August 31, 2004 - Ups and Downs...
Comments: I started off this morning getting up to look at Venus and Saturn together. Well, I accomplished what I was after, for I did see them hanging out in the morning sky... But I didn't get my tail out there early enough to set scope on them to see what phase Venus is in, or the position of Titan. I just plain slept too long.
I did motivate myself to go out and look at the Sun this morning. Guess what? It's bald.
I at least kicked the tires and lit the fires enough today to do all my monthly updates. Articles researched and written, newsletters published, various websites updated... All the little stuff that makes my world go round. By early evening, I was on the road toward Ontario to attend a board meeting for the AFY, and by the time it was done? I watched the Moon rise on the way back. Making H and I a snack, we both went outside to admire it, but the motivation to take a scope out is just not here tonight.
I'm just tired.
"Hold me now. I'm six feet from the edge and I'm thinkin'... Maybe six feet ain't so far down."
August 30, 2004 - A Fire In The Trees and Double That, Please...
Comments: Well, the "vampyre" is still alive and still kickin'. I slept to the sounds of rain and thunder and would wake to deep, misty fogs that seemed to swallow even light itself. I do what I have to do and most of it passes in a blur. Somewhere along the line, I remember seeing Venus and Saturn rise together, thinking to myself at how very close they are - but with no recollection of the morning itself. Funny what strange hours will do to you.
By this afternoon, it was all over with and I could put away the "machine head" and come back to earth. I seem to recall reading e.mail and a lot of it just makes me numb. (life without expectations, brother... is like food without taste.) There is bits of sunshine here and there and it looks like it might actually be a nice night. Now. If you could just get me out of this chair...
As night fell, I was outdoors. I was going to swim but the farmer is plowing part the field that borders on the east side of my yard. It's no big deal when he's 10 acres away, but when he's at the edge it feels much too close. H and I decide at this point that it's just best if we take up station on the stone steps of the little back porch. It's a right cozy place, about eight foot square and enclosed by stone, lattice work and blooming vines. We can pretty much stay hidden, but still have a great view of the rising Moon. From this vantage point, it doesn't come up over the distant woods, but makes itself know like a fire in the trees.
Tonight it is a beauty. Folklore considers this to be the "Fruit Moon" (and i will refrain, joe... even though you know how difficult that is for me. ;) and it fits. Right here the night smells like moss, stone, honeysuckle and spearmint... But if you walk to the grove of trees just beyond the pool you will know why "Fruit Moon" fills the bill. The pear, the apple, the apricot, the grapes... All of these things are simply dripping from the branches. Even the mulberry and bittersweet are enjoying a good year and the wildlife that visits here will eat well. As the Moon rises at an incredible speed, it's light turns from golden to silver and the landscape is bathed in blue shadows. It is wonderfully clear and I do believe I will use one of those blue shadows to set the old Celestron up in, and we shall journey to some double stars, please.
Thanks to the earlier and earlier setting of the Sun, Scorpius seems to stand still right now. Although the light of the Moon toasts its true beauty, the primary stars are very visible and it is my pleasure to seek out Graffias and its yellow primary and beautiful blue secondary to the north/northeast. Another such star in Scorpius is Al Niyat by Antares, and it is an easy spit. If you go to Al Nasl, there is a double star west of it that I do not know the name of, for Uranometria doesn't list it... But have a look. They are similar in color and definately a much tighter pair. Of course, the night would not be complete if I did not visit Epsilon Lyrae or Albeiro. 61 Cygni is really easy too, but you need the finder to locate it in sky bright conditions.
Gamma Delphini is a delightful double. While the two stars aren't seperated by a wide margin in magnitude, they are tight enough together to be a nice challenge and colorful enough in their yellow and blue to give rise to a smile. I poked around a bit for Ras Algethi, but I've lost touch with it's position. The last I can remember without going back in to look at the map again is Eta Cassiopeia. Sweet!!! Now here's a nice star party item. We've got enough difference in magnitude to make it "clever" - a tight enough split that they don't look like just a couple of random stars that happen to be close to one another, and a tasty combination of a yellow primary and red secondary! Remind me this one is worthy.
For now? This is enough for me. I'd like to say that I looked at the Moon - But I did not. It's just been a nice, relaxing time. The weather has cooled significantly and had their not been a full moon tonight? It would have been gorgeous. It has felt good to be outdoors again and I look forward to the future days and the return of dark skies.
And one last waltz with Saggitarius...
"So please come stay with me... Cuz' I still believe there's something left for you and me... For you and me... For you and me..."
August 28, 2004 - Stereo Moon...
Comments: Hey. It's the "vampyre" back and at your service. I stepped out the door around 2:00 in the morning and instantly felt like I had walked into Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Not only was there a wonderful, warm aroma of pine in the air, but the humidity and heat was beyond incredible at that hour. Breathing was almost optional the air felt so thick! Realizing the scoping was going to be horrible, I laid the binoculars outside to acclimate to the outdoors and ducked back in to the air conditioning. Making myself some coffee, I goofed around for awhile and when I was dressed and ready for work went back out to enjoy that fine ivory Moon.
I've got to tell you, working with the binoculars has truly been a pleasure. The view they offer of the Moon is not as spectacular as the telescope, but it's very, very different. It's like looking at it with very low power... In stereo! The dimensionality that both eyes give to the lunar orb makes just viewing some very ordinary things seem spectacular. Lunar rays where the highlight of tonight and Tycho is simply stunning. The bright mark of Keplar looks so much different, and between it and Copernicus, the tracery on the surface was awesome. There's something so very nice and clean about this... Almost like looking at it with "super eyes"... And I truly appreciate the view.
Not long after, it started to cloud back up again and I figured I'd just go do something else for awhile. By the time I headed back out on the road for work, the clouds were parting again and the combination of lunar position and thick atmosphere made the Moon appear absolutely huge. It took on the color of a ripe canteloupe and the size was like comparing a dime to a fifty cent piece. Just spectacular. Reminding myself to watch for deer (!) instead of dreaming on the Moon while driving, it was still a sight to behold. I walked out of work just before it set and it had turned picturesque. The framework of city "stuff" along with the huge, swollen Moon looked like a live work of art. Smiling, I go back about my day and wonder if anyone else saw this.
It would have been worth getting up for.
"Sad eyes follow me... But I still believe there's something left for me."
August 26, 2004 - It Was Gassendi...
Comments: Here I am. A beautiful night on my hands, clear sky and a gibbous Moon that just won't quit. I take out the old Celestron, aim it Luna's way, take one look at Gassendi...
And it up sitting in the redwood chair and losing it for awhile.
I guess it's "just one of those times" and I've got to deal with it. So many things... Things you can see and things you can't. Who was the astronomer dude that cracked in the end? Edwin Hubble? One of them did... I remember reading about it and thinking how sad it was that such a great mind went off into the briney blue. Of course, I'll never have to worry about that because my mind is far more simple than his ever was. But there's times when everything just weighs so much and it feels right just to lay it down for awhile and let my own brand of rain wash it away.
Of course, the stars are here to keep me company. They always have been. There's a very large, black dog that does his best to make me laugh and when he comes in from the back field bringing me a windfall pear, I do just that. Hey. There's not a care in the world that eclipses a windfall pear, is there? It won't be long until H and I will be sneaking up on the deer as they enjoy the bounty/ I look forward to scaring them.
Eventually I just give up and put the scope away. I hate it that I didn't use the opportunity to do anything constructive, but for the record?
It was Gassendi.
"Hold me now. I'm six feet from the edge and I'm thinkin'... Maybe six feet ain't so far down."
August 25, 2004 - Big Blue, the Moon and Three Travellers...
Comments: Joe had asked me a few days ago if I would be interested in helping him give an Observatory tour to a couple of "special" guests. Actually, I think he's one of the few people that understand me, and knows that what I "do" is never for any type of glory... And that I would walk the 40 miles there if that's what it took to give another person the same type of opportunities that have been given to me. No one will ever remember us for who we are, or what we do, and that's the way we want it...
But they will remember for a lifetime looking through that big scope.
It didn't look like it was going to happen. I hit rain not too far from the Observatory and darn near hit another deer even closer. Heart racing, I managed my way out of the ditch, figuring despite the odds that I'd be there. As a strange twist of fate, the skies began to clear. Both Joe and our guests had already arrived by the time I made it. He had both the SkyWind and binoculars, as well as his fine Celestron C8 set up, and thanks to him having the Dome open and ready to go, within seconds I had it set on the Moon and ready to take our guests on a ride of a lifetime. Given the unhurried pace, there was plenty of time to familiarize them with both the lift and the operation of the telescope. They had made a special trip to be here at this time and place and we want them to be able to truly explore. After having already seen the features that were on the terminator, and those readily understood, I familiarized them with focusing and how to move the scope in the directions I guide them. At 26mm, Big Blue is like looking at a dinner plate with eyes the size of a quarter... One small section at a time is all you can see...
And I know the road.
I close my eyes as each one of our three "astronauts" go to the eyepiece and tell them about each of the craters they are seeing. For those familiar with lunar cartography, there is so much more here than just 'Wow! I see craters!". Can you imagine seeing the interior craterlets of Plato with ease? Or knowing there is far more than 13 small craters within Clavius? Copernicus looks to be the size of a house, and each loving detail sketched by the hand of Rukl is beyond evident. Things are just beyond compare, like exploring all the details around Tycho and tracing the rays. Of course, the Sinus Iridum captured their imaginations as much as it has captured mine over the years and looking at it feels like you could touch Promentoriums Heraclides and LaPlace.
As the clouds passed over, we would talk, and our guests are actually a bit older than myself. It's natural for us to reminisce about the Apollo days and as we talk, I give basic directions for them to find landing areas at the eyepiece. Sometimes that's a pretty hard thing to communicate, because my directions might be as identifying one crater, and telling you to look for three and then going to 11:00 to a mountain range, but it's still loads of fun. As we go back to the ground, I look down to see Joe's smiling face and it is deeply appreciated. Outside, he's done something with the C8 and a guidance system that I can't... And that's pluck off a DSO under moving clouds and high light. While our trio of visitors are whisked away to the M13, I take out the little television and the eyepiece camera to connect to Joe's scope so we can further explore the Moon!
Now we can point out the roads, eh?
Was it a good time? Absolutely magificent! Thanks to his fine optics, a little CCD magic and the ability to pan back and forth across the "scene" we are able to further explore the Moon in equally delightful and easygoing ways. When we're finished? It's not hard for me to pick off Albeiro with my little Orion and for him to sweep in the "Ring Nebula" and "Andromeda Galaxy". We round off our impromptu program with whatever they wish... Be it an explanation of cosmic structure, or just playing with meteors and meteor sounds. A little more "magic" later, and we're able to provide eyepiece views of the planets as well. When our guests tire, we provide them with some NASA goodies to commemerate both their visit to the Observatory and their own memories of the importance of the space program.
