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June 2005






June 29, 2005 - The Moon and Mars...

Comments: Although this really isn't much of an observance, it was still totally cool. I had to leave for work very early this morning and the heat and passing storms have made the skies not even worth trying. Of course, I glanced up when I let the dog out - but nothing was out there. Going about my morning routines, I headed out to the car and the light of the Moon stopped me dead in my tracks and left me smiling.

Hanging out over the blossoming bean field is the waning phat crescent of the Moon and about two finger widths away to the southwest was bright Mars. Framed by the moving clouds, it really was a pretty sight and a great way to start the day off with a grin and a nod towards the heavens.

Looks like this day is gonna' be alright.

"Na na na na na na... Did you fall from shooting star? From a shooting star? Na na na na na na... And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?"



June 27, 2005 - At the Observatory...

Comments: Vampyre shift? Yep. The sky was very muddy when I got up. The Moon was just rising and you could almost swear it was in eclipse it was such a dark orange. Extremely hot and humid, even in the middle of the night, that Moon stayed orange until the Sun rose.

The day was equally hot and humid. It felt good to find an airconditioned spot and nap away for a few hours. When I got back up, it was time to do my chores and head over to the Observatory to give a program. Educator, Dean, had been a guest at one of our public nights and he took us up on our offer to give a night sky tour for his students. And it is here that I must apologize, for I am the one who made the skies cloudy, dude....

As all astronomers know, you can't buy a new telescope because of the age-old curse. When I arrived at the Observatory, Stuart was waiting on me and he had a "Harley friendly" cutie with him that I had talked him into selling me - a Celestron Nexstar 102. I fell in love with this the first night I saw it, and he had assured me that it was going to be one of the easiest scopes I had ever used. Trim, light, and extremely portable, we took it up to the observing area and he taught me the only way I learn - hands on. And I am impressed! Within minutes, I had it assembled and ready to go. The technology behind this little scope is just incredible, and I know I stood open-mouthed while I watched it "do its thing".

Minutes later, John N. came along and he was all grins. Me. The total die-hard who said they would never use GoTo technology is now the proud owner of a GoTo scope that is very easily within range of carry-on luggage. I have never had a scope that was this light, this portable, and this capable! Well, while I was busy getting the teasing I so richly deserve, Dean came along and it wasn't long after until his students began to arrive as well. Time to open things up!

John had graciously volunteered to run the 31" for the evening, so while he prepped his end, I set up for our program. Thanks to some very nice supplies from "Night Sky Network", I now have some additional teaching props and they are so very welcome. When it looks like everyone is here, it's into the Dome we go and off to learning. These kids are smart - very smart... And it didn't take very long until I realized that there was no danger of talking over their heads. They laughed, the jumped and ran, and they all participated as Joe and I put the solar system into perspective. We listened, we handled, we touched and we all had a wonderful time.

About 45 minutes later, we went out for a sky check and learned the astronomy curse works. For just a moment, Jupiter did peek out, but the appulse was a no show. At least the kids were very excited to see the Mighty Jove and its moons! John took the laughing, excited bunch rides in the lift and we did the very best we could to show them a good time under cloudy skies.

When thanks and goodnights are said, it's time to break things down and head home. Again, Stuart is a dream and stands by while I disassemble. Packed up in two very small bags, it only takes a moment to realize this whole scope fits into less than half the space in my car as the comparable Orion 4.5... and I thought it was small! The Celestron will be a great adventure, and I very much look forward to using it.

Dean? We thank you, your students and parents for making Summer 2005 at the Observatory just a little more special. John and Joe? I thank you for being there. And Stuart?

I'm gonna' love it.

"Na na na na na na.... Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day?"



June 25, 2005 - Conjunction!

Comments: Let's set the stage here. Late afternoon... Temperature in the mid 90s with high humidity. Skies are trash. Before sunset, the storms roll in. Lashing winds, sizzling lightning, claps of thunder, hysterical dogs, shredding hail and pounding rain. Chances for seeing tonight's planetary conjunction?

0%.

At 10:00, I looked outside. By all that's holy! That's Jupiter!! Grabbing the binos and the car keys, off I go for my favourite country road and Venus is twinkling just above the storm line. Rolling down the window, I didn't dare to hope, but I was hoping anyway. Oh, my gosh. There they are. A little black cloud seemed to hang forever over Saturn, but Mercury winked in an out with ease. Lowering the binoculars, I couldn't see Saturn unaided, but Mercury did twinkle through the clouds. Grinning, I held out my thumb like a psychotic hitchhiker and covered them up. It's true! And then went right back to watching again.

The freakish clear hole didn't last long. Both Mercury and Saturn were only visible for about 10 minutes, but at least I was alert and got to see the conjunction. Sometimes we get little gifts from the sky gods, and when opportunity knocks?

You gotta' be there to open the door.

"And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?"



June 24, 2005 - Saturn, Venus and Mercury...

