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May 2005

May 31, 2005 - The Moon and Mars...

Comments: I slept well. Dreams of sunlight on water and faraway galaxies. But habit is a tough teacher and I found myself awake before dawn. I kept trying to tell myself to go back to sleep... It's a day off... But a voice said I needed to remember something.

Something really important.

I knew it had to do with the sky and the moment I stepped out the back door I remembered. How could you miss it? Mars and the Moon were so close... I shuffled back in and got my video camera, scolding myself for not learning how to use my new Meade binocular camera. Even though the picture is horrible, for the camcorder does not capture dark skies well, I still saved it. I know it sounds stupid, but perhaps some year I'll look back on this and when I see that picture I'll remember just how beautiful that night really was.

I watched them as the dawn took over and the gently moved across the sky. Mars just seems to speed in comparison to the Moon. It really was a beautiful event. The rain is coming back again tonight, and although I love to observe...

This is a fitting end to a very good month.

"Can I just have one more moondance with you... my love?"

May 30, 2005 - The "Antennae" Galaxies (NGC 4038/39), Markarian's Chain, The "Field Of Dreams", M13 and NGC 6207...

Comments: What an absolutely outstanding night! Despite having been the "vampyre" and heading into work in the rain, by mid-morning the skies were clearing and it turned into a superior afternoon. Today is a holiday and I chose to enjoy it by spending the day fishing with the boys. I know you probably think that out of character, but it might surprise you that I do it rather well. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day... Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Teach a woman to fish?

And she'll sit on a bank for an entire afternoon playing with a school of bluegill and throwing them back in.

When the skies got dark, I was anxious to go out and have a look for the aurora. I hadn't slept at all and I figured that I'd go right out... But after having watched more white spires I was anything but ready to go to sleep. I kept looking to the south and do you have any idea of just how close we are to being able to see Omega Centauri? Iota and Theta Centarus are exceedingly clear! If only I could just tip the horizon ever so slightly.... But there is no way. What I can do is to take out this wonderful old Meade study grade 12.5 telescope and remember exactly why I love it.

All you need is the one star to the west of Corvus and just go above it for the "Antennae" galaxies. A low power they are a curious pair - two bright nucleii and a nebula-like sheath around them. At higher power you get structure. Very coma-like in appearance where the brighter areas twist together, averted vision gives you a sense of clumpiness in the structure and long extensions off to the side of the cores. Just a very, very fine place.

Watching Virgo, I know the season is about passed for galaxy hunting and it is with great pleasure that I open my maps and follow Markarian's Chain. If you start in the northeast with M88, you can just trace them... NGC 4474, NGC 4459, NGC 4477, NGC 4473, NGC 4461... And the you find yourself in the M8/M86 "Field Of Dreams"... NGC 4435, NGC 4438, NGC 4425, NGC 4413 NGC 4388, and begin curving right back up for M84, M86 and NGC 4402. This is galaxy hunting at its finest and I could hug my scope I am so pleased. As always, I laugh and clap my hands like a child when I am in this field. You must understand that this scope lights these galaxies up and on a superior night like this one, almost every single one is direct vision.

Touched, I almost thought to stop there, because I really do need to stay off my feet until everything is healed. But I need a healing of my own and M13 with the 12.3 Epic eyepiece gives it to me. Absolutely stunning! It is like you can count the stars in there... And you can see the little dark obscuring trail to the side. Curious, I nudge the scope to the northeast and find that little galaxy is still there. NGC6207 is nothing more than a small spiral with no great definition, but the very fact that it is only about a half degree from such a grand object is what makes it beautiful.

It stands in the shadow of greatness...

"Oh, the night's magic..."

May 29, 2005 - Right Before Dawn...

Comments: The weather has been slightly uncooperative here. One moment you will walk outside to total clouds and the next it will be clear. As much as I really want to be out studying the galaxies, it just isn't possible. Right now I'm having trouble re-adjusting to my work hours (are you kidding? i'm even having trouble walking!) and about 4:00 this morning I was awake.

I had coffee. I iced my feet. I did my physical therapy. I took my medicine... And still they are driving me crazy. If there's one thing in the world that I can do to take my mind off pain (and they are getting better, thank you.) it is to go out and look through the telescope. So, before 5:00 I was out with the old Celestron exploring the Apennine Mountains and getting used to standing. I could see light beginning to gather in the east and figured I better pack it up and head to work. Tucking the scope in the garage, I glanced at my watch and saw I was making good time. It's getting close to 5:30 and it's time for me to head.

Walking back toward the house, I just happened to look up (who me?) and see what looked like a faded white search light coming from due north. Now all grins, I watched as it slowly faded away and another took its place. No color. Just white. By the time the third had began to bleed in, so had the sunrise and my time is short. Grabbing my car keys, I gave Mars a wave and headed into work - happy to have been there for the show.

I miss those morning walks.

"Can I just have one more moondance with you?"

May 26, 2005 - Comet 9P/Tempel 1....

Comments: Am I still chasing? Darn right I am. What I do is far more for myself than just achieving "comet hunter's gold". I love comets. I like reading about them, writing about them, and most of all?

I love looking at them.

After having done tonnes of research on Comet Halley - from dust particles, scattering properties, and even organic materials - it had been my great pleasure to have met one of the world's foremost leading "comet man", Dr. Jochen Kissel. Being able to see excitement after all the research this fine gentleman has done, is cause enough for me to realize that my enjoyment is perfectly all right and to want to look at it with superior equipment is not a waste of time with a "poof ball", but a true honor to be able to see.

And 9/P Tempel 1 is my choice...

Yep. Nobody at the Observatory last night really wanted to look at it that much. Both Joe and John took the coordinates I gave them and tried their best with 8" scopes, but you simply can't see it in them. Last time I checked, when I really want to I can tell you proper coordinates, and when they don't turn it up I start to doubt myself. After our company had left (and it's a shame we did not show it to them) I once again begged Jerry to set the 31" scope on it. (it is improper behaviour to simply drag someone off the lift and take over.) I know what I can see in a 12.5" and it ain't no "poof ball". The 31" will light it up.

Giving him my numbers, I was at least grateful that patient following and map work put us within less than a degree of Tempel 1's position. Going to the eyepiece is pure pleasure! The comet has a dazzling stellar nucleus, a broad, fanned coma, and at least 30 arc minutes of tail. This is not a ho-hum diffuse comet - it's not only beautiful, but it's about to make history.

