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August 2005

August 30, 2005 - Dancing With Katrina...

Comments: It's hurricane season again, and although you wouldn't think Ohio would be affected, we catch the clouds and rain. By no means am I complaining! When I think of all the poor folks down south, a little wind, some clouds and rain are truly nothing compared with what they must endure.

A very odd thing, though, is how sometimes the sky will at least partially clear with no rhyme or reason. Such was the case when I let H out for a run. Clear enough to scope? No. There was so many thin clouds that it would have been pretty pointless, but still clear enough to make you stop for a minute and just enjoy looking at the Summer Triangle and admire how the constellations are moving. Heck, it's even getting dark quite a bit earlier now!

And so the next few days will pass in rain. It's that time of year for me to travel and the first destination will be the Black Forest Star Party in Pennsylvania. If it is at all possible, I will happily report the weekend festivities and you may find the remote link right here. In the mean time, it may be a mud fest, or we may get lucky and the skies will clear.

No matter what tomorrow brings, I'll be there.

"Yeah, yeah... Yeah, Yeah. Are we having fun yet? Yeah, yeah.... Yeah, Yeah. Are we having fun yet? Yeah, yeah.... Yeah, Yeah....

Fun yet?"

August 28, 2005 - Just Beautiful...

Comments: Stayed up far too late the night before watching "Apollo 13". It was a cloudy night anyhow. The only thing that makes it difficult is just the hours I work, so I was a bit grumpy about getting up and heading off again. But, if you know me, you know once you get me on my feet that I am like an old work horse. I'll run until I drop.

No time to do much more than let H out the door on his own. No time to linger over coffee or search around for a tasty morsel. Time enough only to shower, dress and leave. And as I walked out the door to my car, I did the one thing that you can always count on me to do...

I looked up.

Above me the waning Moon illuminated the night. Caught all around it were the brilliant stars of winter and I stand in wonder at just how bright they really are, because I forget from season to season. Even though there is a ground fog creeping across the field, above me is wonderously clear. I can only stand and admire as I watch Mars, Saturn, the Moon and Mercury playing amidst the constellations. What a wonder it is to see Orion again! Just look at Gemini and Auriga...

And I can hear this bit of poetry in my head:

"Twas noon-tide of Summer, and mid-time of night... And stars in their orbits, shone pale through the light - of the brighter, cold Moon... Midst planets her slaves. Herself in the Heavens, her beam on the waves. I gazed awhile, on Her cold smile. Too cold -- too cold for me..."

Shall I be late? Quite probably. But does it really matter? This simple beauty above me is far more inspirational than anything I could have chosen and the minutes I take now to enjoy it will carry me through the day.

And so I leave for work...

"But these five words in my head scream... Are we having fun yet?"

August 25, 2006 - The Moon and Mars...

Comments: Is it early? Darn right, it's early. It was a very fuzzy night previously and I was sure hoping to see the Moon and Mars together so I set Mr. Alarm Clock just a bit ahead of schedule.

The early morning is equally fuzzy, but at least it is good enough to see Mars and the Moon together. I have gotten such a charge out of all the e.mail about Mars appearance being as large as the Moon, and, well... ya'll know I kinda' laid that myth to rest, didn't you? Still, I was curious if I could at least catch the two together with the videocamera, so I did my best. To get the Moon well was not enough light for Mars, and to get Mars was too much for the Moon! No matter. The last thing I stress about this early in the morning is whether or not I have coffee, OK? The capture view binoculars don't work, because the pair are a little far apart. Am I worried? Heck, no. The very best part about waking up is the Moon and Mars with your morning cup!

As you can see, Mars is just barely bigger than a stellar point. Of course, we all knew that, didn't we? Regardless, it's still mighy beautiful to see the two of them together and well worth getting up a bit early for. I imagine the dance was very beautiful during the night!

At least it was in my dreams...

"I've been wrong. I've been down... Into the bottom of every bottle."

August 24, 2005 - Good Morning, Aurora!

Comments: It's early. I don't know why I got up early... (yes, i do. i didn't set my clock right) but I found myself wandering into the kitchen just before 4:00 a.m. to make coffee. With steaming cup in hand, H is prancing at the sliding glass door and I walk out with him and stand on the deck. As always, my head is in the stars and while I'm busy marveling over how much Orion has cleared the horizon by now and just how beautiful Auriga looks... I noticed.

Look at them white spires!!

Padding barefoot through the dewy grass, I walked out further to get a good look at the north. Holy, guacamole. No wonder the good folks at Radio Jove have been buzzing! I've watched their chart work, but hadn't had an opportunity to see AR798 for myself... But I can sure see its handiwork. Not only is the north a deep, dark red, but those white spires are stabbing all the way up to the zenith!

Not caring if I had to go to work with wet hair, I watch for as long as I dared and by around 5:15 the dawn was stealing the show. Despite that half moon and the blood red call of Mars, the morning put on a show that had to be seen to be believed.

