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March 2004





March 30, 2004 - Mooned Again...

Comments: And ya' know what? That's enough for me. Been workin' too hard to get no where.

I took the scope out before it was not quite dark and the clouds were racing. I hoped it would clear because I could see Plato, Copernicus and Clavius.... But you know how it goes. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

And sometimes you just give up.

"It's more than a feeling...."


March 28, 2004 - The Sun and Hoping For the Moon...

Comments: Hey. It's 70 today. I worked all night. For me? There ain't no problems or stress right now. My primary objective when I hit that timeclock is feed my belly, nap long enough to be alert, and blow the dust off that beautiful blue Harley Davidson. (wooo! didn't take but about 10 miles... it still be cold under that warm!) And after that?

A taste of sunshine...

It's hazy today and not perfectly wonderful viewing conditions, but absolutely clear enough to view the two latest sunspots, 580 and 581. 580 is pretty ordinary and common, mature umbra, mature penumbra and total lack of character. 581 pretty much matches the same description except for it has this wonderful lacery, tracery field of followers behind it that spells a magnetic hotspot. Right now I didn't bother with the magnetograms. It was just nice to look at it, identify the numbers and be outside. Now cross your fingers and hope for an equally hazy Moon...

Cuz' it's been a right long time.

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And I got the Moon I asked for. I'm tellin' ya'... I think this baby is stuck on half! Should I keep on reaching for the stars - or just be content with what I have? I had the stars this morning... And if you knew Taurus, you'd know the answer to that...

We're real big on contentment.

And so I enjoyed an evening that feels like springtime. It was wonderful to listen to all the sounds of the night again as I set the scope toward the Moon and lost myself in Albategnius. I did not wander there for long though, for I see another feature that has captured my imagination in the past and lives there today as well... The Alpine Valley. It is just striking, the long narrow trough carved into the Moon. Nearby Piton stands like an ancient pyramid guarding the gates of a long dry Nile. It is enough for me to stand here listening to the amphibians trill the song of spring and smell the smells of a newly awakened Earth while looking on at her companion of the Night. It is a fine thing to have a cold beer at the end of a long, long day and have a look at nearby Saturn who's moon Titan points the way back to our own Moon. It is good to hear H once again exploring the realms of the backyard, intent on rearranging the sticks and fallen walnuts. It is peaceful to watch Jupiter with three of its moons gathered to one side like a group of anxious school children discussing what game they are about to play while the last scurries to join them.

I put my things away quietly. I wish no more astronomy for the day. I have had my fill of ideas and help and I want nothing more than to settle into the hottub to boil away some aches and pains and sip another beer. For now? I am in that Taurus state of contentment... Happy for having the day filled from start to finish...

And ready to dream.

"And I dream of someone that I used to know.... I close my eyes and I slip away."



March 28, 2004 - Doin' A Double Take...

Comments: Back on "vampyre shift" and woke up to decent skies sans Moon. Very good stability although transparency could have been a whole lot better. Time to put on some headphones, crank up the tunes, pick up a map and forget my troubles for an hour. My objective for tonight? The hunt for interesting doubles...

First mark, Algorab, Delta Corvii. This one is distinctly not a problem. As the lower of the pair of upper left hand stars of the lopsided rectangle that is Corvus, Algorab seperates cleanly and easily to the 4.5 Celestron at minimum magnification. As a naked eye star, it is easy to find and its' disparate companion is widely seperated away to the southwest. Easy... But not colorful. A bit more difficult to locate, because it requires the finderscope, is Struve1669, northeast of Gamma. We are talking matched magnitudes here that tend to blend together a high power (10mm) for this scope, and actually look better and more clean at lower power (25mm). There is also a tiny wink that accompanies this duo and may belong to it as a multiple system. Again, basically white. Although I might find it interesting, I doubt anyone else will.

I forego Porrima as I have been told it is now much too close to seperate with a small scope and head west in the sky to Leo. (hi, jupiter! hi, moons!) Regulus is also a double, but a rather boring one. It's companion star is widely seperated to the south/southwest and thankfully bright enough to show through Regulus' influence. In the center of the Lion's Mane is Algeiba, or Gamma Leonis. Now we're talking! Gamma's secondary is rather reddish compared to the yellow primary and while it stand close to the east/southeast is easily seperated at low power and is far more interesting than any I've seen so far!

Now we are cookin' with gas.... ;)

Alpha Herculis is next and Ras Algethi has always been a favorite of mine for the small scope. Located east of the "keystone", Ras Algethi is a beautiful study in color. The primary is very red and the secondary is very green. They sit side by side, almost perfectly east to west and they are within about two magnitudes of each other making Alpha Herculis a prime example of a duo, colorful star... One that is close, but not so close that it cannot be seen by an amateur, and one that definately say's "do a double take" in my book.

I take a quick look at Lyra and the "Double Double" as well. I like the dice-like precision of this pair of pairs! Epsilon Lyrae is not exactly what you would call exciting in terms of looks, but what is fun is to put the power to them and see both pairs seperated enough to be clear to any causual observer. What I like better...

