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FEBRUARY 2006



February 28, 2006 - No Luck...

Comments: I've had my binoculars right here and handy since I heard about the new comet. I'm not up to trucking around with a telescope just yet, but the 15X60's will pick up a comet just fine. Honestly, getting up isn't a problem. I'm well up before dawn every morning and even if stuff hurts I am capable of stepping out the door, walking 10 feet and looking at the horizon - the problem has been no skies!

Over the last few days when I'd let the dog out, I would step outside and at least look up. At best there's been a few holes in the clouds here and there - but not much else. During the day today the Sun was shining like crazy and when my youngest son got home I asked if he'd set my little scope out so I could look at the Sun. Guess what? No sunspots either. Ah, well. So it goes. It's February, isn't it? Here some Sun, there some stars, but nothing is permanent.

Is it?

"You'll ask if the walls are building higher... We'll light the shadows of them all. I'd stand but they're much too useful... And I fall.

February stars... Floating in the dark... Temporary stars... February stars."



February 24, 2006 - Venus and the Moon...

Comments: Up early. Yeah. I've got some surgery scheduled that I'm not looking forward to and I just can't sleep. I'd been up for hours - trying to get myself in the right frame of mind - and knowing that all would be well. It won't be long until my ride will be here and I will have to leave, but before I go?

I gotta' go look at the skies...

I had been watching Jupiter outside the window and waiting on the dawn. I knew what was going to happen, but I just wanted to see it for myself. From the east window I watched Venus rise belore the very first pinks had touched the sky. As sunrise became inevitable, the colors came along and the Moon rose just as orange and slim as a sliver on canteloupe. Regardless of what I should be doing, I know what's best for me... And that is to step outside under that grand starry canopy and just take a look at the beauty of nature. As I rounded the house, I could see them both caught in the branches of the old black walnut tree. I stopped, pulled my blanket a bit tighter around my shoulders, and watched as the Moon slowly lost its color - to be replaced by earthshine and the orange and pinks of dawn rise higher.

Since you are seeing this picture, you know that everything went fine. I am very weak and lack much strength to do more than sit and gaze out the window now... But don't you feel sorry for me.
Just as surely as Venus and the Moon in the sky, I will be back again.

"Even though... Passed the time alone. Soon we're so unknown. It heals the soul..."



February 21, 2006 - Working Through Canis Major and Puppis...

Comments: I spend my hours sitting... Resting... Doing some study. It's turned into a rarity when I even leave the house and that's only when I need supplies. Recluse? Nah. I've just got a few health issues I'm trying to work through and doin' fine, thanks. Mostly my problem is that I simply can't stand for an extended period of time. I think they call that Old Age, don't they? Giggle...

No matter. When I saw pristine skies again tonight along with stars down on the southern horizon, I knew my chance to do a few studies wasn't going to get any better. I took my lawn chair out with me, didn't venture far from the house, and made my companions binoculars, the 12.5 and two good eyepieces - 32mm and 12mm. Stability rocks at 9/10 with same clarity. Time in? 9:30.

East/southeast from Beta Canis Majoris is NGC 2204. It's a fairly bright open cluster of around 30 stars that form a rough Kappa insignia on the sky. They are mostly white, but one star is definately tinged reddish.

Northeast of Delta is NGC 2354. It's bright, very open and in a stellar field. It contains lots of chains and what appears to be dark areas (dark nebula?) It's bright enough to be spotted with binoculars. NGC 2360 is also bright, more round, well compressed and rich with at least 100 members. Definately do-able in binoculars and a very nice cluster. NGC 2362 is an open cluster that involves triple star Tau. It's bright, round and large.

Heading for Puppis east of double Omicron Canis Majoris for NGC 2421. It's birght, large, and a oen cluster gathering of about 30 faint stars. NGC 2422 is very bright, very binocular, and an open group of perhaps 50 telescopic stars that contains double Struve 1121.

Northen Puppis is home to NGC 2423 - a large, bright open cluster spotted in binos. It contains a couple of dozen telescopic stars with a golden double. NGC 2440 is a telescopic only planetary nebula. It is somewhat elongated and the central is best seen at wide aversion.

South of Alpha Monocerotis is NGC 2479. It is a large open cluster that is somewhat faint, not well resolved and slightly concentrated.

Southeast of M93 is NGC 2482. It's a fairly bright cluster that contains around two dozen stars that are somwhat gathered in a northwest/southest elongation.

Southwest of Rho is NGC 2489. It can be spotted in binoculars. Telescopically it is bright, medium sized and contains a couple of dozens stars that are chained rather than in a random pattern.

North of Rho is NGC 2509. While faint in binoculars, it is rich, reasonably bright and compressed with perhaps 50 telescopic stars that can be resolved

South of Rho is NGC 2527. It is bright, large, and definately an open cluster even in binoculars. Telescopically it contains long trails of stars.

NGC 2539 is part of triple star 19 Puppis. It is bright, concentrated and elongated. NGC 2567 is large, bright, fairly rich grouping of perhaps 50 stars caught in a looping structure. NGC 2571 is also bright and fairly large, like a small cloud of stars. It can be just spotted with binoculars.

As you can see, life ain't that bad. When I don't feel like standing, or am unsteady, I just sit with the binoculars for awhile and sip at a thermal mug of chai with a blanket over my lap and take notes. The really cool thing about binoculars is that if I feel like turning the chair around I can look at M81 and M82, eh? Or hop to M44 and M67 without changing the scope around... Or just breeze over Gemini. Or I can just sit here and be dumbfounded at how bright the winter Milky Way looks tonight! Yeah, life ain't bad.

