May 2004

May 29/30, 2004 - A Little Moon...

Comments: What a beautiful day here in Ohio! Wonderfully moderate temperatures, clear blue sky and lotsa' sunshine. No chance to observe, though... For the days of rain have left the grass in need of cutting. So, rather than mount the scope, I'm afraid I spent my afternoon break mounting the tractor and blazing down the back forty. Still, it felt good to be in the sunshine again!

By the time I headed back in for work, the skies didn't look so good. The high thins had pretty much taken over, but as cool as it is, it might clear come dark. I had taken my binoculars with me in hopes of getting a shot on LINEAR, but it's still not to be. With the darkness came the threat of rain...


S'ok. I am the vampyre again and rest is a good, good thing. When I get back up a bit before 1:00, it is to see the Moon shining brightly and I wander out with a cup of coffee and set the little Orion its' way on low power. Very nice. Plato, Copernicus, the emerging Sinus Iridum. I think I'm becoming so familiar with these features that I could sketch them in my sleep. (lord only knows i see them there... ;) Still, I don't mind a bit of peaceful contemplation before heading back in again. I hope the skies were clear for my friends at AFY who were giving a presentation at Malibar Farms "Barn Dance" tonight. There's a few stars here and there, but not enough to even warrant trying to hunt down anything. Plenty of silver clouds though! Now I'm off to work again. I see rain is forecast for the days ahead.

Figures, doesn't it?

"Oh well, a touch of grey kinda' suits you anyway... And that was all I had to say and it's alright.

I will get by. I will get by. I will get by. I will survive..."

May 26, 2004 - The Moon, Jupiter, Venus, Progress and the ISS...

Comments: So you're figuring there's not much to do on a moonlit, mostly cloudy night, huh? Wrong! Show me a hole in the clouds and I'll show you a good time...

I started off before the sky had fully darkened by inviting some of my elderly neighbors who were able to make the walk to come and view the moon. And for those who couldn't? Hey, hey... There's plenty of room on the blacktop driveway for an electric scooter! I had carried out the television from my bedroom and set the 4.5 up with the video eyepiece. This thing still fascinates the heck out of me... And it fascinates others as well! Talk about surprising some of them... A few have been over from time to time to see through one of another of my scopes when I was out studying, but for the most part, they have difficulty standing still at the eyepiece. Worry no more! Before them on the screen was a beautiful Moon, and with a little help from our natural "drift", the lunar landscape would float serenely by while I told them about the craters.

They were fascinated with the Apennine Mountains and the depth of the craters... But what really stole the show was to point on the screen and say, "There. Right there was where Apollo 11 landed... And Apollo 16... And Apollo 17..." These folks were adults at the time, and never have they seen the Moon as they are seeing it now! What a celebration... From Aristillus and Autolycus, through the "Horseshoe" and Julius Caesar to Stofler and Maurolycus. They never realized such beauty existed! The smooth plains of Mare Nectaris and Tranquillitatus... The rugged Southern Highlands and the emerging Alpine Valley. I think they understood now why I am so fascinated! And from the garage stereo plays... well... a bit of a melody?

"Fly me to the Moon and let me play among the stars. Let me see what life is like on Jupiter and Mars..."

And seeing as how Jupiter was so close? How could I resist!! Again, most of them could hardly believe what they were seeing. That star?? That star is a planet?!? And we watched it drift by... Again and again. As the clouds began to pull off the western horizon, I pulled one last rabbit from the hat... Venus! Even I cannot believe how superslim it has become. With the barlow in place, it is possible to see limb darkening along the unlit edge, and if it were not for the Moon hanging above? I do believe they would have thought I was tricking them!! It waivered and it rolled... But it sure was impressive.

Bidding everyone a good evening, I put the equipment away for now. (i'm kind of a private person, and a little bit goes a long way. in such a small community, my taz slippers and odd hours are talk enough!) I go hide for awhile, hoping those western clouds would scoot the rest of the way gone and give me an opportunity to spot LINEAR, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Skies are too bright right now for Comet NEAT, and it's clouding over there as well. Ah, well... It was still a good night, right? Right!

And about 9:35 me and my binoculars sneaked out again...

The clouds hadn't captured the northern horizon yet, and there was a bit of modern day history going on that way that I'd just dearly love to have a look at. I knew where it was coming from and what time it would be here... I just hoped my guess on the altitude was right and it would be below the clouds. At 9:40 the ISS sailed serenely out of the clouds and directly into the clear area. Whooping like a little kid and scaring the crap out of the birds in the little tree at the edge of the field, (who in turn scared the crap out of me by bursting into a clattering flight) I raised the binoculars and had a very up close and personal look at the ISS.
It's flying sideways!!

Just as smooth and cool as it could be, there is absolutely no mistaking the tripartite structure. I cannot believe how well it shows! And there's more... Oh, yeah. Locked on to the top section of the International Space Station is a reddish tube looking affair - The Progress Rocket!! I strongly urge everyone to go to Heaven's Above and enter your area to see when the ISS will make a pass for you. Even with modest binoculars, it is easy to spot the station's growing structure, and watching this thing sail over in a very "un" aerodynamic way is... Out of this world!!

So, although the skies ratted out on me and I didn't get to see the comets tonight? It's ok! Because sometimes even Ohio clouds have...

Silver linings? ;)

"Cuz' every silver lining's got... Just a touch of grey. I will get by."

May 25, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: Well, those skies didn't stay clear all day... And they surely didn't that night. But I did have an opportunity to enjoy a rather fuzzy, but still interesting view of latest solar hotspot, 618.

Actually, the view was a lot better than my image and I was very pleased to witness the complex, bi-polar area that is currently up for some X-class flare activity. As you can see, the leader has a mature umbra and symmetrical penumbral region, but oddly enough the large follower didn't not have a precise umbra. Leading the mass is a small series of irregulars, and although I'm not a solar physicist, I'd say the whole thing is just too dispersed to really stand a chance of activity. Other than that?

Hey. We're back to the clouds and rain again.

"You know I'll have it made. You know I will... You know I will... You know I'll really, really have it made!

Ummm hmmmm mmmmm mmmm.... Ummmmmm hmmmmm mmmm mmmmm... Oh, oh, oh, oh yeah..."

May 24, 2004 - Off To Goff's....

Comments: I watched the skies stay mostly clear all day. There was a point where we had some feathery, high-thins and the Sun performed its wonderful parahelia again... Not total this time, but it was still cool to see the pretty "rainbow arc". Just knowing that we were going to stand a pretty good chance of getting to practice with some new equipment was exciting enough!