Comments: Terribly, terribly trashy skies. Ohio is still in heat wave, and no rain means no high pressure system. As the Sun set, it look really doubtful that you could see the planets, for the western horizon has a "bruised" look to it. Even though the prognosis looks grim, doctor... I still had a drive out of the village and took binoculars.

Like a topaz, Venus still cuts through the dim horizon. Muddied, but still very visible. In the band of purple below it, you could just barely make out Mercury unaided, and it shown red through the binoculars. Saturn is not visible at all without optical aid, and even with it's nothing more than a tiny wink. Disappointed? No. You can still see them and there are all in the same field of view! Saturn is still just a tiny bit above and to the south of Venus, but it has dropped considerably since yesterday. Mercury is coming up towards Venus from the northwest and the two are very close - very close indeed!

And they are about to get much closer.

Heading back, I would have liked to have scoped, but the skies would be more frustrating than productive. Right now there's a very warm swimming pool inviting me to just laze around and enjoy the warm summer night...

And that's all right by me.

"Tell me... Did you fall for a shooting star? One without a permanent scar..."



June 23, 2005 - The Sun, The Planets, A Comet and the Lightning Bugs...

Comments: Blistering in the Sun... So why take a scope out? Because I need to know. Even though I took a towel with me to cover my head, it wouldn't have mattered. The Sun is blank! And it didn't look good for tonight. It's been so very hot and that makes for hazy evening skies, but by some stroke of luck the stars did come out to play. First order of business? Get thee away from trees and have a look at the conjunction!

Conjunction junction... What's your function?

You should see this. Venus is just blazing. Just barely visible to the unaided eye, Saturn hangs out just above and to the left. Also, dim is Mercury... And it's streaking! Now up from the lower right, Mercury is making a beeline for Venus. Photograph? No. None of my bush-league equipment is sensitive enough, and the very most pleasing views right now are through binoculars. The three are just awesome!

Back home, I took out the 4.5 to have a look a Jupiter and went back for the 12.5. You should see the moons! Io and Europa are so close together they look like a double star. I know they are moving towards transit, and here again is a photo opportunity that would just be incredible. Why? Because the great "Pink Spot" is visible as well!! I just keep watching and watching... Because this is really just too cool.

When I can peel myself away, I also have a go at 9/P Tempel 1. Tonight it's not so hot. The same haze that trashes the skies, also trash the view. Is it visible? Yes. But a smaller scope would just not pick it up. Tonight it is nothing more than a little fuzzball with a concentration toward the nucleus and the tail is only there because I know where to look. And then a meteor flashed through!

Grinning, I looked up. That's no meteor. That's the crazy lightning bugs - and they are now out in full force. The trees glitter like Christmas and you can see the rising out over the fields, carrying their tiny torches up towards the sky. I have one last look and Jupiter and that's enough.

There's a pool over there calling my name.

"But tell me did you sail across the Sun? Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded... And that heaven is overrated?"



June 22, 2005 - Chasing the Planets and Comet 9/P Tempel 1...

Comments: Clear skies? Yep! Clear enough, thank you. Just as soon as the Sun had set, I quit working and grabbed the capture view binoculars and headed out. Venus was absolutely blazing and I could just make out Saturn. While it's very possible for me to get clear western horizon right here, the only scenic view is about a quarter of a mile away and I ain't up to walking that far. Needless to say, a few minutes later, I had found a great county road with a nice silhouetted farmhouse (complete with lightning rods) to use as a backdrop. I'm happy snapping and beeping away to my heart's content. I can't put all three in the same view, but Venus and Mercury are just stunning.

Back before full sky dark, I hooked it up to the computer and found out within seconds that Meade's Capture View binoculars are not sensitive enough to do sky shots. Oh, well. At best, it wasn't even as good as what the camcorder can capture, so I guess I'll try with it. If I don't have a program to give come Monday? Hey, hey... Mercury and Venus will be in the same high power field of view and I'll do it with the little eyepiece imager!

Watch it rain...

Disappointed? Nah. I just went out and wheeled the 12.5 dobby to my favourite spot and had a go at 9/P Tempel 1. Just slightly east/southeast of Omircron Virginis, it's making a very nice showing. While it's not as grand as some, it's a more hard-edge comet. It's small, has a very well defined, wide short tail and a pinprick of a bright nucleus surrounded by a condensed coma. (nice stellar field, too... ;) Again, Tempel 1 is something that I would like to photograph - both before and after Deep Impact - but I am not going to stress it. I know from experience when I mess around with photography that I spend more time playing with the picture than I do viewing... And tonight I just stared at that comet until I remembered every detail.

And then sketched it.

"But tell me... Did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day.... And head back toward the Milky Way?"



June 20, 2005 - At the Observatory - Twice!

Comments: Vamypre shift? You betcha. I got up to a blazing Moon, a setting Jupiter and absolutely no will to do anything more than stand out on the deck with a cup of coffee and look at them.

And off to work...

We had a visitor from Michigan requesting a tour of Warren Rupp Observatory and I remember so very well how kindly astronomy people have treated me over the years when I have visited their states. Of course, we had a bit of trouble with formal communications, but who needs that when you have ESP? Larry had called me before I left work in the morning, and even though we lost each other, we didn't have any trouble finding each other on the road. Come on back!