So I return tonight with my 12.5" to look again. Unlike the 31", details are sparing. To this much smaller scope, it is vaguely cometary in shape and has a condensation towards the nucleus. In comparison to position, it is creeping. Now, I know I could pop up orbital elements and explain why in the line of sight that it appears to be moving so slowly, but that's not what "comet hunter's gold" is all about. For most, that would be just sketching or photographing the comet and labeling stars and showing direction of movement. But, like all studies I have tackled, the point is to learn - not to copy. Rather than see the orbit path on a screen, I want to understand it in my head. I want to understand the angle that it is approaching our solar system and understand why its movement and speed reflect against the sky.

And I wanna' see it on July 4. ;)

Right now the media is beginning to build "comet fever" up... The same way the hyperbole worked for Mars and the sales of solar filters near an eclipse. I'm sorry. This is wrong. "Buy this telescope and be ready for Deep Impact!". Excuse me? Shouldn't you already be studying the comet so you actually know the difference when it hits? Who out there is making folks aware of where its at and what it looks like? Grrrrrr.... This is going to happen in about 6 weeks. Do they honestly think a newbie is going to be able to find it?

All right. Enough of my soapbox. My point is simply this - If you have a 10" or larger scope? Start observing Tempel 1 now. You're not going to get the views that you'll receive from an Observatory telescope, but you're going to get the gift of knowledge. If you're watching, you are going to be part of history! Will we amateurs make any difference? None at all. But if you wait until the last second to locate Tempel 1, you are running the risk of either not finding it or not having skies. Until Deep Impact happens...

I'll be watching and waiting.

"And when you come my heart will be waiting.... To make sure that you're never alone."

May 25, 2005 - At The Observatory...

Comments: On a night when there is soon to be Moon? Darn right. We had some very special visitors coming and I wasn't aware of just "how" special until after they arrived.

If you had asked me a week ago if the weather was going to cooperate, I would have probably doubted it. If you had asked me this morning, the prognosis would have probably been grim. But even hard luck cases sometimes get a break and as the Sun went down, the skies turned beautiful. I cannot tell you how wonderful everything looked when I arrived. A couple of the members have been a tremendous help and everythings looks more spiffy than I have ever seen it. Unlike my doomed tomatoes, the landscaping I had done is flourishing! Windows gleamed, furnishings were neat as a pin, the new restroom sparkled and the place just generally looks better than I have ever seen it. I was so happy to see Dan, John and Joe when I arrived. As we talked away the early sunset time, Bruce joined us as well, and it's not hard to tell he's exhausted. We have scopes set up everywhere, and when Jerry shows up, it's beginning to feel more like a comfortable observing evening amoungst friends.

By the time darkness fell, we watched the lights come up the hill. Walking down, I greeted our guests. Both Kathryn and Ellen I had met before and it is wonderful to see them again, but the real treat is to get to meet the family of Warren Rupp. The Observatory is the legacy of their family and we are both very proud and honoured to have them here. As we show them the improvements that have been made over the last year, the stars begin to come out - just like this visit was meant to be. We have things ready to go, and it is our pleasure to show them the celestial delights and why we love the place so very much. No one can spin a yarn like Dan, just as no one can speak as melodiously as Jerry. Joe and John are like the rocks of gibralter, and with both of their computer guided scopes, we lack for nothing. For a change? Even I could hit every single thing I was after in seconds. (sssh! don't you tell anybody i can do that! i'm much more comfortable in my slightly bungling role... ;)

All in all, the night was spectacular. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it was to give the Rupp family an opportunity to see why the Observatory means so very much to us. History simple oozes out of the walls here, and it is a history that should be guarded and preserved... As well as enjoyed by the public! We might not be Lick, we might not be Palomar, we might not be Perkins... But like the pine trees lining the winding road? We've got a name... Warren Rupp Observatory.

And we're darn proud of it.

"Can I just have one more moondance with you?"

May 23/24, 2005 - A Whole Lotta' Moon...

Comments: "Ooooh, you need coolin'. Baby, I'm not foolin'. I'm gonna' send ya'... Back to schoolin'. Way, way down inside... Honey, you need. Gonna' send ya' the Moon. Gonna' send ya' the Moon... Oh... Gotta' whole lotta' Moon..." Oh, my. May my beginning with grass roots Led Zepplin forgive me for that one!

Needless to say, that's what we've had for the last two days - a whole lotta' Moon and a whole lotta' clouds. Unfortunately, as much as I had hoped to catch the occultation of Antares, it didn't happen. My observations for the last two days have been limited to watching that great ivory orb rise and hide behind rain clouds. It's been nice, though. I've sat in the shadows and watched for the rabbits. I've replanted and am on guard with an impromptu chicken wire fence which they have managed to totally ignore. Oddly enough, they don't seem to care for the habenero plants. I'm thinking if I have to plant tomatoes one more time, I'm going to fight this biologically. Does anyone out there know if I make a "tea" of habeneros and water, spray it on the other plants, if it will keep the little beasties from eating so freely?

Apparently the full Moon only gives them light to dine by...

"And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush..."

May 21, 2005 - At Malibar Farms...

Comments: What a great night! Not only did the weather cooperate splendidly, but we had a wonderful turn-out as well. Unfortunately, circumstances on the homefront made me leave a bit later than I would have liked to, but you'll never know just how great it was to see my friends again. It is so good to see Robert, with his kind ways and enjoy our spiritual connection. It has been far too long since I have laughed with Stuart and his new toy, or seen Tim, Curt and Trish. Keith has brought his 10" along tonight, Greg has his trusty Meade and I am happy with the "disposa-scope" Orion 4.5.

Thar be moon...

All in all, we had perhaps fifty people. Part of this was a boy scout troop eager to earn their merit badges, and when it comes to giving a program - nothing can make me happier. About half of our audience was connecting, and the other half? Well.. Call it full moon fever. Kids will be kids. That part of the evening passed exceptionally quickly. I am learning the finer art of the body block and find myself using some of H's famous shepherd moves to avoid "situations". The kids very much enjoyed their looks at the Moon and the planets. Unfortunately, double stars are a little less entertaining for the young, but we keep their minds occupied.