Around 8:00, I decided I time head over to Curt's house, smiling all the way at the sunset sundogs. I had with me a very interesting little creature that I had received as a Christmas present and just hadn't had an opportunity to use yet - An eyepiece video camera. When I arrived, I was happy to see the recent tornado had left my friend unscathed and both he and co-AFY member Tim had the scopes and all the other necessary equipment set up and ready to go for our little "experiment". Carrying my little box and binoculars out to the picnic table, first order of business was to stop and drool on our new meteorite samples. (God bless Richland County foundation for the grant money... it means so much.) Absolutely awesome specimens of every classification and knowing just how much it will add to our educational programs make them twice as valuable! (nantan and gold basin... yum!)

Another such addition from our generous grant is waiting for us out by the telescopes - A field television/VCR combo. Now I realize this might not sound exciting to some of you, but we see possiblities in everything. This awesome box runs on either AC or DC power (yeah, yeah... we made a couple of rock and roll jokes too. ;) and puts a new form of media in our hands to help give more interesting, informative and detailed public programs directly in the field without relying on an electrical outlet. How you say? First off, it will give us an opportunity to play educational tapes, either created by us, from the library or supplied by our good friends at JPL/NASA right in the field. Everyone relates to what they see on a screen... And second, and most importantly?

We can give the eyepiece to those who cannot use it in conventional ways...

Curt's Edmunds refractor is set on the Moon. Within seconds, the tiny camera is in place. One solitary wire is run between it and the set... One push of a button later? And three adults are whooping, laughing, hollering and high-fiving all over Curt's backyard! I'm here to tell ya'... The image was stunning!! All three of of us instantly realized the ramifications this technology would add... Now we could venture forth to nursing homes and special schools, those unable to reach the eyepiece could now see what is going on, those in a wheelchair see what we see, folks who have difficulty seeing through a eyepiece can watch a screen with ease, the signal can be broadcast indoors for those who cannot be outside... The list goes on and on! We add a barlow to the camera and adjust the image to perfect sharpness... This is totally awesome! I can stand here and point out each feature on the Moon's surface while a budding lunar explorer looks through another telescope and identifies the features himself!

Totally excited, we move on to see what else this is capable of... Venus blazes onto the screen as a superslim crescent. Saturn flies by with its' rings. Jupiter? Oh, my word! We watched the screen is disbelief as we viewed a shadow transit. The color camera revealed the sublte shadings of Jupiter and every zone was a surprising riot of details! (curt? it was a shadow transit, and the leading spot on the opposite equatorial zone? was ganymede!) Despite my excitement, I did remembered I had a pair of binoculars with me and although the sky hadn't darkened fully yet, it wasn't long before we were headed toward Comet NEAT. About then, I know I couldn't leave my 4.5 in the car. It's gonna' be a fine night and I need one of my scopes! While I set up, Tim aimed the Edmunds at LINEAR with hopes we could record it. Did it show? Afraid it's not quite that sensitive... But who knows what a bigger scope might do? And I walked out to the edge of the field in hopes of spotting Comet LINEAR, but the high thins came along to enjoy the party.

No problem. Waiting for the skies to clear meant an opportunity to go indoors and work with some of our other new equipment: A 3-D look at Mars, a solar system simulator, a lunar orbiter, (too cool! it shows the interaction of the earth, moon and sun so clearly!!) laminated lunar charts, activity kits for indoor astronomy, a planetarium projector, and spectra equipment that I have only dreamed of. (can i cry now? these teaching aids are like a dream come true!) And there is more on the way... In my excitement, I didn't see what else had been donated to AFY until Curt pointed it out. Like an old memory brought back from my beginnings of astronomy, the little Tasco refractor stands ressurected.

Deeply touched by everything, we go back outdoors to find the skies had cleared once again. My search for Comet LINEAR proves fruitless, for there is a stubborn bit of cloud that refuses to move off the area. No matter! We continue to experiment with the video eyepiece and find it will snatch double stars as well. By then, we were thinkin' thoughts of M13 and more aperture. Curt's 10" Schmidt is ready to go and moments later we realized deep sky is beyond the camera's reach. Disappointed? NO WAY! You would have had to have seen the incredible detail of the Moon and planets to understand. It's a fantastic little piece of equipment and it will serve us well!

About that time, Curt and I started grinning at each other. Wanna' dance? You betcha'. And the DSO waltz began... Little scope vs. big? Oh, rock on! M81 and M82, M4, M13, M57, M80, M65, M66, M92, M56, M10, M12.... Whatever we could think of that would show through moonlit skies we starhopped to. (and i gotta' laugh, cuz' curt would run round to look through my finder and ask how the heck i did that cuz' there wasn't any stars in the little bitty finder... and i can only smile right back at him, because i have watched him improve ten times over in the last couple of years! ;) There is a bit of dew beginning to form, and as I walk back to the table I glanced at my watch. Whoa! No wonder I'm feeling tired and hungry!

As much as I hate to leave clear skies, it is time for me to stow away my equipment and head back west. Wishing Curt and Tim the best, I jump on the highway home and arrive in record time. I'm anxious to see what we captured on tape and although it didn't work as well as we had hoped (contrast was too dark), it's only a minor thing that we can correct easily in the future. We still had an absolutely incredible evening...

And our future looks even brighter!

"I just want someone to say to me... Oh, oh, oh, oh. I'll always be there when you wake. Yeah... You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today. So stay with me and I'll have it made."

May 23, 2004 - Comet NEAT, A Farewell to Saturn, the Moon, M104, M95, M96, M105, M65, M66, M81 and M82...

Comments: The same date as the last report? Yes, it is. I do not joke about the "vampyre shift" for I live confined within those hours. I work when most would sleep for three days, catnap when I can, and return to normal working times with a span of 24 hours. Difficult? Yes. But after a few years of doing it, you become accustomed. It is not uncommon for me to be awake almost 24 hours on a Sunday, but even I have my limitations! By the end of Sunday am I very tired...

And I seek only quiet.

Tonight provided clear skies. Wonders truly never cease! I am here to tell you that we were holding a wonderful 5.0 at around 10:30 and there was lightning at the same time. Lightning during clear skies? Believe it, brother. I did not question from what direction it came, nor did I want to know. All I see at the moment are the stars in my eyes and I will follow them.

Wheeling the dob out to my favourite area, I started first by locating Comet NEAT with binoculars. WOW! This comet is still rockin' incredible and still moving fast. Since I truly do not know how many degrees each field of view my binoculars consists of, I can only speculate that it was perhaps 20 degrees east/northeast of the Moon (four fields of view) and definately in the field with primary stars of Lynx. Turning the eye of the 12.5 toward it, I chose to use study grade 26mm tonight and I am blown away again. Still an absolutely stellar core, the coma holds that classic fan shape of a comet even with as much distance as it has now placed between itself and the Sun. The presence of the Moon has diminuished the signature of the blue ion tail, but it is also still visible along with a handsome stretch of dust tail. Comet NEAT has truly been a pleasure to chase at every opportunity!

