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APRIL 2006

April 28, 2006 - The Sun, the Bootids and 73/P Schwassmann-Wachmann C...

Comments: For the last two days I've been on the edge of my seat watching RadioJove activity with the latest solar "hot spot". After what seems like a long, dry spell the Sun has been kicking up a real fuss and shooting off C-class flares that are hammering radio frequencies. Of course, you know I've gotta' go have a look!

Rather than mess with a mirror to watch the indoor A/V equipment for a color image, I opted just to plop my little monitor down right by the scope and feed the line straight in. For more than a half hour I tracked AR875 and I am duly impressed. While it's far from the largest I've ever seen and recorded, the central umbra just seems to go beyond black. Even though I would continue to tweak the focus and shift the image to another point on the CCD chip, no matter what I did would draw follow-up spots AR876 into clean view. They seem to be only penumbra with one small immature umbra! Is the magnetic activity here??

Oh, yeah...

Of course, study means study... So I went to the synoptic images. If you compare the two, you can see where magnetic energy effects what can be seen in white light. I can see where the heaviest concentrations in terms of gauss produce visual anomalies and I've also got my own pet theories as to why some areas appear differently than others. Of course, these are only the musings of someone who observes...

And speaking of observing, relatively clear skies meant I had my carcass in the old redwood chair later that night to keep watch on the Bootids. The average limiting magnitude was only around 5 and the lower skies were pretty much trash. Although it might look "clear", the clarity wasn't and anyone who scopes knows what I'm talking about. Good enough for the bright stuff, but superfaint studies would be tough. Before I deviate from the topic, in three hours of observation I only caught five very fast and faint meteors that could be attributed to the Bootes radiant. Far below estimated levels...

Of course, sitting in a comfy chair wrapped in a blanket and drinking a beer during a low activity meteor shower also means you've got time to get a little bored and start wondering about things. Don't get me wrong - I think one of the coolest things you can do is just to sit still and watch the great dome of the sky turn over your head... But... But... When Corona Borealis starts getting high enough to be curious about a certain comet... Well... One starts wondering why one didn't bring a pair of binoculars along.

And one remedies it.

There is no doubt whatsoever that comet 73/P Schwassmann-Wachmann (component C) is very, very visible under average sky conditions to small binoculars. The 5x30's picked it right up, and the 16x50's slammed it. It only took me all of about five seconds to find it and the coma was extended nearly to the point where it included Xi CorBor. My best guess (which is poor for binoculars) is that the nucleus is coming in at least around magnitude 6.5. The skies were too trashy to get a good handle on the length of the tail, but my guess would be no less than 30'.

Part of me would really like to go fetch the scope out and have closer look, but I also know that I've pretty much reached my limits of physical activity for the day. Laying my binoculars down on my lap, I started feeling sorry for myself because it doesn't seem like it's been all that long ago that I would have been up off this chair in a heartbeat and getting the scope back out. About one more beer and one more meteor was all it took to realize that I haven't got a thing to be ashamed of, you know? There's folks out there who are probably inside watching television when they could be outside watching a comet and the remains of one burning up in the atmosphere!

And so I pick the big binoculars back up again. Who can feel lonely and sorry for themselves when the M5, M3, M13, M92, DoDz9, M81, M82, M51, M65, M66, M67, M44, Mel 111, M85, M88, M64, M63, M104, M84, M89, M87, M61, M49 and Jupiter are here to keep you company, eh?

Not me, baby...

"Drink myself of new found pity... Sit alone in the same old city and I don't know why.

So I walked up on high... And I stepped to the edge... To see my world below. And I laughed to myself... As the tears rolled down. Cuz' it's the world I know...

It's the world I know."

April 27, 2006 - I Know It's Aurora...

Comments: Sleepy? Yep. Going to bed early so I can get up to watch the Lyrids? Yep. Got a 68% confidence level report that we'd just been smacked with a proton stream and knew the Sun rocked off an event earlier? Yep. Outside looking for aurora?


Within 60 minutes of receiving the ShockSpot meter trip, I had skies dark enough to be out scanning for aurora. Very little to no activity until close to 10:00 p.m. At that time I walked out the door, waited for my eyes to fully adjust and couldn't take them off the area between Ursa Major and Leo. That's gotta' be a cloud, right?

Uh huh. And clouds always stay right in one place and dissipate while you watch 'em.

