January 26, 2003 - NEAT C/2002 VI - Believe it or not, as the sun began to set, those clouds began to back off in all directions! Terribly pleased, I had hopes of taking the 12.5 out tonight... But simply won't risk the chance of stray snowflakes making their way to the mirror. But standing right beside it, a certain little 4.5 Celestron is smiling! It knows it's replaceable... And it definately knows how to dance its' way across the stars.

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

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

February 5, 2002 - C/2002 VI NEAT - So I made a near-fatal judgement call on locating Comet NEAT tonight. I simply waited too long. By goofing off and waiting until deep sky dark, I darn near let the little traveller slip right through my fingers tonight!

Almost. But not quite, eh?

I started off in the south field with the binoculars, figuring to find the best place to set the scope on it. And I had to keep walking south... And keep walking south... And keep walking south... About a quarter of a mile across frozen fields later, I finally got the skyline I need to see Comet NEAT. Right smack down just a few degrees above the western horizon it is... And bright! Thanks to a fine haze of clouds and my fair share of "moon influence", I could make out no tail, and no signature, save that for a bright furry ball. I know it's the comet, because I know my binoculars aren't capable of picking up a globular cluster (except for maybe the M2 over there... ;) in that region.

Besides... I know there isn't any that bright.

Trudging back across the tundra, I set the 4.5 out to stabilize for tonight's lunar studies. Time to turn on some rock and roll and start the coffee, eh? Because even with the Moon hanging out right now, we've got 5.5 skies... And it's going to get better.

February 11, 2003 - C/2002 VI NEAT - I don't know how it happened, but I'm glad it did. That mostly cloudy day took a weird dip just before sunset and I knew I had to get out of town and have a last look at Comet NEAT before we get socked in with snow again.

Of course, I'm limited to binoculars only out here, and I don't mind a bit! Comet NEAT is putting on one awesome display with it's tail stuck straight up in the air!! Lacking that "fanned" appearance that I tend to associated with cometary signature, this baby is so bright that I can see it with averted vision and no aid! Am I excited? You bet!!

Comet NEAT has lived up to its' name!

February 12, 2003 - C/2002 VI NEAT - Talk about scraping in the dirt to follow a comet! Yep. I went out there. I don't care if it's five degrees. I could give a flying fig if the wind cuts like a knife...

Baby? It's very, very clear....

First off? NEAT... Off to the backroads of Ohio and out with the binoculars. Ah, my... How you remind me! Remind me is right... Reminds me of Ikeyha/Zhang! Comet NEAT has now hit the point where I'm having trouble capturing it. But when I do? I'm all smiles, because at least I managed to chase that little furball right to the end! And when it comes back in the morning sky?

I'll get it again!

March 23, 2003 - Kudo/Fujikawa - Very well, then. You don't want to hear it, and quite frankly neither did I... But I've got a grandson that will be here in just about three weeks. As luck would have it, both of my long lost sons turned up on the same day, and as that day darkened to night? There they were, eh? And the stars as well. They've long been used to my eccentricities, and oddly enough my oldest son chose a woman who also enjoys telescoping. (go figure, huh? ;) So as the skies darkened, my suggestion was we take this party outside and go on a comet hunt. Starting with the 4.5, it didn't take very long to realize this instrument was going to prove futile at hunting a 10th magnitude comet, no matter how easy it's position was. Fetch the dob? Nah. As easy as that seems, the skies really didn't warrant aperature at around a 5.0 with only 6/10 stability. Besides, I need practice before Public Season with the "Ottoman"! (150mm Intes Mak)

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

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

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

NEAT? You're next...

April 1, 2003 - Kudo/Fujikawa - The day started off typical spring. Moments of sunshine followed by rain... But when you told me the skies were going to clear? I figured it was a joke. But you weren't kidding. By the time the sunset arrived those clouds had thinned way down and I was scrambling for location maps for both Comet Kudo-Fujikawa and NEAT. Although the sky really doesn't warrant the kind of aperature I'm gonna' throw at it tonight, I just wanna' hug that dob.

On the Eridanus/Fornax border, NEAT has now taken up residence in a part of the sky that's getting tough for me. Tough in terms that I had to work my way to Kappa via the finder thanks to thin clouds and skybright. And the race is on, eh? Can I pick off a magnitude 10 study before it catches in tree branches? Answer? Hey, hey... There's a smudgie at 17mm in the field with a two stars. Notably toward the dimmer of the pair. I should have brought my maps out for DSOs, to double check and make sure I'm not picking up a small galaxy.