After the dust had settled, it was good to just be amoungst friends. We enjoy moving between each other's scopes and I am ready for a "GoTo" system. While I have no problem with starhopping, I have found that I actually need stars to hop from - and when the Moon is near full? Well, there's nearly none. It's OK, though. I simply enjoy being close to Robert and having the chance to talk with Bubba and Greg. We have all decided that Stuart's Nagler eyepieces are definately the finest in the lot and the Meade series 4000 ranks right behind it.

The night turns very late, indeed. Where do the hours go so quickly? Although I have been very careful to sit whenever possible, I find myself needful of some chemical comfort (god bless advil liqui-gels), a coat and a cup of coffee. I am loathe to go, and I find myself hanging around far too long for my own good. By the time I had stowed away the very last of my equipment, the clouds had softly stolen in on little cat feet. As one rouge would pass over the Moon, we would all laugh and hurry to find something during our quick moment of darkness! Again, I am appreciative of Stuart's "GoTo", for there is no way that I could find things that fast. It's definately cool...

When the time comes at last, I reluctantly say my goodbyes and head west. I follow the clear skies and enough moonlight to show the many deer that are out on the prowl. They stand away from the road, head alert, and I am grateful they chose not to commit hari-kari on my passing, eh? The night is simply alive with creatures - from the families of canadian geese bedding down near the reservior's edge, to the blue eyes of the raccoon and the slow amble of the possum crossing the road. When I arrive, I take my watering can and head out to give my many herbs and hanging flowers a small taste in their safety above the ground. I thought to give the new tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers just a wee drink - only to discover that the jalepenos are all that is left. Of my lovingly attended garden, only little brave green stems remain - casting a defoliated shadows against the fragrant cypress. Not only was I able to point out the "rabbit on the moon", tonight...

But he decided to visit while I was gone.

"What a marvelous night for a moondance... With all the stars shining high up above."

May 20, 2005 - The Man In The Moon...

Comments: OK. I got convinced to go out last night. It's a rarity, but every once in a while it just feels good to do things I ordinarily don't. Supper was great, the company was pleasant, and even on the city limits it's possible to practice a little astronomy. Despite earlier rains, by the time the Sun has began to set, the skies had began to clear in fine fashion. At one point we were in this place where the landscape is as flat as a dime and the twi-light arc was just so apparent that I stood in awe. It was a dirty, dusky looking blue edged by the Belt of Venus dressed in pinkish orange.

And here I just like my basic blacks.

The Moon was just superb overhead and on the western horizon the sky was on-fire with sunset clouds. Shining bravely through them was the unmistakeable Venus and it definately looks like it's going to be a nice night. Did I split then? Nah. Once in awhile it's nice to be able to tell someone to have a look at this or that, and they at least half turn their head in your direction. It was a pleasant time and after a few hours, Cinderella had enough. Time to unwind...

And there is no finer place to unwind that a simple journey to the Moon. Jupiter has gone well west and I really wish I could have seen it last night. Oddly enough, brave little Spica has taken its place and the two are close enough together to add a smile to the scene. My companion for the remainder of the evening is noneother than the 12.5, a polarizing filter, and 12mm eyepiece. It's been a long time since I've explored and even longer since I've scoped.

Aristarchus was the first thing to catch my eye, and I really enjoy tracing Schroeter's Valley. I imagine to a lot of people, including my previous companion, that it's totally boring. To me? This is awesome. I am standing here a quarter of a million miles away looking at a feature on a distant world that is between 2 and 5 miles wide and 125 miles long. I know that the valley itself is somewhere anywhere from 500 to 4500 feet deep, and if I recall my seleographic studies correctly it was believed to have been a lava tube. Now if you stop to think about that... It's pretty much like looking at a dried up river bed on another world.

And I think that's cool.

The other real showstopper for the evening was Gassendi, of course. Again, there is a beauty in resolution. While Gassendi is spectacular in all scopes, there is a pleasure that can be taken at high power on some of the finer features like the rilles that cut across the floor of Mare Humorum. Smaller craters like Doppelmeyer and Hippalus take on more meaning. Cape Kelvin and Rupes Kelvin... And details like cracks along the floor of Gassendi and minor craters. Who says this just isn't cool?!

It doesn't take long before my feet have had enough and it is time to put the scope away. I sat for awhile and just admired the skies, for despite the presence of the Moon, many stars are out. I hope this wonderful weather holds and our starparty tomorrow night goes well. And for awhile I just dream on the Moon... Tonight the face of the "Man in the Moon" is very apparent, and somehow I remember being out with the same person the very first time I noticed it. Looks like I'm trapped again. Yeah. It's nothing more than an effect of the dark mare against the brighter features...

But it's so far away.

"Never free. Never me. Because I'm unforgiven, too..."

May 18, 2005 - The Moon and Jupiter...

Comments: An over-abundance of moving high level clouds means no astronomy tonight... Or does it? Even though it's not clear enough to do any observing, that doesn't mean you can't look.

While H made his nightly run, I was happy to park on the bench and just watch the clouds run over the sky. The first quarter Moon looks terrific, but what really steals the show is that when Jupiter appears you can see that they are going to merge tomorrow. I know the ecliptic like I know the lines in my face and it's going to be so close! Of course, these clouds mean rain and rain is in the forecast for tomorrow night. It's the way of things, and I am used to it...

But it sure would be something to see.

"Because you're unforgiven, too..."

May 17, 2005 - Aloha 759...

Comments: A day off to re-group and enjoy the sunshine! This change is still hitting me hard and I find myself sleepy and unproductive. Still, the call to go out and look at the great beast that caused all the excitement is far more attractive than just vegetating in the chair staring at a screen...

As you can see, the smoke is still clearing from all the activity from 759. (big grins here... i do have some shots without clouds, but simply could not resist the pun.) Its followers have basically vanished from view and the umbra region has matured even more while the penumbra has shrank. 763 has become so minor it's almost negligable.

And so when the Moon trades the Sun places in the sky, I go out to look. Still wary of standing for too long, it is comfortable on the park bench with binoculars. The peace of Plato and the Apennine Mountains are my reward - the jumbled landscape of the south far too busy to keep the binoculars still long enough. I return again to Plato and end up thinking about alot of things I shouldn't, barely able to hold still enough to identify the bright points of Piton and Pico. They seem to swim... Like rain on the Moon. Maybe my eyes are watering, or I am just too tired to hold the binoculars steady?

