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April 2004





April 30, 2004 - "The Man In The Moon"...

Comments: I think, perhaps, the key to seeing these features is relaxation. I had looked at the AL drawings repeatedly and figured I would never "see" some of these things. Maybe you just have to be in the right place at the right time? Who knows... But I know I saw it.

I had been out enjoying a rare "date". As we left the establishment we had been visiting and were walking back to my car, I saw the Moon shining through the hazy skies and stopped to look. My companion is well aware of my fascination with the night sky and his first words were "Why are you looking at that thing again? It's been up there for a billion years." How do you answer a statement like that? I do not. I only sigh and realize no matter how hard I try, this one will never get it. To him? This is nothing more than a natural phenomena and worth nothing more than a glance at best. To me? I want to stand there and stare for a few minutes, please. Because for the very first time I am able to see the "face" of the "Man In The Moon"....

And he's smiling.

"Fun yet?"



April 29, 2004 - The Moon and Jupiter...

Comments: Yes. Another "same date" report. No. I haven't cracked and yes, this report is dated correctly... I simply make every effort to keep these pages as current as possible and I wasn't expecting clear and steady skies after having seen a total parhelia!

But clear and steady they were...

When I stepped out on the deck to let H go for a run at little after 9:00, I about fell down watching the Moon and Jupiter making a close pairing in the sky. I really wasn't going to take a scope out because I only need two more AL lunar observations to complete my checklist, and neither will be viewable at this phase. I know the Moon, and I know where that terminator will be... Sinus Iridum. I stood there debating for a bit, but the debate didn't last long. It feels wonderfully warm out and 25 feet away stands a telescope who only needs to be set outside the door and aimed. Who can resist a call like that? And so with the old Celestron once again by my side, the 17mm and 12.3mm eyepieces in hand, I opened the dust cap and set it on the lunar surface.

Yep. Sinus Iridum and it is gorgeous. But always... always... there is a place on the Moon that captures attention like no other and tonight I cannot take my eyes off Palus Epidemiarum! Why? I do not know. There is nothing wrong with "the Bay of Rainbows" and the long beautiful rille that runs away from it... Copernicus walks, talks and sings songs... Bulliadus is outstanding... The Riphaes Mountains look incredible... But here? Right here is what grabs and keeps the eye!



It is Palus Epidemiarum... And the details around it are undeniable. Craters Campanus and Mercator, the little orafice of Ramsden, the ancient Capaunus and tiny Elger... How can you not want to look at this? With the 12.3mm in place, you can even see evidence of rima across the floor like tiny bright cracks in a sunparched landscape. Even as horrible as the video camera does at taking pictures? You can still see the bright beginning lines of them! And steady? Oh, so steady... The "heart shaped" area of Epidemiarum just smacks with tiny details. Above it, even the longated peanut shape of Lacus Timoris lights up with tiny craters Haidinger and Epimenides. Truly a wonder to behold...

And then I made the mistake of looking at Jupter.

I had left the power in and the moment I had tightened things down I saw a notch in the southern equatorial belt. What have we here??? And within seconds I realized the Great Red Spot was making an appearance tonight! Laughing, because I'm not much one on watching planetary details, I could only stand there and grin because here I am, sucking details out of a dead world while a live one shows the eye of a great storm! And "eye" shaped is exactly how it appears to this scope... Nothing dramatic, just an area of contrast change that sometimes underscores itself during perfect stablity. Did I stay and watch? Of course! I watched it and the eastward moons for awhile... Happy to be alive and to have taken the few moments out of my busy day...

To stop and enjoy the night.

"Are we having fun yet? Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... No. No. Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... No. No."



April 29, 2004 - Comet LINEAR C/2002 T7 and Comet Bradford... Lost In The Milky Way... A Total Parhelia of the Sun...

Comments: OK. I started even earlier today. For me, it's no great shakes to be up and moving at 4:30 in the morning. No surpise seeing as how I'm usually at work before dawn! Getting dressed, my cup of coffee in hand and my trusty old binoculars around my neck, H and I wandered out to the edge of the east field in a hunt for our two early morning comets. Now, I've been kinda' disappointed in Bradford, and I was hoping that starting earlier might improve the contrast...

But I found out differently.

At this time, Comet Bradford is no where to be seen. I can only see what may be the vaguest hints of a tail to the east, so I give up on it for now and head for T7. Starting at Saggittarius, I start scanning east until I recognize the stars of Capricorn. More and more until I see a wide double to the binos and I know I'm on the right track. Where are you, devil?? And at last? Higher than I thought.

LINEAR T7 is billed at 1.7 magnitude, but it just ain't that bright. By defocusing primary stars, my guess is that in the pre-dawn hours we aren't seeing much more than a magnitude 3 here. But don't be disappointed!! LINEAR is everything it is cracked up to be. Very concentrated, T7 shows a broad, fan-like tail and a bright nucleus. It really is a fine comet and shows in a relatively starry field. It's worth getting up for!

Of course, I made the mistake at that point of just wandering around with the binoculars. I had forgotten just how outstanding the M24 is! Other things as well, like the M6 and M7 and just all the beauty of the Milky Way... My gosh! Just look at all the Messiers you can see with just this simple set of optics! But the clock is ticking and I've got one more to catch.

Bradford? I wouldn't bother. I was ready to hit the road and thought I'd take one last look shortly before 5:30. Oh, it's still there all right... But the Andromeda Galaxy is far brighter than the remnants of Bradford's tail. This comet is fading very fast folks... Best look now before it's gone!

*************************************************

When I got off work today, I'm glad no one was looking. I probably would have been committed for sure! I don't know why, but for some reason I looked up through the polarized glass of the t-tops and the Sun was right in the center where they joined. What kept me there was not this artificial "eclipse", but the appearance of a total parhelia. Sundog? Yeah. See 'em all the time.... But a total 360 around the Sun? Oh, my...

I must have sat there with my mouth open and my tounge haning out for 15 minutes. This just doesn't come along everyday! Finally starting the car, I headed out on the highway and definately exceeded the speed limit on the 20 mile ride home. Would it hold?? Hopping out of the car, H ducked under the table because I must have looked like I meant business. The second he saw me grab that video camera, though, he was out like a flash. We're goin' out!! And go out we did... Heading straight for the one obstruction I knew I could put between me and the Sun to try and photograph this thing.

The big pine....



How I wished that there was a telephone pole or something I could have hid behind! Even some 30 minutes or more after I first spotted it, it was stil bright, still colorful, and still holding that fantastic total halo. Yes. It is an effect of atmospheric optics and not astronomy...

But it is pretty incredible.

"Yeah, yeah.... Yeah, yeah... No. No. Yeah, yeah.... Yeah, yeah... No. No.