Is Cor Caroli.

Ah, the "Heart of Charles"! How wonderful you look this morning in your yellow and blues. Aways easy, alway impressive and always very "there", aren't you? (then remind me i am on a doubles hunt and that i do not need to look at the ring or the big globular, ok? ;) And so I make my final trip for the night to the much welcomed back constellation of Scorpius and another old favorite as well... Graffias. (it it me or does that sound like thank you?) Beta Scorpii is easily, easily perceived as the upper most star of the constellation. In the scope? It rocks. The primary is basically white with little backshine of yellow, and the secondary is unmistakeably blue. The pair sits a very easy distance apart with the secondary to the north/northeast and are clean at any range of magnification. This is is pretty special though... Did you know it is a multiple system? The A and B stars are not able to be achieved through our scopes, for the A star orbits no further away that Mercury does from our Sun and cruises around ol' Beta in a week's time! The true B star orbits out about a hundred astronomical units away and takes a couple of hundred years to cruise its' path. And C? Our visible companion star? It's about twenty thousand astronomical units away and only takes twenty thousand years to orbit. Guess this one is gonna' hang out a lot longer than Porrimma, eh?

And that is enough for me. A look a my watch and the end to the CD I was listening to says it's about time for this old vampyre to pack the eyepieces up for the night, get ready and head for work. I must say, I do like being out here in just a "hoodie" sippin' coffee instead of dipping my hands into it to keep them from freezing. I like seeing the stars of summer again, for to me they speak far more loudly than calendar dates or emerging flora. These are the real signs that winter is almost over!

Now watch it snow...

"And when I'm tired... And thinkin' cold. I hide in my music... Forget the day."



March 23, 2004 - AFY "On The Road" - The St. Peter's High School Project... Just Dreaming...

Comments: What a smashing success! I don't know who's doctor ordered up a perfectly sunny day for the AFY, but we couldn't have asked finer. Curt, Robert and myself arrived as the "not quite ready for prime time players", but we know our stuff and we know the moment we start into it that it will be with the same confidence and laughter that we all share when observing together.

The young adults of St. Peter's High School were sharp customers! They already had the knowledge, now all they needed was a fun way to understand it. Fun, you say? Then look no further, amigos... For fun is our business!! And as we danced around in circles, the class flew away across our solar system, with distances and sizes now clearer in their minds. The telescopes they studied? Are now understood. Radio telescopes? Can we do that? Darn right, guys... Listen to this! Touch another world... See through the eyes of a telescope. Learn about Mars! Let's find out about light and how far and fast it travels.... Let's see how scientists use light to study the stars! And just when you think we're done?

Well, it's almost like walkin' on the Sun... ;)

My sincere congratulations go to all the members of the AFY "On The Road" team for a totally successful program. Our many thanks go to the staff and students of St. Peter's High School and to the gentleman of the Mansfield New Journal as well. All of your smiling faces, eager questions and ready answers mean the world to us!!

Come see us under the stars...

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Now I'm off to go dream my secret dreams. Time for me to fix a cup of chai and one for you. Time to throw the cushion on the redwood chair and fetch a blanket... Maybe we'll just look at the Moon, or dream on the rings of Saturn... Would you like to see the galieans waltz around Jupiter? Fly away to another galaxy? Or maybe... Just maybe we'll catch a shooting star.

What's your pleasure?

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My pleasure last night came not from probing the night with a telescope. It did not come from exploring faraway places or seeking new sensations. It came from sitting in an old redwood lawn chair with an equally old quilt pulled around me like a muslim robe. I wanted nothing more than just the quiet companionship of the stars I have come to know and love.

I watched as Mercury disappeared from my point of view. I looked at the Moon, remember that phase so well and standing outside with the then new Celestron reciting the litany of crater names until I remembered them. I watched a Venus eventually took its' place and Mars shepherds the Plieades across the night. I watched as handful of slow, wide trail silver meteors dripped down the face of the sky like silent tears. I watched as a sattelite came from the south, climbing to the zenith to catch the last rays of a Sun long set from my point of view.

I did a lot of thinking... And I did a lot of not thinking. I was entirely happy just to sit there in silence, listening to the returning sounds of the night. Occassionally you can hear the gabble of the canadian geese in the distance... The calls carry across the night. There is a once in a while peep of the frog who doesn't realize winter is not quite over yet. The faraway bark of a dog... His reply echoed by another. I wonder if the coyotes are still around? Or if the owl will return again this year? I sip the warm brew hidden inside the thermal cup like I hide inside my blanket. And when I have found the peace I need?

I call it a night.

"It's more than a feeling. (More than a feeling...) When I hear that old song they used to play. (More than a feeling...) I begin dreaming... (More than a feeling. ) Until I see you walking away. I see my dreams walking away...."



March 22, 2004 - Mercury and the Moon... M53, NGC5053, NGC4565, and Lost In Coma Berenices...