When I got home from work, the skies were clear enough to set a scope on the Sun. I was too late to catch 798 before it rounded the limb, but I did have the opportunity to see 800. OK. "See" is the operating word here. For some reason the cat Z had taken a fancy to pawing at the sunspot on the TV screen and he was giving me fits trying to focus. (you do realize the reason i name my pets in single letters is so i can shave their names onto their sides, don't you?) I guess the photography end of it really doesn't matter. Because, thanks to H, what matters most is...

I lucked into the aurora!

"This time I'm mistaken... For handing you a heart worth breakin'..."

August 24, 2005 - A Binocular Night...

Comments: Clear? Yes. Cooler temperatures means Ohio is finally getting some nice sky, but the clarity was not as good as the previous night. As always, what I write comes from experience and in researching for the next two week's worth of articles, it was time to take out the little 5X30s and 16X50s and have a sit.

First off, I had to swoop the south. You know I love it. Everything from the big globulars to the happy ones. I love the M4, M80, M19, M14, M60, M22 and M28. Next up? Well, ya' just gotta' see M6, M7, M21, M18, M24 and M11, don't you? Of course, I spent plenty of time drooling on M8, and M17 as well.

Then it was off to enjoy the little bitty M27 and just generally tour the Cygnus area. I'm looking for something cool to tell readers to look at, and I darn well don't want just a Messier. When I tripped across NGC 6871 I realized I had found it. Between resolved and unresolved stars, this is just a really fine open cluster in binoculars.

Capping things back up, I smile up at the sky. I really wish this hadn't have been working night! Ah, well. My time is coming and Black Forest waits on the horizon...

Very, very soon.

"It's not like you... To say sorry. But, I'm always waiting on different story."

August 22, 2005 - M4, M80, M19, M8, M20, M21, M22, M28, M17, M11, M27, M71, M57, and NGC 6826...

Comments: What a superior night! Yes, it's still the same "day", but some 20 or so hours later than my Mars observation. Although the day had been long, I was still feeling pretty good between napping and being productive. When I knocked off work a little after 9:00, I let H out for a run and noticed the skies were going to be outstanding.

And it's cool!

Pulling the 12.5" out to my favourite spot, I realized I should be working on my globular cluster studies, but it's really been so long since I just enjoyed clear skies - I couldn't help myself. Sticking with mid-range power, I had the best time just picking out summer favorites like the dusty M4 and the powerpunch M80. For some reason, I am always impressed with the squeezed, blue M19 and so I go there as well.

Sagittarius? Trip the light fantastic, brothers. I looked at much, much more than what I listed, but I really lingered over some places like the M8. I really dig the "Lagoon" with its dark dustlane, embedded cluster and bright "hourglass". Other things like the M20 are equally impressive and tonight the dark dustlanes shoot all the way towards the edges and the southern one ends in a delicious ribbon of nebula. The M21? Just because it's there. The M22? Mainly because I find this one heck of a nice globular cluster and the M28 is also outstanding. M17? The word "yum" ring any bells? Large aperature shreds nebulae, and hands you structure. It's a beauty.

Seeing the eastern horizon begin to glow, I headed off to capture the "Wild Ducks" next and I love the pure resolution this telescope offers. M27? Wishing I had more power to pick out the central, but still totally delighted in its "living" qualities. M71? Another one of those, 'I just dig it.' objects. And the "Ring"? It's just cool. You know it, and I know it! The last? Well, it took me a few minutes because it had been a long time since I had looked up NGC 6826. It's really a fine little planetary nebula, and it's often referred to as the "Blinking Nebula". I don't know about blink, but I do know if you hold it in direct vision that you cannot see the central star, but you lose the nebula and the star pops right out on avert.

By now, that eastern glow was more than just a suggestion. Walking to the edge of the field, I stood and watched a phat, orange Moon come out of the tree tops. As always, watching it rise fascinates me. I will stare as I see a treetop cover a particular mare or mountainous region and you can see it move... Ah, sweet sky. You can see it move.

And it moves me.

"This is how you remind me of what I really am."

August 22, 2005 - Mars...

Comments: Yes, it's "Vampyre". I know I should be working on some of my projects with my time before I leave, but I also have clear skies on my hands and an itching desire to see Mars. Grabbing the hande on the "grasshopper" the 12.5" and I headed just outside the door to have a peek. Despite inadequate cool down time, I was incredibly pleased with what I saw!

Yep, the "picture" was rather swimmy, but the polar cap and blue haze is very, very distinguishable. You can see a few dark markings right now and I just am really pleased. I would suggest to everyone who reads these reports to get on out there and have a look! Being higher in the sky is really adding some sharpness to the image that was missing a couple of years ago. In the weeks ahead, it's going to be very easy to tell what face of Mars we're looking at. Valles Manneris? Chryse Basin? Although I don't have my map handy to tell you which part it was, I can tell ya' what it looked like...

The Moosehead. ;)

Now I better check my e.mail and scoot off to work. Mars is back.

