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Observing Reports: May ~ 2003

May 28-31, 2003 - A Solar Eclipse...

Comments: No. Not even a portion of today's annular eclipse could be viewed from northern Ohio... Actually, right now, not even the Sun can be seen in northern Ohio. We sit in days upon days of continual rain and clouds...

But, I've learned to make my peace with it.

The hazy sunshine of the days gives way to the gentle, cool rain of the nights. I miss the stars more than you could possibly imagine. H and I sit under a covered porch, and he keeps watch across the fields while I practice guitar. It is a fine thing, this sound of harmony... And it brings a certain soothing to a tired soul. The hour is late, very late, and still the rain comes down. I know that somewhere in the world, the Sun is rising... And that Sun is going to be eclipsed by the Moon.

I sip at a cup of chai while my hands rest. They have gotten as old as the rest of me... Unable to always hold the strings down with confidence. A voice, once so proud, that can barely harmonize...

An "astronomer" who no longer has sky.

But, I am an astronomer who has friends... Many wonderful friends who share their victories with me! And it is through this sharing that I find myself as gratified as if the stars were my own. Let me share the beauty with you...

As always, my friend Cor Berrevoets always knows how to make me smile! When I see images like this? It's almost like being there...

Ah, Cor... You'll never know just how wonderful it makes me feel to know that you've had a chance to see this!!! Such quiet beauty... And I can never thank you enough for sharing with me.

You are finestkind, my friend...

And although the rain comes down in Ohio, while the Sun shines in another part of the world, I find the stars shine on in the life of yet another of my friends - for Otto has seen Pluto! And I smile yet again, happy in my soul...

For the stars shine on.

"I wanna' know... Have you ever seen the rain? Yes, I wanna' know... Have you ever seen the rain? Comin' down...

On a sunny day?"

May 27, 2003 - The Sun...

Comments: Well, all right. I got an opportunity to study massive spot 365 the way it was meant to be today. Unhurried... In the clear.... And absolutely magnificent. First let me show you one frame from my study films...

Fantastique, oui?!

What we are now looking at is the shattered remnants of a fast growing and highly active spot. Over the last few days, 365 has rattled of CMEs and M class flares and spent its' energy. You should have seen the X-ray flux data for the last few days! Wow... More spikes than a punk kid's hairdo... Now what we have left is a huge field, spanning more than five Earth diameters. It is classed as Dai, it is still bi-polar and holds a beta magnetic class.

What is really unusual to me is the Dai classification. Of course, I did not get to observe it when it first started growing, so I don't recognize the leader spot, but the classification spells out that it is asymmetric, and has numerous followers without mature penumbrae. Huh? Looks to me like most of the followers are in a penumbral field! And the field looks pretty daggone mature to me as well...

Regardless, 365 is truly one of the finest to come along in some time. The dispersion field simply rocks and it was a true pleasure to study.

And then the rain came back.

"Still forever on it goes... Through the circle, fast and slow... I know. And it can't stop?

I wonder...

I wanna' know... Have you ever seen the rain? Yes, I wanna' know... Have you ever seen the rain? Comin' down on a sunny day?"

May 26/27, 2003 - The Sun... A Handful of Stars, The Moon and Mars...

Comments: In other words? Quite willing to take anything I can get. Still trying to regroup from the "vampyre shift", I traditionally back it up with a day that tends to be more creative than methodical... more inspired than physical. The result? By the time I've made it to a day off - I'm wound for sound.

And the sky doesn't feel like singing.

Yeah, there was a bit of Sun today. I saw it while I was working, but by the time I got off, the blue holes were matched in equal parts by big, fluffy white clouds. By the time I had made the drive to the country side, the clouds were winning... Nothing more than an occasional ray here and there. Well you can call me "Ray" or you can call me "Jay", or you can call me "RJ" or you can call me "TJ"... But one thing you don't have to do is call me twice for an opportunity (however small) to sneek a look at the solar surface!

I had known by ShockSpot's response that something had been going on, and I wanted a look at it. Telescope out... Aimed at the bright cloud... And the moment the light broke through? On it. It only took as long as for me to focus when I realized the "bad boy" was the multi-structured, tri-lobed monster right in the middle. Locking things down, I start my observations noting penumbra patterns and umbra shapes. About the time I had made it to studying the followers, those blessed clouds came back and shut me down. One look overhead was all it took to realize this was all I was going to get, so instead of being disappointed? I was simply happy to have gotten the taste I did.

Of course, I had to know more about it... And what better place than SOHO?! Starting with, I soon learned its' designation was 365 and that 365 had been doing some pretty wild things as it rotated into view! Just watch a how rapidly this spot progressed inward...

SOHO/MDI animation

What an absolute triumph in the illustration of differential rotation!! I can never thank SOHO enough for allowing we amateurs to share in the magic... And to share with others as well. And I can't wait to see this critter again with my own eyes!


And, I wouldn't mind seeing a couple of distant suns either, don't cha' know?

Those clouds persisted, but so did I. It has been so long, that I am just happy to shoot the holes to take in the bright and spurious images of Regulus, Arcturus, Spica, Dubhe, Alkaid, and Vega. There is a certain singular beauty to watching bright stars in far from perfect conditons. Remember Antares? I have never forgotten the thrill of seeing a natural spectra... And although these stars do not exist along the proper curve of the atmosphere to provide it, the accompanying haze does help to illuminate that "flash" in the most delightful of ways. Oridinarly you would see Regulus as just a white star... But I see it as a spectral beauty with yellow undertones. Arcturus' green "fire" never ceases to amaze me. Spica throws red, blue and purple hues... While Dubhe silently casts yellow and orange - counterpointed perfectly by Alkaid's blue/green fire. And Vega? Vega excites the red/blue receptors in the eye... Yet presents occasional flash in the yellow as well.

Goofy? Oh, yeah. I live in a nerd's paradise and struggle to achieve the status of geek. But I'm a happy weirdo - one who stays away from quicksilver depression with nothing more than a dose of photons.