Are we havin' fun yet?"



April 28, 2004 - Comet Bradford and Comet LINEAR T7... The Sun... The Moon...

Comments: Started the morning off right. Thanks to some rare clear skies, I was out about 4:45 and on the hunt for our two comets. Bradford is still hanging due east and still achievable in binoculars. The easiest way to see it is to find the Andromeda galaxy and drift east... You can't miss the faded tail! I am still not seeing any kind of head to Bradford in binoculars, but the earlier time does show me that the faded column of light that is the tail extends almost to the Milky Way!

Comet LINEAR is, in my opinion, far more awesome. Compared to Bradford, it is compact and far more bright. Far more than "just a fuzzy" in the binos, T7 has a bright nucleas and a broad, short and very fanned tail. Still due E/SE, it is fairly easy to find and well worth the hunt!

**************************************

Thanks to still clear skies, I did take a few moments to have a look at the solar suface and two rather ordinary sunspots, 598 and 599. Both possess mature umbra and small, fairly regular penumbral regions. Only a tiny smattering of followers accompany 599 and neither look to be particularly active.

***************************************

Still have clear skies and still ready to play with the Moon! It's a bit windy, but much warmer and very suprisingly stable. I chose the 4.5 Celestron again tonight with the 17mm Sirius Plossl and the 12.3mm ED Epic. One glance at Plato and I just could have stayed right there! Quite awesome... Just as awesome, and just the way I like it is Copernicus. Revealed? Uh uh. Our favourite old crater is right on the terminator and so filled with shadow that it's depth is truly remarkable to behold. Again, I could have stayed, but I see Tycho and there is an observation I need to make!

North of Tycho and fully exposed tonight is Crater Pitatus. Very shallow looking with wide walls that look like series of craters rim the edges. Actually? They do. Hesodonius accompanies it at one edge, while the other towards what appears to be dune-like features, are lettered C, G, and X, Y, Z. I do not see any rimae within Pitatus, but there is a peak that is slightly off center. Pitatus sits at the edge of Mare Nubium and there are some beautiful small craterlets in its' open expanse of grey seas, like Nicolette and Birt.

After that I wandered around Tycho for a bit and went back to Plato and the edge of night on Copernicus. It has been a very fine day for astronomy, but...

I'm tired.

"I've been wrong. I've been down... Into the bottom of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream...

Are we having fun yet?"



April 27, 2004 - A Little Moon...

Comments: OK. This was a strange day altogether. After this morning's chilly look at the two comets, the temperatures continued to drop and it even snowed briefly a couple of times during the day. Despite mostly clouds, there was a point in time last night in the evening that the skies did clear and the old Celestron and I wandered out to view the Moon in near freezing temperatures. (it did go below... in april? come on, ohio!) Stability was horrible, but what I needed was to see where the terminator was at more than anything so I can complete the last of my AL Lunar Club observations.

Plato has just become fully disclosed with the terminator laying on the western edge of the crater wall. The Alpine Valley was fully present, yet it was not present last night!! (our moon is so cool... it is predictable, yet it is not always predictable as to exactly what features can been seen on any given night.) Mons Piton and Pico were excellent.

Cassini and more particularly, Cassini A is what I was after tonight. Just south of Promentorium Agassiz, (or east of Mt. Piton if you prefer... ;) is the ancient looking crater Cassini. Now, very specifically is the "A" crater which lies in the middle and is visible in the 17mm. What's really cool is to put in more power, cuz' there's so much more here! During stable moments, there is also another punch mark in the interior near the west wall identified as "B", as well as one to the north identified as "M". Even for as shallow appearing as Cassini appears to be, those rugged walls are still 3,500 feet tall... But the coolie? Is that the "A" crater goes down an estimated 5,100 feet. Awesome!

Crater Archimedes was also visible, yet observing guides say it should not be until tomorrow!! (see? told ya' lunar viewing was cool.) Ptlomaemus, Alphonsus, Arazachel... and yet no "Straight Wall"! (hey, it said "rupes recta", but it ain't there, folks. i know the area and it can't been seen.) Ah, well... What I needed to see was north of Tycho and it simply does not show yet. (and yet the guide says Pitatus should be visible. go figure...)

Cross your fingers and hope for clearer and steadier skies tomorrow night!

"It's not like you... To say sorry. But I'm always waitin' on a different story. This time I was mistaken... For handin' you a heart worth breakin'."



April 27, 2004 - Comet LINEAR T7 and Comet Bradford...

Comments: Shouldn't that be comets?? (big smile here...) I was out at 5:30 this morning on the edge of the east field. I wasn't too sure I'd get to see what I was after, because there were a few stray clouds, but for the most part it was clear. Now, I'm not exceptionally good with binoculars. I can't tell you how many degrees it sees, but I can tell you what I see. So you wanna' chase the two morning comets with me?

Then let's rock.

I figured Bradford would be the first I would find because there is clouds right where LINEAR should be. I was wrong. LINEAR was the first one I spotted and it probably took me 15 minutes to capture it. When the clouds scooted on enough, I found LINEAR T7 to be a bright streak with just a bit of concentration toward the comet head. Poor contrast and not even close to naked eye. In other words? It was GREAT!! It looks like a comet!

Bradford threw me a wide curve. Scanning directly east, I kept waiting and waiting... Hoping I was gonna' beat that Sun, cuz' the sky is sure beginning to pinken up. I kept going back and forth and up and down until it felt like my arms were going to fall off. Then I started noticing that no matter how many times I would go across this field, what appeared to be a contrail stayed put. So, I put my astronomer mind to work and started making note of field stars. Dropping my arms for a few minutes, H probably thought I had cracked because I just kept staring east. What the?? Reluctantly willing my arms to hold up what now feels like 50 pound binoculars, I went back to the field again.

No doubt about it, friends. Comet Bradford has a huge extended tail system that looks all for the world like a contrail being lighted by the rising sun. Absolutely no head whatsoever, but this long, thick streak of east/west light just does not move!

Comet Bradford? Gotcha'... ;)

Pleased with myself, I whistled for H and started back to the house. My moccassins are wet with the early morning dew and my arms feel like they are ready to fall off. Before going in, I took one last look at the brightening sky and noticed movement. Only one thing moves like that. And so I stood for those last few pre-dawn minutes and watched a majestic fly-over of the ISS taking a wide and stately course from the southwest to the northeast. I tried hard not to think about Columbia, and how the ISS crew might feel about returning home... Focusing instead on just how magnificent it is to know they are up there. When it at last disappeared, H and I slogged our way back in and sleep in for a bit longer.

Let's just say it was a really cool morning!

"And this is how you remind me... Of what I really am. This is how you remind me of what I really am."