Wanna' have a go at Kudo-Fujikawa? No problem there. The biggest challenge this one presents is getting me to quit splitting Rigel and go hunt! In an incredibly stellar field, Kudo-Fujikawa's "signature" is also reminiscent of a small, compact and very diffuse galaxy. I can still make out no tail and no coma. Even at magnitude 11 with the 12.3mm in the dob, I'm having a bit of trouble holding it direct. Yeah, it's not me... It's the sky. But it was still fun!

October 23, 2003 - 2/P Encke - C/2002 T7 LINEAR - set the 12.5 out to stabilize around 1:30 and sat down with a cup of coffee to study my highly limited locator charts. Ohio has gone cold... Very cold, my friends. I glanced at the thermometer as I walked by and we've got below 40 degrees. Of course, you know what that does to the skies, don't you? By 2:00 a.m., given my dark location, we were holding a perfect 5.5 and I was ready to begin the scan for Comet Encke.

With the crude map I have, Comet Encke is located in the general vacinity of Gamma/Delta Triangulum. The clarity of the skies shows to the unaided eye that these are seperate, yet very close stars. Now it's time...

Using the good 26mm as a "sweeper" I began my hunt in earnest. Within minutes I had turned up a "signature" in the area and went to the 12.3mm ED. Hola! You know... This is really nice! But this isn't a comet. Heading to the Uranometria, I have found NGC925. Blushing a bit, I go back to the eyepiece to at least enjoy it, OK? A titlted spiral with a bright nucleus... But this isn't what I want. Continuing to work my way carefully across the field one FOV at a time, I find several other "signatures", but I think I'm moving too far away. Going back to Gamma/Delta, I narrow the search and take my time. And I see something... If I am correct? Comet Encke is in the field with an assortment of apparent doubles. But there's also a problem here, folks... There's also a lot of galaxies in this area. What I believe to be Comet Encke could also be NGC890. What we have in the eyepiece looks cometary... A soft ball of light with no resolution. Each time I push further through the field to locate and confirm 890, I find myself coming back because I don't want to lose what I've found.

I can hear the "Bossman" howling in my head with my antiquated ways... And for once, sir? I am listening. Pushing toward magnitude 14 is my limits. 890 is billed as 12.7 but there is also a nearby IC as well. Rather than continue with my indecision, I do what I do. Make a sketch on my field notes. My best guess is that I've located Encke, but you have spoiled me with that instant confirmation! So I'm followin' the rule of three here... Just as I always have. Observe that sucker at least three times. If it is indeed Comet Encke, it will have at least changed positions in my rough starfield.

Damn, I miss you already.

There is also another comet out there, with even shadier instructions on how to find it. It is C/2002 T7 LINEAR. Want good directions? How about "cruising by the M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga"? Hahahhahaaa.... Ah, ya' gotta' love it, eh Robert? Again, we are talking about an estimated 12th magnitude. Just how good can it get?? All I can say is: Comets move... Find what you believe to be it? Go back and look again. If it's moved? You've got it!

By now it's around 3:30 a.m., and it is very, very clear. VERY clear... Every time I look around I catch a meteor. Transparency had went from above average to outstanding. I have absolutely no doubt what-so-ever that we've deepened to 6.0. One look at Orion confirms this. The faintest of stars listed on my Tirion wide field maps is 6.5 and Orion is slammin' 'em down. The winter Milky Way looks like an invading cloud. I guarantee your jaw would drop if you looked into Orion... Even I am impressed with the multitude of stars that spangle across his "chest"! So let's finish this cup of coffee and take on Auriga...