It was really a pleasure having him and his family over for a visit. Everyone knows I dearly love the place and one of my greatest joys is to share - be it a ride to the top of the dome or just to peek inside! My only wish to you, my friend, was that the skies would have been dark and clear so you could have seen what this baby can do! Anyhow, I wish you and yours the very best. Them folks from Michigan are the greatest and you are always welcome here in Ohio!

When I got back, I was still running on adrenaline and after a nap that even a cat would not consider worthy, I was up and soliciting for Hidden Hollow as well as drafting my next article. Time for a good meal? Hey. You don't run on no fuel, and I don't call this the "vampyre shift" because I eat carrots, ok? No sooner than I had retired with my cup of coffee than Joe came up on instant messenger. We have a group of camp kids who would like to see through the Observatory scope and am I willing?

Count on it.

A fast shower and I was on my way. Once in a while, I don't bungle and it only took me minutes to have everything opened up, the scope set and ready and all we had to do was wait. Not long after the skies darkened, the wait was over and along came the young'uns... 85 of them! Plus counsellors!! Squealing, laughing, and tripping over their flip-flops, they climbed into the lift with me and we journeyed a quarter of a million miles away to visit the Moon. On the ground, John had joined us and as the groups came up, some would view Jupiter while others marveled over that distant landscape.

Was I tired? If I was, I didn't notice it. Over the years, astronomy has given me such peace, joy and pleasure that there is no price that I would not pay to share with others. It may be the only time in their lives that these souls will ever see what they have tonight, and for some? It may be the inspiration they need to go on to bigger and better things. To hear their exclamations as they go to the eyepiece and to see the wonder and joy on their faces is priceless, my friends. Astronomy has given to me and now it's my turn to give back.

When the last has left, Joe, John and I button things up in record time. I am ashamed that I can barely walk, but it keeps me awake as I watch Jupiter setting on the way back west. Funny that, it's almost in the same position as when I left for work almost 24 hours ago! I cannot ask for a finer experience. Twice in one day it has truly been my pleasure to have shared what I am...

And it keeps me going.

"Can you imagine no first dance? A freeze dried romance... No phone conversations. The best soy latte that you ever had... And me?"



June 18, 2005 - At Malibar Farm...

Comments: Those were some pretty scary looking clouds out there. I had left a little later than I had planned and about half expected the group to have packed up and moved on by the time I arrived, but was happy to see they had stuck it out. It's AFY public night at Malibar Farms and the skies don't look very promising.

It's OK. It gives time to visit amoungst friends and it's not long until others start to arrive as well. It's great to see Robert, for all I have to do is get within 2 feet of him and a wave of calm totally sweeps over me. Greg? All it takes there is to make eye contact and we're both ready to be co-conspiritors is some type of astro adventure. I love talking to Tina and teasing Kamin. Curt, Trish and Tim are here as well, and it's not long until Stuart joins us with a friend of his from the CAS who has brought his Televue for the evening.

It's a funny thing how when sometimes friends get together that the skies begin to clear... And clear they did. We had several guests for the evening, and it's always my pleasure to surrender the Orion ShortTube 114 to exploring hands and teach others the pleasure of hunting things down in the night sky. Robert has brought his binocular mount and comparisons between Celestron and Oberwerks has began. As the skies darkened, I would set the scope on this thing or that, and do the same as I learned to use Robert's binocular mount. It was a real pleasure to enjoy some of the celestial delights through the Televue as well and a rare treat to see airy disc again.

Yep. The night went very well indeed. The public had a wonderful time and so did we. I had really missed some of my friends, and for a change I stayed until everyone was leaving. I chased Jupiter all the way home and for some reason... I've been thinking about you. Maybe it was the bag of Taco Bell on the front seat that did it...

And maybe it's just been too long since we've spoke.

"Can you imagine no love, no pride, no deep-fried chicken? I'm your best friend always stickin' up for you... Even when I know you're wrong."



June 15-17, 2005 - At Lake Erie...

Comments: I came here to tell you about my trip. How wonderful it was to go to where the weather was cool and mostly cloudy. It was my intention to show you pictures of Marblehead Lighthouse, the Besse Nucleur Power Plant, Magee Marsh and all the other wonderful places I visited. I was going to show you the brilliant point of Venus where it stood out for just moments above the stormy skies and how it rained a soft, gentle, quiet rain during the Lyrid meteor shower. I was going to show and tell you all of these things until I started watching my video footage....

And started crying.

In order for this story to make sense, I must take you back to the beginning. I am not a Civil War buff, but I am compelled for some reason to visit battle sites and cemetaries. You know that I am a frequent visitor to Gettysburg, and I have walked the fields from Antietam to Lexington. Yes, I have read memoirs and watched movies... Who amoungst us has not? But very few know of the many forgotten cemetaries that I visit -- be them in the midst of a metropolis or buried deep on a hillside.

