who I am... And nothing more. Just a tired old vampyre practicing to find the M41... Takin' a hop to the M65 and M66... Lovin' up on the M67. Going across the sky for the M1, and hanging out with Saturn.

Well, well... You ready for a bit of experimentation, are you? Then let's get the eyepiece case, something another set of hands has touched, and see what we can do! Yeah, baby... Kickin'!! I stopped at 17mm with Saturn because the stability to the west was so poor. Chances are better than good I'm picking up heat waver from across the village, but I am quite happy to see Titan crowning the "King of Rings". Here again, poor stability rules... The best I could acheive in the way of details was an off again, on again Cassini, and no minor moons.

So, do you want to try Jupiter? Works for me.

Starting at 32mm, (kyle? so far it works fine... i need to put it in the 4.5 tho... but forgive me cuz' i'm playin' tonight...) I kept progressing toward more and more magnification. Each jump made me grin like a fiend... Oh, yes! This is working! At 17mm I was watching nice little details jump out, like color and a hint of limb darkening on all four galieans. Beautiful variations in the equatorial zones. Soft, windswept looks in both the north and south polar regions. The rusty look of the north temperate belt... What appears to be a whorl in the southern equatorial belt.... More? OK!


Something is wrong because I've lost it. Can't focus. Putting my glasses back on, I double checked to make sure all the screws were tight and went back to the eyepiece without thinking. So here's one for you... Why, with my glasses on, am I able to bring the 12.3mm to focus, but not without? Leave 'em on, ~T... Curiousity far outweighs vanity! So the ball is in your court, Wizard... I tell you what I see honestly. You tell me why.

Feeling the weight of the hours, I put everything away save for the 40mm, 2". Time for me to sit for a few minutes, have another cup of tea and ponder the question myself. As much as I hate to give up the night, I am tired... But I ain't dead. There's always time for just one more, eh? A chance to walk into the glittering profusion of the M44... A stolen moment with the M81 and M82...

And be swept away by the M51 all over again...

" Tell me... Did you sail across the sun? Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded... And that heaven is overrated?
Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star? One without a permanent scar... And did you miss me while you were looking at yourself out there?"


March 23, 2003 - The Moon and Mars... And Summer Stars...

Comments: Still walkin' with one foot in the vampyre world. I have no idea if there were stars out on the 22nd or not... For I was sleeping long before they may have made their appearance. When the witching hour of midnight arrived. I could feel myself coming to life again and, as always, checked the sky while my coffee was brewing.


Hey, hey... It's OK. There was a place I wanted to be anyways - stars or no stars. I went there and left smiling... Ready to shower and dress for work. I thought I'd fix myself just one more cup of coffee and take it out on the deck to enjoy the morning sounds of life re-awakening. Suprise! There was the Moon...

Let's go visit for a few moments, shall we?

I think perhaps one of the more fascinating aspects of visiting a waning Moon is how familiar features take on change. In this temporary illustration we see two old time favourite craters, Aristotle and Eudoxus. Not particularly outstanding in themselves, but what really catches my attention is Callipus! Ordinarily viewed during the waxing stage, it's just not that bright. And what really grabs me is the handful of Caucasus Mountains that throw their shadow so unusually in this lighting! It looks like a handful of black seeds scattered on the lunar surface... Both odd and beautiful at the same time.

Finishing my cup, I turn my attention instead toward where the Moon is residing at the moment... Right dead in the middle of Scorpius. I have to smile as a I make a futile search for the M4... Knowing that the nearby Moon will simply eradicate it. And it does. But it feels just so good to wander around in a summer constellation again! And grinnin' just as bright and red as Antares itself is the rival - Mars.

Why not? I've still a few minutes more...

Turning the 4.5's attention toward the "God of War" is another smile in itself. Mars is absolutely unmistakable as a planet. Small, yet intensely bright, it offers no details except disc at this range of magnification... But oh, brother...

I know what's comin'.

"Now that she's back in the atmosphere... With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey... She acts like summer and walks like rain. Reminds me that there's time to change, hey, hey.... Since the return from her stay on the moon... She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey, hey..."

March 20, 2003 - Watchin' The Holes Go By...

