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March 2005

March 31, 2005 - Still Chasing Pallas...

Comments: After a nice 30 degree drop in temperatures, I was left with another night of clear skies - although they were not as deep as the night before. Settling down on the parkbench with the big binos, I watched Jupiter for awhile and marveled at the nearness of one of the galieans - still surprised the binoculars perform so well.

It was just a quiet time. I have had a rather demanding time at work and it simply feels good to be off my feet and sipping at a glass of chablis while I stargaze. When I am this relaxed, my hands can be quite steady and I it amazes me that I can make out a modicum of resolution within the M67. I whisper over the same galaxies that I did last night, and it still blows my mind that I can see them. Asteroid Pallas has proceeded northward towards the pair and is about level west of the M84 and M86. I am confused that the "Your Sky" program put it much further to the east and I contine to puzzle why the information (usually highly accurate) is so much different. Perhaps if I were observing from New Zealand or something? Let's make it the Virgin Islands...

Grinning, I make my little mark on my notes for Pallas and shrug it off. I'm gonna' head back up to Ursa Major and just look around - because sometimes you get the bear...

And sometimes the bear gets you.

"Dream of Californication..."

March 30, 2005 - Chasing Pallas Through The Field of Dreams....

Comments; One exceptionally clear night here, but it had a fault - it was very windy. Still, I couldn't help but be outside and when I can see the M44 with such ease and with no optical aid or dark adaption?

I can't just stand here.

Scope? No. What I really want is to see how far I can push a pair of 16X50 binoculars on a close to 6 LM night. My object? A near 7th magnitude asteroid - Pallas. My first goal was to find a place of comfort where I can rock steady my hands - and the next is to hone them in to perfect focus. An excellent object for that is Jupiter - and when I saw the little galieans snap right out I was good to galaxy hunt. First off? I want the M81 and M82 and I am impressed with how clearly they show up. Next? M97. Perfect. Ok, so how far can I stretch this on something a lot more difficult? How about the M51? Wow! It was easy! They even split Cor Caroli!! Now I'm cooking with gas, and laughing I stand up to find the M3 with such ease that I am almost ashamed...

Almost. ;)

Melotte 111 is a wonderful binocular target, and I find myself bouncing around, enjoying the M44, M67, M50, M93, M46 and M47 before I remind myself that I am out here to be serious. So how far can I push it? Settlling down, I got comfortable and went for the M65 and M66. Swish! Let's just say I am very impressed. Laying the binoculars down, I put my glasses back on, picked up my charts, located the stars I needed and went for Pallas. With star 12 in the lower righthand field, I found what I believe to be Pallas south of two brighter north/south oriented stars in the upper field, but Pallas is brighter than the stars surrounding it and they show no other stars in the square in Uranometria that could account for one that bright. That's got to be it! Now I want to understand "why" the "Your Sky" predictions are too far east, so I go galaxy hunting. Very dim, but very there are the M84 and M86 to the east and north of Pallas' position is the M99 and right on the cutting edge of what these binoculars could do. My congratulations go to Bushnell, for I am totally surprised at just what these babies can do. Last port of call? M104. And here I find I can even make out its shape!! Dustlane? No. But dang, dude... These are just binoculars! Sighing, I figure this is enough for the night. I am intensely please with how well the binoculars performed...

And definately a little more "enlightened".

"Destruction leads to a very rough road... But it also breeds creation. And earthquakes are to a girl's guitar.. They're just another good vibration. And tidal waves couldn't save the world - From Californication...

Pay your surgeon very well, to break the spell of aging. I'm sicker than the rest... There is no test. But this is what you're craving.

First born unicorn... Hard core, soft thorn. And I dream of Californication. Dream of Californication..."

March 29, 2005 - The Sun and the Park Bench...

Comments: Wow. A really nice day in Ohio. Great temperatures, fairly clear skies and sunshine! Curious about 745, I set up the scope when I took a break from my "homework" to have a look.

Decayed is an excellent choice of words. 745 has reduced itself to a very minor spot, indeed. It has a slightly irregular umbra and just the slightest fringe of a penumra and two tiny followers leading the way to the fast approaching western limb. This had definately been an interesting spot to watch from birth to death and one of the few that did not drift south. Other than that?

The Sun is blank.

Of course, I had high hopes for doing some observing this evening. It has been a long time since I've looked at Machholz and I'm ready for the galaxy hunt - but it was not to be. Even by around 9:30 the skies were still opaque and criss-crossed with contrails. It's hard for me to resist being outdoors when some of the brave amphibians have come back to life and are singing their songs of the night, so I took the big binoculars out with me and picked up the guitar. I cannot remember the last time my fingers have touched the strings and it is dusty and neglected.

I opened the binoculars and scanned around. Yep. Far to crappy to do any observing and definately not worth taking a scope out for. I played for a bit, surprised that I had not rusted entirely, and as I did I would see some parts of the sky begin to clear. As I would rest my hands, for they are worse for the wear, I would shoot for the holes, picking and chosing at what I could find. Some things surprised me - like the M81 and M82. And others were totally predicatable - such as the M44, M50, M35, and M67. I sat outside until I could no longer hold the strings down with confidence - wishing the skies were clearer so I could see the strings of the Universe.

And sometimes that's just the way it goes.

"Born and raised by those who praise... Control of population. Everybody's been there... and I don't mean on vacation.

First born unicorn... For you I mourn... And dream of Californication. Dream of Californication..."

March 28, 2005 - A Smokin' Sun...

Comments: Does this mean it was clear? Not hardly. Ohio is now locked in the rapid changes that our Spring season brings. This means strong winds, frequent rains... And sometimes just enough Sun to cast a shadow.

And a shadow is all I need, thank you. As soon as I got home from work there was enough hazy sunlight to at least attempt an observation of the solar surface, so I set up where I had the most windbreak and had a go at it. Although I had to wait frequently for the clouds to thin enough, they truly filtered a lot of the strong light making it a bit more comfortable on the eye to pick out detail. What detail? For what it's worth? 745 has decayed almost to the point of not being there anymore. I did my quick sketch, made my notes and just watched for a bit. There is still a mature umbra inside a drastically reduced penumbra, but it has diminuished to the point where it looks like a very simple spot... And it is. More than anything, it's just fun to watch the clouds move over the face of the Sun...

