September 2004

September 29/30, 2004 - A Cold, Cold Moon... Malibar In The Sun...

Comments: I got my wish. I got the see the autumnal equinox Moon rise... And all I had to do was worship porcelain. The strange hours I have been scheduled to work have now come to culmination with the inevitable symptoms of exhaustion. A needless punishment for committing no crime, eh? And I find myself in the bathroom watching the yellow Moon rise and so dizzy I cannot sleep. I would be sick if I could be, but there is nothing there... Appetite fled days ago. Resting against the cold fixtures, I am so hot I cannot stand it and a raging thirst. I am turned around and around, but the Moon is like a anchor. I keep telling myself that if I can see it that I'm gonna' be alright. I've got to be alright. Even a sip of water causes more contractions and I have no recollection of how I made it there, but I awoke later in bed to a very cold Moon, indeed.

It is not common for me to be cold. It is later and the silver moon lights the bedroom like a beacon. I can see it has risen in the eastern window. The light is so cold... So cold! I shiver uncontrollably and my teeth chatter like castenets. Piling more blankets on the bed, I plug in the electric one and beg H to come lay next to me. I cannot stop shivering and H does not understand why my teeth are clicking. I keep looking to see if I left a window open, but there is none... Only the light of the cold, cold Moon pouring through the glass to illuminate my misery. Even the electric blanket does not seem to warm me and my muscles hurt so bad from their involuntary actions. I cannot stop shaking... Peace! Oh, mercy... Please give me peace.

I awoke before midnight and the cold Moon had moved to the south window. I am still cold beyond compare although my hands tell me that the house is not. Perhaps it is that cold, cold light? I climb into a hot shower hopeful that the sluicing water will relieve my tense and punished muscles. So cold... Bundling up, I force myself to take a few sips of hot chocolate and am happy that it warms my belly and stays there. Regardless of how I feel, I have a duty to perform today and I take my car keys from the table and leave. The cold, cold Moon follows along, playing peek-a-boo in the heavy mists and fogs that cover the countryside.

Such a cold, cold light...

And I was back home before the cold Moon had quit the sky. Duty performed, I need no additional hours to surplus my income and the only thing I wish is bed. How heavenly that I left the electric blanket on! And a cat... How apropos. ;) Shedding clothes, I crawled beneath the comforting weight and slept like the dead. When I awoke a few hours later, it was to beautiful warm sunshine! Observing today? No sir. You have no idea of just how incredibly beat I feel. But I know that Malibar Farms is having a "Education Day" where they are expecting about 1,000 young folks over a two day period and I know that Astronomy For Youth was supposed to be there. Do I hide? Or do my duty?

I am a creature of duty... And one of my word.

Arriving at Malibar about an hour after the program was supposed to start, I looked high and low but could not find my compadres. Small wonder! And I do mean small... I have never seen so many children of a similar age all gathered together like this!! You cannot comprehend... There was a sea of them!! Carrying my scope to the nearest park ranger, I inquired on the whereabouts of my group, but they do not know either. Knowing I cannot keep carrying the scope around, for even the light little Orion is wearing me down, I stow my gear back in the trunk and set off on foot.

The warm sunshine and the laughter and excitement of all those kids was like a soothing balm. I could feel the radiation from the Sun heating my black sweater like a warm hug and to see anxious and happy faces makes me smile. When there is a smile on my face? There is hope. Being careful to not closely contact anyone for fear of contagions, I walked around the edges of all the educational displays enjoying every moment of the life around me. No demands here. No stressed faces or petty recapitulations. No one here will try to make me feel bad because I dared to feel good... And it is welcome.

Oh, so welcome.

From the beauty of the trained hawk to the simple minded alpacas, this just feels good. It is fun to watch a young girl pet the velvet nose of a horse or to watch wide eyed young boys in awe of indian tool displays. They clamour upon tractors and stand in line for snow cones... The fill the hillsides and the parking areas. Surely Louis Bromfield smiles from his place above at all this activity!! They are here, they are there, they are everywhere and learning about all manner of things from making a broom to crafting leather. Be your calling to quilt or keep bees, every phase of the imagination is covered here and there is not one single unhappy face in the crowd. Not one over-hurried parent, nor over-worked staff member. It was truly a shining and beautiful sunny day at Malibar Farms.

After walking for awhile, I realized I was beginning to feel rather out of sorts again so I went to sit in the shade and began talking to the park rangers. I had met a very fine young man who is a park ranger in Pennsylvania and we did some discussing about how our astronomy and the natural resource education of the state park systems could go hand in hand. Of course, an exchange of information is in order and wishing this fine people a very pleasant afternoon, I head back out before the program ended and the exodus began. I didn't make it more than 10 miles or so before I realized I had to stop. Considering the Golden Arches, a vanilla milk shake and a large fry made it's way into the car with me and after a few sips we headed for a quiet spot to sit and eat. Not far from Belleville is the Clear Fork Reservior and I stopped to look out over the lake and partake of my quality nourishment. (salt and sugar... i needed them both.)

The cool breeze made its way through my sweater all too soon and I realized I should not push anymore. Heading back out, about 25 minutes later I was once again in soft clothes and hiding under a blanket. Sleep is fitful... But anything helps. As I sit here now and type this remembrance, I can see the darkening sky from my office window. There is no Rayleigh scattering and this night is going to be cold, clear and beautiful. The stars will shine like laser points and I know from the looks of things that it will be very deep. Will I answer the call? No. I am sorry to miss what I love, but I am no fool. I remember last night all too well.

And the cold, cold Moon will rise.

"I want you to stay. You take the pain away. I want you to stay. I need you here to keep me sane. I want you to stay.... You take the pain away.... I want you to stay...

I need you here to keep me sane."

September 29, 2004 - There Ain't No Moon...

Comments: Tonight was "Harvest Moon", but you sure couldn't tell it from here. I had set my little alarm clock so I could get up to watch it rise, but each time it would go off I would get up and look out... But there ain't no Moon.

Ordinarily, I simply wouldn't comment at all on a cloudy night, but this act of reporting is about the only thing that seems "normal" right now and so I cling to it. I know I just don't feel right - like I'm stuck in a painful limbo somehow. It's "GroundHog Night"... And I'm in it forever... Replaying the same scenes with different endings and desperately looking for a way out. It would probably be even spookier if the Moon were there because when it's full, or near full it appears to change so slowly! Ah, well... There's only two more left to go. If I can make it through without poisoning myself with too many cigarettes maybe I'll start to feel better again. I sure hope so...

Cuz' I'm tired of feeling bad.

"Take me away. Oh, take me away. Take me away. I don't want to lose control. Take me away. Oh, take me away. Take me away. I don't want to lose it all."

September 28, 2004 - A Smoky Pearl...

Comments: Hey, world. I'm still alive and still prowling the night. Tonight was supposed to be the first appearance of the "Harvest Moon" but those hazy skies held on. I was asleep long before most people were even thinking about their dinner and found myself awake about the time the Moon was rising. I remember putting on my glasses and going to the window just to see it, but it wasn't much more than an orange fur ball.

Convincing myself to go back to sleep, it was a little clear when I woke up and got my head together. Tonight I rather fancy the binoculars and it's nice to take my cup of coffee out to the park bench. Again, the maria and bright features are all that can really be seen, but it's comforting just to sit here and sip at my cup while enjoying the view. The skies are definately overcast and it will probably be foggy on the drive in...

And I guess I better go.

"Want you to stay... You take the pain away. Want you to stay..."

September 27, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: Yeah, the Sun! Nice out? Nah. It's Ohio... It can't be nice here all the time, but we take what we get and try not to complain. When I got home from work this morning there was a little hazy sunshine, so I decided to set the scope out for a quick peek and see if that sunspot changed any. This time? No way. The shape of the umbra and penumbra has changed just slightly from my earlier photograph, but the little booger seems to have kept itself pretty much together on this visible pass. About the only major difference is that it's on the opposite limb. Other than that?

There wasn't much to see.

"Want you to stay... You take the pain away. Want you to stay. I need you here to keep me sane."

September 27, 2004 - Mooned Again...

Comments: What light through yonder window breaks? It's a wonder that as sharp and almost harsh as the light is... That it doesn't break the window! It's the almost full Moon...

And boy, is it bright.