Sighing a bit, I realize that Saturn is almost gone. What happened to the time? I turn the dob its' way and replace the 26mm with the 12.3mm. The low position of the ringed planet equal less than desirable views, but I still find fascination. Despite the waiver, the Cassinni still remains intact and during those very brief moments of stability, it is possible to make out hints of the other ring divisions as well. Is the anything more marvelous that this feeling of a ball set within a record album? The tiny moons wink here and there around the edges of the ring, but Saturn's very dimensionality is what keeps me. Farewell, mon ami. I'll see you again someday.

Leaving the power in place, I turn toward the Moon and it is Mare Crisium that smacks me in the eye. Rather than go back after a filter, I simply put my glasses back on and let their darkening lenses tone down the view. Ah, yes! Pierce, Pickard, Olivium and Lavinium Promentoriums... What else can I remember here? Proculus... Cleomides, of course... And little else. A push to the north brings on Endymion and to the south? Fabricus.... But I seek peace here! No charts. No maps...

I want galaxies.

Despite the Moon, the "Sombrero" galaxy is still wonderful. I have dropped back to the 26mm for I like it that way.... It seems more edge-on with this veiw. Occassionally the lightning will eradicate the form for a split second, but it is still possilbe to make out the thick core and the fine dustlane that bissects it. I look to Leo next and wonder how badly Jupiter will toast the others. Preserving what vision I have, I forgoe the mighty Jove and seek instead the M95, M96 and M105. Suprisingly enough, the M95 and M96 provide quite adequate views, but the M105 suffers. Of course, being ellipitical means it never shows a grand amount of detail, but there are two small companions that go with it (don't ask me the designation, cuz' i don't have a map here!) and I can barely make out one. Ah well, another night.

I journey next to pairs. The M65 and M66 do not fit in the same field in the 26mm but it's no great shakes to move between them. Both are beautiful and the distance from light sources mean they show a tad more structure.... M65 with its' bright core and attendant stars... M66 with it's hints a dark patches! Very nice. I think for a few moments on where to go next and I realize that I am truly tired. Make it something easy, please... Something I know and love well. The M81 and M82 are there to fill the bill. Again, I cannot cram them together in the same field, but I have no qualms on contemplating them apart. As always, the superstructure and density of the M81 is a galactic jewel. But who can resist the broken charm of the M82?!? I love the notch. I love the clumpy structure. I truly love how this well-worn and oft visited galaxy resembles kite string to me! Forever in my mind I can see my grubby hands as a child, holding a stick which I have wrapped my kite string around. Forever a spindle, with patches of bright, clean string wound around that which has become muddy from use. M82 rocks...

And so that is enough for me. The lightning still flashes off and on intermittently. I know that sometime this evening it will catch up with Ohio and it will rain again. Right now? It doesn't matter. I have had a wonderful hour of chasing a comet, visiting in our own solar system, and traveling to other universes. It was a quiet time...

And much needed by my soul.

"Some people thinkin' that my life is pretty plain... You don't like my point of view? Cuz' I'm insane.

It's not sane.... It's not sane... It's not sane...."

May 23, 2004 - M13, M57, M4, M80, M29, M11, M17, M16, M22, M28, M8, M6 and M7...

Comments: Yeah. I'm the vampyre again. I used to be pretty sensitive when I worked this shift, but a lot of hard lessons have taught me to just be numb. I found myself ready to leave earlier than I had expected, so when I walked outside, my choice was either to scope for a bit or hit up an all-night diner. Given the options between a less than perfectly wonderful sky and the booze-besotted creepy crawlers that inhabit the eateries at this time of night?

I'll take the stars, thanks.

The old Celestron has never let me down, so I chose it and the 25mm. The clarity of the sky is not really that bad once I have dark adaped for a few minutes and I am happy to see the major portion of the rift in the Milky Way. Despite lower power and smaller aperture, the M13 is always a wonderful target. The M57 is a very tiny and precise ring, and I still love the stellar field. The powdery-looking M4 is also quite impressive, as is the tiny and compact M80. (and i also poked around on the globulars in ophichus, but i don't remember all their designations.)

Trying to recover my memory at times can be hard. A lot of things are selective and I have difficulty remembering the precise positon of the M29 in Cygnus, but when I see the "kite shape" I do at least remember its' number. M11 is less difficult, for Lambda is the marker and after a few trial "is it over, under, left or right?" I did find the wedge of beautiful small stars with its' brilliant leader. Other things? Other things I never forget, like the spectacular M17, M22, M28, and M8. How can one forget where some of the most beautiful objects reside? In Saggitarius, dear... where else? And before I leave, I pass over those lowering, hazy fields in search of the M6 and M7. As always, the "butterfly" charms me and the M7 is easy enough even with this limited finder.

Am I being descriptive? No. This wasn't so much an observing session as it was a target pass on the "Nickle Tour" to keep me from rusting. I also learned the hard way when I have an extended period of clouds how quickly my aiming skills can fade and even faster how not using different scopes can handicap me. Embarrassing? You bet. But far less embarrassed than I would feel if I needed a computer to guide me. So I'll just keep practicing when I have a chance. It's my way. Perhaps one of these nights there will be time to spare, skies to dream on...

And a reason for both.

"I just want someone to say to me... Oh, oh, oh, oh... I'll always be there when you wake. You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today... So stay with me and I'll have it made."

May 20/21, 2004 - A New Moon In Old Moon's Arms... Surviving the Storms...

Comments: There was some "patchy clearness" today. I enjoyed the Sun for the rays and not for observing. When it set, I wandered out with the telescope and was totally unprepared for the beauty of the one-day old Moon.

At 9:00 p.m., I was standing in the west side yard when I saw what can only be a repeat performance of a vision I saw while visiting California. Venus blazes on the western horizon and approximately ten degrees northwest of it is the most heartbreakingly slender crescent Moon you can imagine.... Just one day old! With just a bit of "skylight" left, the body of the Moon itself looked like a black ball set in the sky, while the lighted portion cradled it from below. Is this the New Moon In The Old Moon's Arms? I believe so, for it is only hours old.... Setting the scope towards it, the tender slice reveals Humboldt, Undarmum and Smithii. Simply beautiful!

Turning the scope to Venus, it is a rare treat to also see it as a thin crescent. How magnificent it would be if you could photograph both together like this! But there will be no photographs, from below them both?

Something wicked this way comes...