Like smoke over a burning sphere.

"Space may be the final frontier - But it's made in a Hollywood basement. Cobain can you hear the spheres? Singing songs off station to station... And Alderon's not far away. It's Californication."

March 26/27, 2005 - The Eternal Screw-up...

Comments: Am I tired? You know I live tired when I work "vampyre". The combination of too many hours and too little sleep leaves me in a state of unreality - a meld of time and dates. So, regardless, I set my clock for 8:00 p.m. had the dob ready to go and my charts so I could get up and view and asteroid occultation.

When the time arrived, I woke up to fairly decent skies. There was a bank of clouds to the south and one to the west, but at least you could clearly see Gemini and the marker stars I need to locate the field for the occutation. Heading southeast of Gamma, I compared to the chart I had printed out and to Uranometria. This is the right field. I looked down at my wristwatch and just started watching the stars. Right around 8:30? Poof. One to the southwest goes way dim... Success?

Nope. It had to have been a cloud. Because I was 24 hours early.

And, of course, all this was after the fact. I had written to a friend who is trying to get me into ccultation timing about what I had seen. He was excited because I had caught one - and I was skeptical because I couldn't see a 14th magnitude asteroid. There was no time to check the information last night because stupid here went out to observe Jupiter before going to work. Probably not the wisest of moves since I'm running on about 4 hours sleep for the last 24, huh? But I am what I am. After I came home from work today, I started double checking the data because I just couldn't get over the fact that I couldn't see the asteroid. And good reason! It wasn't there at the time.

So how do I feel about all this? A little disappointed that a friend would report on an unconfirmed event... But not mad. It's human to make mistakes - because I made one. Am I worried about my credibility? Oh, heck no. Anyone that observes with me knows better and there's lots of people who have shared my eyepiece. Will I try for the Campania occultation again tonight? You know darn well I'll be out there if it's clear...

But right now it's occulted by clouds. ;)

"I hear you married the girl, she's your fairy to the world... But I find peace in my own constellation. I'm no teenage bride with a baby inside... But I'm getting high on information. And buy me a star on the boulevard...

It's Californication."

March 26, 2005 - The Sun...

Comments: Sun? Darn right, Sun. When the "vampyre" saw some shadows outside as I passed by a window at work, I did everything but force the hands of the clock forward so I could get outta' there. Everyone else is enjoying a warmer day. Me? I couldn't give a hoot. I just want to do my sketch! Needless to say, I fractured a speed limit or two, and I'm sure if a State Highway Patrol would happen to be reading this, perhaps they would be forgiving of the circumstances?

Nah. You get the death penalty in Ohio if you get caught. ;)

Setting up quickly and grabbing my clipboard, it was a race between the big, white, fluffy clouds to get a shot on the solar surface. Even though I understand differential rotation, it still amazes me to see one sunspot pass up another. 746 has migrated south of the border and has deteriorated in to minute specks. 744 has either rounded the bend of dissolved completely. The only thing near the western edge is a nice faculae field.

So what of 745? Well, apparently two of the three lobes did meld. What you see now is a far less complex spot with a mature umbra located at both ends and a small asymmetrical penumbral field... There are lots of little followers with no penumbra. In other words? It's gone Dai... And I would almost swear you could see a plague in between the leader and the followers. Double checking magnetograms, I would say that's an affirmative since the suspected plague area would be right where that line of differing polarities meet. Are they twisting together? Nope. Obviously both of these fields are equally strong - not allowing one to "reach inside" the other.

Finishing off my sketch, I cap things up and put the scope away. This has been a lot of fun and I hope before my sketch series ends that we get one of those BIG mahambajambas that goes through some major changes during its visible stage. Even if we don't?

It's been real...

"Pay your surgeon very well... To break the spell of aging. Celebrity skin... Is this your chin? Or is that a war your waging?

First born unicorn... I'll be back before the morn. And dream of Californication... Dream of Californication..."

March 24, 2005 - A Break In The Clouds...

Comments: Hey. When I saw a sunbeam break across the window just before I took a break to make my dinner? I am outta' here.

It was just the break I was looking for!

I don't have many more solar sketches, classifications, Wolf Sunspot numbers, full disc drawings, latitudes, longitudes, faculae, granulation, light bridges, umbra, penumbra, followers, magnetic classes, group counts, etc... To go before I can just relax and observe the Sun because I like to observe the Sun. Quite honestly, I've had a lot of fun with what's considered "serious study" - but the honest truth is that I took it quite seriously before! (do i get like "extra credit" if i can tell you in advance that a CME is going to happen? i'm quite good at that, you know... ;)

OK. Enough yakking.

For the record, 743 is gone. (that's a no-brainer. it was on the limb last.) Spot series that evolved during this visible rotation - 744 - has actually diminuished rather than grown. It still sports two umbra and several small followers, but it is receding. Newly formed, and just south of center on the equator is series 746. This Cao classed area is still rather minute, consisting of more small umbra regions with immature penumbra. They are rather limited, ragged and irregular. Just as a note of curiousity, these developed almost exactly like 744. Far finer and definately on the upswing as far as a growth scale goes is 745. Now rotated inward enough to make a good observation, it has at least doubled in size since my last sketch. It has a small grouping of followers to the east. The three major umbra regions in 745, with interconnecting penumbra means this Dao classed sunspot group is going to be worth watching. Do I consider its rapid growth to be of note to CME and flare activity as what scientists would claim? No.

I study the Sun in many ways.