Sweet jesuit priest! Do you know how many stars there are in Auriga?? Grinning like an idiot, I have to pass over the M36, M37 and M38... Good grief how can you not?? I mean, just standing here on the ground you can see right where they're at! Smacking myself mentally, I realize that I'm making a effort here to use the 26mm as a "finderscope"... Stop playing around and do what you came to do! OK... Maybe stop for a bit and split up that cluster of stars with the 12.3mm cuz' all those doubles are just too good to resist with these conditions. ;) Quit! Quit! Laughing as I hear one of my current favourite tunes playing on the radio, "Headstrong to take on anyone..." I go back to the 26mm and continue my "scan". Ah ha! Very beautiful... But this ain't it folks. The NGC1931 a very pretty little bright nebula that could certainly be a fooler to smaller aperature as cometary signature. Quite round and diffuse, it is too bright for what I'm after, but the embedded stars really make me smile! If I do find this faint traveller in this stellar field, there is a distinct possibiity that it's "on a star" and will appear much like this. Hopping to the other side of the galactic equator, I begin my scan again and pick up a faint fuzzy. Switching to the 12.3mm, it's time to make a sketch. I'm in a field with a very bright, recognizble star pattern. Two are doubles and two are apparent doubles. Again, there is a very strong possiblity that this is NOT the comet. This could be Sh2-231... I also show two bright nebula in this area and a host of small planetaries further along.

Again, I hear the "Boss" groaning in the background. If I had hooked Megastar up to the encoders I could be showing myself the precise field I was on and gotten instant cofirmation on the telescopes position and designation. I feel the bite, ok? Again, all I can do is go by my own rule of three observations and check to see if it moved. I know that it's antiquated... I know that if I ever did stumble across a comet on my own that I couldn't even give proper coordinates to report it. I realize that I should have at least had MegaStar out here with me to help verify DSO and star positions. I realize all this as I close my sketchbook. Ya' know, kid... I'm not ever going to be anybody important. I'm never going to make an exciting discovery or make a contribution to science. All I'm ever going to be is pretty damn good with a backyard telescope... Slow and steady...

And always lookin' up.

October 19, 2003 - 2/P Encke - Smiling, I leave the 26mm in and graze over good old Andromeda. More interesting than the galaxy M31 itself is how very bright the M32 and M110 are in this scope!! I let it slide on to the south edge and make out the slight brightening of the NGC206, but I'm not in the mood to power up on it right now. Heading to the finder, I see just the tiniest hint of the M33 and decide to go that way next. Slaughtered.... Only the essence of the core. Looking up, I know what I want. I knew what I wanted before I came out here and I also knew pretty daggone close as to where to find it.

Comet Encke.

Using the 26mm to get it on approximate field, I then moved on the the 17mm plossl. Staying in a tight area, I found a little fuzzy after a few grid runs, double checked my finder field and went to the maps. No close DSOs that show on Uranometria for right here. Heading back to the eyepiece, I do what I do. Draw a field sketch quickly, and then continue to look at the daggone thing because it took me a good 30 minutes to be self satisfied I was in the area. I want that confirmation call.

After I got home today, I consulted with the one person I trust implicitly.... The "Bossman". Of course, he gave me hell for not confirming it with MegaStar's maps, but this time I had checked the database and 2P Encke was not listed. While we talked to one another, I described roughly what I saw in the eyepiece while he doubled checked on his updated version of MegaStar. Feelin' kinda' down after we spoke, because I was pretty sure then that I had a mis-identification, I headed off to make myself something to eat and update my own system. I know what I saw. I've got a rough map here of the starfield. Sometimes I get so excited that I tend to forget to watch what way things are drifting so I can be 100% accurate on marking the cardinal directions. I am quite dumb enough to be holdng my sketch one way and my head another. I might look in the eyepiece one moment, sketch, readjust and move the field a bit... But at least I've got the star pattern. Hey, I'm not pefect and I darn sure ain't a professional... But I really do know better. Stinging a little bit from the realization that I really am not progressing as much as rusting, I sat down and updated MegaStar.

Of course, I want to be sure what I did worked... Even when I know that I at least did that right. I called up 2P Encke's position for the local time and looked at it. Man... You're right. There's not a thing around it. So, being the curious soul I am, I continued to expand the field, adjusting the stellar magnitudes... and WHAM! There was that star pattern.... When I saw it off to the south, and I know Encke's heading northwest... Oh, man. Clicking on the info chart, I see the comet is around 12th magnitude and that will match what I saw. It was definately a great deal fainter than the stars around it, but not off the edge of detection. So how far could Encke have traveled in about 21 hours? Is it possible that it could have went a couple of fields of view? My own lack of hard science and good astronomy practice appalls even me at the moment. I do be thinkin' it's about time for ol' ~T here to give up the "Star Party Hop" and get back to what I love to do the best before my skills rust. Accurate sketches, accurate magnitudes of surrounding stars... Accurate cardinal directions of the bright star fields. Because the next time I go hunting for Encke?