Comments: Told you all it seems to do is precipitate, eh? Here in Ohio we've traded the ice and snow for rain and mud... Not that I really mind, cuz' I've never had to shovel mud off my car to go to work... But it just a bit depressing.

And I've got a cure.

I might not be able to see the Sun today, but I can still watch the holes go by!


Isn't that beautiful? I can never truly express my appreciation to NASA as an amateur to be allowed access to SOHO like that... This is equipment that goes beyond my simple backyard solar filters, and to be able to see the Sun in such a "light" is simply incredible. The massive fissures caused by coronal holes can only be rivaled by the beauty of its' flares. Yin and Yan...

Of course, the cloudy day means an equally cloudy night. No stars again, homeboy. But it is warmer, eh? Warm enough to sit outside in a sweatshirt on the old park bench and listen to some music. Like SOHO's act, these particular tunes are one's I can't follow as well... But I can still appreciate in my imagination how your fingers must dance to create it! And I listen until I am fulfilled... And answer with tunes of my own.

Although I am not a musician, there are times when I can achieve a certain "balance". It's just a feeling you get when your fingers don't make too many mistakes and your voice gets that edge in it. And sometimes?

It charms the sky.

Tonight it must not have been that great, eh? For all I managed was a pleasant hour on the deck, cradling the accoustic and watching the stars inside the moving holes. It became a game with me... To see if I could identify them as they peeked out one by one, and not lose track of what I was doing. At moments, a whole constellation would appear and I would grin inwardly, thinking I ought to sneak out the scope... Only to watch them be gone again.

And try not to think about war.

"Stuttering, cold and damp... Steal the warm wind tired friend. Times are gone for honest men... And sometimes far too long for snakes. In my shoes, a walking sleep.... And my youth I pray to keep. Heaven send Hell away...

No one sings like you anymore.

Hang my head, drown my fear... Till you all just disappear. Black Hole Sun... Won't you come? And wash away the rain? Black Hole Sun... Won't you come? Won't you come?"

March 18, 2003 - The Sun...

Comments: Well, well... Apparently I haven't lost my sense of timing! (sync... ;) Although the skies were hazy I knew by my internal clock and the upcoming forecast of rain that this afternoon would be my last chance to view awesome sunspot 306 and follower 314 again. It's been a long time since I've taken the video camera out, and at least attempt to do them justice!

Have a look...

And here's why I say I haven't lost my sense of timing...

Unknowingly, I had went out to observe and record... When I came back in, I followed the same pattern I always do and looked up the data. Hola! 314 rocked the skies and spit off not one - but two coronal mass ejections! Check this out:

SOHO/Lasco image

Awesome, yes? And not only that but was responsible for some X1 class flares! (let's see your global positioning work now, eh? ;) Again, I tend to reflex almost everything I do... So you know it... I magnified 314.

Let's look...

(hey, it ain't the greatest... but i didn't know at the time what importance 314 would present! but i did know enough to film it... ;)

As you can see from my muzzy temporary photo we've got all kinds of activity going on inside! I only wish I could share with you how clearly the field appears in the eyepiece! The seperation between each umbra field was divided by superior faculae. The penumbra themselves are jagged, irregular and look much like black ice crystals.... And the amount of tiny, pinpoint followers in the dispersion field simply rock!

But, things are as they are. And at least I'm still trying. All this means, of course, is that we are up for a superor chance of aurora. And you know what happens in Ohio when we've had a CME don't you? Darn right.

It rains.

"In my eyes, indisposed.... In disguise as no one knows. Hides the face, lies the snake.... The sun in my disgrace. Boiling heat, summer stench... 'Neath the black the sky looks dead. Call my name through the cream... And I'll hear you scream again.

Black hole sun.... Won't you come? And wash away the rain. Black hole sun.... Won't you come? Won't you come?"

March 15 & 16, 2003 - The Sun, the Moon... and What It's Like To Be A Vampyre...

Comments: Hey, hey... The days and nights have been a blur. I know it's not a novel concept to devote one's self to duty - but it's wearin' me down. The weather made an uncharacteristic jump to somewhere in the sixties, and how odd it feels to be outside without a coat, squinting in the bright sunlight! I recall getting home early enough on the 15th to have a look at fantastic sunspot 306, but didn't have the gumption to try and record it. Happily the good folks at NASA took some of the burden of this old kid, eh?