Thank you so much! The pleasure was all ours...
After our guests left, I grinned at Joe and asked him if he'd like to explore the Moon some more. I know it would have been perfectly alright if I had truly wanted to, but I'm satisfied, thanks. There will be a time here in the near future when I will spend hours at the eyepiece of this great scope studying transient phenomena, but tonight was more about sharing than studies. Things are put away, packed up and good to go in just a few minutes. We talk about the past, present and future and how wonderful it is that the public is once again taking interest in the Observatory - how changes might be slow, but they are happening.
As we head our seperate ways, I know I'll be tired tomorrow, but it really was a wonderful night. As luck would have it, I ended up sitting sideways in the road not too far down the road. What is it about the deer and me this year? Terry told me one ran out right behind my car Friday night when he was following me, and tonight I wasn't even going fast and the crazy beast did everything but charge my car! It was bad enough that I actually hit one going to work a couple of weeks ago (yes, virginia, there is a santa claus. not only does his reindeer fly, but the whitetail does an admirable job over the top of a camaro, too.. ;) but I'm beginning to feel awfully paranoid. (i avoid caffiene so i can sleep, but i'm here to tell you adrenaline is pretty potent. ;) It's that a deer? Nope. It's a mailbox. Relax. Is that a deer? Nope. It's a fencepost. Relax. Is that a deer? Nope. It's a guardrail. Relax. Is that a deer? Nope. It's a BIG deer! Screeeeeeeech... Once again, heart racing, I stopped at the service station before I jumped on the highway to make sure I was good to continue the trip. (did someone install deer whistles backwards on here? i think they're out to get me...) Despite the attendant thinking I was crazy for crawling around on the ground with a flashlight, no additional damage was sustained and the only thing that happened on the rest of the journey was just me...
Grinnin' in the moonlight.
"I cried out heaven help me... But I'm down to one last breath. And with it let me say... Let me say..."
August 24, 2004 - Binocular Moon...
Comments: It is by no stretch of the imagination a "nice night"... It is hot, humid, and there is more than a generous portion of clouds to go round. When I first came out, I knew that I wasn't going to do any serious observing, lunar or otherwise, so I decided I'd just turn on the radio, shuck down and go for a swim instead. As I would make lap, roll over to rest and look up, the here and there clouds would part and the stars would shine through briefly. The south is pretty much a wall, but once in awhile, the Moon would peek through as well.
When I had tired about an hour or so later, I dried off and grabbed a cold Corona and the bincoulars and headed for the old redwood chair. Only the noises of the many crickets and frogs could possibly compete with my rock and roll! Smiling, I flopped down in the chair, tuned the little 7X35s down to perfect... And off I went to the Moon.
Suprisingly, Copernicus rocks with binoculars. You can see it is right on the edge of the terminator and it is also very possible to see details around the Southern Highlands and the beginning of Tycho's rays. Of course, so little power is not exactly what one would call inducsive to do much studies, but the dimensionality of looking at the Moon with both eyes is a journey all of its own! I found myself simply enjoying watching the clouds roll across it.
It's like seeing a whole new world just hung there in space...
"I though I found the road to somewhere... Somewhere in His grace."
August 23, 2004 - Escape to Archimedes...
Comments: Did you see the Moon last night? Beautiful, wasn't it? Don't spoil the mystery and magic by explaining the halo as a soft, thin veil of clouds... Just look at it. Like a soap bubble, there are colors in the refracted light. It makes it look pearlescent, and there is more there...
There's a ruby caught in Selene's crown.
I don't know why, but as I stand here and look at it, I am reminded of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"...
"The moving Moon went up the sky.
And nowhere did abide;
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside..."
Written almost two hundred years ago by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, I can't help but wonder if he was perhaps looking at the Moon as it looks now... Holding court in the center of Scorpius. Despite the halo, you would have to be blind not to see brilliant Antares and Graffias. This is truly remarkable, and I take out the old Celestron to journey with me for a closer look. I know I am smiling as I look at it with low power. There is no way the the stars are going to be occulted, or even close enough to be considered a graze, but it makes it no less mysterious and beautiful. And suprisingly, despite the patina of reflected light, the view is incredibly steady.
Of course, Plato catches my eye first... But there is something very fine about viewing the Moon. You may joke about "never seeing the same Moon twice", but your words are entirely accurate. Even though we see basically the same swatches of lunar scenery every month at any given time, each cycle is different and tonight the area around Archimedes is perfect. Trading out low power for high, I am caught by the soft rilles that crease the eastern edge Mare Ibrium. Dune-like and serene, they are like frozen waves that buoy up tiny craters Piazzi Smyth and Kirch. It is like they beg you to move central away from Plato and toward the wonderful, shallow Archimedes. As you travel up the heights of Montes Spitzenberg, your mind realizes just how large these features really are.
At around 51 miles in diameter, crater Archimedes in truly anything but plain. Retrieving the barlow, I double the 9mm's power once again and the view is incredibly steady and the dizzying magnfication reveals wonderful stepped and leveled crater walls that give a "stadium" effect to the structure. The interior of Archimedes is a smooth floor, filled in by the dusts of time, but there appears to be small depressions or minor craters on both its' east and west edge, along with a shadow in the central area. To the south, crater Bancroft is like a puncture wound in the non-descript, and well lit collection of mountains known as Montes Archimedes. What appears to be shallow scratches arcoss Palus Putredinis runs toward the incredible heights of the Apennine Mountains, yet stops in the "foothills". As I look at Mons Hadley, I reflect on the Apollo 15 mission. My word! Even from here on Earth you can see the height! My information says anywhere up to around 9,500 to 15,000 feet and to set a lander down in that cove must have been pretty scary. Just look at this... We have something roughly half the size of Mt. Everest here, and to try and fly a Campbell's tomato soup can with legs into that little cove is just... Just...
You guys had some mighty big b... Badges of courage there, dudes.
But I digress, don't I? No matter. There is simple peace and stark beauty in these mountains. Walk them sometime and you will see what I mean. Mons Bradley, Huygens, and Ampere... It's really pretty incredible. And so I stand away from the eyepiece. To put my undriven telescope at such power means continual tracking. Although it is a thing I do without really thinking about it, the continual shifting scene and the level of concentration I put behind it means that I get enough after about 30 minutes. I drop the magnification back to the 26mm once again before I put things away to have a smile at Antares. To the unaided eye, it reminds me wonderfully of a time that I chased Mars so close to the Moon, eh? Antares... Rival of Mars. And I find myself stepping outside many times during the course of the evening to watch them go across the sky together...
What a fine team they made.
"I'm looking down now that it's over. Reflecting on all of my mistakes..."
August 22, 2004 - 239,000 Miles Away...
Comments: Another beautiful day in the HeartLand... Plenty warm enough to bask in the Sun and swim... And tired enough to sit in the spa and soak. Yeah, I'm tired, but I'm hanging in there. It's the last day of my vacation and I'm not mourning it, just enjoying it. As the Sun went down and darkness began to creep in around the edges, I didn't really feel like doing much of anything besides sit out here on the deck barefoot and cradle the accoustic guitar. I tuned it quietly, played a few rifts and just generally stared off into space.
My mind is a million miles away tonight.
Like with a lot of my astronomy, most of my guitar pickin' is from memory. And, like astronomy, I'm not all that good at it. What I do soothes me, though... And pretty soon I find myself humming along with some old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tunes and fading my way up through the years. I always get a laugh when I look through a Guitar World magazine, for I look at them to learn new tunes while the young'uns buy them to learn the old. I guess I was never quite cut out to be a musician, because at one moment I might play "Heart Of Gold" and back it up with "I Am The Highway". Three minutes later, I'm pushing my vocal range with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and taking it right back down to the low end of the scale and practicing sustaining with "It's Been Awhile". Ah, well... That's me. One minute Steve Miller? The next Seether...
And sometimes "Glycerine" makes me cry, eh?
I would play for as long as my fingers could stand it, and then play some more. I watched the sky darken around the Moon and wondered if I could still play the flute like I did when I was younger. Oh, for those days! Jethro Tull... Where have you gone? I laugh when I bungle Jim Croce, and find myself putting a little heart into Collective Soul. I know my fingers will hurt the next day, but it's a good kind of hurt. The tips of my left hand have had callouses on them for years and they are decidedly flat... Just like my voice can be. But you know what? It's not important. There's something in the resonance that is part of my soul, and even the sound of me miscuing against a Martin Silk-n-Steel is just what I am. Far from perfect...
It comes to the point where I can no longer hold the strings down and I smile and lean the Gibson against the deck rail. The stars have come out while I have played and I think I'm in the mood to journey about 239,000 miles away. Setting the old Celestron outside the garage door, I pick up a couple of eyepieces, put them in the rack and head off to the Moon. The silver light is a "string" all of its own, and the lunar surface holds as much peace for me as making music.
I smile as I walk across the surface. So many observations here! Robert? Cassini and Cassini A, Aristillus, Autolycus, Sinus Medii, Mare Vaporum, Hipparchus, Julius Caesar... Away from the terminator is Atlas, Hercules, Aristotle, Eudoxus, Posidonus, Cyrillus, Catherina, and Theophillus... How I hope you are looking! And Joe? Ah, Joe... If you were looking tonight, you would know where my mind was at...
The Alpine Valley.
And so I take my peace for awhile. It's wonderful to be out here amidst the quiet sounds of night. The smell of the hostas can be caught on the breeze once in awhile, as well as the pungent aroma of the ripening tomatoes. As I put away the scope, I stand for awhile just looking at the last of the summer stars. It won't be long until they are gone and I really should take the time one of these nights to visit with them proper. Perhaps split a few doubles, or visit with the globulars in the halo for awhile? Ah, well... I know that no matter how far I'd like to go, there will be a guiding light just 239,000 miles away for the next several days to keep me company...
But I'm down to one last breath.
"And with it let me say... Let me say... Hold me now. I'm six feet from the edge and I'm thinkin'... Maybe six feet ain't so far down."
August 21/22, 2004 - Hidden Hollow "Light"....
Comments: Ah, man. This is more like it! A beautiful partly sunny day with mild temperatures and a picnic with really good friends. It was such a pleasure to see Robert, Curt, Trish, Bubba, Greg, Tim, Stuart and all their families again! Just a really nice time set in the incomparable grounds of Malibar Farms. And you could tell who the astronomer's were in the bunch, too...