So, I decided to wait it out. Slipped a trashbag over the 4.5 in case a drop or two or rain should sneek up on me, and just found other things to do to stimulate my brain.... The television thing was great while it lasted - but it doesn't last long in my case. Time to play with some codings... Make a bit of music...

And keep a skywatch.

It was fairly close to 1:00 a.m. when things began to break up a bit, and H was happy to go out and rock and walk with me.... And the very first thing I did was reflex the M13. Yeah, I'm being silly. But it's a nice kind of silliness to know that your internal map is still working. The 4.5 will never give those spectacular views that large aperature does, but it's still sweet. I took a shot on Ras Algethi as well, only to watch the little red and green stars tumble and roll on each other. Every now and again, a trough would come in the turbulenece and they would stand apart... But the night isn't so great. The wide ones perfomed fine, such as Mizar, Cor Caroli and Albeiro... But Polaris is even tough right now.

No problem. I'll take the M81 and M82 in far from good conditions. The M57 might be a furball, but I'm still glad to see it.... And the "Coat Hanger" still makes me smile! Prowling about Sadr, it took a bit to remember what direction to shift, but I did locate the M29 again! Really, considering the condtions, there's lots of nice little stars in there... And the seven brightest look like a little kite flying amoungst them. And I can search from now until tomorrow for the NGC6940... But it won't reveal itself as anything more than a sparkly, hazy patch to this small scope.

Well, that does it for me. There has been two big teases that I've seen... Ones who only make their appearance when I can't scope, and tonight? I'm gonna' be back and get cha'...

I woke up before dawn, and without even looking turned on the coffee and found some clothes. Lunatic fringe? I know you're out there.

And I'm going to find you.

The moment I stepped off the deck I saw the slim orange smile of the Moon on the eastern horizon... Hola, baby! I'm grinnin' right back at you. And you're gonna' rise while I take on Mars...

There is no doubt about it. It's time to begin observing Mars. Even with poor stability, we've got unmistakable detail in a small aperature scope! Using the 12.3mm ED, a major dark feature exists along the western half of the globe and the north polar cap simply shines. Oh, yeah... This is going to be a fine year, isn't it? (and i keep waiting on the lightning to strike, but i made it this time... ;) Looks like time to start brushing up on Martian features and break out the sketchpad, eh? This is gonna' rock!

And so, before the Sun takes everything out, I turned my attention toward the Moon... And wouldn't you know it? There's that doggone little black feature that so amazed me in years past! Well, then... Let's see if we can't capture it on film and find out just what this little guy is....

Well, I'm certainly not a lunar cartographer... But I'd pretty much stake my reputation that if you look about two-thirds of the way from top to bottom of my most humble photo, that the bright, fuzzy feature you see is Reiner Gamma... And my little black spot on the Moon today? Is Crater Reiner.

Right? Wrong? I don't care anymore. You be the judge and the jury. I'm far from being a lunar photographer and I do believe Mr. Rukl has me beat on sketching, eh? But I do have one saving grace...

I was there.

"Yesterday and days ago... The Sun was cold and the rain was hard. I know... It's been that way for all my time."

May 22 - 25, 2003 - Nada... Zip... Zilch... Nothin'...

Comments: So what's been happenin' here? You got it. Back under cloud and rain central, baby... I have become an astronomer who paces the floor. I have become a person who watches television...

And stares endlessly at the clouds.

The night of the 22nd looked somewhat promising. I had the scope out, webcam set up, and was in the process of filming an occultation of one of the galieans when the high-thins got thick. Early the next morning, when I woke up there was still nothing... But the Moon and Mars decided to make a grand appearance as I was on my way to work. So who cares? Bury myself in the vampyre shift and totally forget about astronomy.


Again, I try getting up a bit early before heading in on the night shift... and again the skies are cloudy. I don't remember a whole lot besides the numbers that are part of the many hours I put in... But I remember walking outside just before dawn and seeing an orange slice of Moon rising in the haze, accompanied by the bright red visage of Mars. (hey, at least i remember this as two seperate days!) And where am I? Stuck in the city... Sans scope.

Today there was nothing at all... Nothing but grey overhead. I remember going to get a cup of coffee and seeing a strange light. Is it? Could this possibly be... Sun? Five co-workers and I slipped out the back door to stand squinting in the hazy light.... How painful it seems to the eyes after what seems like months of perpetual dark!

And it didn't last. It was gone by the time my shift ended.

I'm beginning to think this is some type of evil alien plot... They're hiding something out there they don't want us to know about. They want to be sure that people with big telescopes don't get to peer into those faraway universes while the Moon is dark... I just know they're up to something... I can feel insanity slowing gaining control... My Nikes that I haven't worn in years have reappeared...

And I've been ironing my purple robe again.

"Someone told me long ago... There's a calm before the storm. I know. It's been coming for some time. When it's over... So they say. It'll rain on a sunny day. I know. Shinin' down on water....

And I wanna' know... Have you ever seen the rain? Yes, I wanna' know.... Have you ever seen the rain? Comin' down.... On a sunny day?"

May 21/22, 2003 - The ISS, A Messier State of Mind, and Rockin' the Night Away...

Comments: Shall we set the stage here? Then picture yourself living under almost a month of clouds and rain. Imagine for one moment your scope to be undriven or unguided and almost unused in all that time. Imagine month upon month of inactivity thanks to a cloudier than normal Winter and Spring.

Then walk with me into the night and see how the skies have changed....

When I realized that despite high, thin clouds that an observing opportunity was going to come along - I was pacing the floor waiting on dark. I set up my equipment as I watched the sundogs chase a departing Sol to the west - and reveled in the fact that the ISS was going to make not one, but four passes across my observing area tonight. Readying both the 12.5 and the 4.5, the stereo was on, my work station was set up and the extension cord to power the laptop for imaging was out and not underwater for a change. I had the webcam ready... I knew what program to use... Now all I needed was dark.

Keeping an eye on my watch, the first pass of the ISS occured just shortly after the skies had begun to darken. Watching the few stars of Crater that cut through the sky fur, I was delighted when I caught first glimpse of that slow moving point of light. What a marvel it seems! Arching grandly through the center of Corvus, almost eclipsing Spica, serenely moving through the fast appearing Hercules, curving downward through Lyra, and dimming from its' incredible magnitude to a feeble light as it disappears from my point of view about 5 degrees above the ENE horizon. A full six minute pass... And just stunning.

