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June 2004





June 30, 2004 - Swimming In The Moonlight...

Comments: I was a lot more relaxed tonight. Knowing that you don't have to be at work the next morning at dawn has a way of doing that, doesn't it? I had found a product that I was anxious to try out on the mosquitoes that didn't involve either smearing yourself with chemicals or having a flame nearby and am pleased to tell you that this "incense" quite works. I watched the golden Moon rise out of the trees in comfort! Setting the old Celestron out to stabilize, I was just enjoying watching the stars come out when I was invaded by lights. Growling, but not too loudly for many people who are unfamiliar with our very small village often turn around in my driveway, I noticed the lights didn't go back down the street... But went out. When I heard the car door, curiousity got the better of me.

Well, hello there!

I am a bit surprised, but very pleased to see a fellow whom I had met through doing some sub-contracting through my workplace. Jeff had been inside my office many times and I knew he was curious about the many faces and places which adorn its walls. He gives me a very honest and open grin as I walk up... "It was clear, and I figured you'd be out here." And indeed he is right. Walking back around to my observing area, we hear H growling at the backdoor and within moments I lost my dog. (ever the prankster, H's highlight of the evening was to sneak round behind him just below the belt and tug the end of his ponytail.)

As we talked about the stars, I turned the Celestron toward the Moon and guided his hands toward the focus and slow motion controls. Needless to say, he was overwhelmed. I remember my own first look at a similar Moon through this scope so many years ago, and I can only stand and smile as I listen to his exclamations. We continue to talk as he explores and he asks what the "big one" would do. Well... Don't say I didn't warn you! And we pull out the 12.5 and unleash it on the night. Showing him how to use the different eyepieces and filters, we had a wonderful time exploring the lunar surface and it wasn't long until he was identifying craters using the maps.

Capping the little Celestron back up, we decided we'd just stick with the big Meade since it's easy for a beginner to use. Moving toward the east field, I gave him the 12.3mm ED eyepiece and pointed out a bright "star" for him to aim at. (shame on me... that was jupiter, wasn't it? ;) Again, all I can do is laugh as I listen to the moment of discovery. This is what it's all about, isn't it? And so we explore what there is to be seen on a moonlit night... Double stars and open clusters. Incredibly enough, the M81 and M82 are bright enough to show, and although I don't find Comet NEAT to be particulary impressive with this much light, apparently I'm the only one. It doesn't take long until he's got the grasp of identifying a few constellations, and I lose the scope as well as my dog, eh?

Walking out into the south field, I was showing him where to point the scope next to find Graffias and he noticed the Moon glittering on the surface of the water. Pool? Darn right. It's a wonderfully warm night out and thanks to the solar cover during the day, it feels like bathwater. While he goes for a splashdown, I go in to change and make some iced tea. This is what warm summer nights are about....

Listening to a little quiet rock and roll and swimming in the moonlight.

"With open arms and open eyes, yeah... What ever tomorrow brings? I'll be there.

I'll be there."



June 29, 2004 - The Moon...

Comments: I will admit that I'm not overly keen of looking at the Moon when it's near full, but as lovely as the weather is tonight, I simply cannot resist. And when I sit the old Celestron out on the lawn, uncap it, and unleash the 12.3mm ED Luna's way?

Oh, my...



Phoclides rocked! As soon as the scope stabilized, tiny details inside the crater began to pop out, like the mounds on the crater's edge... And tiny craterlets buried inside. Crater Schiller looks almost like a long, low footprint nearby. Needless to say, I pretty much froze there. And it didn't take long until the mosquitoes had me swatting, and scratching, and wishing I had taken some sort of protection out with me. Quickly deciding to cap up the scope and head back towards sanity, I'm figurin' a couple of minutes tonight was enough for me!

Let the bats have the rest, dude...

"What ever tomorrow brings? I'll be there."



June 28, 2004 - Reflecting on the Moon and Jupiter...

Comments: Despite the day's gentle, cold rain, it was still quite clear enough to take out a scope last night and enjoy the Moon. Thanks to the inherent dampness, I chose the old Celestron instead of the big Meade but it was no less enjoyable. The moment I lay eyes on the Moon I hope that my many friends who are working toward their AL Lunar certification are out there tonight... My word! Half of the list is right here before you.

All you have to do is look.

Aristarchus is an absolute beacon tonight. Right on the terminator, its long sloping west wall is incredibly bright. Like a ghostly feature hung in the dark, you can see the beginnings of Herodotus rising behind it. Wonderful features, like the Rupes Toscanelli veer off toward the north, looking like a network of arteries with the Rima Aristarchus branching off like tiny veins. Tiny crater Vaisala shows its' upslope within this area, and a moment of pure stability reveals two tiny craters at the edge of Aristarchus.

I look round and I can see where the features I viewed last night have become overlighted. So many wonderful places here to explore! You should see the area west of Sinus Iridum... Marian, Sharp... Oenopides! Copernicus is a massive system of rays, and Keplar simply outdoes itself. How could you even stand at a window, look at the Moon, and know that this is there...



And not want to go look??

Ah, my... Is there anywhere else on the Moon that inspires like the graceful, ancient Gassendi? So very fine... And so I explore at high power in the Mare Humorum, and walk along the expanse of Palus Epidemarium. My company is Campanus and Hainzel. My heart belongs in the rugged Southern Highlands. This is who I am.

When I have had my fill of the Moon, I was ready to put the scope away. I have watched each tiny feature, burning it into memory... Even as its' very light burns my eyes. I stood for the longest time, just readjusting to the dark and watching the stars. Such cold beauty! I think about the past few days and realize that I neglected to tell you that the night of the 23rd was when a bunch of monks were viewing the Moon and watched a meteor slam into it. They named the crater Giordani Bruno, and I have seen it when the libration is right. I forgot to say that a day or two ago, I watched a bright star that probably grazed later in the night, although I was not there to see it. Somehow, I feel like I am slipping, even though I know I am not. I am just missing something right now... And I am not too sure of what it is.

While I have the power in, I turn the Celestron toward Jupiter. I am blown away once again by the dimensionality of the galieans. You cannot look into the eyepiece and not see that the three to the east are coming towards us, and that the little moon that sits west of Jupiter is going behind the planet itself. High power and an undriven scope means watching them drift at an incredibly fast pace and it is almost like a fast-forward movie where you can see the galieans orbit Jupiter. Details on the planet are not outstanding, but the equatorial zones are still crisp and clean. I guess the more I watch, the more I realize that one of the galieans is noticably more yellow than the rest and I cry inwardly as I cannot remember which one! Europa? You see... Once upon a time I knew them all. And now? The names and positions have become a distant memory. Ganymede, Io, Callisto, Europa... I know who you are, but I no longer remember where you are.