And maybe I just shouldn't remember.

"Oh, what I've felt... Oh, what I've known.... I take this key and I bury it in you."

May 16, 2005 - The "Monday Vampyre"...

Comments: Boy, howdy... Even though this shift change seemed simple - it has me all screwed up. My body doesn't understand when it should be awake or sleeping and everything seems so unreal.

Even the clear skies!

At 2:00 a.m. there is no trace of the Moon. Both Scorpius and Saggitarius sit prime and the Milky Way is a river of light overhead. Right now I must still avoid standing too long, and so I take my cup of coffee and binoculars to the park bench to enjoy. This is the fare of Summer and I know it well. The M4, the M80, M6, M7, the Scorpius "Jewel Box", M8, M20, M22, M17, M24, M23, M28, M25, M18, M11, M27, M13 and the ever so tiny ring of M57. How joyous it seems to view them again!

And how I long for the telescope...

My time passes all too quickly and I must quit listening to Symphony and Metallica, put the binoculars away and head to work. When I come home, sleep consumes me and I cannot get my head straight to write again. Fear not, for I am a very resilient creature and I will adapt quickly. As you can see, my words are a bit stilted...

But the memory remains.

"So I dub thee unforgiven..."

May 14/15, 2005 - Of Storm Clouds, Hummingbirds and Pink Skies...

Comments: I think Spring is here. You never quite know in Ohio. About the time you finally throw the snowbrush into the garage and start the swimming pool back up - it gets cold again. But, there is one nice thing about the cold.

It often brings clear skies.

The day was just brat nasty. Filled with steel grey clouds and a light, cold continuous rain. My shift in hours has left me a little disoriented, for I'm used to sleeping away working weekends and I'm not quite sure of what it's going to be like to be the "Monday Vampyre". Late afternoon finds me wanting to doze off in my chair, but I resist the temptation as I look out the window and admire the verdant green of an awakening landscape. Actually, I was looking well beyond the window and a slight movement brought my attention (and focus) back to where it needed to be. Hello! I have a visitor!

He went up, he went down. He buzzed from side to side. If he made himself any more apparent, he might just have well come in the house, opened the refrigerator, helped himself to a Coke and sat down. Laughing at his antics, I made my way to the glass and just inches from my face the hummingbird hovered. Cat Z whisked himself into the window, and my red-throated "friend", cut away quicker than the eye could follow. Now this is surely a sign the weather will improve! Shuffling into the kitchen, I rummaged in the cupboard until I located the feeders. Tucked in the back is a mason jar full of nectar mix, and I happy concoct the rich mixture that signifies the human "Welcome..." for the hummingbirds return.

Carrying it outside to the deck railing, I set the feeders down and began filling them with scarlet nectar. The first one made the hair on the back of my neck tingle, and without turning to look, I knew by the characteristic hum that it was inches away from my left ear - watching my every move. Hanging the feeders in their customary places, I went back indoors to watch. Needless to say, the feeding frenzy was almost immediate! I love these daring little courageous birds... They are not shy and when they are accustomed to you, they return every year. Are they the very same ones? If they are not... They sure look like it. And even if they are not, I will spend my indoor hours happily watching "Redneck", "Greenback", "Blackhead", "Momma Goose" and "Ladybird". I watch as they zip to their home in the very small birdhouse built by my grandfather many years ago. They love the grape arbor, and I just love watching them.

The mid evening brings clear skies and I am anxious to go out and watch for aurora. It really does feel weird not being in bed before sunset! The skies are quite passingly clear enough and I can vaguely see both Corona Borealis and Corvus. My reward? Faded pinks.... At one point, there was a nice glowing band across the south - but I cannot tell if this is Moon illuminating clouds, or if what I'm seeing is aurora.

Giving up, I go to bed at last - but the call to be up and at work at 3:00 a.m. is too strong for my body to resist. Pulling a blanket around me, I head outside to find extremely clear skies and settle down on the parkbench to keep watch. Again, what I get is very deep pink. No grandoise spires. No alien green clouds. No shimmering blues. Just a pink dome that goes up about 20 degrees of sky and sometimes becomes a darker pink. I smile at Mars remembering the outstanding aurora of the past, but all we're getting tonight....

Is pinkled.

"Oh, what I've felt, what I've known... Turn the pages. Turn the stone. Behind the door... Should I open it for you?"

May 13, 2005 - Rockin' Sun!

Comments: Clouds today? Yes. But ample clear areas to set up for solar viewing the moment I got home from work. I'll tell ya'... Having everything ready to go sure is nice!

My goal was simple. I wanted to film 758 on the limb because the Wilson Effect was so clear that I wanted to see if it could be caught on camera. When you watch the film as a whole, you could see the indentation on the limb that the effect makes, but cutting it out in one frame is an extreme challenge. What would happen was the frame that would show the effect would also show the sunspot as blurred - or vice versa. Happy enough just to have caught the faculae field, and accompanying series 762, I moved on to other hunting.

Man, you should check out how bright central 759 is! (it's in the upper right hand corner.) My field notes have exclamation points all over it. And so I train the little eyepiece camera its way and endeavor to capture both it and incoming 763 in the same shot. Over and over I find myself drawn back to bright 759...

And with very good reason.

After I put my things away and rested for 45 minutes off my feet, (see? i am following doctor's orders!) I went to my office to review the films and check e.mail before I checked data. Hot topic? Strong solar burst. Just as quick as I saw the graph that RadioJOVE sent, I went straight to G.O.E.S. Wham!! Not only was their assessment correct, but it was an M6 class flare backed by a CME!! Time? Within 15 minutes prior to my images. From 16:47 to 16:55 we had an immense solar flare and it triggered a coronal mass ejection. Delighted that I've still got that little sense of "you need to go look right now", I was happy that I had filmed between 17:05 and 17:15...

And then the data updated.

At 17:10 the same area... Bright little 759 had erupted with an additional M3 class flare. All of the activity is Earth-directed and should trigger the ShockSpot proton meter in around 24 hours. If the skies should go clear, that means we will very much be up for auroral activity. For now? I am seriously beginning to think that I should take out some of this money I have tucked away and get an h-alpha set up. If I can manage to "see" in just white light, can you imagine what it would be like to witness a sunspot during an M or X class flare? What about a CME? Would it show? Could you film it? I don't know... But I'd like to. My photos certainly aren't going to win any prizes, but that sixth sense that says "you better go look right now...."