Grinning broadly, I figured this was the way to begin the night!! Going back to my work area, I uncapped the 4.5, turned on the computer and prepared to image Jupiter. Switches on, program selected... Blue screen of death. OK. Try again. And again... And again... What the *%$^! is it with this crap?! SpotLife worked just fine for me the other day when I practiced making avi files... So why not now? Hmmm.... I've been fiddling about. I'll admit that. I found a way to mate the camcorder with the laptop to try and extract some of my old video... Perhaps I've done something to kill it? Oh, I'd just about bet on that. My speciality is, after all, finding ways to confuse an operating system and how to correct it. But cha' know what? The time it would take to find my error is not now. This is the first dark sky I've had in short of one side of forever...

And I wanna' dance.

Giving the laptop an affection pat (honest), I closed the lid, pulled the plugs and took everything out of the way of clumsy feet. If I can't image Jupiter? Then I best be true to myself... And go look at it. Capping up the 4.5, I went straight to the dob and dropped in the 12.3mm ED... Absolutely awesome! I love the color correction in this scope. The north temperate belt takes on a slightly rusty brown appearance, and both northern and southern equatorial zones are highly defined. The central equatorial is like a dream when moments of stability allow for soft, curl-like, grey shadings to intrude on its' creamy whiteness... And the southern half of Jupiter is marvelous with its' "windswept" grey striations. Kicking back to a more comfortable magnification range at 26mm, I take in the dance of all four galieans... And quickly realize something has changed dramatically over the last few weeks.

M44 is gone.

Pushing the field of view around, I am delighted to see all the various magnitudes and colors in the M44 once again. How I have missed all these tiny stars since Jupiter's "light intrusion"! Looking up to the sky, I realize that the M44 is now visible to the unaided eye. The temperature is rapidly dropping... And the heavens are opening up once again!

To map... Or not to map. That is the question. Whether tis' nobler in the minds of the amateur astronomer to work from memory... Or to fail miserably on my own. Hey. Let's do this. And a hop to Cancer is where I went. Surely the M67 can't evade me! But cha' know what? It did. So how about the M65 and M66? They're easy. No. They're not. M105? M95 and 96? Where the heck did they go??

I felt my spirit fall to the ground. Here... The sky is offering... And I can't see anymore. I've turned to rust and dust... And I felt like crying. Too much time has elapsed. I can't remember anything anymore. I'm wasted. Useless... "And a little voice inside my head said: Don't look back. You can never look back. One of these days gonna' show you what I'm made of..." Hey. I'm not looking back. I'm looking up. And I'm looking straight into Ursa Major. How bad have I gotten? Can I still even find M81 and M82?

Almost afraid to touch the scope, I swallowed my wounded pride and reflex aimed at where I knew they should be... And seconds later, there they were. The "Great Galactic Duet"... Unstoppable. Eternal... A soothing balm to a troubled mind! Hercules has made a grand appearance by now... Have it lost it there as well? Again, reflex. Only use the finder as a general sight, not the stars within. Point it. And there it was. The M13 in all it's glory!

Again, I could have wept. They're all there, ~T. Exactly where they have always been. Just waiting on you to remember...

A Messier Frame of Mind.

Going back across the sky, I headed for the M44 once again. In my heart, I know the location of the M67... And now my hands and eyes, with a re-born sense of sureity take me there. Off to that grand cloud of stars so delightful in their similiar magnitudes and color! How rich it seems after the long absence... A galactic cluster revisited and re-loved.

Nor did the M65 and M66 escape me this time. So beautiful and so large! How could I have missed them? How could I have not seen the splendid edge-on NGC3628 that accompanies them? Just like hopping back to the belly of Leo and dropping for the bland, but bright elliptical form of the M105... And fading south for the spiral beauty of M96... And how could I have missed the daggone M95? The central bar in the structure just walks right out!!

I find myself much happier now. Quite able and willing to return to the M81 and M82 to power up and cut them apart for structure. It's doesn't matter to me how many times I've seen them... I love them just the same! As I do the M51. (which took a few minutes, but came to me just eventually as well. ;) I was surpised that the 12.3mm revealed the knots in the spiral arms just as well as the 9mm! Ah, my... The sky is clearing up beautifully... And the night is young.

And just for the heck of it? I reflexed M13 again. Oh, yeah... ;)

Continuing on my Messier "Memorython", I sought out the M3 next. Dropping back to 26mm to locate, and blowing it apart with the 9mm. And again, with the M5... It took a bit to find. But when I did? The resolution is incredible. Still feeling a bit silly, I reflexed the M13 again. And then took it apart as well. It really has a neat feature that is so unlike most globulars. There is what appears to be a dark dustlane that intrudes slightly off center. Some refer to this as "the propeller"... But hey. To me it looks like an "X"... And it marks the spot! I pushed around just a bit, knowing that there is also an attendant galaxy to the M13... And I could only smile when I picked it up with wide aversion... Because I can't remember it's name.

By now, Lyra has well risen and I'm wondering about my ability to find the M57. Hey. "Don't worry about me... I'll be fine." The "Ring Nebula" is still right there as well! And still has a star caught in its' brilliant, shimmering edge. The "Double Double", Epsilon Lyrae still teases the night, and when a minimum of 17mm takes it apart? Then let's dance... The sky is fine. I'm fine. And although I might have been a bit lost? I'm in a Messier Frame of Mind.

"And I am fine. Again."

Grabbing the handle on the "Grasshopper", the dob and I take off for the total unobstruction of the south field. Virgo awaits us. And I want to see how much I remember!

Setting the finder on Spica, I nudge to the west and go to the eyepiece at 26mm again. Oh, my... I don't think anyone can forget the M104 and its' incredible appearance. I immediately want the good 9mm and all that golden, see-through beauty that lies within. From the magnificent bulge of the core region to the stark cut of the dark dust lane, the M104 delivers like very few galaxies can. It has got to be the finest edge-on in all the sky! And memory has served me once again...