In reviewing the magnetograms, I see that we have a major leading positive field. But... This positive field has a small interjection of negative. Backing up the "off the scale" positive is a much deeper and stronger area of negativity - again interjected with just one little prick of positive. Now what do you think is going to happen to something highly magnetic when you put two opposite fields in the same containment area? Darn right they'll attract one another. The trick to this attraction is not in the fact that they will employ the same field to enjoy this courtship - but whether or not they will actually intertwine. That, dear reader, is the key... Not the rapid growth of an area. Growth contributes, but even the most minor of sunspots can go boom! Visible sunspots with more than two major mature umbra that share the same mature penumbral field have a tendency to "meld" together. Combine that observation and back it up with the science behind it and you have... Blonde hair-brained theory? Or just a little genuine Sun saavy besides just making observations, sketches, notes and reports? You decide.

And did that break in the clouds last? Yep. Sure did. Got a chance to go out and do a little lunar observing as well. Weapon of choice? 114mm Celestron. Eyepiece? Ah, heck. The 25mm Celestron. View? Kinda' muzzy. Sky is medium stable - lotsa' thin clouds lighting things up. Did I get a break?

How about a lucky one?

What you're about to see can not be considered a "hot shot"... But I guarantee you won't see another like it anywhere. Homing in on Brygius (the bright impact crater with the ray system at the bottom) was really what I had in mind - and what I got was a lunar feature you just don't see pictured. Near the limb edge you will see a long "dune-like" structure. That's the Cordillera Mountains. The dark oval you see toward the top behind the moutain range is Lacus Autumni. The real sharp crater along the mountains edge in the center is Eichstadt and further along toward the left is Krasnov. Needless to say these are really "on the edge features"... But there's more isn't there? What you see on the limb edge is Montes Rook, the border of Mare Oriental. Just look at that peak on the terminator! Those babies are exceeding 900 km tall... Just incredible.

After about 3 minutes I just laid the camera down and put the power to it. To me, getting a glimpse of sunrise on a far off world is definately a turn-on. The shadow creeps so slowly, but it moves with grace.

Sunrise from 239,000 miles away....

"It's the edge of the world... And all of western civilization. The sun may rise in the East... But at least it settles in the final location. It's understood that Hollywood sells Californication..."

March 22, 2005 - The Sun...

Comments: I had watched the Moon beneath racing clouds last night. Most of the time it was completely covered, but occassionally just enough would shine through that I would know that Copernicus and Gassendi would be there. It's just too bad the skies won't allow. A good night to go to sleep early, yes?

And sleep late the next day...

This was my plan, of course. At least it was until the Sun streaming in the window awoke me at 7:00 a.m. I had a good night's sleep and Sun like that means only one thing - I can continue my observances through two complete solar rotations! Heading out around 8:00 a.m., the old Celestron, the 25mm eyepiece, my pencil, clipboard a thermal mug followed. I was amazed to see that a new area had formed from nothing! By looking back over the previous week's sketches, this one did not rotate in - it formed. But... First things first.

743 has now reached the western limb and is displaying the Wilson Effect wonderfully. A check on magnetic data shows it's gone beta-gamma, but any activity would be non-Earth directed. Newly formed group is almost center and just slightly south of the solar equator. Two small umbra dominate with immature penumbra regions and small areas of followers between them. This Dao classed sunspot literally came out of no where! (the sun is so cool...) Coming in on the eastern limb and north of the solar equator is a new small group known as 745. The curvature at this point makes it hard to see any real detail, but it looks to be much the same in structure as 744.

Notes and sketches properly cared for, I put the telescope away and go on about my day. Sometimes it's nice not to be working and I can only hope the Sun cooperates for another 10 days to 2 weeks. (at least awhile, ok?) It was nice to see a little bit of those life-giving rays...

Before it rains again.

"Psychic spies from China try to steal your mind's elation... And little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotations... And if you want these kind of dreams? It's Californication...."

March 18 and 19, 2005 - The Moon, the Sun, and Heading for the AFY Meeting...

Comments: After a rather surprisingly long string of days good enough to do some observing - it's all about to come to an end. It doesn't stay clear forever in Ohio...

Last night, I decided despite some slight, hazy cloud cover just to go out and enjoy a couple of beers while I looked at the Moon. It was very unseasonally warm today and it has left us with a mild night. My choice? Ah, heck... That good ol' 4.5 Celestron and the 25mm. It's served me so well over the years that I hate to quit using it! And so we journey off toward the Moon...

Albategnius! Oh, how I love thee and all thy fine details. It's a pleasure to explore the regions around you. But best of all? The deep scar of the Alpine Valley...

When dawn breaks, it brings with it temporary clear skies. Once again, I know the weather forecast and I have been very intent on completing my solar studies. Luck has been on my side and I have watch 741, 742 and 743 pass across the visible surface. The last remnants of 742 were still on the limb and the Wilson Effect was so pure. I am sure that the wildlife thought me a bit strange. It's not often you will see me in my sweats and moccassins standing on the east edge of the field with a clipboard and pencil. Well, I take that back. I do it all the time - but usually it's dark!

The sun held through the morning, but the early afternoon brought back the clouds - and now it is raining. Figures, doesn't it? This is the first Public Night for AFY at Malibar Farms. Well, that's the way it goes sometimes. At least I'll have a chance to go to the meeting and see my friends again. Maybe I'll even take some of this long-haired science stuff along... Then they'll really know I've cracked.

Because I've been playing by the rules...

"Show me how to live!"

March 17, 2005 - Comet LINEAR T4, the Sun and the Moon....

Comments: Ah, yes. Skies return to Ohio at long last! Are we talking perfect here? No, but I have had the chance to practice more field astronomy this week than it feels like I have all winter long.

The morning skies were sufficently clear enough for me to spot Comet T4 around 5:00 a.m., and quite transparent to provide me with a decent handle on its size and trajectory. I have a feeling that it is probably a little bit larger than it appears, but low sky position and the race before dawn might have something to do with that! Right now it looks like a core-less and diffuse M80 and it's buzzing its way south toward the M2. There is absolutely no tail.