And so this brings us to Johnson's Island. If you have followed my reports for a long time, you know I am compelled to visit here as well. Once upon a time? It was to test a legend. Johnson's Island has a very deep and very sad history. It was once a Confederate Prison Camp and mostly officers. Almost every single man who went there died, my friends. He died of starvation, exposure and disease. This was not a pretty place. The men were forced into being stone masons and carved out limestone from the sheer, exposed cliffs on this small and primative island, like slaves of the most abused kind.

When the war was over, the prison camp was left to ruin, along with the many marked and unmarked graves in the small cemetary. Italian immigrants were brought in to replace the shameful labor, and as they would wait on the ferry to take them back to the mainland at sunset, they would begin to hum a song. A song that was unfamiliar to all of them, yet they were compelled to it as well. The songs name? "Dixie". The legend? If you were to stay in the cemetary until sunset, you will hear "Dixie" before the night falls.

As I tell this tale now, waves of goosebumps sweep over me and I am shivering. At first when I heard the tale, I took lightly - and my very first sunset visit left me crying in a nightclub. I was having my dinner, not believeing, listening to a rock and roll band play. When they broke out in "Dixie", I began to cry and the singer looked right at me and sang...

"Hush, pretty lady... Don't you cry. I was sent here to do or die. Look away! Look away... Look away. Dixie Land..."

When I asked him as I left, he told me he did not know where the lyrics came from or why he even sang "Dixie". It just was. The second time happened on a rock and roll radio station. There was no reason for them to play "Dixie" - yet it happened. The third time? I did not need proof, for I would not stay until sunset. Instead, I visited in the afternoon and as I walked the stones, I stopped to speak to one. I noticed it belonged to a very young man from Alabama, and my heart went out. I talked to the stone and told him how much he would like the songs of our times. He was too young to die!! On the way across the bridge? I heard "Sweet Home Alabama".

This time I went in the late morning. Again, you need not prove the legend to me. I am here to uphold and honor those who died. I come here because I want to be here. The old barracks have been bulldozed down and shamefully expensive homes have been built over the top where so many suffered and died. Funny that. There seems to be a great many of these very homes for sale quite cheaply now. Do these uncared for and suffering souls walk your halls? Oh, I hope so. It was so very wrong of you to take them so lightly.

And so I talk and sing. There was a couple there from Australia, whom I told the story of Johnson's Island. I tell them not because of the legend, but because they needed to know why they are here and what happened here. We have forgotten honor. I sing "Dixie" for them and I sing it for the many more unmarked graves which have been discovered in the last year just outside the iron fence and in the very yards of those high dollar homes. I stop to touch this stone and to talk to that one. Once in awhile? I turn on my camera and just let it run.

This was the grave of an UNKNOWN soldier, but is it? I cried when I saw this footage. It is about 60 seconds long, and as you watch - a face appears on the lower half of the stone. I left the link to the untouched original full size so you may see as well. This is not a joke, nor a hoax. As the video plays, you can see shadows of the tree branches moving back and forth across the face... And then I simply moved on to something else, never once knowing it was there. If you see this bit of film, I guarantee you will be forever touched.

Can you see him? His droopy moustache, full beard and slight smile? Cover the top half of the stone with your hand if you dare. If you see the film, it looks like someone playing a movie on the stone. For this man? I am humble. Your name may be UNKNOWN, sir. But you are now very known to me. If there is a way for me to find out who you are, I will. If I can give you back to your family, I will. If I find your story, it will be told, sir. You have given to me something very special...

And you are no longer UNKNOWN. The world now sees your face.

Old times here are not forgotten. Look away, Dixieland.

"And tell me, did Venus blow your mind? Was it everything you wanted to find?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?"



June 14, 2005 - The Milky Way...

Comments: It happened late... Late enough, in fact, that this isn't the correct date, but it still feels like Tuesday. We had several rainshowers, and then out of nowhere the humidity just fell away. I was enjoying staying up late and watching television when I saw the silver Moon through the tree leaves as it was about to set. Unbelieving, I went outside and then went right straight to the trunk of my car to get my binoculars out...

It's surprisingly clear!

By now, Scorpius has already passed its apex and Saggitarius is quickly taking its place. It was a huge pleasure to hunt down the M13, M10, M12, M60, M80, M4, M19, and is it M14 as well? So many things sing again! I love the "Lagoon Nebula" in binoculars and the incomarable M24. It's such a rush to see the "Wild Ducks" and even the "Nike Swoosh" of the M17 is so clear! And believe it or not, you could see the faded M16 and the associated open cluster as well. Holding steady, I enjoyed the "Ring" and the tiny globular there as well. Walking out to the east yard, I grazed over Cassiopeia and headed for the M2. I can't believe my luck...

Kicking back on the park bench, I walked over the Saggitarius region again and again until I felt so sleepy I could not stand it. Reluctantly heading indoors, I know I better get some rest for I have a drive ahead of me. It's going to be good to get away for awhile...