Soft red glow to the northeast... But what was overhead was where the real show was at. Right in that sector of sky and no other a faint, greenish white patch of aurora would flux in and out. At times it would be so dense that you couldn't see Leo Minor at all... And then it would just fade out in a matter of a couple of minute and the stars would pop through. Several minutes later? There it would be again.

While the activity wasn't prolific, it did last from around 10:00 to 10:45 p.m. A narrow margin for those who weren't paying close attention to the times these phenomena from the solar activity strike the Earth. I thought about staying up later to do some scopin'...

But the Bootids are coming.

"Have we eyes to see? That love is gathering?"

April 26, 2006 - Hickson Group 68

Comments: What a gorgeous night! My apologies for not posting my report sooner, but I stayed up far too late and just trashed the next day after work.

My goal was clear. I was after a group of galaxies in Canes Venatici known as Hickson 68. My time out at stablization was approximately 10:30 p.m., the scope was the 12.5 Meade, eyepiece was 12.3mm ED Epic superwide field, sky conditions were an easy 6 limiting magnitude, stability was 9/10 and clarity was awesome!

The whole group is punctuated by what looks like a magnitude 7 double star with a 9th magnitude companion. To the southeast is NGC 5353, the brightest of the bunch. It's an easy spiral that is slightly brighter towards the nucleus. To its north is NGC 5354, which is just slightly fainter and looks like a face-on presentation spiral. Very round with a slight condensation towards the core.

North in the field and northeast of the star is NGC 5350. It is again about the same brightness, but shows more structure. A slightly longated oval of a spiral with a far brighter concentration in the nucleus area. NGC 5355 and NGC 5358 are dead east of the star and are averted only objects. The are faint, small and slightly ovid. The northernmost, NGC 5355 has a slightly brighter nucleus seen when readjusting the field.

Overall, this is a very nice grouping of galaxies, three of which could easily been seen with a smaller telescope. All ya' gotta' do is head northwest of Gamma Bootes about a fistwidth! That'll put you in the right area... And an hour later?

You might find them, too! ;)

"Are we listening? To hymns of offering?

April 25, 2006 - NGC 2610 and NGC 2818...

Comments: Another brief run with the 12.5 to see what I could do tonight. My first object was a bit far west, but is listed as Herschel V.35 and better known as NGC 2610.

Personally, this planetary didn't do a whole lot for me. Perhaps it was sky conditions, but it wasn't a whole lot more than a round, very softly green glow with a small star caught on the northeast edge. I magnified the heck out of it and couldn't find a central even when tapping the eyepiece at wide aversion. It's faint... And at best slightly fainter in the middle.

Far better was NGC 2818. Even though it has relatively low sky position, I was expecting a planetary nebula by the charts and got a planetary nebula in an open cluster! The cluster itself is on the loose side - the stars are mostly faint with just a handful of brighter ones in a rough pentagon shape. Much like M46, it houses a true planetary nebula that is part of the cluster and designated as NGC 2818A. It's not much brighter than 2610, but this one has some shape - ver much like a miniaturization of the M27. It shows no real color, but definately has lobes at maximum power. Overall this is a very nice group and a surprisingly worthy sky study! Well worth the hunt in a vague and faint field...

It rocked.

"It's the world I know..."

April 24, 2006 - NGC 3242...

Comments: Vampyre? Yeah. Sleepless? You got it. Even though the skies were quite clear before I left for work and I should be dog tired (and am) because I've been up nearly 24 hours, when I let H out for his night run I realize that there's something I'd really like to see. So often I bow to convention - but you know what? There's no one here to stop me now. If I want to walk out that door and pull the dob around to the backyard, no one will hurt me. No ghost will beat me with my book of maps. The only ghost out here tonight...

Is the "Ghost of Jupiter".

Also known as Herchel IV.27, this bright planetary can stand every bit of power you want to throw at it... So I did. Using the 12.3mm ultrawide and a 2X barlow, I just watched this blue/green planetary with total fascination. At lower power (26mm) it sits in a very beautiful field with a small concentration of stars to the south and a parallelogram to the northwest - along with a bright field star to the southeast. At mid-range power (12.3mm only) the central star just blazes right out and there is an inner ring that is bright and very prominent from the outer shell. But magnify...

Oh, yes... Magnify.