I put the scope away a bit reluctantly. The mosquitoes have found my hands and it won't be long until they find a way inside my clothing. I cheer the bats who occassionally flutter over the face of the Moon, knowing they will eat well tonight. It is a good year for amphibians as well, for my little goldfish pond sings with the sounds of the fingernail sized frogs which have overtaken it. I smile, knowing I will let it go.... Just as I have not burned the many branches because a family of rabbits lives there. These are my companions in the night... The owl in the pine and skulking shadow of a raccoon wandering about in the fencerow. A large black dog beats a hasty retreat to the deck at the sound of a distant firework and I realize it has been a year.

Where does the time go?

"Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there..."



June 27, 2004 - The Moon...

Comments: And I am a still awake vampyre. It really was a beautiful day. Some of those "just right" Ohio temperatures with a taste of sunshine. I had every intention of just napping in the old redwood chair and soaking in some of those rays, but instead found myself chased away by a group of teenagers, headed by my youngest son. They've descended into my tranquil backyard carrying towels and wearing grins. Something tells me they want to use pool, eh? So, I stayed out of the way. As the shadows lengthened, I decided I'd blow the dust off the Harley and take a scoot around the countryside. About two miles due east of me, I found where our "not a tornado" had "not" touched down. I guess I'm not going to complain about losing two trees, for this house lost at least eight. Mine were a couple of small, old ornamentals that had taken a hit earlier this year, but to see large, mature trees snapped off like that definately gives me a deeper appreciation of the power of nature.

And nature was still squealing, giggling, and getting chased around the pool when I got back.

They burnt out by dinner time. Ate everything I even remotely call junk food and soon departed. Of course, I couldn't resist getting a bit of exercise myself before covering it back up. When H wasn't busy hanging over the side weighing the possibilities of whether or not he could handle deep water, he was equally elated to slosh around in his wading pool. I floated around, watching the sunset light up a few stray, grey clouds and unveiling what would eventually become a very beautiful Moon.

After I had dried off and warmed up, I found I still had quite a bit of time to kill before it would become dark enough to observe. It has been a very, very long time since I've picked up my guitar and really worked on newer songs, so I lit a citronella candle and sat on the steps of the deck and held it. I laid my head on its' side while I tuned it, listening to the notes resonate. From somewhere, I remembered my Seether tunes "Broken" and "Fine Again". Audioslave does it far better than I ever will, but I at least recongnizably play "Like A Stone" and I really dig "I Am The Highway". Memories of Bush came back with songs like "Glycerine" and "Come Down". And although my fingers tire too soon, Collective Soul's "World I Know" and "Reunion" join my impromptu concert. I look up at the sky as I play. No audience save for this big black dog and the Moon. You know, all I ever wanted was someone to love from afar.

And to touch once in a while.

Leaning the guitar against the railing, I chose the 12.5 dob again for my obserations tonight. It works wonderfully with the 12.3mm ED eyepiece, constricting the landscape down to small, detailed swatches. The Sinus Iridum blows me away with first glance and I am totally captured for awhile at how very broad the Juras Mountains seem to the west at the moment. The area around Promentorium Heraclides holds wonderful detail, and it is like walking arcross the mountains and foothills to crater Sharp. As I explore the terminator, I find my one feature that looks like no other. Tonight it is a very tiny area near the bright ring of T. Mayer...

There is a rather unusual place here... A single clump of mountains indentified as Mons Vinogradov. It looks all for the world like a pile of rocks. Just a bit away from it are small, smooth mounds that have a dune-like effect and hold two small craters in their scattered midst. Jehran is nothing more than a very minor pockmark and against one of these banked structures is the tiny crater Natasha. I smile, recalling my "Rocky and Bullwinkle" youth and finish up by picking apart T. Mayer, it's two small attendant craters, it's very understated central peak and tiny interior indentations. I thought for a few minutes about exploring Jupiter as well, but I guess I'm just a one place kinda' astronomer at the moment.

I pick up the candle off the frame of the "grasshopper", thankful it kept the mosquitoes away, blow it out and cover the dob back up. It has been a very long day and it's time to call it quits.

Catch ya' in my dreams, kid....

"Will I chose the water over wine? Or hold the wheel and drive?"



June 26/27, 2004 - The "On Again, Off Again Vampyre", the Moon, and NightWalking...

Comments: Hey. This has been a tough one. The work load hasn't been any different, but the sleep quota has been. For some reason, this time I haven't been able to sleep/nap when I need to which means I'm having a hard time staying awake when I want to.

For some reason, I got up far earlier than I normally do, so I decided I'd just get dressed and go out and look at the Moon for awhile. Lovely beast! Some of my most all-time favourite of craters are here tonight. Copernicus, Bulliadus, Clavius... And Plato. It is toward Plato that I turn my attention, for the skies are wonderfully stable, and I know from experience just exactly what I can do. And so I power up. Once upon a time, I filmed the small interior craters for a friend of mine. Now I simply enjoy them. There are only three that I can see tonight, perhaps the lightning is not quite right for the others. Still, Plato is quite nice. From the long shallow runnel that connects it to Mare Frigorus, to the exterior craterlets that bear only letters and not names.

And now I feel myself tire. I cover up the dob for now and figure something to eat and a hot shower would be in order. My mistake? Sitting down. My salvation? A over-large black german shepherd. I fell asleep just before midnight, and by 1:30, H was making sure I was still alive. Dressed and ready for work, I knew I had to get up and get moving or I'd fall back asleep again. Time to fix a cup of coffee and go see if the skies are still clear, eh? And they are...

I did some patience work. Ophiuchus is my companion tonight, and I simply feel like losing the barlow lens and shattering the M10 and M12 with the 12.3mm ED. M14 comes next into stunning resolution. A very cool little globular named NGC6366 also accompanies a bright, same field star. I work my way south from Eta, searching down the globulars NGC6356, M9 and NGC6342. I check my watch and chose two more... The NGC6325 just north of Omicron and the NGC6335 just south of Theta. Another glance at my watch says that it's time for this ol' vampyre to be "off" and "on" duty once again, and so I reluctantly put away my eyepiece and cover the dob up once again. I watch the stars from the car window as I drive into work, wishing all of those who may have been out tonight the very best.

It sure is beautiful....

"Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. I'll be there."



June 24, 2004 - The Moon...

Comments: The storm came out of nowhere. There were no warnings... No "signs". The western sky just quickly turned dark and within a matter of minutes a straight line wind absolutely lashed the flat countryside. I cannot tell you how fast the winds were, because branches were flying everywhere. When the rain came sideways and the hailstones began bouncing off the house, I started checking out the windows for a funnel cloud and watched the winds rip the rest of the bittersweet tree apart. No more worries about the spit now, eh? When the power snapped off, H remained pretty calm, because there was no lightning or thunder. I watched the rest of the old olive tree go as well.

And then it was gone.

An hour later? The sun came back out and the power came back on... Only to be lost again for the rest of the evening. Ah, well. I listened to CD's on the walkman, declined to read by candlelight, and chose to let my little electronic chessboard whip up on me. (yeah? well, when i quit playing classic strategies and went after it like a blonde, i got it in check three times in one game and actually won a round!) I lit a few candles so the house didn't seem so out of place, and H and I took a cold beer and wandered out to look at the Moon. (don't want them to get warm, you know.)