Cuz' we were lookin' up.
Taking my leave early, I headed back out across the hills to the Observatory. Weather this nice means we will probably have guests for our "star party" weekend and I wasn't wrong. As soon as I turned the corner into the Observatory drive, I could see unfamiliar telescopes setting up and that in itself is a true pleasure. Fortunately, Terry had beat me there and gotten the ClubHouse opened up and started people registering for the evening. A few minutes later, I had the Dome open and cooling... As well as laughing with our guests who had taken bets on just "who" I would be. Making all their acquaintance was a pleasure, (another Harley rider! awesome...) and as the afternoon shadows grew long, more and more began to arrive. I'm sure I had a grin six miles wide when I saw Jeroemy and his son come up the steps... For I have a telescope waiting on them to use. Most of these faces are familiar, a lot are not, and it is good to see Dan, Dave, Mike A., John, Joe, Mike G. and even a few blasts from the past like Steve and Ron.
We had an H-alpha filter in the crowd and it was truly my pleasure to walk out into the area around the fire ring and get a peek at all the lovely prominences on the east half of the sun. The skies are looking awfully promising and it's time to start getting some equipment set up. Carefully nestling the SVD8 into a safe spot, it's time to give the "Ottoman" the honours tonight. Just for laughs, I brought the little TV out to the observing area and we hooked up the video eyepiece to John's telescope to have a peek at the Moon. Of course, this is totally cool... And it's not long until I have Jeroemy plugged in with the little Orion and turn them loose to explore with a map. Around the edges, the "Ohio Photoman", Ron is busily taking pictures of the action and scopes of all shapes and sizes (obsessions, yum...) are assembled and ready to go.
Enlisting mentor Dan's aid, we tag team out the Moon and do a little exploring with the big scope. Dan becomes my invaluable "driver" tonight as we work in perfect tandem with him positioning the lift while I aim at a variety of DSOs. The darker and darker the skies become, the better and better the viewing gets and I tend to suprise even myself at just how reasonably well I can still aim this metal monster. What did we look at? M4, M6, M8, M22, and M28... I know this sounds like very little, but you would actually have to try to move this big scope around by hand to understand just how "physical" you have to get to move it to the smallest degree. Is it balanced? Of course. If you could aim it at the mirror end and the floor! The really big kicker is that the finderscope is at the viewing end, and even the smallest of movements means some very sincere pushing, pulling and tugging.
But, man... The view is worth it!!
I kid you not when I tell you these things are stunning. Tonight I chose to drop way back and go with the 55mm and it was a very good call. This put things about three times larger than you would normally see things in any ground based scope and the resolution goes beyond imagination. The work is really, really worth it when you share the view and hear others gasps of suprise and delight when the most ordinary of objects turns extraordinary!
Of course, it has been a couple of hours by now and I'm outright tired. In the meantime, I've kept a running supply of coffee going on in the ClubHouse and sometimes it just feels good to come down to the ground. I remember the vivid and beautiful views through Dave's large binculars. Who would have thought that concrete could feels so good? But it was, amigo... Still warm from the Sun, it felt just excellent to lie down and cruise the celestial wonders with both eyes! Behold... The "North American Nebula" in all it's glory! Joe had also set up his SkyWind and binoculars and I always deeply enjoy the very steady view and the effect of "falling into space". Simply wonderful views through Mike Allen's Obsession, Terry's dob, the Intes, our guests scopes, and I even snatched the little Orion back and aimed it at as many things as I could recall. At one point in time, the sky was so gloriously clear that you could see the M33 unaided. Just a wonderful night... And filled with meteors!
By now, I had both rested and resisted enough and it was time to put the "big 'un" on the Andromeda galaxy. Again, it is impossible to truly describe all the details that can be seen... But I'm willing to try. At no more magnificaton than the 55mm delivers, the core will blow you away. Dark dustlanes, hints of globular clusters, and the perfect resolution of the NGC206. A grunt, a groan, a push, a pull... And the companion M110 walks into life complete with vivid dark dustlane. More feats that woud require the services ofa California governer more than an old astronomer reveals the companion M32 as well and as each guest comes to the eyepiece I allow them to find these things for themselves and smile as I can feel them strain right through the floor of the lift.
Ain't easy, is it? ;)
By now, Greg has joined us as well and we go back down to snatch up the 26mm. When set on the M31, magic happens. It is totally possible to explore details in another galaxy and we delight in various globular clusters, nebulae and knots that exists not in our own galaxy, but in one two million light years away! It's a wonderful time observing, and when we have tired, we go back down to visit with our guests and to wish those who have had enough for the evening a pleasant and safe journey. We work with the telescopes on the ground for awhile, because quite honestly I have had enough. When Stuart arrives, I know we've got to go for one more, and I take him up to explore the intricacies of the Plieades. When he requests the M31, I honestly try... But sir? I am whupped.
Has the hour grown late? Yes, it has. It is fun to go back down with the small scope and pick up them M words in Cassiopeia and well as a very generous portion of NGCs. (hey, john? told ya' the 7789 was very cool!) Just fun stuff, like the E.T. cluster, the double cluster, M54, lots of others overhead and on down through Auriga. Greg and Terry go back in to try and set the 31" on the M36, and I know they acheived it... But I'm out of gas.
By now, only the really serious observers are left, and while I consider myself to be serious at times, I have had enough, thanks. Time for this old kid to wish my friends adieu and close the dome down for the night. There were many of them still there when I left, but they'll have to rock on their own. Tucking only the necessities back in my car, I head out on a tired, mindless trip across country. It has probably been a couple of years since I've been out observing this late, and I still find myself smiling at Orion and Venus on the rise. Dawn is not far away.
Goodnight, ya'll... It was real.
"It seems I found the road to nowhere... And I'm trying to escape. I yelled back when I heard thunder... But I'm down to one last breath..."
August 20, 2004 - Hidden Hollow "Wet"...
Comments: Hey. You knew it would rain, didn't you? Of course. It's just the way our luck runs. It doesn't matter, though. I'm still happy to show up at the Observatory and do what I can when I can. Things looks so wonderful all cleaned up, and it's just nice to sit here in the ClubHouse and watch a movie.
Of course, I chose "Signs"...
By the time Dan arrived, I was ready for company! Even as many times as I have seen this movie, it still bugs me a little. With everything done, we can just kick back, relax and wait for others to arrive. Terry, Keith, Mike, and Joe all join us as well, and we opt for a little "Star Trek". The laughter is free and easy, and despite the continual rain, it feels good to be here amoungst friends. ("somebody turn off that (! alarm!" ;) We have an easy-going meeting, but there is no guests for Hidden Hollow. Who can blame them? It's wet!!
After a reasonable amount of time, we all head out for dinner. Our laughter and conversations continue, and it is just good to enjoy each other's fellowship. There is talk of clearing skies tomorrow and perhaps that will bring visitors to the Observatory. I am looking forward to attending AFY's picnic as well, and hopefully to some faces that I have not seen in a couple of years. I hope the clouds and rain stay away...
It's been too long.
"Please come now. I think I'm falling... I'm holding on to all I think is safe."
August 17, 2004 - More Binocular Studies... At the Observatory...
Comments: Well, ya' might put me on a week long holiday, tell me that I don't have to go to bed at any certain time, nor wake up before the crack of dawn, but somebody forgot to tell my body that. Even as pleasantly tiring and relaxing as last night's study was, I still found myself up, awake and ready to go at 4:30 a.m. You realize the really criminal part of this is that by the time I've trained myself to sleep later it will be time to go back to the routine, don't you? ;) Ah, it's just the way of things...
Anyhow, it was still beautifully clear out before dawn and I have truly enjoyed just how easy it is to step outside with binoculars and do a few studies. Not only is it easy, but ya' know what?
It's kinda' fun, too...
Binocular Messier Studies
Date: August 17, 2004
Binoculars: 7X35 Tasco
Sky: 5 limiting magnitude Stability: 8/10
Time Start: 4:45 a.m. ESDT
Time End: 5:15 a.m. ESDT
M37 - Starting with the northeastern of three easy open clusters, the M37 is absolutely no problem to pick out. Very nice size for the binos, M37 is a bright stellar concentration that takes very little effort and aversion to begin seeing a bit of resolution and a chain of fine stars to the south.
M36 - Can be placed in the same field with the M37 for a double treat. M36 appears a bit smaller and more compactly concentrated in a small triangular fashion. Here again, we have the beginnings of resolution, and the M36 displays lots of fine stars peppered over and around the most concentrated area.
M38 - Can be placed in the same field of view as the M36. M38 is significantly larger than the M36 and appears about the same apparent size as the M37. This one combines both previous studies qualities. The M38 has a central, bright condensation of stars that cannot be resolved, as well as a very generous portion of stars across its surface and surrounding it that resolve easily. The eastern-most portion really sparkles and there is a chain of fine stars to the east.
M45 - Now what can you say about the Plieades that hasn't already been said? Here is a picturesque open cluster to the binoculars.,, It is impossible not to see the blue coloration of the stars and the smokey, hazy qualties of its nebula regions. Many of its finer stars are easily resolved to the binoculars and it absolutely looks like every picture you've ever seen of this region. Awesome!
And I'll stop there for this morning, thank you. You know just as surely as you're sitting there that I've been doing one heck of a lot more exploring with these little binoculars than I report, and that I've taken the time to go back over and over what I've already seen. Sky position has a great deal to do with the amount of detail! I'm not sure what makes it so, (and don't hand me that "less atmosphere to look through" crap... i did not walk out of the barn with a telescope yesterday, ok?) because I noticed the other night that the M16 appeared far better to binoculars when it was in its decline rather than at its apex. It's really been a lot of fun in learning, and there has been many totally cool things I've seen that I haven't quite got the knack of identifying with a star chart yet.
But give me time... ;)
After a wonderful sunny day, what could be better than to give a tour of the Warren Rupp Observatory to a guest? I am delighted that we have folks out there who are interested in visiting and who are willing to be patient with both sky conditions and my antiquated, slow abilities to set a 20 foot tall telescope on a small target. Arriving at the dome just as dusk was taking over, Greg had just arrived to help as well and flipped me the peace sign as I started unloading. Moments later, Joe arrived as well and the Dome quickly came to life. Right now, Hidden Hollow is having its annual "Band Camp" and it appears that they are going to be enjoying some of their festivities about 30 yards away! Leave it to me to chose this night, huh? But the reality check is that you don't make a date with the sky... She makes a date with you.