Although I dislike high power, I am totally blow away by intricate little details in the inner torus. My mind escapes me right now as to what these markings are called, but I believe they are jets of material of some type. As I watch, I am reminded of experimenting with radiactive materials and dry ice - for you could see jets from this experiment as well. Ah, my... The more I look the more I "seem" to see! It's almost like a blue/green eye... The eye of an animal seen in the dark with reflected light coming from their retina. And what a pleasure it is to my retina! Just this one thing is enough for me tonight...

Superb beauty.

"So I walk up on high... And step to the edge... To see my world below. And I laugh to myself... As the tears roll down. Because it's the world I know."

April 24, 2006 - The "Vampyre" Meets the Werewolf...

Comments: Or more correctly, the old woman with the big telescope decided to pick on Lupus before she went in on the graveyard shift!

I was very impressed that Delta and Gamma showed very clearly with no dark adaption when I first went outside. It didn't take very long before Beta and Epsilon also became visible, so by the time got the dob ready to rock for a few minutes I was good to go. My first few objects were nothing more than colorful stars and asterisms that are essentially uncharted as deep sky objects - but this is part of my work. I'm here to tell you that Theta is an awesome system and so is Delta.

I only had time for two object before leaving for work. The first was globular NGC 5824. Very, very compact and concentrated, but not overtly bright. It's a class I and it sure does look like it! At low power with a brilliant star to the northwest, it's worth looking at.

The second was NGC 5896. Now, here's a doozy! It's a loose globular - Class VII, I think - but it's quite bright. Nicely resolved with high power.

Before I go, I've gotta' admit that I very much like Gamma, Eta, and the twin Psi's. This is a very nice constellation full of very colorful stars that most of us over look. We'll be back for them planetary nebulae!

Gould's Belt... I like it.

"Drink myself of new found pity... Sit alone is the same old city and I don't know why."

April 22, 2006 - Lightning and Lyrids...

Comments: Ah, yes... The best laid plans of mice and astronomers often go astray, don't they? After having worked today, I really didn't feel like the drive to Mansfield to stand out in the rain and promote astronomy at Malabar Farms. May my friends at AFY forgive me, but more standing today would darn near kill me.

Instead, I had every plan of using the Celestron NexStar 102, hooking the video camera to it and feeding the line back into the house to record the northern dark side for Lyrid meteor strikes. Of course, any kind of plan in this venue means it's going to be cloudy all night and that certainly didn't fail. No matter. Let's heat up the bones and nap for awhile...

Much later I awoke to clouds once again and gave up on the idea of filming meteors. Instead, I figured I run a feed back inside and listen for forward scatter signals. This is something I can do very comfortably and at least I am practicing astronomy! Well, with "white noise" set at extinction level volume, I sat down with Brent Archinal's book about globular clusters and bent myself towards some study of these galactic halo objects - what causes metallicity properties, core collapse, and even the stripping away of some stars by tidal forces.

Once in awhile I'd get a little ping and be feeling really good about myself. What I wasn't expecting was the first stab of lightning! Poor H... It's bad enough that he's scared of storms, but now I've just intensified that by reinforcing it with audio that made me throw the book halfway across the room! Running to the receiver, I quickly dropped the volume to something less likely to cause a heart attack. I thought about just shutting it down, but instead sat for awhile longer and listened to the sizzle that lightning makes on radio signals.

Got kite?

"Has our conscience shown? Has the sweet breeze blown? Has all kindness gone? Hope still lingers on..."

April 19, 2006 - Herschel Hunting, Chasing 73/P Schwassmann-Wachmann and the Ghost of Omega Centauri...

Comments: What a beautiful night! Very, very impressively clear skies for this time of year - a nice 9/10 for clarity, 8/10 stability and reaching right towards 6 on limiting magnitude. I love it when there's stars out there I don't even remember! (well, i do... but just don't see them that often. ;)

Time to break out the dob and do a little Herschel hunting, eh?

For the record, I was using the 12.5 Meade, the study grade 25mm and 10mm eyepieces and started right around the neighborhood of 10:30 p.m. (and if you want me to be more precise about times? forget it. i don't want you to know how dreadfully long it takes for me to find some of these things! ;)

First off? Hydra before it gets too far west. M48 is classed as H VI.22 and it's always awesome in a big scope at low power. Full of chains and graceful archs of stars - as well as what appears to be a distant red giant. Planetary nebula NGC 3242 was very good at low, and exceptional at power. Elongated slightly and looking very much like an overstated ring with a blooming central area, this one was very easy to just stare and stare at. It seems like the more you look averted, the more details you can see!