SOHO MDI image

I've been following enough to know that it's got a twisted beta-gamma field and has been responsible for some M class flares... But my mind really isn't registering any facts besides that it is an awesome big spot!

And there's a bunch of fur in there somewhere.

I recall going to bed long before the last rays of that warm Sun left the skies... And I recall sleeping. I remember at one point waking up to see the Moon shining outside the window, and curling up on the head of the bed, leaning against the window frame and watching it rise. And then there's nothing until the alarm went off. I remember it being foggy... like driving through a dream. And I remember hitting a clear spot only to see that same Moon about to set... Swollen to incredible proportions by the atmosphere and deep orange.

Do vampyres really drink blood? Maybe 6000 years ago. Today they live on coffee and orange juice and little else. They shield their tired eyes from the Sun and terrorize the backroads of Ohio on a Harley Davidson. They update websites and pass on the wine. And when they're tired and need their condemned souls soothed? They take out accoustic guitars and sit beneath a haloed Moon singing the same old songs.

I watched it rise, never looking once at my fingers. I played the melody and harmonized the best I could. There's a ring around the Moon tonight, and a tiredness in my soul. The stars don't call for me - only the welcomeness of oblivion. Perhaps the combination of it all was just enough to shut certain circuits down... Because for the first time ever?

I saw "the cow jumping over the moon"...

"And it's been awhile... Since I could hold my head up high. And it's been awhile... Since I've said I'm sorry."

March 14, 2003 - Smack Me NOW...

Comments: Alright! Alright!! I was lookin' at a screen, insted of through the scope! Let's just say I have a certin fascination/fixation for learning new things. And if you hand me a new toy?

I will play with it. (trouble is, i like to play with forty new toys at once. ;)

I thought about sneaking a peek at the Sun through the hazy clouds, but discarded the notion in favour of reformatting the .org website. I considered cooking myself a fancy meal... But intead grubbed some of my fine leftovers and spent the time downloading a driver for the TouCam. I thought about answering back e.mail and reaching out and touching a long lost compadre... But instead worked on a template. And when the skies darkened and the Moon rose?

I figured I was good to go.

Connecting more cords, screens and power sources to the old 4.5 than a comatose patient, I set the sites on La Luna and powered up. Holy Guacamole! Just look at that, will you? Dividing my time between "chasing" and adjusting, I became fascinated with watching both Gassendi and the Sinus Iridum float serenly by on screen. Cor? I am ready for you, my friend. I found an application where I could take a video clip and mail it to you. A nice, neat little box with blonde-friendly controls like: record, stop, play and send. Catching the "drift", I happily had everything focused, aligned and ready. Going to the screen, I put the cursor over the "record" button, waited patiently for Gassendi to come into prime view... and clicked. Oh, yeah! But... Did it work? Forsaking the scope, I went back to the screen, clicked on "play", and I'll be darned. There it is!

Excited as all get out, I clicked on the mailing option... And forgot Cor's address. Hey, hey... I can work around this! Mail it to myself, then simply forward it. Tap, tap, tap... It's in there. Send! And I ain't "connected". Really, it's no problem. I got a nice little prompt telling me that it would hold my message until I was "hooked" again. A quick peek at the Moon in real time... Disconnect everything. Back inside. Plug in. Send message. Open message.

And there wasn't anything there.

So smack me now! Because I could have spent that time at the eyepiece of the dob chasing the "troopers" around the rings of Saturn. I should have been hounding Jupiter for details. I probably would have done better with the Rukl and some magnification - picking off some previously unviewed and obscure crater on the lunar surface.

And maybe... Just maybe, mind you... I would have been far too curious about those "toys" to have enjoyed it.

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem to be. I cannot blame this on another.... He did the best he could for me."

March 13, 2003 - Just Stargazin'....

Comments: All right. Who ordered clear skies? I was happy here in my little rain clouded world. Figured I was off the hook for the night... Kicked back in the spa... Couple of candles... Bottle of wine...

And then along came the Moon.

Do I feel obligated to make use of every clear night? Oh, heck no! I do what I do because I love it. Pure and simple. I would not be happy if the stars were out and I didn't go look at them! It was my pleasure to wrap my steamy self in a big ol' warm blanket and take my glass and candle out to the deck to dream. The rain had frozen in the branches and the Moon turned the ice to thousands upon thousands of sparkling points - like a tree of stars. I don't care if I look strange curled up on the old park bench, listening to music in the middle of a wintery night. This is who I am. The one with my head tipped back, drinking in the starlight, and dancing on the Moon.