After a cold, grey and always looks like it's gonna' rain day here in Ohio, sleep was still in short supply. Don't get me wrong, I don't have any trouble getting there - just staying there. There was a few times around sunset when the skies must have cleared somewhat, for I'd roll over and notice patches of sunshine. Somewhere along the line, it got dark and it is, of course, obligatory to wander around thinking I'm late. Finally, just before the date changed, I decided to just give it up and get up. Making myself some coffee and renewing my love affair with Quaker Instant Oatmeal, I figured after a shower that H and I would just go out for a little while and look at the Moon.

Have you ever heard a raccoon scream?

Well, Rascal the Raider had decided to do a little shopping in my goldfish pond in the wee hours. Let's just say he wasn't expecting us and we weren't expecting him. About the time H bounded off the deck, the night was filled with a blood curdling scream. I did not realize until this point that german shepherds could fly, and H does an admirable job. To be honest with you, I don't know how he moved from about five feet ahead of me to directly behind, ok? I think he teletransported himself to be truthful. All I know is he was leading the way, I heard the scream and the next thing you know he's behind me, peeking around my legs and we're both looking at a raccoon that thinks it's been had. Of course, H immediately wants to go "fight"... (oh, rite... soon as you see you're bigger than it, huh? two seconds ago you were more than willing to let me take the fall, chummo... ;) but I had visions of tattered ears and late night vet visits and convinced him it was not a wise idea.

Obiviously Rocky felt the same way.

Laughing at both of our "jump starts", it was pretty peaceful after that. Turn on a little music, set the old Celestron out and simply enjoy some of the bright features on the lunar surface like Tycho, Keplar and Copernicus. Of course, Grimaldi is the feature for tonight and I scan the edge for the one little crater... Galileo, I think it is. We look around, but the ultra-bright Moon has fairly well washed out the visible stars and when my cup of coffee is finished? So am I.

Now, I'm off to be the Vampyre again. It will be hours yet until it is daylight. I am sure that Orion will follow along on the ride and perhaps I shall even see some Sun today. I'll do my best to stay awake and perhaps one night here soon?

I'll be back out under the stars.

"Cleanse up me... I suffer when I dream."

September 26, 2004 - Just A Moment...

Comments: I'm still here. Just stuck back in the Vampyre World with a long row to hoe and a hard way to go. Normally I face my required night shifts with good grace and tolerance, but I don't like being pushed into a week of them without my consent. I am no longer young and this wears on me both mentally and physically.

Needing to escape for just a moment, I took the binoculars outside. The air is fresh and cool... It smells like freedom. The Moon seems incredibly bright, casting silver blue shadows everywhere. I enjoy just looking at it, both with my eyes and the binoculars. I can see where I would have been looking at Gassendi and the curve of the Sinus Iridum. I scan around it for bright stars, but it looks as though none will be occulted tonight. Taking aim for the opposite side of the sky, I enjoy the richness of the constellation of Perseus and the very faded double cluster. The Plieades still makes a relatively fine presentation, but almost all the stars are washed out thanks to the light.

Sighing, I put them back away. Duty calls and I will answer. Grumping... But answering. I guess if I just keep my head down it will all be over with soon enough and things will go back to normal for what? Four or five days and I'll be back on it again? Ah, yes... The life of the sleepless. I love being depressed and strung out! Do me a favour, will you?

Pass the coffee...

"Pure and weak.... I suffer when I dream."

September 23, 2004 - Sharing The View...

Comments: I had received a request... And a rather special one at that. A fine young gentleman named Ryan had wanted to give his girlfriend an extraordinary birthday present and requested a tour of the Warren Rupp Observatory. Of course, you know if there is any way possible, we never turn anyone down... And tonight?

Clear skies!

I had arrived just a bit before our appointed time, and it's always my pleasure to get things opened up. I truly don't think I ever tire of the place... As I was getting the lift charged, Joe arrived and I so appreciate his help. I think out of all the people I know, Joe is the only one who works as hard to promote both the education and public end of what we do. It isn't long after until we look up and see the faces we were expecting. Welcome!

While Joe finishes assembling the C8, the young folks and I head inside the dome and I turn the monster scope towards the Moon. A quick peek at Copernicus and everything is ready to go. Dropping back to the floor, I pick up my special cargo and away we go on a 239,000 mile trip. Teaching them how to move the view around and how to focus, I stand back and let them explore until their hearts are content. Again, one of the greatest pleasures one can experience is watching another behold the wonders that lay just beyond our edge of perception. For perhaps an hour they would trade back and forth as I would answer questions and simply let them enjoy.

"What is it in thee, O' Moon... That should move my heart so potently?"

Sometimes even poetry cannot capture the essence of what it is like to be able to walk upon another world with one's eyes. (but, boy... those poets sure have tried over the years!) Although I cannot tell you what features they were looking at, I can tell you what I saw in their eyes....

What's out there!

When they had finished, we went back down to the ground again to view through Joe's incomparable Celestron. Unlike swinging a 20 ft. scope around, he is able with ease to pick off bright objects like the M13, M31, M39, NGC457, Albeiro, Mizar and Alcore... Along with a host of carbon beauties as well. As one would view, I would teach the other how to use simple binoculars to locate things and just how easy it really is! As always, you cannot leave until you have touched another world, or heard the sounds of space. Even a moonlit night can be a very special one, eh? Of course, they do not leave empty handed... And they have left us with something very special as well.

The pleasure of their company.

"I know... That you're so... So alone. But I can't. Take me away, yeah. Take me away, yeah. Take me away, yeah. I don't want to lose control. Take me away, yeah. Take me away, yeah. Take me away, yeah. I don't want to lose it all."

September 22/23, 2004 - Lunar Landscaping and the Aurigid Meteor Shower...

Comments: Another superb night. I am not going to argue with clear skies - simply enjoy them! The earlier and earlier dark time means a more restful stage of astronomy and it is one that those of us who practice year round appreciate. Most people complain when the winter months rob us of daylight... Not me.

I kinda' like it. ;)

About 9:30 or so, I couldn't sit still. Hyperactive? Heck, no. If you knew me, you'd know I was a lazy bones... But I can see the moonlight outside the window reflecting off all manner of things and I can never resist "Dancing In The Moonlight". Time for some major exploration? Again, no. Tonight I feel like something totally silly. I wanted to see what would happen if I hooked the eyepiece camera up, set the little TV inside and ran the cord through the window. Of course, the results were just as you expected. It works perfectly with the scope outside and the "receiver" indoors. Z the cat will testify to that. Most of my view was of a small black cat parked directly in front of the screen when I was trying to focus. Stop me if I'm wrong, but that's a cat's idea of a joke, isn't it? I mean, it wouldn't be so bad if he was actually watching the lunar surface... But apparently his attention was more drawn to me outside the window telling him to scoot. Obviously he is deaf as well as dumb, for the epithets that had to have carried through the glass had no real effect on his positioning.

But a big black german shepherd named H definately did.

Thank you, H. Leaving a small black bear with an attitude near the TV screen was obviously impetus enough to keep a fuzzy headed feline from interfering with progress here! Once convincing the dog the object was to sit and guard and not stand in front of the window grinning at me because he was doing his job, it went rather well after that. Even at around 20 feet or so away, I can see that I've got it on screen and in focus. All that remains now is just to push the "Record" button on the remote control. Viola!

As you can see, I picked on of my personal favourite areas on the Moon to keep in my on-line records. I just have a thing about the stretch of the Appennine and Caucasus Mountains. I have had a long-standing appreciation of Plato, Mons Piton and Pico and the slender chain that ends in Eratosthenes. You can see the minor ray system that extended from Bessell, as well as many "dark" areas of lava flow. Just a very cool place to be! Of course, my short documentary extended into the Southern Highlands - Hipparchus, Albategnius, Stoffler... And any and all points in between. Was this studying the lunar surface?

Nope. I was just having fun on a night off.


After having napped in the recliner for awhile, I didn't mind wandering back outside for a chance to catch a few Aurigid Meteors. The sky is achingly clear at 4:00 a.m. and the stars look like laser points they are so brilliant. Settling on the park bench with a cup of tea, I turned my attention toward the lovely Capella and simply went loose. I did not have long to wait, for the first meteor absolutely creased the sky just minutes after I sat down. Fast and bright, this one opened up a fantastic copper colored scar across the night that seemed to shimmer there for seconds on end. Excited, I was ready to view more... But the fall rate is what the fall rate is, and it was perhaps 20 minutes before another scorched by.