A black wall cloud enveloped the western horizon less than 20 minutes later. Moving fast, you could see the lightning shimmer along its' flanks like an evil omen. This is not the clouds we like to see in Ohio. Carrying the scope back to safety, I stood outside as the winds gained strength and watched as the blossoming night sky was devoured by the oncoming storm. Five hours later? It took us out. If you do not live where lightning is a close companion, you cannot understand what fear it will strike in your heart when it is this close. It danced amoungst the trees and the skies became a steady, strobotic electric white. The electricity in the air was so thick that sleep was impossible. It not only sounded like the world was about to end, but it looked like it, too. H was almost catatonic with fear.... And myself? All I could do was comfort him the best I could and hope the bolts of Thor did not take out any of the tall trees and crush us both. Z simply does not understand. He comes to comfort H, not knowing why his "big buddy" should act that way. When the lightning takes out the transformer less than a mile away, we are not left in darkness, for the display of nature's power is relentess. The rain comes down in a deluge...

And washed the spider out.


By dawn I am traveling down a variety of back roads seeking one that is not so flooded that I might pass to go to work. Roads that commonly do not flood are impassable, and I continually seek higher and higher ground until I am able to get back to the highway. I don't see much of the sky while I work, but the muted thunder is testament to the continued presence of the storm. When I leave, the Sun peeks out in patches through the clouds... But those clouds? Those clouds are oh-so wrong.

When I arrive home it is to find the power is still gone. There is something frightening, yet rustic about it. I am happy to take my book about the Civil War and curl up in the chair to wait it out. I do not need modern things to be my companion, but I can tell that something is still very wrong with the skies. The winds are picking up and I leave the house to go into the open field so that I may see from horizon to horizon. I watch as a huge, angry storm cell moves just south of me... Heading east with a vengence. By the time I make it back to the house, the winds are already tearing down small branches and leaves. I know from experience that the tornado will sneak up on you unawares, and the howling of the wind sets my mind on edge.

Discarding my book for my handheld television, I tune it to a local station and watch the weather alerts. The tornado has passed me by, but it touches those close to me. I watch in mute astonishment as the warnings go up for Richland County, and stare at the tiny screen as the radar homes in on the very roads I travel to the Observatory. I see this road and that... Each town in the path and know that my friends are there. The hail here is small and brief, followed by pounding rains and alarming gusts of wind. The lightning dances again and H cries on. No rain! No more rain... Please....

I wait until the power has returned before I go to sleep. The storm has left for now, but I did not understand the extent of its' damage until I left for work that night. Again, I must seek the highest of ground to find a way around my area's many flooded creeks and farm land. What were once proud fields, dusted with the green of new crops, resemble great, shallow lakes. The streams have overflowed and carry the debris far and wide. Roadways once lined with stately trees have become battlestrewn macadam, dodging this branch and that to find a way through. Huge old trees lay broken, ripped in half by the fury of the storms. Power lines, signs, personal possessions... All lay strewn about like an angry child's hand had swatted them along the landscape. It will be days before the cleanup will be completed and a very long time until the washed away roads are repaired. People talk about this as being one of the worst lightning storms they can remember, and I know I will remember it in years to come.

My own yard has been cleared once again, the branches burning and smoldering at the edge of the field. There is no danger of fire. The homestead is just as safe and sturdy as it always has been, and I am proud of it. I see H standing over what appears to be a clump of grass and he's looking back at me. I go to see what it is that he has found and discover a robin's nest, with the young strewn about lifeless on the wet grass. We add it to the pyre in reverence...

Knowing that they, too, will survive.

"And I don't understand why I sleep all day.... And I start to complain, cuz' there's no rain. And all I can do is read a book to stay awake.... And it rips my life away but it's a great escape.

An escape... An escape... An escape..."

May 19, 2004 - The ISS and Comet FUZZ...

Comments: Clear skies in Ohio? Surely you jest... The best we can get right now is some patchy clearness. Of course, waxed paper could also be considered patchy clearness, and that's pretty much the clarity of tonight's sky. It's alright, though... It still feels good to be outdoors. Nothing like having the mosquitoes feelin' up close and personal, (little brats... i hope my blood pressure helped expedite the feeding time. ;) while you pray you don't step on something squishy and alive in your bare feet.

There's relatively clean northern skies at the moment, so I wander around to find a good vantage point to watch the shallow pass of the ISS. Right at its appointed time, it made its appearance, and I still feel a little thrill when it reaches apex and the sun reflects of the surface. I think it's become so commonplace that very few people even bother to look anymore, but there are a few diehard souls out there who have done an outstanding job at photographing it. I've definately chased it on more than one occasion through the scope, but there no way I could film it! (she says grinnng... knowing full well there is a rather crude but very interesting unmarked film here where i caught it eclipsing sirius once upon a time... ;)

For the moment, I go back indoors lest I end up the night looking like a giant welt. In about another half and hour or so, it will be time to chase Comet NEAT again! And when the time came? You know it... Clouds. Good ol' patchy clearness!! Laughing at my luck, I still stood around with the binoculars and waited on an opportunity. When it came, it looked more like cat Z hacked up a hairball than a comet! At least I'm still tracking it position, but... But... Nothin' but fuzz... Oh, well amigo.

Sometimes that's the way it goes.

"It's not sane...

I just want someone to say to me... Oh, oh, oh,oh.. I'll always be there when you wake. Yeah... You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today... So stay with me and I'll have it made."

May 18, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: Yes. Sun. Trying to catch the Sun right now in Ohio is like trying to catch a willo-the-wisp. Storm after storm keeps sweeping across our part of the state and more often than not I am ducking hail and falling tree branches than getting any observing done. Hey! At least it's warm... And when just a few breaks in those ever-present grey clouds allow? I am out there wading puddles with bare feet and taking a shot on the solar surface...

Great? No way. The videos are, but the stills suck. At least this is an opportunity for you to see first hand at low power view of 609 and the two followers on the limb, 612 and 608. Everytime I would try to magnify on it, the clouds would sweep back. (and i'll tell ya', i've had about enough of the imaging game. you would have to see the original video as compared to what happens when i clip a jpg image to understand. the degradation of the image is enough to make you want to cry.) Anyhow, none of that is important! What is important is to know that Venus will appear no larger than one of the major umbra regions in 609 when it makes it's transit. I've been doing a lot of heavy duty skywatching, and it's going to be very tight for June 8... Very tight. So rock on, 609! You'll be sitting on the limb tomorrow...

And I'll be watching it rain.

"Some people thinkin' that my life is pretty plain... Cuz' I like watchin' the puddles gather rain. And all I can do is to pour some tea for two... And speak my point of view. But it's not sane..."