And always dreamin' of you...

"And it's been awhile... Since I've seen the way the candles light your face. And it's been awhile... But I can still remember just the way you taste."

March 11, 2003 - Learning to Walk...

Comments: So, did I give up on the ToUCam? Heck no! The Master told me that I would have to learn how to crawl before I learned how to walk...

And my knees still hurt from last night.

This time I came better prepared, eh? Climbed up on the side of the house and stole my extension cord back from the Christmas lights. (yeah, dude... they're still up. let's see YOU walk around on a steep pitched roof with the Ohio ice and snow!) The redwood chair frame and a piece of plywood make for a temporary workstation for the laptop. Choosing the 4.5 was easy. This time I wanted a scope that I knew every knob without thinking about it. I even re-aligned the finder, eh? (hey, hey... i've used that scope so much i normally just reflex - so it doesn't matter.) We had clear sky, a big phat Moon, and a willing pupil.

Let's do this!

Starting off with the 25mm eyepiece, I wanted to get a look at what was going on and have things reasonably aligned to start with. Perfect! That same star I observed last night sure looks like it's going to get occulted - and for the first time I'll be able to create a "mini movie" of the event that I can share! In with the adapated ToUCam... and... And learn to focus. There quite a trick to the hand/eye coordination! At prime focus just a small section around Plato is all that's visible on the screen. Anyone that's ever used a webcam knows there's a certain amount of "lag" time when the image is moved... And since my scope is undriven? It ain't easy bein' cheezy....

But I told you I operate on a wicked learning curve, and so I do. After several minutes of using ~T's rules of the 3 P's... I had actually managed to learn to coordinate scope movement, video lag, and focus! (whoa... amazing!) Now comes the next step... Learning to "lead". Seconds later I got the hang of how and where to place the camera's eye to pick up a specific feature and knew that there would only be a matter of seconds to create a file...

And it ain't registering.

Say now! Apparently I need to re-installed the upgrade, huh? Grinning to myself, instead of getting angry and frustrated, I realized that I had taken my first steps. I had gotten the ToUCam to work. I had learned to focus. And I could not only follow it, but predict the time a feature would appear on screen. So I'm not ready to run... And I'm a long way from dancin'...

But I am standing.

"And it's been awhile... Since I could look at myself straight. And it's been awhile... Since I've said I'm sorry."

March 11, 2003 - M4, M8 and the M17...

Comments: When I woke up this morning, I was incredibly pleased to see that the clear skies had held overnight... And even more pleased to see Scorpius standing fairly high in the south! Let's see... I can either: A - Ignore it and go write up last night's report. B- Ignore it, start coffee, and go about my routines. Or... C - Go walkin'.

And you know me, eh?

Yeah, it was just with the 4.5. If I would have realized that it was going to be this clear out at 5:00 a.m., I would have gotten up sooner! But, no matter... It's just a reassurance that maybe someday it will be warm in Ohio again... ;)

So, here's the field... Let's see... You know what? I bloody well can't remember! I know there's two awesome globular clusters the 4.5 will rock out in Ophiuchus - M9 and M10, I think... But I don't remember exactly where they are! I know M80 is approximately there... But not how to get to it anymore. But I ain't forgotten everything....

Like the sweet diffuse form of the M4. Or exactly how to find the beautiful "Lagoon", M8. And as I travel upwards through Saggitarius, they all come back to me, eh? From the open cluster by Kaus Borealis whose name I don't recall. The little round fuzzy of a certain tripartate structured nebula... A cloud of stars high in the sky!

And "Omega" and you...

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem.. The consequences that I've rendered.... I've gone and mucked things up again... Again.

Why must I feel this way? Please make this go away.... Just one more peaceful day."

March 10, 2003 - Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon and Star Hoppin'... (Patience? What's that then?)

Comments: I have my hands full of this marvelous equipment... And a limited knowledge of how to use it. Put me on my system at work? And I do just fine... Show me a WebTV unit? And I will amaze you... Hand me a laptop?