As soon as the Dome opens, we get all kinds of curious people. That's what we're here for, and it's our pleasure to let you inside to photograph the big scope and have a look around! Sean arrives to light the bonfire, and it only takes about 45 seconds for me to realize that if we're gonna' be good? We're gonna' have to be good with lotsa' light.... No matter! The atmosphere is noisy and festive and by the time our guests have arrived, I've got it set on Antares and ready for them. Of course, I can explain from now until doomsday that Antares has this wonderful nebulosity around it and tell you right where to look for its' little green companion, but most people are only going to see a bright orange ball of light. (a spikey one, too... we've got thins moving in...) That's cool, though! And as I let the down off the lift, they go to both Joe and Greg for other views and within a very few moments, I've got the M4 up and in the eyepiece.
Now, that's more like it, eh? Grinning, I turn the eyepiece over to our guests and smile at the fact that I got to see the NGC6144 as I was re-aiming it. Stepping back in the lift and allowing them as much time as they like to study is absolutely no problem! We can't help but joke and laugh as all the young folks below us keep looking up as they party. When they have finished, I take them back down and turn them over to Joe and Greg again. I had thought perhaps to "turn the Dome's back" against the light, but the easy targets to the west are not easy when you have to cross this big telescope over the pier. Choosing instead to move east towards Saggitarius, my first target was the M8. Shattered! OK, remind me in a scope this size that a 28mm eyepiece is way too much magnification for such and extended nebula. While I might appreciate looking at just a small portion (and drooling... ;) it's just not going to make an impact of a visitor.
Wondering what the big scope would do to a small globular, I dropped it down to Al Nasl and picked up the twins, NGC6528 and NGC6522. OK, this was a quick thrill for me... Total resolution of both of them... But they've got about as much visual impact to a novice as the "Double Cluster" would to a novice with binoculars. Realizing this ain't gonna' cut it, it was time to put a little muscle into the hustle and get it set on something more stellar! Answer to the question? M28. Going back down, I take up our guests to the eyepiece and M28 is definately a bigger hit than the M4. (m4 is so resolved that it no longer appears as a globular cluster.) Again, I show them how to focus and simply stand back and watch the little pagans dance around the fire with electric guitars and grin. When they have finished, I take them back down and go up for another look myself. I had a question about the M28 that this telescope answered for me in no uncertain terms. Like the M15, the M28 contains a planetary nebula!
The skies are fast eroding and I couldn't be more happy for our guests that both Joe and Greg are right on the ball as well as on the ground and picking off DSOs with speed and precision. Somewhere between the thickening clouds, very few stars are left and I figure perhaps maybe we can still catch Albeiro before we get toasted, but it's not to be. To be honest, after having looked at the weather reports, I'm thrilled that we got the hour we did!! Before our guests leave, we give the an opportunity to sample just a little bit of what we do at public programs and make sure they leave with some momentos of their visit. Not long after they have gone, the campers have also wound down for the evening. (must be 11:00... it's lights out time!) Of course, many of the counselors also returned in hopes of getting a chance to look through the big scope, and I would have been happy to have obliged had there been stars! Again, it's still OK, and we are happy to at least take them to the eyepiece to let them experience just what it's like to "get high on stars". (scary, huh? still makes me weebly at times, too!)
We bid Greg a grateful adieu and Joe and I close down the Dome for the night. A young man appears through the bushes with the offer of hotdogs and the embers of the bonfire have burned down low. Neither of us are hungry, but we still smile at the offer. We stand a talk for awhile, watching a star appear here and there and disappear just as fast. It's been a terrific and productive summer here at the Observatory and we can only hope that the future brings a re-newed interest in all areas. In three more days, the Observatory will be alive again as visitors from all over come to Hidden Hollow for our "Star Party". The weather doesn't look particularl promising... But that's Ohio, isn't it?
We can always dream.
"Dream on... Dream on... Dream on... Dream yourself a dream come true. Deam on... Dream on... Dream on... Dream until your dreams come true."
August 16, 2004 - Swimming In the Lagoon...
Comments: Last night was about complete and total absorption with one single object - the M8. We have another clear, cold and beautiful summer night again in Ohio and there is no other telescope that I would rather use at the moment than my own fine Meade 12.5" reflector. It was set out about an hour in advance of observances to reach complete stability. Eyepieces of choice were 32mm, 26mm, 17mm, 12.5mm, and 10mm. The average limiting magnitude had reached a steady and easy 5 for the south and a quick split of Epsilon Lyrae with no more magnification that the 26mm provides shows me that we have at least an 8/10 if not better stability. I started at around 11:00 p.m. ESDT, because at that time we have reached quality dark and good position for my time and area.
What I am looking for is Burnham's Dark Comet...
To study the M8 is to view one of the finest works of celestial art. Tenuous folds, rifts, creases and concentrations of nebulae along with the beauty of starpoints, open clusters and dark nebulae are all rolled into one complete package. My own words will fall short every time in descibing it! First and foremost, my attention is drawn to the concentration of stars east of the open region. Conferring with different ranges of magnification, I find the B89 to be positioned correctly in accordance with Uranometria. It is like a tiny "thumb print" of darkness. The quest then turns to the accurate location and description of the Barnard dark in question, and that is B88.
Turning complete attention to the northernmost frontier of the nebula, we are talking north of open cluster NGC6530, the Uranometria's given position matches perfectly with the star patterns and reveals a small globule of dark nebula flanked on south/southwest with the corresponding field stars on my map. Now, if I have this correctly, Barnard mis-identified the B88 and as I study the picture in the Celestial Handbook with what I see in the eyepiece, I believe he was looking in the north central portion of the nebula proper. The "hourglass" region is just that, a rough hourglass configuration on the western lobe of the nebula where the intensity and density form it. But the area thins north and to the east of it, forming a shallow "Y" pattern. And by-gosh... There's another little hole there, dude. Look at star 9. There will be a wide apparent double to the north of it. What appears to be another dark globule is in that branch of thinning nebula and would actually be south of what Barnard cataloged as B88. Does it appear cometary? No. What I see is just a very small blank patch where no nebulosity exisits. Once located, it can be seen with as little magnfication as the 17mm provides, loses quality with the restricted field of the 10mm, and is best in my opinion with the wide field 12.3mm. My assessment would be that Burnham was just a shade off on his call, he was too far south and this is the region he describes as being B88 and what you current researchers are working to re-name Burnham's "Dark Comet".
My best to you in your quest to have the region re-named, and I hope that the small part I have played with my observance serves you to a small degree.
By now the hour has grown late and Saggitarius has begun it's decline. It is my pleaure to return to the super-wide field that the 32mm, 2" provides and simply lose myself in the slow dance of my own unique partner at the heart of our galaxy. We would be here from now until tomorrow if I tried to describe to you how beautiful and surreal this region can be to a large aperture telescope... Nor am I even half enough a writer to do so. If we are light? Then this is my home... Carlos Castenda spoke of Don Juan's teachings as all of us being fiberous beings of light. Perhaps this philosophy is not new, Horatio? There are more things here than even I can dream of... Or metaphysically become part of. All I can do is detach myself, and wander through this celestial light with open mind and open heart...
I am far too simple for your world.
And when I have finished, I put the big Meade away for the night. It has served me well, in both researching and letting go of the thought process for awhile.
The hour has long gone past midnight and sleep comes to call...
"Sing with me... Sing for the years. Sing for the laughter. Sing for the tears. Sing with me... If it's just for today. Cuz' maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take it away..."
August 15/16, 2004 - Working On My Binocular Messiers...
Comments: What's this, then? Clear skies on what was a rainy, cloudy day? I don't mind. After having spent the majority of the day napping and eating, it feels good to know I'm on holiday and have some time to play. At first I thought about taking the dob out for awhile, but I've really enjoyed doing something new this summer and that is working with less aperture. There is a certain beauty to it, and I've always known it... That's why I have refused to be parted with my two 4.5 telescopes. But binoculars are like learning to do things all over again...
And therein lies to "fun" part. ;)
I waited until the skies had gotten good and dark. I am in no particular hurry, nor do I feel rushed to "perform". Tonight is about challenging myself and my observing abilities and with field guide, pocket notebook, button light, mechanical pencil and binoculars in hand, it is time to go out and learn...
Binocular Messier Studies
Date: August 15, 2004
Binoculars: 7X35 Tasco
Skies: 5 limiting magnitude Stability: 7/10
Time Start: 10:45 p.m. ESDT
Time End: 11:30 p.m. ESDT
M92 - Caught between a bright northeast and southwest star, the M92 is easy enough to straight up viewing. Appearing roughly 1/3 the size of the M13, there is no mistaking its globular appearance. Fairly bright, it appears evenly distributed with a faint chain of stars that runs to the east of it.
M80 - I asked for a challenge, and I found one. Between Graffias and Antares, there are so many stars in the field here, (including M4 if you push it) that the small M80 requires absolute steadiness to achieve. Barely bigger than a fair sized star, the M80 resembles a small, faint planetary to the binoculars and is no brighter than the small star to the southeast of it. Wide aversion and steady hands are what it takes to locate it. (and lots and lots of patience... it's small!)
M56 - Again, a serious challenge object. Using Sheliak, Sulafat and Albiero as my guide stars, the M56 appears much like a very small, faint planetary nebula. Again, captured between a northeast and southwest star, it takes steady hands and definate aversion to make out in such a stellar field!
M29 - In order to make Cygnus more comortable, I find myself laying on my back in this circumstance. The M29 is a bright patch of stellar concentration that is easily spotted near Gamma Cygni. Small and bright, at least four or five stars are easily direct in the concentration. Very, very rich field of stars!
M71 - A unique and difficult challenge to binoculars. Using pretty much the whole constellation of Sagitta as marker stars, the only way you can see the M71 is averted. By using Gamma as one marker, and Delta and Zeta as the other anchor point, M71 appears between them as a dim, indistinct patch of light that requires aversion to pick up the contrast change. There is a small configuration of stars to the west, and M71 is best seen by staring at a point between them. A true challenge!
By now, I'm feeling both the weight of the binoculars, even if they are small, and the time spent concentrating. With the exception of the M92 and M29, the objects I have chosen thus far are not easy and have truly called upon my powers of observation. Of course, at the same time I did sweep up the Saggitarius end of the Milky Way, and you would be totally surprised at how many NGC objects are visible to this most humble of optic aids! Putting the little Tascos back inside their case, it's time to take a break for awhile. I had intended on watching a bit of television and having something more to eat, but it didn't take long after I sat down to find myself napping again. When I awoke a while later, I could see stars outside the window, and decided I'd make a cup of tea and go back out again for awhile.