NGC 2811 was next. Faint, slightly stretched, and gives the slight appearance of a barred spiral with a faint foreground star. NGC 3621 was quite a shock after that one because it was so bright I had no problem picking it up direct as I starhopped. It is also a little stretched, but has a definate core region. NGC 5694 was an unresolvable globular cluster that was actually a little larger than what I thought it would be. Aversion gives a sense of a grainy texture.

By now a good hour or quite a bit more had passed and I moved further out into the back field to get a wide open skyline for Virgo. This area of the sky is a real mother, so I started with M104 to get my bearings.... Headed northeast.... and promptly got toasted. Wait a minute here! I came out here to de-stress - not to get confused! So, ya' know what? I had ta' get out the maps big time.

The ones I am sure about are NGC 4442 south of M87, cuz' there's nothing else in the field but a slightly elongated galaxy with a brighter core. NGC 4762 sits east of Epsilon and is such a nice edge-on that it is also positive. And that's darn well it! I've played around in here for more than two hours and seen so many galaxies that I'll sleep seeing galaxies just like you still see the bobber when you close your eyes after fishing, ok? I know I was on a bunch of them - but ya' gotta' be positive.

One thing I am positive about is 73/P Schwassmann-Wachman. It's heading northeast and tonight there are no bright field stars with it. It still has a very pronounced and sharp nucleus with a slight tail to the southwest.

And now? Now, it's hours and hours later than I started and Spica is as high as it's going to get and I want to know... I have to know. And so I drop in the 32mm 2" Televue, move the counterbalance and set sail. Almost on my knees, I knew the moment the scope touched it that I had not been dreaming. Omega Centauri is indeed visible from here. It is not beautiful, for it is nothing more than a big, round contrast change with a grainy texture and no concentration towards the core...

But it's there.

"Oooh, dreamweaver... I believe we can reach the morning light."

April 18, 2006 - A Farewell to Winter...

Comments: Although the night did not hold the ultra pristine skies needed for the galaxy hunt, it was beautifully clear enough to take out the binoculars and devote some time to saying good-bye...

It is time to look last upon the Plieades... to sing a song of farewell to the Great Orion Nebula. Shall I give Mars one last look? Bid the M36, M37 and M38 a final adieu... Aloha to the M35... Vaya con dios M41, M93, M47, M46 and M50! Has anyone but me noticed how close Saturn is to the M44? Or how splendid the M67 still looks?

Ah, life... How the times change.

"Oooh, dreamweaver... I believe we can make it through the night."

April 17, 2006 - The Sigma Leonid Meteor Shower, Chasing the C-Component of 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann, Antares and the Moon...

Comments: A clear night? You betcha'. I have found myself a bit overstressed and when I see stars I know it's time for me to go and chill out for awhile. For some people it might be watching flames in the fireplace, or a lava lamp, or even watching tropical fish! For me? It's stargazing and tonight is the vague Sigma Leonids.

When I first get out, Leo is straight overhead and in good position. This is not a prolific shower, but one whose stream is changing positions. For now I am happy to relax and just look at the stars... watching for the tell-tale streaks. It's at least a good hour before I see the first and the point of radiant is close to Denebola.

By now I'm getting that old familiar itch to take a telescope out and I see no hard in pulling the big dob out the door. Its size packs a sky whallop and I am pleased to poke around at a few bright and familiar objects at low power such as the M81 and M82, M51, M3, M5, M65 and M66 and was thinking about tripping through Virgo when I remembered the comet. John N. had gotten a hold on this one and told me it was darn good... So I dug out some charts and sky watched while I got my bearings. Comets are moving targets and old charts don't make things easy!

While I watched another meteor zip south, I resisted the temptation to pick on Abell 2065 and kept on searching. When I hit on the C-component of 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann, there was absolutely no doubt that I was looking at a comet! It's bright!! It is not terribly big... About the size of a small globular cluster, but the nucleus is very sharp with a hazy coma and a slight tail pointing towards the southwest. Right now it's skirting along in Corona Borealis south/southwest of Alpha.

Heading northwest, I tried my luck with the B, G and R components, but with no success. I think I might have seen something northeast of Psi, but then I might be on a small spiral galaxy as well. What I caught was totally diffuse and nothing more than a very small round contrast change.