"This is how you remind me of what I really am."

August 20, 2005 - The Storm, At the Observatory, and Under the Stars...

Comments: This is the third weekend, which is usually invovled in astronomy activities if I do not have to work. It's been quite a few months since I had attended because of my schedule and I guess it's just time to let some things go. I had talked with a deeply good friend earlier and asked him to meet me so I could return some things. On the way there? Running through the storm.

The skies had cleared (they always are when you're around, my friend) and at least it had quit raining by the time we met. I gave him what I had, and was very surprised at what we had found. I guess it really is time to let things go when I'm not even realizing what's there. I am sure it will serve everyone well, and amidst our reluctant and temporary goodbyes, it is time for me to head to the Observatory to drop off this load I'm carrying. I am so happy that I could hug the Rupp Family. You'll never know just how appreciated this equipment truly is! It's still incredibly balmy despite some rain, and I hustle to put everything away and head back to where I came from.

Running through the storm.

As I drove through rain so hard that it was difficult to see, I noticed a weird light in the clouds. By gosh, that's the Sun! At one point, I realized that it was shining enough that there ought to be a rainbow, so I stopped the truck and got out to look. Unfortunately there was nothing behind me but the storm. A little disappointed, I climbed back in and headed the last 10 miles or so back home. Just as soon as I started to park? I spotted it.

It's very faded, mostly because the Sun had reached the horizon then, but it was there. I guess I was looking for that promise. You know, the promise that says that you might have to go through a storm to find the Sun setting at the other end, but there's still a rainbow from the way you came. Sometimes the cosmos and God works in mysterious ways to tell you that everything is gonna' be all right. That rainbow might be faded and hard to see, but it's still right there...

Pasted on the storm clouds of where you've been.

When all the storms had gone by, it was time for me to find the solitude of swimming again. I've spent far too much of my summer worrying about one thing or another and between the rainbow and the water, a great weight has been lifted. I let go and relax. I watch the Moon with a slight curve of shadow along its edge. I smile at the stars of Saggitarius and yell out loud as a meteor zips overhead. I stay right there, and am happy until the clouds come back a couple of hours later. I guess if I'm going to move ahead and not back toward the storm, its time to open my eyes, drive away from the black clouds, and appreciate everything anew. From the low fog sneaking in across the warm, rain soaked fields...

To the stars overhead.

"Tired of living like a blind man... Sick of sight without a sense of feeling...

And this is how you remind me."

August 19, 2006 - Nightswimming...

Comments: So hot in Ohio! The humidity is simply relentless and although I mostly hide in air conditioning, it takes its toll. Between just a little overstressed and overworked, the moment I got home I fell into a deep sleep and didn't awake for over three hours. With the sunset filled with clouds, I really didn't believe the skies would clear at all, so I devoted the majority of my evening to catching up on articles and working on the book. Around 9:00, I knew I needed some rest, so I turned everything off and decided a swim would do me some good.

By 9:30, I had the cover off, the cooler full of beer, and my old hide in the cool water. I kept watch on the sky because I didn't feel like braving a storm, but there were enough "holes" that I could see stars. Feeling myself unwind, I did some laps and enjoyed a cold beer. I could see the edges of the clouds and just how bright the rising full Moon was going to be, so I just let go, folks. I let go of everything and just enjoyed it. Like a silver sunrise, it came towering up the southeast skyline, illuminating the cloud edges in silver. Little by little, those clouds pushed back and Arcturus, Antares, Vega, Deneb and Altair came out to play. I would float along peacefully, the water shutting my ears of of sound and the stars shutting my mind off of thought. How wonderful it feels to be cool at last! There is nothing like the almost weightless state that swimming produces, and grateful old bones snap and pop as stress slides away.

Higher and higher the Moon climbs, illuminating the fields and trees in a soothing blue light. The surface of the water turns to silver and the slightest ripple sends a hundred moons winking across the surface. I watch satellites and planes fly over, occassionally occulting a star and making me laugh. When I come to the edge, it is to see a black wolf running loose... Heading towards me with a silly grin on his face and wanting splashed. The radio plays quietly and the peace is what I needed. Looking up at the stars, I realize that this is how you remind me of what I really am.

Reluctant to leave, I at last pull the cover back on and reintroduce myself to gravity as I climb the ladder. All too soon these warm summer nights will be gone....

But I enjoyed right now.

"Couldn't cut it as a poor man stealin'...."

August 17, 2005 - Venus, Jupiter and the Moon...

Comments: It's Wednesday... And on Wednesday nights I shut down and enjoy my favourite television program - Ghost Hunters. It's a very cool program. A bunch of hard core skeptics who very rarely find anything, but it's great fun watching them go through the scientific process of disproving the theory that there are ghosts. What's that? Do I believe? Of course. I've had many paranormal experiences. Let's just say that after an entire summer of activly pursuing known hauntings - I stopped.

The stars are a whole lot less creepy.

