November 2004

November 30, 2004 - Cold Rain...

Comments: It's the last day of the month. There's no stars out there - just the sky weeping again. I think I'm getting numb to it. Time for me to sing the final verse of my song and resign myself to the cold rain.

"I am aware now, that everything is gonna' be fine... One day. Too late. I'm in hell. And I am aware now that everything is gonna' be fine... One day. Too late. Just as well.

And I'm not scared now. I must assure you... I'm never gonna' get away. And I'm not scared now. I am prepared now.

And everything is gonna' be fine... Again."

November 28, 2004 - Diamonds In The NIght Sky...

Comments: I saw stars tonight. I am a tired "vampyre"... One who is tired of the clouds and misses the simple solitude of studying the stars. I always look, you know. Even when I know the skies aren't going to be clear, I still find myself walking outdoors and looking up. Sometimes it just calls me.

The windows were moving fast. Nothing more than a few holes ripped in the veil of the changing seasons. How good it is to see the stars! I recognize the few that I see, even if others would not know them. I know the colors of Aldeberan and Capella. The shine of Algol and Procyon are as familiar as my own hands. The few gemstones of Orion that pass by so briefly have been part of my dreams. It is comforting to see the Moon and know that it there even when the skies erase it as quickly as it is seen. The night... It is part of me and shall always be. Others might seek their treasure here on Earth, but me?

I'm always looking for the diamonds in the night sky.

"I feel the dream in me expire... And there's no one left to blame it on. I hear you label me as tired... Because I can't seem to get this through. You say it's over. I can sigh, again... Again. Why try to stay sober? When it feels like I'm dyin' again?"

November 25, 2004 - The Moon, Alberio, 61 Cygni, Gamma Delphini, Iota Cassiopeiae, Eta Cassiopeia, and Mu Cephii...

Comments: "I've looked at clouds from both sides now..." This is gonna' be the new theme song for Ohio as the last 10 days or so have been a sensory insultation of continual clouds, rain, fog and now snow. Enjoying a holiday off of work meant at least going to the window when the bright rays of the Sun would occassionally break through only to watch them be swept away by the gun-metal grey clouds. Sunset was quite lovely, though... For a "break" in the continual cover meant that a huge bank of them were lit from below by a brilliant red fire. The temperatures dropped quickly after that and what a pleasure it was to see the Moon rise once again! It might seem like a cruel joke that the skies only decided to clear now that the Moon has almost reached full, but for those of us "starved" for a bit of astronomy?

We'll take what we can get.

Out of all the odd choices tonight to make, it just felt fitting to me to use the Intes. It has been a very long time since I've even touched that scope and once in a while and old friend deserves a bit of welcome starlight. Allowing it plenty of time to stablize (for i am very protective of the corrector plate and the scope in general) my first object of choice was, of course, the Moon. Grimaldi, Helevius and Cavalerius to see where Luna 9 landed and explore some of my own history lessons. On to Galileo and Galileo A so that I might smile and know that I called the right shots and then to a crater that I had never identified before. Of all the things to catch my eye tonight, this crater's name is Inghirami. The wall on its south-west side tonight is extremely brilliant and there is a long, deep shadow that runs to the terminator. There are like... Long depressions that accompany it and make it really a stand out feature.

After that, I just wanted some starlight. I picked at a few because I like their brilliance and visited with Alberio before it is totally gone for the year. 61 Cygni is a real orange treat and its secondary is totally clean to the southeast. Gamma Delphini is also a very nice color combination and much tighter than 61. Close in magnitudes, the pale yellow primary walks to the east and the soft blue of the secondary is west. This type of scope bothers me a bit because of the diffraction ring "thing", but I am happy that there is a thread of black between the components. Of course, I cannot resist playing with this scope for its optics and I question Iota Cassiopeiae for answers. What can I say besides a perfect split of all three components? There is a tiny bit of turbulence that makes the B star want to "meld" with the A from time to time, but other than that? Clean as a whistle, bro. The next? Eta Cassiopeiae and a much more definate wide magnitude range. Again, clean, quite beautiful and I see these stars as the primary being a soft yellowish color and the secondary as having red flash to the northwest.

And it is for you that I chose this last star. The constellation of Cepheus is tough during the full Moon, but at least Alpha and Zeta show to the unaided eye. By using the finder, I located Nu between them and the one I wanted, Mu, sparkled even in that limited magnification. In the eyepiece, there is no doubt as to why Mu Cephii is called the "Garnet Star". It does not appear to be the deepest of reds that I have ever seen for a reason - it's just too luminous. Actually, it's one of the brightest of the red supergiants, but it's 1200 light years away! As I study the "Garnet Star", I up the power to as much as I can use without my glasses so that I may soak in the light without any interference from the coloration of my lenses. Again, the diffraction rings tend to trouble and distract from the star's beauty, even though it reveals to faint stars that accompany it. Dropping back to the good 26mm, it is here that I appreciate Mu Cephii the most, for it has a beautiful deep blue, almost cobalt "flash" that it gives off.

I guess I can never describe why the spectra of certain objects affects me so, but it does. I look at Arcturus and I see orange with green fire... I look at Sirius and I see white with red and blue fire... I l look at Antares and I see red with white and green fire... And I wish that Theta Auriga wasn't so close to the Moon right now so I could see a silver white star that flashes both purple and the most unusual sensation of black! These types of observations make me want to continue more this evening, but my unprotected hands hurt from the cold and I wish to take no unneccessary chances with this scope. Carefully putting things away, I am just thankful that I have had an opportunity to be out for awhile.

And a chance to wish you "Happy Thanksgiving".

"And I am aware now... How everything is gonna' be fine... One day. Too late... I'm in hell. And I am aware now... How everything is gonna' be fine. One day. Too late. Just as well..."