After I got home from work, I didn't even change clothes for fear that the stringy clouds would cover the Sun before I had a chance to follow the daily progress of 742 and 743. 741 has already slipped around the limb, but one thing crucial to the observation was the Wilson Effect and boy howdy... 742 has gotcha' covered! I've watched the little patch of varied structures over the last week shift, move and change and today provided me with the opportunity to sketch that one all impotant detail - the effect of magnetism as seen on a curve. I am sorry not to have imaged it, but in my own way I have.

I've got a week's worth of dandy sketches. ;)

With all of my early evening double star studies done (whew... and right on time because the moon and haze would put a hurtin' on locatin' tonight) I just took the old Celestron out, popped in my favourite CD of assorted and annoying rock and roll, put on the headphones and turned it up LOUD. Tonight I do the Moon just because I feel like singin' and dancin'.... Not because I'm studying a feature for albedo or timing something critical. I'm just looking at it because I darn well love the Caucasus Mountains. I put the magnification to it because I consider the Ariadaeus Rille to be cool. If I feel like staring at Maurolycus and Gemma Frisius? I'm doin' it because I want to, not because I need it to complete a study. And if I watch the distant sunshine lighting up an obscure crater like Playfair?

It's just because I can....

"Show me how to live!"

March 16, 2006 - Workin'....

Comments: Well, what am I into now? Lots of stuff. Started the morning off recording and sketching the position of T4 LINEAR, rounded up the afternoon with watching the current sunspots that I've recorded and sketched all week and ended up with a very stable night on my hands and went directly into my constellation charting and double star studies.

Let's just say that after some five years of very loosely documenting what I do here in my "Daily Reports", the time has come to take all those years of note-taking and sketching a little more seriously. (you'd hate me, for you have no idea of how many things i have simply discarded. i hate myself when i look back at how many comets i have observed and not kept field sketches... or at how many double stars i have viewed and not sketched... or how many rotations of sunspot series i have witnessed and the notes, classifications and sketches simply thrown in the trash.) It feels like... Like.... I've wasted my time somehow.

Does completing a study to be recognized by the AL mean anything? Reality check - not a whole lot... And at the same time it means everything because all these words mean nothing without some of that critical information I took for granted. So forgive me if my reports for awhile are not quite as full of "life"... For some nights I have to devote all of my energy in to properly documenting things. At one time I believed that just seeing something and telling about it was all it took. I guess now I see that's not always the case.

I gotta' go back and do it all over again.

"Nail in my hand.... From my creator. You gave me a life - now show me how to live. Nail in my hand.... From my creator. You gave me a life...

Now show me how to live"

March 16, 2005 - Comet T4 LINEAR and Comet Machholz...

Comments: Hey! It was clear this morning! Since I had to make a road trip today to the Capitol City, I was up early and ready to go. Why not steal away in those pre-dawn hours with the big binos and do a little comet hunting, huh?

Morning Comet T4 LINEAR is a fairly new one for me, but it was surprisingly easy to find. Just south of Alpha Equuleus and directly between two probably magnitude 6 to 7 stars. It's very diffuse and not overly bright. My guess would be that it is somewhere around magnitude 7 or a little less. Size-wise? Not as large as the M2 south of it. About half that.

Heading on toward Machholz, I find the little trooper still hanging in there and on the western side of Polaris this morning. To be honest, it's not a whole lot brighter than T4. Our old friend is fading fast here... And speaking of fading fast?

I better run.

"Ready to begin."

March 15, 2005 - The Moon...

Comments: Well, I started a bit late - but it still makes no difference. The Moon is still the Moon and sometimes all that matters is just a chance to observe.

The real beauty tonight is Metius, Fabricus and Janssen. Once upon a time, I used to photograph about every time I went out, but I've sorta' lost that drive. What you see here is the same area done a couple of years ago. I chose to use this because it clearly shows the wonderful plateau that is inside Janssen. The Southern Highlands are always a wonderful jumble of craters and I remember how much fun it was learning them all!

I kicked around for a little bit after that. Stole a peek at Saturn, the M35, M41, M42, M93, M46, M47 and M44. Can't say I enjoy them as much when the sky is so bright.

Maybe it will be clear in the morning?

"Ready to begin..."

March 14, 2005 - Playing With The Lion...

Comments: The early evening was party cloudy. That's the way it is sometimes. Trying to re-arrange my hours has left me somewhat sleepless and when I let H out for a prowl around 11:00 before bed, I see these incredibly clear skies. I probably would have ignored them until morning, but knowing I do not have to work the next day is a great persuader, so before H even has time to return, I have joined him under the stars.

With the Moon long gone, I grabbed the handle of the "grasshopper" and pulled the dob around to my favourite spot. Hunting down my stepstool and some maps, I guess it's time to wander around in Leo once again. It wasn't hard to spot star 52, and then things got serious. NGC3377 is a nice, bright little elliptical that gets no respect and its neighbor NGC3367 might not be quite so bright. but it's darn close in size. Further to the west is NGC3338 who shows a much larger, low-surface brightness spiral structure with a star set on its leading flank.

Hey, who can ignore those great triples, huh? M105 is certainly not terribly exciting, only because I am not a big fan of ellipticals. The NGC3384 is about the same, but at least it has a nucleus! Of the three, I prefer NGC3389... Probably because it's more of a challenge to see. I like the M96 because it shows structure. It has an intense central area and definately a hint of spiral arm structure. M95 will just slam the eye because it seems so bright. The core is absolutely stellar and shows barred structure.

Heading for the NGC3607 is a little bit of a disappointment for it is fairly featureless as well - albeit bright. Same field is the smaller and fainter elliptical NGC3608.... But I want to see some galaxies here! Not these little blobs... M65 and M66 hold the key, amigo. The M65 is a true beauty - bright, large and full of the "stuff" we look for like a signature on aversion. Companion M66 stretches lazily out beside it as it has done since time began. Almost edge-on, it is brighter and has this wonderful sense of a dark dustlane and a unusual wisp that threads away at the southern edge.