Still works just fine.

"What I've felt... And what I've known... So sick and tired - I stand alone. Could you be there? Because I'm the one who waits... The one who waits for you...

Or are you unforgiven, too?"

May 12, 2005 - A Slice Of Cold Silver Moon...

Comments: Off my feet? Yep. Promise. But very cold, clear skies means that I cannot sit indoors. If I must rest...

Then let me rest under the stars.

Since all my telescopes basically demand that I stand to use them, I guess I'm happy with the binoculars. First off comes Saturn, and at best I can make out that it does have rings and when I can hold my hands very steady I can see that Titan is to the west. The Moon fares far better and the mountains around Mare Crisium just shine. I smile when I look at this, for the very first four craters I learned are here: Cleomides, Geminus, Burkhart and Masala. I remember how ernest I was all those years ago! Standing with my incredibly limited map and one of my sons - both of us intent on learning. Well, he moved on.

But I stayed, eh?

As I turn my attention toward Jupiter, I see that the galieans have taken sides. Two hug in very close on either edge of the equatorial zone, while the other two balance out the show. While I have always gotten a sense of dimensionality with the telescope - meaning I could tell if the moons were in front or behind Jupiter from our viewpoint - this is lost in binos. In other words? It doesn't take long to get bored with it.

I scout around, and happily snatch the M3 and the M5. Melotte 111 is nice enough, but there's not terribly much of interest that can be done with the silver light of the Moon hanging out. So, I put the binos away and just enjoy the quiet of the night.

And a slice of cold silver Moon...

"What I've felt and what I've known... Turn the pages. Turn to stone. Behind the door... Should I open it for you?"

May 11, 2005 - Some Hazy Sun...

Comments: I'll take it! I had heard that 758 had really spawned into a monster and I was anxious to look at it. My last set of solar "films" show it as a sparse peppering that I didn't spend much time on. Talk about a surprise!

SOHO - MDI image

I was blown away to see one very major umbra region backed off by very mature penumbra and followers who were also maturing. (one of them has the penumbral field sliced of very neatly along one edge - just like you cut it with a knife.) A new region, dubbed 762 has developed along the equator and yet another monster - 759 has come well over the eastern limb. Wasn't this supposed to be solar minimum?? ;)

Anyhow, the thin clouds made for some very relaxing viewing, but not good photography. I pretty much keep everything set up right inside the door and ready to go should the skies go clear enough to film, but it wasn't to happen today. By late afternoon I was busy trying to pry a large black dog off my lap while grinning at the lightning and thunder! It certainly isn't as quiet as snow...

But at least it means warm weather is back to stay.

"But now I see the Sun... Now I see the Sun... Yes, now I see it."

May 10, 2005 - Chasing the Holes in the Night...

Comments: Celebrating another year of life, here. Used to be I'd go horseback riding on this day, but it's evolved into Star Trek and a favourite meal. Heck, I doubt I could get on a horse anymore unless I climbed the fence! Ah, those were the days, weren't they? When I was still young, strong, and...

Guess that's a matter of opinion. ;)

Anyhow, I gave up my horse for a parkbench and my travels for a pair of binoculars and an accoustic guitar. The night is warm, inviting and simply filled with suckerholes to enjoy. I started out watching a laughing Moon peek in and out and smiling at Saturn. As the clear spaces would move, I would follow them and seek out things like the M44, M67 and M50. At one point, Leo was the only thing in the sky and so aching clear that the M65 and M66 were are breeze. As I would wait, patiently playing some of my old songs and progressing to the new, Jupiter would come out in blinding glory. To me it is still an incredible rush to see the galieans so clearly and as I watch off and on, I see one return.

My hands are still willing, and as I cross the years between Neil Young and Collective Soul, it is my turn to see the M81, M82 and M51. Perhaps it was Seether that caused the M101 to appear, or maybe Bush that brought back the M3, eh? I play for as long as I can and when my hands tire? I simply enjoy the night. Once in awhile the urge will strike me to pick it up again, for "Let It Be" brings up the M13. Silly? Of course. But apparentl the Eagles and "Hotel California" are what it takes to see the M5.

At last I give up. I do not like this sitting down business and I miss using the telescope. I would like to hunt asteroid Ceres, but the clouds won't hold still long enough. But it's fine. It was a beautiful night. Filled with the territorial call of the owl and the songs I love. I end my own peaceful contemplation with "How You Remind Me" and almost find myself weeping with "Epiphany" and "It's Been Awhile". Jupiter stands high in the south and Vega occassionally joins the show. Will it rain? Perhaps. It's the time of year for thunder, lightning and the return of the tornado... Maybe one of these years old Dorothy here will hitch a ride?

It's been far too long since I've seen the Wizard.

"Lay beside me, tell me what I've done. The door is closed, so are your eyes..."

May 9, 2005 - Summer Skies...

Comments: I am the vampyre again. Let us hope that my hours will not continue to change and it will only be once a week from now on. I have a difficult time sleeping, and an even worse one waking up. It is hard on my body... Yet it pays the bills. I guess I should not complain. I am not the only one - but it sometimes feels like it.

Let's go look at the stars, shall we?

I feel lonely tonight and I almost wrote you to tell you that I miss you. But it doesn't matter - because you're not there, are you? Time marches on for whom the bell tolls, doesn't it. There has been another death in my family and many changes that are about to occur which will part me from even more whom I love. My head and heart are heavy... My body in agony. I have learned to crawl again, and I fear to stand. Hobbling like the old person I have become, I make my way to the park bench and gratefully sit with my cup of coffee and binoculars. Jerry asked me the other night why I chose astronomy, and this is why. As I view the M13, I do not think of my many heartbreaks. When I see the M4, I am not aware that I hurt. As I surf the Milky Way the stars sing... They tell me that I can get up and I can do it another day.

The glittering clusters in Cassiopeia remind me that for every dark night there are stars! The M11 lets me know that it is alright to smile again. The M27 fills me with wonder and takes away self-pity. And if I need to walk out beyond the great pine to see all the beauty that Saggitarius holds? Then it is a calling that has me on my feet again. This is "why" astronomy. If I cry, the wind dries my tears. The night soothes and embraces...

And will always be there.

"Come lay beside me... This won't hurt, I swear. He loves me not. He loves me still. But I'll never love again..."