There were plenty of familiar places again last night. Albategnius looked wonderful, the slanting single peak of Piton, the deep scar of the Alpine Valley, and even Wizard's crater. I don't exactly understand why a particular feature should call attention to itself, but tonight it is crater Lade. At lower power the entire area around here is very pronounced at the moment... Tiny Theon Jr. and Sr., Halley and Horrocks holding court on opposite banks of Hipparchus, but Lade is the one, dude.

At power (12.3mm) and 2X barlow, Lade reveals itself. It appears to be a very old crater, shallow, and the southern end of it is totally eroded away. It has a punchmark crater on its' western edge and the crater rim appears almost "wishbone" shaped. What is unusual, to me at least, is the area inside that appears textured, or mounded somehow. Like a miniature Sinus Iridum, it also has sharp edged, promentorium-like tips, but the eastern-most looks like a small series of craters. As you continue south out of crater Lade, you encounter a very smooth looking area that may have once been lava flow, marked only by an east-west series of tiny craters that are so fine they are like pinpoints.

And then the clouds decided to join the show again. Why thank you! I was getting into this, George... And here ya' gotta' come and take away this light, too? Ah, well... I put the scope away for the night and fetched another beer and my guitar.

Still unplugged. ;)

"Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes..."



June 23, 2004 - The June Bootids... The Sun... Of Lightning Bugs and Moonbeams...

Comments: Well, I didn't hold out much hope. The skies last night were furry and barely showed the crescent Moon, but who knows around here? I went to bed a bit later than I should have, but still set the alarm a bit ahead. When I reluctantly got up?

Darn right. Clear skies.

Finding my winter parka, my thermal mug and I wandered out to the deck and curled up on the park bench. I wasn't in the greatest of moods, ok? Grumpy from lack of sleep... Not quite awake yet.. And pretty sure it was a lost cause looking for meteors during a time that the radiant constellation had already set. The constellation of Bootes had long ago done the Bootid Scootid Boogey from view. And then... The first one blazed out of the sky. Well, alright! Facing basically north, I kept watch for the 45 minutes or so that I had allotted to myself and was rewarded with 15 bright meteors! Some of them seem to absolutely trundle across the skies, and others were quick, bright, short flashes. Fall rate? Not anywhere near "storm" level, but still it was interesting enough to keep me from falling back asleep.

As the pre-dawn brightness began to steal the sky, I watched the Andromeda Galaxy fade away. I finished the last of my coffee and was about to head back in when a bright movement caught my eye. Mother of Meteors! Is this the end of the world? Nope. Nothing more than an iridium flare, but it still got my heart pounding! All in all, it was worthwhile to get up a bit early. There's just something ultimately cool about knowing that we are passing through the debris trail left by Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke and that it really did happen at a predicted time.

Now off to work with me.

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

Well, alright. The Sun was out and shining again today and it was an opportunity to sneak a peek at fast exiting sunspot series, AR684 and AR685. Approaching the limb, both series have underwent monumental structural changes over the last few days. 684 has all but melted into one very decent, mature umbra and penumbral region with a few, lacey, tracey followers. Of greatest interest again is 685! The original leader who once began to split, decided to melt back together again... Some of the followers figured they would just coalesce and provide us with a bit more of a show!



As you can see, they reformed themselves into a double umbra residing within a single, large, mature and irregular penumbra with a definate (a very cool) widespread series of followers themselves. Magnetic classifications still show both to be capable of producing decent flare activity, but this pair of "bad boys" definately visited reform school on this trip around the solar surface, and appear to be going to stay quiet this time. What makes me say that? 634 is definately close enough to the limb to be clearly displaying the Wilson Effect, and it does, but not to the degree I would have expected from a beta/gamma/delta. So better luck next time, ~T... This time the the double "yolk" is on me!

Now let's go drink some "Moonshine" and catch us a comet or two... ;)

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

Did I go back out? Of course I did. First order of business was to watch for an iridium flare. While it was not as bright as the picture that my friend Paul from FPOA sent me, it was still pretty cool to have seen. Of course, dusk had settled in by then and the whole sky was alight with flares. The lightning bugs! I do not know if these little creatures are a world wide phenomena or not, but around Ohio they signify the beginning of those warm summer nights and they are everywhere right now. The farmland to the east of me has been planted in wheat, and they rise from the stalks like thousands of tiny "Tinkerbells" taking their magical journey across the skies. They sparkle in the trees like fragile Christmas lights, and they draw the eye like a fast moving meteor. H appreciates the aesthetic beauty of them as well, but prefers the taste. I see him jumping and snapping amidst the silver shadows of moonlight, and occassionally he grins my way, his tounge a smear of phosphorent greenish-yellow.

Silly mutt.

I turn my attention to the west and enjoy the pleasing, close appearance of Jupiter and the Moon. Roughly five degrees southwest of the brilliant crescent, Jupiter itself looks like an attendant moon around a phasic planet. To the eyepiece, it is a wonderful display of equatorial banding and three-dimensional qualities as three of the galieans dance to once side coming towards us, while the fourth sits in waiting to either go into eclipse or tranist.

As the sky fully darkens, I find some more "Off" to keep the mosquitoes away. Right now, you could be wearing body armor and they'd have a can opener. They will find the most remote of places to dine... Be it on your earlobe, the part in your hair, or between your fingers... Anywhere the deet is not. Once shielded, I return again to the scope to study the Moon for awhile. Familiar craters leap to life, like Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina. Ones I know and love like Aristotle and Eudoxus... But the Moon has an allure all of its' own, and no matter how many times I look at it, there will always be a certain area that draws the eye like no other. Tonight it is Alfraganus. The whole area west of Sinus Asperitatis is wonderful right now. It is easy to see how much more it is elevated than the surrounding lunar landscape and I truly appreciate the steadiness of the view. Using the old Celestron and the 12.3mm ED, it is possible to explore beautiful details around Mons Penck and the wealth of tiny craters, rilles and runners that extend from it to Hypatia. Alfraganus itself looks unusually conical in reverse... The sloped sides smooth and perfect... Almost as if it were drilled into the surface. South of it is crater Zollner, which displays a far more rugged interior and an almost rock-like central peak.

Once dark has fully settled in, I am ready to hunt the comets again. LINEAR is still proving to be a very difficult customer, and as I scan the skies in the right area, I pick up a fuzzy, round signature near a wide double star. Perhaps the Moon is interferring with any tail activity, but at best LINEAR T7 gives the appearance of an unresolved globular cluster. Far easier is Comet NEAT who is still playing in the house of the holy and not more than five degrees away from Dubhe. Now this one has been a by-gosh comet! Even long past its' prime, NEAT Q4 still holds a stellar core and a fine coma display. I have truly enjoyed this particular comet. Finest since Ikeya-Zhang!

