September 29/30, 2003 - M75, M11, M57, Epsilon Lyrae, M27, M71, NGC6939, NGC6946, NGC7006, NGC7331, M77, M31, M31, M110, M1, M67, M36, M37, M38, NGC1907, M35, NGC2158, and "Hind's Variable Nebula" (NGC1554)...
Comments: I'm telling you... It's grace. I needed one more summer object to complete my Messier list, then I am off the hook until Leo and Virgo return. (yeah? and if it wasn't so stinkin' cloudy and the beginning of the year i would have completed all 110 messiers in less than a year!) But, like I said...
The last I needed was the M75 for now. Again, I wasn't counting on sky... I was inside working. Along about 9:00, son Jon informed me that he needed the telephone, so being the dutiful, if somewhat absentee parent that I am, I handed the communcation device over. After all, what possible project could I have that would outshine talking to one's girlfriend, eh? Honestly? Not a one. I stepped outside for my evening "walk" and I known my grin had to glow in the dark. Dead south was Saggitarius, tippin' it's backside up in the air and daring me to come after that last study! Brother? You're on...
Date: September 29, 2003
Scope: 12.5 Meade Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 26mm and 9mm Meade Series IV
Sky: 4.5 (stability excellent)
Time: 9:15 pm EST
Temperature: 48 degrees
M75 - Oh, I gotcha'. At low power, this last of my summer studies is a faded little beast with an unimstakeable stellar core. Now that I've find you? Let's just see what you're made of... At 9mm we have globular cluster. We have a white hot core region that defies any type of resolution and surrounded by density. The only resolution this one offers is at the outlying edges, but patience and aversion brings up an occasional sparkle across the face. I know this is a rather tired phrase, but this one does look like a "gone to seed" dandelion. The core region is white and concentrated, the density resembles the "fluff", while the tiny seeds that reside at the edges are like the resolvable stars. It's small. It's peculiar. And tonight?
Of course, I am pleased. I know that the few studies I have left are some time into the future and that I really need to start concentrating on my own private galaxy quest again. The Messier study has been intense fun and it has kept me close to my favourite observing partner. I will miss our teasing and challenging greatly. He has been my muse over the years and I owe him a great deal for bringing me back from the "Sargasso Sea" of astronomy. Perhaps when I have finished re-observing all 110, I will put those observations on a page and dedicate them to you, eh? You've kept my head in the game...
And speaking of game! What more fair game than the "Wild Ducks", eh? I don't mind doing a bit of joy riding for now, because I feel a certain sense of joy! The M11 is just the place for that, is it not? A riot of bright stars caught in a wedge and lead across the night by a high wattage point at the apex. For you, sir? I hop across to Epsilon Lyrae, the "Double Double". Stability in Ohio is suprisingly good 80% of the time and tonight is no exception. Epsilon Lyrae cracks under the 26mm with a beautiful black hairline between each pair. Under the 9mm? You could drive a Harley between each of these and not even get stardust on your leather coat, oK? I like. Just as I like the M57, or "Ring" nebula. With the 9mm, the central star requires patience and aversion. It takes a moment of perfect clarity to catch, but the braiding structure in the ring belongs to any given moment of concentration. This is a fast exiting summer study as well, and I'm glad I stopped to visit awhile tonight. On again, to the M71... Superb... And a much longer pause at the M27. Hello, "Dumbbell"... What have you for me tonight?? At 9mm, I don't see hide nor hair of a halo in the 12.5. It is easy for me to pick out the stars in the lobes, but the central, like the M57 before it, requires a wait.
That one perfect moment...
By now, the temperature has dropped even more. What started off as a 4.5 kinda' night has definately cruised it's way to a 5. I look at all the things in the sky and I want... Overhead transparency has become superb. And I want.... There's just this burning need in me to see what's out there. I know it is stupid for me to start a new study field, because that requires intense patience and a stretch of clear, dark nights. Patience I have, but that stretch of nights is not to be with the Moon soon to be present most of the night. I love the Moon as well... But I want deep sky. I look longest at Lacerta, remembering studies that I've done in the past. Cepheus was also a good one, wasn't it? I go to the steps of the deck and sit down with my map. It hasn't been so long that I don't remember... Let's see... Ah, yes! Come with me and have patience. I am slow, but what I will show you is wonderful!
The NGC6939 and NGC6946 is a very sweet same field combination of an open cluster and a soft spiral galaxy. The NGC6939 is a loose, totally resolved collection of stellar points much like some of the smaller opens in Cassiopeia. The NGC6946 is a moderately bright spiral galaxy with a concentrated core and well and evenly lighted to it's perimeters. Apart, neither is spectacular. Together? They are awesome!
Feeling much more pleased with myself than some of my simple hops, I decide to go again for something more difficult. I don't know why, but daggone Delphinus just looks like it glows tonight, so my next stop? NGC7008. Some may recognize this destination as a past study. Good reason... It is. The NGC7008, (with the exception of the "Intergalactic Wanderer") is one of the most remote globular clusters in our galaxy. At some 190,000 light years away, I find it amazing that we can even see this! But see it ya' can, bubby. To the 26mm it is a small, circular patch of unresolved stars. To the 9mm is is a small globular cluster with a concentration toward the nucleus, but when you've got a globular in 12.5 inches of aperature that looks like a 4.5 with.. say... M15 in it? You got one jimdandy tought little customer. Like many of the halo globulars, the NGC7008 can't be broken. The resolution of a couple of stellar points does not, in my mind anyhow, equate to totally resolved. Non sequitor, of course... For I am simply happy to have found it on my own again!
By now, I know it's gettin' late. Saggitarius has done swept west outside my favourite area. I'm cold and I should go in and continue some work while I have time off, but I've got a hankering to see one more challenge to myself before I go in to warm up for awhile... NGC7331. Again, we are talking perhaps a good 30 minutes for me to locate (or at least it feels that way) but I'm glad when I find it! The NGC7331 is a very sweet, very bright, and very tilted spiral galaxy. A rich, rich core area, the variations as it moves outward toward the frontiers give the greatest sense of spiral structure. This one deserves attention slathered on it... The longer you look? The more beautiful it becomes! But funny thing? As you're eyeballin' the structure, you begin to notice these little grains of rice hangin' out in your averted vision. Of course, I be grinnin'... 7335? 7334? I know your numbers... But for now? Rock on, little dudes... You and I will tangle again. Time to go warm up and let the sky change.
I want M77.
By close to 2:00 a.m., the temperature dropped a couple of more degrees and the sky transparency had improved greatly. Cetus is a difficult, rather dim contellation to work in, but one of the reasons I took vacation this week was to practice patience and re-learn both my map reading and hunting skills. It seemed like it took forever, but eventually I got it through my thick head what stars I was looking at and located Delta. From there? Well, it's pretty easy.... And when the silver circle slid into view in the 26mm? I knew I had it.
The M77 reminds me a great deal of the M51. This is one of those studies that takes magnfication well, from the concentrated core, the averted twist over dark dustlanes, and winks of lumpy structure within the arms. I truly believe that some scopes are better suited to certain studies that others, for the M77 is almost picture perfect in the 12.5. I have seen many a galaxy in many a scope, and I can tell you that they vary in ways that you cannot always understand. Why, for example, is it possible to put a 12.5 on the "Whirlpool" and see fantasty structure, yet a 31" scope doesn't provide half the view? Why does the M33 look like spiral galaxy extraordinaire in the SVD8, yet look like a big ghost in the 12.5? These are the kind of stupid questions my brain ponders as I look at the M77. This one has truly been worth staying up late for.
Still galaxy minded, wired for sound, and alone in the dark, I headed toward Andromeda. Again, I wonder just how many amateurs look at the M31 and don't realize they are just looking at the core? The sucker is huge! You think you've gone entirely off the galaxy when you realize you've hit the frontier and the NGC206 is staring you in the face. To me, I simply get a charge out seeing how bright the ovid little M32 is... Or what a totally superior galaxy the M110 can be. And I gotta' grin when I look up without the scope. It seems impossible to me that people cannot "see" the Andromeda galaxy without it being pointed out. Avert your vision even slightly while looking at the sky and that silver signature seems to span an impossilbe distance! And again.... It makes me wonder. What do the Magellanic clouds look like?!?
Still, I stay on. The night is beautiful and there is no real need for me to put things away. Leaving the 26mm in place, I go on a memory hop and curse my lack thereof when I need to look at the maps to find the M1. When I do find it, I don't move for awhile... Hopefully I can burn the daggone thing into my short-term memory for future "Nickle Tours"! The M44 is easy enough, but the 26mm does not do it justice. What does work is when I find the M67 again! It has always been a personal favourite... I simply love that stellar concentration!
Hopping back across the sky, I turn to Auriga. The winter Milky Way is so bright and I seem to remember more here than meets the eye. M36, M37... M38. It is while I am at the finder locating M38 that I see a small unresolved spot and I re-aim toward that. Hmmm... Just a group of stars. Curious, I flipped through the maps to find this is indeed and open cluster with the designation NGC1907. Cool! Remembering another like that, I head toward the feet of Gemini (hey, saturn! how are ya'?) for the delightful, multi-colored/magnitude M35. Low power... Fuzzy spot. Yep. Right there. Again, I smile as I remember an evening spent with Vic and set the 9mm toward the NGC2158. An unresolved area to low power, and a dandy little open cluster to high.
Feeling the bite of the cold, I figured I better go in now before I end up sleeping the next day away. Not that it would really matter... I guess. I just have a right hard time leaving a beautiful night when I know they've been few and far between. And even farther between times I have studied on my own. Dawn is not too far away and I can see the Tirion laying on the deck railing. I know my notebook and flashlight are with it. Do I continue? Hey... Why not? No one cares. And I sit myself down on the steps while H searches the pockets of my big old observing coat after a stick of gum. Giggling at his antics and his warm snuffles, I give it to him. He doesn't mind if it is who knows how old and has paper stuck to it. And away he goes... the smell of IceBreakers cinnamon drifiting along behind him. I am looking at Taurus for a new target... Or at least one I don't remember. What I chose was a little green square dubiously labeled "Hind's Variable Nebula" (NGC1554).
I searched for a very long time. It got to the point where I was going to have to do one of two things... Either check MegaStar, or get a better map. Of course, I could just give up... But the thought didn't occur to me. What my Tirion did not reveal, but Uranometria did, was the NGC1554 is fueled by a star... T Tauri. Carefully homing in on the field, I found "Hind's Variable Nebula" to be something of a disappointment. Very much like Van Den Bergh 23, or Temple's Nebula (NGC1435), the NGC1554 is nothing more than a smear on the west side of T Tauri. I see no "shape", and I would have almost sworn I was fogging my optics if the reflection hadn't of been to one side and the rest of the field clean and pinpoint. Taking out the 9mm and going for the 26mm does not improve things. It was small wonder I had difficulty at that power to locate. Again, it is nothing more than a slight haze. Chiding myself, I realize that it is a variable nebula and I really should have researched it before trying to find it on a whim... But right now? It doesn't matter one bit. Got news for ya' , too... I ain't gonna' matter tomorrow either. When it really will matter is when I have an extended stretch of time to view it. When I am able to make observations and notes over a period of time and a variety of conditions. And even then? The only one it will matter to...
"Oh, you can have it all... My empire of dirt. Cuz' I might let you down...
September 28/29, 2003 - The Moon and Venus... M107, M62, M72, M30, and M2.. Mars, Neptune and Uranus... Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury...
Comments: It was grace. It could be nothing less. I will be the first to admit that I'd pretty much lost interest in continuing to work for my Astronomy League Messier certificate. Don't ask me why, for if I understood I would be the first to tell you. That is why I say it was grace...
And the fact that I can't get the Wizard out of my head no matter how hard I try.
I had been busily working away at the many odd jobs I keep for myself. I webmaster here and there - It keeps me out of trouble. The day had its' fair share of clouds and sprinkles... I truly figured it would be my luck to take a vacation in the rain. So here I sit, happily coding away and I look out my darkening south window just above my desk and Mars is glaring in at me. "Hey, ~T! What the heck do you think you're doing inside while I'm out here lighting up the dark? You think I've got all night to wait on you?" Grinning, I hastily finished off what I was doing and made it out the back door right around 8:00.
Oh, my... It's grace.
All but running the 12.5 out to the far edge of the south field, I snatched my two favourite eyepieces, my Tirion that has traveled not only thousands of terrestrial miles with me, but has spanned both years and light years in my hands, my little red light and my notebook. I took it all in one shot... Who knows how long this clear stretch will last? I started uncovering things quickly, glad I keep the dob at ambient temperature, and stuck the 26mm in to start my studies... And then I saw it. That fine sliver of Moon that had appeared at dusk the night before had thickened... And it had brought along a companion. Venus. Smiling, I found myself spellbound. Venus was caught in the influence of the atmosphere, shining every bit as brilliantly as Mars and almost matching it in a ruddy hue. A quick glance to the south told me I had plenty of time to accomplish what I came to do, so I tilted the dob west.