May 7, 2005 - At The Observatory - Public Night...

Comments: What a glorious night! I can't remember the last time we had such beautiful starry skies on a Public Night... And I don't even know where to begin!

The evening started pretty normal. At first there were just a handful of us: John B, John N., Dave, Terry and myself arrived early enough to have a meeting. Since I had met with pretty much of the other half of the RAS last night, it was a matter of catching everyone up to speed with what's going on and again? It's all positive! As the Sun started to set, more and more folks began to arrive and it was magnificent to see Greg, his family and Keith (Bubba) back at the Observatory for the evening. Not much longer after than, Jeromey, his son and their new telescope arrived as well. We started setting up scopes after that and it was fantastic to see so much equipment up and ready to go. About that time I started seeing new faces and it was great to see some of the very same folks who attended on the Friday night program back again for more - and they brought more friends! The darker the skies get, the more and more people begin to show and it wasn't long before my mentor, Dan, arrived with a friend and Joe sneaked in with the shadows. To make the evening even more fun, one of the very lovely young ladies that was part of our scholar's night has also returned as well - and we welcome Leanne!

Handing the keys to the 31" to Greg, he promptly set it on Jupiter for the delight and enjoyment of our perhaps 50 guests and members. Snatching up a couple of the members, we went in for a little "Argo Navis Training" session and how we laughed when the "Sombrero" simply fell into the eyepiece! Ah, Argo... You have made a believer out of me. It probably would have taken me 30 minutes to have done this manually and here we are! Surrendering the scope, I head out to visit with our many guests. Bubba has a great new pair of Celestron binoculars and he's working his way through the Messier List. Terry has his 12" out for the night and is happily picking off galaxies. Greg is enjoying the SVD8 and splitting off with the 31". Jeromey is wiping up the skies and gathering a crowd with his reflector, and Leanne is catching right on to using the 10" Meade equatorial Greer scope.

Out of the crowd there was a very polite young man who displayed an instant aptitude for astronomy. I asked him at one point if he would like a telescope to use and you know the answer. Fetching an eyepiece, I handed him the 6" Meade dob and within seconds he was high-fiving our very excited group as he found Jupiter for himself! Remembering the feeling, a few well placed green laser shots was all it took to have him off and running. It doesn't get much more rewarding than to watch a young person on a voyage of discovery! We worked together many times over the evening and I could have taken him home with me. Let's just say he got to see a lot more "stuff" than listed here. ;)

Here, there, everywhere... A moment to stop with this person and set their scope on a galaxy. Plenty of time to visit with this one and see what they've done. Time enough to grab maps and help locate something. Questions... Answers... And through it all I had only one burning desire on my part...

I wanted to see Comet 9/P Tempel 1 in the big scope.

Because my writing deals with weeks in advance, I only knew the approximate location of the comet, but not its exact location. The last time I saw it, it was very close to Epsilon Virginis and quite near three 9th magnitude stars - and even though it's moving at a snail's pace - this isn't much help. Without the list of coordinates and my trusty Uranometria, I am simply blind. Fortunately, we have a resource. I have given John N. a lot of good natured teasing about aiming with the MegaStar program, but tonight it contains the priceless information that we technologically impaired desperately need. Asking John if he would mind, we set his 8" on the comet. Greg had a look through the telrad and immediately put the 10" Greer on it as well. Between both scopes, the view was pretty much the same and almost identical to what my 12.5" shows. A very faded, small round fuzzy with a slight concentration toward its middle.

Since almost everyone except for the diehards had departed for the night, John offered to see if the Argo Navis had Tempel 1 in its lisitings. Unfortunately, it did not. Wrangling the telescope around, we tried to put it on the same field, but it's not a cakewalk. I tried my hand and got it on Epsilon Virginis, but my mind, my hands, and my eye cannot push this monster where it needs to be. Going back down to the ground for a comparison finder view, John returns to the 31" again since we've got it very close... And then I hear the call. We've got comet!

Excited, he takes me up to the eyepiece and I am blown away. There is something that I have suspected in my own 12.5", but the 31" lays it bare. Comet 9/P Tempel 1 has a very stellar nucleus! Tonight John is defiantely the hero of the day as he's put his finger (and the big scope) on the one thing I was really hoping to see... Deep Impact ground zero. John? I can't thank you enough, amigo... It would have taken me an hour to have found that and your birthday gift to us both was sincerely appreciated.

For now? I am outta' here. Time to put away telescopes and close things down for the night. I don't know when the gods decreed that the half century mark meant that body parts should hurt so much, but I haven't seen my left ankle so large since the last time I broke it. For all the great things I've seen tonight and all the wonderful people I've been around, it's really the last thing that matters, you know? Just as long as I can still work the clutch in my car - I'm cool. I watched the stars of summer as I made the drive back west wondering where all the years have gone...

And what the future holds.

"Yeah, what I've felt, what I've known... Sick and tired, I stand alone. Could you be there? 'Cuz I'm the one who waits for you... Or are you unforgiven, too?"

May 6, 2005 - At the Observatory: The Girls Scouts...

Comments: Hey, hey! It looks like warmer weather has returned to Ohio again, and with it a bit of clear skies. For me? This was a real bonus since I had promised a local girl scout troop and their families an evening at the Observatory. The very worst part is that it is so hard to plan in advance for an evening - simply because our weather is so unpredicatable. The easiest part is that in one way - it doesn't matter - because there is a lot more to astronomy than just looking at something.

I was glad to see both Greg and Jerry when I arrived. Both of these fine gentlemen have had lots of experience in dealing with groups of people and the older I get, the more I appreciate the help. As we finished set up, the kids started to arrive and things quickly turned into a carnival atmosphere. When Joe walked up, all I could do is grin. Time to get 'er done...

Rounding the troops up inside the dome, everyone had a magnificent time as we explored the things required for merit badges - and then took it just a little bit further. A lot of astronomy program givers do things differently than I do - but I firmly believe that inter-active stimulation is the key to understanding. Even if facts aren't 100% accurate, the physics behind the physical are spot on. Concepts are much more easily grasped when put in terms that everyone can understand!