For now? The hour grows late in Ohio for working stiffs like me. Even having had some restful time away, I can feel that I've been up some 19 hours or so, and I reluctantly put away the scope. I know there is rain ahead, but I also know that clear skies are predicted by the weekend "vampyre" shift. Yes. There will be plenty of moonbeams to go around...

And I'll be out dancing on them.

"And lately I'm... Beginning to find that when I drive myself my light is found."



June 22, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: In Ohio? Well... Maybe for a few minutes at a time, but nothing long mind you. And so I crawled my caramel-colored hide out of the swimming pool long enough to set up the scope and have a look at our two rockin' sunspots.

AR634 still looks pretty much the same to me, but what really came as a surprise was the changes that have been going on inside AR635. I'm still having problems getting good focus on the follower series, but I did manage to sharpen this shot a little bit to show you what's going on inside the leader...



Check that out! The umbra is not only dividing, but dividing into three sections. (hey. i'm impressed... ;) I know the magnetic classification is still holding beta/gamma/delta, and I've been following the x-ray flux readings with eager eyes, but there has been no activity yet, except for a few minor C-class flares. It really is a beauty though, and I've seen where others have been photographing the activity as well. Who knows what the days ahead will bring? One thing for sure...

We're all watchin'.

"It's driven me before... And it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around."



June 20, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: Hey, baby... Remember those two sunspots I reported a couple of days ago? Well, they're getting warmer...



SOHO MDI image


A check on the magnetic classification shows they've both gone beta/gamma/delta, and if you have a look at the x-ray flux data, they've already snapped off a couple of C class flares and it's getting... hmmmmm... busier? Visually, you can see where the umbra and penumbra regions have done some seperating and shifting over the last couple of days. To the camera? Oh, you got it mon ami... Trouble with a capital T. Again, I am catching some weird effect, but it seems to be localized more around the followers in 635 than the radical looking leader. They are definately worth taking a look at, if you have the chance.

They just might go "boom"!

"So if I... Decide to waiver my chance... To be one of the hive. Will I chose water over wine and hold my own and drive?"



June 19, 2004 - The AFY "Star Party"...

Comments: The day started off cool, cloudy and full of chores. Nearing the end of my "personal holiday", I decided it would be a good thing to open the pool before going back to work. Ooops. Look like the "work" starts today... For the weeks of rain and the winter season has left it... Well... Nasty? Fear not! For after hours and hours spent submerged, the cool blue waters have been restored and I look forward to seeing the stars reflected on the surface again.

But will there be stars tonight?

Grabbing a bite to eat, I changed into dry clothes and headed toward Malibar Farms. As I turned into the parking lot, Greg had already began set up for the night and we played with his Father's Day present, an awesome set of very hefty binoculars. Setting up the little Orion, it wasn't long until Curt and Trish arrived, with Robert not far behind. Is that thunder I hear? I can only grin, because I know the sound of rolling thunder when I hear it and Stuart arrives with his new scope packed in his Harley's saddlebags. He took a lot of good natured teasing about being the one to buy a new scope and send us the clouds, but those clouds are thinning!

We continue to ready things for tonight's program and Bubba and Tim arrive on the scene. Although there is still quite some time before dark, the cars are being to stream into the observing area and no sooner than things are ready than we have a dozen or more anxious faces waiting to see the show. And still they keep coming in! Thanks to Richland Foundation's grant, we're able to put on an incredibly educational presentation, that involves a whole lot of fun. When Curt has finished with his part, it's time for me to put on my "song and dance". Again, it's part of the monthly programs we are quickly becoming famous for and I appreciate NASA's help in providing me with fresh, new materials. Hey, Pluto!! Come on back...

One by one, things are beginning to appear in the sky. Tim takes control of the Edmunds and the video eyepiece, while the rest of us move to our telescopes to give these folks a show. By the time dusk had arrived, we had moved up to 27 visitors and 10 members, so there was plenty of action going on in the observing area. Eager eyes go from scope to scope to view the crescent Moon (waxing crescent, 9:30, 6/19/04 dudes... mark it on your list, ok? this is how you complete your lunar certification!) and first light on the incredible Jupiter, who put on a show itself with three moons clustered to one side and the other flung out opposite. As the young folks view, we move from scope to scope enjoying each other's equipment and making half-hearted comparisons. There is no "superior" scope here, just a bunch of friends who appreciate one another.

As soon as it gets dark enough, I want Comet NEAT and it's not long until I have it in the eyepiece of the 4.5 Orion. Nearby, the SVD8 stands ready to go as well, but its turn will come later. For science sake? NEAT still has a stellar nucleus region and a very bright and pronounced coma, but the tail has faded into obscurity. (sorry. there is a combination of clouds and trees for LINEAR.) I hand over the eyepiece to our guests and the round robin of pointing different scopes toward different objects has begun. What all did we look at? Unfortunately, I did not write it down. Sometimes I find I am not as out of practice as I believe myself to be and Messiers, double stars and NGCs fall into the eyepieces. For several hours we moved back and forth across very decent skies and around every scope were clusters of "stars" themselves...

Our guests!

I guess I cannot adequately explain the feeling it gives one to share with those who have not seen. There is a very real part of me that finds this wonderful peace inside when I watch people's faces as the see things for the very first time. I find as much satisfaction in teaching a young person how to use my telescope and standing back to listen to "Voyage of Discovery", as I do in hunting down and reporting a difficult DSO. Perhaps it is a perspective of age... And perhaps it is just another facet of astronomy. If I can take the stars from my eyes and put them into yours for even the briefest moment in time? Then it is all worthwhile....

The longer the night goes on, the colder and clearer it gets. We go from decent clarity to outstanding clarity in a matter of a few hours. Of course, this also means the general public is a little less tolerant of the temperatures (and I gotta' smile as i see folks dressed in blankets and coats while i'm still wearin' cut-offs and a t-shirt) and slowly start to filter away amidst heart-felt thank you's and goodbyes. As we thin down to just the members, there is a new member in particular which I haven't had a chance to work with and he's right here beside me. Hey, Stuart? We played GoTo vs. Starhopper all night... Now I'd like to see what this thing can do!

Stu's "Harley Portable" scope is a Celestron 102 APO with on-board computer. It doesn't take long before we're both smiling as I call out the numbers and he takes us there. I get a mighty big laugh as I realize why the NGC457 looks so weird... It's right side up! Here, there, and everywhere we go. From the amazingly apparent M104, the duplicity of the M51, and right on down to the M97, I've got to hand it to this little Celestron. It's got both the power and optics on its' side. After touring many objects, I am very impressed! Yeah, I still do things "the old fashioned way", but I am certainly not above enjoying modern technology... And it is a very, very fine scope.