Feeling the bite of the cooler temperatures, (hey... a couple of months ago low 40s would have seemed warm, eh?) I'm ready to jump back up to Denebola and walk the realm of galaxy fields between it and Vindemiatrix. Glancing at my watch, I realize it won't be long until the ISS makes another pass, and I find myself quite thirsty. Looking round, for one moment I thought I had seen a ghost. Silhouetted by the light of a candle indoors, I can see a german shepherd shadow laying in front of the sliding glass doors. No oubliette for me... Nor for H either. He looks so much like Ranger in the shadows that his memory is revived once again. And yet more memories come back... The anniversary of Scott Truitt's death has passed me by. Perhaps the pain of losing two friends has dulled with the passage of time, eh?

"But the memory remains."

Fly on, Scott. Run on, Ranger. You are both still here... In my heart and in my head. Your legacy is written in the stars....

And being as how my throat feels kinda' funny... And I really can't remember anymore other than what path to chose to walk in the "Field of Dreams" again, I decide to take a break for a few minutes and have a Coke. Yep. A real Coke. I'm tired of dieting... Tired of denying myself the things I love! If ya' don't like me the way I am? Then don't like me. "I don't care anymore." And ya' know what? It tasted good. Really good! And it felt great to just stop for a few minutes, enjoy it, and review some of my old starhop recipes. Once upon a time, I used to be a really good cook... And I am ready to do it again!

Scooting back outside just ahead of the next ISS appearance, H runs the field while I readjust my dark adaption. After we've watched the flyover, it's time to head back out into the field and get that galaxy "fix" I've been craving!

At 32mm the little buggers are sparkling on the edge of detection everywhere. Each time I cross over a field of them, all I want to do is laugh and clap my hands. Hola! We've got sky.... But hey, I know I'm not serving my true self that way... Or am i? Hmmm... Maybe I'd do well to sock in some power, eh? Pick out some structure? It is enough for me to correctly identify the M98's slender, edge-on form with the stellar and concentated nucleus. The next I trip across at first smacks of globular cluster until aversion kicks in, and I realize this stellar core and soft arms are the M100. Back to 6 Comae, and off to find the faded, face-on, and not real impressive M99. At least not real impressive until magnified! Oh, yeah... Very faded, but really swept out spiral structure!

And these little guys are everywhere! Everywhere!!

Having a very difficult time keeping my head in the game, I head for Vindemiatrix to lock onto one I can positively identify. The M60 is not my favourite structure, but as ellipticals go? This one rocks! A really, really concentrated core structure and a fading toward the fontiers that make this particular galaxy almost seem to "mist" away. And hey, hey... It's not alone. The NGC4647 is no where near as bright, but it is possible to make out spiral signature with a stellar nucleus. And I did say it wasn't alone, didn't I? Cuz' equally boring, yet equally delightful little egg-shaped M59 helps round out this magnificent low power field.

Grinnin' like a fiend, I touch the scope west to gather in the M58. Low surface brightness, it performs best with the 17mm and doesn't cough up much more structure than a slight concentration toward the center and an elongated form.

Then dude? Then I just got happy. I lost my study frame of mind and went back in and dug around in the refrigerator and found a beer, OK? There's galaxies crackling everywhere! And I just want to enjoy them... And when I had locked the M84/86 "Field of Dreams" into the good 32mm? I drank a toast to the night... Remembering what it's like to walk upon high.

And I reflexed the M13 again.

The date had changed long ago. And a glance at my watch told me I hadn't long before the next ISS pass and the rise of the Moon. Cygus has gained altitude wonderfully, and it's time to take in one of the tasty treats of Summer. Like a double dip of orange and raspberry sherbert, Albeiro has got to be one of the most beautiful, and delightfully colored doubles in the sky. It positively sings!

And there are two more things that I'd like to see, but right now? Let's watch the ISS cruise over again, shall we? It's been too long since I've done that as well!

When it has passed, I go back to explore along the body of Cygnus. drinking in deeply the light of the Milky Way and enjoying yet another of those long ago forgotten beers. It doesn't take forever when you're running a pattern to find things once again, and I know the M27 in the eyepiece when I see it... Just as I know the odd form of the M71. Apparently summer is coming... Even though it doesn't feel like it! And I'm feeling tired, fulfilled by photons and happy to walk the sky again.

Covering up the dob, I return it and the unused 4.5 to the garage and stand in the doorway, listening to the music and watching the sky brighten. I leave the side door open so I can hear the music... And find myself sitting on the edge of the redwood chair frame. Content to finish the final bottle of Corona...

And watch the half-form of Selene burn its' way up through the trees.

"Are we listening? To hymns of offering? Have we eyes to see? That love is gathering?

Now all the words that I've been reading... Have started the act of bleeding into one. Into one...

So I walked upon high. And I stepped to the edge... To see my world below. And I laughed to myself... While the tears roll down. Because it's the world I know...

It's the world I know."

May 18/19, 2003 - Still Rainin'...

Comments: Hey. It's getting awfully hard to keep my chin up here.... And my spirits as well. When I'm not engaging in internet "faux pas", (my apologies to you again, sir... and to anyone else who feels i have used something in error. i'd rather destroy it all than offend anyone.) I've been trying my best to learn new program techniques...

And feelin' mighty low.

So I am on my back in the gutter... Used to be Lord Byron told me that "Some of us are looking at the stars". But hey. All I see are clouds.

And all I feel is the rain.

"I drink myself of new found pity. I sit alone in the same old city... And I don't know why."

May 17, 2003 - The Astronomy For Youth "Cloud Party"...

Comments: I'm not kidding about Ohio weather. We are now 17 days into the month and it has rained 16 of them. So rainy days and cloudy nights mean that there is no chance of giving a public "Star Party", right?


You could give us one interested person... Or you could give us a whole crowd of them... And astronomy goes on. Regardless of sky conditions! If we can't show you the sky? When you leave, you'll feel like you've been there. If we can't fly you along on the wings of the night just as easily beneath the clouds as cruising above them?