And I'll screw it up.

My friends who know me best know that I've "graduated" into the virtual world. Thanks to a generous donation from Monty of an exceedingly poweful and versatile laptop, the programming expertise from Bruce... I now have the capability of combining the Magellan's encoders with Megastar, and his excellent database program for storing my observations. Of course, along with all this is Cor's suggestion of a ToUCam Pro, Dave's suggestion of a unique adapter...

And my limitations.

So, I can learn, right? Darn right I can. I spent the afternoon happily exploring the MegaStar program, learning to create an AVI file, and just catching on in general. And when darkness came? Hey, hey... I figured I was ready. Tonight is the night! Look out, Cor... Here it comes!

Taking out the "Ottoman" for the first honors on my computer generated photography, I happily placed the adapted webcam into the focuser, set it on the Moon, and turned it the laptop on. Oh, yeah... Now all we need is focus. Well, maybe... How about Saturn? Uh, huh... I've gotta' practice more to keep it steady. Back to the Moon... Here we go... We gotcha'...

We got black screen.

So! I learned a very valuable lesson. Laptop batteries toast out quickly in the cold. Get an extension cord? Not tonight. To be honest with you, Ol' Ms. Patience, Practice and Persistence has had ENOUGH! When you catch me playing more with the computer than at the eyepiece?

Smack me.

So let's just pop the 32mm into this sweet little Mak and do what I do best... Observe.

Despite the nearby presence of the Moon, I was delighted to watch the sattelites of Saturn dance round the rings. Titan lagged behind, but I was shocked to see that despite "moon pollution" that the three "troopers" were easily visible triangulating around the western half of the ring system. At this magnification, the Cassini is nothing more than a slim, crisp black line... But the yellowish color correction is outstanding.

Heading off to Jupiter, at first I only make out two of the galieans. It didn't take very long until I could pick up one about to go into occultation and I was again very pleased with the sharpness of detail on the equatorial belts.

Since I'm doing a bit of "shallow sky" tonight, might as well go have a look at what I was trying to photograph, eh? And La Luna complied...

Needless to say, my trusty little camcorder was handy, so at least the whole night wasn't a wash!

First thing that caught my eye and kept it was the deep scar of the Alpine Valley. The Appenine and Caucasus Mountains were just outstanding in the light! Prominent Craters Aristillus and Autolycus danced in the rille ridden cove of the partially disclosed Mare Ibrium. Even the ruined walls of Cassini were cooperating! Mons Hadley, Paulus Putredinus, tiny Theaetetus, Agasiz Promentorium, Deville Promentorium... Even Piton played a part tonight!

Walking further along the terminator, I brushed over Hipparchus and Albategnius, only to spend a few moments smiling to myself at the perfect appearance of "Dead Cat Crater". But, I'm sorry. Shallow sky bores me quickly. Let's starhop for just a bit, ok?

Just dance over things easy... Like M42, M41 and M44. Have a look at the Double Cluster, M35, M36, M37 and M38 before they're gone. Maybe snatch a peek at the M44 just about one field of view away from Jupiter?

And visit the M81 and M82 because I love them.

"It's been awhile... Since I've gone and mucked things up... Just like I always do. And it's been awhile... But all that sh*t seems to disappear when I'm with you."

March 10, 2003 - Vampyre Shift...

Comments: I have gently been scolded for not including in the previous report that the random meteor rate was very high that night. It was an oversight on my part - For I did not write it down in my notebook. Monty and I both observed a quicksilver flash to the north while out experimenting with the little Meade... And twice while I was at the eyepiece of Bruce's scope - I had the opportunity to catch meteors crossing the field of view with the northern galaxies. I must say it is quite a rush to see one through a telescope!

And from there? Besides an incredibly close brush with death... I don't remember much. I remember working and I remember seeing Sun... I recall a few stars seen at one point or another... And I know I saw a not quite half Moon...

And I remember falling apart.

"It's been awhile... Since I could say that I wasn't addicted. And it's been awhile... Since I could say that I loved myself as well. It's been awhile... Since I've gone and mucked things up... Just like I always do."

March 6, 2003 - The Sun... Northern Gems: NGC2726, IC512, PGC25246, NGC2740, NGC2739, NGC2742, NGC2715, NGC2788, PGC25755, NGC2742A, NGC2771, NGC2769, NGC2767, NGC2762, NGC2768, and NGC3079...