I breathed the words Cleomides, Geminus, Burkhardt and Massala into the night.... Just their repetition brings a smile to my all-to-often sober face. I can feel myself, this same person, who almost fifteen years ago stood with a scope pointed toward the Moon practicing the litany of crater names. How serious I was then! At times I wonder what happened to that person... And I realize I don't care. Tipping the scope lower to capture Venus, I see the stability tonight is horrible, but the ultra-low sky position is the main culprit here. At low magnification, Venus is a phat boiling mess. Venus is beautiful. Venus is everything I could ask for.
Bringing my head back down out of the clouds, I realize that I better head on towards my studies. There's clouds on the north western edge of the horizon... Time for me to fly.
Date: September 28, 2003
Scope: Meade 12.5" Starfinder Dobsonian
Eyepieces: 26mm and 9mm Meade Series IV
Start Time: 8:20 pm EST
End Time: 11:30 pm EST
M107 - Dropping south just a bit from Zeta Ophiuchus, the M107 at low power first appears like any other unremarkable small globular. Surprisingly bright, the M107 performs best at 9mm. What appears to be near total resolution is gently replaced with a bit of wonder as you realize this is a core shifted globular cluster. There is definately a higher concentration of stars to the eastern edge of the core region and it shifts to the look of "density" to the west. Again, this one appears rather loose instead of concentrated, but for its' small size is remarkably bright for low sky position.
M62 - Easily located south of the M19 at low power, we have passed through many fainter NGC halo globulars in this area. Near the galactic core, the M62 is a bright ball of stars edging on resolution at low power, but delivers the strange and unusual at high. There is a very distinctive flattening of the stars to the northern perimeter. Once again, a rich globular like it's predecessor, M19... And like the M19 most definately affected by the gravitational pull of the galactic center. While the M19 is flattened east/west, it is hard to miss the M62's "cropped top". I can only describe this globular as "dented" and smile at the superior resolution!
Moving back a bit from my southern outpost, (hey, i can't help it. ever since i saw the movie "signs" i get nevous when i'm at the edge of a cornfield, ok? yes, i know it's H wandering around in the rows, but why take a chance? ;) I head back more toward the garage where I can hear the radio as I work. Right now the skies are wonderfully clear and I'd just like to listen to the music and sweep Saggitarius at low power... Really low power. I sneak into the garage and fetch my good 32mm. A gentle move of the counterbalance is all it takes and I'm swept away into the arms of Saggitarius again. I do this as a deep appreciation of my own equipment, and I lay my notes aside. Yes, I am taking a chance at the clouds stealing away the stars, but all too soon the season will take away Saggitarius. I love it while I can... And wait every day for its' return.
Capricornus has now gained excellent sky position. I have had a cup of coffee and stroked my favourite part of the sky. I am ready to move the balance again, put in my study eyepieces and go back to work...
M72 - (10:15 pm) Since I don't recall whether or not I've included the M72 in my Messier "hit list" I go to it first. At low power it is very unremarkable. Small, dim and of no resolution. Inserting the 9mm does wonders. A beautiful white and yellow double shows at the southern edge and it does not take long at aversion to notice the M72 is also "core shifted" to the north as well. It is at aversion that it is possible to notice the fine points of resolution and a very distinct chain of stars that cuts across the southern border. The core region is only slightly more concentrated that the overall structure, but the edges resolve nicely.
M30 - (10:30) At low power, the small, fairly bright M30 also appears as another unremarkable globular cluster... But again? Power up and rock the night! Looking like a bullet hole shot it black glass the M30 is being pulled across the sky by a high wattage blue white star. Possessing a rich, core area, the M30 all but defies perfect resolution. It is compact, somewhat flattened and suprisingly brighter than I remember it. The stars splay outward from the core region over the underlying density in almost textbook globular fashion.
M2 - (10:45) Oh, rock on! Even in the finderscope, M2 smacks the sky. The most modest magnfications brings this tremendous globular cluster from and center! Like it's cousins, the M13 and M22 (omega centauri, too!) the richness and resolvability of the M2 make the trip to Beta worth every moment. Under the srutiny of the 9mm it shows an almost "cut off" appearance to the northwest? Again, I hold it steady and continue to avert. WOW! This is like the one region in the M13!! We have a very distinctive dark dustlane upon aversion, and I find myself having a hard time concentrating on the rest of the structure because of it! The entire globular is incredibly rich and intense. Absolutely one of the best in the sky!
Grinning from ear to ear, I realize nothin' is gonna' top that act for the night! Of course, Mars is doing its' darndest for attention, and since those clouds have slowly gobbled the entire western and northern skyline up, I take advantage of it. Ah... Syrtis Major has left the building! ('bout time, too... ;) and we still have a vague indication of polar cap. Cimmerium? Welcome... At least you're something new! Oddly enough, rather than put things away now, I wandered back in and snatch my maps for Neptune and Uranus. They really don't take long to find (about 30 minutes between the two for pokey here...) for bluish/purple Neptune lay about in the center of the dim top line of stars in Capricornus (theta if you're picky.) and the greenish disc of Uranus to the northwest of Mars. I don't find either one of them terribly interesting, but since I've seen Venus? Hey! Might as well... ;)
Clouds have stole the deep sky show anyway.
(I did not realize at that time the skies would be clear again before dawn. I was a happy camper. I did some studies, sucked down some starlight, and went to bed content. I don't know what woke me up later than night before dawn, but I'm glad it did. Sometimes the cosmos moves in mysterious ways...)
I picked up the alarm clock out of rote. The time said 4:30 and I set it back down. Doesn't my body know it's on vacation? There's no need for me to be awake at this hour. I pulled the blankets over my head, aware that H had sensed that I was awake. He wasn't being demanding, but I knew he was looking at me, and I couldn't go back to sleep as much as I would have liked to return to the dream I was having!! Tossing the covers aside, I grabbed a robe and went to let him out. Then I went back for clothes.
Oddly enough, I knew instinctively what it was I wanted to do, and I went straight to the garage and set that old Celestron outside the door while I started coffee. The sky would have supported the dob again, but studies are not what I want. I want to stand here, shivering in the cold. I feel alive! And so close... Like I could almost touch you. This will be the one night of the year when I am lucky enough to see seven of the nine planets in less than 10 hours. An unspoken wish lingers on my lips, willing the clouds to stay away just a bit longer. It is enough for me to see Titan pulling Saturn across the sky as the elusive twinkle of the tiny troopers sparkle in and out at the ring edge. It is my pleasure to see the flat grey bands of Jupiter's equatorial belts once again, the galieans strung out like beads on an abacus. It is enough for me to stand here looking at the M42 without a telescope, and I simply cannot be quiet as meteor streak across the sky. I face east, awaiting Mercury and I watch the cone of false dawn appear. Even though I told myself I would leave you alone, this apparition inspires me to speak. And maybe it's just grace... When I return? I set the scope on Mercury. At low magnfication, Mercury is a phat boiling mess. Mercury is beautiful.
Mercury is everything I could ask for.
"Beneath the stain of time... The feeling disappears. You are someone else... I am still right here.
September 27, 2003 - The WCAS Star Party '03....
Comments: OK, I was doubtful this would happen. The previous night was filled with storms edging tornadic qualities that I happily slept through. The day of the "Star Party" dawned grey and cold, making my first day of vacation a less than pleasant chore of picking up branches and attending to "windy" fall out. As the morning gave way to breaking clouds, I could feel my anticipation begin to build as more and more blue began to show through. It was beginning to look like this party was gonna' happen! I also knew this was "Member NIght" at the Observatory - but since there's a chance of a few clouds and I've also come to know the members rather well...
Find somebody and go party.
Friend Robert answered the call, and after having met at a place convenient to both of us, we headed out to find the "Star Party". After having attended the year before, I was fairly confident I could find it again (good, because i totally forgot the instructions) and hope to get there before dark. Fortunately for Robert, I ain't a bad navigator, nor a driver and we found it with no problem. As soon as we stepped out of the car we heard a familiar voice... "Oh, the people you see when you don't have a gun!" Hola, Terry McQ! Did ya' really think we'd desert you? ;) It didn't take long before Robert and I started making the rounds. There was a face that I was looking quite forward to meeting... Or should I say a hat??
I spotted the Intes the moment we walked into the area, and I knew who had to be behind it.... All I need to see was the hat. Tom?? Ah, now... I knew it had to be you!! For the record, let's just say that Tom is one of the men "behind the scenes". I owe him a great deal for all the questions of mine he has answered and the patience he's shown me during a recent learning curve. I can't help but grin like fool, because here stands the fellow behind the words! It doesn't take long to become acquainted, and I'm quite pleased to see that I already know the biggest majority of the WCAS members in attendance. The night looks promising... And all we need is dark.
Tom sets his 150mm Intes Mak on Mars the moment it appears. It's a view I've come to both love and appreciate over the last few months. Even I have taken to using the "Ottoman", and his is no less superb. The southern polar cap and Syrtis Major are easily distinguishable, even though the skies are still blue! I tease him gently that we should get the one from the back of my car and between the two? We could have a hellacious bino viewer! Grinning, I go on to visit with other members. These are scopes I have seen before on other study nights, and it is my pleasure to relieve some of Terry's obvious frustrations by getting the finder set on his scope. Of course, you do realize that once I have my clean little paws (i am never grubby by choice ;) on a scope of any kind that it is difficult for me not to start aiming it at things, don't you? Sure ya' know that... And it wasn't long before I had Terry cookin' on Albeiro and then on to the "Double Double" as we waited on deeper dark.
The Wayne County Astronomical Society has definately done its' homework this year, and after having written local factories, have gotten them to extinguish their lights for tonight. It makes a delightful difference this year, and I can definately see this difference as I turn Terry's scope toward the M81 and M82 and Cassiopeia. It is about this time that I realize it's going to break my back if I continue to try with it, and all I had to do is look at Robert and smile. Funny how quickly one can learn to understand each other isn't it? For he looked back at me and said, "You want your scope don't you?" And he was right. Walking back to the car, we set up the RAS "Ottoman" in record time and carried it back to the observing area. Setting it down beside Terry's EQ mount 8", the first thing I do while other's talk is brush right back through what I was doing. M81 and M82 are barely discernable patches of light even with the lessened pollution, and M51 totally unachievable. This is by no means disrespect to the site, for we all know just how very low Ursa Major is at the moment. Abandoning that idea, I went on to Cassiopeia and breathed about six open clusters in like a person starved for oxygen. I don't even think I shared the view! I remember at one point looked right at Robert and probably sighing...
Monty is also here and he has a new scope that he would like me to check out - A Meade 12.5 Starfinder dobsonian. Oddly enough, I truly do find differences between model years. Suprisingly, a great deal of differences. I am not a Meade afficienado, so I can't tell you what years they changed things, but I can tell you this is not the same scope that sits in my garage. The cabinetry is different, the tube design is slightly different, the mirror and mirror cell aren't even remotely close to the same, and the side bearings are changed. It looks funny to me to see a big Telrad hung way out on the end like that... But then again? When I assembled mine, I chose where to place the finder. Monty also has the Meade Magellan system hooked up to it as well, and it is the same basic unit... With the same basic problems, eh? Gotta' know that sky, dude. The Magellan is a fine aid, but it is not an autoguider. Again, no disrespect against the unit, but if you're going to use this, you better know how to calibrate across the sky and be able to recalibrate during a session. It's just the dobsonian design. Being totally flexible means... Well, learning to be totally flexible. It's a dob! Ya' either learn to love them or you don't.
About this time a thin band of clouds slowly began to steal the scene. It is a good time to socialize once again. I like hearing Terry talk about his adventures at the Black Forest Star Party. I've waited a long time just to talk to Tom about things that aren't business... And it is while we are not discussing business that the skies began to clear again! Noticing from Tom's vantage point that there is southern vista from about halfway up Saggitarius, I carried the Ottoman across the observing area and set it down beside his. It wasn't long before Robert and Terry joined us as well and we began seeking out what could be found. Of course, we had to stay "high" and one of the finest of these is the M22. Even with as little as the 40mm, stars simply spangle across the face of this large globular.... The beginnings of resolution with a six inch scope? I tell ya'... I'm beginning to find myself softly in love with a Russian here. The more I use it, the more proficient I become with it...
And the more I appreciate it.
Turning the controls over to Robert, we become a circle of "commrades"... Three T's and an R. Each of us taking turns at finding different DSOs and simply enjoying our easy friendship. Robert turns it toward the M25 and we smile at a small unresolved area. Little globular? Tiny galaxy? We both know what it is, but a few feet away "Goose" turns his driven Meade 10" toward the same target and our "fuzzy" becomes easily marked as a small grouping of unresolved stars. Heading back to the Mak, I take a turn and set it on the M28. We have a look and then Terry takes a turn with the Ottoman. He quickly discovers what I've known all along - it's a difficult scope and mount to use. Having spent time with Jeff and a 150mm Argonaut, I have become comfortable with either polar aligned or not... But I feel empathy. Terry is a dob user, just as I am, and I know how stubborn this scope can feel!