Then we've got no right to have a pilot's license!

Come... Walk with us on a journey of size and distance. Isn't it amazing to realize just how "astronomical" those numbers can be?! Let us show you the workings of our solar system... From the innermost planet, across the rocky asteroid belt, and on to the outer reaches of our celestial "neighborhood"! Let us teach you how that small neighborhood fits in our beautiful galaxy, The Milky Way... From how it was formed to all the beauty that can be found there through the eyes of a telescope! (and we've even got scopes here to show how they work as well! ;)

Let us show you how the Cosmos and the stars were formed... And journey through the eyes of the Hubble to what lay beyond.

Let us teach you how the sky moves... and why. If we can't put the stars in the sky on a cloudy night? Then we'll put them inside a lighted ball... And shine the stars in your eyes. Let's take a journey across the ecliptic plane... And learn perspective on the Universe. And even if we can't show you one single star? We know magic... And before you appears the eyes of SOHO and all the wonderous workings of our nearest star - the Sun.

But the magic doesn't have to end there... For we have captured the beauty of our own Solar system on film... From the planets we cannot see, to real life spots on the Sun. And weep not for an eclipse you might have missed... For it is here! Right before your very eyes...

And let's walk upon the Moon.

When you leave here, we hope that you have left with a desire to learn more... To explore! (and some of the generousity of JPL/NASA as well, eh? ;) We can never thank them enough for all that they do to help us to continue to promote astronomy... Even on cloudy nights!! The smiles created by their wonderful contributions are simply priceless. And for all the people out there who attended and enjoyed our song and dance? We who "perform" thank you... All the reward we will ever need came at the one moment we saw the stars shine in your eyes.

You came... And you left with more than you had before.

And for those of us who stayed on? Those never-say-die individuals who will wait it out... Just because it might clear off? We're glad to see you once again... To know that we've reached you and you are reaching back. We'll hang out a while longer... Always hoping... And just happy to talk and watch the clouds move across the sky... Knowing those stars are out there and one day they'll return? Riiiiiiiiite.... It's Ohio.

Carpe Noctum, baby... Sieze the Night.

"Has our conscious shown? Has the sweet breeze blown? Has all kindness gone? Hope still lingers on..."

May 15/16, 2003 - A Total Lunar Eclipse...

Comments: I figured there was no way. It has rained for the last fourteen out of fifteen days here in Ohio, and today was no exception. But I'm a die hard spirit...

And it's not hard to coax me into napping a rainy night away.

Somewhere around 10:30 or so, I noticed the thunder had ended. Or maybe I woke up because my large, black blanket named H finally got off me. What ever it was, at least I got up. Wandering outside on the deck, the cold rain was still coming down and I had half a mind just to go back to sleep. But like I said, I'm a die hard spirit... And perhaps a cold beer and just watching the eclipse virtually would be enough. Connecting to the internet, I browsed through a bunch of sources only to find most of the world clouded out as well. Settling on one in Belgium, I think, I started watching and opened my beer. Another friend from around the world was also on line and wouldn't you know? The brat in Georgia had gotten to see it!

Check it out... here!

Delighted to know that one of my friends had good fortune, I don't know what came over me... But all at once I knew I had to go look. Because you know...

When opportunity comes knockin'? You gotta' be there to answer the door.

One step outside was all it took. A few patters of cold rain hit me and a flash of lightning scattered across the east. Shaking my head in sorrow, I figured this was just another lost cause, and that perhaps astronomy for me was going to become a thing of the past. Again, I don't know why, but I stood there in that cold rain... Feet in a puddle... And eyes on the skies. And I noticed a dull, dark orange circle just behind the big pine.

Oh, my....

Hastily excusing myself, I slid into a pair of moccasins, threw a jacket on over my shorts and t-shirt, and snatched up the camera. We are out of here!!!

Well, maybe not.

Again, I don't always understand my instinctual reactions to things.... I only know that I have them. I couldn't move off the deck. Everything was wrong... Everything. I am never afraid of the dark... But I am now. And I don't know why! Scolding myself for being the world's largest sissy, and noticing that H ain't left the deck either, I set the example and headed out for the garage to turn on some tunes. All you need is rock and roll...

Even though that strange feeling persisted, I headed out for the south field with H glued to my side. He was so close I could feel his fur against my bare leg, and we both stood at attention in that barren, rainsoaked grass, watching the deepest colored copper imaginable orb race behind the clouds. With just mere seconds to go before it leaves totality... The rain, the dog and I were the only ones there to witness this incredibly beauty.

And then the light broke through...

"There's a red fox torn by the huntsman's pack... That's my soul up there."

If there was a solitary moment during the eclipse that I could have asked for? That was the one. That stunning moment when the Sun lights up Selene once again and makes her beautiful. And the funniest thing happened...

The rain stopped.

Holding my breath, I made a run back for the garage to fetch out the 4.5. How many eclipses, old friend, have we viewed together? And tonight I chose you. Out of all the scopes here, you are the only one who will walk with me through the wet grass... To dare the dew and sieze the moment. Let's rock...

And moments later? We were on it...

"There's a black winged gull with a broken back... That's my soul up there."

I have never felt so torn in my life! Before me in the eyepiece is this incredible beauty... Yet what I really want to do is just stand and look at this vision... It moves my soul.

Divinding my attention between eyepiece and sky, I watch as the lunar features seem to race into apppearance... Grimaldi, Aristarchus, Gassendi, Copernicus... Knowing in my heart that I should be timing this... And not really caring.

And still, the clouds move over it all. Huge open eyes of perfect clarity, the universe reflected in them... Calling to be explored. Yet the one place in the sky where mystery lay? Is now shrouded...

I shuffle about in the grass, feeling the wet soak int my moccasins. My hands are jammed down in my pockets and I will those clouds with all my might just to keep moving on!! Of course, my imagination for once is actually working... and I find myself wondering what it would be like to be upon the Moon... Watching our cloud encased Earth slide over the face of the Sun...

And then the Moon calls me back to Earth.

"There's a little black spot on the Sun today... That's my soul up there."