Comments: Hey. It's Ohio. Since when is it new to wake up to snow, eh? Those big, phat flurries turned furious in nothing flat and dropped anywhere from two to four inches of fresh powder. No big deal, you say? Then think on this, for it rained the day before and then froze those slushy drifts in place. Places in the backyard have turned into iceskating rinks where the rain could not penetrate the frozen ground! So I did the only thing one could do on a day off...

Goofed around!

Just hours later those snow clouds cruised right on over and out came a blinding Sun. I knew from an alert that Otto had passed on to me that there must be a pretty incredible sunspot on display, so you know despite the conditions that I needed to go look. And what a riot! H blew out the back door like he was on fire... Took three leaps into the snow and went head over paws on the ice! I couldn't help but laugh out loud... Noble german shepherd, indeed! And as soon as he caught on to the fact that he was alright, it became a prime game. I guess you would have to see a hundred pound puppy trying his best to see how much "slide" distance he could get out of a run to understand - For he looks like a great, black bear sliding on his haunches!

Still grinning, it was time to set up shop and check out what's new and hot on Sol...

Whoa. Get the camera.

Not only is spot number 296 living up to its' "bad boy" reputation, but it is handsome as well! This fantasy Dki classed spot spans three earth diameters and holds a beta-gamma class magnetic field. Despite the somewhat "fuzzy" appearance of my temporary photo, 296 has a beautiful, slightly irregular umbra region with a crystalline penumbra that twists round like a comma reaching for a follower spot. Only on umbra regions of this size is the incredible beauty of sunspots revealed.... That blank, black face they present is so void.

It's like looking into nothing.


By late afternoon, the sky had not only cleared but cleared perfectly. You know this means that observing partners are already laying plans out... Cuz' sky has been in short supply! Conferences were held, e.mails sent, and now we only needed dark...

Monty and I arrived at the Observatory ahead of Bruce to try and chip some of the ice off the steps and get the dome opened up in preparation for the night's studies. He had brought along his new toy, a Meade ETX90 and we made the attempt in the frozen wastelands to give it an inaugural run on Jupiter. Not long afterward, the cold from being unsheltered took a bite out of me, and it was time to make coffee and wait on Bruce.

And I didn't have long to wait, eh?

Hola, Bossman! Let's break out that awesome 12.5 pier mounted Meade, Megastar, a 9mm Nagler, your sky saavy and rock!

Let's get it on...

NGC2726: Stellar nucleus, somewhat diffuse and held slightly indirect. Upon aversion this one has some unusual lumpiness, or patchiness in the structure... A "disrupted" oval.

IC512: Huge and very diffuse. Requires wide aversion. Definately a face-on spiral with no nucleus and a slight hint of spiral arms... Faint and foggy appearing.

PGC25240: Pairs with IC512. An even, moderately bright, fairly small ellipitcal. Requires slight aversion.

NGC2740 and NGC2739: Same field galaxy pair. Both are very faint and on the edge of extreme aversion. Very diffuse. Some extension makes this pair seem to lay at "odds" with each other. One has a concentration, or perhaps a stellar point contained within or nearby.

NGC2742: Sligh aversion. Beautiful tilted spiral!! Very large, only slightly diffuse, and condensed toward the nucleus. Great pull observed in structure fading out toward the frontier.

NGC2715: Somewhat large, diffuse with no nucleus. Upon wide aversion a patchiness in structure is apparent. It happens in such a regular fashion that I gambling we're seeing spiral arm structure.

NGC2788: Quite bright! Decent structure in a an only slightly diffuse spiral galaxy. Very structured with a stellar core. Nice fading toward the edges as it mists away. Moderate size and extension.

PGC25755: Pairs with NGC2788. Small, round with a stellar nucleus, this small easily caught galaxy reminds me of a poached egg. (pass one along will ya'? i could use a bite. ;)

NGC2742A - A re-classification. Distracting nearby star means using slightly more than moderate aversion to locate. Wide aversion shows a moderately diffuse, and average brightness structure with a patchiness toward the core region. No defined frontier.

OK, you ready for this?

NGC2771 - Both large and very diffuse, this moderate brightness galaxy has a condensed nucleus but shares the field with the next three studies.