During a 90 minute period, I observed 8 bright and worthy meteors. With a fall rate of 12 per hour, I should have seen more like 18, but I'm happy to be coming in at a little less that 50%. Perhaps I am not in a position to see a spectacle, but I'm comfortable and pleased the night stayed clear. Unfortunately, I did not think to turn on the radio equipment (i'll bet that first one just sung!) but there's always next time for that. Right now?

I'm just ready for some sleep.

"Cleanse and pure the weak... I suffer when I dream. I need to find a purpose. I need to feel you needing me."

September 21, 2004 - The Sun... The Big Blue Beast, The Moon and My Family...

Comments: Everytime I think I'm losing touch with things, I guess I find out differently. Remember Sunday when I was tired and had to mow, but still found myself wanting to go look at the Sun anyway? Guess there was a reason, because right about the time I was contemplating it, the area around 672 gave a weak coronal mass ejection. (hey. better a weak one than none at all!) Leave it to me to chose that time, huh? Ah, well... No photos, but at least I was looking!

Of course, that means it should hit here on Earth by tonight and might spark a little aurora, but the Moon will toast that. Still, I wanted to look at the Sun again today and AR673 was what I had in mind.

Boy, you can sure see that Dho class in this one! If that umbra and penumbral region gets anymore symmetrical in this bipolar giant it might as well have been stamped on there. Holding a beta magnetic classification, this one has a moderate chance of producing M class flare activity over the next few days... But if I don't miss my guess? It's going to change rapidly. Check out the umbra region and see the ragged edges? Something tells me this one is going to do some breaking up. While that kind of action may not be responsible for major activity, it will still be interesting to watch.

Maybe it will even stay clear!


For now? I am outta' here. I have been graciously granted some personal time at the Observatory and I have three members of my family who would love to see the Moon. Wish us clear skies!


Well, did we get the clear skies we had hoped for? Not exactly, but, as always, you don't make a date with the sky. She makes a date with you.

We arrived just after the sky had already started getting dark. One particular member of my family had been here in the distant past and knew what to expect, but Marti, Randy and Daniel did not. I guess part of the reason I love this place so much is knowing when that door swings open, the expectations run wild when you see the size of the "Big Blue Beast". You know you're going to be in for something incredible no matter how minor the thing is you're looking at. Most amateur astronomers consider the Moon worthless...

But not me.

For comfort's sake, we only went up two at a time. Even through a fine, thin haze of clouds, the view will blow you away with the 26mm eyepiece. Tonight is not about me, but sharing what I am with people I care about and the second I laid eyes on the Alpine Valley, I realized anew just what commanding resolution and power this telescope is capable of. In the past, I have powered up on this region to explore details.... And they are laid bare before my eyes with an ease that edges on incredible. Although the Valles Alpes is a small feature at 1-10 miles wide and 110 miles long, just how tiny is that fissure that runs down its' center?? Oh, my word... 239,000 miles away and you can see a feature that can be no more than a 100 yards wide with ease! My mind races, wondering what higher magnification would do. But it's not for me...

It's for them.

I stand away, showing each one the controls and feel this deep rush of love as they go to the eyepiece. This love is so transcendental. It is love for them, love for what I do, love for the place I am at, and love for the one who believes in me and allows me to be here. Each intake of breath, each exclamation, each smile... These are rewards that cannot be measured. I can only stand quietly and watch as they move across the lunar surface, Rukl in hand, indentifying craters for them. I somehow feel inadequate, but I know deep in my heart, that the time I spend here will have ripples that will spread. I can never mend everything that has been, but I can turn a scarred cheek toward the Moonlight.

And remember how to smile.

When we have spent a great deal of time studying the Moon, we go outside the Dome to admire what skies we can see. I wish that I were so proficient that I could chase sucker holes with Big Blue, but I am a realist and know that cannot be. It's not a problem, though. I set the Club's small dob outside the attic door and find myself sweeping object after object out of the hazy, moonlight skies for my family to enjoy. I reach into my black "bag of tricks" and offer more when the clouds interfere, and I am surprised to see a look of pride on a certain face. It seems funny to me to see that, but it is welcome at long last.

All to soon the time has come for me to leave. I know I could spend all night here, but my own duty calls in the early morning hours and there is a long drive ahead. I shut down things slowly, double checking everything and glad to have been granted the evening. When the last of the lights go out, we all get in our seperate vehicles and head out on the road again. I watch as the lights go down the Hill, last to leave again...

And sometimes happier to be following behind than leading the way.

"Leave with all the pain.... You let me see again. Delivered from my shame... I am lost for what to say."

September 20, 2004 - The Moon and a Study of Cygnus Open Clusters...

Comments: I cannot believe how crystal clear it is outside! I started the day drooling in the front yard, staring at a bright and unprecedented display of Mercury down low on the horizon. The M42 was just splendid without any scope at all! Looks like this is gonna' be an awesome day. I had made a business trip to Columbus late this afternoon and was totally surprised as I drove back to see the Moon shining away at 5:30. Of course, I realize this is natural, but it doesn't seem like you notice the Moon during the daylight that often. All it took was a few feather-thin clouds to produce wonderful sundog activity and the late afternoon spectacle was just complete. It's so easy to practice astronomy!

All you gotta' do is look up...

As a rule, my life stays pretty busy and after I ate I had some business to attend to on-line as well. Usually I'm pretty darn good at shutting things out and simply concentrating on the task at hand, but it's hard not to look out my southern facing office window and not want to grin at that crazy Moon. Located on the second story, this particular window only overlooks the tree tops and southern skies... Tonight the Moon sits right outside it, pecking at the glass like Poe's proverbial Raven. "Nevermore, ~T... Nevermore!". Somewhere after 9:00, I decided that I couldn't stand it any longer. put away what I was working on, a went out just to enjoy a beautifully clear night and an insistent Moon.

When I saw how truly beautiful the skies were, I knew I had to take the 12.5 out for awhile and as it and the big 32mm, 2" stabilized, the old Celestron and I went for a Moon walk. After having handled the Orion 4.5 so many times here recently, I am overjoyed each time I pick up the Celestron and feel its used and abused quality. It's mount is shot. No matter how many times I've tried to repair it, or have others repair it for me, it has finally reached the point where it's needing retire. As I take aim at the Moon, I realize the money I had been saving back for an h-alpha sun scope just might be better off spent on seeing if I can't replace this wonderful old companion of mine. Maybe they are a lot like cars, eh? You just can't drive them forever, because one day they will fall apart... And I've taken another two years beyond that day.

Still, when I look through the eyepiece I know why I hang on so stubbornly to this old Celestron. Quality is everything and when Aristoteles and Eudoxus look like that? You understand. Just dumb junk, like being able to whack an unstabilized 10mm eyepiece into it and see the Ariadaeus Rima and all the little details around the Apollo 11 landing site make you a believer. It has served me long and it has served me well... Just look at Maurolycus!

As I keep picking it up and moving it to keep the Moon out of the tree branches, I know how it's taken the abuse over the years. My untrained hands learned at its controls and how many countless objects has it seen over the years? Ah, my... How many millions of light years has it traveled? The wheels have fallen off of it, but it still has a beautiful body. What true pleasure it has given me, and still gives to this day. I wonder if they even still make them?

As I cap it back up and carry it to its place of honour in the garage, I know that I'll never be able just to let it go. The OTA remains fine to this day and despite its' dirty mirror has been a consistent performer. Who cares if its gears are a bit stripped? You've earned your place here, and it is here you will stay. Just like that big old Meade, out there... Once I fall in love with ya'? Ya' can fall to pieces and I still want you around.

Speaking of the Meade... It fell apart once, too. The dob cabinet once pulled apart, for it was made of nothing more than laminated pressboard that finally bowed to the weight of that big mirror. Unlike an equatorial mount, though... It was easily cured. A few metal brackets and it was on its feet again. As I uncover it, I shine the flashlight down inside and I smile. This particular scope has been loved and babied since its' arrival and it shows. How many scopes can claim just a tiny bit of dust and no condensation marks in some 10 or more years of service? Baby... You still smell new.

I look up and despite the bright skies, you can clearly see the rift in the Milky way and the stars of Saggitta are oh-so-clear. This looks like a good night to visit some open clusters and the book of maps and I are willing to comply. My first is truly not a Cygnus study, but Vulpecula and the NGC6940 is a star-rich "cloud" that reminds me highly of the M67. For some reason, this one is always a pleasure to me!