Laughing, I dare the polar alignment police to come and get me as I turn the scope around for ease of use. Actually, I brought the police along with me tonight, eh Robert? And he only smiles as he has shared many an observing night with me and knows that to an undriven, non-guided scope that it really doesn't make any difference. Terry goes off in search of the M2, and when talk turns toward Andromeda? We go there instead. Of course, even at 40mm the M31 totally overfills the field of view, but it is still a nice view! A twist of this knob, and a turn of that... A lot of averted vision and it's possible at this site to see the thin, vague forms of the M32 and M110 as well. Tom has also turned his Intes toward the M31, and it is a pleasure to compare the exact same instruments and the same magnfication only with to entirely different eyepieces. It's the world of 1.25 vs. 2.0...
By now those thin clouds are starting back again. The cold and damp brought on by the rain is beginning to make itself known. Covering up the optics again to guard against dew, Robert and I walk out to the parking lot to talk for a bit and we both decide that is enough for now. Walking back to the observing area to fetch the Mak, I want to say goodbye to Tom again before we leave. I truly appreciate his invitation to come tonight as much as I appreciate all the support he's given me over the last couple of months. Thank you again, my friend! It was wonderful to meet you at last...
Robert and I climb back into the car and head west. Why is it the drive always seems so much shorter on a return trip? As always, I have deeply enjoyed our easy conversations and warm friendship. I leave him at his car... Until Wednesday then? You bet. The comfortable viewing season in Ohio is fast drawing to a close and winter will soon be upon us. We make the most of it while we can!
The rest of my drive is very quiet. My only companion is "Days of the New". The sky has cleared again and bright Mars rides along beside me as we make our way across the dark farmlands. I thought perhaps to make a detour and get a much needed cup of coffee, but discard the idea. I've no wish for bright lights and the late night crowd right now. What I honestly feel like is a cold beer while sitting on the back deck under the stars.
And watching H run in the shadows...
"I wear this crown of ache... Upon this tired chair. Full of broken thoughts... I cannot repair."
September 25/26, 2003 - At the Observatory...
Comments: Despite the high thin clouds during the day, there was a strong possibility that the rapidly dropping temperatures would produce the kind of clear Ohio night we had a couple of days ago. These aren't your average so-so kinda' nights... They are the ones you'd like to bottle up and savor when seeing is poor. They're the ones that make it all worthwhile, eh? I'm not the only one who knew this. A quick check of my e.mail told me that Robert was planning on using the night, and a look at what was on the computer told me that Bruce was going to be at the Observatory as well. Part of me wants to stay here and kick around some more of those Messier studies... And the other half of me wants to study.
Unfortunately both halves are still tied to the same back. I know that no matter what choice I make things are going to get uncomfortable within a few hours. I guess it really didn't take me long to know that I wasn't going to be happy unless I went to the Observatory. The improvements on "Big Blue" have made the 31" reflector at Warren Rupp Observatory a galaxy-eater. So far I haven't had much of an opportunity recently, and since my favourite self-styled phrase is "When opportunity knocks? Ya' gotta' be there to open the door.", I figured I better get my rear in gear and head that way. Preferrably before the door closes, eh?
Arriving just a bit before 9:00, Bruce already has things opened up and going. Gingerly climbing the steps, I can only smile as I see a 16" Obsession sitting at the top of the stairs. Not far away, what appears to be a 12.5" truss tube design of some kind is also set to the stars. I didn't recognize either gentleman, but I always speak. Heading into the dome, it took a few minutes for my eyes to dark adapt. A soft spoken "Are you there, Bossman?" was all it took to get a bearing on Bruce's whereabouts. And where was Bruce about?
Can you say Equuleus?
Without further ado, let's add 6.0, transparency beautiful, stability excellent skies to a 17mm Nagler eyepiece and couple that with a 31" objective mirror and complete computer confirmation on position and see what that "equuleus"...
PGC65874 - Irregular. Bright nucleas and patchy in appearance.
PGC65868 - Fairly large, diffuse and no nucleas present. Caught in a triangle of stars.
PGC65896 - Small, very diffuse and difficult to detect.
PGC69510 - Fairly large and bright. Some spiral structure. Faint star or bright nucleas present.
PGC65947 - Small. Round with brightening toward nucleas.
PGC65932 - Elongated and silvery with brightening toward center. Caught in a chain of stars.
PGC65961 - Pencil slim. Diffuse and even. Star at edge.
PGC65948 - Elongated. Diffuse with winking stellar nucleas.
PGC66011 - Round, bright and even. Compact and well formed.
PGC66029 - Highly elongated. Bright and large. Shows structure toward center Signature high surface brightness. May contain polarization. (my spectra eyes again... sorry.)
PGC66035 - Large. Very faint structure and a pinprick nucleas.
NGC66065 - Round and bright. Bright central structure. Appears to be face-on spiral.
PGC66066 - Average size. Very even. Slightly ovid structure. No nucleas.
NGC7015 - Beautiful!! Large, bright spiral with honking arms! Bright nucleas. Well structured. Faint star at edge.
PGC66079 - Small spiral with brightish nucleas. Diffuse.
PGC66085 - Edge-on, baby! High surface brightness. Mottling in structure. Faint star at edge.
PGC66077 - Large, bright face-on. Very stellar nucleas. Condensed toward center.
PGC66124 - Average size. Very round. Condensation toward center.
PGC66146 - Large. Possilbe spiral. Well structured with stellar nucleas.
PGC66150 - Pairs with previous study. Compact. Roughly 50% smaller than companion. Concentrated core with tight structure.
PGC66130 - Slightly oval. Fairly large. Winking stellar nucleas.
PGC66143 - Somewhat elongated. Shows concentration toward core and winking nucleas.
PGC66164 - Small, bright and slightly enlongated. Shows winking nucleas.
PGC66218 - Caught in a circle of stars. Slight elongation. Very even and diffuse.
PGC66243 - Fairly large. Diffuse in structure with faint star at tip.
PGC66280 - At first appears small and compact. That's the nucleas. Aversion bring on faint spiral extensions.
PGC66287 - Small, diffuse patch with an equally small star at edge.
Now... Before we go another futher? Know ye this: The PGC66287 was a magnitude 17.6 study! For the most part, all of the galaxies listed here run from around 15.5 through magnitude 17. Told you this scope kicks!!! These are studies that very few people have even seen... Let alone dreamed about!
Now, it's time to joke around about how the next galaxy - a magnitude 15 - will ruin our dark adaption. Let's rock...
PGC66282 - Triangulates with stars. Round, slightly structured with two faint stars at perimeters.
(The next 8 studies are same field. Carefully done and noted for accuracy.)
PGC66289 - Round, diffuse and small.
PGC66304 - Elongated. Near edge-on. Central brightening.
PGC66300 - Patchy. Slightly irregular. Some condensation.
PGC66313 - Slight elongation. Diffuse with star at edge. (NOTE: This is a reported supernova candidate. All data base information does not show the bright interior star. If this should indeed be a discovery for tonight? What a triumph for Bruce!)
PGC66325 - Small. Almost planetary in appearance. One tiny wink of nucleas.
PGC66324 - Large and bright. Condensed nucleas and hints of structure.
PGC66343 - Very large. Diffuse and slight central condensation with a small star at edge.
PGC66328 - Puff ball! Stellar nucleas with condensation around it.
(The next five studies are same field. The combination NGC/PGC is an interacting pair.)
PGC70382 - Diffuse and even. Slightly irregular in shape.
*NGC7475 - Coma-shaped with a condensed nucleas.
*PGC70383 - Roundish patch with condensed center.
NGC7474 - Large and diffuse with stellar nucleas.
PGC70376 - Small nebulous patch. Irregular.
(The next three studies are same field)
PGC70342 - Elongated. Even and slightly diffuse.
PGC70349 - Large. Very tilted spiral. Sight condensation. Possilbe dark dust lane.
PGC70354 - Spiral. Bright, sharp nucleas. Vague structure.
PGC70320 - Round, diffuse and even. No nucleas present.
PGC70353 - Very small, round and bright nucleas.
(The next three studies are same field.)
NGC7485 - Very bright. Moderately large. Bright nucleas. Condenstations and spiral extensions. A classic!
PGC70463 - Elongated and kinda' patchy. Pretty big.
NGC7486 - Very faint. Echo star effect.
NGC7487 - Bright stellar nucleas. Face-on presentation. What appears to be some spiral extension and an embedded star.
NGC7490 - Large. Stellar nucleas. Condensation around core. Faint sweep of spiral arm. Stars caught inside.
NGC7495 - Large. Gaseous appearing. Diffuse patch with faint star at edge.
NGC7497 - HUGE! Highly tilted spiral filled with condensations. Very dimensional. Suggestions of dark dustlanes. Faint stars. Definately a ***** galaxy!!
PGC70552 - Irregular and misty patch.
PGC70570 - Very faint. Elongated and very diffuse. Can't tell if its ovid or bar shaped.
PGC70596 - Moderate size. Soft oval shape. Gaseous in appearance.
About this time we go down to make some more dome adjustments and I realized just how stiff and sore I'm starting to feel. It sucks getting old, I tell ya'. I really don't want to leave, but I have absolutely no desire to end up feeling like I did earlier this week. It disspoints me that I'm not exactly a "prime time player" tonight, but I hope I didn't disappoint you in my observations.
Bruce? I had a wonderful time, my friend! As always, it is a true pleasure studying with you and I hope there are many more clear and steady nights in our future!
Slowly winding my way down the Hill, I hit the curves and promptly hit a raccoon. Two curves later and an oppossum becomes another victim of O'Possum Run Road. (we are now calling that o'possum run-over road. ;) I kept hearing your words "Things come in threes." in my mind the rest of the drive back. Fortunately the road kill game didn't get any larger, eh?
Let's hope I make it through the day.
"You can have it all... My empire here on Earth. Cuz' I might let you down... And it will make me hurt."
September 24, 2003 - Jupiter, the Moon and Mercury... Adieu Scorpius (Graffias, M80, M4, NGC6144, M6, M7, NGC6453 and NGC6441)...
Comments: It is before dawn and it is cold. The sky is transparent black and Orion is rock hard. Sirius does not sparkle and flash... It is an intense point of light. Stern Saturn holds a defiant position in Gemini, and Auriga glitters with untold wealth. The owl trills his territorial call from the big pine as I pad through the dew wet grass to the edge of the east field. I came here this morning to see the kind of celestial portrait that takes my breath away. The visage that only the sky can offer... The work of an Artist so great, there is none equal.
I am early and only Jupiter stands above the inky blackness of the treeline. I make my way back to the house with H at my heels. There is time to make a cup of coffee. There is time to find a blanket to wrap round myself. There is time to watch the Moon rise.
I go back to the edge of the field, mug in hand, holding my old starstuff quilt around myself like a tattered wizard's robe. I stand well clear of the black walnut tree where Newton's Laws of Gravity are continually played out to the delight of a large, black german shepherd. To H, these are toys that drop from the branches... Gifts of nature. Somewhat less tasty that the pears, but more sturdy to toss around. I leave him happily crunching about and turn my attention across the open fields again. The Moon is just clearing the distant woods, like a silver grin belonging to that celestial Cheshire Cat - Leo. I watch as it climbs with what seems impossible speed, chasing Jupiter into the first edges of dawn.
But what of Mercury?
I wait patiently. I know it will be here. I walk back to the garage to set down my still steaming, yet empty cup and pick up my camera. I pull the blanket round me again, brushing the laden tomato plants and sending my spider running. I walk back to the edge of the field. There is a tiny light in the tallest of the trees... Let us watch as it climbs. The fleet footed messenger of the gods, Mercury has arrived on the scene! The beauty of the dawn is not far away... Already the velvety blackness is succumbing to shades of grey, and the first pink threads are beginning to ravel at the seams of night.
Part of me wishes I had the type of camera capable of capturing this beauty... Yet I realize the beauty is not in the picture. It is in me. Just like you are... I can adjust this image from now until the end of time and it will never feel like I feel for you. You can see Jupiter, the Moon and Mercury. Perhaps you can even see the treeline, or the beginnings of dawn.... But can you feel the wet grass tickling at your ankles? Can you smell the clean, cold Ohio dawn? Can you hear the lonesome call of the train? Or the soft thud on the ground as another ripe walnut drops from the tree? Can you feel the fingers of the cool breeze lift the hair at the edges of your face or my warm hand in yours? Your belly reminds you that it is morning, and your mind is happy that you are here. You are now.... As you were then....
You are always with me.
I chose the dob again tonight because it's easy for me to move. It's clear, the transparency isn't bad and I feel well enough to tackle a few bright end-of-season objects tonight. Scorpius will soon be difficult for me to achieve here and I guess now would be as good a time as any to tell it goodbye.