April 26, 2004 - The Moon, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter...

Comments: Well, all right! At least a passingly clear sky and great stability. You know it's been awhile since I really got down and dirty and did some lunar work. I am compiling my past reports into a page devoted to the Astronomy League's Lunar Club and although I have viewed almost every single feature multiple times over the past four years of on-line reports, there are a few I haven't photographed. (ok, i probably have, but i discarded them to save space when cleaning up at the end of the year.) Needless to say, since the advent of the webcam and friend Cor's "Registaxing", I have pretty much hung up the old video camera and ceased to try. Yes, I have the computer equipment to do things like they do nowadays... But, you know me.

Always marchin' to a different drummer. ;)

The lunar surface truly was spectacular. It's still stuck on half full, but even though I'm a stubborn old Taurus, I'm still an optimistic one! Let's start with the old Celestron 4.5 and a combination of two eyepieces... The 17mm Orion Sirius Plossl and the 12.3mm Orion ED Epic. Since I haven't always been entirely specific on times (shoot me, i don't wear a watch when i'm relaxing.) for the record I started at 9:00 p.m. and you will eventually find in my reports that I consider that "late p.m.". So, before we even set the video camera on the eyepiece, let's see what we've got tonight!

Starting south, Similus, Curtis, Heraclitus... Stofler! (boo, maurolycus, i see you... and your little dog gemma frisius, too...) Theres Aliacensis and the dark Werner... Faye, Donati, Airy, Parrot... Albategnius and Hipparchus! Lip smackin' good is the faded Hyginius Rille and absolutely outstanding is Mare Vaporum with the "Horseshoe" just kickin' butt. There's Mt. Hadley, Mt. Bradley, and the Caucasus Mountins with little Callipus just shining away! What else? Hmmm... How about a faded Aristotle and Eudoxus and tiny Sheepshanks, Mayer and Meton? South of the overlit Atlas and Hercules, Lacus Mortis isn't much more than and expanse of smooth, grey sands with an occassional tiny, bright pockmark. Between Mare Serentatis and Mare Tranquilitatus is crater Plinius. It is a classic crater with a central peak and oh-so-close to that promentorium where Apollo 11 landed! OK! Now, we've set the scene, let's rock some power and have a look at these pups...



What we got here... Is a failure to communicate. (hey, i couldnt resist... who hasn't seen "cool hand luke"?) Actually, what we have here is a pretty decent shot of Hipparchus basically in the center at the edge of the terminator and Albategnius to its' right. There's a lot of nice little craters in there to the left. The one with the dotted edge is Rhaeticus bordered by Lade. Horrocks smacks the lip of Hipparchus on the right and Halley and Hind are on the opposite side. Other craters in the frame are Gondin, Theon Sr. and Jr. as well and Taylor and Andel. Had enough? Or do you want some more? Then let's go back to Stofler and pick it apart...



Hey, hey! It's Stofler on the terminator, along with the little punch mark on its' upper edge named Farraday. What I was really after in this shot is Maurolycus above it, with Buch on its' left edge and Barocius on its' right. There is also a trio of craters on the left and I made a point of leaving them in the picture because although Goodacre is not an AL observation, Gemma Frisius is. There's lots of little coolie craters in there as well, but for now? Let's just stick with ones everybody can understand.

After that, I dropped back north and did a little filming work around Mare Vaporum, cuz' Manilius is part of the list as well as Mare Serenetatis and the Caucasus Mountains. They're here and safe on film... And one day? They'll be part of a special report that I will tell you about when it's done enough to be presentable. For the record? You could read newsprint tonight... And that weird naked-eye observation? Well, I always called it the "Mario Man", but it seems that's the "Lady In the Moon". Too cool...

About that time I decided I better have a look at the planets and took in the greatly slimmed down Venus... She's about 40% now... A fast look at Saturn and Titan... And a bit longer with Jupiter and watching the really cool dimensional effect the galieans always have on me. The western most is definately behind the planet, while the two inner moons dance close together to the east and the last is also coming our way! Love it... Just love it. For now? I am outta' here. Looks like there might be some clear skies in the morning...

And I have to comets to catch!

"Never made it as a wise man. Couldn't cut it as a poor man stealin'... Tired of living like a blind man. I'm sick of sight without a sense of feelin'....

And this is how you remind me."



April 24, 2004: Ras Algethi, Polaris, Dubhe, Cor Caroli, Epsilon Lyrae, Albeiro, 61 Cygnii, M13, M92, M57, M56 and Leftover Lyrids...

Comments: Not terribly energetic tonight for a Vampyre. Normally I get more sleep on this particular shift than I do any other, but the combination of cool and damp has put a hurtin' on ol' ~T. When I got up, the first thing I did was pop a cassette tape into the house stereo and lock it in on a non-existant channel in hopes of catching a few new meteor sounds to add to my collection. With cup of coffee in hand, H and I wander out onto the deck to check out the skies...

Hey. Stars... ;)

Sometimes I crave old days and old ways, and although I wasn't particularly feeling like serious study? I wanted just to touch the SVD8 again. It has an aura around it that speaks loudly to me of comfort... And I could use some comfort. I managed to get it out with no problem and crudely polar aligned. (who me? nah. ;) It's a tiny bit hazy so I know serious deep sky is out of the question, but usually haze means stability and one look at Alpha Hercules tells me I am right. So clean in red and green. (gosh i love this scope! from the finder to the 12mm ED eyepiece... it just smells like you, ok?) Of course, when Ras Algethi parts that easily, I have to at least poke around on a few I know... Like Polaris. (and again a smile.) The skies are so stable I know I should be hunting Jupiter, but why not Dubhe? (it's blue, dude... maybe my more northern position helps it?) And while I'm at it, who can resist Cor Caroli, the "Double-Double" Epsilon Lyrae, Albeiro and 61 Cygnii? As steady as it is, I really should be seeing just what this scope can do.

Hey. There's a meteor...

But, I didn't. I chose instead to stay with high power and thoroughly enjoy the M13. I did have to knock back to 26mm to find the M92, but when I kicked it back in? Hola, baby! We ought to be givin' this dude more credit. It has a splendid core region, bright and of a nice size... Even the beginnings of resolvability is here. Of course, I had to have a look at the M57 "Ring", (hey, there goes a meteor.) and it took awhile, but I did locate the M56 as well. (ahem... whoopee. this one just doesn't excite anyone. the only thing it has going for it is that it is about the same age as our solar system.)