By now, it is only members left and I find myself ready for a cup of coffee, a sweatshirt, and my own makeshift blanket. As equipment is beginning to be stowed away, all eyes are on the Milky Way. The meteors tonight have put on a wonderful show, and still they blaze their way across the heavens. Almost all of us are transfixed just looking at the arm of our own spiral galaxy, and my own deepest memories of a time and place still sparkle in my eyes and heart. Greg has gone back to play with the SVD8 and calls out in discovery of a planetary nebula. Myself? I cannot look beyond Scutum and end up with the NGC6712 instead of the M11. My belly growls and when I look at my watch, I realize why. One by one we have all packed our things away, and I know that I might be able to leave this place, but I cannot leave these skies.

Gear stowed, we say our goodbyes to this fantastic night and follow each other for awhile as we all branch off to our respective parts of Ohio. It is difficult for me to keep my eyes and brain directly focused on driving, for the call of memory is so strong. The Milky Way still sings for me, and a certain old Meade telescope wants to harmonize. As it cools, I find some sweatpants and a salad roughly the size of Cleveland, I crunched my way through Parma Heights and poured over the old Tirion. I smile as I see stains on certain pages, remembering how and when they came to be, and just how much that time meant to me. When I have finished, I take my cup of chai and I realize anew just how lucky I am. It might have only been a candle in the wind...

But the flame still burns.

I chose two eyepieces... The Meade 26mm and the 12.3mm ED Epic. I would dance again with you Saggitarius, for there is no place like the "Wizard's Galaxy", NGC6822. At low power, both the galaxy and small planetary NGC6818 to the north/northwest are same field. Here they appear fairly similar in size, but not in magnitude. The planetary itself is easily direct, but the galaxy requires slight aversion to make out its elongated signature. Power up. Pow! The NGC6818 now takes on a greenish tinge and aversion brings on the wink of a central star hidden in its' core. Moving down a touch to put NGC6822 front and center, it takes my breath away all over again. Just look at this! Take on wide aversion and fully appreciate the power of aperture and resolution. Gone is the silver signature of a small galaxy and in its' place you will find a sometimes diffuse, somewhat clumpy, and some definate starpoint structure in what appears to be a star cloud combined with galactic signature. It is truly a little marvel for northern skies!

Excited, I think I probably watched that crazy little thing for twice as long as it took for me to find it. When I mellow out a bit, I find myself journeying to the M24 to find another such specific region, and that is to find the very small NGC6567 in such stellar profusion. A little planetary for your soul, brother? Realizing I have chosen far too much power to truly appreciate the larger object in Saggitarius, I figured I'd head toward some of the more obscure, like NGC6642 which looks so much less grand than the shattering resolution of the M22. A bit over for plantary NGC6629 whose central is much easier than the previous ones, and down to more resolution with the M28. Just a touch east of Lambda is small, and rather unspectacular NGC6638.

Enough of the Milky Way? No. I head back up into Aquila again, and onto Delta to hunt for the NGC6790. Whoa! This is a little dude, and while it is easy direct, I have to avert away from that central star to see the halo-like formation of disc that accompanies it. A star hop to Lambda and I have "re-hit" on the same planetary that Greg had in the SVD8 earlier, the NGC6751. Here again, a bit of internal comparision between my own scopes. Planetary signature easy direct in both, but the 12.5 reveals a central while the 8 does not. I figure one more before I go, and head of Altair toward Delphinus to begin the scan for NGC6891. Did I find it? Of course. Another nice sized, bright planetary with an easy central.

My cup of chai is long gone and I find myself beginning at last to weary. I carry the Tirion, my empty mug, my flashlight, my notes and my eyepieces back to the garage lest I relent and explore the rest of the night away. Dawn cannot be far away, for already Pegasus has well risen and Saggitarius has started its' decline. I secure the dob and it trails along behind me as we bid these glorious dark skies adieu.

It's been real.

"And lately I'm... Beginning to find that I... Should be the one behind the wheel.

What ever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes, yeah... Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. I'll be there."



June 18, 2004 - The RAS "Cloud Meeting"...

Comments: Well, a couple of us die-hard spirits showed up. It was good to see the familiar faces of my friends again, like Joe, John and Terry... And to present Dave with a plateful of my homemade chocolate chip cookies. Last meeting, a tornado had touched down on the same route I take to the Observatory at time to leave, so I took a big "pass" on coming over. Fortunately, we sustained no damage...

As long as you don't count the rabbits eating almost all the flowers out of the rock garden.

For once? We've had some really good news come our way. As a rule, I do not discuss Club business in my reports, so let it suffice to say that our deepest appreciation goes to Sara Barrow, Family Philanthropy Services and the Warren Rupp Foundation. There are changes on the way and your help in implementing them mean so much! We discussed other Club business as well and watched the sky clear. Sky clear? Ohio? You jest...

No. They didn't stay that way, but we all had a wonderful time sitting at the picnic table, enjoying Taco Bell and watching the stars come out. The scopes were set up and ready to go just in case, and at least John got a look at the M13 before the clouds came back permanently. For what it's worth? The sky was alive with meteors last night. Dave called just as it was getting dark to report a bolide, and just casual looking up meant seeing less than a handful pass between holes in the clouds. Did we stay late? Darn right we did. If nothing else, it feels good just to be outside at night with my friends. Right now we can't win for losing when it comes to clear nights... But with friends like these?

Who cares?

"It's driven me before... And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal."



June 17, 2004 - The "Wilderness Camp"... The Sun...

Comments: Hey, hey... Back in the village again and ready for action. On today's agenda? The New Life Church "Wilderness Camp" kids who are waiting on an astronomy program! Thanks to Ohio's many heavy rains, the outdoor area was a swampy mess, so the group was moved indoors at the Fredrickstown Intermediate School. Today I'm representing Warren Rupp Observatory, but my partner in crime will also be Curt, my co-member at Astronomy For Youth. We arrived ahead of schedule and went inside the school's gymnasium to set up our program. What a lively bunch of young people! Singing and laughing, there were close to 100 students all told, and despite the heat and humidity, they were revved and ready to go.

Coming to us in small groups, Curt and I sure weren't sweating because we were unfamiliar with working with kids. These bright and eager faces were far more advanced in basic astronomy than I think you might realize! It didn't take long until they were fast identifying meteor sounds and handling pieces of "space visitors". They laughed, they giggled, they talked, they participated, and boy howdy.... They knew their solar system! Just have a look as Curt explains to one of our groups about the planet's relative size....



It wasn't long until I had them boarding our miniature "space ship" and cruising with their strings clear across the gym to visit the outer limits! We explored the world of spectra and they fast grasped the concept of light speed. Thanks to some creative use (who me?) of black construction paper, stick on stars and glitter (even Z sparkles now. ;) they quickly learned to recognize constellations, where and when to see them, and how they move across the sky. Rounding out the program, they all got an opportunity to view a little "laptop" magic and a chance to see firsthand what it's like to look through the eyepiece of a telescope. Eager hands reached out for NASA "Space Place" goodies and the heat? Well... Became a lot more tolerable.