And tonight I started my mini-vacation right here in my own galaxy.

"And head on back to the Milky Way..."



June 13, 2005 - Chasing the Planets...

Comments: Right now Ohio weather isn't being very cooperative for astronomy. We were up for aurora - but it's too cloudy. The planets are going for a conjunction - and it's too cloudy. The Moon is out - and it's too... Wait a second...

The Moon is out!

Doing everything but running out the back door, I wanted to see the alignment of the planets for myself. Mercury? Uh uh. There's too much deep heat haze on the western horizon. Venus looks like a bright orange star and it takes binoculars to see Saturn. But... Since I've got the big binoculars out? Hey! Let's look at the Moon!

Features for tonight were unmistakeably the Caucasus Mountains and the brilliant Proclus. The three ring circus of Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina were also there, as well as the very thread thin line of that weird rille. Jupiter? I can see two moons and a weird looking place that says there's probably a shadow transit going on.

By then, the clouds were sneaking back in. Friend Jeromey had alerted me that the fireball I had seen the other morning could have possibly been a de-oribiting polar sattelite and I had hoped to watch for the soviet mission burning up in the atmosphere, but the north is totally gone now. Ah, well... At least I got a moment! Now I'm off soon to the beautiful shores of Lake Erie for a soul vacation, my friends. I'm taking the binoculars with me and I am ready to totally rest for a few days. I have every intention of watching for the Lyrid meteor shower from an exotic port and if it rains?

I'll sleep.

"Did you finally get a chance to dance along the light of day?"



June 11, 2005 - Dayton: "Apollo Rendezvous"...

Comments: In years past, I have always had to work the weekend of this event put on by the Miami Valley Astronomical Society - and quite frankly, this year was no exception. I have so much wanted to meet with other Ohio Astronomy Clubs and further inter-club relations, and so I use those great "personal days" to take off work so I may join co-members of the RAS, Dave, Terry and Mike A. at the festivities in Dayton for the first time. The day starts of humid, rotten and rainy... But I was so excited the night before about meeting Terry Mann that I could barely sleep. I know this sounds dumb, but I have greatly admired her for such a long time and it was my opportunity to meet one of my "heros"!

Since we come from so many different respective parts of Ohio, I met Dave and Terry for breakfast just outside of Columbus. I felt bad because I had started off about 15 minutes later than I had really wanted to, and 15 minutes will cost you 30 when you get in Columbus traffic. I had taken with me my new toy (welcome to the next century, ~T), a cell phone, and Dave was supposed to call when they had arrived. Well, I kept waiting for it to ring and after having narrowly missed a pickup truck that decided it needed that particular exit across four lanes of 70 mph traffic, I had to fish it off my floorboard with a road atlas. No signal. Not sure of what to do, but also knowing that trying to figure it out in traffic was not a wise idea, I kept on the path and had to laugh when I turned off the exit to see Dave standing in front of the restaurant giving me hell about not turning it on!

Regardless, he's a wonderful friend and my very blondness was forgiven immediately as we had breakfast and planned the day. Back on the road again, I stuck very close to his bumper as we headed for Boonshoft Museum. The drive really didn't seem to take very long and well before Terry was scheduled to speak we arrived. Going in, I got my registration, talked to one of the MVAS members, and heard my name. One glance was all it took to tell me this was Terry Mann and immediately my heart opened wide. She looks like my family! Hugging, she took me right under her confident wing and immediately I felt all those "new place - new people" butterflies begin to vanish. The astro-community is very much family...

And I was to remember that all day long.

What can I say? The Boonshoft Museum is very much like what Columbus' COSI once was. It's a great place for both kids and adults alike, full of exhibits and play areas... Making me remember how much I once enjoyed taking my own children to places like this. As I explored the AstroPhoto exhibits and enjoyed the fine work of both the contributors and the incomparable work of John Chumack, I kept seeing familiar faces. I'm learning to come out of my shell, and so instead of shying away I go to them and talk. I remember this one from this place and this one from another, and it's great! But now it's time for Terry to speak and I want to listen.

She's had the great fortune of traveling to Alaska for the aurora, and it's a love we both share. She photographs and it has been my pleasure over the years to have featured her work on different webpages. She tells about her involvment in the Astro League, as well as the differing astronomy outreach programs that I also belong to. She rounds out with Deep Impact and I am all grins! After all the research I did, and great people I met while writing "Following The Dust Trail", it makes me wonderfully happy to know that others realize the importance of these missions and the need to reach out to the public to understand them.

The balance of the day was spent talking with vendors, trying not to spend all my pocket money on meteors (even though i did add a nice piece to my collection - canyon diablo, yum yum!), and just talking with all the truly great people! So many know so much and are so willing to contribute... and I love each and every one of them! Terry and I head for the Planetarium to enjoy a very well done show and after a quick break I head back to listen to Scott Roberts speak. He is not only an integral part of Meade Corp. (and ya'll know how highly I prize my Meade optics) but also a public outreach proponent with plenty of great ideas to share. Speak with him? Yep. Again, I am afraid of my tang toungling around itself, but he was a great person.