Feeling satiated, I want off my feet for now. Carefully carrying my companion back to the safety of the garage, I turn on some tunes and toss the cushion into the old redwood chair. I go back in for a cup of coffee and gently warn Z that he really doesn't want to go outside with me and H. Cats do not last long that wander outdoors here. Returning with a blanket, I happily settle into the chair to keep watch for another 30 minutes of so for leftover Lyrids. Eventually I will review the tape... But not right now. It is enough for me to see the offspring of Comet Thatcher with my own eyes, no matter if it is only a handful. Cuz' I'm still out here...

And I'm still doin' it.

"This is how you remind me of what I really am. This is how you remind me of what I really am.

It's not like you... To say sorry. But I'm always waitin' on a different story. This time I was mistaken... For handin' you a heart worth breakin'. I've been wrong. I've been down... Into the bottom of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream.

Are we havin' fun yet?"



April 23, 2004 - At Ontario Public Library...

Comments: Hey. This looked like the kind of day when there would be absolutely no way the AFY could give an outdoor program. It's done nothing but rain or be cloudy for days now and there's no exception to the rule.

Except for somebody likes to bend rules...

By the time I finished work and made it to Ontario Public Library to set up, even I was fascinated that the skies had started to clear. Talk about a lucky break... Believe me, I had the little Orion out of the car and set up in a flash! No sooner than I had set it on Sol and enjoyed latest giant spot 596, than in rolled Tim. Chatting for a bit, it wasn't long until Greg followed and we moved out onto the bright green Ohio grass, set up more scopes, hung out our shingle, "We are... We are for... The youth of the nation!" Of course, anybody that is just young at heart and open to new experiences is also very welcome to have a look at the solar surface. Between Curt's Edmunds, Greg's little Meade and my small Orion, we had a decent variety of scopes to look through and when Trish arrived we were set up and in business.

Of course, a lot of people aren't interested... But that's OK. Approximately two dozen adults and children did take the time to walk among the daffodils with us and have an opportunity to do something unique. Even with sometimes hazing clouds, 596 is definately large and complex enough to make an interesting view! We answered lots of questions and handed out plenty of fliers. In other words? It turned into a beautiful Spring afternoon in Ohio... And an opportunity to spread the good word.

Astronomy rocks!

"And it must of been so bad... Cuz' livin' with me seemed to damnear kill you.

And this is how you remind me..."



April 19, 2004 - Braving the Winds...

Comments: Well, right when I thought it was over? I found out it wasn't over. Apparently I am destined to burn out faster than an Aurigid meteor, cuz' I'm heading back in on the "vampyre" shift again. I did get a chance to blow the dust off the Harley and have a peek at the Sun before trying to crash for a few hours sleep. Unfortunately, except for a couple of small spots, the solar surface is pretty bleak at the moment, and thanks to the ever present wind, the scooter ride was pretty intense. But hey! There's always night, right?

Uh... Yeah.

Up by midnight, cuz' it's darn hard to keep changing shifts around and sleep. Suprisingly enough the skies are passibly clear and me and my cup of coffee decided we'd take the Celestron out for a run. Of course, even with dark skies, I had to stick with something stable enough to handle the wind and a few short hops was all it took. M65 and M66... M81 and M82... M3 and M5... That's all I could handle with the winds blowing across the open tube and howling like a lonesome coyote. Even tucked in close to a bit of shelter, it was all but impossible to enjoy them for the view would simply not hold steady. But cha' know what?

Meteors don't mind.

When I noticed the first one cruising out of the south around 12:30, I decided just to put the old scope away and have a sit in this warm and very windy environment. Nothing really outrageous, but I did see four very decent ones in a period of about 30 minutes. Not too sure if it's the Sigma Leonids or the beginning of the Lyrids, or a combination of both! Two came from the south and two came from the east...

Guess they can't make up their minds which way they're goin' either, can they?

"It's not like you didn't know that. Said I love you and I swear I still do..."



April 18, 2004 - Astronomy For Youth at Malibar Farms...

Comments: What a gorgeous day! Unfortunately, I had to work but I heard AFY gave a great daytime program for visitors to Malibar Farms State Park on their annual nature walk. I could see from the sunburned faces that later met me that solar viewing wasn't the only "rays" our group got!

I am sooooo jealous. ;)

I was off in time though to join everyone for our monthly "Star Party". By then, the sunny skies had given way to clouds and the threat of rain, but who cares? I had packed my car with about every scope I could possibly shove in there and was sure looking forward to getting the SVD8 out under the stars again. I was surprised at how many people were already there when I arrived and it seemed like they just kept coming. Greeting Greg and speaking to the many members of the public who were waiting on us, it wasn't long afterward to new member "Bubba" showed up! Surprise, surprise! Do you know how great it is to have yet another smiling face to look forward to? We had originally met when he visited WRO and a few visits with AFY.. And now? He's with us!

Awesome... Can't think of anyone's company I enjoy more!

But cha' know what? I was in for another surprise, too. I had been talking with another fine gentleman named Stuart who hails from the Hocking Hills Observatory who had expressed an interest in joining us for an evening. I had touched bases with him briefly before I left and he had told me to listen for "rolling thunder". Oh, my... Being the Harley rider that I am, I knew precisely what sound to listen for and I knew the moment the beautiful black 100th anniversary Harley rolled into the parking lot exactly who Stuart was! What a genuine pleasure...

And the night just got even better!

Thanks to the threatening rain clouds, I knew we better get something rolling, because by that time we had around 32 guests that were looking at us very anxiously and wondering what was gonna' go down. We talked for a bit with a young couple who had brought their new scope along for instructions and I could see the kids were getting more than a bit restless. Leaving the SVD8 and the little Orion tucked away, I grabbed my briefcase out of the car and quickly set up a program. It didn't take long before a crowd had gathered and the picnic table become covered with kids. Hey, hey! We sang, we danced, and we made our own solar system. We learned how our Moon moves and all about the Sun! And for a few brief moments? The clouds parted and lovely Venus was the center of attention. Greg had the little Meade up in a flash and happy visitors got a chance to view our bright, inner planet before the coming storm hid it away.

We went back to the table and got another program going for our guest Girl Scouts and the laughter, learning, and music didn't stop until they had all understood the basic questions and earned their "Lunar Badges"! Excellent work, young ladies... I remember how much I treasured my merit badges when I was that age, and I am ever so grateful to have had the opportunity to help you earn yours!

About that time the raindrops had started to fall... I heard Stuart yell out a goodbye as he left. Ah, man... I wish the night would have held on a bit longer. I was sure looking forward to riding with you! I hope we meet again soon, mon ami... We packed things up quickly and by the time the lightning and lashing winds caught up with us, we were comfortably inside a local eatery enjoying sodas. Our meeting went on and there are lots of exciting new things on the way for AFY. How proud I am to be part of this group of wonderful people! Bubba and I were the last to leave, for as we stood in the parking lot talking, Jupiter kept peeking in and out of the clouds. Of course, you know a couple of die hard astronomers were seriously considering placing a metal tube alongside their heads in a open field and daring the lightning to strike don't you?