Comments: Of course I knew about tonight's extraordinary planet display. Who amoung us that enjoys astronomy, didn't know?? (raise your hands now... ;) The day ended up being clear and I also knew the sunset was going to be spectacular, so I tossed the video camera on the front seat of my car and headed out into the open Ohio countryside to try and catch an area for a photo that speaks loudly of where I live. The ramshackle windmill? No. Grain silos? Nah. Maybe something with a nice barn in the silhouette? Oh, come on! We might be rural be we ain't "Hee Haw" here! Lot of open fields, lots of woods and lots of small creek and ponds later, I took a side road back around the country block and a certain area caught my eye.

The Ohio Power route....

Seen from the air, the pathway cleared across country looks like someone took a giant shaver and cut their way between major cities. From the ground, these sentinels stand tall, dotting the countryside and carry the power necessary to keep our rather rural lives modern. And for some strange reason? It looks like Mercury is doing a balancing act on those self-same power lines...



Although a single frame from my video camera will never match today's digital images, (not by a long shot!) the point is not the beauty in the photograph, but that I was there. I saw... And I want you to see as well. How I wish it conveyed the true picture!! The slender crescent Moon, who's darkness was so illuminated by "earthshine" that it looked like an annualus of light demarked its edge... The appearance of Mercury as the sunset hues deepened and it came out to play. The absolute magnitude of Venus standing above the scene.... What I cannot show you is the whole sky. The dance of the planets from this horizon across to that one... The majesty of Orion standing proud. The singular beauty of Sirius... The power and size of Ursa Major! Even with orange hues on the horizon, the stars tickled the sky in the most delightful way. I have to remind myself not to draw in constellation lines of borders in my mind... To concentrate on the perfection of here and now...

And be thankful.

I waited until quite a bit later to go out and study with the 12.5 dob... And five seconds was all it took. Just five more seconds because I had written an informative and consise report about my findings in Coma Berenices and my server dropped me just a split second after I asked it to store my work. If it would have waited just five more seconds to do that, you would have heard about the beautiful, compact and well resolved M53. You would have known that companion globular NGC5053 was incredibly loose in structure and totally resolved. You would have read about how impressed I was with the edge-on structure of NGC4565 and known how to find it for yourself.

Five more seconds...

Five more seconds and you would have read about my preliminary findings of several galaxy clusters in Coma/Virgo area and what you can actually see as opposed to what is printed on the star charts. Five more seconds and my words would have still been here about how to hop across the fields of Coma/Virgo with a 12.3mm wide field eyepiece, a big dobsonian telescope and all the really cool galaxies you can percieve on a 6.0 night. Five more seconds and everything from being thankful on down would have still been here. Just five more seconds....

Right now I am very disappointed that my report got kicked off. But you know what? I simply don't care anymore. Once upon a time I would have re-written it... And now I just don't care. The most important part, which is my field notes and sketches are right here if you want to come look. I keep them in a composition book with the title "Hard Knox U" printed under the line for school. Flip through the pages and find the date for March 22 and read my scrawling handwritten notes. If the galaxies were cool? There's a little drawing there. If I found a field? Yep. Another sketch and my beginning attempts at a new study field for identification. Just five more seconds and everything I wrote would have still been here. All I can say is it just doesn't matter right now. The galaxy fields were absolutely superb!

Let someone else catalog 'em....

"So many people have come and gone. Their faces fade as the years go by... But I still recall them as I wander on. As clear as the Sun in the summer sky...."



March 20, 2004 - Astronomy For Youth "Star Party"...

Comments: OK, so it's our first one for the year 2004 and what's it doing? Raining. Darn right it's raining. I knew when I got home that the rain had included some thunder and lightning because furniture had been moved around and chicken H seemed awfully glad to see me. Cat Z's reaction to all the furor was to simply sit on the back of the recliner giving us both a look that obviously stated how foolish a hundred pounds of black german shepherd looked trying to hide beneath the sofa over a little noise. Obviously little cat Z has yet to experience the delightful fury of the tornado...

His day will come.

I got myself together and got cleaned up to head over to Malibar Farms for a meeting if nothing else. I was grateful I had just left the Orion 4.5 in the car from last night, cuz' I'm feeling like there isn't enough coffee in the world right now. A quick look at my gas gauge told me that I should be grateful for the over-time as well, so I make the "pit stop" at a not-so-local establishment and as luck would have it? They had fresh coffee. Sipping the strong, black brew I headed out on the interstate highway kickin' the jams with Chevelle and I couldn't help but notice we had a bit of sunshine. Hola? Does this mean??

Oh, yeah. By the time I had made the detour to take care of some more business and replenished my cup at a more familiar locale... Those skies were clearing. By the time I had made Malibar Farms and visited the used coffee facility, (good trish, i am glad i am not the only one who has a certain paranoia of small dark spaces, black holes in the ground, and the fear of hanging one's bare necessities over the unknown... ;) we had Mercury shining on the horizon and the dance of the ecliptic overhead. Our meeting was brief, constructive and right to the point. We make plans, we execute them and we are good to chase the stars!!