Using only the 26mm, I look toward double star, Graffias first. Even at this low power, the blue secondary easily splits from the yellow primary to the lower trailing edge. I can see there are stability issues tonight, but it doesn't harm DSO studies. The M80 is relatively bright but only the slightest hint of resolution can be had at this power of this compact globular cluster. I remember chasing this one so many times at sunrise, and the thought of those past years makes me smile! The M4 is powder perfect and it teases the eye. I've always thought this one to be gorgeous at low power because one understands the size of this diffuse, ancient structure. A tiny push away is little attendent globular NGC6144, and I appreciate these halo structures. I move on west for the easily and often visited this past summer, M6 and M7. The "Butterfly" is always a star party favourite, and the richness of the M7 is a pretty calling card to this part of the sky. M7 also contains a treat to the large scope. Just a breath east of its' major structure is another halo globular, NGC6453. Like all small globulars, this one would require a higher power to resolve it out, but it's tiny form is easily distinguishable at low. The last stop on the hop is a globular caught with the star - the NGC6441. Caught in the same field as Lambda Scorpii, this globular shows the beginning signs of resolution at minimum magnification, but its' true interest is mainly in its' appearance so near to decent yellow star.
I thought perhaps to go on to Ophiuchus, and take on a couple of more summer studies, but the winds will not quit. There was a few times the dob would shudder as a gust would go by, and I have no desire to either damage myself or my scope by staying out further. There is a dampness in the air and a distinct look of a storm brewing to the northwest. It was perhaps not the most emotional goodbye I can think of for Scorpius, but like all favoured constellations, I know it will return again to the morning skies. It will signal the end of a long winter and the promise of summer ahead. That's the beauty of this astronomy business, eh? You can honestly let youself love it, for you know that tell a certain object goodbye...
And it will come back.
"What have I become? My sweetest friend... Everyone I know... Goes away in the end."
September 23, 2003 - NGC7662 - The "Blue Snowball"...
Comments: It's been while since I went for a study cold. I tend to be a galaxy hunter, and as such I often overlook other studies unless I am going to take the most out of a constellation. Tonight's target was to be a planetary nebula that I have seen the last two times I have been with Joe. Of course, observing with Joe is always my pleasure. He has this quiet way about him and he always manages to plant a subliminal seed in my imagination! Curious, I checked my own records of observations on the NGC7662 to discover that I have located it and made some notes. Tonight I decided I would take the time to study...
Willingly numbing myself up a bit, I chose not to look at anything else regardless of how transparent the night was. (dang... and it was too.) I'm still having some real issues with mobility and I best do my hunting while Andromeda is still on the rise and not overhead! (somehow, i just don't think i'm capable of the dobsonian lambada tonight... ;) Preparing myself mentally, I looked at the charts long before I went out. There is a valid reason for doing this: I have found that studies of certain spectral qualities mean that I should restrict my time with red light for it kills color sense, and I will get to this again later.
For the record? I was using my 12.5 Meade Starfinder dobsonian and a 26mm and a 9mm Meade eyepiece. The sky was as steady as a rock and visibility/transparency was outstanding. As for limiting magnitude? My markers, Psi, Lambda, Kappa and Iota are a cake walk visually. By concentrating, I can make out star 13, which is the one I need to focus on, and she's rated about a 6th magnitude... So the skies are rockin', brothers. The temperature is probably around 50 since I need a sweater, and if you could get me to quite drooling on the Andromeda Galaxy and companions we could get down to some serious study, eh?
Pardon me, while I burst into flame.
At first I had trouble picking it up. I couldn't quite understand "why" until I kept looking at this furry blue star and wondering if I was either out of focus or totally out of practice. So, I'm looking at it... Thinking about the patterns of the stars in the little square on Uranometria, and then I realize that's it! After having looked at it through Joe's scope, I was somehow thinking it was gonna' be big... But it ain't! I'll tell you right now that at 26mm the NGC7662 is only half the size of the M57. As a matter of a fact, the daggone thing reminds me of the "Eskimo" in Gemini! Straightening up, I streatch for a minute and smile... No wonder I didn't pick this up right off the bat! Socking the 9mm in changes the scene 100%. Now... Let's have a long, steady look.
My previous observances of the NGC7662 were correct on the central star. It requires wide aversion and it definately pops in and out on the eye's ability to keep averted. It is during this aversion that it is possilbe to pick up a "layered" look to this particular planetary nebula. It is not like the "Ring", for there seems to be a C-shaped brighter portion within the nebula itself. I realize now that my map hopping ways of the past have done a disservice to this nebula. While studying maps, I use a red light and I did not catch the blue cast on prior observerations. Tonight shows me a a slight "cast" but not much more. It would be my suggestion for those who would like to view the "Blue Snowball" to avoid red light for awhile to pick out this suble undertone. Again, by taking time to study in depth, I see odd things about the structure and I would suggest that it is very similar in qualities to the NGC2392 "Eskimo" planetary. There's just something about it... Call it a braiding... That reminds me of it. Other than that? Hey, it's a nice field. There's a chain of three stars right dead beside it!
Overall, I find this planetary to be bright, relatively easy to find, (which means if you have 30 people watching you, you'll never hit it.) imbued with a slight color, excellent structure and should be an easily captured study in almost any telescope. And that's if for me, folks... My back is stingin' and singin'. There's dark sky ahead and lots of time coming up to enjoy it...
Let's hope I still know how.
"The needle tears a hole... That old, familiar sting. I try to kill it all away... But I remember everything."
September 22, 2003 - Stargazing...
Comments: I don't know what happened. All I know is the pain. We're old friends, this feeling and me... I know I cannot stop because of it. I could barely walk Sunday, and every movement while I slept would cause me to wake up crying out. I am a strong person, and I have only hurt my back twice in my life... So it is a pain I do not understand.
Yet I understand pain.
I have lived a third of my life in pain. I want no pity, nor will I accept it. It just is. I have learned to walk again and I need no aid. I have learned methods of self-control and do not rely on drugs. So it just doesn't make sense to me! I deal with weight and lifting all the time. I do more manual work than most people half my age! So how could the weight of a child, who I held up to the eyepiece of my telescope, do what hours upon hours of physical labor do not? I just don't understand. I just feel. I just feel bad. I use hydrotheraphy and meditate, for I truly disdain the use of drugs, and I will put them off until absolutely necessary. I shuffle about like somone twice my age, and when the sky clears? I want to cry because I cannot even straighten up enough to use a telescope, let alone take one out.
But there are no tears. I do not tolerate weakness. I make myself a cup of coffee and I dress warmly. There is nothing wrong with my neck, dammit. I sit upon the bench and I look up. If I cannot visit the stars? At least I can still see them. The small clouds look so funny! The vastness of space is so dark and so far away... And these wisps of water vapor cruise silently overhead like ghosts. They seem so very close compared to the starry backdrop - Like you could also reach up and brush them away. A flicker here and there of a random meteor makes me happy. It's a pleasure just to talk to Hercules or smile at Saggitarius. Cygnus and Altair still fly along even if I'm grounded, eh? I sit until I must get up and walk again. I concentrate on the singular beauty of Mars. What a genuine tonic it is! So many happy memories of Mars this year... I can still see your face in the early morning light. Oh, how I wish now that I had just reached out and touched it! And then I sit and think about the stars and not what I am feeling.
It's a great balm... This stargazing.
"I hurt myself today. To see if I still feel... I focus on the pain. It's the only thing that's real."
September 21, 2003 - Goodbye, Galileo...
Comments: No, today was not the cloudless, transparent beauty of yesterday. Actually, it was cool and the soft clouds of Hurricane Isabel filtered what little sunshine we got... But it was an important day astronomically none-the-less.
Galileo ended its' mission.
It was my pleasure to watch the NASA channel this afternoon. Again, they are so wonderfully giving to the public and we were allowed to watch as Galileo made its' final approach into Jupiter. Most people have been keeping current with the news, so they are aware of "why" Galileo is being disposed of in such a manner, but how many took the time to watch?
Ah, I hope you did!
Who can forget Shoemaker-Levy's impact? Or how about all those wonderful shots of Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto? Icy oceans, cratered deadlands, and massive volcanoes... Too cool! Or just the images of Jupiter itself!! How about the first really good shot of asteroid Ida? Only to discover its' little moon Dactyl! For awhile it worked with Cassinni as that equally astounding mission went on by for Saturn.... And releasing a probe to study the atmosphere! All these great pictures and information... What an amazing thing the Galileo was! I thought it was wonderful to be allowed as a member of the general public to share the final moments of such a monumental and successful JPL/NASA achievement. I cannot thank them enough for televising the event so that people can record it and pass down this bit of history to next generation... Maybe mine don't care. But who knows? Perhaps the next one will!
Or the one after that... Or the one after that....
Regardless, it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. I know it will be a long time before I can look at the galileans when viewing Jupiter and not remember the Galileo. Just like the real super trooper you were, you sent back information to the absolute last second. What a crowning achievement for mankind! Looks like we're all just filled with goodbyes, aren't we?
"Gone away... Gone away... Gone away...."
September 20/21, 2003 - Astronomy For Youth "Star Party"...
Comments: What a gorgeous day in Ohio! Absolutely the type of weather we all look forward to... And the kind of night we amateur astronomers dream about. So what am I doin'? Running late. I don't understand my own personality at times... You can give me 10 minutes to hit a deadline and I will. Give me four hours to get ready to go somewhere and I'm thirty minutes behind!
Not good if you're the one giving the program...
I did make it to Malibar Farms before sky dark. With a hand from Greg, Curt and Tim, managed to get the 150mm Intes and the 114mm Celestron set up in record time, with only a minimum of dropped wingnuts and things falling apart. As soon as I saw Robert approach, I knew things were gonna' be all right. These guys know me, and when all my marbles starting rolling around loose in the box? They are the ones to tilt me until they all roll to the corner. ;)
Setting the laptop up, "Closer To The Heart" began its' presentation as I explained what our program was about tonight and what objects we'd be looking at. Malibar Farms offers an incredible southern vista and everything through Scorpius, Ophiuchus, the Galactic Center, and Saggitarius would be the focus of our telescopes. With Mars blazing up in the east, I didn't keep the folks long. They were here for a show, and AFY will provide one! As the kids laughed and ran, we began our hunt in earnest... Each one of us went from object to object doing the "Nickle Tour" for our eager guests. All of us are familiar with the finest of the Summer, and we offer them up over and over again in the eyepiece to each interested knot of people and children that visit with us.
I was super pleased with the performance of the Intes Mak tonight... I often sell this scope short because I find it a tad uncomfortable to use, but Otto must have been with me in spirit - For I had absolutely no trouble picking off each bright and beautiful Messier over and over again. (sincerely? i was suprised. as "scattered" as my afternoon had been i figured i wouldn't be able to hit the moon!) I don't know why it all came together for me this time, but it did. I didn't have any problem manuevering the scope to the right position, and the eyepieces I chose gave sparkling resolution and perfect eye relief for the general viewing audience. Kudos, Intes... This was what the "Ottoman" was meant to do... And do it, it did!!
Of course, that old Celestron 4.5 was behind me. When I was packing the "Ottoman" in the car, it kept rocking back and forth on its' tripod legs like an impatient child, anxious to take on the night again. I almost left it, for the Orion 4.5 was already packed as well, but I didn't have the heart. Even though I didn't use it for than three or four objects, I know that many sets of hands toured the stars with it last night. And that's when the old Celestron is the happiest! When I hear "I'm afraid I might break something..." I gently explain that there is nothing you can harm and to enjoy! While I set the Mak on M4, M19, M63, M8, M22, M28, M25, M20, M21, M17, M16, and the M11... It was the pleasure of the old one to give views of Albeiro, the "Coathanger" and Mizar and Alcore. While one sought out the M57? The other would contain Mars... When one would hold the M27? The other would offer M15... It's a splendid way to fly, I tell you... The Andromeda Galaxy in one scope and the "Double Cluster" in the other!
During this time, another old and dear friend arrived. How wonderful it is to see Joe! I imagine he thinks I'm crazy... For I told him about this non-stressed, unplugged kinda' group and he comes into what looks like a Romper Room session! Hey... It's cool. We're all "Do Bees" here, aren't we? ;) And as the evening wears on it is my pleasure to join him at his exceptional Celestron Mak/Cas for everything from the singular beauty of carbon stars to ridiculously high power (and suprisingly satisfactory) views of Mars. Not long after, our guests began to filter away... Young hands full of JPL/NASA handouts and their eyes full of stars.
And the meteors kept right on blowing us cosmic kisses...
Now it's time to relax and just fully appreciate the night. Time to breath and really look at what's around us. The Milky Way was absolutely stunning last night, with the billows showing beautifully and I was surprised to see that "patch" I noticed at Yosemite in evidence here as well. We may not be 7000 feet above sea level here, but we are high on the night. I had promised myself to take it easy tonight and just enjoy rather than put that "science head" on and not see the beauty. I genuinely love to ask a degination of Robert and listen to the Meade seek it out. I would have hunted for 15 minutes to find the "Saturn Nebula", yet here it is in a matter of seconds! The "Helix" would never have shown in the old 4.5... Yet I don't have a problem seeing its' faint and huge ring in the 10". I ask for NGC7331 and he gives it to me and hands me the keypad. Just touching the controls a breath south is all it takes for me to see the widely averted, but very there Stephan's Quintet jump out. It's just an honest pleausre to ask for this NGC or that.. And moments later to be viewing them. To this wonderful driven scope, it doesn't matter if you want to look and the NGC7789 this moment, or the M1 the next. It takes you there...
Boy, does it ever take you there.