May 17, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: OK!! So I didn't tell you that I had a peek at the Sun yesterday. Shoot me now! And for what it's worth? I beat the storm clouds home today and set it back on the solar surface hoping to get a couple of nice clean minutes of film on rockin' spot 609.

And... Then... I just started looking at it.

Yesterday, I had thought I had caught a light bridge and it looked like it was going to seperate. Today? Confirmed it. Of course, this was a rapidly growing sunspot and is holding that great twisted, beta/gamma/delta classification that means it's hot. I took a few seconds of film and then the grey clouds caught up with me!

Content to come inside and let the storm pass, I decided rather than play with clipping the image that I would check the numbers of the other followers... And then I saw this!

Animated Image Courtesy of SOHO

Well, this tells the story my friends. What I did not see, thanks to the weather, was the ingress of this spot and just how incredibly much it grew over the days. Cross your fingers for me tomorrow, for if the sun shines? I'll be out there trying to capture it...

This one is too cool to lose.

"And it's been awhile... Since I could hold my head up high. And it's been awhile... Since I've said I'm sorry."

May 16, 2004 - Just Plain NEAT...

Comments: Clear skies for the evening in Ohio? Darn right, clear skies... And there was one, and only one, telescope I wanted under my hands tonight.

That big ol' dob!

I waited until I couldn't stand it any longer, which translates to just a bit before 10:00. I knew where Comet C/2001 NEAT Q4 would be and I knew only binoculars could give me the one view I'd like to see, and so I set my old, well used binos toward the "Beehive", and sure enough... Northeast of it was the Comet. I drooled around on it for a few moments, about half procrastinating because I was sure the 12.5 would toast it out of existance, but I was in for a magnificent surprise. It gave me the best of both worlds...

I had chosen to use my 2", 32mm, and I have never been so content with the amount of money I have spent on an eyepiece. I think those of you who are deeply involved with their equipment understand the sizeable chunk of change that represents, so you understand just that eyepiece cost as much as several of my scopes. I am not bragging here, nor am I dropping name brands, just trying to explain how breathtaking the view of Comet NEAT was in a 12.5 telescope with an eyepiece that provides around one degree of full sky image. Even as good as I hope to be with words, I cannot tell you fully how impressive it was!

I appreciated the SVD8's ability to shatter the comet's structure. I was amazing with Joe's binoculars at revealing the tail. And here before me? Is the best of both worlds. Perfectly resolved, Comet NEAT shows its' stellar nucleus and bright, wide coma. The light gathering ability and perfect color correction of the big scope allows me to push the comet structure totally out of the picture and follow the tail for at least three fields of view. The color? The blue ion tail is just incredible! The extra light grasp combined with that huge field makes it simply blaze. What binoculars did not do, nor did the 8", was to show the truly stellar field in which Comet NEAT is now travelling and each of the tiny stars would show through the "thinness" of the comet's tail like tiny pin pricks of light.

Needless to say, I spent a full ninty minutes simply watching NEAT. Like Ikeya/Zhang before it, it is possible to pick field stars and watch the comet's progression. How fast does it travel? I do not know, amigo... But I can tell you that I watched it devour some of those field stars with its' bright coma in just the time I took to study it.

It was just plain NEAT!!!

"And everything I can't remember. As mucked up as it all may seem to be... I know it's me.

I cannot blame this on another... He did the best he could for me. You see..."

May 15, 2004 - The AFY Hither-to-fore Beknownst As The Monthly Geez Whaddya Know It's Raining Again Meeting And I Dunno What Do You Think Wanna Stick It Out Just In Case It Clears Public Night And It Never Did But We Had Fun Anyways Starparty....

Comments: Ah, yes! The AFYHBATMGWKIRAMAIDWDYTWSIOJICICPNAINDBWHFAS.... How I look forward to it! (giggle..) What can we say besides it is Ohio and we are simply used to long periods of rainy weather. We're a lot like the UK... A beautiful place. Lush, green, warm enough to know the seasons have changed and cool enough to appreciate a coat. And like the UK, the "Hill" at Malibar Farms was covered in the most wonderful, spooky fog tonight. And what better thing to do in that type of atmosphere than sit around in a tight circle and tell ghost stories, huh?

Darn right, ghost stories!

Right now, clear skies are at a premium. The clouds were supposed to depart by midnight, but it sure didn't look like it was going to happen. We had our meeting, discussed our plans for the future, threw out our new ideas, and ended up sitting in a circle telling stories. Despite being shut out of another observing night, it was still a lot of fun just to sit around talking and laughing. Pretty much everyone in the group has managed to find comet NEAT and more than one of us has had a little brush with the paranormal as well. It's funny how a group of friends can seamlessly blend together such a wide variety of topics! There will be other nights, and hopefully clear skies one day. So, although observing was out of the question, the evening was still an enjoyable success despite the weather.

It always is, isn't it?

"Yes. It's been awhile..."

May 12, 2004 - Comet C/2001 NEAT Q4 and Jupiter...

Comments: Well, I had hoped this would be two days earlier. Right around this time of year, I like to do something special to celebrate the anniversary of my birth... Be it horseback riding, a trip to a museum, or just watching Star Trek movies with a pint of ice cream. I can't complain too much though, because the years have been kind to me. Two years ago I was at Freemont Peak Observatory with a dear friend celebrating my birthday with a conjunction of the planets and it shall evermore be one of my most treasured memories. Last year was tornadoes and a total lunar eclipse. Three years ago? A comet...

And a comet was what I had I mind this time.

In this new century we call what I've experienced over the last few days a "stressful period". In the time I was born in, it was just called a string of bad luck. But tonight was going to change all that, at least temporarily, and I cheerfully stowed the SVD8 in the back of my car and headed toward the Observatory. Thanks to two detours, 40 miles of totally unfamiliar road... (hey, it's ohio! how lost can you be? dang lost, brother... not all of them one lane, pot-holed backroads lead to civilization.) and an exploding carbonated water, let's just say when I did actually make it to the Observatory, I was never so glad to see Joe in all my life. A dose of his quiet humor, sympathetic manner, and easy-going style was precisely what I needed

Joe had already set up his SkyWind and binoculars and was watching Venus when I walked up the Hill. A few minutes later, the much rattled SVD8 joined him on the observing pad and we just quietly fiddled around waiting on true dark. I had read where the ISS was going to make a close pass on Jupiter around 9:30, so we simply kicked back to talk for awhile and watch. Too bad I took the report at face value and didn't double check for times in our area, huh? But this man is different. He laughs at my sometimes strange behaviour and unerring qualities to screw up the easy stuff and succeed at the difficult. We hadn't spotted Comet NEAT yet, but he had put me so at ease that as we talked I just walked over to the scope and set it on it like I had known where it was all along. Absolutely fantastic... I can see a deep, wide, fan of a tail... An intense, birght nucleas... And a highly stellar field. I pointed out where to find it and three minutes later?