Darn right we were.

All in all? A very fine night. A chance to meet new friends and enjoy a reunion of the old. The opportunity to reach new folks with the word of just how much fun amateur astronomy can be, and a few minutes to ride the lightning. (i'd rather be ridin' the rolling thunder. ;) Time to make plans for the future, congratulate each other on what we have accomplished in just one short month, and more than enough time for laughter. (bananna hammock, huh? i can still see you swingin' on that closent rod, brother... ;) For now? I thank everyone for the very special evening... From the kids that danced with me to ones willing to brave the storm to be here.

Cuz' this is how you remind me.

"Never made it as a wise man. I couldn't cut it as a poor man stealing. Tired of living like a blind man. Sick of sight without a sense of feelin'.

And this is how you remind me...

This is how you remind me of what I really am. This is how you remind me of what I really am."



April 16, 2004 - RAS Meeting... At the Observatory...

Comments: I couldn't possibly know where to start. There have been so few times in my life that things have escalated to the point where they are now... And so I will remember without speaking the words aloud. Too many words were spoken aloud...

For those of you who have expressed yourselves in many ways? I thank you. Your unswerving support of who I am and what I do makes me believe I am on the right path and I will not fail you. I have learned a lot of valuable lessons. I have seen the ugly side of human nature and I have seen the worth of true friends. All that remains now is a deep sadness... And knowing that with time and love?

We will all heal.

The stars were out. There is no deeper blue than the one I carry inside and I have difficulty finding the spirit to observe tonight. My hours at work and all that has transpired has left me with a headache that is impossible to ignore. I went back up to break down the scope and head on back west, for I have to work again tomorrow. As I begin the process, I am joined by a friend and I seek out an object or two for him to enjoy before I go. Where there is one friend? There are two. And three. And four... And five... And when friends who love astro stand around a scope? The stars shine twice as bright. Laughter will come to you.... A quiet reassurance in many forms finds its way to the heart in the dark.

And I know I'll always be at home here.

"The river of defeat flows down... The only direction we know is down. Down... Oh, down... Down. So down."



April 15, 2004 - A Little Bit Of Sky...

Comments: Yep. Same date as the last report. Hopefully the cuckoo shifts are over for at least a week and I can go back to a semi-normal life. I was so tired that I really wasn't in the mood to go out, but I knew I had to do something or I would go to sleep too early to turn myself around.

So why not practice astronomy?

OK. There's a very good reason tonight. Despite the beautiful day, the skies were hazy lazy and not much could be accomplished except for practicing the "Nickle Tour" with a small scope. I chose the little Orion for the honours, and one glance a Jupiter was all it took to realize the whack on the doorframe carrying it back in the other morning was all it took to spoil its' collimation. Nice... Two strikes against me, eh? Shall we just hang it up? Nah. It's minimal and I'll fix it soon enough. Even a little "out of shape" it was still good enough to capture the M35, M44 and M67. I had a bit of trouble with the M65 and M66, but I think that was more sky conditions than scope conditions. M81 and M82? Always rockin.... Cor Caroli? Oddly enough, still split even though Jupiter and the galieans weren't as clean as I like them.

I left the scope out and went back inside for awhile. I wanted to work on locating M5 and M3 with the practiced ease we need for star parties and when I went back out a little before 11:00, I found the M3 was all the practice I was going to get, for the haze had pretty well made only the upper quadrant of the sky worthwhile. So here I stood, looking at Leo and wondering if the little dude could snatch some of the Coma/Virgo galaxies up, when out of the southeast came a fireball! I'm not talking cracklin', breakin', flashfire of a piece of space junk burning up... But an honest to goodness April fireball! It speed its way across the entire sky and the second it disappeared in the northwestern murk, all I could do was stand there and laugh. It felt good, this laughing... I haven't done so in days! All I could think of was that it appeared precisely on schedule...

And precisely at 11:02.

"Down... Oh, down..."



April 15, 2004 - The "Vampyre" Strikes Again... M87, NGC4476, NGC4478, M58, NGC4564, NGC4567/68, M60, NGC4647, M59, NGC4638, NGC4754 and NGC4762...

Comments: Woo hoo! Thar' be starz out thar', Admiral! Still cruising the night shift, but happy to be out a little after midnight with some old notes, my maps, my ever-present coffee mug, my fine old 12.5 Meade scope, the study grade 26mm eyepiece, the worthy 12.3mm ED Epic, a black german shepherd and an hour an a half to kill. I've got a 5.5 night out here with 7/10 stability and I am ready to rock!!

I have been working in the Virgo/Coma field, and as usual have a difficult time sorting out and properly identifying every little galaxy this fine old telescope can see. As always, this is a super tight field and I do not do this professionally.

I do it for fun!!

Starting with the M87, we see a bright, large elliptical. To the west in the field is a dim companion who also appears to be elliptical and both my prior field sketches and map shows this to be NGC4476. Slightly south of this is a slightly brighter small galaxy with no distinct form which I believe to be NGC4478.

Continuing toward Epsilon, there is no mistaking the M58. Tonight it shows a clear markation of its' barred spiral structure, with the central thickness running east/west. The arm structure is faint and wispy and almost seems to halo the galaxy. Also part of the "bigger picture" here is NGC4564, who is nothing more than a dim fuzzy that extends slightly in the northeast/southwest direction. By a pair of stars lays the "Siamese Twins", NGC4567/68. These are cool! One has a stellar nucleas and a soft haloed structure, while the other is a bit brighter with a distinct core region and elongated spiral structure. Aslo right here is the M60, and dandy bright elliptical with the small, faint, and indistinct NGC4647 accompanying it.

M59 is very plain. Caught in a "boomerang" of stars, it is bright, small and slightly elongated with a concentration toward the middle. Companion to it is the NGC4638, which appears very small, evenly distributed and possibly and elliptical as well. There are moments when using high power to pick out structure that it appears almost UFO shaped.

Moving again toward Vindematrix, my last "field pair" is the NGC4754, which is moderately bright since it requires slight aversion, fairly large and has a concentration towards the nucleus. Northwest of it is the NGC4762 which is a thick streak of light. Edge-on! There is a definate core region to it as well and the tips of this particular galaxy just wisp away like smoke.

I look about myself and I would love to continue on, but unfortunately no matter how short my words are, this little starhop has taken me over 90 minutes to locate and study. (what can i say? i'm rusty...) Realizing that if I start puttering around by looking at the M13, that I'm gonna' want to see if I can't find its' little companion galaxy as well, I just sigh and put my two eypieces back in their little carrying case. It was good to have my big old scope out again and do some galaxy hunting!