November 21, 2004 - A Hole In The Sky...

Comments: I am not sure of what caused it, but the temperatures took a radical drop and during the early evening the endless parade of grey clouds swept away for a few minutes and left a hole in the sky. It's been so long... So long since I've done a lot of things and my companion, the old Celestron, still stands waiting.

Trace the outline of Cygnus? Perhaps the M29 or M39... Do I split Epsilon Lyrae or walk the stars in Cassiopeia? No. Of all these things I knew the moment I looked at the Moon what I wanted... Just as I always know what I want.


I love Plato just because it is Plato. I love the way it's just so blank and loveless, like the eye of a doll that you can admire and love and it will never love you back. I love Plato for its bright ridges that contain the lava that once flowed there and I love Plato for the long, narrow ditch that scars away to the north. I guess I love Plato because I can look at it, knowing that I could drive my car across it at a leisurely pace in less than an hour...

And it's almost a quarter of a million miles away.

"You say it's over and I can sigh again, again... Why try to stay sober? When it feels like I'm dyin' again..."

November 20, 2004 - Listening In... AFY Meeting... Laughing At the Moon...

Comments: Another rotten, raining night and working "vampyre" no less. Up early for work, I once again returned to the radio equipment in hopes of catching what could possibly be a "flurry" of activity from the year's Leonids. Sometimes I really wish I could see visually what I "hear" so I can confirm that what I'm doing is really catching meteor sounds and not something weird! Listening from 12:30 a.m. until 2:30 a.m., there were two times when everything just went wild for a few moment and then just total, blank, uninterrupted static. What occured sounded very much like the third "capture" that I have listed in the previous report... A bunch of nice tones that lasted for about 90 seconds or so, and that's it. I hope someone somewhere had a chance to watch!

When I got off work later that morning, I was plenty tired and didn't review tape that I had left recording when I split for work. There's another 90 minutes or so that might have additional information on it, but right now I'm simply too sleepy to pay the kind of attention you need to capture a sound. Actually, the dog could have eaten a neighbor and my car explode and I wouldn't have been able to hear it! After having slept deeply for several hours, it was time to head out on the road and join my friends with Astronomy For Youth for the evening.

We had made prior arrangements to meet at a restaurant if the weather should be bad and when I left it was still totally cloudy. About 30 miles into the trip, I noticed a bright spot in the clouds and I just knew that Greg was set up at Malibar and looking at the Moon! Arriving at the restaurant, I was happy to have a nice dinner with my friends and be part of plans for the future. Its been a long year and this evening also marks the end of our public programming for several months. Maybe we should all take up amateur meteorology, huh? Seems like we've done a lot of cloud studies this year...

Reluctant to head home because I enjoy the company, it was to see that same Moon playing peek-a-boo in the sky. By the time I made it back, it was more boo than peek, so it was just best to change and try and relax for awhile. Around about midnight or so, it started shining in the window to the point where it was mighty hard to ignore! So did I? Heck, no. I grabbed the big binos up and went outside for a few minutes! Eratosthenes is very nice tonight and it didn't take very long until the Moon had me laughing...

Cuz' the clouds came right back.

"It feels like every day's the same and I'm left to discover on my own... It seems like everything is grey and there's no color to behold...."

November 16-18, 2004 - Listening In On The Leonids...

Comments: Oh, you know it. It's either been raining, totally cloudy, completely foggy or a combination of all three for the last few days. I know the Leonid meteor shower wasn't supposed to be anything spectacular this year, but what it is is predictable. Thanks to the way my schedule was arranged this week, I've had a couple of mornings with free time and no sky!

Since when did that stop me, huh?

It's easy to hook up the radio equipment. I've done it enough times now that I've pretty much figured out where the antenna picks up best, where the most usuable and productive frequency is at... And more or less how to just record the daggone things while I do something else! Sometimes I sit and listen "live" and others I wander around doing thigs while keep an "ear" to what is recording. Every now and then a noise will stop me dead in my tracks and I'll wander back in and look at a speaker like I'm somehow going to see something. Come on... If you hear something like this, tell me you aren't going to perk up your ears!

That particular signature came from the morning of the 16th. There's a few other similiar noises, a few far off pings, but not much happening in a 90 minute span of time. They say a watched pot never boils and when the morning of the 17th came along, I got up, dutifully started the recording equipment at 4:00 a.m. and went back to bed while it recorded 45 minutes of "white noise". Folks? I didn't hear a thing. When I got up just before 5:00, I flipped the cassette over, made myself some coffee, took my shower and heard this just as I was about to shut off the equipment and leave for work. Talk about excited... That was a good one!

Feeling incredibly pleased with myself, I made note that it was almost at the end of the tape, happily put in a day's work, and came back home to listen to it again. Yep. Still there. But what about the portion of the tape that was recording earlier while I slept? Preparing myself to listen to 45 minutes of static, I kicked back in the chair with a cup of tea and about gave myself a bath in Earl Grey when this came sneaking out of the surroundsound.

Holy mother of pearl.

Again, little else was heard on that particular tape and my rough judge on time was that it ocurred at approximately 4:15 a.m. on the 17th. There are many, many little sizzles and pings that were picked up on 270 minutes of tape over a three morning span. A lot of the sounds are virtually identical to what you've just heard, but the duration is not that long or it is simply repeating a bright tone. From what I've been told, the peak of the Leonids are really not expected until the 19th and perhaps the 20th, but what I've got here is enough for me! I've had a lot of fun listening to a bunch of static and picking out an occassional signal. It's not exactly Nobel Prize winning stuff that I'm doing here...

But at least I'm never boring.

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

November 14, 2004 - Playing With Lepus: NGC1744, NGC1964, NGC2179, and NGC2139...