I fell into space.

Joe's binoculars are fantastic. I think they are like 80 or 90mm and I know I heard him laugh as I looked at the Comet through them. Holy ion trail, BatMan!! While my scope absolutely shatters the structure, Joe's binoculars does something it cannot.... You get full field and depth perception. I musta' been yakking a mile a minute, because I couldn't believe how far the tail really stretched on this baby! Double checking just how much field it really can see, we determined the major portion of tail stretch near 3 degrees of sky, and the bluish ion tail was cooking broad and away for at least 2 and half degrees. I know I was stunned! Go to my scope and you will see "inside" the comet... Go to Joe's binoculars? And you see the outside.

Absolutely incredible....

Laughing together like a couple of kids, we decided we'd try to put the 31" on it before it dipped too low. Unfortunately, the one thing I had feared, (that it would be in a position where you couldn't access the eyepiece) turned out to be quite true, but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying. In the end, we figured "what the hey" and since we had it out anyhow turned it toward Jupiter. Again, I am blown away. Even with as little magnification as the 55mm provides, the view was superb. Within seconds you could see some of the fine details that only Sol Robbins can capture with lesser aperture. While it doesn't appear as colorful as some of the webcam images, it is every bit as detailed. And the galieans? Worlds of their own, amigo... Worlds of their own.

By then, it was getting kinda' late for a couple of working senior citizens like us. The skies had gone to damn fine and would have supported galaxy hopping with ease, but I'm feelin' very content. I had been slipping in and out watching the comet and admiring the way the dark made it burn right into the finder. I know it's weird for me, but I actually polar aligned! Just two hours of leaving all the cares and worries behind for a bit was all the present I need. We had to laugh as we stood and just looked at the stars... Cuz' the ISS made a fly-by. Who knows? Maybe they found "Bob's Road" in space and got lost too! (One thing's for sure, it wasn't any closer to Jupiter than I was to Mansfield a couple of hours ago. ;) I started the break the SVD8 down after we closed the dome, but instead smiled and carried it inside. With a bit of luck, skies will be clear on Friday for our homeschooler's program, and the "Lightsop" will be perfectly safe tucked away with this untold fortune of equipment. It looks pretty small and insignificant when it stands beside the massive Observatory scope... But knowing where it's been?

Makes it priceless to me.

"And it's been awhile... Since I could look at myself straight. And it's been awhile... Since I said I'm sorry.

And it's been awhile... Since I've seen the way the stars light up your face. And it's been awhile... But I can still remember just the way you taste."

May 9, 2004 - M104, M68, M84 and M86, M3, M5, M51 and M57...

Comments: Oh, yes. Much quieter village now. By a little after midnight, the natives have quit being restless and the annoying light sources have been extinguished. This is how I like it... Dark, warm and quiet.

Slipping Tantric into the walkman and plugging in my head, I chose to use the SVD8 tonight because the skies are still a little muzzy and I will need its' extra light gathering ability. Heading off toward the perfect position of Spica, it took a few minutes, but it wasn't long until I had the "Sombrero" in the eyepiece. OK. The skies are more rotten than I thought, for I miss that "see through" quality, but it is still possilbe to make out the bulging core and the thread of the dark dust lane. Consulting with the maps, I head down into Corvus to pick out some old favourites and it doesn't take very long before I realize even aperture isn't going to help. M68 isn't even trying to resolve at all and it's a magntiude 8 globular cluster!

Heading back up, I don't have any problem finding M84 and M86's little fuzzy egg shapes, but there is nothing else in the field. Using the maps again, I find it difficult to find both M3 and M5. The skies have moved since I last hunted them down and I have grown unaccustomed to aiming the SVD8 at higher elevations. Again, it took awhile, but patience and persistance paid off. The M51? Well, not total trash, but not as good as I've seen it. It was possible to make out its' bright nucleas and the sweep of the arm that leads to its' companion. M57? Again, clean skies would help, but I'm just glad I don't need the daggone map to find this one! The "Ring" is always awesome...

Smiling up at the warm and peaceful night, I am just happy to have been out in the fresh air for awhile. I cap the SVD8 back up and carry it to safety. My eyes and brain are rather tired, but it felt good to be outside for awhile before leaving for work. Let's hope future nights bring on clear skies and finer seeing conditions.

Cuz' I wanna' see that comet again!

"Just one more peaceful day..."

May 8, 2004 - Comet C/2001 NEAT Q4...

Comments: Ah, worry not about old "vampyres" who seek comets. Where there is a will? I will find a way. I did not want to be awake at 9:00 p.m. I wanted to be sleeping. When the alarm went off, my first thoughts were to simply kill it. Just hold it in my hand and smash the little beeping black box until it made noise no longer. And as I held it, I remembered why I had set the daggone thing and reluctantly held it as I dozed in and out of reality for perhaps another 30 minutes. When I looked at its' little face, I realized it was 9:30 and I had probably blown my chance yet again to see Comet NEAT. I figured at that point, the least I could do was try, so I pulled on a motley collection of clothing, slid on my moccasins and headed out across the south field with the binoculars.

Very low on the fuzzy horizon, I could see Sirius and I started my hunt. Nada. I swept across the star fields of Puppis... And still nothing. I went back to Sirius and moved northeast. Zip. I stood there, listening to every coconut in the village outside on a warm night, and was a wee bit ticked off to find myself staring into car headlights. Come on, people! Turning my back to it, I waited it out and went back to the sky. For some reason, I found myself looking at Procyon and remembering NEAT's trajectory. How far off am I? So aiming the binos at Procyon, I swept back southwest and bam... There it was! The moment I dropped the binos, I could see it in the sky and I wondered where the heck my head was at that I couldn't see it in the first place!

Sleepy, is where....

Immediately reconfirming it, I realized I could hit that position from my favourite "shady spot" and quickly walked back toward the garage to get out the little Celestron. Right at the top of that tree is where it is at, and I can see it! For what it's worth, I didn't even uncover the finder. I was so excited that I could see the Comet, I didn't do anything more than pull off the front cover and put in the 25mm eyepiece and reflex aim. WOW! With nucleas and coma, this baby is coming in at a gorgeous 40' with ease! The nucleas is positively stellar and probably tips the scales at around magnitude 2. The coma is also bright and rather round at this stage and should be at least magnitude 5. Thanks to hazy skies, only the briefest of fanned tail could be caught in the scope, but the elongation exists to the unaided eye. The field in the scope was equally stellar and it seems like I've forgotten that I was tired as I watch this bright and beautiful comet.