Setting up the little Orion is an absolute snap. Of course, if I were a bit more serious about being "precise" it would probably take a bit longer, but if it looks level, is tight enough to be used like a little dob, and the finder is anywhere within 20,000 light years? Hey. I'm good to roll. So did it rock? Well, maybe if my big feet kick a tripod leg... ;) Honestly? Yes, it did. It never ceases to amaze me how a change in attitude and the extreme comfort of these particular friends motivates me in finding things. Lack of stress? Why, heck yeah! If I got a guy beside me that says the M1 looks like mashed potatoes and then I put it in the eyepiece for him and he says: "Looks like mashed potatoes!" I find myself grinning and suddenly gravy, fried chicken, green beans and apple pie seem to appear from nowhere.

Round these parts we call 'em Mmmmm words....

And so the quest begin to find the Mmmmmm in what we do. First one, then another, then another, then another, then another, then another, then... About that time compadre Tim rolls in. Then another... then another... then another.... And lights coming up the Hill mean another guest and I am absolutely elated to see 'Bubba' back in the flesh and ready to enjoy the evening with us! His first request? Mashed potatoes...

Darn right. We serve 'em right up, here.

Still dishin' up them Mmmmmms, by the time we had made it to the eastern sky? Houston? We got a problem. The days rain had left an intense amount of moisture in the air and the mak/cas design scopes were the first to fall victim. Fortunately, my primary suffered no ill effects, but the dew made itself well known on my finder in short order. Hey. When I can barely see Sirius? It's serious. Fortunately, I am never serious.... The dew has shut my finder down, but it has not taken away my mind! You might slow me down by taking it away... But a suprising amount of things I find directly at the eyepiece because I am familiar with the field. So let's keep on dancin'! And dance we did... Again, your hands or mine. It doesn't matter. Your scope or mine... I'm here to enjoy, not to keep score. I am just as happy to hand you the controls and look up! For the March Geminids were absolutely strutting their stuff and the slow, short, bright meteors with the long lasting trails are every bit as Mmmmmmmm as the rest of it!

But Ohio weather is volatile right now. The same changing systems that breezed temporary clear skies our way and moved things to the dew point also began to produce clouds. At first the hazies, and then the mean, nasty low ones that spell and end to the night's astronomy and Mmmmm feast. Scopes are lovingly packed away and backs slapped and hugs passed out for a successful evening amoungst friends. How I would love to join you all at one of the local eateries... But duty calls for me very early. Take care, my friends. Hopefully things will change in the near future and I will be able to spend more time with you. You'll never know how good tonight was for me! A restoration of faith and peace...

Heading back cross-country, I open a bottle of water and switch out Chevelle for the new Nickleback. "Just as long as you know I will. Someday... Somehow... Gonna' make it all right. But not right now." I dig the tunes and the miles roll by and it doesn't take long before the open vistas of my area become the scenery. Like a bright and shining star, Venus lay just below the thick blanket of clouds overhead about to set... A viewpoint of the edge of the system from perhaps 20 miles away. A handful of bright stars tickle that distant clear sky and remind me that perhaps somewhere west? Someone else can look back... Remember...

And say "Mmmmmmmm".

"It's more than a feeling. (More than a feeling...) When I hear that old song they used to play. (More than a feeling...) I begin dreaming... (More than a feeling... ) Until I see you walk away.

I see my memories walking away...."



March 19, 2004 - The RAS Meeting and a Messier Mini-Thon...

Comments: OK. I was sweating making it to the meeting on time. A late delivery at work on my end means my day gets turned inside out and upside down and backwards as well. Well, hey! Since I am primarily a reflector user, that's pretty much normal, isn't it? Darn right it is, And I made it there just a few slim minutes past its designated starting time.

I knew a lot was going to happen tonight and I gotta' tell you I wasn't looking forward to the conflicts. Once upon a time, I would actually look forward to these meetings, knowing there would be good and bad... But right now we're dealing with downright ugly as well. What can I say? I figure if someone is going to lead a symphony of destruction, the very least you could do is be present in front of the orchestra, eh? Personally, if I buy a ticket to the concert, I intend on sitting out all the acts.... And if the band decides on playing a tune I wrote, I'll be in there playing and singing it with them.

So why do I even bother to include this in my "Daily Reports"? Because I am observing the situation, and I am first and foremost an observer. Unfortunately, I have an analytical mind and the whole purpose behind writing any ot this down in the detail that I do is to explore the psyche behind the observer. What motivates a person toward the hobby of astronomy? What motivates others toward the same hobby? What happens when these different motivations come together in a social situation? Who are these people and what drives their lives? How do these inter-reactions eventually color ones own personal astronomy experience? Can the road to what looks like eventual burn-out either socially or personally in astronomy have a turn around? Is it possible to understand any of this? And, quite simply, why bother? So many questions, mon ami.... And are there answers?

We'll find them together.