Heading back west, I went to same field pair NGC3226 and NGC3227. One is a small elliptical and the other a slightly larger and brighter spiral structure. Wishing yet another challenge, I found it in the next three. NGC3193 is the northernmost of the trio - a small elliptical with a star on its edge away from the others. NGC3190 is in the center and every bit as bright - but it's edge-on! And to the south is the little, fainter, barred spiral NGC3185. Now this is one sweet trio... All three structures in one place! Rho, rho, rho your boat... Help me find my mark... And the last for tonight in NGC3521. What can I say besides... Charles? Were you bloody blind or what? This galaxy just spanks right out of the sky! (but it ain't the easiest to hop to.) We're talking about brighter than your M65 and M66 pair and a very impressive spiral structure as well! Either I've become more dark adapated, more sensitive, or the skies just got super because this particular galaxy should conceivable show to a much smaller scope than the 12.5! With the 12.3mm wide field eyepiece, this one is showing clumps in the arms and some real nice wisps, especially toward the trio of stars at its edge.

Smiling, I decide this is enough for tonight. Virgo is definately in a premium position, but I'm beginning to feel the weight of the hours. Covering things back up, I stand listening to the music for a few minutes longer and dream on the distant stars. H is ready to go back inside now...

And I'm ready, too.

"And in the final hours I will stand... Ready to begin."

March 14, 2005 - Early Birds...

Comments: A change in shift - but not in habits. I am somewhat used to "vampyre" weekends, but after several years of heading to work long before dawn, it's weird to me to start later. This is supposed to be "good for me", you know. But my body hasn't figured out yet that work starts later...

It wants to be up at 4:30 a.m.

So I did what any self-respecting astronomer would do, eh? Took out the old Celestron, my thermal mug of coffee and my overly large black german shepherd for a peek at some clear skies! If I'm going to be an "early bird" then I guess I shall enjoy two of the finest birds of all - Cygnus and Aquila. It was a real pleasure to see the M11 - "Wild Ducks", along with the M27, suprisingly outstanding M71, and Brochhi's Cluster. As I worked myself across the Milky Way starfields, M29 became my pleasure as well as the M39. With such nice skies, I had to go to star 52 and you could see a faint, delicate curve of the "Veil Nebula". With skies beginning to rapidly loose dark, I just had to see the M57 - "Ring Nebula" before I went to find some breakfast, and then a wild whim overtook me... Where's Comet Machholz?

Leveling in on Polaris, it seem rather strange to be hunting for the "Magnificent One" at this hour, but I'm really glad I did. Suprisingly enough, it's still quite fine (and diffuse) in the telescope. I guess I was in a fanciful mood this morning, for it looked like it was in a little Sagitta-like formation of stars, although the whole field was quite littered. As faded as it's getting, it won't be long until it's going to require more aperture to follow it. Seeing the skies beginning to rapidly pinken toward the east, I noticed that I could see H prowling around, when he normally looks like a moving shadow. Guess even the dawn is changing its hours, huh? Capping back up the scope, I put it back in its place of honor with the others. Looks like it's going to be a sunny day in Ohio!

Which means it will be snowing tonight...

"And in your waiting hands I will land... And roll out of my skin."

March 13, 2005 - Furry...

Comments: I am having a hard time staying awake. Vamypres are supposed to be active at this time of night, but I'd really rather crawl back inside my coffin. It's warmer tonight than it has been and I simply had to go outside because it's harder to fall back asleep on a snowy parkbench than by the fire in a reclining chair. (obviously you don't know me. i could fall asleep on a concrete floor when i get this tired.)

I set the little Celestron out for a roam, but despite the handful of stars, the sky doesn't go very deep. I really didn't mind because I'm kinda' shallow this morning, so it was just good enough to have a look at Gamma Leonis, Cor Caroli, and Mizar and Alcore. Jupiter fares pretty well under these circumstances, but Saturn has gone over the top of a neighboring chimney and I simply don't feel like carrying the scope out to put it in the clear. M81 and M82 would cut through, as did the M65 and M66... But little else. The M3 and M5 would work - but not the finer, smaller galaxies. The M104 also showed, but the sky is not really cooperating. S'Ok... I'm not really worried about it.

I just wanna' make it through the night.

"Nail in my hand... From my creator. You gave me a life... Now show me how to live."

March 12, 2005 - The Sun...

Comments: The Sun? Yeah, sometimes it does actually shine for a few minutes in Ohio. If I hadn't of been working "vampyre" I doubt I would have even noticed. The winter is dragging on and on, and we're all tired of watching it snow. Seems like as soon as it melts off we get more...

Was the view today clear and perfect? No. Most of my solar observance was between moving clouds or with partial hazy cover. Why bother, then? Simply because it has been a very long time and I know the solar continuum was going nicely from following radio observations. Usually when you see waves like that it means some pretty interesting magnetic activity, so I set up to take a quick look.

There are two major areas of engagement right now, a small complex series of minor umbra with incomplete penumbra that "lead" called 742. Behind it and about a quarter of the way from the eastern limb is a large, mature area with a marginal penumbral field - 743. (i love some of these photo editing tools. you can flip and flop a reflector's image!) Although it is the more impressive of the two, you can tell from looking at it that it's not "busy" right now. Heading toward the magnetograms, both spots are equally powerful in terms of magnetic energy spread out over a distance far greater than their size. The trick is to actually pay closer attention to the region where the spots are and there is very little intrusion between fields. One of 742's leaders is definately holding a very strong negative charge, but it will need to expand greatly over the coming days to cause activity. Fortunately, 742's primary spot is also a negative and shows a little "push" towards it's common charge. So it was nice to see our nearest star...

Even if it's just for a few minutes.

"Nail in my hand... From my creator. You gave me a life. Now show me how to live..."

March 10, 2005 - A Morning "Walk"...

Comments: Make that more like a morning shiver, will you? It's incredibly cold in Ohio! But one nice thing about that cold means it sometimes brings incredibly clear skies. I zapped out early last night. Of course, this also means my "internal alarm clock" went off a little earlier than usual and somwhere around 4:00 I found myself starting coffee and wondering why I wasn't sleeping in. When I let H out for his morning run, I knew why...