After about 20 minutes, I realize I best head back to bed. The skies aren't the greatest, but at least they are dark. I know I'll probably want to scope for a bit when I get back up... Or maybe I won't. Who knows what catches the whims of the terminally tired? All I can say is...

"I vant to bite your neck."

"Why must I feel this way? Please make this go away...."

May 8, 2004 - The Moon...

Comments: I am the "Vampyre" yet again. There is a certain sadness this time. A duo feeling... Not only have I lost another family member, but I have not yet been able to see Comet NEAT. It probably would have been visible earlier this evening, but I was long gone before the Sun set. Ah, well... Sometimes things happen for a reason and although I was not particularly in the mood, I still found myself carrying out that old Celestron before I left for work to have a look at the Moon.

There is something gratifying about watching it get old. This reversal in shadow features many times brings out things that you do not see during its' earlier phases. There is beauty in Atlas and Hercules on the terminator. There is quiet serenity in the spectacular view of Posidonius. There is a certain majesty in the Altai Scarp. There is fascination in the many rings of Fabricus.

And there is a reminder of my family before me here as well...

The pair of craters at the top above Fabricus are named Steinheil and Watt. The uppermost one on the terminator is Watt, and this crater was named for my several times over Great Grandfather James. He was a Scottish engineer who many associate with the steam engine. He was more than that, my friends... Did you know he was the first engineer to use a telescope? Yep. Not only was he a stargazer, but a practical man who patented the use of the telescope in surveying. I had an Uncle James Watt as well, who passed away many years ago. My clansmen, Uncles James, Arthur and Charles are all gone now... But I can smile when I look at the Moon tonight. Crater Watt will remain for all time.

Play the bagpipes for me, when my time comes, will you? Their song always draws me... One moment it makes me laugh and the next it makes me cry. A "highlander" in the soul, eh? And I walk the Southern Highlands of the Moon to this day. Forever in black...

And forever respectful.

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem. The consequences that I've rendered... I've gone and mucked things up again."

May 7, 2004 - The Moon...

Comments: I was totally surprised when I got up for work this morning to see the Moon shining. I had thought I had heard thunder earlier, and given H's reaction, I was pretty positive the skies would be washed.

Guess what? I was wrong.

There is one more crater observation I need to make to complete my Lunar Certificate studies, so I set the old Celestron outside the garage door and leveled it out in hopes the crater I needed would be visible this morning. As luck would have it? (most of mine is rotten... but once in awhile... ;) Right dead near the terminator and caught forever in the frozen sea of Mare Fecundatitis are the cute little pair of dark orafices, Messier and to the west of it, Messier A. The seeing was not spectacular because there were some racing clouds, but it was easy to pick them out with just the 17mm. They are nothing exciting, because they are small... But it is cool to know that I have conquered the last of the list. Now all I need is the skies at the right time to see the "old moon/new moon arms" thing...

Cuz' I could sure use a hug.

"And it's been awhile... But all that sh*t seems to disappear when I'm with you."

May 5/6, 2004 - The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower...

Comments: Well, I take no prisoners. The traditional peak of the Aquarid meteor shower is May 5, and to me that means when Aquarius is at is best on that date... In other words? The very early morning. As my luck goes, it was T totally cloudy, but I did have the antenna out for the radio and happily set it up and listened. What I heard this time was very odd... Extremely prolonged. "Feedback" would be a good way to describe it. They weren't exceptionally prolific during the time I had the recording equipment on it, but I am hoping I caught some new "tones" to add to my program.

Of course, that meant that the night of the 5th was also cloudy during the early evening and it wouldn't have mattered after the phone call anyway. I opted for mindless sleep and the skies were clear when I got up around 4:00 for work. Hola, baby... That Moon was just toasting the sky. I figured I wouldn't stand a chance of seeing anything with the sky so bright, but I was still willing to carry out my breakfast in one hand and my cup of coffee in the other and try not to choke to death by looking up while eating. (the coffee? oh, heck. you and i both know it's better absorbed through the skin anyhow... ;) The "Summer Triangle" shines just as bright as you please, and it wasn't more than a few minutes before I realized I was picking out the rest of the major stars in Lyra, Cynus and Altair. I had just finished my bagel and was about to polish off the coffee when the first one cruised through. Excellent!

Knowing I only had about thirty more minutes or so to spare, I almost called it off right there and went back in. I don't know why I didn't, but I guess I was trying to see "Scotty's Star" and thinking about my Uncle, Charles Watt, who just passed away last night. Funny how time passes so quickly and those who we thought eternal are lost, isn't it? It's OK. When I last saw him, we parted with a hug and kiss... And the words "I love you." Let us hope someday, Wizard, you and I will have the opportunity to say our goodbyes in the same way... For the time is running out of both of our hourglasses, isn't it? I will think of you, Uncle... Whenever the children of Comet Halley race across the star spangled skies. And I will remember you well.

And as I look at Altair and brush my cheeks, a single gold tear rolls down the face of the sky.

"And it's been awhile... Since I've gone and mucked things up just like I always do."

May 4, 2004 - A Big Orange Moon...

Comments: Thick atmosphere tonight. Far too many clouds on the edges of the horizon to begin looking for NEAT 2001 Q4. Far too many clouds overhead to even think about chasing the planets.

But not so many clouds as to hide a big orange Moon...

It reminds me of harvest time it is so large and dark. I know that there was a total lunar eclipse tonight for other parts of the world, but I also know it was not visible for where I live. It is pretty, though... To stand out here and watch it rise above the band of clouds as surely as the Sun is setting opposite it. Doesn't look good for catching any of the Aquarids... It wasn't more than perhaps 30 minutes later until the entire sky was gone and I was left with nothing but a canopy of grey.

I'm used to it.

"And it's been awhile... Since I could say I wasn't addicted. And it's been awhile... Since I could say I loved myself as well."

May 3, 2004 - The Moon and Venus...

Comments: Still strange weather here in Ohio. Nice during the day... And daggone cold when the Sun sets. Of course, that cold means clear and stable skies and I was pleased to have the opportunity to try and photograph Grimaldi for my AL Lunar Club page. In keeping with the rest of my rotten photographs, I decided I'd best stick with the old Celestron 4.5 and what seems to be my eyepieces of choice right now, the 17mm Sirius Plossl and the 12.3mm ED Epic. (yes, the 25mm Celestron is still one of my most prized eyepieces, but you can't believe how dirty it is! star parties and inexperienced hands have taken its' toll... but i do believe it will recover. ;) Leveling down on the rising Moon at around 9:30, I realized immediately that I had some big time thermal issues. The garage where I keep my scopes had been heated this evening and I had some time to pass while waiting. No matter! The little Celestron when left open cools very quickly and it was my pleasure to just take the binoculars and head out to the south field and see if I could spot comet NEAT a couple of days early.