Comments: Still on "vampyre" shift and woke again to very clear and very cold skies. Normally I get up a bit earlier on this night, and I was very awake and ready to do anything by 1:00 a.m. I thought for awhile about starting some larger binocular studies, but opted instead to take the big dob out for awhile and by 1:30 it was stable enough, I had reviewed my maps and we were ready to go.

I understand now why no one really gets very excited over the constellation of Lepus. The M79 is the only really outstanding thing in there! But, I came here to find the strange and unusual, so I started my starhop and Epsilon, dropped one, two, three in the finder and located NGC1744. Pretty faint, but at least not terribly tiny, this particular galaxy is a spiral with an inclination toward being edge-on. It has a nice central concentration, very extended, and runs from north to south. Steady aversion and slight movement of the eyepiece at high power brings up a lot of bright "winks" in the outer edges of this galaxy, along with a bit of mottling in structure. Is this one a peculiar?

A hop back up to Beta and a drop south and slightly to the east brings up NGC1964. This one is a smaller spiral, perhaps just a bit brighter than the last and in a very stellar field. The NGC1964 has a softy concentrated nucleas and the most gentle hint of spiral arms upon tapping the eyepiece and staying widely averted.

Continuing southeast towards Gamma, the next two studies make me grateful of the large finder on the scope. If this were a telrad? You'd hunt forever to find the NGC2179 and NGC2139. With a nice soft red star in the field of view, NGC2179 is far from being anything exciting. Vaguely ovid, this very small spiral galaxy is very evenly lighted, quite faint and coughs up no details. Its saving grace is that it is caught between two stars, and shows an additional two tiny stars opposite right on the very edges of the structure. Following the small chain of five brighter stars that help guide this hop, NGC2139 is a bit to the west and due south of the last study. Again, NGC2139 is nothing to write home to mother about. At least this one is larger and brighter than the last! NGC2139 is a small, but not tiny, evenly lighted spiral. No particular outstanding details.

Out of these four studies, the NGC1744 and NGC1964 would be very worthwhile for larger aperture telescopes to look up. During the right time of day (well, night actually - but my "day" is just beginning) the constellation of Lepus sits quite high and well for us in the northern hemisphere. The marker stars are fairly easy and I would make a guess that 75% of this study was at least a magnitude 12, putting it in range for most. Right now, there's a really hard frost out and it would be a good idea for me to start my car while I put the scope back away. It's cold. It's crunchy...

But, boy is it clear.

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem to be. I cannot blame this on another. He did the best he could for me."

November 13, 2004 - Small Binocular Messier Studies...

Comments: Hey, hey... Back to the "vampyre" life again. I had a rather hard time sleeping and I knew when I watched the sunset the the skies were going to be clear. When I got up? Boy, howdy... They were very clear! (and very cold.) I thought about taking out the dob and kicking a few galaxies out of Orion, but one look at the reading of zero degrees celesius on the outside thermometer meant I was more into laying my little binoculars out to cool off than doing much map and notework. By the time I got warmly dressed and had my thermal mug filled with the nectar of the gods, I realized that I've been neglecting finishing my AL studies and there's no time like the present...

Date: November 13, 2004
Start Time: 2:15 a.m. EST
End Time: 3:00 a.m. EST
Skies: 6.0 8/10 Temperature: 0 C
Binoculars: 7X35 Tasco

M50 - A real beauty! An easy hop by using Theta (north of Sirius) as a guide. Field consists of a triple set of triangles to east, south and west below Theta and the nice little concentration of stars at the apex of the easternmost triangle reveals the presence of the M50. A very loose collection with about a dozen stars easily resolved and one that is noticably red on the southern border.

M42 - Wham! Like the M31, the Orion nebula is easily visible without aid and totally rocks in binoculars. A beautiful, almost "eagle-like" appearance of bright nebula and the unmistakable presence of the "twinkles" that signify the Trapezium area. Spledid sight in the binos!

M41 - Although Sirius will blow you away at this minimum magnification, the M41 is very present to the south as a nice stellar concentration that sits in a field of pairs. It really tries hard to resolve but only the star to the southeast edge is exceptionally clean.

M47 - Found in almost Y- like pattern of stars, both it and the M46 are same field. The M47 is to west and is a very loose structure of a double handful of pinpoint stars. There is a nice pair to the east side.

M46 - Same field as M47, but it rocks! A very wonderful hazy patch that offers no resolution except for a pair of stars to the south on the border of its concentration. It looks almost galactic in the binoculars!

M93 - This one is definately the olive in the martini. Residing in a very bright stellar field that looks like the outline of a martini glass, the M93 looks all for the world like a miniature edition of the M8. To the northwest corner, there are less than a handful of stars that resolve right out, but the stellar concentration that angles between southwest and northeast is a beautiful bar of light that defies resolution. Superb!

M44 - Also a naked-eye target. The M44 is really done justice in the binoculars for it appears like a true swarm. Positioned in the center of a trapezoid of high wattage stars, the M44 sure offers some resolution, reminding me highly of a field of apparent doubles gathered together. Very fine at this low power.

M67 - Located halfway between Procyon and Regulus, easy naked-eye star Acubens is the marker for the M67. Talk about appearing galactic! No resolution what-so-ever and a few bright pinpoint stars that have no connection to the group. Fine, very fine... Almost ovid slanting from northeast to southwest. A brighter night would make this one difficult for small binos.

M48 - Located southeast of southest of Zeta Monoceros and bordered on the east by a triangle of brighter stars. The "Missing Messier" is easily spotted in binoculars and appears very large with a certain modicum of resolvability to it, much like the M39. Very fine...