And then the Sun came out!

Back home again, I had to stop mowing for awhile because I had heard there were two magnificent new sunspot groupings that were worth setting the scope out for. You know what? They were right! Check these out...



Awesome new bipolar, beta-gamma beauties 634 and 635 just blew me away a first glance. We're talking about two areas that might appear fairly small in this photograph, but they are spanning about 1/4 of the visible solar surface! Are they hot? Well, granted they certainly are big... And they have the capability of producing M class flare activity, but the magnetograms appear to be pretty balanced at this point. If any of the leader umbra areas should start to split over the next few days, we are definately going to see some action out of this pair! ~T's probability guess? 90%... (same as the humidity. ;)

For now? Back to the heat storms of summer. Let's hope the weather gets the rain out of its' system and we have a couple more clear nights ahead. Because the fun?

Is just beginning....

"Sometimes.... I feel the fear of uncertainty. Stinging clear.... And I.... Can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear... Take the wheel and steer."



July 13/14, 2004 - The Moon...

Comments: Sky when I got up? No way. Not that lucky two days in a row. It's Ohio! Right now we're lucky if we get one day in five that is relatively clear. So, no one was less optimistic than me when I walked outside on break around 5:15 to have a smoke and get some fresh air. Low and behold, up above the eastern horizon sat the perfect curve of the yellowish Moon playing hide and go seek in the clouds. I guess that qualifies as the very last of my lunar observances, for it is the Old Moon In The New Moon's Arms. The night of the 13th meant more storms racing across Ohio. Tornadoes to the north and spanning down once again into Richland County meant this wary traveller decided to wait it out overnight. The alarm goes off at 4:45 on the morning of the 14th, and when I put my glasses on, the very first thing I see is a slender crescent sitting on the eastern horizon. It would be the Waning Crescent and less than 40 hours before new.

And New Moon means dark skies....

For now? I need a bit of a vacation. This ol' kid has been pulling lots of long and wrong hours as well as burning the candle at both ends. Exotic locales? Depends on who you are. I've found a housesitter to care for H, Z, and Edj the Dragon, and I'm heading north for a few days. I figure the Lakeside breeze and some quiet time would do me good! Who knows? It might even be clear up that way, eh?

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiite....

I'm looking forward to seeing the comets and some fine dark skies again. I've packed the little Orion away, and tucked some clean clothes around it. I could use dinner at Mon Ami Winery and peaceful meditation at Marblehead Lighthouse. Johnson's Island calls... And there is piers and beaches with my name on them. I've got a wonderful place to stay and a dark place to observe, so look for me at Road Trip 2004. Maybe I'll be there...

And maybe I won't. ;)

"Plans that either come to naught... Or half a page of scribbled lines. Wait alone in quiet desperation is the English way.... The time is up. My song is over. Thought I'd something more to say...."



June 12, 2004 - Surfin' the Milky Way...

Comments: Son-of-a-gun! If I had known it was going to be this clear when I got up, I would have went to sleep earlier so I could have woke up earlier! Needless to say, when I let H out around 2:15, my heart and head did a double take when I saw the grand arc of the Milky Way curling up from the south and passing overhead. Still barefoot and sleepy-eyed, I walked out past the giant pine tree and low and behold....

Saggitarius.

Grinning, I went back inside to start the coffee. Ain't gonna' hurt nothing if I slide 30 minutes or so of observing out before I go into work! Slipping into some sweats and moccassins, I gave the old Celestron the honours tonight with the Celestron 32mm eyepiece. My mug, my scope, my dog and myself were the only ones moving in the south field. It's a grand surf along the Milky Way! Coming up from the bottom, I take in the M7, M6 and M8... Moving to Kaus Borealis, I drift to one side for the M22 and to the other for the M28. I follow the trail of stars up and to the faded M20, and on to the sparkling M21 and M23. I hear myself sigh as I cruise across the starcloud of M24 and loop over for the M25. I laugh aloud when I see the M17 again! Of all the things in the sky, these are ones I never forget.

No other constellation charms me like this...

I go back across the base and collect the three small (to this power) globulars, M54, M70 and M69. My mind twitches with memories... And I decline the drift upwards to M16. Instead I choose to move overhead, appreciating the flexibility of the Celestron EQ mount. It has been a very long time since I have looked at the M27 and once I find it, it is there I stop for the night. How glorious even at low power! It shimmers and reminds me of summers past and summers to come. Smiling across the sky at the rising Cassiopeia, I realize what I like the very best about the stars are that they are immortal. There will always be time in their eyes.

I only hope one day my eyes have more time.

"Every year is getting shorter... Never seem to find the time."



June 8, 2004 - Venus Transit!!

Comments: I was up very early, and enjoying my morning mug while watching live webcam images with Joe and waiting on dawn. The clock ticks... OK. I'm ready. Out on the edge of the east field at a little after 6:00. Both the 4.5 Celestron and the little Orion 4.5 had honours, mainly because the only two solar filters I possess fit them. On hand is the little TV/VCR combo, the video imaging eyepiece, a 35mm camera loaded with good film that can be digitalized, and my camcorder. Taking no chances, I also brought an eclipse viewer with me. Well, by then I had 37 mosquito bites and enough coffee to cruise at 20,000 to Thailand. Decided I'd best go find some repellant, visit the used coffee department, and wake my youngest son to take part in history! (and to help assist in tracking the imaging scope. ;) The sky was gettin' mighty red and the time of the Ohio viewable transit was drawing close. Already, I knew my compadres around the world were on it. Just look at this picture taken from the UK by my friend, Alistair Thompson!



Totally ready for this, I stood at the edge of the field while Jon ate pastry, I drooled, and we both watched the deep, red ball of the Sun rise. I've got to try. Guess what? It won't show through the filter. No problem. I try not to look directly at the Sun, and I notice it ain't gettin' any lighter, either. Yep. A big cloud bank sailed right over it. Well, here a hole, and there a hole... And I'm getting the drift I better move the scopes north if I'm going to stay out of the trees. 6:45... Clouds break. Sun shines. Sun don't cut through the filter. RATS! I was afraid of this. Tick tock goes the clock and there isn't much time left. Somewhere a bit east of the grease, another friend, Sol Robbins, was enjoying sweet success!



Come on, baby! Rise... 6:55 and I'm seeing a little shadow on the ground.

Yeah...

Enlisting Jon to hold up my black towel, I use the "shadow aim" techinque, and bingo. There it is in the scope equipped with Baader film. Oh, my! You cannot believe how large and gorgeous it is! We move to the other scope I was going to image with, and the glass filter. Nada. It's not going to show through. You know what? Tick tock... I'm going back to the one where it shows. Forget trying to video record the event... There's no time to mess with this stuff, and I just wanna' see it! Jon has kept admirable "track" on it, and after I quit slobbering, I have the presence of mind to put the camcorder to the eyepiece...