But, I still enjoy the show and as I watch I divide my attention between it and the wonderful display that Jupiter and Venus are making just outside the west picture window. If anybody were actually there to see, they would have probably though I was crazy, but I'm having a great time watching the pair draw closer together. They are considerably less than 20 degrees apart now and I know that it's not going to be long until they are going to make an awesome conjunction.

After the show, I was happy to sit outside while H makes his evening run. The phat Moon is truly beautiful and I very much enjoy the way its silvery blue light makes the outdoors look. I end up walking out by the pool and looking at the Moon reflecting on the surface. And the next thing you know? Well... Why not?

It's been a very long time since I swam in the moonlight.

"Never made it as a wise man..."

August 16, 2005 - The Moon...

Comments: After days of clouds and rain, you know we need a touch of sky. Come now. Take off your shoes and lay your worries aside. Let's walk barefoot in the warm, summer grass out to the back field where the tree frogs sing and the fireflies light up the trees like Christmas. There's a telescope set up out here. She's old, like me. A bit broken down at the edges, but she still works fine. Her name is Celestron and there's a glorious phat Moon out there...

And this is how you remind me.

Here. Sssssh. Yes, come over here with me. Let's look in the eyepiece and you tell me what you see. A dark desert with rings on its edges and mountains? Move over. Yeah. That's what I need. It's the graceful old Gassendi caught on the edge of Mare Humorum. It's beautiful, isn't it? Just look at the southern edge where the lava flows have wasted it away. Come here. See that soft central peak? I wonder how tall it is. Look again. Do you see that long, low rimae that runs through the Mare? Like a wave that's been forever frozen... Over there. That's Hippalus on the edge there. It looks almost like a little Sinus Iridum, doesn't it? Yeah. I saw you smile. How about Doppelmeyer on the other side... Aaaah.... Such a peaceful place. The Moon is so wonderful, isn't it?

This is how you remind me of what I really am.

Let me see now. Oh, wow... Look. Look up here! Just look at how bright Aristarchus is tonight. Ouch. You stepped on my foot! OK. Maybe it was H. Don't remember your toenails being that long. But I do remember once upon a time watching that crater during a full lunar eclipse and seeing the terminator rush towards it. Man, that was a pretty incredible sight. I wish you could have been here to see it. Move over now. It's my turn. You know, I can't help but wonder what chemicals are in the lunar soil that makes Aristarchus shine so bright. Oh, hey! It's your turn again. Look really close. See that ruined little ring right beside it? That's Herodotus. You can even see where it looks like the lunar sands have drifted up along its edge. Hmmm? Oh, yeah. Here ya' go. That's all the power I got. Huh? Sure. I wanna' see. Oh, my... Come here. Your turn again. If you look closely you can see a bright thread by the terminator. I remember when you told me about this one, Mr. Wizard. Sure I remember. It's Schroeter's Valley. It might be hard to believe, but it's only 2 to 5 miles wide. Can you believe that? Here we are in the middle of a field in Nowhere, Ohio and we're looking at something that's a quarter of a million miles away and seeing something that's no wider than the distance to that cell tower over there! That is so incredible...

This is how you remind me of what I really am.

So what you think? Shall we look at Alberio before we go in? Yeah. You know I love it. If you think that's cool, wait until you see Omicron Cygni! Hahahhahaaa... I could see your face in the silver moonlight. It's pretty incredible, isn't it? What's that? Yeah. Yeah, I'm tired, too. But it feels good, doesn't it? Just being out here. The lilies look so magical in the moonlight.

And so do you.

"It's not like you... To say sorry. But I'm always waiting on a different story. This time I'm mistaken... For handing you a heart worth breakin'.

I've been wrong. I've been down... Into the bottom of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream.... Are we havin' fun yet?

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. No. No. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. No. No."

August 13, 2005 - Lightning and the RAS BBQ...

Comments: Lord, but was I tired today! With nothing more than a long nap to call a night's sleep, the heat and humidity seemed to drain me all the more quickly. Still, I am looking forward to seeing my friends tonight and as soon as I walk in the door I get the famous "Death By Potatoes" casserole in the oven. Did I mention I was tired? Yeah. Tired enough that all it took was sitting in a chair to nod right out. If it wasn't for my kitchen timer, I probably never would have woken back up.

Taking a fast shower, I look out the window and realize I best hurry for two reasons. One - having worked today means I'm running late for our annual BBQ and two? There's an almighty storm coming. By the time the casserole and I made a run for the car, it was too late. The rain was already coming down in sheets and the wind was ripping leaves and twigs down from the trees. I could see that I was going to run along just a step ahead of the storm and that's exactly what I did.

For about 10 miles I was paralleling it. Even inside an enclosed car with the CD player jamming, that unmistakeable sizzle and earsplitting BOOM of lightning far too close was giving me the willies. Brighter than anything I can even imagine, the interior of the car would light up for a split second and the sound would me make jump and whistle even though I knew it was coming. Stepping on the gas to get out of harm's way, I was very glad when the turns I had to make put me in running distance ahead of it. The wind is its predecessor and the roads through both Clearfork and up to the Observatory were a maze of downed branches.