And that, m'dear... Is that. This completes all the requirements to have fulfilled yet another study! I must say, there is a certain amount of joy in using binoculars. The small ones don't pull out the faint stuff quite so easily, but the superlow magnfication makes them much easier to use. Right now I'm cold and it's probably getting close to time for me to head to work. I think I'll check my e.mail and see if i can find a smile in there somewhere. The night is definately awesome and would have supported some very serious study...

But I've gotta' go.

"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."

November 10, 2004 - Danse Ecliptique...

Comment: Did I get up again this morning to watch? You know I did...

I really find the whole thing quite beautiful and wonderful - like a slow waltz done by our own solar system. How graceful they seem! As I stand on the edge of the eastern field just before dawn breaks, it is to see the crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter strung out across the dark sky like bright playthings on a string. I know the "string" is their very predictable orbits, but it makes it no less magnificent. The closer the Sun creeps to the horizon, the more clouds it brings with it and by the time the sky was stained with the first pinks of daylight, the "Danse Ecliptique" was cut through with the vestiges of our own atmosphere. No matter. The moment seems golden somehow, and I can only wish you were watching, too.

As the day once again turned to night, I wished my oldest son a happy 26th birthday, and the clouds had pretty much decided it was time to return to my world in more ways than one. I stand outside, hoping to see more aurora, but it would be indistiguishable from the thin clouds that reflect light from distant towns. Although it is not astronomical, I watched a very unusual procession of aircraft last night. They emerged from the northeastern edge of the horizon - all with landing lights on - in a line of twelve one right after the other - coming right into my line of sight. Had I been anyone other than who I am, I would have thought for sure I was witnessing some type of UFO, but the eventual sound of a prop engine and the revelation of blinking lights as they turned well overhead in their flight path is solely terrestrial in nature. Still, the incidence is noteworthy, for I often see military transports flying low overhead, but never any more than three. To watch twelve of them appear one right after another in a straight line coming up over the horizon is enough to make me wonder! Let's hope it was peaceful....

For now? The skies were not in a mood to cooperate with any type of viewing, but the last few days have been fun while they lasted. I've had a chance to do a little serious study as well as some well-deserved relaxation. The days ahead will bring cold rain and a return to the "vampyre" life...

Guess it's a long time crossing bridge of sighs.

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

November 9, 2004 - Dancing Planets... Relaxing With Binoculars... Begining Studies In Aries...

Comments: Suprise, suprise. That wonderful sky we had last night held clear in through morning and gave me a grudging opportunity to arise early on a day I didn't have to a have a look at the planets and moon. Did I say grudging? I jest. I was awake on my own as they started to rise!

I had gone out to watch well ahead of the dawn. I really don't know why but I just wasn't in the mood to see them in any way but with my own eyes. There is such a sense of peace and order to the cosmos when you have a chance to see something like this and I think it spoils it to do much more than just watch. As dawn began to stain the skies, I did have presence of mind to at least have a go with the video camera and the results are not spectacular but at least I may remember when I am too old and too tired to do such things. The Moon will occult Jupiter here very shortly and it is a daylight observation that I will not make. I did this kind of thing once upon a time, and while it is nice to say you did it, it certainly lacks the appeal that an occultation does in the dark.

The day brought more excitement from the Sun as well. We had another X-class flare and the earth-based proton meter tripped twice. Normally that kind of thing means agressive chances of seeing aurora and I was out there right after the Sun set. Tonight? There's nada. I was content to bundle up and take position in my redwood chair to casually watch the skies and delight in a few stray meteors. Of course, to put me in a situation where I am looking at the stars means I have a hard time sitting still and not wanting to explore them. Looking around, I decided there would be no harm while waiting on possible aurora activity if I were to just slip in and grab my binoculars.

And then I slipped away...

As always, I am impressed with the binoculars - especially when you are in a very relaxed situation and may simply "sky graze". At 16X50 the view can sometimes be unsteady handheld, but it is no less spectacular. I tend to find ways of balancing myself and all that is bright and beautiful in the night sky falls into my eyes. I think perhaps the biggest gem of the evening without repeating other binocular objects that I have reported would be the M34. Just splendid resolution...

By now I'm beginning to realize that there ain't gonna' be no aurora tonight and I'm thinking to myself the the upper deck of the sky is mighty, mighty clear and I only have one more night of holiday to "play". Repeating my ritual of last night, I go to set the big dob outside, cut any minor lights, study maps, prepare notes and have a cup of coffee while I further dark adapt and the 12.5 stabilizes. Occassionally I would look out to check the position of the stars I needed, and while waiting for them to reach prime it is no problem to just put on my red glasses and work for awhile. Around 9:00 I had enough of being indoors. Turning off the screen, I bundled into my down jacket, stepped on the cat, and H and I went out.

Aries is prime.

After having drooled for a few moments on Mesarthim - which was probably a fool move because Gamma Arietis is awfully bright, but terribly cool - I headed out southeast to find NGC772. Located in a field that looks like a miniature constellation of Sagitta, the NGC772 is a nice spiral. Visible at low (26mm) power, but takes on structure at high (12.3mm wide field). Fairly bright and decently large enough to be exciting, the NGC772 has a nice concentration toward the core area and a nucleas almost bright enough to be classified as stellar. I could not find companion galaxy NGC771.

Returning to Gamma in the finder, I hop on to Beta and northwest to starhop guide Bayer 1. The NGC697 is due east and extremely faint. By getting star 1 as far out of the picture as possilbe, NGC697 reveals itself to be very small with a brighter core area and a spiral signature. This one is quite difficult and requires good aversion and patience to make out any structure. Going north, I could not locate NGC695.

Back to star 1 and going south.. NGC678 and NGC680 are a same field pair at high power. At first look they both appear to be elliptical, but after a few moments study, the northernmost (NGC678) appears to take on some extension (e/w) that is vague and hazy at best. Neither one of these galaxies are particulary impressive. Attempts to locate NGC694 and NGC691 failed.