Next up is NGC6866, the fields in here are so rich that this open cluster appears to be nothing more than a clump in a similar magnitude field of stars. Choosing something entirely different, I then went to the NGC7082 to find a beautifullly rich and scattered open cluster with varying magnitudes. It appears almost like a brooch of starlight. How about NGC6918? This one is significantly different than the last it is a rich, compact concentration in an equally rich field. One we know? How about NGC6913? Also known as the M29, to the big scope and wide field it looks like a miniature constellation, and a rich Hercules comes to mind.

Now, let's work in one place for awhile. Choose Sadr, or Gamma Cygni and let's hop. The NGC6910 can be placed in the same field as Sadr and is more of an outstretched arms formation of stars rather than an open cluster. Another short hop brings us to NGC4966 and this one rocks! Lots of sparkling, faded colors here and it looks rather unique. Last in this area? NGC6819... A nice dense little concentraion of similar magnitudes.

Stretching, I realize when I glance at my watch that I've been at it again. As always, I hate to leave a clear night, but I feel the weight of the days. Aiming the dob towards the NGC869 and NGC884 and take one last, unhurried look at true stellar profusion. I can't help but think about Cassiopeia, but I also know I'm getting pretty tired and at best I would just joyride around and not be serious. Nudging the dob back upright, I figure this is enough for now. This wonderful high pressure system over Ohio right now has left some spectacular skies, even if they have followed Murphy's Law of Moon. If I wanted to wait it out? Well, I could nap and come back...

But it just wouldn't be the same.

"I know... That you're so... So alone. But I can't.... Take me away, yeah. Take me away, yeah. Take me away, yeah.... I don't want to lose control. Take me away, yeah... Take me away, yeah. Take me away, yeah... I don't want to lose it all."

September 19, 2004 - A Little Sun... A Little Moon... And A "Nickle Tour"....

Comments: Yep. Stayed gorgeous today. As much as I'd rather be sleeping it was time to attend to some yard "chores" and set my life back to rights for at least a few days. I realized it had been a great deal of time since I had look at the Sun, so when I took a break for a few minutes, I set the old Celestron out and had a peek. Right now there are two awesome sunspots - One exiting and one entering. I guess ol' 672 over there on the western limb was the culprit for all the activity last week and I can see why. It's pretty broken up, but it looks like it was once spectacular. AR673 ain't no slouch either. We've got a really nice major umbra with a mature penumbral field and a great series of followers that looks really promising.

I'll sure be back when I have more time!


Oh, my. When Ohio skies deliver, they deliver don't they? I could not believe the absolute clarity... Nor could I resist going out for awhile. Since the Celestron is set and ready to go, I whacked it just outside the door and had to go have a look around! I've not seen it quite this nice since Black Forest and despite the moon "pollution", the Milky Way is just outstanding.

Of course, I started with the Moon tucked over there by Antares. Steady as a rock, capable of supporting the barlow and the 9mm... Tonight's big hit was definately Posidonus. I really like this ancient old crater and its ruined walls. Just a real beauty. Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina were also golden, but the Altai Scarp really stole the show to the south. To me, this one looks like studying glacier trails, even though I know it's volcanic in origin.

After that? Ah, shucks... The Moon went into a tree and that meant a very fine "shady spot" to do a little exploring. Again, I am blown away by the clarity tonight. Surprisingly, some DSOs looks just fantastic (albeit faded). M6 and M7 just sparkled and the M22, M8 and M17 weren't too bad at all! The M11 simply rocked. Brocchi's Cluster, the M71 and the M27 were just outstanding. The M29 and M39 were very worthwhile and tracing the opens in Cassiopeia is always a joy. It seems so weird to see the M57 this far west already, and to know that the good ol' M13 is almost gone for the year. Of course, I dig the M15 in any telescope and the M31 is absolutely unstoppable. Oh, what the heck? Since we're here... We gotta' drool on the "Double Cluster" for awhile!

After that? Well... That was enough. Ol' ~T here has put in some long hours and some serious physical and mental labor. Just a little bit of telescope time was all it took to relieve the stress. A quick trip to a place a quarter of a million miles away was refreshing... A few distant photons and a journey across the light years has given me peace. It's time for me to find the hot tub and relax for awhile. I thought briefly about swimming, but one hand in the water was all it took to convince me that the season has done gone past. There's a real chill to the air now, and it's not hard to see the seasons beginning to change. Time is short to enjoy wandering around barefoot and coatless, but I also long for the cleansing snow and the purity of the winter air. For now? It was really beautiful out tonight..

And I'm glad I took the time to enjoy it.

"Take me by the hand... And let me see beyond the light. Strip away all the fences... Leave me needing. Leave me high."

September 19, 2004 - Of Vampyres and Starlight...

Comments: Hurricane Ivan has left the building. The last several days have been a mass of scudding grey clouds, cold rain and less than desirable conditions. Of course, unless you're prone to sleep and then they are pretty daggone desirable. Needless to say, sleep is pretty much an option in my world. I know I'm not the lone ranger and I know there's plenty of folks out there that work weird shifts. For you? Hats off, amigos... It ain't easy being cheesy and changing shifts five times in seven days will take its' toll on you. I remember leaving yesterday in the middle of the night and thinking to myself that the skies were actually starting to clear a little bit. It's nice to see Orion, Auriga and the Plieades when you walk out the door. Of course, I didn't leave myself study time that day, but when the skies stayed beautiful on Saturday?

Man... I knew I had to get up early.

Sleep? What's that, then? I tossed, I turned, I laid upside down, sideways, and even ended up propping my feet up on the wall at one point trying to stop leg cramps. I was hot. I was cold. The blankets were on... The blankets were off. Then the window was open.... And the window was closed. I'm telling you, it's just not natural (for me at least) to try and sleep during these hours! Around about midnight, I simply gave up the ghost and decided if I had to be the "vampyre", I was gonna' do it right. Make some coffee, get dressed and go outside and play.

When I walked out with my cup to pull the dobby around to my favourite observing area, I had to smile for my friends whom I knew were out observing tonight. I know the "players" are at the Observatory conquering lists of objects I can't even hope to touch with a 12.5 and I also know that my friends from Astronomy For Youth were giving a public Star Party tonight at Malibar Farms. How I wish I were there instead of here! Right now I could stand a dose of laughter, but I guess another cup of coffee will have to do. I have a list of objects in Pegasus to observe and I will also be the first to tell you that Pegasus is in a difficult position at the moment. It's alright, though... For the skies are a very decent 5.5 and the clarity isn't too bad. I've got the 26mm and the 12.3mm with me and that's about all the more "technical" I'm gonna' get. I've got all those great directions like right ascension and declination, but I'm a bit more simple minded than that. Do I understand them? Of course. You don't play the astronomy game without knowing how to read a map...

But I play my own games. ;)

First off? NGC7448. Let's just say Alpha Peg is the guide and forget the fancy numbers. NGC7448 is relatively small and resides in a stellar field. It has a bright core area that really verges on the edge of stellar. Magnification works very well on it and patience and aversion show some extensions leading me to believe this is spiral in structure. Not an incredible amount of details.

The next target (for me... cuz' i don't do lists) is NGC7741. RA/Dec? Oh, quit. Your markers for this star hop are Beta and Psi... And I've been here before! The NGC7441 is a beautiful barred spiral. It's bright, easy and magnfication clearly shows that over and under structure of spiral arms over a thick and very pronounced central bar. (isn't this the dancer? man... it looks so familiar.) It resides in a stellar field and many stars near the edge of the galaxy structure. With aversion, there is a nice, similar magnitude star (when run inside of focus) right at the tip of one of the spiral arms. This one is not overly large, but it really is a knock-out.

Next up? NGC23. Back to Psi again. (i psi a lot these days...). If you can't figure it out? Look for the little trident on your maps. (who wants gum? i do! i do!) The marker in conjunction with Psi on this hop is a little cluster of finderscope stars around Flamsteed 85. Here we have a plain jane. It's small, and probably considered high surface brightness because it shows fairly well at even minimal magnfication. I'm guessing spiral in structure (what structure you can get, cuz' it's pretty even), but it does have a redeeming feature. Either we're going supernova out there, or there's a small, definate star caught at the edge.