Shooting up the Hill, I didn't see anyone and I hoped I wasn't too late. No sooner than I stepped out of the car than the rain caught up with me here as well and I'm glad to see everyone set up inside the dome eating! With the BBQ tucked up top behind the Clubhouse, there's more than enough room inside for a picnic to carry on despite the weather.... And it doesn't take long to fill a plate and find a spot. The food is always wonderful and only Mike G. can fix ribs as good, if not better than, the infamous New Riegel. As the rain hammers on the dome roof, it doesn't matter. We're covered!

After the storm passes, we head back to the "attic" to look up the crating materials to remove the 31" mirror for re-surfacing. Joe has kept me laughing since I sat down and I will never see Stephen Hawking the same again. (and hopefully i made him smile as well, eh? ;) When the crate is out and ready to go, so am I. I linger on for awhile to talk, because so many folks I do not see often enough, but I really have to work as much as I hate to. Amidst handshakes, hugs, and pats on the back, this kid has got to split. I've had a wonderful time and I'm just glad I was off long enough to enjoy the company. We're all psyched about the mirror getting re-done and Hidden Hollow coming up so quickly. It's gonna' be great! There's so many good things coming in the future...

And I am so honoured to be a part of it.

"This is how you remind me of what I really am."

August 12, 2005 - Perseids and Lightning...

Comments: Again, it is not a very clear night, but some transparency means that I am willing to go out and watch for the Perseids. I had tried much earlier this morning before I went to work, but not much besides Betelguese and Mars showed through before dawn. As always, the invitation is extended for anyone in the household to join me and oddly enough they do...

One at a time.

It's peaceful enough. I've lit one of those clever mosquito coils and its incense-like qualities keep the beasties away. We talk as we watch the sky and the Perseids deliver. With a really good one about every 10 minutes or so, we tease each other when someone was looking the other way. Most of them were lateral, perferring to cut across Pegasus rather than Cynus as they had earlier in the week. And they are very grand! These bright meteors leave wonderful sparkling trails that see to hang in the sky for a couple of seconds. The magnitude was wonderful and my guess would be the actual meteor comes in close to a -4.

The hours pass as everything comes to the table - be it a concern or nothing more than sharing a dumb joke. I have noticed that most people yell when a bright traveller passes by, so I do not feel so dumb when I find myself crying out. Heck, I can have a mouthful of soda and still manage some strange sort of noise to signfy direction. Even the dog looks! (and he does not like it because there are storms in the air and the flash looks too much like lightning.)

After the midnight hour, there was lightning. Ohio's high heat and humidity always brings storms. Even though you cannot yet see the system that spawns the lightning - it's there. The flashes across the north mean that it's not long in coming either. After having viewed a couple of dozen excellent meteors, it was time to call it in.

Sometimes that lightning hits too close to home.

"This is how you remind me of what I really am."

August 11, 2005 - Observing the Perseids...

Comments: It's a hot night with hazy skies and not the ideal time to be looking for meteors, but a clear canopy above means I am willing to try. With storms still in the forecast, lightning means messed up radio observations, so I'm willing to try tonight. At this point in my life, a radio playing static at full volume is not welcome to others in the household and I guess I'll eventually wind up back in the garage if I'm still allowed in there. Guess ya' gotta' take the bad with the good, huh?

My choice was the old redwood chair, but that didn't last long either. The music's too loud, the mosquitoes are in the grass, etc. I'm sure you've all heard this story, haven't you? So I head back up to the deck, do my best to kick back without causing permanent spinal injury, and just start to relax. Well, meteor watching is a funny thing. You can't always make those things come out of the sky when you want them too. You might sit for three hours of nothing... And you might get lucky. That's the way it is. Tonight? I think it's awesome. The radiant is just beginning to rise and I'm seeing at least one good one every 15-20 minutes. For someone else? That ain't cuttin' it. We all know the ideal time would be after midnight, but that's not going to happen right now either. We take what we can get.

I just keep trying to go with the flow and wishing those slow moving clouds wouldn't keep creeping in like that. I watch until I have to retire and I sneak out later to look. Unfortunately, those clouds held each time I would check. My hand itches to turn on that radio, but I've no wish to tick off the household with my "noise". Sighing. I go back to bed and get up a wee bit early. Still, there's clouds. Of course, it's a good meteor shower and I know the odds are in favour that the skies won't cooperate. It's all good. I've seen meteor showers before, eh? God only knows I was blessed with a perfect night for the Leonid storm and it just doesn't get much better than that.

There's always tomorrow.

"It's not like you didn't know that. Said I love you, and I swear I still do. And it must have been so bad... Cuz' livin' with me must of damn near killed you...

And this is how you remind me."