I won't fail.

October 20/21, 2003 - 2/P Encke - The sky was expected to turn sour, so I wasted no time playing with other objects. My time to observing during the dark days will be minimal and I want very much to keep a handle on Comet Encke because it is changing and moving rapidly. In order to improve both my observing skills and my ability to locate with accuracy, I gratefully accepted the help of MegaStar's map program. At the moment, I am still working encoder free... But I can foresee a day in the near future when that shall change as well. But until that day comes? The maps the program shows are 100% accurate...

And I will make use of them.

Starting with field, I am grinning like crazy because comet Encke is moving like a little cosmic bullet right toward the M31. Using the 26mm Meade to start with, I take it to a recognizable field, go to my good 9mm and adjust what stars I see on the chart accordingly. Going to the right area for the comet with the 26mm, I then drop to the 9mm keeping my map settings a bit wide and follow star by star, and field of view by field of view. Continuing to narrow down the search pattern, it is simply a matter of time before Encke is in the eyepiece. What can I say besides what the heck magnitude stars is the Meade 12.5 capable of?? Just how low will it really go? What I show on my chart should be a barren field... But that is not what is in the eyepiece.

Comet Encke looks like a haloed star. Upon aversion, a pinprick of a central core can be detected... But at this point I see no tail. There are several stars in the area as well, but I still have some difficulty in judging them "down and dirty" stellar magnitudes. The comet is as bright as, if not brighter than, a small formation of stars to the east that resemble the primary stars of Ursa Major. While looking at that formation, averted vision also catches a few finers stars that appear between the two. Making note of the time, at 9:30 p.m., EDST, with sky conditions at an easy 5.0 in the area of Encke, I would guarantee you I've found my mark. The comet is listed as being 12th magnitude, and I will agree with that on the nucleas region... But I would suggest that the diffuse mantle is a least a magnitude dimmer.

Rock on...

October 23, 2003 - 2/P Encke - Yes, I sure did! And Comet Encke is brightening!! (now detectable in scopes as small as a 4.5) We had a delicious 6.0 night here, with fantastic clarity... The Milky Way was almost scary it was so pure out! Unfortunately, I only got a couple of hours sleep and I'm starting a really nasty stretch of hours at work, so it will be a bit before I can transpose my notes and get them entered here. (and when i get back this afternoon if the sky is still clear, i'm gonna' spend what little time i have between shifts checking out that wicked sunspot!) Have patience and check back... Vampyres never sleep!



And so I have returned...

I set out the dob last night and spent the first 30 good minutes simply staring. Normally I would have spent my stablilization time at least hopping around to some of the cooI stuff, but tonight I waiting on the really cool stuff! (you really didn't think i'd spend all my time in just one little field and not play around did you? ;) I don't know what rogue high pressure system visited over Ohio last night... But I'm impressed with the clarity of the sky! Setting out my things, I realize this is going to be as good as it gets... And I'm on both a comet and working on a study field.

A tough study field...

Starting first with locating Comet Encke, I start grinning when I see how fast it's closing on the Andromeda Galaxy. Going down from the 17mm sweep to the good Meade 9mm for study, the size of my grin absolutely doubles. We are getting brighter here!! The core region of the comet is easily held direct now, and the comet halo looks to me like it's jumped at least a magnitude. Caught in a triangle of 13th magnitude stars, Comet Encke definately outshines them. There is also a nearby apparent double if you push Encke to the edge of the field, and I'm guessing the primary of this pair is probably around magnitude 8 or 9. Encke is definately dimmer... Ah, well. One of these days I will catch on to how to judge cometary magntiudes, but it's... it's... Is it? Could be! Let's go get the old Celestron out and just see....

Putting the old 4.5 on the M31, my jaw drops down to the ground as I realize the M110 is just rockin' in the little scope. Man, oh, man... That's around magnitude 11, isn't it? Then let's catch us a by-gosh comet... Walkin' the field back, I am again astronished to see the Comet Encke is on the edge of perception in the little Celestron. Hola, Traveller... Not only are you getting brighter, but you're coming in range of smaller instruments! Absolutely awesome...