And my flight of fancy has ended. It left me just as quickly as it took for the Moon to return to an almost normal appearance. My head no longer dreams... It just wonders how the lunar surface will photograph when darkened by the penumbral shadow.

Let's go look...

"It's the same old thing as yesterday... That's my soul up there."

I watch as the Straight Wall bursts into flame... To be hidden by the smoke of the clouds. I marvel over the singular loveless eye of Plato... To see it closed. And just as the terminator is about to reach Posidonus?

The Moon is gone once again.

Turning my face up toward the sky, I feel the cold rain once again... Like tears from the Cosmos.

It was beautiful while it lasted.

"I've stood here before inside the pouring rain... With the world turning circles around inside my brain. I guess I was always hoping you would end this rain. But it's my destiny to be the King of Pain. King of Pain...

I guess I'll always be... King of Pain."

And Queen of Rain... ;)

May 13, 2003 - The Sun... The Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Polaris, Mizar and Alcore, Cor Caroli, and Sweeping the Stars....

Comments: Yep. We had a little bit here in Ohio! Not too sure of how long it would last, I took the opportunity when I had it and went out for some
solar viewing. About the only thing of interest on the surface right now is a very small series desginated as 356. Possessing three small mature umbrae, and penumbrae that seems to "thread" away, make this series appears much like musical notes. Data shows them to be singularly uninteresting and quite ordinary. High, thin clouds prohibit any clear views of granulation or faculae.


And no one could have been more pleased than myself just to see the Moon again. It wasn't even quite dark when I had the 4.5 out finding a place where I could enjoy its' simplicity. I should be working on my astroimaging process, but instead find myself grinning over the Doerful Mountains. I really ought to be practicing prime focus, instead of drooling on Shickard, Schiller, and Wargentin. I would have been better served making avi files rather than pulling out Phoclydes and wandering around Schroeter's Valley. There was so much I should have been doing...

But I'm a starved astronomer... And supper is on the table.

And Saturn tastes good. Detail was hard to come by, for the Cassini was nothing more than an "on again, off again" phenomena... But how wonderful it was just to see the Ring King dragging Titan along behind it across the sky! Every so often, a few tiny crystals would wink coyly at me... Reminding me that even if the rest of the satellites wouldn't hold up to steady vision, that they are still there. And that's enough for me.

And Jupiter as well! Still so very bright, and sporting all those great variations between the equatorial bands that take my fancy. I power up for nothing more than to just enjoy them. The season for Jupiter is passing so very quickly away, and it just does me good to watch the three galieans in front shift position every so slightly from their perfect alignment as the fourth shuttles behind.

And here I stand... Unwilling to give up the night. How I wish I could be galaxy hopping! But don't think evil of me, Sky... For I take pleasure in picking apart Polaris, riding with Mizar and Alcore, and staring into the "Heart of Charles" once again. Realizing there's not much else that I can do, I stil take a simple minded pleasure in aiming at Spica so very close to the Moon... Letting the scope wander about the stars, and knowing there's galaxies in this field that cannot be seen.

And spend my time watching the green flash around Arcturus...

"There's a king on a throne with his eyes torn out. There's a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt. There's a rich man sleeping on a golden bed. There's a skeleton choking on a crust of bread.

There's a little black spot on the sun today.

King of pain..."

May 11, 2003 - Just Checkin' In...

Comments: Of course, you know a lag in reports means that there hasn't been any sky of any kind save for clouds and rain. I have been enjoying my life as a vampyre. Work seems to be less painful when I don't step outside on a break to see the stars shining... But at the same time? It breaks my spirit.

Right now the rain is cold. The winds scour the landscape in blistering 50 mph gusts and the sky is like living inside a granite tomb.

An inside a tomb is where the vampyre belongs, isn't it?

"There's a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall.... (That's my soul up there.) There's a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall... That's my soul up there.) There's a blue whale beached by a springtime's ebb.... (That's my soul up there.) There's a butterfly trapped in a spider's web... (That's my soul up there.)

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain... With the world turning circles running 'round my brain. I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign... But it's my destiny to be the king of pain."

May 7, 2003 - Mercury Transits the Sun! ...And Toto? Your ride is waiting....

Comments: There was time. I knew there was time. The Sun kisses the horizon here just early enough that I should have had approximately a 30 minute window to view the end of Mercury's transit of the Sun... I was set up and ready to go. The sky was turning a great shade of pink and orange...

But the clouds said no.

It's an astronomy fact. We all know that. It's a weather-dependent hobby and that's why so many of us have other hobbies as well. And thank the starz that one of them is the internet, eh? Because with the marvelous piece of equipment comes opportunities one normally wouldn't have... Like watching a transit from another country! Two of my oldest and dearest friends were sitting in prime positions to watch what was either veiled by darkness or clouds here... And Cor Berrevoets is pure magic!

As soon as I got "on-line" this morning, he had this waiting for me... Isn't it awesome? And although it's about time to leave for work in Ohio, it's nearing lunch in the Netherlands and the critical moment of egress. While I head back outside to make sure opportunity isn't knocking at the door and I'm not home, Cor heads back to the scope and captures the last moments....

I know what he's up to, and the magic isn't about to end... And I look forward to his genius! But Cor ain't the only one in Europe that had a shot at this... For once my friend, Alistair Thompson, also had an opportunity in the always cloudy UK, at an astronomical event! And when I got home? Well, check this out....

Congratulations Alistair! I think it's just fantastic that you both got to see the event, and I cannot thank you enough for sharing with me and allowing me to share with others as well! Even though I didn't get to see it personally? It doesn't get much more personal than having friends share their good fortune with you...

And it just doesn't get much better than that!!

"There's a little black spot on the Sun today. It's not the same old thing as yesterday.... "

So the Sun did come out off and on during the day... And the heat and unstable weather brought storm conditions back to the Great Plains. The black wall clouds starting building, and the winds started to turn...

"There's a black hat caught in a high tree top.... There's a flag pole rag and the winds won't stop..."

Long before the Sun went down, the skies went dark. And this isn't the kind of dark you want to see in Ohio...