August 9, 2005 - At the Observatory: "Starry Nights"...

Comments: I have realized for some time now that this is the last camp program for 2005. In its own way, it's kinda' depressing, because that means the summer is quickly drawing to a close. During the day, I mentally prepare myself for this evening's program, deciding to do our favourite spin through our own solar system and warp across our galaxy and on to infinity at light speed. Perhaps at some level, I'm just not ready for things to end, for it's one of "those" nights... The type where you keep forgetting things - or spill coffee on your cool, white shirt as you're walking out the door.

When I arrived, it was to find John N. set up and ready to go. I am so proud of him. He has been one of our strongest member supporters this year and his help so appreciated. He has his new observing stool that he has made, and although it's getting close on time, we still laugh, talk and joke as always. As we stand at the outdoor chart table, I watch Jupiter and the Moon through the tree line and with my old video camera in hand, walk behind the edge of the dome to capture them all together.

It's a pleasant scene, at it's another one of those "how you remind me" moments. I am a lot of things, but there's this special corner in my life that's happiest right here, hearing the kids wound up in the outdoor theatre below us, and waiting on them to arrive for the evening. John and I both laugh at the superb accoustics inside the dome as the open slit picks up their talent show and "broadcasts" it against the inside of the dome. It's just one of those curiousities that make me smile, and I busy myself readying all the props for the evening's program. It won't be long until they are here and I like being organized.

Joe arrives and not long after Dave and John B. They set about doing their things and we confer as to the progression of how we'll carry it out. When we hear the young folks arrive at the foot of the hill, I take a flashlight and walk to the edge to see them all below. Joe joins me as we watch them go through their evening ceremonies. I think perhaps we are both sometimes nostalgic, and as we look at perhaps 350 campers below us, we wish that we could touch them all... But the reality check is that we could never handle that number. Even if we devoted every night of the week, we could never go through them all. And as the groups break up, they start up the hill and it's time for us to do our thing.

We have become well practiced and it is a good thing. The young folks are introduced around and I find myself laughing inside as they peer into the dome for the first time. I love their exclamations! As they gather together on the dome floor, it's time to fire up their imaginations and to teach them just a bit more than what they came with. We explore true sizes and true distances, putting our solar system into perfect perspective. We whisk along our own galaxy and learn about distant worlds. Joe is quickly perfecting his own brand of program and as we learn about why we put telescopes into space, he takes over and throws a bigger perspective as we look through the eyes of the Hubble Deep Field.

As always, we are amazed at how quickly they grasp concepts and just how much some of them really know. Eager hands shoot up as we ask questions about what they have just learned and correct answers are rewarded with all manner of great handouts from JPL/NASA. I cannot thank "SpacePlace" enough, for they would be surprised at how much these young folks treasure the things they are given. In a very well ordered manner, they take turns at the 31" and visit with the scopes outdoors. They are not ready to leave tonight, and the green laser is turned to toward the sky in great admiration as star charts are translated to visuals. A few of them are so curious about the meteors they see and sneak back inside as we are closing things down to handle a meteor and ask questions. But, before they all leave, they are kind enough to stand in the dome and allow me to take their picture.

Amidst excited chatter and thank yous, they are gone again, like the fleeting days of summer. Like a well oiled machine, it's only minutes until we have all got equipment stowed away and things buttoned up for the night. A hazy early evening has turned into very fine skies and I do believe every one of us wishes we did not have to work so we could stay on. As the flag is put away and the last of the lights are turned off, we head out our separate ways. This summer has been a very successful year for "Starry Nights" and I am so proud of our Club and members for their support.

I drive home and watch Sagittarius spilling the Milky Way out across the sky. I might be getting old and tiring quicker than I used to, but there is still magic in the night. I pass a doe who stands with ears alert at the edge of the road, and smile at the owl who flies out of the tree as I turn in the driveway. It's been a magnificent summer.

And I'm just not ready for it to be over with yet.

"I've been wrong. I've been down... Into the bottom of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream... Are we having fun yet?

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. No. No."

August 8, 2005 - Venus, the Moon, Jupiter and the Perseid Meteors...

Comments: With storms expected in the forecast for the days ahead, I won't take any chances at not seeing the Perseids. To be honest with you, I'd rather only catch a couple of them early than to miss out on them altogether.

Tired from having worked vampyre and double duty here, I walked out to the deck with a cold beer and sat down to first gaze on the beauty of the western skyline. Tucked down neatly just above the distant privacy fence, I could see Venus over the rooftops of the few houses we call a village. Hung above it to the south as a healthy crescent Moon that hid amoungst the branches of the bittersweet tree from this viewpoint. Clearing the small ornamental, the majestic Jupiter looked down on them. Although I tried to take a picture by walking out to the back field, I had waited kinda' late and it doesn't look like anything more than a tiny crescent with a wink above it and a wink below it.