That is enough. This particular study (or lack thereof) has taken me around 90 minutes and I am starting to feel a bit cool. I could have dressed more warmly, but here in the great state of "oh hi yuh" it is best to acclimate yourself as the seasons change. It won't be long until nights like this will feel warm! For now, it was a pleasant but only partially productive trip through Aries. I think about about an Aries I know and I wonder if you still read? (you know, all this would be pretty pointless without you...) Turning the switch on those feelings quickly off, I begin packing my things away for the night and delight in the ease that observing in one's own backyard brings. Ten minutes from now my things will be put away and I will happily be kicking off my shoes and takin' it easy! It's been a grand five days off work and ya' know what?

There's still one more to go.

"Why must I feel this way? Please make this go away.... Just one more peaceful day."

November 8, 2004 - The Sun... Hickson Compact Group 90...

Comments: Hey. It looked kinda' shady there for awhile, but the clouds eventually did depart and left me with another opportunity to observe our latest solar "bad boy", AR696.

This monster sunspot has definately been through a lot of radical changes over the last few days and has been responsible for so much excitement amongst observers. At the time this photograph was taken, 696 was unleashing a high end M class flare from the area and causing me fits and starts on trying to achieve focus. While my equipment cannot perceive that type of activity, what will happen visually is waves of distortion very similar to the Wilson Effect. At this point, it really doesn't matter to me because I'm just glad to have some time off and be able to observe it! Now nearing the limb, 696 won't be around much longer and any activity it produces in the days ahead won't likely be Earth-directed. But the aurora that it has caused so far has been awesome!

And speaking of aurora, I went outside right after the sun set to try again. No luck. All that was there was perfectly beautiful Ohio dark skies. I also knew that Earth was passing into the 1001 stream of Tempel-Tuttle at 23:30 UT and that probability was high for some meteoric activity, even though it was favoured for Europe. Once I saw how very clear, dark and cold it was going to be tonight, I took the big dob out immediately to stabilize and began cutting any kind of white light source I could locate and extinguish legally. I know it sounds goofy, and I probably look like a house of ill-repute with the redlight on in my living room, but I honestly want my long term dark adaption and plenty of time to study maps. The constellation I am after will not be prime for short while yet and this will give me ample space to prepare notes, eyepieces and maps to do a serious study on a particular region. Tonight the constellation I want is west of bright star Fomalhaut - Pices Austrinus. And what I'm after?

Is Hickson Compact Group 90.

Located roughly one-third the distance between Mu and Theta, the grouping lies fairly centered in a flattened diamond formation comprised of two 7th and two 9th magnitude stars. With the magnification provided by the 26mm eyepiece, the easy galaxy, NGC7172 is the first to appear. By concentrating entirely on that galaxy and avoiding the star at its bottom, it is possible to see with very wide aversion the small group that resides south of it and a very faint recognition of what is probably NGC7163 to the west side. Powering up to the 12.3mm wide field puts elongated NGC7172 to the northern edge and reveals it to be a stretched spiral with a slightly brighter core area that is also enlongated roughly east/west.

The rest of the grouping lays to the south, and at first appears like a three-leaf clover of "galaxy stuff". The first to cut itself apart is NGC7173 to the northwest of the trio, it is very soft, very round and has a stellar nucleas upon aversion and patience. The two others seem to be an interacting pair (at least from my perspective). The NGC7176 is definately ellipitcal with a bright core area and locked on its southwest edge is the NGC7174. The NGC7174 appears slightly larger, but not significantly brighter. Its highlighted feature is the nucleas region which is much more pronounced than that of the NGC7176. By avoiding looking directly at the bright star south of this group, the Hickson Compact 90 is definately one of the best I've seen in awhile.

Taking care to note my cardinal directions while I was following things and making notes feels kinda' good. This was no easy study, at least for me, but it was quite a rewarding one. It has been much too long since I've just taken an evening and worked on a very tight area and it's nice to be "back in action" again. I thought perhaps to continue on, but the temperatures have dropped all too close to freezing and while that makes for pristine skies, it also hurts the unprotected hands. Jamming them into my coat pockets, I stand looking up and smiling at the one lone meteor that just scratched the sky. I realize that I could go indoors and warm for awhile and return... But to have captured this small and distinctive grouping tonight is enough for me. I can add it to my own personal list of other "coolies" and tip a grin at Pegasus, also knowing that the "Quints" are considered a HCG. I probably should be taking more careful notes so someday I can turn it in for an observing award, eh? Little things like the time and seeing conditions and temperature, but tonight I know it's not late, it's exceptionally clear and I know it's darn cold. And I know something else, as well...

Two in one week is enough for anyone.

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

November 7, 2004 - The Awesome AR696 and Amazing Aurora...

Comments: Well, the board had been lighting up now for two days. Most of you already know that I follow solar activity in many more ways that just visual, and what was going on has kept me hopping, jumping, listening and watching data for the last 48 hours. There's good reason why things have been so busy and when my personal life slowed down enough to let me have a look?

Aw, man... AR696 is awesome!

Can you believe the size of this monster?! Thanks to NASA's MDI imaging, I can show you the true scope of the size of this baby. Radio data had been going right off the scale and I so deeply appreciate "listening in" through the Radio Jove Project alert list and all the very fine people who share their information as quickly as they receive it. Of course, I also watched the G.O.E.S x-ray flux data as it updated and SOHO is equally quick on that information that shows we've had repeated CMEs along with X class and M class flares. All of this is great, but there's one more left to go, and when ShockSpot barks at you? You better listen... The Earth-based proton meteor records and alerts members immediately when a proton stream hits and to receive repeated zones and high-end confidence levels means it's here and you better go look.