Hey, hey... That's not one, but two twisters in formation. I know my jaw was down on the ground as they pulled up and down inside that massive cloud. Looming overhead, that whole storm cell was spinning counterclockwise and ripping new leaves from the trees. You would have to be here to understand this fascination, I guess. The smell... The feeling of being lifted... The rush of fear! The power of these things are just incredible...

So a rather aged edition of Dorothy and her XXL black dog H (Toto just doesn't fit him... he doesn't yip yap, he eats what he wants and right now he doesn't want to be out here!) stood out in the field and watched their ride to Oz slide across the south.

At least until the hail started!

Making a mad dash back for the house, and getting a few nice welts in the process, I went to all the windows and double checked all the horizons to make sure one wasn't sneaking up on us and put on some water for a cup of tea while H rearranges the furniture...

I miss the Wizard.... And it's good to know he's still there.

"I've stood here before in the pouring rain... With the world spinning circles around inside my brain. Guess I was always hoping that you would end this reign... But it's my destiny to be the king of pain."

May 5, 2003 - The Moon, Jupiter and the Eta Clouded Meteor Shower...

Comments: Well, it was kinda' sorta' only halfways cloudy at sunset. My favourite radio station had broadcast tornado watch for the southern counties which suprised me, because all the wall clouds are building from the north and west. But that's cool... I really didn't want to stay up all night watching a meteor shower.


As soon as it got dark enough to give good contrast, you could see the Moon just shining away up there. Of course, this IS Murphy's Law in action, isn't it? "The only time of the night during a meteor shower peak that the skies will be clear shall be when the Moon, regardless of phase, is at it's maximum elevation and brightness." Fine then! Let's go study a bit of law, shall we?

Yeah, yeah... Mare Crisium and surrounds are rockin'. There's old favourites that I know well like the keyhole appearing Magellan and the Pyranees Mountains. But....

If I'm gonna' do the Moon, I'm gonna' do it extreme! Yeah, yeah... It's Atlas and Hercules. But there also some real characters in there despite the turbulence! Cool ones like Atlas A and Shuckburgh... Strabo, Endymion and Hayn! I was trying to get to the edge, but the skies are really turbulent and it's really not worth holding out for. Perhaps a peek a Jupiter?

Again, stability rules on both lunar and planetary and I had a difficult time for a few minutes cutting apart a close, very close, union of two of the galieans. Realizing magnification would be totally pointless, it was enough for me just to have gotten outside under the stars and this warm, windy, and storm breeding sky. So I capped it up. Went inside for a bit...

And ended up back out with my guitar.

Hey. I'm not great. I'll admit that. But I like the sound of the strings at night. I want that feel of resonance. And it was peaceful... The south is trashed. The east is trashed. The Moon skates along the edge of a wall cloud... But overhead? The skies are clear. As I play, I look at Bootes and smile at Coma Berenices. I'm having thoughts about taking the scope back out again instead of practicing "Seether".

And a solitary silver bright arc scalded across the sky from the southwest to the northeast...

A child of Comet Halley? I am sure. Their signature is unmistakeable. The visage inspires my music as much as Comet Halley itself kept my fire for astronomy buring so many years ago. And so I beg the sky with every song I know from the Beatles to Staind and the only one who listened?

Was the clouds.

"So she gathers rain. Yes, she gathers rain... To rinse away all her guilt and pain. So she gathers rain. Yes, she gathers rain. To wash and cleanse and make her whole again."

May 3/4, 2003 - Star Party!

Comments: Yep. It was raining. Seems like "Public Nights" are becoming jinxed. I can't even remember when the last successful one really was... Ummmm... How about tonight?

So what do we term a success? Reaching people. The evening started out with a club meeting and the usual discussions. But before the end of the meeting a beautiful thing happened. A couple of guys from a Columbus based group showed up.. (hey, "bubba"... ;) Given the rain, it didn't look good. But the suggestion to hang around was, wasn't it?? And yet another fellow showed up with three small children... All with big grins and waiting for their turn at the sky. I could see that they were getting the "fidgets"... and there isn't a whole lot I can do, right? Wrong.

Come with me...

While the guys pondered the weighty issues of politics, three kids had the time of their lives getting to see the "Big Scope". Thanks to the Messier posters on the wall, we explored galaxies, nebula and clusters. On another wall, they climbed the ladder and walked along the craters of the Moon. And squealed in delight when taken to the roof of the dome in the lift! There's nothing like just being able to "touch" the big scope. To feel its' weight and size... And perhaps a smiling face to help explain to you how it works, eh?

The Hidden Hollow grounds are totally beautiful. While waiting on dark, it's just a nice place to walk and enjoy the scenery. And oddly enough? When they got back... We had Moon. Cursing myself for not bringing the 4.5, and blessing Robert for remembering binoculars we set the kids toward the slim crescent while we bid the rest of the members adios.

Mr. Bruce? Your turn, m'man... And he was there. Flying young astronauts off the the Moon and the rings of Saturn. And Bubba came back! Right now, there isn't much to be seen... But some of us don't give up that easily. We hear drums, don't cha' know? Maybe the natives are restless? And maybe we just ought to go see what the natives are into! While the clouds zipped overhead, I took a walk down the "Hill" to visit with Hidden Hollow's resident "star", Sean... And really had a wonderful time jammin' with him and the "Foo Fighters" for a bit. I gotta' tell you, the man absolutely ROCKS on the drums!! I know I probably had this catatonic grin going on, but I just can't help it when I'm around a talented musician.

He's good. He's damn good.

Walking back toward the dome, I can see the clouds are beginning to break up and I'll guarantee you Bruce had got everything dialed in and we're ready to go. First object of choice? The magnificent M51... (and i had to go howl around the outside of the dome just for old times sake, don't cha' know? ;) It was a race with the clouds to get structure, and when I turn around? We've got two new faces at the door! Howdy! Everybody got a quick look, and then back came the clouds. As the skies working on clearing once again, Bruce gave a fantastic lecture on how to align the scope using "drift methods". I was so proud of him that I could have cheered as he explained the movements of the sky. The galactic plane, the ecliptic plane and the true path of the stars are crucial to not only those who use driven scopes but to those who star hop as well. Bravo, guy...