Settling into my corner chair, I can't help but admire the scene. My oldest son totally redid my deck in natural wood and the daylillies surrounding it are now in bloom. The hanging baskets of flowers are just cascading this year, and the scene is very gently lit by soft solar lights which only cast the most pleasing of light. Suprisingly enough, someone comes to join me. For once, the soft music is left to play and there are no complaints about being outdoors. As we sit on opposite sides of the table, we watch as a handful of bright travellers streak across the sky over the next two hours. They are spectacular meteors, and one leaves a long and lasting trail along the spine of Cygnus down through Sagittarius. Only the north and directly above would even be worth scoping tonight, but I am tired and content to just sit and watch.

There will be other nights.

"It's not like you... To say sorry. But I'm always waitin' on a different story. This time I'm mistaken... For handin' you a heart with breakin'."

August 6, 2005 - At The Observatory: Public Night...

Comments: As always, our Public Nights are preceeded by our monthly RAS meetings and what great one it was, too! Not only did we have two guests attend the meeting, but the biggest majority of our active members were there. What great fun it is to share good news and make plans!

And the guest keep right on comin' in...

Hustling to wrap things up and get the show on the road, Joe hurries into the dome to get the 31" set on an object. In the meantime, Dan is doing wonderfully with the crowd and Terry and I start getting scopes out and ready to use. We've got a wonderfully mixed group of people and all hands are welcome to use the telescopes. It so good to hear our members in action!

The skies aren't the greatest, but that doesn't stop us. With everyone grabbing a scope, we took full opportunity of every open area and starting knocking things down out of the sky. You name it... All across Scorpius, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Scutum, Cygnus, Hercules, Lyra, and more. Kids, teenagers, adults... Everyone had something to do. Binoculars are handed around and we happily point things out to aim at. As people take turns at the big scope, we fly 'em along on the ground and Terry just can't miss tonight. I am so proud of him! Joe has things tuned in and his charmed find for the night is a challenging globular cluster known as Palomar 10. It's wonderful to see our visitors not afraid to try their hand at a telescope and the hours just passed too quickly.

Off and on, I would take the young folks aside who were curious and teach them about the true size of our solar system and how we look for distant planets. They were shown star maps and how to translate them to what they see in the sky, and they learned why we put telescopes into space. As quick as a wink, they grasped light speed and each time I would look up? More and more folks were coming to listen. Come one? Come all! That's what we're here for.

With hands full of goodies from JPL/NASA, the young'uns tired out soon and it was truly our pleasure to have them here. Little by little, despite the great meteor show, folks got tired and it ended up just being Joe, Terry and me. We thought for awhile about putting the big scope on some more stuff, but really found ourselves quite happy eating Terry's potato chips and sitting on the picnic table watching the meteors. Between the three of us, it doesn't take long to get everything put away and buttoned back up for the evening. We had around 35 guests tonight and it was so grand to see people interested in the Observatory again. As we tell each other good night and head our separate ways, I am the last to leave and the last thing I see is our new sign. Call it a sign of the times...

Warren Rupp Observatory is back.

"This is how you remind me of what I really am.

August 2, 2005 - At The Observatory: Starry Nights...

Comments: What a beautiful night! For once we were able to offer the kids some clear skies. When I arrived, John N. was already set up to go. We talked for awhile and I was very pleased to show him some of the great things we have been receiving for our "Hidden Hollow" event. I get so tickled when I get these things and it's so wonderful to share the excitement!

I check my watch and realize I better head into the dome and get things ready for the young folks. As great as the skies are going to be tonight, I'm afraid I've got a bit of a problem with my eyes and they're be no scoping for this kid. As much as I would prefer to give an interactive program, tonight I'm relying heavily on video programs because I simply can't see very well. The one thing I can see is clumsy old me stepping on someone while I try to explain something, so I try to keep things as simple as possible tonight.

Not long afterward, Joe joins us and I am thrilled to show him some of what we've received. I watch his facial expressions and I can see where he, too, is touched by the generousity of our benefactors. We've all watched the meteorite program featuring Robert Haag, and to hold one of his finds - a very, very generous one - is somewhat akin to holding a legend. When I can get Joe's attention, I show him a letter from Meade Corporation and once again I watch his face. His reaction was much like my own - stunned. We cannot thank these people enough!

John B. and Dave also come into the dome. Which one of us can resist a clear night? While they also check things out, we hear the kids below. Their excited talk and singing proceeds them and we all stand at the top of the hill and watch as quite probably close to 300 young folks gather for their evening ceremonies. How we wish we could touch them all! When the lights go out, our two groups arrive and it's time to give them a show.

We are pleased as we observe how attentively they watch the video, and even more pleased to see all the hands to answer the questions I pose them to win SpacePlace handounts. They really were paying attention! (no fighting now... everyone gets something!) Joe whisks them away with the eyes of the Hubble and I ready the camera to try and capture them all...