The highlight of the evening came for me when all the unpleasantness was past. I had thought to leave, but I cannot pass up clear skies! My hours at work will weigh heavily on my physical being for my choice, but the time I spend amoungst friends will so mend my heart and soul as to be worth far more than a bit of sleep. It is a time of rememberance and laughter... A time of simple joy in what we love to do with no rules imposed. Nothing more than one of my little tin cans with a mirror at the bottom and the only string attached to it does not go to an electrical outlet or a computer.... It goes to the heart. The absolute simplicity of your hands or mine, it doesn't matter whose, to take a very ordinary and common starhop to the very things we all have looked at thousands upon thousands of times over the years. No game plan. Just whatever part of the hazy sky looked best at the time, and whatever object appeared the best in the scope we were using. No rules or regulations. No polar alignment! Just a handful of old stargeezers and a little bitty scope...

Enjoying astronomy "unplugged".

And now I must go. My congratulations go to the outstanding restoration of one of our historic telescopes. I wish all of my friends the best on their quest for the night. May you each find happiness in your own ways, following your own rules and your own agenda. May you find peace inside yourselves... Peace with others...

And peace amoungst the stars.

"I lost myself in a familiar song... I close my eyes and I drift away."



March 16, 2004 - A Special Evening...

Comments: Woke up to snow. Lots of snow. I don't precisely know where it came from, for the temperatures were around 60 degrees yesterday, but today there is at least 4 inches of white, fluffy stuff and it continues to come down. By noon, my area had a solid eight inches of accumulation, and still it snowed. Why today? It's incredibly bad timing...

It doesn't matter. I go about doing the things I have to do. I work here at home as well, and eventually go shovel myself out enough to bring up wood. When I have completed my documents, tallied my figures, and made the correct assessments I turn my thoughts toward projects a little nearer and dearer to my heart. There are times when it seems like there are not enough hours in the day and I am almost glad it has snowed and I am stuck here for the moment. I have a very special assignment for this evening and I have no qualms in telling those of you who read that it has torn me apart. I am deeply ashamed of those who could not look beyond their own wants and have faith in me. Do you know how very hard it was for me to allow you to shred me publically, not defend myself and then turn around and do something for your own good?

Turn the other cheek...

I gather my things together and set off cross-country, thankful of the 4WD. A very special visitor has arrived safely and it is time for us to meet! I give my thanks to someone who has plowed the way, his smile and kind words are ones I always appreciate! Rock on, dude... Behind me is the reason I do not walk away. Strangely enough, when it all comes down, this one has the integrity to let you fight your own battles, but he's the only one with enough guts to at least let ya' know what side you're fighting for. The snow has stopped none of us and when our guest of honor arrives and our eyes meet? I like her instantly.

I enjoyed her visit and our dinner immensely. Gotta' hand it to you, lady.... I like your style! And I very much like your ideas... (somehow i get the sense if you had been in the same situation? you would have told them right where to put it. ;) We both hope that your time with us was pleasant and informative. And the next time we see you?

It will be as friends.

"I woke up this morning... And the Sun was gone. I turned on some music to start my day..."



March 14, 2004 - Contemplating the Orion Nebula...

Comments: There are times, I think, when each of us who are so priveleged to have the time and power to truly stop and study should do so. So many times we are possessed with this "need" to accomplish that we often forget the true beauty of what we do. For me there is no driving need to "take down" a hundred objects a night. I am no longer a hunter, but a grazer. I have no burning desire to capture what I see...

Just to understand it.

It is with this thought in mind that I use the power of aperture and set it toward perhaps the most grand of all objects - The M42. At the very lowest of power, the sprawling cloud of fantasy nebulosity never fails to impress me. I know that it is flourescense, lit by the high power ultra-violet radiation of the Trapezium. How I wish I could see it spectroscopically! My lessons have taught me that originally the absorption lines caught from it were considered unique... Even though we went on to learn they were nothing more than the common elements of neon, oxygen, helium and nitrogen. I know from studies that it dances the forbidden dance of doubly-ionized oxygen... A property of radiation that can never happen on Earth. But we aren't talking about being on Earth, are we?

No. We are talking about an area of star birth.

How incredible it all is! Put it in the eyepiece and let it drift to get a true sense of how massive it is. It expands well beyond what you perceive to be the perimeters. Look inside the filaments! It contains variables, eclipsing binaries, and virtually hundreds of stars that are blocked from our view. Add just a touch of power and you will see the filaments and strands come to life. Each star buried within the nebula gives its own pattern to the smokey cloud... Each strand is alive and unique. To the west, the edges of the clouds curl together cupping tiny points of light within. At the east, a long filament curls away graced with a star at the tip. There are tendrils that extend for incredible distances, stretching out amoungst the stars of Orion and areas of blackness. Deep wells of no starlight, and yet they are not dark nebulae. And at the heart of it all?

Lies four stars.

Increase the power and behold the Trapezium. It is around this fueling core that the nebula becomes scalloped in appearance. It rocks my world. The stars within are there as well.... Bright whites counterpointed by their respective red and blue companions. How holy it feels! One pair leads the way and the brighter pair stands south. There is this tiny, tiny wink that stands between these two.... And yet another lies just ahead of the trailing bright star. And there is more... Oh, there is so much more! They seem to light up within the nebula, like tiny lights buried in angel hair. Truly one of the most incredible and impressive regions of the night sky!