I gave up working about the time it became dark and the first thing I did was walk outside. Yeah, it's clear - but it's just a very ordinary dark and with a very ordinary and very predictable man-made light dome to the north. Figuring maybe the auroral oval wasn't favoured our way, I thought I just go back inside and make myself something to eat and check again a bit later. Twenty minutes later, while things were cooking, I stepped outside and went right back in and shut off the stove.

The entire northern half of sky is bright blue!

I didn't have long to wait. It was around 6:45 when the aurora came dancing down and it wasn't a ballet, brother... It was river dance! I cannot describe to you just how bright the blue was to the north - it was like daylight sky! The entire dome stretched from east to west and all the way up to the zenith. Within seconds of starting my observations, deep red clouds would appear to both the east and west. In laughing amazement, all I could do was turn in one place like a ballerina on top a music box and watch as the aurora put on an incredible display!

Once again, Vic's picture does it justice. But it would be impossible for anyone to capture what is truly going on... It's the whole sky! At one moment a white spire would rise from this direction, at another a glowing red cloud would eliminate a quarter of the sky, and the next? A huge, eerie green mass would simply materialize out of nowhere and the south would be gone. Talk about weird! You should see what a tree that has lost all of its' leaves looks like when framed by glowing green aurora!

The intial display was simply incredible - but it wasn't to end some 90 minutes later. Everything that was coming at Earth was coming in waves and when the first "trough" hit, it was time to take my son's girlfriend back to the city. Driving was difficult, because the moment we set out the aurora started back up again, and the north turned into a shimmering curtain of green. In a way, the trip on the highway was very nice because it allowed me to see the entire norhern horizon without any type of obstruction and it is really incredible, people. It looked like a bar graph done in glowing green...

The aurora did not stop. Perhaps the most incredible part about the show was knowing the timing that was behind the particle streams and actually seeing the effect here on Earth. Hour after hour the spectacular display continued and as it would ebb out, it would return again later. There were things this time that I had never witnessed and I am hard put to explain the stroboscopic effect that would momentarily catch the eye. Reds, blues, greens and whites danced and flashed across the entire sky... And they would disappear only to come back again in a renewed display of all the awesome power that was unleashed by our own Sun. During a slow period, I finished my dinner but ate it outdoors because the aurora had come back. Once when it faded, I thought I would take out a scope for awhile, but it laughing came back again and I was happy just to watch.

How long did it last? I do not know. Long after the people I had alerted had given up and gone to bed. Around 10:00 or so, I had gone back in after an old sleeping bag and was contentedly wrapped up, warm and cozy in my redwood chair listening to the radio and unwilling to leave such an incredible display. I remember my youngest son coming out around 11:00 p.m. to announce that he was going to bed and laughing at me because all he could see was my face under my bundle of warmth. I do not know how long the auroral activity continued, because somewhere along the line I fell asleep watching it and when I awoke it was gone and the crescent Moon was sitting on the eastern horizon like a giant smile. What I do know is that for at least five hours Ohio was graced with a display that matched last year's in intensity, color and depth.

And that I loved every second of it...

"And it's been awhile... Since I've mucked things up, just like I always do. And it's been while... But all that sh*t seems to disappear when I'm with you."

November 6, 2004 - Warren Rupp Observatory "Public Night", and Home - But Not Alone...

Comments: Well, the skies are clear and I'm having a hard time believing that we are actually going to have a public night at the Observatory that is going to cooperate! Excited? Yep. It's been far too long since we've had perfect weather for observing and I'm taking the largest scope I can get in my car - the SVD8.

I hate it that I can't be over there any earlier than around 7:00 and right now dark starts to happen by 6:00. Yes, that means setting up in the dark and I am very glad when Dan offers to help. Carrying the many sections into the Dome is a real bonus and it's not long until I have it together and Greg offers to carry it out and set it up. Terry has also decided to take out his 12.5 for the evening and John has his "home brewed" 8 already up and running. Laughing with Greg, I reach in my old observing bag and hand him an eyepiece that I ordinarily use for public and grin as I hold up a little aluminum case that hold three more that do not see public use.

Yeah, baby... The good ones.

Starting in the west, one object after another falls into the eyepiece and it is good to share with Dave as well. (he makes me laugh!) It's one of those nights when I can hit everything I'm after and not once look at a map and between Greg and myself, we pretty much run the catalog in a very short time. A lot of folks are wandering in and out of the Dome and it's a real shame that no one has put it on anything. Giving the SVD8 over to Greg, I started in - but backed right out. I mean no disrepect, but I want no part of a telescope that has more wires and electronics hung from it that a comatose patient on life support. Right now we have a telescope that lives in fear of a child tripping over a wire. We have a metal monster that requires an engineering degree to aim at something that should be natural. We have a lift with enough gadgets connected to it that you can't manuever. And what you don't have now...

Is an operator.

Going back to Greg, I realize that I just don't care anymore. There's a real funny thing about my telescope - I know where the things are at and I just put it on 'em. No computer tells me where to aim it, just a finder. No motors drive it along. I just move it. Is it heavy? Yep. Is it akward? Yep. Is it fun? You see where I'm at, don't you?

Name it. We took it down. If it is within the aperture range of this scope, we'll get it done. If it's not within the range? I know it because I've tried. Resolution? Well, that's what this little case is for! And the little SVD8 just danced around on its short stubby legs and took out object after object in a progression of resolution that was more dependent on optics than aperture. By the time we had exhausted everything it could do, people had began drifting away for the night. It was just wonderful to stand here with my friends and admire all the meteor activity and a tiny whisper of aurora! How much do I miss from not just being outside? And when everyone but Greg and I had left for elsewhere, we look around and there is Terry's 12.5... All alone.