As we waited or the closing ceremonies to begin, I had a chance to speak and I was me, of course. When I got to the podium, I had the hardest time not laughing, because Scott had mentioned earlier the inclination of the seats left everyone tilted back and you really were talking to their upturned nose! Blow it? Yeah. But at least I quit giggling long enough to be my dyslexic self and I think I got a least half the point across. ;)

As the day wound down, I also got a chance to glimpse another hero in person, John Chumack. If you have never seen his work, I highly urge you to visit here. The awards ceremony was just great and I can't tell you how nice it was to be able to see all the excitement on the faces of the participants! When the prize drawing came around, I was diggin' on watching people win things when I heard my own name. Me? Dang! And I was handed an outstanding 30mm wide field 2" eyepiece to add to my collection. Embarassed? Well, a little. But let it be known that this eyepiece will be used to help promote public awareness! I have often wanted to bring my good study 32mm, and now I have a chance to share, eh?

Afterward, we all headed to John Bryant State Park where the MVAS hosts their star parties. It was something of a solemn occassion, for it was to dedicate a new observatory in the name of Maury Childs. I did not personally know him, but I can see the deep emotion in others and he had to have been one hell of a guy. The festivities also include a BBQ and now I really feel like I am amoungst family and I sit with Terry and Scott Ireland and listen as tales are re-told of all the astronomy hi-jinx of the past. It's great to become acquainted with members of other Clubs and so many of them I have met before! I know I spent the hours happily smiling and I am so grateful to have met so many wonderful people. I can't wait for them to join us at Hidden Hollow and it is my greatest hope that all of our respective Clubs stay close from now on...

We are the future.

As the day grows late, I am feeling it. I can no longer take drugs to make it easier, for either they cause me to gain an etreme amount of weight making things even worse, or the ones that help dull the pain I have severe allergic reactions to. Ain't that life? I am ashamed of myself for being weak, for Dave is only a couple of weeks out of knee surgery and I know he has to be in agony. It doesn't matter, for I have every faith that the therapy in the weeks ahead will fix my problems and I'll be the same old never-tiring ~T I have always been. I could have crawled under my car as Terry walked up catching me try to deal with it, but her smile makes it all go away and we say our good-byes for now. When I am ready to walk again, I go back to the many friends I have met during the day and tell them how much I appreciate everything. I hope we never lose touch.

Heading back out on the road, I follow Dave for a way, but it's not long until I know my way home. Honking as he and Terry exit for a rest stop, I just bite the bullet and fly. I watched a fuzzy Moon riding over my left shoulder and the hours pass quickly as I hit familiar roads. When I go to crawl out of the car, I gotta' grin because I have "astronomy feet"... How many nights have I came home that I have worked all day and astro-ed all night? Ah, age... You make it hard for me to walk...

So I guess I'll just have to keep on dancing amoung the stars.

"Tell me... Did the wind sweep you off your feet?"



June 10, 2005 - 4:57 a.m.

Comments: Those who know me know I get up early. This morning was no exception and when I let H out I decided I'd water my hanging flowers to help them combat the heat. Looking up, I saw the skies were totally overcast and really didn't think too much about it. As I was holding the watering can up to the fuschia...

BOLIDE!!!

I vaguely remember the watering can bouncing at my bare feet and feeling the splash as I took off running after it. (look, ma! i didn't even notice it hurt until i stopped. ;) It came from the north in a fiery descent shooting sparks and chunks. I have only seen one other in my life like this, and I tried to run after it, too. As it came in and flew laterally, it had to have been under that cloud deck to have been seen like that. I kept waiting to hear some type of explosion as I watched it disappear into the south, but there was no sound. The last time this happened, it was seen over three states! My guess from the direction is that it was a bit of "space debris" burning up and not a meteoric body...

But WOW!

I have checked all over for someone else who might have seen this and given a report for 4:57 a.m. (give or take a minute because i was so excited) but so far have seen nothing. If you witnessed this, please tell me. It was the second most incredible thing I've ever seen. The first?

Was you.

"Now that I'm back in the atmosphere, I'm afraid you might think of me as plain ol' Jane... Told a story about a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land."



June 9, 2005 - Venus, Saturn and the Moon...

Comments: Clear? No, my friend. Again, the high heat and extreme humidity has left the skies trashed and only the very brightest of stellar objects shine through. It is far to hazy on the horizon to see Mercury and even Jupiter has an orange cast to it. Spica is faded, but Ursae Major shines. Vega? Not bad. Arcturus? Always orange. But, even as things are...

I still like looking.

Despite the haze, the earthshine of the slim crescent of the Moon was quite wonderful. The Moon itself had a soft orange cast that made it look like a cool slice of canteloupe hung in the sweltering sky. About a fist width to the south, Saturn was very dim... But it's getting easier to see that it, and Venus, are moving toward each other. If you don't read the "What's Up" column, then just remember that they are headed toward a delightful conjunction on the weekend of the 25th and I am hoping to have learned how to use my Meade Captureview by then. (yep. i have at least taken it out of the box. ;) If not, my trusty, abused, and slightly old videocamera will still be around. Tonight?