Again, we move from scope to scope. We talk, we laugh, we share snacks, stories and our love of the night. It's a no pressure situation and the hours pass all too quickly. It has been a highly successful night for Astronomy For Youth. We had a wonderful turn-out and the night could not have been better! One by one, our group disbands... We bid each a happy good night and look forward to the next time. When all is said and done? Robert and I are the only two left. We talk about imaging and I am so proud to see the work he has done with CCD! We talk about the different things we like to do and the places we'd like to see... And Saturn was one of them, eh? It was nice to watch the "Ring King" again, and to spend some quality time teasing each other and the optics into catching the positions of the minor moons.
Did somebody say Moon??
Oh, ya' had to, didn't you? Just go and rise like that... Sneaking up through the trees on silent silver feet. Nearby in the wood, an owl trills over and over again, anxious to be on the hunt. (are you sure you won't let me sneak in the woods and blair witch those kids in the tent?? it would be sooooo fun... and you know it, too! ;>) Even though the light encroaches across our happy observing area, casting long shadows and reminding us of the chill in our old bones, there is time for just one more... There always is, isn't there? And there is no finer way to end the night than with the beauty of the M42.
I drive back west with the bright orb of Mars running just ahead of me. The silver slice of Moon lights up the landscape revealing the white-tail deer that stand like silent sentinels along the highway. I finish my last cup of coffee as I drive listening to the perfect accoustic stylings of Travis Meeks. Robert had bet me that I would set up the scope when I returned to the backyard, and part of me smiled as I found myself drawn toward just that temptation. Instead I find myself content to find my sweats, an old quilt and a seat in the redwood chair. H dances about in the silver-blue shadows, intent on his doggy missions while I concentrate on a sumptuious cuisine of Chef Boyardee mini ravioli and a cold Bud Light. Overhead the meteors are still streaking as the Earth begins to turn into the dawn of a new day.... I don't try to catch them anymore. I've chased my last rainbow. Mars has taken the train west...
And I'm just countin' stars.
"And it feels... And it feels like Heaven is so far away. And it stings. Yeah, it stings now. The world feels so cold... Now that you've gone away."
September 17, 2003 - At the Observatory....
Comments: Another near perfect Ohio night in the offing. I had spoke to Bruce and I knew that he was going to the Observatory tonight and extended the invitation to me as well. What a choice! Do I stay here where the sky is definately a bit darker and practice the "Nickel Tour" with the new little Orion, or do I head east and enjoy an evening of galaxy hunting with the Bossman?
Arriving just a bit before true sky dark, I walk up the steps to see that Bruce has set his 12.5 Meade EQ mount up on the concrete observing area. I know I probably turned my head a bit at his choice, but he smiled and told me to go look inside and I'd understand. Oh, hello Monty. Check this out! They've spend the afternoon working on the big scope and the new light shroud is in place... You cannot believe how immense the scope looks when it's covered like this. Blocking out stray light is going to mean picking up at least another magnitude in reach if not more! Fantastic...
Heading back outside, Bruce tells me he's set the scope on Mars because his parents are coming for a visit. Cool! I like his Mom and Dad. (eventually all parents will sooner or later tell some embarrassing childhood moment that can and will be used to eternally tease the heck out of you...) Of course, it's not terribly dark yet and while he and Monty go back inside the dome to ready for the galaxy hunt, I grin and look around myself.
Ya' left me all alone. ;)
Whistling Van Halen's "Runnin' With The Devil", I sneaked off down the stairs thinking wicked thoughts. Instead of the notepad I had brought up with me, I wanted that black case that held the laptop and the webcam. Ya' feeling lucky, Cor? Wham, bam Amsterdam... Let's give it a go. Sneaking an extension cord out the door, I hooked up and turned on the program. &(**#!! The ToUCam isn't responding properly. OK. This wouldn't be the first time. It's a touchy little bugger and a few minutes later I've got it imaging. Remembering Victor's lessons, I started by putting my barlow in behind what I am assuming was either a 9 or 10mm eyepiece. Hold the cammy up, and... BINGO! Four feet away from me on the picnic table I see the image of Mars walk out on screen. But... I can't hold the cam and start the program. (and bruce is big enough to kick my butt for even thinking about black tape.) Grrrrrr.... Fine then. Out with the eyepiece, on with the adapter and let's try hands free prime focus. So where the heck did Mars go? Har... Let's see you try prime focus on a small object. It's not that easy. A few minutes later I have a orange ball on screen with the perfect reflection of the secondary and spider... Got 'cha. All I need to do is focus and... Focus and.... Grrrrrr!!!!! Out with the barlow... Focus and... Oh, my... And then the program freezes!!!
1... 2.... 3.... Disconnect this crap.
Vic? You're awesome. You have got to have the patience of a saint to do what you do! Here I've got the perfect set up - polar aligned and with drive - and how you managed with an undriven dob has got to be a feat unrivaled. I guess I just don't have the patience to do this type of thing. Cor? Hop a plane, my friend. I will put it all in your hands... It's beyond me.
Listening to Windows making it's little shut down song, I put away the rest of the junk and set it where the dew won't get to it. There's a great big beautiful sky out there and people coming. Imaging that takes more than 3 minutes is asking ~T to do something that runs against my grain. Stroke a cat's fur the wrong way and see how long it takes to either get bit or scratched, OK? I don't want to watch the sky on screen... I wanna' see it in my eyes! And I walk the walk I know so well... The trees here have already obscured Scorpius (what a crime) but Ophiuchus is still prime. I start my globular hunt, rejoicing in each find. I've never used Bruce's scope before... And yet it feels like I always have. I know the 12.5 inside and out... And it moves as familiarly under my hands on this equatorial as the old Celestron does.
M19 and M63 are my first two objects of choice. Like my own dobsonian, the pier mount means that some obviously beautiful targets like the M10 and M12 will require that I be on the ladder to aim. Right now, my experimentations with the webcam have left me "grounded" and that's where I'd just as soon stay. But, ya' know what M19 and M63 are simply gorgeous. Both fully resolve out except for that underlying density and I can feel myself begin to relax and just enjoy using Bruce's scope. While Saggitarius is high, I move across the "bottom" to pick out the M54, M70 and M69. Again, I am terribly pleased with being allowed to use his scope freely and I'm having a terrfic time! I start back up toward Al Nasl to do some comparison between our two scopes when I see lights coming. Ah, the parents have arrived! Chosing instead to set it on the uncomparable M22, I leave it set while while greetings go round. After his parents have had a look, I turn it back to Mars for them and postion the eyepiece where it is comfortable for "on the ground" study. I hear drums...
And they're playing Godsmack.
"Do like I told you...." Taking my leave, I walk down the Hill to visit with Sean for awhile. The man can play the drums! I know he didn't see me sneak in, but his smile is genuine. He knows I like to watch and thoroughly appreciate his talent! "Headstrong to take on anyone...." He doesn't mind if I sing along, and I sure don't mind the music! You'd have to watch to understand... This ain't Jean-Paul tappin' on a snare here... This isn't your kid thumping around. Sean is every inch a dedicated rocker, and the amount of energy combined with raw talent will impress you. When he finishes a solo? If you're not revved... You're brain dead. The man is very, very good!
Wishing him the best, I wander back up the Hill and find Mr. S ready to do some more of the night. Bruce and Monty are still hunting galaxies, and I am quite content to play out here. Heading for the splendid visage of the M17, we see lights once again and I am introduced to a fine young couple of home educators and their two children. Of course, this means that I'm as at "home" as I am in my own kitchen...
Smiling, I begin drawing the finest of the sky out for them to enjoy and I explain what each and every one of them are. I am in essence giving "Closer To The Heart" a trial run with a scope almost a familiar to me as the one that inspired this month's AFY program. Again, we repeat the Saggitarian journey... M8, M22, M28, M20, M21, M23, M17, M25, and portions of the M24. It feels a bit odd to me, for usually I use a much lower power eyepiece... I can't "hunt" like I'm used to and I have to play by the rules.... But I've played the game once or twice, eh? ;) As we seek out the "Wild Ducks", I can only smile in the dark at the appreciative noises made at the eyepiece as each takes their turn. We move on for a bit, talking about constellations and the movements of the sky while we view a much more stable Mars. The conversation somehow makes its' way to double stars and we're off again! Albeiro about breaks my neck, but it's a small price to pay for the gasp of pleasure at the beauty! Others, such as Mizar and Alcor, Polaris, and Almach follow... Each true beauties! And as we view? I am warmed by the touch of a small hand in mine as we walk about the Dome, talking of the night and how things work.
Bruce calls out that there is something in the eyepiece of the big scope that is of interest, and I am alone once again. Smiling, I climb on the ladder and take on the Cassiopeian clusters while they visit inside... The kids always like ET, but again, I've got a bit too much power here for that one - 32mm in the 12.5 is perfect for some of these, and I don't want to intrude. When they return, we set the scope upon the M31. The Andromeda Galaxy's core is all we can see under high mag... But as I explain how to move the scope the NGC206 becomes amazingly prominent. The kids are beginning to tire, and I try to make them smile by offering up a "donut" in the sky. Do you think I could hit the M57 to save my soul? Har, de har har. Moving back up to the M27, we talk about what causes planetary nebulae and why they are shaped the way they are.... Then I notice a light. This light moves like only this light can. It's the ISS!! As I grin at the night again not believing our incredible luck, we watch as the International Space Station catches the rays of the still hidden Sun and jumps to an incredible magnitude. We watch it sail serenely across the sky and talk a moment about the Space Program. Of course, this leads to the now famous "box" and happy children have their hands full of stickers, cards and such to remember the night by. Bless ya' JPL/NASA....
But what about that donut you promised us?
And I try for the "Ring" again. Swish... You can run, but ya' can't hide! The ultimate beauty at this high power brings on those gasps of revelation that are to me the highest reward an amateur astronomer can ask for.
Before our company leaves, I ask the younger gentleman if he would like to aim the scope and show him how to locate the "Double Cluster." I roll the tube for him and point it in the general direction. When we get a bit lost, it only takes a gentle hand guiding from the back of the scope to get it back in the ballpark again, and a few minutes later he has the NGC884 ready to be viewed. We take turns at the eyepiece and I slip quietly away to get another eyepiece. I know where a 40mm, 2" is at, and when we make the switch? The gasps start again! The NGC869 and NGC884 are finest under low power. As we wish Bruce's parents a good night and safe drive, I am asked if we can do the Andromeda Galaxy again. Grinning, it is my pleasure to watch as he repositions the scope and finds the mark. And something very wonderful happens. He sees the M32 for the first time! Laughing out loud, I explain how to find the M110 as well. I am happy to sit here at the picnic table and listen to the descriptions with a young astronomer sleeping by my side. Our guests have had a wonderful night... Their eyes filled with "shooting stars", men in space, and all the bright and beautiful things the arm of the Milky Way has to offer.
As goodbyes are said, the thanks go two-fold... They appreciate what I have shown them and they have given me the pleasure of their company. When the lights are hidden by the woods, I turn to Mars once again. It's the "deer"... Mare Cinnerium. Not bad, but definately not as exciting as the distant galaxies. I cover Bruce's scope, for the Moon is not far from rising. I put things away and I hear my name called out from above...
"Hey. You gotta' see this."
When I go up on the lift, he has a galaxy cluster in view. My own excitement builds, for I think I have seen this one before! I have to search through my memory and finally get it... Copeland's Septet. Of course, the next day when I looked it up, I realized it was in Leo, and I knew darn well Bruce was working in Pegasus. Sometimes I'm wrong, but if you were to see the galaxy formation with NGC7342 as it's major component ringed by UGCs... You'd know what I was talking about. The similarities were uncanny. We looked at a few other galaxies as well, but I left my notes on the ground and there really isn't room with three on the lift. We explored a few other galaxies until the Moon had well risen, and it was time to put things away.
When it was all said and done, it was nice to sit at the picnic table and enjoy a coke and a smoke. I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I still do. I ain't got much of a reason to care. The Moon lights up the night so brightly it almost seems like you could read. We talk about this, that and the other... It's a good time. We say our goodbyes and go our seperate ways. My own journey is pleasant as I stop for coffee at the 24/7 restaurant and return to the backyard to sit upon the bench and look up at the brilliant stars and the Moon carressing the night while H explores the shadows. I know that Hurricane Isabel will spin the clouds our way for a couple of days and I best enjoy the stars while I can. It's pleasant to sit here in the dark, and a true delight to see a bright meteor scratch the face of the sky. Sometimes I try so hard not to think... But I still do. You were like trying to hold on to a shooting star...
And I'm tired.
"Leaving flowers on this grave... To show that I still care. But my black clothes and Hail Mary's... Can't bring back what's taken from me.
September 16, 2003 - M4, NGC6144, M6, M7, NGC6441, NGC6522, NGC6528, M28, NGC6638, M22 and "Lost In Saggitarius"...