Hot dog! (wanna' treat? or just a few tricks? ;) I can't believe how quickly it has moved in just the few minutes that I tried to get it with the Orion set up. No time. No time to mess with any ot that stuff! It's getting mighty close to the edge...



A glance at my watch says those "guys" were right. It would be 7:05 before it became visible, and I didn't defy Murphy's Law by much! It's getting ever closer... And my visual sense says there is the legendary "black drop effect".



Important? Heck, yes it's important! Do you realize that this has never been photographed? The only historic reference we have to this is James Cook's own sketches of the last transit, and it's truly a privelege to capture it with primative astrophotography equipment. (yeah, and there will be a millon of them out there today... but, baby? these were for you...)



Here and there, neighbors had wandered up. Do I mind? Honestly, no. It is truly a once in a lifetime event and I am honoured they would join me. As each has a quick look, I grab a bit of video in between. The event has almost passed and again, I defied Murphy's Law to the end.



At the last remaining minute, I laid down the video camera. This is for me. For one split second, just before Venus entirely left the limb, there was a brief crescent of light, like a halo around it, enabling the perception of it's orb. Truly one of the most remarkable things I have ever witnessed...

We put the things away. The time has come and gone. Here in Ohio, we have enjoyed a monumental astronomy event and I feel priveleged to have been there. No human alive has seen what I just have, and I am humble. How grand it is to live in an age where we can be part of such history! Jon goes back to bed while I send a fast photo to friends and leave for work. I know many, many of them enjoyed the same success, like Greg, Curt and Trish at Galion Resevior, "Bubba" at his location, as well as Stuart, from Hocking Hills Observatory with a group from Perkins... and I am elated for all! Now, I'm off to work and will return as the "Vampyre" in the days to come. What can I say besides...

I would have given anything if you were here, too.


"And you run and you run to catch up with the Sun.... But it's sinking. Racing around to come up behind you again. The Sun is the same in a relative way... But you're older. Shorter of breath... And one day closer to death."



June 7, 2004 - Comet C/2001 LINEAR T7 and Comet C/2002 NEAT Q4....

Comments: Well, there was no way I could go to sleep early. Clear skies and predictions of clear skies for tomorrow's Venus transit meant I was busy making sure everything was ready to go. Little last minute things, like making sure batteries were charged and everything handy. In other words? Wound tighter than an 8-day clock....

Around 10:15 or so, I decided I'd take the binoculars out and have a go at Comet LINEAR. Brief and to the point? It's BIG!!! Now achieving enough elevation that I can see without an type of light source interfering, I am stone blown away by the size. Again, the tail runs from southwest to northeast, but in my terms? It's standing straight up! Even with low position, degrading haze, and nothing more than an old set of binos, I can see close to two degrees of tail, and the major bright portion of the coma is daggone close to one! At this point, I see no concentration in the nucleus area, but the sheer size is definately worth risking a few mosquito bites over!

Rock on, T7!

Heading back up toward the house, I stop and look at Comet NEAT for awhile. It's diminuished so greatly over the weeks, that to the binoculars it looks more like a slightly elongated globular cluster now, than a bright comet. Still, it's been one heck of a grand show, and I don't rightly ever recall a time that I could say there were two comets within binocular range at the same time! (and i don't think that little cluster of stars has a designation, but from now on i'm callin' it "june bugs". ;)

For now? I best pack it up and go try and relax. Everything is a "Go" for the Venus transit tomorrow morning...

And I'm ready.

"Then one day you find.... Ten years has gone behind you. No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun."



June 5, 2004 - Warren Rupp Observatory Public Night...

Comments: Cloudy? Yeah. Despite the off and on sunshine of the day, by 7:30 the only thing I was looking at was a sunburn and a sky full of sweeping grey clouds. I had left early and arrived at the Observatory well ahead of anyone else. Things have gotten pretty deserted here, and the best I can do is clear away some of the undergrowth that has taken over the stairway and right the American flag in the struggling rock garden. I open things up and decide it isn't going to harm anything if I go ahead and set a couple of my scopes up. If it rains? I can just carry them back inside the dome to break them down. I brought the little television up out of my car with a small library of astronomy tapes and prepared it for guests. The computer is hooked up and ready with a program and I guess I'll just go sit on the picnic table and wait.

Not long after that, RAS President, Terry arrives and it is my pleasure to present him with our new club "flag" and banner for 2004. We hang it out front and discuss plans for going to this year's "Black Forest Star Party" and it isn't much longer until the Observatory Director, Joe, arrives as well. Yeah. It's a somber mood. We don't have skies and I half expect Eyeore to wander out of the trees to join us here in the Hundred Acre Wood. One by one, people start arriving... Faces I know and have been very proud to serve with, as well as new ones. Wheeling the TV outside, we rid the observing area of the wasps and hornets who have made temporary home there, and we let the magic of video take place of the forced cheerfulness of conversation.

I find a couple of eager young faces, and I am happy to oblige... Be it to the little blue-eyed blonde who enjoyed stealing sips of my Coke, to the young man who explored the Universe with me through the magic of multi-media. We toured the Dome, riding up, up, up to the eyepiece in the lift... And spun the grey skies around through the slit. And we waited. Played with the green laser pointer... And we waited... Told jokes... And we waited.

Bidding our guests "farewell", we are sorry that we were not able to show you the comos tonight, but we hope that you will return again someday. I carry the SVD8 back into the dome and begin it's breakdown, and like magic? The skies began to clear. Although it was boxed up by that time, the 4.5 was still set up and ready to go. First Jupiter and watching a galiean near transit/eclipse and then the area around Ursae Major began to clear. Going back to my observing bag, I pulled out binoculars and moments later, had hit on NEAT. Turning the 4.5 its' way, we see it still has a nice, stellar nucleus and broad fan of tail. Very good!

And one by one... More stars appeared.

Joe hustled to set up his Skywind, Robert hustled to set up the little dob, and Greg took command of re-assembling the SVD8. Here and there we took what we could with the opportunity we had... Be it the M57 or the M4! Greg found out first hand that the moment you switch mounts and types of telescope you use, you instantly become "lost" in a world in which you were comfortable. Make no mistake... Greg is as sharp as a tack when it comes to finding things in the sky... And you don't know how wonderful it was to see someone else hit the same "stumbling blocks" that I experienced on my visits to California. Take away everything you know, except for your knowledge of the sky, and see how "good" you are! (bubba, you used to own one like this... wanna' try after so very long? ;)

Laughing, I set it on the "Ring" and then simply cound not find the M13. Now, tell me why I could find something as vague and transient as a fading comet in a limited aperture scope with an even more limited finder... And yet not something so familiar as the M13? I'll tell you why... Mainly because I hadn't used that telescope in almost a month. The finder blows me away and the mount doesn't cooperate like the dob. Give me two days straight of clear nights? And I'll pick out a 12th magnitude galaxy in a starless field. Give me two months of mainly clouds and using only the two scopes I am most familiar with? And I'll show you a ~T who has to use the maps and hunt for a DSO as well as the right controls. So my adivce to those of you who read? I am not joking about "Use it or lose it." Astronomy, for me, is no different than laying down my guitar for weeks at a time. Sure. I might remember how to play a few tunes, but I've lost my "edge". And maybe, just maybe... I'm losing it, period.