Such a wonderful group! They all wave for the great folks at JPL/NASA and The Night Sky Network. Many of the faces you see here come every year and some of them have waited several seasons to get a chance to tour the Observatory. One of the counsellors I very much recognize and he told me how when he was a camper that he had a chance to see Shumaker-Levy 9 impact Jupiter. Another counsellor told me he had traded places with another, because he just had to see the place! The kids are the greatest. Many of the older ones had been here before in previous years, and it is revelations like this that make it all seem worthwhile.

While Joe takes them up to the eyepiece to view the "Ring" nebula, some of them head outdoors to view through the scopes on the ground. They split up nicely into groups, and while I have a hard time focusing, the dark sure helps and I'm delighted to explain sky movements, answer questions, and point things out. The time passes all too quickly and it's not long before everyone has had an opportunity to view through all the telescopes. For some strange reason, it's a thing that appeals more to the males than the females, but there was still a wonderful group of gals laying on blankets and enjoying some of the early Perseids. What a night!

With things buttoned up, it's time to head home. John N. is going to stay on for awhile longer and study. I don't blame him. With clear skies like these, I'd be finishing up my globular studies in Saggitarius. While the thing with my eyes is only temporary, I sure do envy him. The darkness is soothing. As I carefully drive back home, I reflect on the evening. There's only one more Starry Nights program left for 2005 and the summer is fading fast. I always have the very best time working with the campers and I hope the years ahead will allow me many more such opportunities.

To enjoy every last second...

"This is how you remind me of what I really am."

August 1, 2005 - The "Vampyre Globulars": M75, M30, M2, M72, NGC 7492, NGC 6760, NGC 7006, NGC6934... During "Human" Hours: M3, M5, M13, M92, M10, M12, M4, M80, M14, M19, M9, M62, and M56...

Comments: Yep. Up and out after the midnight hour. More than anything, I was waiting on aurora that didn't happen, but I'm not going to waste a clear night. Telescope: 12.5 Meade Eyepieces: 26mm Meade IV, 12.3mm ED Epic, since this report will be at two times on the same date, know that the first section was viewed between 12:30 and 1:45 a.m. and the second section was between 10:15 and 11:45 p.m. Both sessions the sky was an easy 5.5, stability for the early hours was better at 8/10 a less stable during the early evening at 6/10. A Meade Magellan navigation unit was used.

M75 - Small, bright and compact, this globular cluster can hurt your eyes it's so full of stars. Slight resolution at the edges and the whole thing looks like a core. Class I.

M30 - Again, bright and definately large. This one is capable of stunning resolution and has a classic condensation towards the center that almost perfectly matches the exterior resolution. Class V.

M2 - Stunning! Tremendously bright. Very heavily concentrated and only the very edges offer spacing between the stars. Well resolved, but truly populous. Class II?

M72 - Fairly bright but small, this globular totally resolves. Very little to no core region, but still holds the gobular form. Class VIII?

NGC 7492 - Very faint. This globular is a loose collection of fine stellar points in a round pattern. Class XII.

NGC 6760 - Faint, but extremely compact and recognizable as a concentrated globular. Nice field! Class III?

M15 - Hey. What can you say? I love the planetary nebula in this one and it's really a super globular. It rocks in any scope. Class III.

NGC 7006 - This highly compact little globular is faint, but considering it's the furtherest away, I'm pleased to see it. I know the Class. I.

NGC 6934 - A bit larger and a whole lot brighter. This globular is definately a little dust ball. A bigger scope would resolve it. Class IX.

Now I gotta' scoot. Work calls. Catch ya' later, Mars!

Home well before lunchtime and off to nap. The skies are still clear! When I catch up on e.mail, I see where we did indeed get clobbered with the proton stream and it happened just as I was walking into work! Figures doesn't it?

No matter. It's a clear night and I want to pick up some more studies.

M3 - Low sky position. Superior huge cluster. Wonderful resolution. Class V.

M5 - Superior huge cluster. Well resolved and definately oblate. Class V.

M13 - Wonderful resolution. It's great! Class V.

M92 - Not quite as great as the first, but it's damn close. A little more concentrated. Class IV.

M10 - A real beauty with a fair concentration. Class VII.

M12 - Very similar, but much more dusted out with resolution. Class IX.

M4 - Huge, perfectly resolved and total dust. This one is Class X.

M80 - Wham, bam! This one is great. A true power punch. Class I.

M14 - Outstanding globular. Slight concentration toward middle. Class VIII?

M19 - Stunning. Love the blue color and football shape. Well resolved. Class VII?

M9 - Beautiful little cluster. Very little concentration. Class IX.

M62 - Nicely concentrated, but it's shaped funny. Pulled. Class V.

M56 - A nice, big, phat dustball. Class X.

And so I thank the Meade Magellan. Ordinarily, I could not do studies that quickly and the help is appreciated. It might be imaginousity...

But that north sky looks awfully pink.

"Never made it as a wise man. I couldn't cut it as a poor man stealin'. Tired of living like a blind man. I'm sick of sight without a sense of feelin'.

And this is how you remind me..."