Comments: No, I haven't gone crazy. It's still the same date as the last, because I work some very offbeat hours. Tonight I crave study. I want the exercise, the routine and the steadiness of study. I could tell that another dark and gorgeous Ohio night was on hand, and so my choice was the 12.5. Pulling it out to the south field, I waited on suitable skydark to arrive by not being outside. When I stepped out just before 9:00, I could have cried it was so black. You would have to see the skies here. The "lightdome" at best extends no more than 10 degrees above the true horizon. From there it is like it is cut off... Black. Blank. Full of stars! There are nights when even this modest light is not present and the stars walk down to to ground.
And it looks like you can touch Heaven....
I started off with the well-westered, but fully visible Scorpius and the M4. The 12.5 rips the M4 into perfection, but I seek something just a bit more out of the ordinary, eh? That's why I push Antares influence (hey, green dude!) and nebulosity out of the way to seek out miniscule globular NGC6144. It's a pefect example of the small halo structures I so admire. Again, I am feeling this deep rooted need to practice and so I head to the M6 and M7. Here I am doing myself a disservice. In just a couple of days, the AFY will be doing a public program we have lovingly named "Closer To The Heart", (geez... i wonder who wrote that?) and these two objects will be part of it. Why is this a disservice?? Probably because with my 12.5 these a clean cut features in the finder. My new little Celestron is a laser reflex that I haven't practice with, and to top it all off, it's not accurate. Will I be able to pull it off?
Hmmmmm.... What do you think?
The next target I head for is NGC6441, not far from the M7, this particular globular accompanies orange star, Lambda Scorpii. It's small, and the third magnitude star takes a bite out of it, but as I view the beginnings of resolution through the 12.5 I realize that Robert's quality 10" Meade is going to be able to suck this one out just fine. Excellent! The NGC6522 and NGC6528 will probably present a resolution problem, however. Just a breath west of Al Nasl, this same field pair shows only the grainy texture (6522) of the brighter one, while the perhaps magnitude lesser appears as nothing more than globular form tonight. But, don't get me wrong! I ain't complainin'... I've like this particular pair because they are often overlooked for the grander M22 which I will get to in a bit.
M28 comes first, though. Again, I tend to pick on ones that most don't go for. I guess I like those offbeat targets, eh? M28 is a splendidly rich little fellow, simply chock full of stars and just as pretty as a globular cluster as you could ask for. In moving toward the M22, the next is another small fellow, but researching and showing the halo structure is what this partiuclar excercise s about. The NGC6638 is small, but again, we are talking about differences in globular clusters! If they were all alike, they would be rather boring, wouldn't they? But hey.... There is not a damn thing boring about the M22. M13, move over, dude. If i could present these dark of skies at the Observatory, I seriously doubt everyone would think the "Great Hercules Globular" to be the end-all of structure. A 12.5 will take the M22 and turn it into a fantasy of resolution. It is with this scope that you can see that there is no perfection to globular perimeters. What would appear to a smaller scope as round form is blown apart and shattered into a seething mass of stars that vary anywhere from a half to a whole magnitude apart in brightness. There are no real words to describe the utter beauty... You gotta' see for youself!!
You gotta' have this love...
I am finding myself slowing reverting to the sense of awe and wonder that I have always felt while viewing the Saggitarius region. When you begin to break things down into terms of this seeing condtion or that... And this desgination and this structure caught with this eyepiece... You touch both my hemispheres. A real "science" part of me wants to explain to you the stucture that can be caught within the "Trifid". The teacher portion of my brain wants you to understand why the M17 looks the way it does. And the real me wants to put the scope of the M16 and breathe life back into you again. This is the beauty that makes it all worthwhile! Can you not feel it? How can you look at Mars when everything you could ask for is right in front of you? Do you not remember the perfection of that semi-Magellanic cloud of the Wizard's Galaxy? Doesn't knowing that planetary that is there make you ache for the excitement and pleasure you once had in discovery?
I guess I'm gently saying goodbye. Can you hear me now?
"And it feels... And it feels like Heaven is so far away. And it feels... And it feels like the world has grown cold... Now that you've gone away. Gone away... Gone away...."
September 16, 2003 - Moon Walk...
Comments: Still hanging around in the vampyre world. I thought I'd get up a bit early for some practice being as how it rained the night before. Really, it's probably a good thing that it did, because I needed the rest. Oddly enough, I should have been up early enough to date this report the 15th, but ol' lazy bones here didn't even roll over until after midnight! Ah, well... At least I had time to shower, have a cup of coffee and about 15 minutes to do a bit of Moon Walking...
Now, let's try something a bit different, eh? So often times you judge the caliber of what I do just by what you see here... So let's try something new! The photo I'm placing here is just slightly less clear that what can be seen in the eyepiece because of the way WebTV formats video footage... But be patient and roll with me, OK? What we're going to do is take you on a stroll down NASA's memory lane first with just what you might see in the eyepiece and show you how to identify features!! (by the way, ed... it's a cobwebbed and dirty Celestron 4.5 reflector, a JVC camcorder, a smeared and chipped old eyepiece... and it took me 4 minutes. kiss, kiss. ;)
In this photo there are three prominent craters to the left that ring together. These are (from top to bottom) Catherina, Cyrillus, and Theophilus. Congratulations! You've learned some features...
Now let's dig deeper...
Now, looking a Cyrillus, there is a shallow crater just to the right of it... That's Ibn Rushd. (i've been rushed? oh, save me... alright. we are. we've got 10 minutes left!) Dig it. Now, see that big mountain? That's Mon Penck. (pink? and rushed? hehehehe...) At the "top" of that is crater Kant. (can't? here we go again...) To the bottom of the mountain is crater Zollner. (and a whole lot more that are just numbers. Now! Look at that penisula like feature, the pear shaped dude in the middle of that is Hyapatia. All right! Now you're cookin'... Just off the tip of that feature and to the right of that is two shallow, overlapping rings. Got 'em? Now, here the fun part! Those are Sabine and Ritter. Right beside that to the left is a tiny dark marking... Dude? That's where Apollo 11 landed!!! Just above that, and I mean only a couple of pixels above that, is where Surveyor 5 scouted out the landing area. And just a pixel left is where Ranger 6 bit the dust on February 2, 1964. Now! If you see the bright ring just to the right of Sabine? That's Dionysius, form a right triangle with this pair to bottom and you got where Ranger 8 successfully landed! Had enough? Alrighty, then... Go to the upper right quarter of the frame and see where a line of three craters move from top to bottom curving toward the middle. See 'em? Now... See that rille that runs right off of 'em in the picture? Swish... That's where Apollo 16 landed!
Now... I really wanna' cry when I look at this sky. It's crystal clear, stable as a concrete floor, and I know that doubles would be walking and talking.. And... I gotta' leave for work.
Figures, don't it?
"Ripped away before your time.. I can't deal... It so unfair."
September 14, 2003 - The Moon...
Comments: Still workin' in the night world. I was glad to see that the Moon was on the rise when I first woke tonight, for that means as I migrate back to the dayshift the early evenings will once again provide opportunity to study deep sky objects... Or at very least practice finding them!
Hey... I still dig the Moon.
I took the most brief of passes over Mars tonight, for Syrtis Major is still on the limb and the features that are present now I don't find particularly exciting. Instead, I prefer to move on to La Luna and see what's cookin' on the lunar surface. While there, I usually do two things... Find a feature that I think is photographic - Like the end of Mare Crisium here...
And I find a particular place to study.
The multi-ringed structure of Janssen, Metius and Fabricus were real attention getters tonight. The structure of all three craters blend together. They offer a few, soft central peaks - but the many interior craterlets are what really make this trio interesting! Oddly enough, I find another crater to be very notable tonight as well - Posidonus. It looks to be quiet shallow in this light, and if the terminator doesn't move too far ahead by tomorrow it should be a truly lovely sight! But honestly? Let's hope I've done a bit of deep sky and got myself in bed by the time the Moon rises tomorrow... And I'll dream about you.
Life is short. Play it while you can....
"Maybe in another life... I could find you there."
September 13, 2003 - The Sun...
Comments: No, my dates are not mixed up. Vampyres are occassionally permitted a bit of Sun and I had the opportunity today so I took it. I had been following the solar surface virtually for some time, because there hasn't been any type of activity in awhile and I was anxious to see the "old" kid on the block.
It's name is 456...
Yeah? Well, me too..
"Watch the world die... Watch the world die... Watch the world die..."
September 13, 2003 - The Moon and Mars...
Comments: Hey. This is why I love Ohio. We've had our share of clouds over the last few months, but things are going back to normal now. I'm back amoungst the vampyres again, and when I awake it is to see the world lit in silver. The Moon will be my close companion over the next few days and that's all right by me. For one of the reasons I love Ohio nights so much if for the absolutely stunning stability they offer...
Further north, the ancient Langrenus holds fascination - but not like Furnerius. Right at the moment, it is catching the light just right to see the stepped walls and more than one central peak. Just absolute perfection! The Rheita Valley looks pretty daggone good as well, but right now I'm feeling happy with what I've seen and I'm curious about this stability and Mars...
Even with the 4.5, details snap to attention with as little as the modest magnfication a 25mm eyepiece provides. Still huge, it is no trouble at all to see the Syrtis Major is the feature of the moment. Nothing else looks like this deep wedge! Kicking the power up on Mars as well, I'm delighted to see that the south polar cap is still quite in evidence. It doesn't shine the way it did earlier in the year, but the "underline" still makes it an easily seen feature. Even unfiltered, it's not hard to pick out the pale oval of Hellas Basin either... Very, very nice! I hope those who had time and inclination tonight went to the Observatory to do Mars... It would have been worth the trip.
I look about the skies and decide to go no further tonight. It's enough that I've gotten to enjoy a few minutes of my hobby before leaving for work. Hopefully the days to come will bring equally steady views with a bit less Moon, eh? It's been too long since I've chased double stars and I'm ready again.
Time for me to fly...
"We could live beside the ocean... Leave the fire behind. Swim out past the breakers... And watch the world die."
September 11, 2003 - "343"... Never Forget...
Comments: I did not have to buy an American flag for today. I own one and I always have. I took it outside with pride this morning and displayed it in its' place of honour. If there was anyone watching at this hour, they would have seen me with my hand over my heart saying the "pledge of allegience". I am not a political activist. You couldn't catch me dead at a peace rally. But as the Sun sets and the sky turns from orange to indigo, you would have seen me on the front lawn lighting a torch that will burn all night. I remember September 11. I wore a discreet but noticable flag pin on my name badge today. I was shocked and disappointed that no one else did... Have you forgotten so soon??
343. I will never forget.
There is a very special breed of human out there. My father was one... One of my best friends in astro is another... And I spoke with one last night and it did my heart good to know he was alive and well. Who are they? They are firemen and rescue workers. Two years ago today, three hundred and forty-three of them gave their lives in service when the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. And tonight I honour them. I honour my country by flying the flag. I burn a torch during the long hours of the night to show that I remember the innocent lives that were lost... But what I do here is only for the 343.
Only the 12.5 may accompany me. There is no music except the sounds of the night. I have the 9mm eyepiece only. And I am counting stars... 343 stars. I see blue, white, yellows, and soft reds. I do not look at the constellations that these are in, nor do I just chose a star-laden field and stay there. I move randomly from one side of the sky to the next taking stars, and each time I speak aloud a number? May a fireman know I remember.
343. I will never forget.
When I have reached the number, I cover the dob in respect. Perhaps some of these brave souls also looked at the stars... Now they have become a part of them. Even though I am not religious, I know the words to "Amazing Grace". I sing to the night. I sing alone. I sing to the lost. I sing in remembrance.
"We could live beside the ocean... Leave the fire behind. Swim out past the breakers.... And watch the world die."
September 10, 2003 - "Havest" Moon...
Oh, hey! Hi! How ya' doin' tonight? Come on over here and sit down with me. No, it's ok really. I can move. Sit right here. Nice, huh? Oh, nothin' much... Just sitting here watchin' the Moon rise out of the trees. Did you see Mars over there? Yeah, it is, isn't it? I guess the slight fog over the field makes it really more red than normal, huh? Oh, yeah? Cool... I'm glad you've been watching. You gotta' admit this Moon is awesome. Oh, sure I do! They call it that because a long time ago it was the first full Moon of the Fall season and the farmers apppreciated the extra light longer into the evening so they could continue to harvest their crops. Giggle! Oh, heck, I don't know! Let me ask...
Hey! If it comes up over the mountains, do you guys get that big, phat orange look? Or do you have to wait until it sets over the ocean or something to see that?
Suppose they heard that? Heheheheee... Ah, we'll never know will we? Oh, sure! There's an extra in the cooler there, help yourself. Kinda' nice isn't it? This Moon watching... Oh, don't worry. That's just H. As long as you don't hit heads with him, you're fine. Huh? Oh, yeah! Yep. Vega, Deneb and Altair... That one over there is Arcturus. Hey! Yeah, I did! A meteor... Cool, huh? Nah, the happen quite a bit. Yeah, it rises fast doesn't it? It's about 30 degrees above the horizon now, that's why it has changed colors and looks so bright. Nah, it would kill your eyes in the scope, but ya' ought to see it when it' not full. Wanna' look anyway? Sure! Just take me a second. Watch this... Awesome, isn't it? Yeah, I told ya' it would be bright! Laser retinal scan activated... Yep. You sure can. Just yell at me next time you see me. Oh, you're welcome! Stop back anytime...