NGC2769 - Companion galaxy. Elongated edge-on structure, fairly bright, and only slightly diffuse. Definately contains a stellar core, but no signature central bulge. (i like, eh? ;)

NGC2767 - An even, round patch that is slightly diffuse with a concentrated nucleus held on moderate aversion.

Now for the kicker, eh? Because the next is a magnitude 17.5 study and I say the facts are wrong because I can see it.

NGC2762 - The previous three studies set the stage for this one. In the 9mm eyepiece the "upper" three of this group perform a somewhat triangular dance... But this little baby? This one turns it into a tilted diamond in pattern. My guess is what we have here is a very high surface brightness study, for by almost looking into the eyepiee barrel in aversion, I'm picking up a perfectly round signature. And I mean perfectly round. Some confirmation would be nice here, guys! But this call was left to me.

And baby? I'll stand by what I saw.

Feeling the crunch of the hours and the weight of the cold (fifteen degrees gets mean when you've been in it for five or so hours...), it was time for me to head out. It's vampyre weekend coming up, and sleeping dead is what I'll be! I keep teasing Bruce as I gather my things up, waiting on his three words that always keep me just a bit longer, but instead he points me at the eyepiece!

The NGC2768 is a fanastic spiral galaxy... A stellar nucleus holds court in the center where the classic signature of this structure swirls itself around as a concentration toward the inner third. It is no problem to see structure direct in this bright, compact galaxy!!

Taking my notes back out, I know I've got to log this one because it is so fine. As I gather my things up and head for the door, he switches tactics on me...

"Where do you think you're going?"

Grinning, I know I'm not going anywhere. Obeying the command to "Get up there and look." I hear something about somebody getting ready to catch me when I fall off the ladder.

Edge-on, baby... Edge-on!!

The NGC3079 just rocked my world!! One freeking awesome edge-on! Filling the entire field of view with the 9mm this slim, perfect scratch of silver light stopped me in my tracks. A perfect stellar core, a slight but excellent bulge in the center... Stars caught inside... Extends on and on and on...

Bruce? You couldn't have ended it any more perfectly than that.

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem. The consequences that are rendered... I've stretched myself beyond my means."

March 2, 2003 - Two Degrees From Algol...

Comments: So, do I always do what you tell me to? Well, yeah! You are my Master... And if you tell me to go walk outside and look to the northwest?

I will obey.

And if you tell me the skies will clear?

I will listen.

If you hand me a dark skies night, one with 6.5 visibility and 7/10 stability... Put a 12.5 scope beneath my hands. If you give me a map... I will walk with you to the stars. If you give me a notebook and a mechanical pencil... I will study. And if you give me a galaxy field?

I will do my best to make you proud.

When I pulled the dob out, I could only see Perseus. Why is it that things happen this way? The cold wind would take a bite out of me quickly if I used the west side yard... But Algol is at maximum and it was simply all I could see! Why would I want to chase after an old study when the east sky is filled with new ones? Why? I don't understand why! All I understand is that tonight I want Abell 426.

Starting at Algol, I shift into my "weird" study mode and stop to ride the diffraction waves. I know I'm rather strange, but I'd really like to know if I can catch a spectroscopic difference between Algol at maxium and Algol at minimum. Yeah, I'm sure I'm probably being kinda' dumb because my equipment is so primative... But I'm curious. OK? Making my notes, I put the diffraction grating away once again. I learn. Therefore I am.

Now, let's rock and roll...

Abell 426 has been a longstanding favourite of mine. It is a curious galaxy cluster in the respect that the finer the night, the more galaxies will reveal themselves. While tonight is not the most exceptional night I've ever encountered, it is a fine one for galaxy studies. Brushing Algol away in the eyepiece, I close my eyes and sing along with the music for several minutes, mentally and visually preparing myself for faint studies. I am becoming accoustomed to the cold, and when my eyes are ready? It's time to go to the finder, for the first study lays right in the field with a star.

The NGC1224 requires wide aversion. It is faint, round, and shows some concentration toward the nucleus with patience. Held indirect, this small galaxy has a UGC-like signature. Next stop on the hop is the NGC1250. Very diffuse and small.... Also requiring wide aversion. While allowing the eye to bounce around the field, it is possible to make out a slight north/south tilt to this galaxy that may indicate it to be a spiral. Curiously enough, it is during this motion that a pinprick of a nucleus can be detected.