Feeling pretty good about myself, I made sure to mark my notes for Joe to review for my comet hunter's gold. Then I went hunting for some comparisons, eh? The best I could come up with was NGC 6229 in Hercules. It's right about the same size and brightness. Another samll, faint fuzzy in outer space east of Tau. It even has a star with it - but one far more bright than 73/P's nucleus. Ah, well. At least I'm still giving it my best shot.

I covered things up and sat for awhile longer. Count for three hours of observing the Sigma Leonids holds at three. There may have been more, but this was all I caught. Right now that good old Moon is coming along...

And Antares is breathtakingly close.

"Although the dawn may be coming soon... There may still be some time. Fly me away to the bright side of the Moon... And meet me on the other side."

April 12, 2006 - Lightning, Shooting Stars and a Full Moon...

Comments: Even though the "Great Black Coward" is hiding under the sofa, carpet, padding, floorboard, cinderblock and crawlspace - there does come a time when I insist that he venture into the Great Outdoors despite a quiet electric show on the southern skyline. He's not happy with me, but he is a faithful beastie... And where I go?

He follows.

With much scrabbling of toenails, H launches himself off the deck and into the bank of growing daylilies to give them his own special brand of watering. I am amazed at how warm it is tonight and I stand in bare feet looking up at the cloud strewn sky. I think there's only three or four stars...

Ooops. Make that three.

Of all the stars I thought I was looking at, one turned out to be a bright meteor! Of course, being the fascinated soul that I am, I decided to sit down on my Great Black Bear Rug and watch for awhile. The lightning flashes off and on and the phat cumulous clouds scurry over the full Moon. If H got any closer to me - he'd be a tattoo. I offer to let him in, but he wants no part of it. He'd rather glue himself to me and vibrate than be alone.

It's not long until the lightning stops and fear gives way to exploration. I am sure H is very happily hunting crickets from the sound of it. He is a very opportunistic eater, you know. I feel well and I count my blessings. Somewhere up there there's a Man In The Moon smiling down at me...

And I know his face.

"Oooh, dreamweaver... I believe we can reach the morning light."

April 10, 2006 - Ring Around the Moon...

Comments: Same date? Yes. But not the same hour. It is now evening and I stand outside looking at a fantasy of a Moon with an incredible 360 degree halo around it. The weather has turned very warm and all the peepers are out and singing.

I sit for while on the deck dreaming over that Moon and smelling the smell of new grass. The doctors have poked and prodded me once again, but I am able to wriggle my fingers and - as you can see - cautiously type once again! (even if it is a day later. ;) I don't stay down for long. And somehow, for some reason, as long as I can see the night sky?

I know everything is gonna' be alright.

"Ooooh, dreamweaver... I believe you can get me through the night."

April 10, 2006 - The Virginid Meteor Shower...

Comments: It is hours before dawn and I cannot sleep. Pain consumes me. This is an evil and cruel disease... Once which finds a nerve center and attacks it. You do not die from it - but at times you wish you could. Tonight it has chosen my right arm at the ganglion and turned my hand and wrist into swollen, fevered mass that I don't even recognize. I wish no sympathy... Only understanding. I leave my words here for a reason...

So that others know there is hope.

If it wants to hurt? Then let it. If I cannot use it, then I will use my other. If I have to dress myself with my teeth? Then so be it. And if I have to be awake because of it? Then I will swallow the pills that dull it and I will sit under the stars.

This morning is the peak of the Virginid meteor shower and the Moon is almost a distant memory now. I have seen the skies far more clear, but I will trade off for the slightly warmer temperatures tonight. I find the redwood chair and tuck my old sleeping bag around my bundled self, and pack my arm in ice. I check my watch, plug in my earphones and hold my counter left hand when it's not holding my thermal mug of coffee. It is almost 45 minutes before the first bright streak eminates from the south and travels northwest - but what a beauty it is!

Silver tears from the sky...

From 1:30 until 4:30 a.m., the fall rate visible from here was clocked at a total of 28. During the first two hours, they were slowest with a maximum of between 3 and 5 per hour. About 3:45 a.m. we had a slight flurry that lasted about 30 minutes and then tapered off. On the average, this would be right around 9 per hour... Or one about every six minutes which is right for the flurry - but not for overall timing. The biggest majority of them seemed to eminate from a point just northeast of Spica.

By now my thermos of coffee is long gone and I am tired enough to take another pill and try for some rest. It was a grand night and I am ready to go to sleep and dream about seeing them all over again...