Slow... But steady.

"The river of defeat flows down... The only direction we know is down."



April 14, 2004 - M10, M12, M27, M71, Brocchi's Cluster, M19, M6, M7, a sweep of Saggitarius and the Moon...

Comments: It's Spring! No, it's not. It's Winter. I'm awake! No, you're not. You're asleep. I'm at work! No, you're at home. I'm up. I'm down. I'm here! I'm there. I should be sleeping when I'm supposed to be eating. And I am working when I am supposed to be sleeping...

And I am about half crazy from working both day and night shift for over a week now.

The long and short of it is that I was up and ready to rock by 3:30 a.m. I really don't want to be, because I am going to turn around later today after I work and go back in on yet another "vampyre tour", but my disrupted sleep patterns have left me sipping coffee and wondering why the heck I ever signed on the Good Ship Lollipop. I don't wonder long when I let H out for a run and see we have clear skies. The kind of depth I'm seeing this morning, as well as the ice on the deck, cry out to take that fine old Meade 12.5 out and do some galaxy hunting... But the realist in me knows I don't really have the time. So what about the astronomer part of me? It says "what the heck!" and carries the Orion 4.5 out to my favourite spot and with field guide, red flashlight and thermal mug in hand, I join H in the backyard to seek out the two globular clusters that evaded me last time I had clear skies.

Ophiuchus is a sprawling constellation... One that I believe most people equate with the south, though it truly isn't for my area. The stars I call Yed are actually Delta and Epsilon and this morning are clear markers for helping to find two splendid globular clusters - M10 and M12. Once located, it is simple enough to hop east until you locate 30 Oph and bring in the M10. This one is a very worthy globular cluster with a bright, central concentration and a very nice size. A hop northwest brings in similar sized M12, but this particular globular (at least to this aperture) is very even looking and does not hold a central concentration.

Gotcha' boys. ;)

From there I was quite anxious to head up to the sparkling Cynus and breathe east for Vulpecula. With a bit of help from my field guide, I am so happy to see the M27 again. All those living qualities are still there and how I look forward to kicking some aperture on it again! Heading back to Saggitta, I set the scope between Delta and Gamma and enjoy the very unusual globular cluster M71. It's even appearing in this small scope in relation to star concentration... But that's where it ends. Very strange little beast... Are you an open? Or are you a globular? Tis' obivous you work night shift too, eh? Terribly pleased with myself, it only takes a moment to locate Brocchi's Cluster and enjoy the "coathanger" best by dropping back to 32mm.

Heading one heck of a lot more south, I scoot east of Antares and go back to 17mm to enjoy the squeezed, compact and delightfully blue M19. What a pleasure once again! While I am there, I go back to 32mm and enjoy the equally splendid Summer open clusters M6 and M7. Feeling pretty fulfilled, but never able to quite resist the song of Saggitarius, I find myself tripping around the area once again until I start to think too much. The M8 will be an often repeated target this Summer as I have some work and contributions to do for a friend. The "Nike Swoosh" of the M17 is a wonder to behold, and even lowest of powers does nothing to lessen the impact of M22 and M28. Looking to the east, I see the Moon is beginning to rise and I realize that I am also working to complete my AL Lunar Challenge. I decide at this point that I will go with the 10mm eyepiece, go fetch another cup of coffee and return just before I leave for work.

At just a bit past 5:00, I'm back. The waning crescent Moon is a naked eye AL observation and has cleared most atmospheric obstruction and I have 20 minutes or so that I can devote to some study.

Sinus Iridum takes my breath away.

Absolutely perfect and absolutely as I remember it, Promentorium Laplace will just knock your eyes right out. Pefectly stunning, it shines like a lighthouse on the edge of the terminator. The "bay of rainbows" is safe with you at the harbour's mouth, my friend. Silent and perfect, just like you have been for an eternity.

Two more areas that I need to add to my list are also incredibly prominent at the moment, and the tiny, tense and bright orafice of Euclid calls next. The rim is bright, small and perfect, but it is the Riphaeus Mountains that steal the show in this area. They look almost like the bare walnut tree that stands to my east... Embossed on the lunar surface. Again, beautiful! And there is like a "shine" that surrounds Euclid itself. Wonderful....

The last crater I view at power is Bullialdus. Its' A and B craters are easy... As is the central peak area and the depth of its' terraced walls. There is a "puckered" look to the area outside the walls of the crater proper and they extend toward the shallow and broken walls of Lubiniezky. It is an ususual and almost raised looking area... Perhaps once a volcano?

Looking down at my watch, I realize I must go. It has been a very grand morning and I regretfully put my last eyepiece away and carry the little Orion back to shelter. As I drive to work, I keep watch as Saggitarius rides over my left shoulder and still calls through the brightness of the approaching dawn.

Soon, mon ami... Soon.

"Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see..."



April 12, 2004 - Just A Few Minutes...

Comments: Hey. Still the vampyre here and still lovin' up on the stars every chance I get. I was surprised around 3:30 this morning to see stars! True, it's not a fine sky and we don't have much time... But it's still dark and the major stars of the late spring/early summer constellations are wonderful guideposts to very easy and not highly dependent on perfect conditions Messiers.

Wanna' rock for a few minutes?

Turning on the radio, cuz' I could use some tunes to start my day, I set the old Celestron 4.5 outside the garage door and snatched up a 25mm eyepiece. It seems like it's been so long, I'll need all the "field" I can get. Of course, to see the M57 splendidly requires more power, but I'm not arguing with the little smoke ring in the sky... I'm just glad to see it! And I am equally glad to see the M13 once again... It's hard to believe so much time has passed and it is back in the skies again. I worked for a bit trying to remember how to find the M9 and M10, but without a clear fix on the Yed stars, I had some trouble and gave it up due to the time being short. But M4? Ah.... I always remember just how to find it, and although sky conditions make it very faded, it is still a pleasure to know it is around.

Finishing up my coffee, I put the scope away and head back in to get ready for work. I start down the back steps, jingling the keys to my car and doing my best to grin and have a good attitude. Oddly enough, something caught my eye and I found myself looking east...

Daggone Moon is still stuck and still half there. :)

"I could even drown... Or pull off my skin and swim to shore."



April 10, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: Right now I'm incredibly busy, and only home for what seems like minutes at a time. I did a look at the Sun today during a break period from work, while H had a run. Talk about a surprise! At first I thought perhaps 588 had rotated away and I was looking at another series - but no. 588 has eroded to the point where it is now only a major umbra/penumbra with a smaller spot in the lead. Two of 'em? Are totally gone now...