It is enough for me. All that is good and all that is sacred to me about what I do is here. My eyes have taken me some 1600 years back in time. I have explored a region of space that is more than 20,000 times the size of our own solar system, and I am fulfilled. I put my eyepieces away and gently stand the scope upright once again.

Beyond compare.

"Because I'm broken. Yes, I'm lonesome. And I don't feel right... When you're gone away."


March 13, 2004 - The Moon... and the Sun...

Comments: Yep. Back in the land of the vampyre again. I sometimes have difficulties making the transition and it always takes its toll on me. I am either very up... Or very down. And there's very little in between. I watched the golden Moon rise as I took a shower. Has anybody noticed but me that it seems to be caught in its' half phase? I think every time I see it, it's only half there.

I went about my routines. I make coffee, forget to feed myself, let H out to prowl, open a can for Z, and give Edj the lizard some peaches. (he adores fresh peaches.) When the dog is done, I take my coffee and go to check my e.mail. Well, well... All I had to do is see the name and I started grinning. That's the first honest smile I've had in awhile. I appreciate it. And when I have read? I look at the clock and see my time is drawing near. Make no mistakes. I am not the happiest of campers when I change shifts around like this, nor am I the most alert. But somehow... Astronomy changes that for me. Rather than grumble fiercely about the many hours I will put in and the inhuman amount of numbers I will deal with, I find myself quite happily contemplating Sister Moon with my last cup of coffee before I leave.

She is still beautiful, you know.



Alphonsus, Arzachel, Ptolmey, Erathosenes, Archimedes... Aristullus, Autolycus, the Appenine Mountains, Pico, Piton... Plato! Old companions, all. As old as the picture you see here. There is just a certain peace, a sense of a time well remembered that gives me something more than the coffee. (well, hey... i'm sure it probably helped. ;) I guess it is knowing that I took a few minutes from my busy day to do something for me. Instead of vegging for fifteen minutes holding one of my socks in my hand and staring mindlessly at the Power Puff Girls, it was...

Kinda' like staring at a big rock in the sky.

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And my curiousity got the better of me when I came back for my mid-day break. The Sun was shining and I had to know.

Did AR570 divide??



It sure did. Not only did our little magnetic cell go through mitosis... It cloned itself! Now that's awesome. I don't care who ya' are. That's awesome! It was just too cool to watch and enormous symmetrical spot subdivide into equal parts and each of those equal parts are almost identical to the parent sunspot. How identical? Let's just say the original leader was classified Fao. The sub-divided leaders are classed Fao. About the only real difference I see in the magnetograms is that there is field between them now, turning what once was a beta-gamma classfication into beta-gamma-delta. (and oddly enough we had a little magnetic eruption today from the general vacinity.) Will it do anything specatacular? My guess is nah.

It's already done enough!

"Cuz' I'm broken. Yes, I'm open. And I don't feel like... I am strong enough."



March 10, 2004 - The Sun... The Last Remaining Light of Comet LINEAR T7, M31, M32, M110, M33, M103, M52, M34, M45, M1, M79, M42, M43, M78, M50, M41, M35, M46, M47, M93, M44, M67, M97, M108, M101, M81, M82, M51, M65, M66, M95, M96, M105, M106, M63, M94 and the M3....

Comments: Hey! The Sun was still shining when I got home from work today. Unfortunately, first order of business was to carry in some wood for the night, but you can bet the old Celestron was out and stabilizing while I did so! Of course, you know I have a thing about filming the sunspots because I like my video records and watching the changes over the days. I don't always make them public, but they at least help me to understand how they change and what can be perceived by the camera's eye.

And, oh my, is AR570 ever changing!!



I about fell down when I got a look at the umbra region today. The daggone thing is dividing in the middle! I remember well watching mitosis in biology lab and this is just like looking through a microscope... On a much grader scale! In slightly over 24 hours, we have gone from a symmetrical umbra to one that appears to be trying to split. Absolutely awesome. From what I can see in the eyepiece, I get an occassional flash of a red line in the center which means it may be forming a light bridge. Too cool!!

Let's hope the days ahead mean clear enough weather to watch it change even more...

And the skies remained clear after sunset. Unfortunately, my mind was rather occupied with a nasty headache and I'm afraid I made it out on the late side for catching T7. I started off in the side yard with the little Orion, but it was a no go... I couldn't go that low! But this particular little scope is very, very light... So off we go! Out through the back field and to the edge of plowed field, walking the tractor path to get an open vista to the west. Gotcha', amigo. Completely down on the western horizon, T7 is still recognizable as a comet and there is a curling path of very faded stars following behind it. This will be the last evening I will chase T7...

At least til' it comes round in the morning. ;)

For now? I let my list speak for itself. This was not a mapless run. It was done with a pocket field guide to the constellations that most of you would sneer at. It was done with a 4.5 Orion short tube reflector and a 25mm eyepiece. It was done without polar aligning. It was done with the scope in whatever position suited me best for comfort and in whatever part of my backyard that offered the best view of the sky.