With you.

"Cross the highways of fantasy... Help me forget today's pain."

April 8, 2006 - Scouts at the Observatory...

Comments: Yep. I'm early. That's not a bad thing because I have a lot of equipment to set up and I'm not always the fastest soul on the block. Unfortunately, I had trouble with the door lock and just minutes behind me came John N. to the rescue! While he circumvented what we needed to do to get in (which thankfully wasn't stuffing the vice-president of the astronomical league through a window - as is my way) I drove round up the Hill and into the observing area to set up.

We've got scouts!

The boys were already out and curious about the Observatory - camped behind it in the area known as the "Fire Ring". They are polite and curious as we begin opening things up for the evening, and once I have the NexStar 102 ready to go and hooked to the television, I go down to talk to Sean about some repair work the the Clubhouse while John allows them a look inside the Dome.

It's not long until I am back and have CeCelia and the camera crew ready to go to film and interview for a local Mansfield television station. Many more people are arriving and it's time to give these good folks a show! I love working with people and as you can see, I am playing to a packed house. What a pleasure to have 52 guests! We laugh, we talk, we learn, we interact... and we wait for dark.

With the coming of the Summer comes one of the hardest parts about studying astronomy - waiting on the Sun to set! But, you'll never believe how happy we all are that even though it is bitterly cold and windy - we have clear skies for the night. I set the Celestron on the Moon and turn on the television. As always, I am totally blown away by what the video camera can see and how easy it is to point to the screen and show what features to look for.

But, dark does eventually come and with it a chance to visit with John N. and Joe inside with the big scope and with Dave, John B. and myself outside with smaller scopes. So many wonderful things for us to look at! Even with all the moonshine that night, the skies were wonderfully clear and views of Saturn, double stars, clusters and bright nebula remained very, very good.

As you can see, there were lots of very happy faces present at Warren Rupp Observatory that night. Every had an opportunity to look at both the Moon and Saturn through the big telescope and a chance to learn things they didn't know - even though some of them knew quite a bit more than I expected! Everyone got a NASA souveignir and were treated well. It's nights like these that make it all seem worthwhile and we deeply appreciate the local television coverage and hope that more people will come and visit the Observatory.

By now the cold is beginning to bite big time. I so appreciate Dave helping me get my equipment put back in my car, because my right hand and arm is really feeling it. We gather in the Clubhouse to laugh and talk for awhile before leaving and I doubt I am the only one to drive home with a smile on my face! (although i am probably the only one accompanied by a bag of my secret vice - taco bell. ;)

When I am back, it is to see Jupiter rising. While I've given all I've got to give tonight, it doesn't stop me for standing out under this beautiful canopy of distant suns...

And thinking of you.

"Fly me high through the starry skies... Maybe to an astral plane."

April 5, 2006 - Some Sun and Some Moon...

Comments: I had gotten up very early this morning in hopes of catching comet Schwassmann-Wachmann before leaving for work, but it just wasn't to be. It's Spring here and the clouds come and go at will...

As in they will go as soon as I go to work...

Fortunately, they decided to go for a very brief time this afternoon and allow me a few peeks in between at the latest solar "hot spot" - AR865. I had known we had been having some activity because I'd been following Radio JOVE, but had figured it was more the Earth-facing coronal hole than spot activity. Boy... Was I surprised! AR865 is not only a monster, but a beta-gamma-delta class as well. Yeah. That means it could shoot off a CME, but I don't think so. It's pretty complex looking - as you can see - but it lacks that certain something. The two large followers, AR866 to the north and AR867 to the south are beta-gamma and are on either side of the meridian where 865 is traveling. I don't know much about solar physics - but it seems to me that it's going to somehow balance out that magnetic act that's leading it.

The clouds parted again later that night and I spent awhile with the Moon along the Alpine Valley. Somehow tonight I seem to be the happiest just standing here and looking at it, though. Castor and Pollux are so nearby and Saturn dances along. What a beautiful sight the Moon makes when caught along with the bright stars of winter!

It feels like destiny...

"Oooh, Dreamweaver... I believe we can reach the morning light."

April 4, 2006 - Walking the Ariadaeus Rille...

Comments: Believe it or not, the skies weren't exceptionally clear - but terribly, terribly steady. When I first went out, the Moon looked like it had a huge celestial feather fanned out over it. It was really quite a pretty cloud... thin... opalescent... and stalled.