Saggitarius was out there waiting for me.

Opting to leave the hot shower as the last thing I did this morning, I snatched at any assortment of clothes that would keep me warm. Filling my thermal mug, I shook cat Z off my parka - only to get a golden glare that most certainly would have killed if I were rodent-sized. (cats are such impudent creatures. if he were not H's "plaything", i am afraid i would be far less tolerant.) Pulling on gloves and a hat, I thought about sticking the field guide in my pocket to see if I really could catch the last of the Messiers before dawn, but rejected the idea. Why? Cuz' I'd get too involved and not enjoy myself.

H was very much waiting at the door when I returned. Now that he has aged a couple of years, he has become a woodburning dog. I hate to disappoint him, but I'm not risking smoke this morning! When he saw that I was dressed for outdoors, he did all but scream and flew out to the garage because he knew I was getting a scope out. My choice this morning?

No one else could dance with me like the old Celestron and its original 25mm eyepiece.

Carrying it out to the back field, my aim was simple enough. There's two stars up there I know and it wasn't long before I was looking at the M10 and M12. Grinning that my memory was still pretty sharp, I turned the scope around a little bit because the angle was akward and headed toward the M27. Superb! Off to Antares to look at the powder perfect M4 and up to the M80. Back down again and over for the M19. My gosh. I had forgotten how blue this squeezed globular looks! Smiling, I went for the M11 and the comet-like configuration of stars that make up the "Wild Ducks". Dropping back down, I caught the M6 and that "butterfly" outline is just priceless. M7 is next and now I am really smiling!

While H pounds back and forth and discovers his newly found ability to get "inside" the lower branches of the big pine, I stand watching the skies and taking steamy sips of coffee. Am I thinking? Yeah. I'm thinking the M15, M75, and M2 are gonna' be right on the verge of dawn. Can I see Delphinus? Yep. Can I see Enif? Just barely. Can I see Capricornus? Are you kidding?!? Beta Auquari has just barely risen enough to be visible! But cha' know what? Saggitarius looks awesome....

I start at Kaus Borealis and up for the M28 and over for the M22. Going back to the "spout", I start this wonderous walk that I have done for years... M8, M20, M21, M23, M24, M25, M18 and M17. When I reach the M16, I glide back down again. Know this... I do this "released". I do not tighten down the mount for each object, just do them in a slow, fluid motion. You might find that appalling - but I find it appealing. I slide over them again and again, because this is what I enjoy. I touch the stars... And they touch me.

Snapping out of my sensuous embrace when H takes off with my coffee mug, I realize I best put things away and get ready for work now. The hot shower will be as welcome as the walk across the summer skies has been.

Wish you were here...

"You thought I was a man. You better think again! Before my role defies you..."

March 6, 2005 - Comet C/2004 Q2 Machhoz? ... Present And Accounted For, Sir!

Comments: Now you really didn't think for one second that I would allow that comet to slip away from me, did you? Ah... You know me well!

In recent times, I have learned a deep appreciation of binoculars. The use of them now presents observational astronomy in a definate a'la carte' fashion - and the price you pay for each item is the loss of resolution tempered by the ease of use. Who wouldn't be tempted to observe something if you knew you could walk out in your slippers and a coat a have it in seconds? Kinda' like sliding through the drive-thru....

Super-size it, please.

More than anything, I just wanted to know if Comet Machholz had either faded or moved dramatically in 72 hours. My astronomy "head" knew it was poor sky conditions at the observatory, but my "heart" had to know. So, when I checked after sunset, caught decent 4 or better limiting skies, you know the little binos and I just had to take a walk. I've got questions and it gives me answers! Comet Machholz is exactly where it should be. Because it is now circumpolar, how exactly do you express it's position? Well, at around 7:00 EST, it was within 4 degrees south of Polaris. Again, this is another "guesstimate" on my part, because I do not know precisely the field of view the little 5X30s provide. What I do know with complete certainty is that they both fit in the same field of view. For those of you with Uranometria? Page one.

I am so precise. ;)

So how's it lookin'? It is fading, amigos. While sky conditions were not the best the could be, our friend "Magnificent Machholz" is getting diffuse. Only days ago you could still see a stub of a tail and now it is looking more and more like an unresolved globular cluster. Even its core is beginning to bleed away... If you have not looked in awhile? Please do so. Its days of being a small binocular object are very limited.

Trying not to mourn the loss of Machholz, I skyhopped for awhile. There is a certain pleasure in the M45, the M52, the M34, the "Double Cluster", the M42, 41, 93, 46, 47, 50, 35, 44 and 67. I truly like binocular observing, although "free handing" it will give you a sense of vertigo. At the same time, it's also kinda' creepy. My imagination knows no bounds, and I always wait on that one moment that I accidentally look at something that's looking back at me... H.G. Wells?

It's all your fault.

"In the after birth... On a quiet Earth... Let these stains remind you."

March 5, 2005 - Warren Rupp Observatory Public Night...

Comments: What gives here? Clear skies? Almost hard to believe since the biggest majority of our Public Nights are usually clouded out - but I am not complainin'!

After our meeting, it was time to head outside to do a little starhopping. I had brought along the little Orion 4.5 not because it will take a beating (you cannot keep this little bugger well collimated.), but because it is so very portable. Once set up, I was really glad to see Keith nearby with his mounted binoculars. Do you know what a treat that is?! He really has a prestigious list of observations, and it's great to see him here observing. Anyhow, I got out my binoculars as well, because Jeromey and Ethan had come and I wanted to show them Comet Machholz. Now, mind you, I have followed this comet since it first appeared in the south and have never had any trouble picking it out. Do you think I could find it? No way! Thanks to a thin cloud cover and the extremely bright lights from the neighboring ski resort, Machholz was invisible! Enlisting Keith's aid, we both scanned the skies repeatedly and it would simply not show through the light pollution.

It was that bad.