This man is good. Damn good.

As he and Monty go back inside the dome to work, I just stayed outside with our visitors. I'll get ya' to set up scopes even if I gotta' help ya' carry the equipment up the Hill! And so we did... I am sorry that I don't remember the names of the fellows with the undriven Meade ETX, but I sure remember "Bubba"! And Bubba has brought along something I haven't seen in a long, long time... An Orion Skyview Deluxe 8"!

Grinning like a fiend, I did everything but run up the steps with the tripod and the scope. By the time he got there with the hardware, assembly had already begun (man, i know this scope in the dark!!) and within minutes we were set up and ready to chase those beautiful clear sucker holes that keep driftin' past. I can't adequately express what a true pleasure it was to use again! I had almost forgotten what a little "Lightsop" it really is!! So instead of gathering rain? We gathered Messiers... M57, M81 and M82, M56, M13, M92...

And Bubba? You're damn good as well!

And there's lessons to be learned... As well as I know the sky, I found out in a big hurry when I tried to use the Meade that I can't find dirt with a right angle finder. But the fellow who owned the scope sure didn't have a problem with following star hop directions and picking off the M57 and the M81 and M82! Hola!! We're all good, aren't we? And this is some serious FUN!

So here we are... Waiting on the clouds to pass yet again, and up walks Jerry. Compadre! It's been forever since I've seen you as well! And I don't know who discovered it... Because I went down for some coffee... But when I came back they were looking in the polar alignment site of the SVD8, and there's a map in there!! I never knew. I honestly never knew! When you can actually (cough , cough) get me to polar align, I've never used the site, just the axis and drift... And what a really cool discovery this is!

And those clouds are back, aren't they?

Hey, hey... I think it's time for me to ease on down the road as well. It was a real pleasure to meet some smiling new faces and snatch at the stars! Let's just say some circumstances are beyond my control, and right now I've got a hankering for some jazz music, some less formal clothes, and a cup of chai. And I can't leave without findin' the "Bossman"... And you were oh-so right.

It cleared about 10 miles away from the Backyard.

Still wired for sound, I changed clothes, put on some water to boil, and set the dob back up. (you never heard ol' ~T praying so loud in your life that i wouldn't drop that bad boy!) By the time Scorpius had started it's descent and Saggitarius was well risen, I was back out... Sweats, slippers, chai and all. It's time for me to walk the Milky Way again... Straight to the heart, baby... And have no idea of where Willie Nelson came from, but suddenly I could hear his guitar pickin' so pefectly in my brain...

"You were always on my mind. You were always on my mind."

So I danced to Antares for the M4 and the ultra tiny attendant globular NGC6144. I spoke to Shaula, and went west for brilliant yellow G Scorpii and the little crystals of globular cluster NGC6441, resolving them out cleanly with the 12.3mm eyepiece. I dropped back down to 32mm and happily captured the M6 and M7 once again! Going on to the M62, M19, and M9... And diggin' how 9mm cuts them to shreds.

Still grinnin' like the simple minded fool I am, I slipped back in for another cup of tea and a peanut butter sandwich. (i am really going to quit wasting time eating and just apply the food directly to my mid-section... it all seems to go there anyway! ;) The skies are rockin' and I need to ponder over some maps for just a few...

Wish you were here, partner.

M69, M70, M54... (ah, ceres! how well i remember!) M22, M28, M8, M20, M17 and the M16 stops me in my upward ascent. I gotta' power up here to at least the 17mm and just stare...

I was trying for the M11 when Mars simply smacked me on the left side of the head and told me to come look. Needless to say after about 30 seconds with the 17mm, I was breakin' out the good 9mm. We've got detail. Picking my jaw up off the ground, I thought about digging out the barlow, but it's still pretty spurious. I kept watching and watching... But the best I could make out was a bit of dark shading and a definate brightning at the pole. After a few minutes, I went back in to hunt up some information, I was truly keeping my times and notes... Gonna' continue to re-work for my Messier certificate and write a great informative report... But ended up just grinning and going back out again...

Cuz' there's no place like the NGC6940.

"Her imagination... Has started stretching wide. And her new convictions? No longer will she hide... And she doesn't care what the prophets say anymore... For the love she had? She has no more."

May 1, 2003 - Astronomy Day!

Comments: Hey, hey... And don't cha' know? It's rainin' in O HI O. Figures, doesn't it?

Ah, well. There's more to me than just a handful of stars! I love a lightning show as well, and even though H would prefer that I did not venture outdoors, when the rain and hail stopped I had to sneak out and watch the fire in the sky! Now, ya' gotta' know something about H... He is entirely loyal and a fierce protector... But he's scared to death of storms! So with my black german shepherd "tattoo", we sneak out to watch Nature in all its' power and glory...

There's lightning flashing everywhere. I can still feel a few small pebbles of hail hiding in the grass with my bare feet. You can hear the thunder rumbling across the plains for miles and miles... And the wind! Bowing the branches of the budding black walnut tree, the winds seems to come from all directions.

My partner is no longer coward. He's on full alert and right by my side. I turned on the camera to catch the lightning as you can see. I was having a splendid time trying to capture those long, electric streaks...

Then this happened.

Needless to say that when a bolt of lightning exploded a tree about a half mile away, ol' H decided it was time to show me exactly what his job was. Never in my life have I had a shepherd drag me away! Now, mind you... Out here along the River Styx, we don't leash dogs. They are trained to defend their property.

And I just became property!

He grabbed my jeans, none to gently either, and took me down and was dragging me to the house! OK, boy... I get it!! So, I got off my muddy backside and ended our foray into the field of "lightning photography" to go change clothes. Next time? I might just leave him inside.


"Well, today she dresses... For the change she faces now. In the storm that's raging... A safe haven she has found. She's not branded when the prophets speak... Words of fire. For the same love she gives? She requires.

So she gathers rain. Yes, she gathers rain. To wash away all her guilt and pain. So she gathers rain... Yes, she gathers rain. To wash and cleanse and make her whole again."