And it was done in approximately 90 minutes.

This is by no means a Messier challenge. Although this represents a third of the Messier list, and there were more that I could have achieved with one of my larger aperture scopes.... That's not the point. The point is if you truly love what you do... You don't need fancy equipment. You don't need the best of everything. All you need is dark skies...

A tall ship and a star to steer it by.

"There's so much left to learn... And no one left to fight. I want to hold you high and let you steal my pain... Away."



March 9, 2004 - The Sun... Comet LINEAR T7, Venus, the Aurora, Saturn, Jupiter and Messin' With Those "M" Words...

Comments: Yep. It actually woke me up today. After a rather extensive work schedule, I had every intention of just sleeping the entire day, but when my room was fully lighted by 7:30, I figured I'd had enough sleep. Knowing how quickly our weather changes here, I just slid a coat on and went out and pointed the old Celestron Sol's way...

AR570 is very big. It looks all for the world like a black fried egg on a very large orange plate. Almost perfect symmetry... It is being shadowed by two followers, the eastern-most which doesn't appear to have a mature umbra yet... And the western most that has lopsided structure by having a mature umbra but only half a penumbral field. There appears to be something between the major portion of 570 and these two followers, but the sky is very unstable and I opt to wait for awhile to see what it looks like later.

I sigh and pass the morning away catching up on things that I have neglected while busy at work. The Sun peeks in and out and I decide around lunch time to have a go at it again. Unfortunately, hazing clouds have also returned to the sky... And it is a good thing in a way. It helps to dull the Sun enough for me to see there is a ragged penumbral field following along the major sunspot, but it also makes photography less than desireable. You know, that doesn't matter either. I'll catch it in the days ahed.

And then the day turned the color of dirty laundry water. Phat, lazy snowflakes swirled down in a riot of motion. H found himself a warm spot to retire and I found an easychair... Both of us happily watching cat Z try and capture the snowflakes as they stuck to the window glass. I know there is a possiblity of aurora tonight. I know that the very last of Comet T7 can be caught and I am sure it is spectacular now that it is nearing the Sun.

And I know I can still see them snowflakes swirling even with my eyes closed....

The Sun woke me up again. This time I was too warm and the room was too bright. My first thought was fear... Fear the fire had somehow gotten loose. Not to worry, though. An airtight stove is just that and it was nothing more than me having fallen asleep in what eventually turned into a patch of sunshine. Sunshine, you say? Damn Skippy. And those skies stayed clear!

Hustling out, the little Orion got the honours tonight. It now has a new finder on it. (although procrastion rules, i did set it up so it could be used at our first public night just in case. ;) I continue to be amazed at how quickly and easily this small and very portable scope can be set up. Within minutes I had it out of my trunk (ok, it's not a trunk... it's a space big enough to stuff a small scope and that's all i need.) and assembled in the driveway. So... Did my finder survive being packed across country in the back of a sports car? You bet it did. And tonight was first light for the little scope on a comet.

The phrase "how low can you go?" is very apt for the position of LINEAR T7 now. I'm tellin' ya' now that you've got to start hunting just as soon as it starts getting dark because it has dropped significantly lower than Gamma Peg. It took binoculars for me to locate it, and once I did? Holy Chow Mein! It's a wonder we aren't seeing this one naked eye! In the binos it is a comet.... Bright, very significant core region and lovely short extension of tail. Catching it in the scope was a bit more difficult, but when I did? Oh, wow... The field was stellar! Two bright stars and a small configuration that looked like a minature Leo accompanied it and the tail? What I wouldn't give if the sky wasn't so bloody bright! I had half a mind at that time to throw it right back in the trunk of my car and head about a mile out of the village where I can get a even lower and darker horizon.

I was planning on doing just that, so I took a fast shot on Venus' half-form and when I looked north? Aw, man.... There was the aurora. You know what? If the sky is gonna' grace me like that, I am going to take what she gives me and not complain. The soft, pinkish dome peaked just about 2 degrees below Polaris and was bordered on the eastern side by a bluish haze. No pillars or spires, but it held for a good fifteen minutes or so. Really wonderful to see again!

Around then I decided I'd kick in a little power and have a go at Saturn. I'd like to tell you the details rocked, but the little scope isn't the most proficient at planetary. It was possible during a steady moment to make out the hairline of the Cassini at the outer edges as well as the ring shadow. It is also possible to see Titan hugging in close of the following side and what appears to be two of the follwers at either edge. Jupiter is pretty much the same. All three equatorial zones are easy. (EZ... it's a joke, son... laugh when i tell it to ya'. ;) There are motteled details present in them, but it is also a bit low to pick out fine details. It is possible during a moment of stability to make out the thin line of the northern temperate belt and the skid mark looking southern temperate zone. All four galieans were present and accounted for, sir.