(hey hey! and two of them just arrived! how cool to see both sons again... ;)

As always, it's fun to keep tabs on an active series of sunspots and watch them go through their changes. The CME that left on my last report has now swept past Earth, hitting ShockSpot with a 99% confidence level. Of course, that means aurora... And that means a certain "vampyre" ain't gonna' be around to see it.

Maybe I'll see some stars?

**********************************************

And the word on the street is nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. Even though that Sun was still shining when I made it back here to sleep for awhile, all reference to clear skies were gone by the time I woke. What a shame.... I honestly could have used a little bit of quiet time under the stars before going into a long tour at work. Ah, well...

Guess I'll do without.

"My pain.... Is self-chosen. At least... I believe it to be."



April 7, 2004 - Inside AR588...

Comments: Well, it did it again. Newest "bad boy", sunspot AR588 released an earth-directed CME and as luck would have it, I was trying to study it.

In an attempt to better understand what I perceive visually, I really set the camera down on it. As always, the camcorder produces images of quality not really worth showing here... But what it does is allow me to go back and study a certain area frame by frame so I have a visual record I can pick apart and compare with a magnetogram.

AR588 is a real beauty... And thanks to my personal theory that highly active sunspots produce effects similar to the Wilson Effect visually, means we have a right tough customer to pick to pieces. Since I'm truly ashamed of how badly the photos turned out, the best I can do is to describe to you what I observed and how it compares to a magnetogram. 588 is divided into four major umbral regions. The easternmost has a deep, large symmetrical umbra and is just barely fringed by a symmetrical penumbral region. The centermost is almost identical, save for the fact the umbra is slightly irregular. Bear in mind that these two spots pack a tremendous, and negative only charge. The southernmost spot is by far the most interesting. Not only is the umbral region slightly lopsided and irregular, the penumbral that borders it comes off in a "S" like fashion. The penumbral is large, vague, and invades into the centermost portion. The westernmost of this group has a mature umbra, but has lost, or divided it's penumbral field toward the centermost spot. These two areas are highly charged negative as well. What you can see in the magnetogram is between the western and southern spot areas is a highly charged positive field... And get this... It matches the curve of the penubral field of the southern spot and shows a break in charge to the western. Of course, Hale values dictate for this hemisphere that the positive field goes east, but what really appears strange to me is the balancing act of positive energy for the two very regular spots sits way outside the effected area.

Ah, well. It is enough for me to be able to really get inside a sunspot and do some comparison work. I will continue to explore in the future with complex spots and work towards understanding in my limited fashion. In reviewing all the SOHO visual data, I also see that x-ray images and hydrogen alpha show intensity in the 588 area that goes completely off their scale. MDI images appear "muddy" and white light is drawn too far back to see what's inside. Unfortunately, no images seem to exist for an area when it is active! Is this because others who like to take detailed images of sunspots have difficulty achieving focus as well? I can't help but wonder. Perhaps there are answers out there to my questions...

And I'll keep on trying to find them.

"Down... Oh, down. Down.... Oh, down."



April 5, 2004 - The Moon... The Sun... Venus and the Plieades, Saturn, Jupiter, the ISS and Mooned Again...

Comments: I don't know when the sky cleared last night, but I do know around 3:00 a.m. the Moon was shining so brightly that it actually woke me up. I don't know how to describe it, but I do know almost anyone of you has experienced a time in that half-state between waking and sleeping when you realize that something about the light isn't quite right. I remember getting up and wandering to the window because it was throwing shadows into the room and realizing just how glorious it was outside! And then, of course, I went right back to sleep cuz' I didn't have to be up for another hour yet. ;)

It was still there on the way to work... Bright, vibrant, and full of promise for a beautiful sunshine filled day. It was a promise kept and for some reason, I couldn't wait to get home from work and have a look at sunspot 588. I think you have to realize I don't calculate my observations. I do it because I like it. I set the workhorse Celestron right outside the garage door because it's always assembled and ready to go. I just put on the solar filter, flow with whatever eyepiece takes my fancy and observe! I write down my notes, a general description, and what I feel about what I'm looking at as well as sketch. I don't set up fancy imaging equipment, but if my camcorder is handy, charged and has film in it? Well... I'll do this.



By no means some of the wonderful clarity and expertise show by others images of sunspots... Because no matter how hard I tried to achieve focus on this one, I was having problems getting one region to come in clearly. (dang. does it need collimated again, or what? the others were clear.) No matter. What I do is fast, it's easy, and I do it for myself. Might be fuzzy... But then, it kinda' reflects its' owner, eh? ;) So I clipped it down to a smaller size and put it away. I knew I would be out observing at least a little bit tonight and I would make my report tomorrow. Well, now it is tomorrow and when I sat down to check my e.mail I found out that ShockSpot had barked again and I'd received a 62% confidence level.

Hmmmmmm....

Figuring it was coming from one of the two major coronal holes we have right now, I sat down to do a little study and about lost my coffee when I found out that 588 had produced an M1 class flare and a coronal mass ejection yesterday within hours of my fuzzy photograph! Check this out...



courtesy of SOHO Lasco...


Buh buh buh buh! Grinning like the fiend I am, I immediately check G.O.E.S. x-ray flux data and found out the lttle dude rocked off another M2 class flare as well! Of course, my mind is working a mile a minute here. You and I both know I am not a professional astronomer and certainly not a photographer, but I sure have a supposition. Is it a possiblity that when one observes and/or tries to photograph a region that has just released a CME that all that energy across the electromagnetic spectrum could possibly effect the focus of the area?? I know this to be true of the Wilson Effect when a sunspot is near the limb... But what about when it is front and center? I think it's pretty plausible. And now I am just curious enough to find out!

Geez... Science is fun. ;)

**************************************

The skies stayed clear throughout the evening and when darkness came at last I was anxious to get out and see Venus and the Plieades together. I know it has seperated a great deal over the last couple of days, but I can't move clouds as much as I'd like to. Still, it really is gorgeous. I know this is going to sound super weird coming from me, but it reminds me of a picture that I saw as a child of Jesus with children at His feet. There is just something rather holy about this appearance. I know what it is and how it came to be, but trust me... It doesn't lessen the impact spiritually and I think it is something that transcendends science and religion. It makes you reflective...

After that, I was enough for me to simply use low power and the little Orion to look upon Saturn and watch Titan pull it across the sky. I take pleasure in Jupiter as well, for the three galieans present always remind me that I am part of a living Universe and things move. I pick up movement to the west/southwest and I wander out into the backyard with a smile on my face to watch H run the open fields as the ISS makes a majestic, low and slow pass over my area. I sip a cup of tea as I watch the Moon rise, huge and golden over the distant treetops. I can only laugh for it is almost like a magician's trick... The "rabbit" emerges in the spotlight out of the black hat of the night. When it has well risen and a certain black dog has tired enough to stay by my side, I turn the telescope its' way and enjoy the borrow light of the Sun reflecting off this distant and barren world.