Grinning, I grab two eyepieces and Greg and I go over to sneak some views. I'm not real proficient with a telrad, but I know a dobsonian scope and it's not long until we're picking out filaments in the M1 and Greg sees his first pulsar in the dual nature of the "Crab Nebula". I turn it around and we head for the "Ring" next and hand him the good eyepiece. Viola! We have braids in the outer shell structure... M57? Awesome. Another? Bet you've never seen the M27 like this! And if you've ever seen through a 12.5 - you know what happens. You get all kinds of variences in the lobes of the nebula, along with imbedded stars and about every 15 seconds? Hallo, baby! There's that pulsar....

Although the hour is not late, it feels that way and it's not long until everyone but John is packing up to go home. Once Terry puts away his 12.5, I automatically start missing my own and as much as I admire the SVD8, it's just done everything it can right now. The Dome is closed, and it's time for me to pack up as well. Terry and Joe head out for a sandwich and I join them after I have talked with John and stayed at sub-light speed to avoid the many deer who stand by the road and watch traffic. It was a wonderful last night at the Observatory!

After we have eaten, it is time to say goodbye and I realize the moment I start out on the highway just how much I am going to miss seeing you for the next three months. I have very much enjoyed this summer and all the activities... The winter will seem long without them.

When I am home, I take out my own 12.5 for the night is very mild and the skies are gloriously clear. Pegasus is so comfortably west that I want the beauty of the NGC7331 and the little twisted curls of "Stephan's Quintet". I wander around for awhile, looking at one bright object after another, and then Eridanus and Fornax call out. Pulling the dob out to the south field for clear horizons, I can only smile as I start wandering around in here again... I might be home.

But I'm not alone.

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

November 5, 2004 - Venus and Jupiter... Home Scholars at the Observatory... and Who Let The Dob Out?

Comments: Hey. It can't rain forever in Ohio, even though it feels like it at times. For some odd reason, I woke up a few minutes before my alarm was set to rudely interupt my sleep and you know me... I don't even get out of bed before I look out the window. Even without my glasses I could see the bright balls of Jupiter and Venus down very low on the horizon and the decision not to sleep 15 more minutes was easy! Finding some quick clothes, I headed outdoors to enjoy the spectacular pairing and was really quite surprised to find them further apart than I had expected. (well, duh ~T. they were closer yesterday!) No matter, because even about a degree of spacing sure makes them wonderful! Looking overhead, I knew it wasn't going to last long because the clouds were heading right back that way, so I enjoyed what I could.

Taking my videocamera to work with me, I knew odds were that the skies would clear just as quickly as I was in a position where I couldn't get to any of my equipment. If I were a betting person, I would have sure won that one, because no sooner than I started out on the road than the bright pair returned to the sky! Talk about hard to pay attention to one's driving... It was difficult to concentration because something about the two kept drawing the eye. (and i was about to find out that i wasn't the only one.) Taking my camera out, I filmed the pair together while the skies were still dark. Nice job. Looks like two white balls of light on a black background. Giving up, I went about my job and soon was visited by everyone I work with wanting to know what the "two stars" were doing this morning. Apparently no one could pay attention driving because of them! Smiling, I was happy to explain the presence of the planets and right before dawn the majority of us went back outside to have one last look. I tried once again with the camera and at least a few happy power wires enabled me to get something in the picture that made a modicum of sense. Now instead of two white balls, I've got a couple of lines as well!

Hey. It's all in a day's smile... ;)

Weather held good and word went out from a co-member that it was time to head to the Observatory before dusk. Tonight is our annual visit by area home scholar's and I am delighted to bring one of my small scopes to help entertain. Several members of the RAS were present and for once, it felt pretty good just to lay real low. For once I was just another body in the dark and I liked it. (program? i'm sorry. i don't do programs on a "maybe we will and maybe we won't" basis. i'm funny that way.) For anyone who was interested? I am there. Oddly enough it was one of those "good" nights for me and whatever was in the little Orion's capabilities was easily found, displayed, and re-found when eager hands accidentally moved the scope. The M11, the M57, the M27, the M71, Brocchi's Cluster, the M31, Albireo, the "Double Cluster", Almach, NGC457. M39, M45, M2, M101, M54, M36, M37 and M38 are all there. When interest lagged? I'm more than happy to let you use my binoculars and learn as well as use my scope so you learn even more. Curious? Well, that old observing bag always holds a trick or two and maybe a little bit more learning than just looking.

When all is said and done, Joe and I pack up last and head out for a late dinner. After tomorrow's Public Night, this will be the last for awhile and it will feel good to stop and get back in tune with myself. I really love doing the public thing, but I also miss my own studies as well. We discuss a bit of business, and it doesn't take long until we're just talking and I really appreciate "Gentleman Joe" for just letting me relax for awhile! Only another astronomer could understand when you leave it's because the skies are still clear...

By the time I got back, Orion had already started well up the sky and I was missing my big telescope, folks. I know I looked at a lot of things earlier, but nothing does it for me like this big o'l 12.5 dobsonian.

Let it out!!

The M27 is not a fuzzy patch in this scope. The NGC6940 walks and talks! All the clusters in Cassiopeia resolve in fantasy arrays and just the Andromeda Galaxy takes on dimension totally unseen by small aperture. I want tonight what I can't see in a small scope and the Helix and Saturn nebulae eagerly comply. The M1 is like a fantasy and even somthing as simple as the M42 show such incredible detail that I sometimes wonder why I still use a small scope. (why? probably because i can't carry around this monster, eh?) I return to two of the very simpliest and once again revel in things you simply cannot see in a smaller scope! The Plieades are so, so much more! You would have to see what a good 32mm eyepiece in this scope does to both them and the "Double Cluster" to truly understand... So many stars!