Figuring if I waited until it got a bit more dark that things would improve, I headed inside the dome to set the Big 'Un on Saturn for our young guest. The lower half of the door had been left down and since I aim with my hands and eyes instead of a computer, I went to "pick it up" by operating the slit. Amidst creaks, groans and all other horrible manner of sounds, the slit went down - but the lower door didn't come back up. Que? Perhaps it's frozen? John arrived inside about then to find out what I was doing because he had requested the scope for the night and I just let it go. I'd rather talk to Mike A. when we can hear each other over the cacaphony of the slit rising. Call me when Saturn's up.

Heading back outdoors, I picked up the binos again to search for Machholz. To me, this is just unbelievable that it can't be found. I know it's dimmed considerably, but I can still pick it up at home with no problem. Once again, too much light was a problem and no amount of searching was going to get it.

Oh, well. Things got much better when I heard a voice in the dark behind me. Turning around, I could only grin, because I keep forgetting how tall this dude is. Hi, Lee! Glad you could make it! He handed me a package and I stole off to the attic to peek inside. That ain't computer stuff! Smiling, I went back out and we just uncapped the little Orion and played. The southern skies here don't fair much better with the lights of Lexington, but at least some of the brighter things would show through quite well. We starhopped and talked for awhile and when Saturn was up it the 31"?

Hey. We're there.

With the 50mm, it's not too impressive... But John could be persuaded into using some power on it. A definate improvement! Titan was near the ring edge, but I can't tell you cardinal directions with the drive turned on. Fortunately the drive still slips and I'd guarantee you Titan was to the west. The night could have been more steady and the view more clear, but at least my companion enjoyed it! Saturn is probably one of the most awesome of all planets in this scope because the color is so beautiful. Now, if it were me, I would have dropped the power back and pushed the scope across for M35, but John wanted to play with his new nebula filter so we just headed back out to the little scope. Look ma! No computer... And there it is.

Mike A. has set the club dob outside and is working his way across the south as Keith continues his studies as well. We walk around admiring the view in each one and as I pick off some more of those Mmmm words, Joe and Ken join us to view as well. When Lee comes back, we aim it at Saturn and then back to the M35. Then he asks me a question that is simply golden... Can I tell him what the little circle of stars is on the clusters edge? I imagine my smile lit up the dark as I went to the eyepiece to confirm what he had seen and what I know. He's very sharp to have picked off the NGC2158 in such limited aperture! Gosh how I wish we could go put the big one on the Eskimo! We look at several other things and I know that some letters and numbers are pretty boring, but there is the "Beehive"!

John calls that the Trapezium area is now in the scope and we go to look. The filter does a magnificent job in calling out structure, but only the four primaries are visible in blue. Very nice! Afterwards, we stood and talked inside the now quiet dome for awhile. How the big scope really works is pretty amazing. Perhaps the day will come again when it is open and we are back down to what makes a scope a scope, huh? The sheer beauty of seeing the big mirror reflect the starlight back upwards, the soft "music box" ping of the original drive... No gadgets or frills. I know Joe would smack my hands for saying this, but it has lost it's charm. Now it's just a big version of someone else's scope. No magic left.

While we talk (but not about my feelings at the changes that have been made), the clouds have slowly stolen back in and everyone is packing it up for the night. Appreciative of the extra hands, we load my car and head back into the ClubHouse to look at Terry's wonderous galaxy map and play with the "star ball" in the dark. It's not long until everyone is ready to leave for we all have places to go and things to do. It was a very successful meeting and first public night. And wonderful to see a stranger in the dark! Me? I grabbed a cup of coffee on the way back...

And stay outside to watch Jupiter. ;)

"Nail in my hand... From my creator. You gave me a life... Now show me how to live."

March 3, 2005 - Mmmmmmmmmm!

Comments: Same date? Darn right, same date. Those clear skies from this morning's occultation held and it was truly my pleasure to take the SVD8 out for awhile and go hunting. And what was I hunting?


Setting it out in a thin spot in the south field was a good move. As much as I appreciate the "shelter" of the courtyard, the skies out here are wide open. In other words? Lotsa' room to play! Unfortunately the first two on the list of those Mmmmm words had definately gone into the one tree. Could I get around it? Yeah. But I looked at M74 and M77 not long ago. Besides, they are probably right on the horizon! Right now I'd prefer to get the M33 before it's gone and as wonderfully as the SVD8 performs on this galaxy, it was pretty toasted thanks to sky position. Nothing more than a thin glow... I really should not have waited until it was so low. The same held true for the M31, M32 and M110, but it's still great to know they are right where I left them last. Word of caution if you are going to do the mm? 8:45 is pushing your luck on these galaxies.

M45? Oh, you kid... ;)

Kicking over to the lowering Cassiopeia, I began my "star walk" enjoying all the great little NGCs along the way, but took the time to focus on the M110 and M52. They are very fine... But the NGC457 and NGC7789 are the most fun! Poor Charles... You missed them! Heading off to Perseus, it wasn't any trouble to scout out the M76 and enjoy the little glowing "dog bone" in the sky. M34 really sparkles tonight, too! Of course, while I'm here I went after the biggest M of all in the sky right now - Machholz! I'll be daggoned if it still isn't awesome. Tonight it looks as if you watched it long enough that it would cruise right between those two stars leading it! Talk about a super stellar field... There was a great line of three like a miniature Orion just north of it and the tail? Hola! It stretches right back to the star on the southeast edge of the field of view.

Smiling, I picked up the scope and turned it around for my own brand of "polar alignment". I wasn't even close, because looking right around the pole means putting the scope in a bad position and there is simply no law that says you have to. When things are reasonably close, I head back out again to scope in the little globular M79 and trip the "light" fantastic with the Mmmmm 42 and 43. Hopping up for nebula M78, I move on to the M1 and surprisingly it is definately an Mmmm in this scope! Mmmmmmashed potatoes... ;)

Again, I don't have to follow rules so while I was overhead, it was a good time to have a go at the M35. Taking the drop to the south, the M50, M93, M46 and M47 came next. And before I forget? The M41! Tipping up, the great ol' M44 was next and I really took my time enjoying the M67. This has got to be one of my favourite galactic clusters!