I started looking at lunar features and smiling because I had just written about these very things only days before for the new manuscript. Aristoteles, Eudoxus, Maurolycus... But as always the Moon is never the same twice and tonight I can't keep my eyes off the Ariadaeus Rille. It slides along south of Julius Caesar and is interrupted by the deep looking Silberschlag. Further south I can make out the tiny pockmarks of Whewell, Cayley and de Morgan. As I stare, I can't help but wonder how really wide this fault line is... and how far it runs.

It makes a wonderful Y intersection to the east and ends in the double punch of Ariadaeus itself - which looks deeper than Dionysius. I smile again when I see Sabine and Ritter and realize just how close Apollo 11 was to exploring this major chasm in the lunar surface. When I have had my fill, I cover the scope again and put it away. I am happy to sit here for awhile and watch Orion dip west as stars of Spring begin to climb...

And think.

"Oooooh, Dreamweaver... I believe you can get me through the night."

April 3, 2006 - Moon Walk...

Comments: It had rained all day here. No worries, for it's that time of year. The grass seems to get more green right before your eyes and flowers are blooming. It had been a long day. Even though I was back early thanks to vampyre shift, the time change has left me sleepless and so many things on my mind have left me restless.

Although I tried to shut it down, sleep was eluding me. In the later hours, the temperatures dropped steadily and brought clear skies. Even though I should be in bed, I just had to be outside for ahwile... listening to the peepers who have awakened from their long winter's sleep and smelling the fresh air of the coming Spring.

How can you not want to look at the Moon? It is caught amoungst some of the brightest stars of Winter and there is a solitary beauty to be found in Posidonus. Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catherina look beautiful and the long wrinkle of Dorsa Beaumont is exceptionally clear. I look at the Apollo landing sites and smile. I think of Piccollomini and Jannsen. And what ho, Fabricius! Haven't I seen enough of you recently? Faded... But beautiful.

And so I find a certain peace within the night. I would love to be able to stay up late and dance amoungst the galaxies of Virgo, but exhaustion has come to claim me.

There's always tomorrow.

"Driver take away my worries of today... And leave tomorrow behind."

April 1, 2006 - At the Observatory...

Comments: It's our second public night of the year 2006. I had planned no real program for tonight something very beautiful was going to happen... And I guess that beauty was to be clouds.

I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see John N., Mike, Terry, Joe and Dave. John has been working very hard at collecting his Messier objects un-computer guided and I am so proud to annouce that he's hit his honorary Messier studies! We've a new camera to very soon play with and thoughts of perhaps adding another portable dome and telescope. Terry is working towards the completion of his galaxy cluster charts, Dave is working towards getting us another one of Norm Oberley's fine mirrors, we're about to hit our goal again in fundraising activities, and we've got a very large scout troop and a television crew about to visit. What a wondeful place the RAS has become!

We're coming back from the dead, mama....

We all hung around for awhile just in case anyone should show up and want a tour. After a couple of hours and lots of excited talk, we decided we'd just all continue on to one of the local eateries. How good it was to sit around the table and see smiles on everyone's faces. It might seem silly, but it always feels like these guys make everything seem all right. I don't remember the last time I laughed so much and when we finally (and reluctantly) parted, I felt so good when I was driving home.

As the miles spin away beneath me, I look time and again at the sky. Here and there are stars that hide behind the clouds. It's a warm night and when I arrive I don't turn on any lights, but chose to sit for awhile on the parkbench with my thoughts...

So many thoughts....

If I could hold a dream in my hand to give to you, it would be this. Tonight the Moon occulted the Pleiades and how I wish I could have seen it... Those cool blue stars sliding along silently behind Selene. I understand the sky and I am not disappointed. I have been fortunate before. It is a thing of singular beauty and perhaps not for everyone - but just right for an old wizard. And I am a lucky old wizard... For a dear friend of mine who does the most incredible sky shots was in a part of the world where he was able to see it and share with me. His name is John Cudworth and the moment I saw the full sized image of what he had taken, I knew that more was hiding behind it. May he forgive me for working a bit of magic of my own...

And so I hold this thing of beauty curled in my hand. Perhaps there will come a day in the dream world when I open it and it will drift off my palm like smoke back up towards the heavens...

Where we belong.

"I just closed my eyes again... Climbed aboard the dreamweaver train...."