No way!

Grinning, I walked back across the field of silver dew covered grass and just stood and watched Venus through the binos for awhile. It looks great so near to that bright star! And about 10 minutes later? The little Celestron was ready to go...

Grimaldi in all its' glory! While so much light makes it difficult to see small features, there is no problem with Grimaldi itself. A smooth appearing grey floor, and basically featureless like Plato. What really kicks is the presence of nearby Ricolli, who also appears as a dark patch. What I wasn't expecting, and heaven help me should I drool on my good 12.3mm eyepiece, was all the "on the edge" features! Wonderful things we seldom see like Rimae Ricolli and the Montes Cordillera Unfortunately, crater Damoiseau, Lohrman and Rima Grimaldi are overexposed, but seeing Hartwig on the terminator sure makes up for that!

Definately worth waiting on...

I thought I'd hang it up about then, because I hadn't put on a coat and was starting to get cold. I looked down at the camera and saw I still had about 30 seconds of film left and about 2 minutes of battery life. That would be pushing myself and my junior league equipment right to the edge to find and achieve focus on... Oh... What the hey! Wanna' shoot Venus?? Why not.

No. It's not the Moon.... Just beautiful old Venus on a steady night and showing its' stuff. I'm sure the shot would have been a lot better had I used a filter on it, but again, I would have had thermal issues. But, you know me... For what it's worth? I don't mind how it looks without a filter! Outshining everything but the Moon, Venus resides in a very stellar field in the eyepiece, and thanks to its' slimmed down appearance is quite easy to see as phasic. Although the photograph might not show it, to high power the limb darkening effect was just superb. Again...

Definately worth the time.

"And everything I can't remember. As mucked up as it all may seem... The consequences that are rendered. I've stretched myself beyond my means..."

May 2, 2004 - Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon...

Comments: I was blown away last night watching the sky clear. The whole thing was like watching a gigantic steel wool blanket pull back and reveal from west to east the pristine skies. I know I stood outside shivering from the oft returning cold and just staring at the Moon long before it got dark. The whole face of "the Man in the Moon" is now revealed and I can only wonder why I never saw it before. I guess it's like one of the magic eye pictures - once you learn to see it? You can't un-see it. So as the planets popped out one by one... I followed them.

Bright Venus and its' shrinking crescent, Saturn and Titan and the timeless waltz of the galieans around Jupiter. So bright outside! And when I set the old Celestron on the Moon, there were more old friends there as well. Hansteen, Billy, Shickard, Schiller and the giant shoeprint of Nasmyth. It was a treat to trace the rays of Tycho and to follow the bright patterns around Keplar, Artistarchus and Copernicus. Features I have looked at already this month have become nearly unrecognizable, and yet I know them. It is a peaceful and beautiful place, this cold Moon...

And I am glad I know it.

"And it's been awhile... Since I could stand on my own two feet again. And it's been awhile... Since I could call you."

May 1, 2004 - Warren Rupp Observatory Public Night...

Comments: It's Ohio and it's raining. What did ya' expect? We start the day off sunny and beautiful and by afternoon? It's storming. I had raced through mowing and was inside cleaning up and filling my belly as the storms hit. I figured then that any chance of seeing stars tonight were simply a foregone conclusion, but as I watched out the window, a strange and wonderful thing happened. The Sun came out! Sliding on a jacket, H and I wandered out to the east edge of the field... And sure enough. There was a beautiful rainbow. Figuring where there's hope like that, I decided I best get my act together and head out toward the Observatory with a batch of homemade cookies, my briefcase full of stuff and the little Orion.

Who knows what twist of fate might bring my way?

Enjoying a cappucino and Audioslave on the drive, I could see where the skies might clear and I was a happy camper. I was equally happy when I arrived to see that Keith (aka - "bubba") and his family had also arrived. As he later told me, it had been precisely one year ago that he first came to WRO for a public night and he's here again. A very fine fellow and I cannot tell you how happy I am that he, his family and friends are here. Joe had already arrived and brought a friend as well, and it wasn't too long before Robert showed up as well. Passing around some cookies, we chatted business for awhile and waiting on the famous "Ohio sucker hole". (that's sickerhibble to those of you who speak my brand of geek. ;) And arrive it did! Grinning around, I guess I was the only fool to bite and about four minutes later the little Orion was up, running and ready to do its' job. Just one catch, though...

I want it first!

For my AL Lunar Club studies, I need two more craters to complete my list and I know one of them will be out tonight and I darn well don't need my lunar maps to find Hippalus. Hippalus sits directly opposite the beautiful Gassendi on the south side of Mare Humorum. Even with as little magnification as the 25mm provides, Hippalus shows a low profile of a shallow crater with a break in its' brief walls to the west. Although I would have like to set more power on it, I can still see a couple of tiny craterlets along its' rim. But... I really better share now!

Handing the scope off to my friends, I am happy in knowing that I saw it tonight. Truly luck was on my side! And it just doesn't get any better than all the smiling faces that are here tonight. Everyone takes a turn at the scope and I surrender its' controls to Keith. As I do my "rough cut" on this month's up and coming "Comet Program", he trains the scope on both Venus and Jupiter before the clouds knock us out. Young Brianna keeps me smiling at her "cosmic knowledge" as she dances to my ever-present music and I am just glad to be here. When the clouds come back? Well, hey... It's no problem to simply tour the Observatory and enjoy each other's company. It's a very wonderful place... Quiet and tranquil now. And I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who gets a little shakey in the lift when the lights are on! (ten feet off the floor and brianna says that's enough... ;) We spin the dome, we open the slit and we simply love the place. Let's hope one day it's actually clear and we get to use the scope!

By the time the storms came back for us, it was OK. What would have been in past years a night with no visitors of any kind has now seen nine folks willing to brave the rain. Let's hope the future brings more happy faces our way...

And the stars in our eyes!

Heading down the hill, there were moments on the twisting, curving road that it rained so hard I could barely see to drive. I stopped for coffee when I reached civilization to wait for it to pass before heading out again. Audioslave gives way to Chevelle and then to Staind as the miles pass. When I arrive, there is no customary black head in the window to greet me. H despises stormy weather and I find him hiding under the table in my office. Laughing, I call him out and we go downstairs to make a frozen pizza and pass the time. It is a special evening for me, and I look forward to meeting with more friends later tonight. These are some of my nearest and dearest of old astro-companions and I would walk the miles and brave the storms just to talk to you again. The time seems to pass much too fast as we talk, but that is the way of things. It's just good to know that like the Sun, the Moon and the stars...

You're still around.

"And it's been while... Since I could hold my head up high. And it's been awhile... Since I first saw you."