At last, I have had enough. It is time for me to light a fire and find some soft clothes. The Moon will be along very shortly and I have no real desire to explore it tonight. For now, it has been a very good day and I am tired. I have seen things tonight reveal in all their true beauty! Who let the dob out?

I did. ;)

"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."

November 3, 2004 - The Canopy Opens...

Comments: The days have passed in a blur. Somewhere in its progression I have ended my "night shift" tour of duty and returned again to daylight hours. It leaves me feeling disoriented and a bit unwell and it seems like it has done nothing but rain for such a long time. Tonight it is my pleasure to see the Sun set amoungst feathery clouds and promises of later clear skies. I work for ahwile and when things begin to frustrate me? I let them go...

Outside the canopy has opened and overhead is an upside down black bowl filled with stars. I look up and realize that stress is a relative thing and that I have had enough of it. It is time to simply bring the SVD8 out for awhile and just enjoy all this beauty without thoughts of tomorrow. My aiming skills have softly atrophied, but the pleasure and internal reward comes just by finding things once again.

How exciting it seems to see the M11 so far west in the sky! The deep wedge of starlight resolves beautifully to this telescope and instead of appearing almost cometary, it takes on the look of a globular cluster whose concentration is just slightly shifted. How long since I last looked at the "Ring", eh? And I move off to call the M57 from the sky and find that at low power it makes me feel very wonderful indeed to see this little grey donut in a stellar field. Feeling all bad things slip away, the M27 turns into a laughing hunt, for it has resided so long at the top of the sky that it seems like it is in the wrong place. How long has it been since it was easy for an equatorial mount?! And oh, it makes me smile when I find it at last. Like sands in the hourglass, the 12.3mm wide field lights up both structure and field. I cannot find the central star with this aperture, but I know it is there and I know the movement I sense within the "Dumbbell Nebula" is caused by the central's "just beyond the threshold" need to resolve.

I chose the "Veil" next, tracing what can be seen easily and letting good memories flood my head. When I am done, I find myself poking around in the garage with my redlight, and finding a map so that I may see the NGC6940 before it is gone for the season. I love this incredibly rich star cloud... Its hundreds of fine members so even in magnitude and spread out over the light years like diamond dust on the black blanket of eternity. I thought about the M15, but wished no confrontation with the mount and chose instead to slip quietly inside for more maps.

The M2 makes me smile when I find it once again. What a superb globular cluster! I should have trusted what I could see in the finder and it would have been so much easier, eh? At the moment, the south is clear and clean and I head off to find the outer planets. Repositioning the telescope for comfort, it was probably what would seem like a long hunt to others, but it was truly and relaxing time until I located Uranus' flat blue green disc and actually found Neptune a bit easier, but far less exciting. It is small, and it shall always remain small. Neptune is just another smile in the dark...

Carrying the scope back to my original position, I stand looking at Perseus and Andromeda. The M31 shines brightly, but I want the reason I bought this scope in the first place and I switch out eyepieces once again and head off for the M33. At 32mm, the Triangulum or "Pinwheel" galaxy becomes in this telescope the reason I so treasure it... It eats low surface brightness objects. In the eyepiece here, the M33 shows it's wonderful round structure and slightly soft nucleus. It is every bit the size of the Moon in the eyepiece and while it is not as direct as the Andromeda would be, it is the far cry from what larger aperture does to this particular galaxy. I do not understand the mechanics behind this scope, or why it likes these type of objects best, but it doesn't matter. What matters to me is that the SVD8 does for the M33 what the 12.5 Meade does for the M51. It is the one perfect Messier for this socpe...

The canopy is still open, but I am cold and tired now. I am happy to put things away and allow myself to dream just a little and look forward to tomorrow morning's close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. As I write this report now, I know it was not to be for the rains returned again. There will be no report for the pairing, and no pictures bad or good. The point is not whether or not I witnessed the conjunction, but that when I went to bed last night my mind was filled with just a bit of expectation and a little bit of hope. And whether it happens or not? Hope for the future...

Is a fine, fine thing.

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

November 1, 2004 - The Moon and Saturn...

Comments: Ah, man... It seems so strange to me to awake at this time. It's wrong that it is another month already. Where did the last one go? I'm sure it seems strange to you to see a report for a day that hasn't happened yet, but it has already been for me. Right now the "Vampyre" awakes at midnight and it is at that unholy hour that the skies are clear and the Moon bathes the outdoors in cold, silver-blue light.

Let's walk...

It confuses my mind and my body to see the sky so far progressd. Why is Lyra all the way over there? And where has Aquila flown? Why is Cygnus turned down in the sky and where does the time go when one sleeps? My mind... These hours trouble my mind. I have no sense of the progress of time and am lost in an ether world. Even the Moon looks wrong - for instead of the terminator advancing it is regressing. Let us take out the old Celestron and see what is there tonight. Right or wrong...

Crater Hercules stands out, but it is wrong as well. Where is Atlas? So lonely... We are both so lonely. Posidonius is simply brilliant and the Serpentine Ridge is perhaps the finest I have seen it for awhile. I try not to think confused thoughts, for even Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina are wrong. Do not think, ~T! Just enjoy these things for what they are... And so I explore along the edge of the Mare Serenetatis, past flooded and open crater Le Monnier and across the shallow hills to the Apollo 17 landing site. It is enough for me to know this...

Before I go, I turn the scope towards Saturn. Is this not wrong as well? Should I not be having to wait for Saturn to rise? Don't think... Don't think... Think only about Titan who has moved since you have seen it last. Think only that you can see a bright sparkle on that leading ring edge that speaks of another small moon on a far off world.

And just do what you have to do.

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