I'd just rather look.

"Now that I'm thinkin' about a soul vacation... I'm tracing my way through the constellations, hey, hey... I used to check out Mozart while I did tae-bo, but remind me that there's room to grow, hey, hey..."



June 8, 2005 - The June Arietids....

Comments: Beautiful out? No. It's been very hot, humid, and breaks in the clouds have been chancy at best. I usually go outside at dusk to water my plants and tonight?

Well, I just didn't go back in...

I haven't spotted Mercury yet, but that heartbreakingly slim crescent Moon between Venus and Saturn was simply too beautiful to ignore. After I had done my watering, I checked the pool, but it's still too cold to swim. I can dream a little sometimes, you know. Instead I chose just to pull up the old redwood chair, kick back in those time-worn cushions and simply sky watch for awhile.

The first meteor took me by total surprise - I wasn't expecting one from the southwest! It was very slow, almost like you could trace it with your finger. Realizing I was watching the June Arietid meteor stream, I was just happy to continue to sit there and look at the skies as the got darker and darker. I was wearing no watch, so I cannot tell you what time the next went over, but the western skyline still had a little pink left to it. By the time I was seeing Corvus clearly, another breezed by. I about half wished I had taken a scope out, but the skies just aren't deep tonight.

Listening to the tree frogs was music enough and watching the bats fly overhead was rather relaxing. I could hear the owl nearby and I am sure it won't be long until the coyotes will call from the woods. When another meteor grazes through what is left of Leo in the trees, it is time for me to call it a night. I have seen three very nice meteors and far more of the Arietid shower than I was expecting since the radiant is so close to the Sun. As I make my way back to the house, I find myself looking forward to the day when I can walk and stand with ease again. Pain has been my constant companion...

And it has been a long, hard road.

"Tell me... Did you fall for a shooting star? One without a permanent scar? And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?"



June 6, 2005 - Of Storms, Stars and Sunspots...

Comments: Yep. Vampyre shift. I tried to sleep - honestly I did. But somewhere around the time darkness fell, a huge electrical storm blew in and for those of your familiar with H? Ah, heck... You know what happened.

The shivering, crying coward did his best to lay on my head, and when I wasn't suffocating I was trying my best to sleep. Angry? Well, I tried not to be. But when I would push him over so I could breath, he would generally stand on vital organs. If this was a small dog, it would be fine. But you must understand that H is roughly the size of a small pony.

And cowardly ponies aren't exactly cuddly...

Eventually the lightning did stop and I did sleep. When I got up well after midnight, it was to discover that the electric power had happily disappeared and that doubles H's anxiety. (he likes the TV set on...) Lighting some candles to calm "Super Chicken" down, I grabbed the flashlight and headed for the garage to fire up the generator. Honestly, I wouldn't have bothered but I really need coffee and it is far too hot to build a fire. When I stepped out the back door, my jaw dropped. We have clear skies!!

Well, once "Super Chicken" was outside and under the stars, he was his old self again.... sorta'. Basically, it's kinda' creepy when there's no light at all - but I am diggin' it, folks. Restoring power only long enough to brew coffee and shower, I cut the noise, put on the headphones and grabbed the binoculars. My hair will dry just fine outside, thanks. And so "Captain Courage" and I now take to the park bench and enjoy all the sheer delights the darkness has to offer.

A few sips of the nectar of the gods and we are off and rolling through Scorpius. The big binos really walk out the M4 and even M80 looks nice. Next stop? The "Scorpius Jewelbox" and on the the M6 and M7. Following the trail up, I delight in M8, M20, and M17. Reveled in the M24, and finished my cup with the M22 and M28. I breezed over the rest of the area, happily knowing that I can remember all the Mmmmms and not really caring! Mmmmm11 is spectacular and so is "Brochhi's Cluster" and the one Mmmm it took four of us to find. There's two Mmmmmmopen clusters in Cygnus and my word! Just look at how Cassiopeia has gained sky!! Why, I could even find the Mmmmm2 with ease.

Keeping an eye on my wristwatch with my little red squeezy light, I knew I could stay on, but I hadn't counted on clear skies and duty does call...

Figures, doesn't it?

**************************************************

On the way into work, I saw where a tree had come down in the wind taking out our local transformer. Before 5:00 a.m. you could feel the barometric pressure go wonky. I thought I'd go out and take a break - but the lightning was right on top of us. Opening the doors, I stood in the safety of the foyer and jumped each time a volley slammed down. (i'll bet H has dug up the carpet by now...) Again, you can feel change in the air and the rain quickly turns to pounding hail. Someone yells from the back to keep watching because we've had a funnel cloud spotted - but here in Ohio they are frequent.

You only run when they touch down. ;)

Going back to work, I feel kinda' sorry for the dog, but I am sure that he will make it just fine. When I got home, it was to see the fury that nature had unleashed. Tornado? No. But we've definately had another microburst since I left. Branches are down everywhere, plants shredded by hail, lawn furniture blown about, my potted ornamental trees tossed, flowers flattend...