About the time I had everyone running, jumping and laughing, Bruce walked into the dome. Ooops, sorry... I could see from his serious look that he was all prepared to be the operator for the evening and instead of quietly putting down a briefcase and going to work he had to deal with the way things are now. Ben Stein vs. Bill Nye... What a concept! It doesn't take very long until even the most serious of faces are smiling and well before dark we were back outside with lessons on astronomy etiquette, a head full of knowledge...

And a sky rapidly filling with stars.

As the line formed to view through the big scope, the excitement didn't end as the ISS make a wonderful pass. We had club scopes set up outside and as quickly as it got dark enough, they were aimed at a variety of targets. The Aquarid meteors kept things lively and it wasn't long until we were doing some "hands on" learning with a small dob. All in all, the kids had a wonderful time and so did we. Little by little, folks started to filter away and when the hour grew late, it left just Jerry and myself.

Once in a great while, you form an odd bond with someone and Jerry is just that type of person. I like him because he is one of the very few people I know that can enjoy both the serious and the silly side of everything - and flip so neatly between the both that you don't even realize you had. He knew that I had been waiting a very long time to gain some experience with the Argo Navis and was willing to let me learn the only way I know how - hands on. As quickly as everything was stowed away for the night, that left just the big scope and we two. It hadn't been more than 30 minutes since Jerry, Bruce and I were deadly serious about the future of things and now it was time to play! Much like the Magellan unit, the Argo Navis is fairly simple once you learn. While I would have loved to have written down every single object we looked at and given you a descriptor, the reality check is fun...

As I've said, I can definately bond with this guy and it didn't take an explanation for him to figure out what games I like to play. When I go to the eyepiece - I don't want you to tell me what I'm looking at. If I know in advance what something is - or exactly where its at - it colors my opinion of what I see. It soon became a laughing game of setting the scope on even the very faintest of objects without revealing their nature. While I was blind at the eyepiece, I would describe exactly what we were looking at as he ran the statistical information. If you think that sounds dumb, you're wrong - it's fun! This is the way I have always made observations. I would sweat out four or five things in my hopelessly antiquated map-reading and star hopping style... Observe them, describe them, and then dig up their statistical information to see if I was correct. By using the Argo Navis, we were literally hitting on something about every two minutes and it was totally wonderful to be able to say "That's a large edge-on with a bulging nucleus and a dark dust lane. You should see the extension on this! It stretches completely between both stars... Here, look!" and within seconds we could both confirm it. Be it an inclined spiral, face-on or barred... They are all there and what a thrill to make the call!

How long did we hang out? It could have been all night, for all I care. (the man's father was a icon to my youth.) The company was extremely pleasant, the views were superb and for once somebody actually got me to lay down my clipboard and notes and just enjoy. If the clouds hadn't of came along, I would have happily ignored my screaming ankle until they had to carry me away, eh? All in all, it was a wonderful evening. I would like to thank Ronda Utter for providing us with the opportunity to enjoy the Girl Scouts and their families. My deepest appreciation goes to Greg, his family, Joe and Bruce for contributing to the evening's success. And to Jerry?

Nerbs can't describe, my friend... ;)

"The door cracks open...But there's no sun shining through. Black heart scarring darker still... But there's no sun shining through. No, there's no sun shining through. No, there's no sun shining...

What I've felt, what I've known... Turn the pages, turn the stone. Behind the door... Should I open it for you?"

May 5, 2005 - A Most Incredible Morning...

Comments: So when's the peak of the Aquarid meteor shower? If you listen to some, it's the morning of May 6 - but I'm not one to listen to what other people tell me. I'm the one that looks at orbital plots, eh? All things considered, when the alarm went off at 2:45 - I was not happy. I was sleepy. I laid there for a few moments entertaining the thought of just convincing myself that it was cloudy. I did a lot of talking, but a part of my body knew I went to bed early, leaving clear skies unexplored last night for just this reason...

The children of Comet Halley are coming to visit.

After so much research into cometary dust properties - and very specifically Comet Halley - I just had a deep need to see these carbon matrix, porous silicate, irregular backscattering dust bits burn up in our atmosphere. Thermal mug of coffee, two M&M cookies, my watch and a blanket were all I needed. (and maybe some tunes and a redwood chair, eh?) Kicking back at just before 3:00 a.m., the rewards were immediate. Woooo! A big slow one with a golden trail shot straight out the east going west across the whole southern horizon!

Sleepy? Heck, no! That's when the skywatching got serious. When the count had hit 19 (most were very faint and short), something really caught my eye. There's either something wrong with the sky or else I'm having some bad chemical reactions. I would swear I'm seeing an aurora effect! Shaking it off, I went back to watching for movement and the ISS blew me away. Sailing serenely across the horizon, I watched as it arched up, caught the sunlight, and slowly sailed away. What a treat! Going back to my count, I watched another spectacular Aquarid shoot straight overhead. Since it felt good to lay back, I just watched there for awhile. Meteor observers are trained to sense sky movement...

And daggone it. It's movin'.

I would keep seeing what would appear to the eye to be small clouds that were racing with a speed far, far faster than any aircraft would travel at even low altitude. They spanned about ten degrees and would eminate from the north traveling south. I can't judge how fast they were moving... But no wind here on Earth could account for that. Only one wind could - solar wind. Right now I've got meteors to count, time and document and I kept at my job - ignoring the call of Mars. But those little faint glowing clouds kept moving... And stayed there until the thin slice of Moon began to rise.

Giving up my quest, the count for two hours and thirty minutes stood at 32. 75% were totally typical. A short arc of about five degrees, faint, fast and true to the radiant. The earth-grazers are the ones that make ya' holler and there were six jim-dandies. Putting my paper work away, I headed off to work and back to look at the Sun as soon as I arrived home.

As you can see, 756 hasn't changed drastically but is now approaching the limb. The Wilson Effect was really starting to cook and it was hard to hold focus. Although my work photo doesn't show it well, there was a huge plague field surrounding it. On the other limb is 758 and widely scattered like it had been blow apart. Good reason. Right about the time it started to rotate inward it cooked off a non-Earth directed CME. CME? Does that mean??

Yeah. You know I went to the data. The most reliable source is checking satellite, and NOAA POE tells me exactly what I need to know about the hours between 3:00 and 5:30 a.m. We had geomagetic atmospheric phenomena and the auroral oval was dropped down as low as Tennessee with a hot concentration over Ohio. Grinning like a fiend, I had found my answer - along with the amplitude and warning that had went out at the correct hours. And those faint, fast moving little balls of cloud were exactly what they looked like - moving electric charges in the form of aurora.