Tick tock goes the stinkin' clock and as I go back in for another cup of coffee, I realize these three galaxies have taken me a lot longer than I anticipated. I really don't care, just as long as I have time to put things away properly before I leave for work, eh? Rooting around in the dark, I locate a cherry danish and happily partake of enough carbs and fat to make all the health nuts out there shiver. (g'wan... shiver. cuz' it tasted really good and i even licked the icing off my fingers before i washed my hands.) Taking a couple of more sips of the nectar of the gods, I checked the clock again and decided I'd best head for one that is at least passingly easy... And out I go.

Gamma Peg is the marker star for finding NGC7814. Again, we are talking about a pretty small galaxy, but wow... I've seen this one before too! Edge-on, baby... Edge-on. The NGC7814 is a brilliant edge-on with nice, wispy extensions and a bright, kick asteroid nucleus that borders right on stellar. It takes very well to magnification , provide a very satisfactory and barely averted view of its' splendid dark dustlane. It's a nice stellar field that frames it well, and if I had to end on one? This would be it.

For now? I psi and smile up at the sky again. It's time for me to cover up my prized old scope who has served me well over the years. I grin around as I put it away, for once putting the eyepieces back exactly as they belong. As I close the garage door and turn off the music, I realize it ain't so bad being a vampyre after all.

We get to enjoy the starlight.

"As beautiful as fire... Against the evening sky. You fuel the lost desires... And I no longer want to die."

September 15, 2004 - The Aurora Whispers...

Comments: It feels so stuffy indoors. I guess it's knowing the summer is slowly coming to a close and it won't be long until I'm trapped inside, huh? Nah. You know me. I'm the one bundled up like a secondhand Nanook of the North sitting in a snowbank just to be under the stars... And tonight I'd far rather be kicked back in the redwood chair and looking up than be sitting back in a recliner watching TV. My companions are nothing more than a big, black german sheperd named H, an old pair of binoculars and a little quiet rock and roll... They're all I need, I guess.

I minced around the stars for a little bit, delighted to see that Albeiro splits, the M13 is still there, the M39 looks entirely awesome, and I think I found that Omicron what-ever-it was in Cygnus that Tom bestowed upon me. I was just going to sit here and pick through Cassiopeia for awhile and listen to some tunes, but that daggone aurora kept whispering. I honestly tried to ignore it. It really isn't that spectacular tonight, just a glowy pink "dome" that interferes with the starlight... Really a nuisance, don't you think? And it just kept right on whispering...

There was something rather pleasant about the songs it sang. Somehow the whispers just blended in perfectly with the crickets and the tree frogs and I realized I didn't want to just listen to the music of the night - I wanted to join it. Taking the binoculars back, I traded it off for the Gibson, and we just laid back in the chair to watch and harmonize. Just like music, the aurora sometimes whispers in dark chords... For parts of the sky would seem almost to be overcome by shadow, yet the stars shone through. As I would watch, sometimes the whispers would build as an area grew more deep and rich in color. Occassionally a spire would begin to form, and just like always as I would feel myself begin to get excited?

It goes away...

When the aurora finishes its' whispers, it is like listening to the last notes of a song die and fade away inside the guitar's hollow body. The pinks simply pale dimmer and dimmer into a greenish hue and then the light is gone. All that remains is the ordinary, everyday glow of a man-made phenomena. No wonder is left. There are not questions in your mind about whether or not you are seeing or feeling something. There is no shimmer or glimmer of color left. No hope. The only time the stars hide is when a feather of cloud drifts over them.

You know when it's gone, because nothing whispers anymore.

"Someday... Somehow... Gonna' make it all right. But not right now. I know you're wondering when...."

September 14, 2004 - Fond Memories and Soft Aurora...

Comments: The alerts were everywhere. I had been contacted through not only Radio JOVE, but various sources that the Sun had produced a full-halo CME event that would significantly increase chances of seeing auroral activity at my latitude and I was sure ready to have a look.

Unfortunately, the clouds had other plans.

No problem. It had been quite some time since I had sat down and read and answered e.mail, so I was content to spend the time just after sunset indoors. I mean, how could you not want to look at something as spectacular as the Milky Way at Black Forest Star Party as taken by friend Curt Goff?

All I could do was sit here and drool. If you think that's good? Then check out this one as well...

Ah, my... What sweet, sweet memories! Of course, being on line means an opportunity to "talk" with others as well and Vic sent me a link to check out the Black Forest Star Party as seen from the air. Of course, after a lot of good natured teasing that this was the "budget flight", it was still very cool to know that someone had the ingenuity to put a digital camera on board a RC plane. (if i did that? it would fly away and you know it... ;)

Of course, I remained curious about the aurora and after my scheduled "internet time", I reluctantly left my office and walked outdoors. Still cloudy! Feeling the weight of several very busy days combined with too little sleep, I thought I'd just go to bed despite the early hour. Unfortunately... I can't sleep. After about an hour or so of tossing and turning, I decided I get up and raid the refrigerator for a beer or two and just go sit outside for awhile. As soon as I opened the sliding glass door, I was pleasantly surprised to see the skies had cleared up quite a bit. Curling up on the park bench, I kept watch to the north but figured the "glow dome" I was seeing was just light pollution.

As my eyes further and further dark adapted, I noticed my "dome" was doing a subtle color shift. Figuring I was simply tired and seeing things, I whistled for H and we walked out into the south field. I ain't wrong. This time the aurora is bending toward the northwest! Brilliant activity? No way. But what we did get here was the nice sky pinks and soft shades of green. Still sure I was going cuckoo, I was sure pleased to see soft white spires form to the northwest. The apparitions didn't last long, but it's nice to know I haven't cracked just yet. It wasn't spectacular, cuz' it sure looks like I didn't catch it until the end of the show... But at least I caught the final act, huh?

Sitting back down on the bench, I finished my beer as I sky watched. Of course, the clouds didn't stay gone long either, but it certainly was nice to see the aurora at least passingly active again...

And the Milky Way.

"Someday... Somehow... Gonna' make it all right. But not right now."

September 10, 2004 - Outta' Here...

Comments: Did you see the Saturn, the Moon, Venus and Mercury this morning???? WOW!!! I went out to do some of those last second little goodies like check my oil and I was blown away when I looked east! Yeah, yeah, there's a little ground fog, but it sure ain't stopping the sky show!

And speaking of show? Time for me to get the show on the road...

For the next couple of days I am off to enjoy the premier Star Party of the northeast. As always, where there is a will, there is a way and I should be able to connect and report. (if you can get me to slow down long enough. ;) Wish me good luck and godspeed...

And join me at The Black Forest Star Party!

"And now the story's played out like this... Just like a paperback novel. Let's re-write an ending that fits... Instead of a Hollywood horror.

Nothing's wrong. Just as long... As you know that someday I will."

September 9, 2004 - Just A Little Bit...

Comments: Tropical depression Frances has left Ohio, well... Tropically depressed. The last two days have been misty rain, grey skies and lower temperatures. And then?

Outta' nowhere the skies just cleared.

I was enjoying a beautiful sunset as I packed my car (my car! yes... no more evil gas-guzzling pick-up truck! my car is back and more shiny than ever. ;) and just not believing the skies were actually starting to cooperate. Believe it, ~T. By the time darkness fell, those stars were out and shining! Not wanting to spoil my appetite for Black Forest, but not willing to pass on a snack either, I got the binoculars back out and sat on the deck for a little while just enjoying the unexpected treat. It didn't last for very long...

But it was sure great while it did!

"How the hell'd we wind up like this? Why weren't we able... To see the signs that we missed? And try to turn the tables...."

September 6, 2004 - From One Extreme To The Other...

Comments: What can I say besides it is beautiful out? If ever I was going to take the opportunity to bid the Summer's Finest a fond farewell, this would be the night. No holds barred. No game plan.

And no rules.

I had slipped outside a little after 8:00, saw what kind of skies were going to happen, and just pulled the 12.5 Meade out. Beside it stands the 4.5 Celestron and hanging from the tripod is the 7X35 Tasco binoculars. On the framework of the "Grasshopper" are three different cases of eyepieces. I don't know which ones I'm going to use, so let them all stabilize! I know one thing... I'm not going to stand here and mark on my notes everytime I switch an eyepiece. If I mention it? Great! If not?

Ask me if I care.