Nah.

Little by little, we begin to filter away. Goodnights are said and equipment broke down once again. Greg and I linger on for awhile, listening to music and watching Saggitarius rise through the mist. It's just nice to have someone to talk to and a few stars to look at. We part to drive through the patches of fog that cradle in the valley, (and some of us remember we left our computer in the dome and have to go back and get it.) just enjoying the peace of the night. Putting my hand in my pocket, I realized I only have 50 cents to my name and my belly is rumbling. It is enough to "bargain" for a cup of coffee and I enjoy sipping the strong brew as I watch the moon rise as the Ohio countryside slips by.

There's always tomorrow...

"Tired of lying in the sunshine... Staying home to watch the rain. I might be old, but the night is young... And I've got time to waste today."



June 3, 2004 - Racing the Moon...

Comments: Clear skies at last! I was happy to park in the rays to put some color back on the old flesh, reading about the Battle of Perrysburg and waiting for what seemed like an eternity until sky dark. My mission tonight?

Spot LINEAR.

I had checked the maps and knew roughly the area where it should be positioned, but Hydra is by no means an easy constellation. Although at 40N, it is visible, the rayleigh scattering from the long set sun and the threat of the upcoming moon made it absolutely imperative that I waste no time in finding my mark. Of course, this also means that some of the fainter stars of the constellation aren't there to guide me with the naked eye! Grabbing the binos, I headed out into the open field... Where are ya', dude? Nothin'. Zip. Zilch. OK, then! It just must not be dark enough. So I puttered around looking at the M44 and a brilliant little cluster I've found for binos on the Lynx/Ursa Major border. And wouldn't ya' know it? There's NEAT!! Hot damn... Let's go get LINEAR.

Moving back out into the field, I started scanning the sky until the pattern of Hydra became a bit more clear and looked more like what I had memorized. And way down low there? I found what I believe to be the return of C/2001 LINEAR T7. If I don't miss my guess, the one decently bright star I was on was Alpha Hyrdrae, (daggone it! i should have brought the field guide out. it's not the bright stars in the "head", it's further down and east... and bright enough it has to be a primary star! alphard? was that's its' name?) and a bit lower than that was a wide pairing that sported a "light" scratch between them. I though perhaps I had stumbled on a bit of bright cloud, but each time I would run a grid pattern across the sky, I would spot that same little scratch right there between those two stars with my "streak" running from northwest to southeast. Is it LINEAR? My guess is yes... And the days ahead will confirm it.

Behind my back, the "Strawberry Moon" had already began its' ascent, but hadn't quite trashed the skies. Heading back up to where I had left the old Celestron parked, we journeyed back to Comet NEAT and I gotta' tell ya'... It still looks right fine! The tail has definately diminuished since I last had a real chance to study it, but it still holds a concentrated bright area in the nucleus and a wide fan of coma. (still a got room for an old rock and roller left in your heart, jazz man? ;) It's been a brilliant comet presentation and it will be for some time to come! Smiling back over my shoulder at just how quickly the rose-colored Moon is gaining altitude, I thought for a moment about sneaking a peek at the M81 and M82, but declined. It's late and my hours start early...

Perhaps again, some day?

"Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town.... Waiting on someone or something to show you the way."



June 1, 2004 - Comet NEAT, the Moon and the Sun...

Comments: Have I lost it? No. I'm an even harder act to follow than you when I switch shifts around. The last few days have been spent inside the master closent with H and a dish of ice cream. No. We weren't hanging from our toenails on the closent rod awaiting the night, the old "vampyre" here has been busy dodging my ride to Kansas is all. The last days of May sent more tornadoes and electrical storms ripping though my way. Not uncommon for Ohio, and I'm not particularly frightened by them... Just very, very respectful. When the alert went up, H and I went outside to watch the clouds. The upper deck was moving steadily from south to north with a low, powerful west wind. As I watched, the clouds began to turn and then head from north to south. H became upset about the same time I noticed the giant maple, whose branches I normally keep trimmed about ten feet up, had bowed its' branches to the point where they were nearly touching the ground.

Both of us, with ears on alert, went for shelter when the first patterings of hail started. Do you hear sirens, H? Not more than a minute or so later, the brave firemen who were running ahead of the storm, came through the village announcing to take cover. Cover? You betcha'. I grabbed a flashlight, my handheld TV, our ice cream and two bowls and H and I headed for the big closent to wait it out. (i've noticed H cries far less when he's eating reese's peanut butter cup ice cream. ;) When the little TV says it's OK? We go back out and find a very miniumum of damage. One of my bittersweet trees has been split in the middle and the ancient olive tree is missing a large section that isn't anywhere to be found! (cool. one less mess to clean up.) Other than that? Safe as houses, kid.

The storms continued through the night, and needless to say I didn't get much sleep. By Memorial Day, I was dog tired (pun intended) and by the time I made it home from work and shucked the heels, sitting in the recliner was about as far as I made it. Some ten hours later, I came round. My first thoughts were that I hadn't even changed out of my work clothes and my second one was what is the little red ball of light in the window??

Walking to the door, I realized I had slept until midnight and the "little red ball of light" was the Moon reflecting inside the hummingbird feeder. Holy crap! I just slept 10 hours in a chair! It's June 1 already... Trading off the business duds for a pair of cutoffs and a T-shirt, I wandered out with the binoculars and a beer to let H re-water the lawn. I was surprised at how clear the sky was! Scanning around, it didn't take long to find Comet NEAT tucked in rather "neatly" between two bright stars. Gone, thanks to the moonlight, is the splendid tail, but I'm still quite happy to see it. Swiping a place dry with my hand on the park bench, I settle down with the binos. Balancing my arms on the deck railing, (and also providing a great spot to park my beer) I took great pleasure in touring the bright lunar features. You know, Tycho is pretty impressive when you look at it like this! Bright points of Aristachus and Keplar... And the smoothness of the mares... Just a pleasant way to pass a bit of time.

Twenty minutes later? I was out again.

Another nine hours later, I woke to sunshine on a day off! I can only shake my head... It is not like me to sleep almost twenty hours straight. (but cha' know what? it felt good...) I did my chores and decided that not a cloud in the sky meant a pretty good time to park my old carcass in some sunshine and soak up some rays. Before I reached "crispy critter" status, I did set the old Celestron out and have a peek at the solar surface. If I don't miss my guess? That's probably 618 rotating out on the limb and it looks like we've got two nice incoming spots sporting a lot of faculae. After that? Well, them clouds crept back in one by one... And more storms followed.

Guess we're trying Cherry Garcia tonight!

" Ticking away the moments that make up the dull day. You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way."