Remind me never to sleep again, will you?

"Lay beside me... Under wicked skies. Black of day and dark of night... We'll live this paralyze."

May 3, 2005 - Mohican State Park at Camp Mowana...

Comments: Has it been raining? Yep. It's Ohio. One of the reasons we have such beautiful forests, wetlands, lakes, rivers, streams, falls, and some of the most fertile farmground in the world is because of the rain. I did mention forests, didn't I? Of course I did, and with those forests come hundreds of square miles of carefully preserved land we call state parks.

And what has this to do with astronomy? This year it was my great privlege to be asked to attend the Camp Mowana Astronomy Night. This has been an on-going yearly gig for for a couple of the RAS members and I felt honoured to be asked to go along. Since they would be bringing scopes, I didn't do anything more than throw my briefcase full of "magic" and my laptop into the car. The weather didn't look promising - but the scenery did.

Unsure of exactly how to get there, (because Mohican is quite large) I met up with Joe at a point where with both took the same route. My experiences had been in the many hiking trails and covered bridge areas and Fleming Falls was a new one on me. Fortunately, he's as good at navigating as he is at building observatories, and we found it with no problem. Meeting up with John and Ken at the Lodge, we watched our group of 30 youngsters enjoying themselves with their games and activities. They had already set up posters, books, maps, etc. and I could tell by John's slightly wicked grin and offer of a table that the "magic briefcase" would be welcome. We walked outdoors to discuss roughly how to carry things out. Unfortunately, the biggest problem we were facing was the on again - off again rain and cloudy skies. But I am what I am. If I can't fly you along under the clouds as well as above them - then i've no right to call myself "theastronomer".

All I need is a smiling face...

And there were plenty of smiling faces! As we took turns talking, the time came for me to take a group of tired children and show them that learning is fun! Did they learn? Darn right they learned... And I'll guarantee you not one of them even realized it. Tailoring down to their age level, we sang, we ran, we jumped up and down, we used our imaginations, we measured, we listened, we touched, we tasted, we captured colors, we created gravity with our hands and explored the power of magnetism and light. In 30 minutes these kids had a handle of more astronomy principles that some college graduates do. And oddly enough?

By some miracle - the skies cleared.

As Joe and John took groups out to view the planets through a telescope, Ken answered questions for another, and I sneaked off with a group into a dark room with a little planetarium. When each had switched, we went out into the night on our own to explore constellations and learn how to use binoculars. They laughed, the ran, they were loud... They were kids! When we came back inside as the last group went to view, I began packing my "magic" back up and taking pictures with the kid's cameras of them holding up the big meteor in front of the poster about meteorites.

As I was heading out to my car I watched one young man who had picked up the binoculars and was examining them. This one was a little different than the rest and it touched me - for I ain't exactly what you'd call normal. He was trying to communicate something and his counsellor explained to me that he had special needs and what he was trying to say. He was very well behaved, and as I watched his facial expressions I found that a hug and a touch can communicate in ways that do not need words. He wanted to see what the binoculars could do, and he wanted to look at the Moon. Taking him by the hand, I sat him in a chair across the room and put the Moon poster in front of him. Showing him how to hold his glasses up on his head without his hands, I noticed the prescription and knew immediately the setting I had the binoculars on would be a blur to his eyes. As I showed him how to steady them, I gently moved the focuser back and forth while I watched his body language - then gently guided his finger to the wheel and showed him how to move it. Is there anything more wonderful in life than watching understanding dawn on a face? In that one perfect moment I could see from every line in his body that he had grasped the concept and was now journeying away to the Moon. In an hour, perhaps he will have forgotten - but that one second will live with me forever. Don't ever say that all the lights are on, but nobody's home - because that house might be the astronomer's...

And we're just out in the backyard flying amoungst the stars.

"The door is locked now... But it's open if you're true. If you can understand the me? I can understand the you..."

May 1, 2005 - Comet 9/P Tempel 1 and the Sun...

Comments: Vampyre? Yep. Been kickin' those night shift weekends for so long now I've gotten used to being a furr ball. Suprisingly enough the skies yielded just a bit shortly after the witching hour, so I took the 12.5 out for a look round - along with the walkman and my new "Symphony and Metallica" CD. Jupiter came first, but (i hate to say it) was kinda' boring. All the moons were flung out to the east and I couldn't see anything that even remotely looked like great detail. (but the tunes are great... ;)

Knowing I didn't have terribly long to mess around before I had to leave for work, my goal was simple. Locate 9/P Tempel 1. Now having scooted just northwest of Epsilon Virginis, I'm having some difficulty with it tonight. When located, it's in a field with a chain of three 9th magnitude stars, but it's rough seeing. To make sure, I hopped over to the M59 and got my answers. Skies just aren't deep tonight. At magnitude 11, M59 is not spectacular but at least it is more condensed appearing the Tempel 1, even though they appear roughly the same brightness. Tonight, Tempel 1's outer diffuse coma is just plain lost. It was all I could do to find to of the companions to M59 and they should have been easy! Ah, well... At least I'm still out there hunting, huh?

When I went outside before dawn to take a break, the Moon had joined the show. With its happy light, it was possible to see that we had some fine sky haze and it held right on through the morning. By the time I got off work, we had a little off again, on again sunshine - but nothing steady. Setting down to do some reading and catch up on all that's happening, I read Hannes Mayer's solar report. When I saw that, I knew that I had to at least go out and try to get a visual on our new big visitor.

Between the big grey rain clouds....

As you can see, it's not the most outstanding of work... But you'll never know just how many frames showed great structure and a big phat cloud as well. It doesn't matter. What really matters to me was just an opportunity to view AR756. After I had completed my solar "homework studies", we didn't exactly have weather conducive to viewing - so it felt good to be back at the helm again. 756 is a real Ekc giant holding a strong beta-gamma magnetic classification. After having reviewed both radio data and x-ray flux data, it was time to hit the magnetograms. We're showing a big phat negative directly between two proportionate positives. Comparable to the photograph, (which is upside down because i was using my reflector and didn't rotate the image) there is a little negative push going through the bottom area on the border of a positive and it looks like it might be fairly active in the days to come.

Let's hope I am...

"Lay beside me. Tell me what they've done... Speak the words I want to hear. To make my demons run..."