At a few minutes past 9:00, I pulled the plug on everything. I imagine if someone had been looking at the house, they would have thought I lost power, eh? Tonight there's no need for it. I have a carafe of sweet tea ready, fresh batteries in the walkman, a case of CDs, some Perrier on ice, my maps, my flashlight and my notes. It's time to rock! And the very first thing I want to do is go back into Ophiuchus and pick up two difficult binocular studies.

Binocular Messiers
Date: September 6, 2004
7X35 Tasco
Sky: 5.5 Stability: 6/10
Time: 9:20 - 9:35 p.m. ESDT

M9 - Sabik is the marker star for finding the M9. It is designated as Eta on the maps and M9 likes directly between it and Xi. M9 is at the center of a flattened triangle of stars and presents a challenge because it resembles a dim, out of focus stellar point. Holding that view steady is the only way to correctly identify M9.

M62 - M62 is much more difficult because there is not a clear-cut bright marker to guage against. I found success in locating the field by moving up from Shaula. At first I thought I had found it easily, but when recofirming the star patterns with the map, I was looking at M19. Realizing I am in the right area, I begin searching for the signature and find it as M62 also appears like a dim, out of focus star south of M19. It vaguely belongs to a circular pattern of stars and resides around 2:00 within this circle. Like the M15, M62 also has a star that accompanies it.

Now, feeling far less serious, I lay down the binoculars and give the 4.5 Celestron the same honours and in much the same fashion, M9 at 17mm is great. Undeniably a globular cluster, it appears small, concentrated and is definately rich. Cruising on down to the M19, I smile at it's blue hue and "squeezed" appearance and go further south for the M62. No wonder you were a booger! Even to the telescope, M62 is small and definately lacks the beginning resolution seen in the M19. It's misty looking... Like a miniature M4.

Heading back to the binoculars, I start sweeping. Antares has some twinkle to it, but the stability of the skies are improving quickly. M4 is awesome and the M6 and M7 are worth the trip alone. (these two are amazing in binoculars.) Tripping the light fantastic over to Saggitarius, I sweep across the bright and easy ones... M8, M22, M24, M23, M17, M16 and stop at M11. Now it's time to let the dob out. Chosing the 32mm, 2" for this particular sweep, I repeat the same order, but am so delighted when I see so much more float by. There went the Trifid! Knowing I wanted more power, I went back to 1.25 eyepieces and settled on the good 26mm for now, trading it off occasionally for the 12.3mm ED. There's just so much I want to see... And so many things that I have described so many times over the years that it is pointless to continue to repeat myself. The resolution on globular clusters at power is jaw-dropping. The light grasp in revealing fainter magnitudes in open clusters will keep you riveted. And this scope's ability to shred nebula and hand back structure will leave you staring at M8, M20, M17 and M16 until you are ready to fall through space.

I stand up and sigh. I realize that I owe the Summer far more than what I have given it. Picking up the binoculars, I head for Hercules and grin and the M13. A few moments later, the 4.5 is aimed its' way and I still smile when I recall just how wonderfully I felt so many years ago when I first found it in this scope. Turning the 12.5 toward the M13 means low power reminds me of why I love this scope, and the moment I drop a 9mm in it... I remember all the joy and wonder I felt the first time Dan Everly showed me this in the 31". As I stand admiring all the chains and patterns that make up the M13, I realize there are voids here as well. Did we not discuss this once upon a time? So long ago... Going back to the wide field of the 12.3mm, it is my pleasure to include the NGC6207, a soft spiral galaxy that is almost on top the M13, in this journey as well.

So many things... So many things! Wrestling with the 4.5, I forewent polar alignment for clearance and tackled the M57. What a stellar field... And the M57 at this power is a beautiful little crepe smoke ring. Absolutely perfect. And then I swipe it out of the sky with the big scope... It's hard to realize just how many stars are there until you see it through this. My starz... It looks braided! There is a star caught within the braids itself... And... And.. Barlow please. Yeah. It's there. It's there averted and Big Blue would have taken it out in an instant with sky conditions like these. Feeling almost shakey, I turned the binoculars towards Epsilon Lyrae, smiling at the duplicity and then setting the dob on it to grin as it quadruples. The stability and clarity have improved significantly over the last two hours.

You know I have to. I turned the binos towards the M27 and grinned at it's little glow. Right behind it came the 4.5 and the revelation of what we commonly see as the "Dumbell Nebula".,, Shimmering and beautiful like it was alive. And then I took it apart with the dob. There are stars caught inside the lobes and in the center is a wink, amigos... A beautiful pulsing wink not revealed by smaller aperture and the reason for it's spectral qualities. It has a central star.

Feeling humble, I sat down and poured myself a cup of tea and stopped for awhile. I sit, looking at the south and watch as Saggitarius does the same, the "Teapot" tilts down now and the "steam" of the Miky Way pours up the sky like a silver ribband of light. Once again, as I sip my cup I journey with binoculars... Over and over and over again. I am moved by the complex, yet simple beauty of the Milky Way. Where the cloud splits and forms its own branch it so apparent tonight, and the very density of the nebula regions around Deneb are simply incredible. When I have finished my cup, I go back to the dob, drop the power down just a bit and go somewhere I rarely go... And that is to star 52 to trace the edges of the "Veil".

Watching Capricornus take over the south, I realize there is something else I would like to see and the maps and I journey off to another that it has been a very long time since I've seen - Mr. Wizard's Galaxy. Mid-range power shows the soft silver signature of galaxy NGC6822 and the small, powerful little planetary NGC6818. It is here that I call on the power once again and how I laugh when I see it! From one extreme to the other, my friend.... For the NGC6822 so resembles the M24 seen in binoculars that I cannot help but laugh. All this power and size... And yet it is nothing more than that. Just a little irregular looking galaxy that lacks the "oomph" of the M82. It looks like a silver haze sprinkled with stars...

I go back to the north with the binoculars and trace across Cassiopeia, and repeat the process with the 4.5. How splendid and magnificent these open clusters seem! I think perhaps for a moment to repeat them all with the dob... But instead return to the 32mm, 2" and find the most worthy of all things in this area is the NGC7789, and then the drop to NGC869 and NGC884. Who amoung us does not have their breath taken away when they look at this grand profusion?? Ah, my....

Going east, I sweep the M31 out in binoculars and move over to take in the M33. While the dob is set for the 2" eyepieces, I snatch the 40mm and drink in the pale, ghostly light of the M33. Here is your extremes... It shows no better with twelve and a half inches of aperture than it does with an old pair of binoculars. The only difference is the amount of stars in the field! (and, well... clumps and bright spots in the arm structure, but i'm not here to argue. just enjoy...) I look up through Pegasus and point my finger right at the spot where Stephan's Quints reside, smiling and knowing one day I will see inside them. Laughing a bit to myself, I pour a cup of tea and change the eyepieces back to the 1.25s again. I cannot leave this beautiful sky until I have seen the M15 and the M2 as they are meant to be seen.

The hour has grown quite late. I stand in the south field and know what else is there... The Helix and Saturn Nebulae. I know that I have time to search them down before the Moon rises, but they are things that belong to the Fall. For now, I am most content. Somethings took me a while to find, while others simply fell into the eyepiece. I look up, admiring the way the sky has turned over the last four hours and remember my own lessons about following the galactic equator. I smile and wriggle an eyebrow at Lacerta the Lizard and remember the fine studies I once did in that constellation. Tonight I have found a certain balance between the ~T that once was... And the ~T that is now. Have I changed? Not in the least. I am still barefoot, still listening to rock and roll, still happy-go-lucky...

And still a fluffternutter who misses you.

"Now the story's played out like this... Just like a paperback novel. Let's rewrite an ending that fits... Instead of a Hollywood horror.

Nothin's wrong... Just as long as... You know that someday I will.

Someday, somehow... Gonna. make it all right, but not right now. I know you're wondering when. (You're the only one who knows that.) Someday, somehow... I'm gonna' make it all right, but not right now. I know you're wondering when. (You're the only one who knows that.)"

September 5, 2004 - Two Binocular Messiers and the Quest for Stephan's Quintet...

Comments: Still hot and humid here in Ohio. By 8:30, my old hide was in the swimming pool and enjoying what will be the last of the season's night swims. Yeah, it's getting dark and the stars are coming out... But I'm not coming out of the water just yet! My favourite radio station is playing some of the rock and roll oldies that remind me so much of a time when my oldest son still lived here and the cold water feels very pleasant. Without my glasses on, it's easy to pretend the skies aren't good enough to scope... But when the cross of Cygnus starts looking like a "cross bow" of stars?