I go back to the 12.5 and return to Encke. I keep pushing it around the field a bit, hoping to catch some observable tail... But I still see nothing that could be considered an ion trail. Regardless, Comet Encke is definately improving and I'm looking forward to following its' progress across the sky!

NOTE: I often work night shift, so "vampyre" is my way of saying that I was out well after midnight. I often will observe twice in one day... After midnight and after dark! ;)

November 19, 2003 - 2/P Encke - What's this? Clear skies? What a rarity given Ohio's current weather conditions! There's only one problem, though... Ol' ~T here isn't precisely feeling up to doing a whole lot of serious scoping. No, it's not an attitude problem... It's just a rotten cold. Something about a stuffy head, sore throat and feeling like you've been pretty much ran over by a truck tends to take some of the thrill out of a clear night. But, I'm also the kind of person who believes that anything that takes your mind off misery is a good thing...

And seeing Comet 2P Encke again would be just what the doctor ordered!

If predictions held correct, Encke should be easily visible in the Celestron 114. (good. cuz' i honestly don't feel like assembling anything tonight. just give me a scope i can whack outside the garage door, a couple of eyepieces, and some kleenex. i'm good to go...) I had no real clear cut idea of where Encke had traveled to besides the very generalized map in Sky and Telescope magazine. Just how close is it? Well... No offense, but they're about a close as the finder on my little Orion scope. They show you the highway, but it's up to you to know where to drive. Is this a bad thing? Nope. I've been navigating that old Celestron on the stellar freeways for so many years now, I know precisely what it's capable of and I picked up 2P Encke's signature in less than 10 minutes.

Hola! Look at how big and bright you've gotten since I've seen you last! And how diffuse... And there's coma! Near a moderately bright star... Nice asterism also along for the ride... A little condensation toward the nucleas, but not very daggone much... And just the most delightful suggestion of tail where the coma narrows down! Rather excited, I quickly took note of both the reflex sight and the finder's position, looked at where they were at in correlation to the stars, and immediately went for the M27 to try and confirm this baby's magnitude. OK, not a prime choice, for the M27 is always awesome and stops me in my tracks to enjoy it's "living" qualities. Mentally smacking myself back into the game, I note that 2P Encke is considerably dimmer than the M27, and I need something more diffuse to guage the magnitude by. Next stop? M71... Now we're talkin'. Still not quite as diffuse at 2P Encke, but roughly the same apparent diameter and very, very close to the same magnitude. Hmmmm... How do I describe this? So I go back to my marker star and repeat Comet Encke. It requires more aversion than what the M71 does, (actually M71 is direct and you do have to avert slightly to see the perimeters of the coma on the comet) but I'm pretty confident in saying they are within a half a magnitude of each other.

November 19, 2003 - 2/P Encke - C/2002 LINEAR T7 - Ah, man... No one deserves to feel this rotten. (well, maybe they do. but i can't think of anyone i dislike enough to wish this "cold" on them.) So, forgive me if my reports are somewhat disjointed or seem out of sync. I simply don't feel like taking many handwritten notes tonight and transposing them tomorrow, so I'll keep track as I do what I do tonight when I take breaks. All right? (yeah, rite. ;)

All right... Aaa aaaa aaAACHOO! Then let's do this.

Since I don't feel like assembling anything, and I don't feel like working real hard, I chose the dob and the 32mm. Rolling it out to the "courtyard", I walked out into the south field watching Venus blaze above the very end of sunset's glow. Then I go to the edge of the east field while the scope stabilized and watched for awhile for aurora. Well, if there was any... It ain't happenin' at my latitude tonight. But what is happening is some of the clearest skies I've seen in awhile, and I am very ready to go hunt down Comet 2P Encke again.

Using my "vague" map, once again it didn't take but a few minutes to find Encke's signature. Tonight it is captured in the field with a roughly 6th magnitude star and a brightish asterism that reminds me of the symbol for Aries. There's some other real fine pinpoints in the field as well, but I can't judge those down and dirty magnitudes very well. Following the lead from friend Paul, I tried to judge Encke's magnitude by going to a place where I knew the magnitude of a particular star. Again, I chose the M27. And again, M27 appears far brighter than Encke's diffuse form. But, what he told me to do was defocus a known magnitude star and have a go at it from there... And M27 is flanked by two 9th magnitude stars. Running that gorgeous nebula out of the edge of the field and defocusing didn't do it... So my next choice was Alberio and move just a bit west where the stars are also a known magnitude. And that number, sir? Is 9. My guess is that given Comet 2P Encke's diffuse, low surface brightness, we are looking at approximately a visual magnitude 9. (thanks, paul! cool trick!)