Somewhere along the line, the temperatures have dropped to dewpoint and the great outdoors is totally saturated. The amphibians are having a wonderful time and their chorus is almost deafening in the silence of the night. Sipping my cup, I take stock of how much the skies have changed in just a short time. When I began tonight, the Milky Way was a bright arc curving from the northeast to the south... Now it has curled lovingly around to fade in from the northand curl to the west. Saggitarius has almost set, Cassiopeia has claimed the north and the Andromeda galaxy shines like a bright patch of cloud against a starry backdrop. As I finish my tea, my eyes have re-adjusted and I fetch my notes back out to lay on the deck railing and return once more to the sky.
Binocular Messier Studies
Date: August 16, 2004
Binoculars: 7X35 Tasco
Skies: 5 limiting magnitude Stability: 8/10
Time Start: 1:00 a.m. ESDT
Time End: 1:45 a.m. ESDT
M15 - Maps? I doan' need no steenkin' maps to find the M15! Remembering red Enif as my guidestar to the M15, the little powerpunch globular is easy to locate in the stellar field. Despite its small size, the M15 is very easily achieved in small binoculars and very recognizable as a small and well concentrated globular cluster. It's crowning beauty? The star caught at its edge...
M2 - OK... I need the steenkin' maps. It's been a long time since I've worked the fields of Aquarius and the star patterns look unfamiliar. Locating Beta means locating the M2. With Beta at the southern point of the field of view, the M2 is a circular, very even and faint patch of light. Absolutely no concentration toward the core region whatsoever. There is a "Triangulum-like" configuration of brightish stars to the north of it, and a few faded, small companions in the field.
M31 - Maps? I doan' need no steenkin' maps to find the M31! And neither would you... The M31 is very, very easily seen with the naked eye and I really think it outdoes itself in binoculars. Only with this low power, wide field of view can one truly appreciate the expanse of the Andromeda Galaxy. Spanning at least one half of the field of view, it is easy to make out the bright nucleas region, and unbelievably enough, what appears to be the spiral sweep of its outer arms. Like the M13, M8, and M24, the M31 is a premier binocular target. Finestkind!
M33 - I was expecting more and got less. I was truly hoping that like the view through the SVD8, that binoculars would add more to the M33. Wrongo. The M33, or "Pinwheel Galaxy" is just barely noteable as a roundish contrast change. Here again, this may be due to sky conditions, and I will return to the M33 in the future. For the record, however, M33 requires wide aversion and is on the edge of visibility to 5X35 binoculars... Even if it is large.
M103 - Big grins... Big grins here, baby! The moment I turned those binoculars on Cassiopeia, I knew I was going to have to use the map to correctly identify what I was seeing. Open clusters are everywhere! Using Ruchbah as my anchor, the M103 appears just a bit northwest of it, hung on tail of a curving chain of stars. Unmistakeable as a rich open cluster, the M103 closely resembles the M11 in size and inability to resolve. It's a real beauty, though... And has a clean star to the north and south edge of its concentration.
M52 - Shedar, Caph and north to capture the M52. Superb to the binoculars! Bright stars all over the area, the M52 is a spawling patch of on-the-edge stars. The binoculars will not resolve them, but there is no mistaking that this is a rich open cluster. Just amazing...
M34 - When I got done drooling over the "double cluster", it was time to head down into Perseus for my final target of the night. Almost directly between Almach and Algol, the M34 appears as a small, loose collection of tiny starpoints in a very rich field of stars. There is no "underlying density" of stars, so this one resolves cleanly to binoculars.
And it is here that I stop again to take a break. I can see the Plieades on the horizon and I figure I'll go nap for awhile and return again to do the opens in Auriga and work through Taurus... But it's not to be. When I returned to the skies again about 4:30, it was to fog. Although I can see the constellations clearly, I know it would only be a very short time until the dampness had found the lenses of the binoculars and I wouldn't be doing my studies any service by looking through a sheet of film that makes everything look like a nebula. It's been quite a fine night, and I've done a lot of sky exploring in a new and unsual way. There will be more nights and more things to look at in the future! Right now?
Time for me to go dream on...
"Dream on... Dream on... Dream on.... Dream until your dreams come true."
August 14, 2004 - Of Sunspots and Hummingbirds...
Comments: Trying to catch the Sun today was almost impossible. Despite the prediction of "partly cloudy", I'd like to know when the "partly" part comes into play, ok? Cottage cheese has more blue holes than we've got today! But I'm not easy discouraged....
You know that.
So, I set up the old Celestron on the deck, got the equipment ready to go and spent quite a long time waiting on a hole in the clouds. First and foremost, I wanted to look at it visually and today I have company. Human company? (me? no way...) Not this time. But I've had a long standing friendly relationship with the hummingbirds and today they are far more curious than cautious. Between the flowers that are in bloom around the deck, and the ever present feeder, there is always a host of these small and fearless creatures hanging around. Today they are hanging around my head, ok? I don't know whether they were attracted by the mirror-like qualities of the filter, or the reddish shine of the coatings on the eyepiece, but whatever brought them was totally fascinating. I was trying to set the scope on the solar surface while I could hear and feel them inches away, and when I'd stand back? The daggone things would look in the eyepiece! I am not joking... I have never seen them so curious!
And so we shared the eyepiece until a decent sized break in the clouds came over...
Shooing them away, I've been anxious for an opportunity to record how AR659's structure has changed over the last few days and if the area of the WLF looks any different. Of course, I have the video eyepiece with me just in case, but it's more for my own study purposes than catching anything unusual. (i've got unusual for you... how about an image of the sun with a hummingbird shadow hung in front of it?? ;) I guess I just like to sit and watch what the Sun looked like one day and compare it to following days. (obviously a couple of the little red-necked critters do, too...) As the clouds break enough to cast a shadow, that means it should cut through the filter to record and I'm on it. Wow! Has this baby ever been on the move... It's almost on the limb! And just look at how it's changed! Check it out...
I can see where the structure itself has changed as well over the days... But no glowing spots this time. In researching its data, I've found that it's rocked off several high end M class flares (right on the border of X, dude...) but no CMEs. It is still holding a beta-gamma-delta magnetic classification and is still Fkc... But not for much longer. I guess I'm happy that I even had a brief opportunity to look at it again. I enjoyed the heck out of it when its name was 652 and it was almost as much fun when it came back around as 659. There's a newcomer on the eastern limb (shoo, ya little beast!) and hopefully the days ahead will bring some clear skies to study it as well.
For now? I wish all my friends success and clear skies on a new moon night. May your eyes be filled with stars... Your days filled with hummingbirds...
And your mind filled with dreams.
"Dream on.... Dream on... Dream yourself a dream come true."
August 11/12, 2004 - The Persieds, Venus and the Moon...
Comments: You knew it was going to be cloudy, didn't you? Hey... It's Murphy's Law. If I do one thing right, forty more will go awry, so it only stands to reason that the majority of the annual Perseid meteor shower would be clouded out.
But not all the time, eh? ;)
Parent Comet, Swift-Tuttle produces one of the premier meteor showers and they are bright, fast and prolific. We went into the "stream" yesterday and activity is supposed to peak in just a few hours. Around 10:15 last night, the skies had cleared suitably for a little comfortable meteor watching. Yeah, there were some thins out there, but the meteors showed right through them! Finding myself a cozy spot in the old redwood chair, I opted for music instead of static and just kicked back and enjoyed for an hour. Many, many of these meteors left wonderful, lasting copper streaks that spanned a decent 90 degrees of sky. One thing I did find unusual is that the majority of them were headed due south. By 11:15 the clouds had wiped the sky again, so I decided I'd go "vampyre" and go nap for awhile and get back up.
Around 3:00 a.m. the skies were clear again, and I had a terrific time!! By now Perseus was well up and the little buggers were going nutz. I honestly don't think more than 3 to 4 minutes would pass without seeing at least one! And about 30 minutes later? Clouds. Setting my alarm, I just cozied down in my sleeping bag to wait it out. At 4:15 the skies were passable, so I woke up enough to watch for awhile. With Perseus almost directly overhead, the meteors were now short, bright and fast streaks. How I laughed and yelled when one split the Plieades! By 4:30, the thins had taken over again. Rather than zonk back out, because I have to leave for work shortly, I opted to go fix some coffee, grab a shower and dress for work. By 5:00 the sky had cleared again, and I was happily sipping my cup, (carefully, beer is funny, coffee ain't.) munching a Special K bar and hollerin' at the sky. I could see where it was going way bright to the east, but I pretty much stayed put on the park bench right up until time to leave.
When my watch said I had to go, I let H back in, grabbed my keys and headed around the house to leave for work. And stopped dead in my tracks... You should have seen the Moon and Venus this morning. Luna was a wonderful, thin crescent so lit by "earthshine" that it almost looked eclipsed. Due south of it, Venus blazed out even more brightly than the Moon itself. They look just wonderful side-by-side like that! How I wish at times that I had a camera to record such beauty. And like a final fare-thee-well, a bright meteor creased the sky once again. Smiling, I climb in the car and head out on the road...
It's just another working day.
"Cuz' maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take us away...."
August 11, 2004 - Eureka!
Comments: Well, well... I don't get my pictures featured anywhere, because what I do is considered "not quality" enough for the computer screen, but you know that has never stopped me. I keep right on doing what I'm doing because I like my studies and once in a great while something brilliant happens. What I am about to show you is by no means one of those "high quality" photos you see featured on other webpages, but what you are about to see no one else has done.
And that is capture a white light solar flare.
I knew yesterday there was something up the second I looked in the eyepiece. Greg had told me the night before that our giant sunspot had rotated back around and there was just enough break in the clouds for me to have a go at it. Thirty seconds after I saw it, I was scrambling to put a camera on it. I was only able to capture about 6 seconds of video that didn't have clouds in it, but around 4 minutes that clearly revealed what I was seeing. Noting the time (1:34 - 1:38 p.m. ESDT), I then lost the Sun to clouds and went directly to researching. The most current thing available to me is the G.O.E.S. x-ray flux data, and sure enough... There's the spike I was looking for.
As a part of ALPO guidelines, there are several criteria a sunspot must meet before it can be considered a candidate for WLF. First, the classification. According to WLF predictions, spots with category Fsi, Fki, and Fkc show a probabilty of 100%. AR659's classification? Fkc. Not enough for to be sure. I've seen this on the limb before, but never in a spot. More data... Another criteria, "Flares occur in places wehre magnetic change is taking place..." Oh, yeah. With a beta-gamma-delta twisted magnetic classification, I'd say there some change taking place! "Or where the neutral line between areas of different polarity lies." OK.. I can't see magnetically (yeah, rite... ;) but SOHO can. Let's have a look...