Pushing on toward the heart of the Perseus Galaxy cluster, my next destination is a chain of three. First study mark is the NGC1259. Whoa! Extreme aversion here, boss... Very, very diffuse and faint. It can only be caught by focusing attention on the tiny star in the westward drift. The NGC1260 only requires slight aversion, however. It is small and somewhat diffuse. Definately ovoid in structure... And definately the easiest to see of these three! The NGC1264 also requires very wide aversion. Very faint and diffuse. Very round.... Very challenging!

Now, triangulating with this series, it's time to go for the NGC1257. Very faint, diffuse and small with a concentration toward the core, it holds a little surprise. There's a tiny star at the northeast end that allows one to see upon wide aversion that the galaxy itself seems to migrate to the northeast/southwest. Excellent!

From here I have the option of continuing on the same trajectory or doing a lateral "thing". I find myself grinning, because I know from past experience that my maps don't always reveal everything there is to be seen in such a cluster. I'll have to be awfully careful when going toward the heart of Abell 426, or I'll lose my sense of direction and darn well get lost!

Oh well, eh? It would be the first time I've been told to do so. ;)

The NGC1271 skirts the most populated part of this Abell cluster. If I've got the right one, we're talking abot a super wide aversion, very faint, very small patch that is barely capturable. Even patience and my own set of tricks can draw nothing more than a slightly regular contrast change in this area.

Next up is an extremely challenging triple. The NGC1267, NGC1268 and NGC1269 are three incredibly tiny, very diffuse round gems that would be indistinguishable at lower power. Phew! This little trio is really bad... I couldn't even qualify these as "hairy stars" because they're so diffuse!

Breathing quietly so I don't fog anything up, right now I'd just about sell my soul for a cup of chai and a few minutes by the fire. But, I realize that if I stand down now, I'll lose whatever sense of orientation that I've gained. (and that, coming from a blonde, is no joke.) I can see the "heart" of Abell 426, and I know how easy it would be to just let go... Enjoy!

Not care?

Not hardly. (don't stop, ~T.... just don't stop.)

NGC1273 is faint. It requires aversion, but the brighter core region holds up to indirect vision. The NGC1272, is also round... Almost planetary in appearance. This is a galaxy that is definately a player in this field!! The NGC1270 is very diffuse and a wide aversion. It contains a very small, almost stellar nucleus.

Now the cluster is getting thick and tight. Can I do this and do it correctly? Hey, hey... Let's give it a go. I can't do anything worse than be wrong, eh?

NGC1279 is faint, diffuse, but holds. It stretches just every so slightly, like a thin smear held at slight aversion to the north/south. It is even with no nucleus present. The NGC1274 is very faint and very diffuse and even. It is best seen while concentrating on the NGC1279. Just an incredibly misty oval. The NGC1275... (holy shit! ne i can see!!) is very bright compared to all the previous studies. Most definately has a bright and easily held direct nucleus.

And now I'm laughing out loud, because these little puppies are everywhere. Much like studying Virgo clusters, once you see a bright galaxy, what seems like swarms come out to play all around! I guess it's time for me to bow gracefully out of the middle of this dance before I make a great fool of myself. Let's just head back toward the outskirts and although these might not be considered to be part of the Abell 426, at least I stand a better chance at identification!

Going for a pair, I find the NGC1282 to be diffuse, slight in size and quite ovoid. Very even in structure, no hint of a nucleus even a full avert. The companion, NGC1283, is very diffuse and I probably wouldn't have even caught it except for that I was looking at some small field stars that triangulate in this area when it made its' foggy apppearance.

Now for the NGC1294 and NGC1293... Wide aversion shows two round fuzzies with prickly nucleus structure. The pair reminds me of two impossibly small "gone to seed" dandelions waiting to be scattered on the cosmic winds...


Listen. When I start writing junk like that in my notes, I'm either high on photons or nearing hypothermia.

Or maybe both, eh?

"It's been awhile... Since I could hold my head up high. And it's been awhile... Since I first saw you. It's been awhile... Since I could stand, on my own two feet again. And it's been awhile... Since I could call you."