Even though you'd argue with me, I turned the scope around again and headed towards Ursa Major. The M81 and M82 are splendid in this scope! M108 was nice and lumpy and M97 was pretty daggone small. (ok... i was havin' fun with the 26mm Meade study grade - it's the one i enjoy most!) M101? Howdy! Good to see you again! Shifting just a bit, I was kinda' crabbing to myself because I didn't bring a map out - But who needs a map for the M96, M95 and M105? Leo has risen very well by this hour, and although the M65 and M66 were still a little on the low side, they look great!

Feeling the cold a bit, I took a break to go warm up - but not really caring if I did or not, I went back to stare at Cor Caroli for awhile trying to get my Mmmmmemory back. M51? Squeezy... But what's the one? Hmmmm... Gotcha'! It's right there and not the best, but Mmmm 63 be your name! Hop on, stranger... And the M94 comes next. OK. I got it. There's Alpha Comae and right there's the M53! Wow... Looks kinda' like the M79 doesn't it?? And there is... Yep! There's the star I need and there is the M64! Know what? You can see the dark dustlane very well with this scope! Smiling at Arcturus, I followed my "line" (what is it, anyway?) and the last for me tonight is the awesome Mmmmm 3.

Taking out my pencil and Mmmmarking down the last number on the back of an old grocery receipt, I take a quick glance at my watch and smile. I had been wondering about what the average a person could do in a very short time and I've exceeded my own expectations by a baker's dozen. Lotsa' Mmmmmmms out there that can be achieved in less than 90 Mmmmminutes! Capping things back up, I carried the scope back to the garage, turned off the walkman and took the headphones off where they joined my field notes, little squeezy light and pencil stub in my pocket. I watched one of our little earth-orbiting friends cruise the starry skies and wondered just how probable it would be to catch the M15 just before daybreak. Out of all the things out there... It and the M2 are going to be tight. Ah, well. It really doesn't matter now, does it? They'll come along soon enough. Closing the door, I take one last look at Jupiter and Spica. Ya' know what?

The Mmmmm 104 is right below it.

"And in the aching night... Under satellites. I was not received. I'm built with stolen parts.... A telephone in my heart. Someone get me a priest! To put my mind to bed... This ringing in my head...

Is this a cure? Or is this a disease?"

March 3, 2003 - The Moon Occults Antares...

Comments: So where have I been the last few days? Well, if you follow the weather you know this area has been frozen as hard as a carp and happily enjoying another four inches or so of snow. It blew, it drifted, and it's been every bit as mean here as Ol' Man Winter could make it. Chances of catching an occultation this morning? Just like the temperatures...

Near zero.

So who should be more surprised than myself when I got up at my routine time and saw the Moon, eh? I threw on a nightshirt and poured myself a cup of coffee. Opening the sliding glass door ever so slightly, it didn't take long to confirm it was raw outside. Snagging my binoculars, I left the lights off and went to the door again. Hot dang! You can see Antares as clear as a bell... And I don't have long. Making a run for the shower, I would have made ya' proud at how quickly I got ready for work, packed my lunch, and got everything ready to go. Looking at my video camera, I knew it had been a very long time since I had charged its battery, so I gave it a jump while I set out the scope and started my car to let it thaw. Of course, setting out the scope also meant wading drifts, but one glance at the ever-approaching Antares went far beyond worrying about getting my workclothes wet!

Scorching my tounge, I swallowed down another cup of coffee, tucked the camera inside my coat and headed back out. This is awesome! But it's moving ever so slowly... Realizing there was no way I could make the 30 minute commute to work and still be on time, I took a few minutes of film and headed back to the garage to phone in. Guess what? I'm big on honor and duty... But this morning I am not going to be there at precisely 6:00 a.m.! Kicking through the snow, I headed back for the scope and went back to watching Antares creep towards the Moon's bright limb.

It's getting mighty close...

I was being ever so careful not to breathe on anything, because I had noticed that within about 15 minutes that the little Orion's tube had frosted. As close as Antares is getting, it would be a disaster right now to have the eyepiece glaze over on me! I filmed for a few minutes longer, proud that I had remembered to charge the battery to combat the cold. (yes. i switched pictures. i never ammend my reports, but after i saw how badly my sharpened picture looked on a real computer, i realized who cares if it's fuzzy? only john chumack and i even bothered... ) As the soft orange of Alpha Scorpii neared the limb, I could see something the camera could not, and that was that it was going to go in between two crater rims. Knowing that my old camcorder would overexpose it no matter what, and knowing myself equally well - Filming was out of the question. Just like the very last moments of the Venus transit, I wanted to see this with my own eyes and not through a little screen. Turning the camera off, I centered it back up and just released myself into the pure joy of watching.

What can I say? The few seconds left a life-time impression on me. There is simply nothing on the face of this Earth that can compare to watching the clockwork precision of the sky. Antares slid right in between those two distant peaks like a miniature sun setting below a mountain range. What was probably nothing more than two or three seconds at first contact seemed to last for minutes. And then? It simply disappeared. Remembering my IOTA lessons, I looked down at my watch to get a precise number... And I wasn't wearing it. $#*+!!! Making a mad dash for the house, six tons of snow and I burst into the living room and the best I can say is that it happened here within a few seconds before or after 5:48 a.m. Some critical timer I'd make, huh?

Laughing at myself, (i am not a dumb blonde. i am merely a light-haired detour off the information superhighway.) I went back out to put the scope away and jumped into my waiting car to head for work. Sure... I would have like to have watched the re-appearance, but I'm happy just to have caught what I did. The moment I pushed in the clutch I realized just how cold I had become because I couldn't feel my feet! But, it's alright. A few miles down the road was all it took to thaw. I might have to work the morning away in snow-wet clothes with frozen hair... But hey!

It was worth it.

"And with the early dawn... Moving right along. I couldn't buy an eyeful of sleep..."