And the tomatoes are still standing!

Setting things to rights, I can't help but wonder at the freakish clear spell. It seems like only moments ago since I was flying along the Milky Way. If I had realized the storms weren't over, I would have secured things a bit before I left. No matter. It isn't the first time and it darn sure won't be the last. That's life on the plains, baby... I did my housework and thought I'd nap - but the Sun kept calling my name. Did I want to look? Yes. But I was feeling inherently lazy about setting up recording equipment. And still that little voice calls...

Whoa! No wonder it was telling me to come and look! The Sun is literally buckshot with sunspots right now and I have no clue as to what's going on. I make my video, did my field sketch, scribbled my notes and went to check data since the electricity has come back up. Word? Radio JOVE is on it, and it is active! The little dude up in the corner is 773. The big monster on the limb being shadowed by a penumbral field with no umbra is 775 and the one below it that is more mature is 776. These are awesome! And there's more... But I can't fit them all in.

Data shows some C class flares and Radio JOVE's information is precisely during my filming time. I caught nothing unusual except for a slightly brighter plague field north of 776, but magnetic anomalies of that size have got to be throwing around some real radio weight, folks. If you haven't had a chance to use your solar filter lately?

Do it now.

"Since the return of my stay on the Moon... I listen like Spring - but I still talk like Jjjune, hey, hey ...

But tell me... Did you sail across the Sun? Did you travel to the Milky Way to find the lights all faded, and that heaven is overrated?"



June 4, 2005 - At The Observatory... (Tau Herculids)

Comments: I had really needed to get away. Deep in my soul, I need to get even further away from everything. I need a soul vacation. But I am happy, if even for a few hours, just to escape to the Observatory for awhile and tonight was both meeting and public night.

All goes well. There hasn't been any stress now for some time and it pleases me, and I think others as well, to see that change has come and change is here. Things are blossoming, plans continue to be made and executed... and there is life there again. Unfortunately, the skies were awfully cloudy thanks to high heat and humidity - but that's not a reason to leave. We have many folks here who are interested in a tour and we are most happy to oblige. A funny thing has happened in the last year or so. Where we once would have all departed because skies were bad, we now stay. The karma here is very good, and oddly enough karma has a way of rewarding.

The stars came out to play.

Greg and his son Kamin already had their scopes out and set up. As I went up to open the dome, Kamin took responsiblity for opening the slit and I am proud of our seven-year old wunderkind. There was a large group of people there who were curious and we are happy to explain how things work. It wasn't long until Jupiter was cutting through and I took out several of the club scopes and got them set up - just in case. Kamin was probably the first amoung us to get a scope set on the mighty Jove and it didn't take long for the rest of us to follow. Taking some folks up to the eyepiece of the 31", I wanted a look myself and as soon as I hit perfect focus for me? Ah, baby.. There was the "Great Red Spot" sitting prime. It wasn't a thing I was expecting, but even through hazy skies, you couldn't miss it.

Unfortunately, due to the wedding party, we had to leave the one security light on over the parking area, but it's honestly just more annoying than it is harmful. A few of our guests are experienced and they are eagerly offered scopes to use. I move between them - settting this one on that object - and another upon another. Even though the smaller dobs are harder to use, they are still wonderful for hitting things at the zenith. Behind us is the dome and it's off to the incredible M104. Some of the absolutely charmed objects of the night were also the M5, M13, NGC 6207, and M27. (just how many astronomers does it take to find the m27? answer: four. two computers, two eyepieces, a 31" scope and about 30 minutes. but dang... it's worth it! ;)

(Personal Observing Log: The Tau Herculid meteor shower was in full force and the call for the peak time perfect. I observed seven in three hours, all were five degree trail span meteors true to the radiant. Very fast and faint, the appeared silver in color and all moved from east to west.)

The evening progresses and it is great just to try talk to people. Once upon a time, I did not talk often because I genuinely have.. well... a speech problem. At one point in life, I had built up confidence and words flowed easily between my brain and my tounge. Now? It's a different story. Most of the time I want to crawl under a rock because I can look right at you and can't put an entire sentence together. There are moments when I will get excited about a certain subject and the proper words just will not come out. People are patient, though... And may God bless them for waiting while my synapses type the words out in my brain so my mouth may speak them.

Sometimes I fear I am losing my mind...

All in all, it was a wonderful night. Between guests and members we had around 30 or so folks - which ain't bad for a night that looked like there wasn't going to be any viewing. By the time we were all ready to go, the skies had gone very clear and I watched Saggitarius as I drove back home. I would have loved to have went back out to view, but I'm just not up to it right now. The nice thing is knowing that the stars will wait for me...

Just like they always have.

"Now that I'm back in the atmosphere... With drops of Jupiter in my hair, hey, hey. I try to act like summer, but I walk like rain. Reminds me that there's time to change, hey, hey...."

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