Oh, my. We're looking better and better here! Wanting a second opinion on the visual, and coming from someone who would just look at what I told him to and really tell me what he saw, I passed the picture to Greg. His confirmation was something was going on to make that area look so bright! Here again, I'm following the rules. The aperature needs to be between 4 - 6" and preferable a mylar filter. I'm using the 4.5 Celestron and the Baader film. A change in brightness of up to 10% is considered substantial... Now I'll let you be the judge.
The full frame was clipped to show only the region in question, just like when you sketch an area for reporting. Absolutely no contrast adjustments were used, and it was sharpened just slightly. If you look at the spot, there is an area to the lower right hand portion of the series that shows a significant brightness. If you watch this particular sequence play in the video format in which it was taken? It positively glows. Now you wanna' know something really cool about this "hot spot"? WLF phenomena has been photographed on the limb, but to catch one during it's life (from a few seconds to 8 minutes) visually is not only a rarity, but I'm one of the very, very few people that have ever seen it, let alone captured it on film.
And so I may not be a prize winning photographer. You will not see my "work" gracing the pages of SpaceWeather, for it is just that - work. I'm just a patient, persistent and well-practiced solar observer, and once in a while? I get the opportunity to say...
Eureka! I did it Mr. Wizard... ;)
"Sing with me... If it's just for today."
August 10, 2004 - "Starry Nights".. and a Kiss From Perseus...
Comments: Tonight was to be the last "Starry Nights" program for the Hidden Hollow kids 2004 season. The past five weeks have been both wonderful and difficult for me and I hated to see it end. It seems that the older I get, the harder and harder it becomes for me to function on two or three hours sleep... Yet at the same time, I so deeply enjoy what I'm doing that a bit of tiredness hardly matters. As with all things I love, when it comes to an end, I find myself dragging my feet and trying to prolong the inevitable - Even when I know that time marches on and I cannot stop it. I must have fussed for two hours over what program I chose to present tonight, when three weeks ago I would have had it in my car in five minutes. I guess if nothing else, I just want to know that all the wonder and magic I find in astronomy has at least touched a few lives...
And I want to give it my best.
I probably drive too slow for a change, and I arrive alone. I feel a deep sense of pride as I look around at the newly spruced grounds and think of what we've accomplished in such a short time. What a wonderful place this is! I turn on some music to keep me company and begin the ritual of placing things out for the program and opening the dome and scope to cool. I was happily singing to myself and did not even realize Joe had arrived until I turned around and saw him. He has in his hands a part of the Observatory's future and it is a good feeling to see things moving ahead. We talk for awhile, both of us approving of the latest step, and as he goes to set yet another wheel in motion, I finish up preparing us for tonight.
And smile to myself when he helps me count stars...
It is not long until some new friends arrive. Mary had contacted me via the website and asked if she and her family could visit tonight as well. We are always delighted at new faces, and as the young folks become acquainted with the Observatory, I put the finishing touches on what we need to do, and they we explore the fascinating world of spectra. Greg arrives and begins setting up the SVD8 for the night and we know that we are good to go no matter what type of sky the night brings to us. It is fortunate that it is one of the few times that there are actually stars beginning to appear, and the moment I laid eyes on Antares, I knew we had to set the big scope on something spectacular. Grinning at Joe, we both climbed into the lift and headed toward the M4. It seemed like it took us a long time, but it really wasn't, and between the two of us a very faded DSO sparkles in the eyepiece. Now all we need is true dark and for the clouds to stay away!
I go down to talk with our visitors and show them a few other things as we listen to the kids getting revved up on the other side of the hill. We go out to watch an iridium flare and marvel over the darkening skies. As we wait for the campers, Greg begins to pick off the "Nickle Tour" and I pass around binoculars. The clouds come and the clouds go, but when they are gone the skies are awesome. Since the campers are significantly later than usual tonight, we use the break to our advantage and take our guests up to view the incomparable M4. While my own eye appreciates the complete and total resolution, my best moments are the smiles our visitors cries of delight bring. Keeping watch on the time, I hate to slight our guests the "program" part of an Observatory tour, but those kids sound awful close. As we wait in the observing area, it's still a grand time to use the green laser to trace constellations, further explore with binoculars and Greg has become super-proficient at knocking down things to view. And then?
There they are.
Exuberant is the only way to describe the campers. Only those teenage years could bring such vitality with them! Rather than take a chance that the skies will stay clear, we start them off at the big scope the moment they hit the door. As they come to the lift, the smiles are genuine on both our parts as some say, "Do you remember me?" And my answer is of course I do! Five at a time we hustle to the eyepiece as quickly as we can, because the rule tonight is that it will be fantastically clear for 15 minutes, and be totally washed for the next 15. And it held true. It is a shame that the last handful of winners did not have an opportunity to "see", but that is the way of astronomy. Turning the lights back on low, we only have 26 tonight, but they eagerly line the floor of the dome and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate their rapt attention as the program begins. As always, I try my best to capture their imaginations as well as teach them something. They are a smart group, and I watch as realization dawns in their eyes as we explore sizes and distances. There was a young man with big hair that would make me laugh every time I would see an "astronomy nugget" hit home. His eyes were so expressive! They listen with both their ears and their minds to "visitors from space", reach out eager hands to touch other worlds, and laugh as they stretch out across our solar system and out the door! (ok! everybody ORBIT!! ;) We talk of time and space and I would share with this last group the thrill of Apollo 11 and the first man on the Moon as well. They have the opportunity to touch "moon material" as they watch the surface go by on screen. It's the next best thing to "Being There"...
By now, our time together has ended and as they reach into the Wizard's Bag for "lucky stars", we talk. As I pass out the NASA "goodies", they tell me how much it has meant to them to have had the opportunity to be here, and I feel humble that I have been allowed to share a small portion of their lives. There was a beautiful young woman who was the last to go, and when she told Joe and I how much it meant to her to be able to visit, I could have almost cried that we were that appreciated. Truly, there is no amount of money that could have paid for that priceless moment.
Light speed, little sister! Keep reaching for the stars....
And they are gone again for another year. Sighing, I don't know whether it is because I am tired, or whether it is because I will miss this once a week "date". As Joe begins to close things down, for the hour is much later than usual, I walk out to speak to Greg who has discovered a planetary nebula and the beauty of the M71. I pick up my little binoculars and enjoy the serene beauty of the now clear again sky. Here and there bright meteors crease the sky, like a kiss from Perseus. All but two of us are gone now... Just me and my hero are left. We share a certain warmth in knowing that over the last five weeks we have touched almost 200 young folks lives, and we have fulfilled our purpose. It was really something, wasn't it? And it feels good...
Heading back out on the highway, I find the skies are clear when I reach the backyard. I know I should be tired, but I am not. I find soft clothes, wrap in a blanket and take my evening beer out with me to the park bench. (remind me that it is hard to drink a beer while meteor watching, ok? it seems i pour most of it down my chin... ;) I watch the beautiful visage of the naked eye M31 and think of Andromeda chained to the rock and her own hero, Perseus, coming to save her. Their frosty saga is forever written in the stars, and although I know a comet is the reason for the brilliant flash of the many meteors, they still remind me of a bright and fast "kiss" between the constellations. Some day, perhaps, they'll be together again, eh?
Even if it's only for a brief moment in time...
"Sing with me... Sing for the years. Sing for the laughter. Sing for the tears..."
August 8, 2004 - Continuing With The Binocular Messier Studies...
Comments: Hey, now! Why couldn't we have had these clear skies last night? Ah, well... Like the song says, nobody knows when it comes and when it goes, eh? Looks like we might as well take out these old binoculars and have a go at the studies again. I must say, I like this. It's like... Packin' light. You just step out the door with a note pad, a mechanical pencil, my little button light and a map and you're good to go. But as I was about to find out tonight...
Sometimes they're not always easy.
Binocular Messier Studies
Date: August 8, 2004
Binos: 7X35 Tasco
Sky: Limiting Magnitude 5 Stability 8/10
Time Start: 10:30 p.m. ESDT
Time End: 11:45 p.m. ESDT
M39 - In the star rich fields of Cygus, the M39 is a challenge. It is not so much that it is dim, but that so many stars are in the field. By carefully double checking my position, I found the M39 through binoculars to be a loose, bright collection of about two dozen stars, with no real pattern.
M25 - Again, we are talking about looking for an open cluster of stars in a profusion. The dead give-away to this particular cluster to such low power is there are a handful of brighter stars that somehow remind me of the constellation of Orion. There are many more... More than I can count... That appear to be part of this bright open cluster. Very pretty!
M14 - All right. This one was a flat out challenge. Turning the park bench around so I could balance my arms on the deck railing, I eventually found M14. We are talking dim and averted here. A small, very dim patch of circular light that reminds me of a comet signature. No resolution or concentration whatsoever.
M19 - Double that challenge. As well as I know the field where the M19 resides, it's a lot more difficult with low power and wide field. Focusing primarily on the three stars that should triangulate around the edges, I eventually located the M19 by using aversion. Very small and very dim, but unlike the one before it, as I used patience, I could see a "concentration" to it that made it appear more globular like than cometary.
M24 - Hey, hey!! Easy, my friends. This particular huge open cluster is easily visible to the naked eye tonight and one of the finest treats imaginable in binoculars. A sprawling cloud of stars with so much resolution that it is possible to make out asterisms in it. Superb!
M16 - This was supposed to be one of the "easy" ones, but it truly is not. Despite excellent sky conditions, the M16 is not particularly bright. The open cluster that accompanies it shows clearly, but only a small patch of nebulosity signfies its presence.
M18 - Still in a very star rich field, the only clue to this open cluster's position is that it has a coma-like presentation of bright stars. Very well concentrated and very well resolved, it is difficult to tell exactly where the margins are on this open cluster.
And that will do for me tonight. As you can tell, it took a very long time for me to find the M14 and M19... These are not "cake walk" items. They are as difficult to binoculars as... Well... How about the M65 and M66 to 4.5 scope on a bright night? I am being serious here. While I can see how binocular viewing could truly become a passion, I don't think a beginner could have spotted some of these things. Open clusters aren't bad... They either appear as a concentration or a bright configuration, but some of these challenge objects are the list are going to be just that!!
And so I kick my feet up on the railing and just sit and look into the Milky Way for awhile. I like looking at the dark rifts and the way it splits off. I like looking at the M8 and M24 without aid. I still remember seeing this as an incredible vision from the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite, and while we might have a mighty fine presentation here, it will never match the living, breathing qualities I shared with you that night.