After that? Oh, heck... I just played around with some of them there M things. You know, a few here, a few there.... A couple of them there fuzzies that make purty pairs in the eyepiece. Maybe a couple of them there not so fuzzies that I 'jest like lookin' at. Maybe even just a couple of 'em just so's I can prove to meself I kin' still find 'em. If you ask me to name them? I won't. If you ask me to show you?

I will... ;)

"I guess the worst is past... And we can breathe again. I want to hold you high and steal your pain."



March 6, 2004 - WRO Public Night...

Comments: I swear... I think the place is jinxed on Public Nights! There are very few that the sky is actually clear... Of course, this is Ohio. To be truthful with ya', there's very few clear nights around this time of year anyway. But all was not lost, eh? We still had a wonderful time entertaining our guests and enjoying donuts and homemade cookies. (ah, ah! i did not even though i very much wanted too.) It was wonderful to visit with Mike, Joe, Dan and his guest. And you know me... Always got a trick or two (possibly even five or six. ;) up my sleeve to make a cloudy night just a little bit more bright. And it really was all right! There were several times when Dan and I would walk outside to talk and see the Moon come out from behind the clouds. Unfortunately, Mike's new scope didn't get "first light" because as quick as you would see something it would be gone again, but it was still good to know it was there. And it was just good to visit with one another...

We wish our guest light speed and hope to see you again!

Of course, it was just good to talk with one another as well. I was proud they were willing to hang around with me in case anyone else showed up for the evening. When it got late? Hey, hey... Take care, ya'll. It's time for me to head west. And I guess somehow I knew it was going to happen, and I am sure that I wasn't the only one who noticed. Oddly enough on the drive back the skies totally cleared and the Moon and stars came out in all their glory. Knowing I had to work this morning definately rained on my parade (march 4th? heheheheeee...) and I really couldn't take the scope out as much as I would have liked to. Ah, well... It really wasn't hard to study astronomy in a slightly more ~T fashion. I simply moved my pillow around so I could watch out the south window...

And I fell asleep watching the Moon chase Jupiter across the sky.

"Cuz' I'm broken. Yes, I'm lonesome. And I don't feel right when you're gone away."



March 3, 2004 - A Morning Walk...

Comments: So I crashed and burned early last night. Shoot me. Sometimes it would be a welcome release. Instead of sleeping in, I find myself awake earlier than usual, so I decided I'd just head on into work.

At least, I was until I saw the sky.

Look at all this! Scoripius is totally up to the south, Lyra is all the way up there! Wow, just look at where Hercules is at... And Cygnus! Cygnus is just flying away over there... And there's... Nah. Can't be. So I walked a bit further out into the field and sure enough. Saggitarius has returned to the morning skies as well. How long has it been, old friend? Months and months? A small eternity? I tell you, it has been so long that I have almost forgotten and pretty much ceased to care. Can I still walk "Straight To The Heart"?

I give myself fifteen minutes.

Although Saggitarius is still a bit on the low side, I am surprised that I can find the M8 with such ease. Ah, my... And the M17 as well! It just takes a bit of a touch and I find I still remember exactly where the M22 is at, as well as the M28. I go back and take a sweep again and I see the very soft form of the M20 and then the M21. Refusing to tighten down the scope, for I must leave, I make a pass again and feast my weary eyes on the M24. I guess I haven't forgotten everything just yet.

Smiling, I cap the old Celestron back up and carry it into the garage. How many months have slid by me since I have taken a morning walk? How many times has the opportunity passed for us to speak once again, and remember all of the great things that were once there? Too long...

And not long enough.

"I keep your photograph. I know it serves me well. I want to hold you high and steal your pain.

Because I'm broken. Yes, I'm open. And I don't feel like... I am strong enough."



March 2, 2004 - The Moon, Saturn and Jupiter...

Comments: Well, I'm afraid it cleared rather late to take a shot at Comet T7, but I don't mind just stepping outside for a bit to have a look at good ol' Luna and a peek at the planets...

Tonight I didn't even turn the radio on, I just set the Celestron outside the door and aimed at the Moon. Well... This is a treat! One of my favourite areas is making a rare appearance tonight.

Sinus Iridum...



I like the Bay of Rainbows. I always have. I no longer wax poetic about waltzing around it with you, but I still admire bright Promentoriums LaPlace and Heraclides, as well as the singular punctuation of Bianchinni in the Juras Mountains. Even little Marian looks well tonight...

I wandered about with out much thought or feeling from there. I only have the 17mm eyepiece in tonight, and I take a shot at Saturn to see Titan leading the way and the troopers dancing equally at either ring edge. The Cassinni whispers in and out, and I realize that I really should be trying a bit harder, but I do not care. The same is true of Jupiter... It is now, what? Some 4 million miles away from us? A very close pass by all standards, and what I really should be doing is aiming the dob its' way and kicking in some power. Instead? I'm wandering, Joe... I'm just enjoying watching the galieans all piled up together and leading it across the sky. Somehow... Somehow my inspiration is gone right at the moment.

Let's hope I find it again someday.

"I wanted you to know.... I love the way you laugh. I want to hold you high and steal your pain. Away...."