Ah, well... Time to dry off and get dressed.

Of course, when I put my glasses back on, I realized that the hour or so I spent in the pool meant the skies had cleared in a really big way. Reluctant to start anything really big, but at the same time knowing I'm ready for something more, I wheeled the 12.5 out to my favourite "shady" spot and sat down with the binoculars while I waited for it to cool down. Unfortunately, there's an apple tree right smack dab in the middle of Ophiuchus from this point of view and I'm feelin' too daggone lazy to drag the redwood chair out to the south field. No matter... Saggitarius sits splendidly from right here and I'm in the mood to simply enjoy my cup of tea and take what I can without working too hard at it.

Binocular Messiers
Date: September 5, 2004
Tasco 7X35
Seeing: 5.0 Stability: 7/10
Time: 9:45 p.m. ESDT

M23 - How many times have I looked at the M23 this summer in binoculars and simply not reported it? Far too many... Like all the other little "patches of stuff" that exist in Saggitarius, the M23 is easily visible with many other Messiers in the field. By nudging the fantastic M24 off to the left side of the field of view, the M23 is visible as a patch of resolved and unresolved stars. Three exceeding bright ones run the north/south line and the body of the M23 itself contains a few stars that resolve when the view is very steady.

M55 - Easily found by placing the "handle of the Teapot" to the right of the field of view and identifying star Ascella and the M54. Move the binoculars east, or left, and you will go across a relatively sparse field of stars and see a north/south chain about one field of view away. Bingo. M55 is about twice the size of M54, but not as bright. No resolution and no bright core, the M55 resembles a large, faint planetary nebula to binoculars.

Of course, as I finished my cup of tea, I went back over all the other really cool stuff you can see but my reports would be six days long if I stopped to describe them all. Right now, it's well after 10:00 and if I'm going to do any galaxy hunting I best get off my duff and go work. My object of choice tonight was to re-locate Stephan's Quintet and burn that bad boy into my mind in hopes of one day setting the observatory scope on it. Well, we're going to have to do a lot of burning, because even with the excellent help that Uranometria provides? There's no way I could do it fast. Like the Andromeda galaxy, we'd be underneath it...

But this ain't a two ton telescope. This is 80 lbs. of well balanced mirror that moves at the touch of a hand and requires a lot of patience, practice, and perserverence to set on a galaxy cluster. Carefully moving one field at a time, I pass each little configuration of stars and confirm it on the map. As I inch up, I find a dipper-like configuration of brighter stars and I know I'm on the right track. When I get the unmistakable NGC7331 in the field with the 26mm, it's time to kick down to the 12.3mm wide field and just get blown away, folks. Uh, Houston? We gots "the Quints" here, but that aint all! Actually, the Quints aren't quite as close to the NGC7331 as I seem to recall, for there is a bright pair of stars between them. Going back to 7331, I see there are a few minor galaxies also right in the area!

Map time.

Going back to the eyepiece, I realize that the "Quints" are definately a brighter grouping to the south of NGC7331 and the oddball "stuff" I'm picking up is to the east. I dunno' here, Chief... Maybe my eyes are failing with old age, but I don't think so. I'm seeing at least three additional galaxies in the field with 7331 and the Quints are not. I think you'd have to understand that my big Meade telescope isn't revealing Stephan's Quintet like the Hubble. NGC7331 is beautiful! It's bright, large, easily direct with a bright nucleus and hints of spiral arms. The Quints? They look like little fuzzy grains of rice in comparison. Their clue is they all fit together in the field of view and require moderate aversion. These others? You see when you're looking with the lunatic fringe of your vision. Very small, very faint... Looking at my watch, I realize just how long it has taken me to find these galaxies, and just how little time I have before the rising Moon, even below the horizon, will add so much light that I'll never be able to see them. Laying down the maps and red flashlight... I do the unforgiveable.

I just enjoy them.

"Well I'd hoped that since we're here anyway... We could end up saying. Things we've always needed to say... So we could end up stringing."

September 4, 2004 - Warren Rupp Observatory Public Night...

Comments: Hey! A place to go... People to see! And when I pulled in the Observatory parking area? There were a WHOLE lot of people to see...

Someone not familiar with Hidden Hollow might not realize the area contains many wonderful, rustic cabins as well as very scenic and very beautiful lodges. Since this is privately owned, a lot of times the lodges are rented out for wedding receptions and tonight? It's a doozey. Let's just say for all that area over there, I had a hard time finding a place to park. But, park I did and as soon as I stepped out of the truck I started talking to people. Heading down the the ClubHouse, it wasn't long until things were opened up, and even less time until that Dome started opening before people because curious and came in for a visit. I am always happy to show people around and pretty soon unfamiliar faces gave way to ones I knew as Dave, Joe, John and Greg came to join us as well.

The skies? Not so promising. Just like last night, the thin and thick clouds ruled, but they were on the move. Obviously it didn't daunt anyone's spirits that much and I really appreciate the young couple who had their 5" scope out and ready to go long before dark. (you know, you guys really should leave me with a name, don't you? ;) I had visited with them before and have always had a great time talking and would recognize them instantly in a crowd. Dave had brought his awesome binoculars, Joe had his very fine 8" Celestron, John had his handcrafted 8" dob, Greg set up the SVD8 and me? Oh, heck... You know that 4.5 was there as well as that great "Blue Beast".

As the darkness started to fall, I divided my time between taking care of some business and showing our many visitors the facility. How many? There was no real way for me to keep track but I would bet money that at least a hundred drifted in and out.... But there was this one fellow who kinda' stood out from the crowd.

Good reason. We've met before. ;)

As the skies began to clear, I had to grin when Greg happily announced to the crowd that "Maybe we could talk Tammy into setting the big scope on M22?" That's kinda' like asking a jazz musician if they could play "Fly Me To The Moon" isn't it? And if Greg is going to get me into this? Then brother... He's gonna' help. Climbing into the lift, I got the scope ready and with Greg's added "muscle" it wasn't long until that fantasy globular cluster was up in the eyepiece and ready to be shown. Once again, it is one of the highest of priveleges for me to be able to watch people's faces as they "see" through this scope for the very first time. Not everyone comprehends exactly what they are looking at, but their gut instinct at just how beautiful our cosmos truly is transcends everything. For me? The pleasure is seeing the pleasure in your eyes....

While the clouds softly swept the scene away again, I am happy to go back down and enjoy conversations as well as let others use my little scope. What's on the ground certainly moves with more speed and ease than what's in the Dome and shooting through holes at this object and that becomes the name of the game. The summer Messier objects are tattooed in my mind and it's no problem to take you to this one or that one. When the skies go cloudy? It's a good time to exchange information with our guests and finish up some other business. Of course, they don't stay cloudy all the time and sooner or later the call goes out for the Andromeda Galaxy. Here again, is a smile all of its' own... You would not think that an object that is so easy to find would be so difficult to put a telescope on! Well, unfortunately the 20 foot long "Blue Beast" doesn't work as gracefully as the "Challenger", but after a little manuevering and some team work, we get it there. (we need to get that finder back on the bottom again... even governor arnold would have difficulties moving it from the business end... and he's not even as tall as me!) But like with the M22? It's there, dude...

Whisking our guests away 200 million light years, only the very core of the M31 is visible in the 55mm eyepiece. But what a core! Again, you would have to see this to understand. The Andromeda in a smaller telescope appears silver... Bump that aperture to 12.5" and you start to see gold. Up that to 31"? And the light is undeniably golden, and even bends the spectral sense towards red as well. (now that is slamming some serious photons containing even more serious spectra into the eye! think of all those millions of stars concentrated toward the core and you'll understand this property of light that i'm talking about...) Of course, it's not a thing that everyone understands, but hopefully their spatial sense connects with it.

By now, the old Moon is beginning it's rise. Ground-based scopes are turned its' way and lunar cartography explored. The night has reached dewpoint and once in a while you can see a band of low-lying cloud drift by like a horizontal ghost. When the last of our guests are finished, Joe and I have things shut-down with a proficiency that we have well practiced over this summer. We deeply appreciate the members who joined us tonight as well as the fantastic turn-out by a very well-dressed public. Things are dark and quiet on the "Hill" again, and as I watch Joe's taillights curve down the wooded road I realize...