Oh, by the way... If you're hunting Comet Encke and want the type of directions I give ya'? Then look at the point star of Saggitta... And then look at Albeiro. Right in the middle between the two! Now... if ya' want me to be more technical? Then you take the map and look... It's probably 12 Vulpeculae in the field, but I've got a rather nasty headache from looking at the map at the moment.

But! Before I got that headache, the next thing I was after was 2002/LINEAR T7. And it's definately dimmer yet than Encke, a lot dimmer. At least a magnitude and a half dimmer, considerably smaller, but not as diffuse. Son-of-a-gun was right smack dab in the middle of the chain of Perseus! Again, I was working with a rough locator chart and LINEAR popped out because there is almost, like, nothing in the field with it. A couple of testy little stars, that are bright enough to be magnitude 11 or 12 anyhow... And when defocused, LINEAR is brighter than them. About that time, I was happily thinking of finding something to compare with when I noticed how bad my head was starting to hurt, and as my eyes began to water, I realized "why". Yes, I have a very bad cold... But I also have a neighbor that hasn't learned how to burn wood yet, bless 'em. It really isn't even cold enough to have a fire tonight, and they've shut their chimney down to keep in heat and they got an incomplete burn going on. The result is not smoke... It's a nasty, colorless gas that will burn the eyes and shut down what little breathing I'm capable of. No wonder my head hurts!

Rather than continue to pick at the map and identify the field stars, I just enjoy LINEAR for a few minutes longer. This one is definately different from Encke, because its' form is much more compact yet. I'm not picking out a nucleas, but I'm not exactly powered up enough to do that. Now, it's at the point where I can simply stand it no longer, and I put all the covers back on the dob so I don't stand a chance of getting any stray ash in there, and tilt it down. For now? It's right around 9:00. Time for me to go take a Tylenol and rest my head for while. Perhaps the winds will change and I'll feel better in a bit.

December 21 - 2002 LINEAR T7 - Wow! You should check out Venus... Not only is she gorgeous to the unaided eye, but that 40% phase is just killer to the filter stacked eyepiece! With flash and roll, she's outshining anything and everything in the sky...

But she doesn't beat out Comet LINEAR.

Chosing the Orion 8" reflector tonight for stability against the wind, my first marks were set mainly for my own need to dark adapt and practice field. M33 is the reason I bought this telescope and it blows me away with the 32mm eyepiece. Although that magnification makes the Trianglum galaxy much smaller, it also sucks in all that low surface brightness and hands it back in a way that will rock your world. On this particular galaxy, the optimum aperature is indeed 8 inches, for the M33 is just the prettiest spiral galaxy you'll ever lay an eye on in this scope!

Keeping things low, I move on to Andromeda and companions. Here again, I deeply appreciate this "mid range" aperature. At low magnification, the grand sweep of M31 still extends beyond two fields of view, but the additonal light gathering ability snaps those two companion galaxies right out... Even in miniature! And now that I've had my little dose of "galactic stuff"... I'm on a hunt and I know right where to look.

Right off of the point star in Triangulum, Caput Trianguli, or Alpha if you prefer, to the west is a just on-the-edge of visibility 6th magnitude star. To those of us who routinely hunt down M33, we find it recognizable as a "star hop" denizen... Tonight? It's in the field with a kick asteroid comet! Using Paul's AAVSO trick of defocusing that star, I find that Comet 2002/LINEAR T7 is considerably fainter than its magnitude 6. There is also a nearby field star that is very comparable in magnitude de-focused, and by using Uranometria to identify it, I'm saying our latest "bad boy" comet is coming in at around magntiude 8.

Tonight I am in love all over again with the SVD8, and am delighted with it's performance. I am picking out a condensation in the comet's nucleas area, but nothing that outshines the coma. A soft field sweep at both 26mm and 9mm reveals no tail. There is a certain amount of extension to the coma area, but nothing that spans a significant distance yet. As always, T7 bears a strong resemblance to an unresolved globular cluster. One it's way west, we should see some ion tail in the very near future!

Rock on, Traveller!