Although Tycho tries to steal the show, Langrenus is the place tonight. You can see the shallow, ancient structure wonderfully. The phase tonight reveals some fine and beautiful details around areas we normally do not look at, such as Mare Smyth, Crater Humboldt, and Mare Australe. There are other edge features visible, but my eye is drawn over and over again to these. When I have drank my fill, I look about myself again at how the stars have changed! It is hard for me to believe that Orion has gone so far west already... And that Arcturus marks the early evening skies. Truly the position of Leo says that spring is here no matter if it did snow again or not. No matter what the clocks say now, it won't be long until those warm summer nights have returned and Saggitarius takes Puppis' place in the south.

I'm ready to swim amoungst the stars again.

"The river of defeat flows down... The only direction we know is down.

Down... Oh, down. Down.... Oh, down."



April 3, 2003 - The Sun... At the Observatory...

Comments: This will be a two-part report, written when I have time to do so. At the moment I would prefer to make my solar report since I have just stepped inside from playing with the "peek-a-boo" Sun and I have some very interesting findings for my co-observer, Kyle.

In our conversation yesterday, we both reviewed the data that was available. While you had a chance to view all three currently visible spots, I had not and what assessments I made were based strictly on data. Dude? I hope you had skies clear enough to look today! Yesterday we discussed what we could see in the current (for that time) white light images and you asked me which one was the "bad boy". Despite the information, we talked about based on what we could see AR587 looked like our "mover and shaker" for the moment. Wanna' know what? We were right. That curl in the leading side of the penumbral field that you observed and we both could tap virtually did what it looked like it was going to do... Divide! My own observations today now shows that a mature umbra has now developed in that region along with its' own seperate penumbra. And wait until you see today's magnetograms!

ShockSpot barked at me first thing this morning and I started researching. The entire side facing the Earth at the moment looks like one huge coronal hole with the only active region still being centered around the visible spots. Checking through information currently available, I also found a huge prominence developed on the side where we surmised there was an imbalance. Now, ShockSpot gave me a 97% confidence level, and those numbers mean that the solar wind stream coming from those coronal holes has now reached Earth and may trigger lower level auroral acitivty. Very kewl! Do you remember the magnetic classifications? Then if your memory serves, you will now see that magnetic classifications have dropped to either alpha or gamma... No more beta. Check out the magnetogram... And see how it balanced itself. (our sun is so cool!) Another thing you will find is that we also have a new visitor that has appeared since yesterday. Since a Carrington Rotation Number has not yet been assigned to the daily images, I am going to assume that NOAA data specifies it as AR588. It's coming in and it's not big... But! Remember how the GOES data had flat-lined? Watch and see if our new spot doesn't produce more activity than the previous ones.

And rock on, brother!!

************************************************
As the skies grow dark and the threat of clouds return once again, I find myself on the road to the Observatory to attend our monthly Public Open House. It is a pleasant trip, across the curving roads and small towns that I have become acquainted with in the past three years. As always, the moment I climb the hill and see the place, I am deeply touched. So many good memories of friends and starry nights....

Joe, Terry, Robert and Greg are here as well and I could not have asked for more pleasing company. Greg shall ever be the optimist and I admire his willingness to stand under the clouds and hope. What spirit! If size and love could move the heavens, my friend? You would be the one to do it. I greet my friends inside and I am sorry to hear that I have arrived too late to visit with Sean. I had really wanted to see that young man once again! I will miss our "jam" sessions and your smile.

Not long after our conversation begins, the first of our guests arrived and it is our pleasure to welcome back Cheryl and J.T. who visited with us on Mars night and have been anxious for the weather to break so they could visit again. Their company was charming and as Robert and Joe take them on a tour of the facility, Terry and I hustle to set up a "Cloudy Nights" program. We all smile as the whistle, pop and hum of meteor sounds fills the dome in a spooky way. The guys have explained the scope to them, and no matter how many times we do the "vertigo" thing, it always makes us laugh! We retire to the warmth of the ClubHouse to continue our conversation and see Terry's slideshow and even more guests arrive. And they bring with them news...

The stars are out!

Joe and I hustle to set up the little Orion. I am deeply appreciative of his helping hands and within mere minutes we have it on the Moon and bid our guests hurry for a look... The clouds are racing back. No more than a few brief peeks later and the face of Luna is covered again, but it's ok! There is still this wonderful facility to show and I am so proud of my friends as I watch them. This is what it's all about, isn't it? As we walk out to leave, who should make an appearance but the mighty Jupiter? And the little scope is quickly set its way and our guests have the opportunity to see the awesome planet and the dance of its moons.

We wish our guests light speed!

We quietly begin to close things down for the night. I look around and I feel no sadness. Even though it has been a cloudy night, my friends have made it successful and I am honoured to have been a part of it. We have chosen to celebrate the evening at our latest haunt for sandwiches and drinks and I am glad that tonight I have the time to do so. They go out ahead of me and I see the lights curve down the Hill chasing one another. I start my own car...

And I don't look back.

"I could even burn... Or cut off my pride and buy some time. This headful of sighs is the weight tied to my waist... "



April 1, 2004 - An April Fool...

Comments: I had thought to play a grand joke here. Perhaps to tell you I had a 7.0 night, discovered a new comet, or just simply saw the Moon, but the truth is that it is raining.

It's a cold rain.

You will have to pardon me if you find a few introspective entries here for awhile. There's a very big part of my astronomy life that is about to end and if nothing else, I leave my words here as a caution to others on getting involved with certain things and where it might lead you. This decision is not easy... It is as painful as anything I have ever done and it does not come lightly or in anger. It will take some time for me to heal. There is no fool like an old fool... And I'm weary of fooling myself.

As usual, I run away outside. I had thought to take a Corona out and hide under the porch roof, but instead a find myself with a cup of chai for old times sake. I sit on the porch swing, listening to the sounds of the April rains and watch H play in the puddles. It's time for me to get on back to the things I love. Time for my inner Don Quixquote to lay down the lance and stop tilting windwills and conquering the imaginary dragon. I miss my life of poetry, stars and music. I miss the joy I once had in viewing the stars. I miss my own sense of humor and my life without regrets. What a shame it all had to come to this.

When my cup is finished, so I am. It was good to be outside in the rain for awhile. It has left me cold and sometimes that is a good thing as well. I am sorry that I am not in a joking mood, but the passion will come back when the poison has been let. I promise.

The process has already begun.

"My pain... Is self-chosen. At least... So the Prophet says."