I'm the last to go.

"Someday, somehow... Gonna' make it all right, but not right now. I know you're wondering when... (You're the only one who knows that.)"

September 3, 2004 - Hazy Skies...

Comments: It's hot. Our August weather waited until September to get here and it's just plain hot. Although hurricane season doesn't directly affect Ohio, it certainly has an impact on our weather and last night all my observing was done sitting on the deck playin' with an accoustic guitar and perusing a cold Corona.

When I first sat down, only the Summer Triangle was visible. In my book, that's better than totally cloudy and I'm happy to sit here and practice and sing to those three stars. What can I say besides it was just one of those nights when everything seemed to fit together and sound pretty good? I would laugh as I would dig through my memory banks, searching for a Jim Croce tune or remembering snatches of Paul Simon. It had been far too long since I had played Bush and the Beatles... And Staind was sounding pretty daggone good by the time the clouds were clearing up. Was I pickin' and grinnin'? Darn rite I was...

And moving my way across years of music as easily as the telescope spans light years of sky.

I played for around 90 minutes... Long enough to watch the orange Moon rise. One more than one occassion I'd screech a string or miss a note... But who cares? If I'd of left a hat on the ground, I'm sure some pitious soul would have dropped money in it... Perhaps if they bought me another beer it would have gotten better, eh? ;) The long and short of it is that it feels good to be outside at night. There's something wonderfully pleasing about being out here in the dark, watching the stars slide in and out from behind the clouds. By the time the Moon has climbed enough to offer some pale light to the scene? It's time to slip into the pool and enjoy the last of this year's warm nights.

Cuz' it's like drifting in space...

"Someday, somehow... Gonna' make it all right, but not right now. I know you're wondering when... (You're the only one who knows that.)"

September 2, 2004 - The Sun...

Comments: Well, our latest little devil, sunspot 666 looks mighty quiet, folks. Rotated in well enough to see form, the giant that once was both 649 and 659 is now just a little unipolar cutie with an alpha magnetic class. Still, there is something nice about it, the plagues that surround it are quite beautiful. Although my filter doesn't show them as wonderfully as h-alpha would, nor is my photograph the best, I thought you still might like to see it...

Only about the size of Earth now, it look like this one has spent its energy and will quiety dissolve as it passes around the solar orb once again.

I know the feeling.

I truly had planned on going out to clear skies and working on a handful of the more difficult binocular Messiers, but the sky decided otherwise. Although we probably had a nice limiting magnitude of 3.5... You and I both know we're not going to be doing any deep sky observing with those kinds of numbers. The days ahead will quite probably bring rain, but hopefully it will get it all out of its "system" before I head to Pennsylvania and the "Black Forest Star Party". I've heard the skies there are phenomenal and my trusty old binoculars and I are very ready to do some exploring. I'm still debating on whether or not to take and telescope... But methinks I'll just sit this one out.

Just like tonight.

"I wish you'd unclench your fists... And unpack your suitcase. Lately there's been too much of this... And I don't think it's too late.

Nothin's wrong... Just as long... As you know that someday I will."

September 1, 2004 - Venus, Saturn and the Sun... A Stereo Sky...

Comments: Well! 'Bout time I got motivated in the morning again. Beautiful... Clear... Moon shining like a daggone beacon, and me up with plenty of time to put the Celestron on these two singing planets on the eastern horizon! I was impressed. I can't really tell you how long it's been since I've seen Saturn last, and I do remember that it's been since the beginning of the summer and the transit since I've really payed much attention to Venus.

And here they are!

Saturn's the highest, so I chose it first. No problem whatsoever seeing Titan leading the way across the sky. The angle is really nice and it won't be long until the "Ring King" is back in a time zone where seeing conditions are super stable and offering some good views. (hey, not that they aren't good now! i'd swear i could see the twinkle of the "lil' troopers" on the leading edge as well... but i can't rock hard confirm that.) How about Venus? Phat and sassy as ever, gentlemen. Definately showing as a turbulent, flashy 50%, the only way you're going to get a clean view on this one right now is to filter it down.

Of course, I had to sneak a look at the M42. ;)

The day brought nice, hot weather and sunshine. Although the Sun was barren yesterday, I also know what's going on and I couldn't wait to get home from work to set a scope on it. SpaceWeather doesn't show it yet... But it's there, compadres. That "bad boy" (a.k.a. AR649 & AR659) is back in town again and it looks as if it's assignment number is going to be 666. Now won't we have just a devil of a good time with that one!!! At 4:00 p.m. ESDT, it had rotated inward enough to begin to see some structure. I thought perhaps about filming it, but rejected the idea since the picture would be about as interesting at this point as looking at where the stem was on an orange held at arm's length so you could just begin to see it. Much more interesting than that was the great plague field to the south of it. Talk about parting the Red Sea! OK... The Orange Sea. Well, heck. How about the Hi-C?

OK, OK... I'll get serious again.

Honestly? It's coming in at least moderately "hot" magnetically. There was some nice evidence of the Wilson Effect and although we are not seeing the spot structure well enough to get a handle on umbra and penumbra fields, it still looks like it might be a dandy. Keep an eye out for it.

For now? I am outta' here. Looks like the sky might be nice enough to do a little binocular work before the Moon rises... Or maybe I'll take out one of the small scopes. I know that Crisium will be at one of my favourite stages tonight as well.

Maybe I'll even feel like looking at it.


So did I go out? Of course I did. I set the Celestron up to cool down, put a CD in the Walkman, and flopped into the redwood chair with the binoculars and learned something about myself all over again.

Once upon a time, I listened to Phil Harrington and realized a truth - My first astronomical optical aid was a pair of binoculars. They are the same pair I hold in my hands and are around 30 years old. Sure, I'd sky surfed with them many times, but without a whole lot of understanding. I even have a pair of welder's glass lenses that I'd put on them to use to view eclipses with! When Halley's Comet came round, along came my first scope and away went the binoculars. The last 15 years have been spent with successively higher and higher quality telescopes and more and more aperture and the little old binoculars got put in the case and seldom used. To be honest with you, I really didn't need them for anything more than just an aid in comet location. Of course, listening to Phil is like listening to someone preach a whole new gospel...

And it took awhile for the "good words" to soak in.

So here I sit, quietly listening to my rock and roll, holding a pair of very inexpensive and very old binoculars... And learning all over again at just how beautiful the night sky is. Last night was superb. It would have been a great night to hunt galaxies, but the time was short. Instead, I sat right there in my chair, head filled with "Nickelback" and eyes filled with all the wonders of our own galaxy. My years of training myself as an observer have served me well, for that map is in my head and my smile stretches as wide as my hands. There is something incredible about the perspective and I find myself happily repeating every single thing I've done so far. And so much more!! For the record?

Binocular Messiers
September 1, 2004
7X35 Tasco
Seeing: 5.5 Stability 8/10
Time: 9:30 p.m. ESDT

M54 - Appears as a small, soft ball of light. Very easily caught with averted vision. Stellar field with several bright asterisms of nearby stars.

And the M69 and M70, too!! (but they aren't part of the list.) I am telling you, it really is wonderful. I don't know how many times I went over and over the sky... Starting with M39 and ending with M4. All of them are there! It's so easy to see M27, M71, M11, M16, M17, M24, M22, M28, M8, M7, M6, M14, M19, M80! And how wonderful to sweep across the sky from west to east... M3, M5, M13, M97, M56, and just look at ever-lovin' Cassiopeia! Am I excited? Of course I am. This will never take the place of the telescope in my heart, but when I turn the chair around to watch the rising Moon? I realize that my heart can hold a lot of "special places".

As it rises, I enjoy the show with stereo eyes. "Nickelback" has given way to the softer, jazzier sounds of "Days of the New" and while I might have missed the deep sky show while playing, this is still a very fine thing to do. I watch it off and on as it gets higher and higher... Still poking around for other Messiers like M31 and M15 as the sky gets brighter and brighter. I can see, even through the binoculars, the sawed off edge of Crisium and I open the Celestron for a look...

It's a phase I have seen many times before, but I still love the way the shadows play on this one. By now, I realize that it's every bit of 11:00 and I best head back in. Two more days of work and I am on holiday once again!

Watch it rain...

"How the hell'd we wind up like this? Why weren't we able... To see the signs that we missed... And try to turn the tables?"