I can still close my eyes and see it.
"You know it's true... And all my feelings... Come back to you."
August 7, 2004 - Warren Rupp Observatory - Public Night....
Comments: And this day was so much more than just that. Not only was tonight a public night, but the late afternoon was grounds clean-up time in advance of our Hidden Hollow Star Party and a telescope cleaning appointment. So much for the astro... Because my own life has been very full and busy for the last few days as well.
By the time I managed to get myself in gear and get over there, a lot of the clean-up had already been started and it was deeply appreciated. The gentleman who had brought his Meade telescope to be cleaned was insconsed in the ClubHouse with Mike and Dave, so I was more than happy to fire up the gas-powered weed eater and chase Terry around the dome. (only thing worse than a blonde with tools is a blonde with power tools, dude... ;) He grabbed the rake and the tree trimmers and m'little "chainsaw" and I made short work of the remainder of the overgrowth. I hung out the flag and replaced some red lightbulbs that had burnt out, and as Terry cooked hotdogs I slipped back into the ClubHouse to assist with cleaning a corrector plate. (offical word? no comment. it was my fault for not being there right at the beginning.)
After we had finished, I went back up to the observing area to enjoy some of the feast. By now guests were arriving and our gentleman friend asked if anyone liked "hot stuff". Of course! Bring it on... An a bottle of wicked liquid was produced. I took the good natured teasing that my hands were shaking as I put it on my food, but the reality check was not the fear of hot sauce... But that my hands were tired from the power tools! Food consumed, it was time to mingle amoungst our guests and make them feel welcome. Pulling Terry aside, we set up his laptop on the desk in the dome and when I got done showing him a few tricks, he was smiling. The mapmaker will continue! By now, Joe had arrived as well, dog-tired from working on his home observatory... And we've got a roll off roof that's not only rockin', but rollin' off as well! Congratulations, amigo... But what of Polaris?
The later and later it got, the more and more folks began to arrive. It looks to be one of the more successful public nights that we've had in a long time! I set up some of the "Travelling Disco Astronomy Road Show" inside the dome to help keep our visitors entertained and informed. I set the little Orion up outside the door and was as anxious as everyone else for the skies to get dark. As soon as a star or two begins to show, I realize that there is not a soul here who is going to take responsibility for aiming the big scope for the public, and I realize I'm going to have to get it set on something. Now, mind you... It has been close to two years since I've touched it. My own past makes me very advertent to conflicts and when some of the others in our group showed that spark of conflict, I backed way, way away. So far away, that I have literally not had anything to do with the big scope since that time. No one is to blame but myself... But I no longer fight for my right to party.
I guess I say this so you know that although I love the Observatory, the 31" had become like poison to me. Even the lift frightens me... Where once upon a time I would spend the whole evening happily pulling my arms off to aim at a few things, and fearlessly hanging over the side of the cage to view, I now find myself literally begging some of the original members to position the lift, or to aim the scope. I guess it's just another fork in the road I've got to get over and between Dan and Robert? Well... They started the car and then hopped out and handed me the wheel. We've got sky bright and a lot of cloud erosion, and the only thing I could think of was a double star. Albiero it is then... And to hit it means being at the very top of the dome.
I've got to hand it to the guys... They knew what they were doing. By the time the first of the guests climbed into the lift with me, we were happily buzzing up and down and it never once occured to me to be afraid to move things. I can't tell you how long it's been since I wasn't freaked out by switching eyepieces or moving things around. It was a soothing catharsis to once again be able to look at another person's face as they beheld the wonder and beauty this telescope delivers. This is what inspired me in the beginning to be at this time and this place. Not since "Mars Night" have I felt this tremendous rush of pleasure that sharing this fantastic telescope with others provides. I thank you, my friends.
When the last of our guest have left, I wander out of the dome in hopes of seeing a few contellations that I would love to study in once again, but it is not to be. I am not disappointed, though. I could see the bands of clouds moving across the skies as I would look out of the open slit, and knew in my heart the skies would be gone by the time we had finished. I chug a bottle of Perrier, delighting in the bubbles and tease Robert and Greg into coming back in with me to just enjoy the "simple" (burp) view. We ride up into the skies and laughter rings round the dome. There is nothing more to be seen... But there is everything to share. Even just a few moments of sheer silliness can be more welcome than the most serious of discoveries!
As the guys gather around the picnic table to talk, I go about buttoning up the place for the night and gathering my things back together. We have had a lot of guests and more scopes set up in the observing area than I have seen in a very long time. Although we were not the "All Night Wonder Kids In Premier Ohio Dark Skies With A Huge Telescope", I am happy to report that our guests had fun...
And so did we.
"Half my life is written in these pages... I've lived and learned from some fools and some sages..."
August 6, 2004 - Working On My Binocular Messiers...
Comments: OK. It's clear tonight, but there are a few patchy clouds here and there. I could take out the big scope and study one small area, or I could do something new. I'm sorry if my inability to atrophy to one way of being doesn't fit your lifestyle...
But I live mine to the fullest.
Since this will be a new way of listing and describing things, I'm not too sure of how I'm going to work it out as far as my Daily Reports go. I know from experience that there are not a lot of details to be seen in binoculars (especially mine), but I do know what it takes to give an accurate study... So let's rock!
Binocular Messier Club
Type: Tasco 7X35
Sky: Limiting Magnitude 5 Stability 6/10
Beginning Time: 10:30 p.m. ESDT
End Time: 11:45 ESDT
M3 - Easily located between Cor Caroli and Arcturus and suprisingly bright. Sparse field, but recognizable as globular cluster centered between a triangle of stars. Shows a brightness toward the core area.
M5 - More difficult to find, but much brighter stars in field. Shows as a small, even round patch of light. Triangle of stars to the southeast and a similar magntiude star to the north/northwest.
M4 - Easily found by locating Antares. Best seen by moving the eastern Antares out of the field, leaving M4 less than centered. I was surpised that this globular cluster was as bright as it is in binoculars, since the telescope often hazes it out when trying to resolve it. Very round and even... But not very bright.
M6 -Easily located. Shows as a brilliant cluster of similar magnitude stars in a stellar field. The classic "Butterfly" shape is very apparent with binoculars.
M7 - Wow! This is a very under appreicated open cluster. A "stellar gathering" in a star studded field would be a good way to describe it!
M13 - Absolutely magnificent. M13 is an undeniable globular cluster and suprisingly bright, with a bright central region. It is flanked on either side to the southwest and northeast by bright stars. One of the finest!!
M10 - Appears moderately bright and very small in the field with 30 Ophiuchus. A small cluster of stars to the west.
M12 - Very even and not terribly distinct round patch of light. Not brighter than the small chain of stars east of it.
M8 - Definately a good binocular target. Stellar field and bright, bright nebula area. The interior star cluster is apparent as small points of light.
M17 - Easily located by following the Milky Way. M17 appears as a bright check mark against a stellar field. There is a hazy area that seems to surrond it.
M22 - Easily located by moving east of Kaus Borealis. Bright, but overshadowed by aforementioned star. Best seen by pushing the star out of the way and studying averted. Appears as an even, circular patch of light with some condensation toward the core.
M11 - Wow! Again a very stellar field. M11 appears as a wedge of starpoints that want to resolve, but do not. The only star that comes out cleanly is the one to the east.
M27 - Suprised me! I did not realize this could be achieved with small binoculars. Located in a very stellar field, the pattern of stars looks similar to the constellation of Cassiopiea. Very small, it appears like two triangular patches of light placed together. Very ghostly...
And this is enough for me tonight. After about an hour or so of going through various contortions to balance my arms, I'm glad these old binoculars aren't the most hefty ones in the lot. (yeah? and i'm also really curious if i can see things that well in them... what would a bigger pair do?!) If nothing else, I have suprised my own self at how well you really can see deep sky object with binoculars and I am sending off a smile to you, Phil Harrington! (tell paul i said howdy.) Perhaps I really will check into either getting, or borrowing a better pair before the Black Forest Star Party. For now, I hope I have recorded things in the correct manner. But even if I haven't?
I sure wouldn't mind doing them again.
"I know, it's everybody's sin... Sometimes you have to lose to know how to win."
August 5, 2004 - Watching the Dawn... And Headin' Out "Into the Dark"...
Comments: I could not believe how beautiful it was this morning! Despite the Moon's waning phase, there were rectangles of silver/blue light on the floor when I awoke and I just had to take my coffee out on the deck. When I saw the morning stars, I really wished I had gotten up earlier! So cool out... And so peaceful.
At one point, curiousity got the better of me and I had to walk out to the edge of the east field. No... No... This can't be! Where has the summer gone? Already the stars of the winter season are showing themselves. Smiling, I know times change and who can be depressed when a brilliant Moon stands high in the south and an equally brilliant Venus blazes in the purple band of sky just above the rosy hues of dawn? If the best part of waking up is Folger's in your cup... Then the best part of being up is the stars in your eyes, kid.
I went out several times today to smile at the sunshine and have a look at those deep blue open spaces between the white, fluffy clouds. It seems so marvelous to see something besides grey! It's cool and beautiful and that color of sky spells a high pressure system on the way and deep, deep skies... For now? I am outta' here. The dob is cooling in the back yard, the skies are turning dark and I have some time before I have to go to sleep.
See you out there...
The very worst part about the summer months are not that we frequently have clouds and rain... It is that it gets dark so daggone late. The temperature dropped steadily and by the time it hit the mid-fifties and the skies were pristine, it was also a tuff call when I know I have to work the next day. For those of you who have followed my reports over the years? Once upon a time, my day started at 9:00 a.m. Now I'm on the road at 5:30.
And I'm still just as crazy as ever... ;)
There were intentions in my "game plan" tonight. These type of skies call for doing something very out of the ordinary, and tonight it is dark nebulae. Of course, I cannot resist first visiting the M4 with the dob and power... The fine chains that make up this superb globular cluster and its sheer size always fascinate me. Not to be outdone, I turned the 12.5 next towards M22, and find it every bit as superior as the M13. I simply love the tiny red stars that are only revealed with aperature. Last globular before I go is M28, and I have some very serious inner questions about something I see there. Let's just say there's an "odd" star that merits more attention on a night that I have more time.
Now on to study!