I'm always out here.
"I just wanna' see some sunshine... I just wanna' find some place to be alone."
September 9, 2003 - Mars and the Moon...
Comments: Indeed they did "switch" places tonight. It's something amateur astronomers take for granted, but it's cool to point out to somebody who doesn't really skywatch and see what their reactions are. So many people had asked me the day before at work if that bright "star" behind the Moon was Mars, and I would smile and tell them "Yes... Be sure to watch tonight because it will come up ahead the Moon this time." Of course, you know it... And I know it... And it's just fun to listen as people see it for themselves, eh?
And so I watched last night. Watched Mars twinkle, sparkles and rock as it came out of the trees. No sooner than it had cleared the distant branches than the orange fire of the Moon joined it. I was totally taken by the scene. The two were almost identical in color and the Moon was huge, swollen and absolutely gorgeous. I know there is still one day to proper "full" yet, but it looks awesome tonight. The magnifying effects of our atmosphere just make the whole thing look ethereal. Tomorrow night is the "Harvest Moon" and I find myself stupidly humming the melody as I sit in the old redwood chair nursing my chai. It's a peaceful time. Others would probably think me strange to be content to sit here with a cup of tea watching the Moon rise, but I don't pay much mind to what others think of me. I have a smile up at the few stars that show, because again the visibility is poor. But ya' know... Sometimes it's just nice to sit here... Sorta' like Eleanor Rigby.
Oddly enough I find myself walking back in to get my guitar. I've shyed away from it for far too long. The practice did me good, and I'm surprised at how my voice has changed. I gave out long before Mars and the Moon did, though... Music is like astronomy - if you don't use it? You lose it. I pick at some delicate harmony as the duo climbs into the branches of the black walnut tree. I could move elsewhere in the yard and see them fine, but it's enough that I've watched them come round the curve of the Earth.
It's all in your point of view.
"I'll walk right out into a brand new day... Insane and rising in my own weird way."
September 8/9, 2003 - The Moon and Mars...
Comments: Nope. Didn't touch a scope. Actually the visibility is really poor and while the stability is probably pretty good, I just honestly didn't feel like it. Right now this particular duo looks just fine with the naked eye! I watched them rise out of the treeline together and an hour or so later begin their climb. I kept going back outside, simply because they made a truly spectacular showing together. So many people thought that Mars looked like the Moon the other night, and it kinda' does in the scope! The albeido features can take on fanciful shapes much like the maria do on the Moon... And the next thing you know? You're seeing cows and rabbits and faces...
And all kinds of weird things.
As it becomes time for me to go to sleep, I throw my pillow down at the opposite end of the bed so I can lie on my side and watch out the south window as I go to sleep. Mars is such a brilliant orange compared to the pearl white of the Moon! So many people came to the scope and didn't see the color... And I didn't think you could miss it. Oh, well... It's just really something to fall asleep and watch this pair move across the face of the night. No finer display of the ecliptic plane could possibly exist! And the quiet beauty goes on throught the night...
It seems like I awake every few hours any way, and each time I looked out the window and watched Mars chase the Moon west. I can only smile and I imagine that they will reverse roles tomorrow night, eh? Sorta' like a "tag, you're it" game across the south... By 4:30 in the morning, I've lost them in the trees. Ah, well...
I'll see them again in my dreams.
"I don't want to be your good time... I don't want to be your fall-back crutch anymore."
September 8, 2003 - M103, NGC457, M34, NGC889/864, M45, M31, Almach, M15, M36, M37, M38, and the M42...
Comments: I went to bed early. I did not want to look at the Moon and I darn sure don't want to watch Mars any more right now As a matter of fact? I was probably asleep before the Mars had even risen out of the mist...
But I was definately awake and outside by 4:00 this morning.
I had hoped to take the dob out for a bit of dark sky before the Moon attacks this time of night as well, but there's just too much moisture and starting condensation. I probably ought to practice with the weird finder on the new little Orion, but I find myself happy just to take out the old Celestron for awhile and just stick with a 25mm eyepiece. The skies aren't that great and I'm really just in the mood for a bit of practice more than anything else.
Heading off toward Cassiopeia, I've been trying to keep my locations and numbers straight for all her open clusters. I'm positive the M103 was my first "hit". We've got a small, fairly well resolved cluster of about 50 or so stars nestled between two bright stars that orient from northwest to southeast. One is notably orangish in color. Still working right around Ruchbah, (it needs the dob) my next is so familiar to me that I can't forget its' designation although I often forget its' position - NGC457. I once called it "the angel", but after Victor told me he called it "E.T.", I certainly liked his description better and it has been E.T. ever since. Well resolved with even this small aperature, NGC457 looks like it's namesake - right down to the small red heart in the middle!
Giving a loving brush over Algol while it is at its' minimum, (we ought to be kickin' the galaxy cluster out of there, bossman... it's as low as it will go right now. i could kick myself in the butt for getting anesthesized saturday night - the sky was a full two magnitudes better. i shoulda' been studying instead of feeling sorry for myself.) I headed on toward the M34. At this low power only the brighter stars of this 100 million year old cluster show. They roughly form a figure 8 that cants again toward the northwest and southeast. Suppose my brain is just tilted that way this morning? The next target needs little or no introduction. The "Double Cluster" is truly a sky gem at low power... It is not a challenge in any way, shape, or form... But it is very nice to look at, as well as sufficiently bright under any sky conditions. The Plieades I visit because I like the blue nebulosity and immediately wish for the dob to cut apart the doubles. The M45 is nice because it's bright! And so is the Andromeda Galaxy... Like the Double Cluster before it, the M31 is easily picked off this morning as a naked eye object. But use a scope...
I want every last drop of you.
And thinkin' of you makes me think of Almach. Gamma Andromeda is definately lovely in a small scope at low power. It's gold/green goodness is easily seperated with the secondary cleanly off to the northeast. I watch this one for awhile, mainly because I know what else hides behind it. I certainly love the little scope... But it has its' Dawe's limits, doesn't it? I remember oh-so-well wanting to know why I saw a third star here... I remember your patience and the joy of discovering the answer. You taught me things about my own telescope that I instinctively knew, yet couldn't express. Aperature does rule. And you taught me there is beauty in double stars as well. Although Almach isn't any brighter in the 12.5 than it is in a 4.5... You'll never ever see the C star in small aperature. The same holds true of picking apart the doubles like Alycone and Atlas in the Plieades and it definately holds true of unmasking the planetary nebula in our next stop - the M15. Even though it's setting fairly well west at this hour, the M15 remains an excellent small globular cluster at low power. But again, the 4.5 at best will show it's embedded planetary nebula as a slightly brighter star where the dob will spit it right out.
Looking round, I thought for a moment to visit a certain beautiful silicon star, but the 4.5 won't do it justice. Instead I take practice at the M36, M37 and M38. Here again, the seasons have changed on me... And while I know the positions where these things are located, I'm having a deucedly hard time remembering which is which! Right now I just say "oh well"... They are all sufficiently rich to be included in a "Nickle Tour" and practice is of the essence here. But.... I really don't need to practice the M42. Do you realize how long it's been since I've seen the "Great Orion Nebula"?? Ow! I don't even remember anymore... I remember the weather getting crappy in the Fall of last year and that's it. Seems like I'm getting pretty daggone good at forgetting things here lately... I don't even remember telling you goodbye.
Maybe because I don't want to...
"I'm still dreaming of your face... Hungry and hollow for all the things you took away."
September 6, 2003 - Burn...
Comments: I know my reports are days behind. I don't know what's wrong with me... And yet I do. It is hard for me to write at times, but it is not writer's block. For example, how do I explain what happened on "Mars Night" and leave out the word "I"? "I" cannot be there. "I" possess no ego. The Observatory is a group effort, not the domain, property, or glory of any one person. You do not know how close I came to not writing a report at all. The right words simply did not come to me to explain what the night was like for the person on the lift of the big telescope without sounding so egotistical that it disgusted me and make you feel like ya' wanna' throw up. This scope is not mine. The Observatory is not my private domain. The crowds did not come here to see me or to hear my talk, laugh and make jokes as we went to the eyepiece. They do not care who I am or what I do. They were there for Mars and Mars only.
And if I look at Mars one more time? I will probably throw up.
There is no "glory" in this... Nor do I want any. I write what I write here because it is the way of astronomy. You are supposed to log and record all observations. How I wish I were a robot... Unthinking... Unfeeling... Capable only of writing that fact and none other. It would be a bloody short report wouldn't it? And I wouldn't feel the way I feel.... Once upon a time I wrote for my muse. I cared not what I put here, nor who read it. This is my personal log. When you come here you are in effect reading my diary. You are inside my thoughts and feelings and very often into my private world. Do you like what you see here? No. You know in your heart you cannot stand me, the same way my muse could not stand the real me. You know if you have met me that I am very human... All too human. And what goes up?
Must come down.
So I hurt. Big deal. You'll never know all that happens to make it that way, will you? At one moment I am flying high above the world and it's troubles... Taking people along on the wings of the night... And the next I am cleaning up human waste amidst all the tears for what could have been. Do you perceive me as this person? Do you really know what it is like to take a beating and to be able to face a stranger hours later with a smile? I don't shrink from your touch.... I shrink from you touching where I am bruised. These same hand that take yours and guide them to the eyepiece were just hours before cleaning up shit. Do you understand humble? I cannot stand before you in pride... For just hours before I knelt in the lowest of filth with my back breaking... Not understanding how one human being could do this to another.
Tonight I burn.
I brought as much of the wood as the truck could possibly haul. Broken doors, lattice work, tables, fencing... Whatever would burn and burn clean. I pile it a the edge of the field where it will turn into a pyre for all that has happened in the last three months. Even though I have showered, I still feel dirty. I cannot get the smell off of me. I want no food and I cannot even write to help release some of this pent-up emotion. As darkness falls, I run from trying to write and I find myself in the swimming pool. The water is truly freezing. No matter how fast I swim, I never seem to warm. When the shivers become uncontrolable, I realize I must get out. I put on dry clothing and I go by habit to the garage to put the old Celestron on the Moon. Somehow, there is no joy tonight in Gassendi. Keplar's bright rays cannot cut through the darkness in my brain... And I put it away.
I pour kerosene over the wood. I keep my lighter in my pocket, for it is one of the few things that somehow never leave there. I take it out and watch the flames dance across the junk pile that's hiding in the dark. As the flames grow higher and higher, I watch as the sparks rise up into the night. They dance amoung the stars like tiny travellers... A sacrafice to the night. The heat is almost unbearable and I move a safe distance away. There is no fear here in Ohio. I was raised by a fireman and this fire will spread no futher than where it was set. And it was set to purge...
I feel the tears run down my face as I watch the wood being consumed by the flame. The shattered door with it's few remnants of colored glass was beautiful. Did you know I did that stained glass work myself? Only a few colorful bits are left clinging to the frame and the rest lay in pieces in a bucket. I watch as the flames consume tables broken and kicked... It changes color as it reaches the ancient paint from a bird house I once lovingly hung from a tree branch. The branches themselves are from a cherry tree which I watch grow from a sprout and destroyed by careless hands. The lattice work crumbles into ash where it once proudly held a clematis vine... You wanted to hurt me? You did. I cleaned up your waste and I burnt your trash. Tell me... Who is gone and who is still here?
The fire dies and still I watch the stars. It would have been a glorious night to go double hunting, but I cannot focus tonight to do so. It would have been beautiful to visit the Moon and Mars... But I have no desire. I am drained. Hollow, defeated and empty. But don't you worry about me... I'll be fine. Next time you see me? There will be a smile on my face and a song in my head. There's a real funny thing about tears...
"We could live beside the ocean... Leave the fire behind. Swim out past the breakers... And watch the world die."
September 5, 2003 - Mars Attacks!
Comments: This was it. This was to be the big "Public Night" for the RAS/WRO to show Mars. Sure, there had been lots of opportunities the previous month, but for one reason or another things just never seemed to work out. Tonight we'd be going "out of sync" and not only having our public night, but our Club meeting on a different week day as well. I was feelin' kinda' bad because after I had taken care of both my work day and some private affairs I was definately running behind... And even worse when I arrived to see the parking lot jammed with cars!
Of course, I had arrived happy. I had the new little Orion packed in the trunk and stood outside the car talking to Robert and finishing my cup of coffee. Folks were milling about all over, and with the exception of Kenny, I couldn't see a familiar face in the crowd! Que? Where is everyone? With a grinning Robert as an escort, I grabbed the laptop and headed up the Hill. Cool... There are a few familiar faces here! And there are a couple of scopes and up running! Setting the laptop on the "Mars Program", it only took seconds before the people were "walkin' around in circles" and watching all the wonderful donations of photographs, sketches and real-time images given to the WRO for our public programs by friends over the past few weeks. Excellent! Now they've got something to do... Let's give 'em something to look at!