For record's sake, it is almost 11:00 p.m., I am using the 12.5 Meade reflector and I made the switch to my 2" study eyepieces, for the 32mm is one of the finest I possess. The limiting magnitude is an easy 6 and the stability ranks 8/10. My first object is one that I usually look at at least a handful of times during the summer observing season. B72 is an easy hop northwest of Flamsteed 44. When searching for dark nebulae, it is imperative to remember in your mind that it is an "absence of stars". If you move too far west and hit small globular, NGC6325, the take a hop back east. The B72's most common name is the "Snake Nebula". To describe it is to know that when you are on the right field, that there will be a significantly bright star to south, along with a chain of three perhaps a magnitude less. Use low power and start averting, amigo. What happens is you will see a fine field of stars. In instruments of lesser aperature, this will seem like sky bright. When using larger scopes, aversion calls out a field of very fine stars anywhere from 13th to 15th magnitude. The "Snake" is an absence in that field. The most notable part is to the south, and one of those "lesser" bright stars will be at its "belly" to the south. As you use patience and scan the field, you will see the tilted "S" pattern of no stars. This is Barnard 72. A dandy!
My next is just above the "spout of the teapot" in Saggitarius and is best found by hopping northward from Al Nasl. Before you notice the dark nebula (again, low power, wide field is essential) you first treat will be open cluster, NGC6520. This is a jewel-like stellar collection gathered around a prominent reddish star at its center. Now, I want you to look at the bright star to the leading north... And I want you to avert to nowhere. Incredible, huh? The Barnard 86 dark nebula lies between this finderscope star and the open cluster. I do not pick up any strong definition of shape, but the absence of stars looks almost box like.
Looking at my watch, I head for the M8 next. There is a gentleman who contacted me about a discrepency in Mr. Burnham's handbook and where the dark nebulae of Barnard actually is. I take my notes, make a rough sketch, and will eventually return with the Observatory scope to double confirm what I see and where.
Before I leave, I really must have a look at M24 as well. As a naked eye patch of concentrated Milky Way, it too, has a dark nebula. The entire area is incredibly thick with stars! It overfills the eyepiece, but if you look right down there... The B92 is far more easily spotted in this particular "star rich" region... And it is unusual because there is a single star that shines in the middle of its "nothingness".
I look at Aquila and long to relocate the "Double Dark"... I remember it from "once upon a time" as well, but I also realized that it is near midnight and I only have a few hours to sleep. Perhaps the sky gods will smile down my way on a night that I do not have to leave so early...
And maybe they won't.
"I know, nobody knows. Where it comes and where it goes..."
August 3, 2004 - "Starry Nights"...
Comments: Talk about a here and there sky! Things were give and take all day, along with very, very hot and humid. Not too sure of what way the sky was going to go for tonight's program, I basically packed up everything I could think of and headed toward the Observatory long before sunset. When I arrived, Robert was there and had the little dob out and cooling just in case. We unpacked and set up - Who knows what's going to happen tonight.
We passed the time until the Hidden Hollow campers arrived just talking about things in general. It was sure looking like a "Cloudy Nights" program, even though the sky was clear twenty minutes ago. We laid out a game plan between the two of us as to how we were going to handle 32 guests, set the 31" on Vega (cuz' it was the only thing you could see) and listened to them laugh and talk as they walked up the Hill. Arriving just a few minutes before 10:00, the most amazing thing happened....
The skies cleared.
Getting them to look round and identify a few constellations, we simply waited out the first few minutes while watching for Iridium 33 to make its' mark on the night. Of course, the kids think it's terribly cool... And that would be about the only "cool" thing around these parts! Despite the heat, our visitors happily lined the floor of the dome and I told them that tonight's "program" was going to be very short and sweet because we were actually going to have the opportunity to see some of the stuff we've simply talked about in the past. After my quick bit about sizes and distances in relationship to our own galaxy, it was time to head to the stars.
Joe had arrived by then and he helped chauffer the group to the eyepiece of the big scope while the little Orion and I got the honors right outside the dome door. Still, there were patches of haze and a few clouds here and there, making some of the fainter stuff a bit more difficult for a novice to see, but that sure didn't stop us from traveling to Mizar and Alcor, Albiero, the M4, the M6, the M22, the M27, and Brocchi's Cluster. While this doesn't seem like a lot of objects, try to imagine sharing the view with that many eager eyes! It sure didn't take very long for that hour to pass, and once their hands were full of NASA "goodies"? The "thank yous" rang out and they were gone again for another week.
Starting the process of shut down, the sky did precisely the same thing. Just like turning off a switch, or closing the curtain, one by one the stars got gone. And me? Just the same. Time to head for Taco Bell and grab a burritto for my dinner and head west. Of course, you know what happened by the time I crossed a certain county line, don't you?
I'm tellin' ya'... It's like magic.
"Isn't that the way? Everybody's got their dues in life to pay...."
August 2, 2004 - Practicing the "Nickle Tour"...
Comments: Ah, rust... Don't you just love it? Personally, I think it's better to burn out than it is to rust, so when relatively clear skies offer me a choice tonight, I make the decision to practice.
Rayleigh scattering at sunset was horrible. The entire sky had an orangish hue and that does not bode well for the astronomer. Still, as darkness fell, it cleared even more and it was worthy of the small telescope. The honours belong to the Celestron tonight (which i will probably regret, for i will use the orion for tomorrow's program and they do not aim the same, dude...) and solely to the 25mm eyepiece. It is time for me to be able to locate (with at least a modicum of haste) some of the finer deep sky objects that will be the focal point of the next couple of weeks of public programs. It's a little after 10:00 and before I begin I take the time to watch the northeast and enjoy as Iridium 31 blazes across the sky at an impressive -8 magnitude. It's time to rock!
OK... Time to be ~T. One second a daft punk and the next and idiot savant. I don't know how I did it, and I couldn't repeat it if I tried, but I set the scope right smack on M3 within seconds of trying. (why can't i do that all the time?!) Laughing, I kinda' knew then it was going to be "one of those" nights and I just happily went with the flow. M81 and M82... Superb. M4? Gotcha' partner. M80? Surprise, surprise! Grinning like the fool that I am, I went back over my doubles presentation and headed back toward the south. A little fishing around and bingo... The M19. The south was hazy, but not too bad. It didn't take long until the M8, M22, M28 and M17 followed on the list of things I could find with ease.
Next target? M11. Again, it's not the most difficult of ones to find... But rust has a way of creeping up on you and it took a few attempts. Heading back up in the sky, the M57 is always easy enough, but the M27 is a lot more difficult when the stars of Saggitta (yeah, i know it's vulpecula, but that's not how i find it.) are, shall we say, a little bit less than present? Next hop, "Brocchi's Cluster", a pass over the M29, and far, far too long to locate the "Blinking Planetary", NGC6826. Time to lather, rinse and repeat, folks... And take a whack at the M13 as well.
By the time I had make my second pass, I found myself poking around for others like the M6 and M7... Along with several globular clusters that I know the position of, but not always the name right off the top of my head. I am very happy for those people who can remember all the positions and designations with such ease, but I'm doin' good stone cold to remember a dozen or so at any given time. There is a reason why we keep maps and notes at hand, eh? Right behind the idiot savant stands the facts freak... Here, baby. Let me pull the plug on your computer and then we'll talk... ;)
Of course, the Moon is rising, but I am gratified that I had a short time to practice. Carrying the Celestron back to the garage I find myself wandering back out to the pool and rolling the cover off. Over my shoulder, the "Man in the Moon" is smiling in perfect orange clarity. I cock my head to the side as I look at it and smile back. How could I have missed all these years and never noticed just how much that looks like a face?! Probably because my imagination can sometimes be in short supply.... Slipping into the warm water, I listen to the quiet rock and roll and watch as the Moon climbs higher and higher, shedding its silver light on the water. It's a fine summer night. It smells like peat and grass... And a bit like woodsmoke from when I burned branches earlier. Once in a while, I catch a fragrant drift as my mosquito incense does its job. The slight breeze is as warm as breath, and the water is cool and clean. The stars are still out, and they twinke across the ripples I make as I move quietly across the water. It's peaceful here... And I like it.
I find myself thinking about a good friend of mine. He lost his fiance' last night to a sudden death. I was with him today, for we all need to know that our friends are there... For the bad times as well as the good. It broke my heart to see him weep, but I held him close. Who knows? Perhaps tomorrow it will be my turn? My love to you, Darryl... I sigh and I turn over to float and watch the stars soundlessy for awhile. What are we, Lord? Nothing but a brief flash in time... Walt Whitman said it well...
"As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone... What is this chant? What am I myself but one of Your meteors?"
Life is too brief, my friends. Take what you want from it today, because there may be no tomorrow.
"It went by... Like dusk to dawn."
August 1, 2004 - Just A Little Time...
Comments: I am tired. It's been a long week with lots of demands, but I can never resist just a bit of clear sky. Can you?
Of course, I wasn't in the mood for anything major, so the old Celestron suited me just fine. I put the 25mm in the scope before I carried it out and pocketed an old 10mm. It felt good to be wandering around in Scorpius again... Even though the M4 still looks like a little poof ball. Graffias made a very nice double presentation in yellow and blue and I don't think I ever tire of Albiero. I move west to Ras Algethi and wonder why I haven't looked more at this splendid red and green double this summer! Of course, Cor Caroli is also beautiful and still very achievable. Another fine one is Gamma Delphini and its' very markedly pale blue and pale gold appearance is worth taking the time to power up on. 61 Cyngi appears very wide and although I appreciate it for its' duplicity, the matching colors aren't quite that exciting. I move on to the infamous "Double Double" and find the sky is relatively stable, even though it is quickly brightening with the rising Moon. From there it is a worthy hop to take in the M57, "Ring" nebula, before setting the scope Luna's way. I seem to recall there being a very fine double in Draco, too, but at the moment I cannot recall its' position.
By now, the Moon has risen well enough to be above most of the atmospheric disturbance and yet not so bright that it hurts the eye. I turn the scope its' way and find a certain pleasure in Humboldt and Endymion, but what really calls attention to itself is the area just east of Crisium tonight. Again, these are craters we rarely observe but they are beautiful nonetheless. Power reveals the shallow form of Plutarch and Seneca, but no revelatory details. Far better is the strange area around Mare Anguis that looks like a collection of shallow, dune-like hills with a few depressions amoungst its' ridges.
Breathing a sigh toward the sky, this is enough for me tonight. The moonlight, while beautiful, is like too many empty days and has eradicated the deep sky love affair at the heart of our own galaxy. Like so many things, it would be pointless to continue, so I simply resign myself, cap the old Celestron up and carry it back to the garage. Hopefully the nights ahead will be clear and the later and later rise of the Sister Selene will buy me a bit of time to journey across my summer favourites again and perhaps spark a renewed interest. I miss them as much as I miss... Nah. It's not important.
"Every time that I look in the mirror... All these lines in my face getting clearer. The past is gone..."