Somebody (bless 'em) had at least the foresight to get the Dome open and start things cooling down. Walking inside, I was sure glad to see Mike getting things uncovered. How I wished there weren't so many people around for I would have loved to have heard about his adventures at the recent Black Forest Star Party. Even though it wasn't quite dark yet, the ol' Moon was shining brightly and it's time for us to earn our pay, gentlemen...
Let's show 'em what we got!
It didn't take long for people to head to the Dome as soon as they saw it rotate around toward the Moon. Robert tilted her up and I hopped in the lift and put an eyepiece in and fine tuned it on Copernicus...
And that's the last I saw of the ground for 450 minutes.
What a true honour it was to be able to watch people's faces as they see the Moon in all it's glory for the first time. Each time we go up, I look below and see the crowd growing larger and larger by the second. As our visitors are at the eyepiece, you can look out of the slit and see the line of cars coming up the Hill and the observing area below is a mass of laughing children and a sea of strangers. How wonderful it is!! Isn't this what we all want? What we look forward to? The Warren Rupp Observatory is alive tonight!!! Below, I cannot fathom how many faces are inside the Dome. As soon as Mars has cleared the horizon enough to set the big scope on it, we do. Switching eyepieces again, we start with the ladder and I stand by as I get a chance to talk with the people and keep Mars in the field of view. What seems like moments later, I am back in the lift and the people continue to come through the door... With the exception of a small strip of floor, (yes, i'm sorry but you can't stand directly under the scope for your body heat makes waves in the image...) the Dome is filled to capacity and they do not stop coming inside!
I think Mars has attacked. ;)
And for each face? I can only put myself in your place as I know you have stood here for hours and hours just to see the view. When you are here? You are given undivided attention and the best possible answers to your questions. The eyepiece is yours! (and i can only hope that you are not too disappointed that this is not the hubble...) We chase Mars higher and higher into the sky... Those who were first in line got to view the planet in its' glorious color, while those who waited for six hours or more got the details. How wonderful it was to hear people's descriptions of what they saw! People envisioned the albeido features from everything from a deer to a duck. We had dogs, we had Mars in a bikini, we even had an animal cracker on a distant planet! And the gasp as the still visible polar cap snapped into view and the look of realization on their face as the atmosphere is explained.
Why then, so many different descriptions? Because we were there for hours and hours and hours, amigos... In the time we watched we covered over a third of the Martian globe. Once again, the need to readjust the scope's position and focus every few minutes meant that I got to sneak a view Mars' changes for a few brief seconds over a period of almost eight hours... What a gift!
I can only hope that for each one of our visitors, you know that smile was 100% genuine. The laughter and happiness that was brought here tonight by the many people has set a new record! We are estimating that approximately 400 people have made their way into Hidden Hollow tonight, a record held only by Comet Halley. When it has thinned down to only a handful of us left, it is nice to feel the warmth of those closest to you. It was fun, wasn't it guy? You don't know how much it meant to know you were there... And perhaps you do, eh? A smile, a hand re-adjusting things, a warm coat, a laugh... And just someone to talk to when it was all said and done. Little scope never made it out of the car, did it? Hehehehee... Ah, well. It'll be along for the ride in two weeks. For now, time for me to head west.....
It was a pleasure to see Saturn and Titan again throught Joe's scope. It was wonderful to see Bubba and to meet his wife! (gad... you guys waited the entire night! look at it this way... at least i knew when i saw you below it was the end of the line!) I am sure that many other members of the RAS were also in attendance but I didn't get a chance to visit with you. I'd love to hear your stories of what happened tonight! Gentlemen? I think we just made a little bit of Observatory history...
As I walk to my car, the man in the funny hat follows me. You know, I think you are one of the reasons I keep coming back! You just always have a way of making me smile and feel good about things again. It was a long, long night, Sir...
And good to know that you were here.
"I just want to see some palm trees... And I will try to shake away this disease."
September 4, 2003 - "Day" and Night...
Comments: His name was Mr. Day. I have absolutely no clue about the man. I do not know what he looks like, all I know is that he came to visit the WRO from the state of New York and it's rained all week. I can sympathize with that. Trust me. I know precisely what it's like to be out of state on an astronomy vacation and at the mercy of the weather or the place you are at. I know he did get a short time to work with Bruce the other night, but I also know that it's been crappy since then and the man doesn't have his own transportation. What a bummer! And there are cool astronomy related things to do in Ohio... They're pretty far away, but... Why on earth would I drive so far out of my way to go see someone I've never met? Why would I take a chance on a total stranger? Let's just say Otto Piechowski, John Chappell, Tom Harrison, Jeff Barbor, Paul Bradshaw, and Mark Buxbaum stood right inside my conscious line of thought smiling... They took a chance on me, didn't they? I am a firm believer in "what goes around, comes around" and I think it's time to repay kindness with kindness.
So, I called Mr. Day in his motel room. I asked Mr. Day if he would like to accompany me to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum on my day off... And I wasn't suprised when he said "yes". For a few people who are close to me, they knew I was a little worried that I might of gone just a step too far, but the moment I laid eyes on Mr. Day I knew it was gonna' be all right. The journey across the Ohio farmgrounds was long, but I didn't mind. By the time we had made it significantly west, the skies had cleared and a least we had a bit of sunshine to comment on. I could only smile in Mr. Day's direction as I watched him do precisely what I did on a recent trip to Yosemite. Trust me, I understand and it's all right.
It was truly my pleasure to see him enjoying the Museum. I love the wall with all the Ohio astronauts. I never get enough of looking at the exhibits nor peering inside the Gemini... If you read and never been? Please! Be my guest at: Road Trip - The Neil Armstrong Air And Space Museum. I know each of us finds different aspects of the history more than others and one of my particular favorites is indeed the original Gemini craft...
And, like I said, each of us tends to be fascinated more by some things than others. While Mr. Day looked at what he liked, I looked at what I liked. Of course, you realize that he eventually had to break my rapt fascination with staring at the moon rock don't you? And I tend to get a bit comatose when faced with Armstrong's suit he wore on the Moon as well. I know my eyes glaze over when I get in the room where these two particular displays are located. I also know that I might stand and look at the daggone rock for 30 minutes and not even realize it. It is entirely possible for me to stand by the case with an old spacesuit that was on the lunar surface with a bit of drool on my lip and a faraway look in my eyes long enough to make people wonder. Ask me if I care, eh? If you can't look at these two things and not feel a huge swell of pride and a deep satisfaction of knowing that they're real... It was all real! And it's right here? Oh, my... Then perhaps you aren't old enough to remember July 20, 1969?
"Houston? This is Tranquility Base... The Eagle has landed."
Of course, I am waxing nostalgic here. I am sorry to ramble on, but I was raised in the era where astronauts were heros. To me, the Armstrong Museum brings back all those great childhood memories of sitting inside a box with a bowl on my head pretending to be John Glenn orbiting the earth. It was a daydream that lasted me a lifetime I guess... For I still follow launches and watch the Space Program with eager eyes. Pathfinder took my name to Mars, and each time I look at the Moon I remember Surveyor, Ranger and Apollo. As I look up at a replica of Sputnik, I remember as a child watching with my parents as it flew overhead. My world did not contain thoughts of "Red", for my generation knew that one day there would be a time when things would change! And change the did, my friends... Right up until the moment the world gave us "Hope".
Mr. Day? I thank you for accompanying me once again to the Museum. I hope in some small way that out day spent together will help make up for all the rainy nights.
The call went out in the e.mail as soon as it looked as if the weather would clear. Mr. Day had a dream while he visited here in Ohio to be able to see the moons of Mars which show so clearly and easily in the 31" scope at Warren Rupp Observatory. I feel badly that I have spent so many of my nights here recently working and that I am not able to grant his wishes. As I take my own telescopes out for a walk round the night, I can only hope that someone else takes a few moments of their time to grant the wishes of a visitor. Who knows when the "Day" may come that the wishes will be yours??
While the 12.5 reaches stabilization and Mars climbs higher into the night, I take the old Celestron out for a "moon walk" of my own...
Actually my point of study tonight was Eratosthenes, but I liked this bit of scenery so I included it for my illustration. This particular expanse of notable craters such as Plato, Aristillus, Archimedes and Autolycus is just nice. My goal was to wait on a steady moment to pick up the north/south intersecting wall that cruises the center of Eratosthenes crater and to appreciate Sinus Aestuum as well. It's nothing more than a pleasant way to spend some time while waiting on Mars.
Yes, tonight I used the 12.5 on Mars. There was a reason, and the reason was given to me by Mr. Day. The other night it was my privelege to watch Phobos rotate out from round the planet and tonight Diemos is at its' greatest western elongation. At magnitude 12.5 it should not present a challenge to the "Great White", and as I settle in at the eyepiece to watch, I spy what I hope to be is the correct "wink". With the 12.3mm wide field eyepiece, it only takes a second to catch the "drift" and only a split second more to realize Diemos' position. If I had not been aware of it, sir? I would have said this was nothing more than a "star"...But the star of my "day" was you.
I hope your wishes came true.
"I don't want to be the bad guy... I don't want to do your sleep walk dance anymore."
September 3, 2003 - The Sun and the Moon...
Comments: That's right. The Sun! And the Moon! A bit of clearish weather here in Ohio means an opportunity to have a visit with two of my favourite astronomical targets. The Sun was not exactly an awe-inspiring sight today with my ordinary, average filter. Actually? It was kinda' dull. There were only just a few sunspots visible and none of them were complex enough to write home to Ma about. There was one on the limb that was causing a bit of granulation, and two pair toward the center that pretty much resembled the constellation of Lyra without Vega. This pair is named 449 and 450, and both are very, very ordinary. Simply spots with small mature and very regular penumbra, these paticular features don't hold any promise of excitement over the days to come.
Of course, it was long thereafter until I could see the Moon shining in the daylight and I had half a notion to set the scope on it then in case it clouded back up. But, no. The only time I "daylight Moon" is if I have the fortune of doing something for a school or such at that time. I'd much rather wait until dark!
And dark brings it's own rewards. A slight haze means some difficulty getting camera to cooperate 100% for illustrations, but I'm not exacting racing Ed Grafton here. At best I throw in a couple of quick, unaltered frames for you to smile at and erase 'em later. ;) Tonight's first smile came at lower power as I look and wonder "Who bruised the Moon"?
And if ya' can't love her for that? Then go north...
A feature I did not photograph tonight (yes, i did) but spent a bit of time looking at is at the extreme south. It is called Curtius. To the eye it is nothing more than a deep, dark well. To the brain? I read where the angle on this crater means that it has never seen the sunlight since its' been formed. Ever! Scientist believe that Curtius might hide information from the beginning of the Moon's formation that could help us to better understand the chemistry and geology of the time. So, while to the eye, Curtius might just be another hole in the Moon? To the mind, Curtius holds all kinds of possibilities!!
From there, I stood and watched Mars beginning to rise and rise well. I thought for a few minutes about doing some observation and discarded the notion. The old Celestron and I have practiced a bit of astronomy today, and that's what we're all about. We do what we like, when we like it. I did notice the "Scotty's Star" seems to be brightening again, though... It's been a while since I played with variables. And as I look round, I see many fine opportunities for doubles studies as well. The Sun... The Moon... Planets... Variable and Double Stars... Nebulae... Clusters... Galaxies... Spectra...
The fun doesn't ever need to end, does it?
"With my big black boots and my old suitcase..... I do believe I'll find myself a new place."
September 2, 2003 - Of Vampyres and Rain...
Comments: Of course I am still working the graveyard shift... Would you have me any other way? I like the peace and quiet of the night. Light hurts my eyes and darkness suits me. It is only this rain I hate! I wake when the skies are dark, hoping to spend a few stolen moments with the Moon... Or perhaps fly away to another galaxy before leaving for the city. But nooooooo.... It's gotta' rain.
And I'm a clumsy Vampyre.
As I left last night for work, I habitually looked up. I stepped right off the deck, looking up to see if there were any stars out and walked directly into the small black walnut tree I've been cultivating. Needless to say, the wet branch swacked me across the face, scared the devil out of me, and I ended up on my behind in the very wet rock garden. Nothing was hurt but my pride, and after I got done picking squished hostas and lilies off my backside, I figured if anyone noticed my clothes were wet they just had no damn business being out that late. By the time I had driven halfway to work, I was at least able to smile about the incident and througly enjoy continuing my life as a creature of the night. I delight in napping my breaks away in dark corners... There is something so satisfactory about stepping out of the shadows and scaring the dickens out of my unwary and less night oriented co-workers. I just like being wicked.
And so another month has begun, much like the months that have preceded it. Ohio is happily under flood warnings and I'll probably spend my entire day off trying to mow the back field with a combination swamp buggy/lawn tractor. (remember those air boat thingies that looked like a big fan on the back of a disc? ah! that's what i need... we'll just lay 'er back and skim that grass!) And then... Maybe I'll just kidnap somebody and head toward a museum or something! One thing is for sure, I could certainly use a dose of starlight to improve my mood. Maybe one of these years, I'll take that transfer out West where the sun always shines, and the stars are always out. I don't handle the boredom or rainy nights that well any more. Scaring people is nice...
But I'd rather be stargazing.
"I am still living with your ghost....