It ain't bad at all...

"Even though... I watched you come and go. How was I to know... You'd still show. One day I'll have enough to get more. I'll wait to hear your final call.

Hanging on... Hanging on... Here until I'm gone. Right where I belong.... Just hanging on."



February 20, 2006 - A Little Bit of Foo Fighters - "February Stars" and a Whole Lot of Monoceros....

Comments: Time to put on the head phones, grab my notes, ignore how I feel and dance?

Yep.

Tonight's Herschel objects are brought to you by the Meade 12.5, the awesome field on the Televue 32mm, temperatures colder than I really want to think about, skies at 9/10 clarity and stability, and my everlovin' Uranometria.

About a degree west of Gamma Monocerotis is NGC 2185. The imbedded stars are easy enough, but the accompanying nebulosity is strictly and averted only. Stellar field, the nebula is faint and oriented basically north to south and surrounding a string of 6 stars like a miniature Plieades.

Southwest of Gamma is NGC 2215. It's a bright, small, and very poor open cluster than contains so few stars that it's hard to distinguish.

North of Beta is NGC 2232. It is bright, very wide open and of similar magnitudes. It is clustered enough to be recognizable and contains probably one hundred stars.

More north to NGC 2244, which is the open cluster associated with the Rosette Nebula. It is a loose open, quite bright and has a conspicuous yellow star. The Rosette itself is wispy and more concentrated to one side.

North again to NGC 2251. It is bright, elongated and appears to be a bar pattern of stars.

North to NGC 2264. The "Christmas Tree". Always spectacular at lower powers. The "Cone" nebula is a faded thread in the field.

Now for a big hop northwest of Beta for NGC 2286. Another large open cluster, but kinda' faint. It is oriented generally to the northwest to southeast and the stars are brighter to the south. It is well resolved and contains about 50 stars.

West of Delta brings up NGC 2301. A small open cluster that's far more rich. It appears set away from the background stars with a trail of stars leading south. Contains about 30 well resolved members.

Between Delta and Beta is NGC 2311. Somewhat north/northwest of the M50, this is a poor, faint open cluster that is difficult to tell from the field.

Northwest of Delta is NGC 2324. It is a rich, compressed open cluster comprised of hundreds of fainter stars. Several dozen members are brighter and come forward far easier.

In the area between Sirius and Delta are two more open clusters. NGC 2335 is round, bright and composed of fainter stars - perhaps 50ish. This one is cool because there is a hole (dark nebula?) in the southeast edge. NGC 2343 is a bright, wide open cluster with two dozen well resolved members.

East now to NGC 2353. A bright open cluster that is pretty large. Perhaps a hundred or so involved members?

Last hop? East/southeast of Alpha for NGC 2506. Another bright, large open cluster. This one is rich and well condensed with lots of underlying fainter members and perhaps two dozen brighter stars overlaying them.

Time in was 9:15 p.m. Time out was 10:45 p.m.

I grin around at all the other stuff that's out there, but this was really ambitious for me. I know it's probably best just to head right back in to the warm so I won't ache later, eh? I tip the awesome M44 a grin and realize it won't be long until the galaxy hunt in Leo begins. February is a touch month...

But sometimes there's "February Stars".

"Hanging on... Here until I'm gone. Right where I belong. Just hanging on..."




Feburary 18, 2006 - Working on the Herschel 400...

Comments: Have I been? Yeah. For what seems like centuries now. I guess what I've never really done is just concentrate specifically on the first Herschel 400 list, so when I saw clear skies I figured it was about time to pull the 12.5 around to my favourite observing spot and let it stablize.

While it was doing its thing, I was busy dark adapting. Within minutes of turning off the lights the stars of Monoceros popped right out and so did the goosebumps. With the clear comes a price - d***m cold. Leaving my two favourites (32mm - 2" and 12mm ultra-wide field) out to stay at temperature, I ducked back inside to dress a little more warmly and grab a pencil so my pen wouldn't drop out from the cold when I needed it. By the time I got back and started readjusting, I figured the scope was good enough to go.

9:00 pm. Let's rock.

My first was awesome at low power. Collinder 83... This one drove me nutz for years because I thought it was only an asterism and didn't have a designation. Well, brother? It does. It's not only Herschel 24, but NGC 2169. Can you say 37? There's probably at least 50, if not more, members right around this, but that number just blazes right out. Just looking at it makes me laugh!

NGC 2107 came next. Talk about bloody brilliant! This tight, colorful cluster of stars just about breaks the eyepiece. Sliding the 32mm out, I put in the power and watched all the tiny little companion stars just pop right out. Stability could have been just a little bit better, but I think that's more a little downdraft wind than sky conditions. We've got 8/10 clarity and this cluster is really a good one.

At power, NGC 1832 was next. Nice little galaxy. Bright spiral that's elongated north to south, has a brighter core and a suggestion of spiral arms. NGC 1964 is exceptionally bright. It has a concentrated nucleus and tends to be a little bit more angular instead of straight up and down. No suggestions of arm structure. Definately a stellar field and line of sight stars!

And I gotta' sit down for a minute.

The edge of the "Grasshopper" makes for a fairly good seat and as I admire Saturn for a few minutes, I sit and study my map and the stars for the next couple.

Next up is NGC 2073. It's a mother. At very best all I can see is some contrast change that vaguely suggests it's a galaxy and not a small, bright nebula. NGC 2124 comes next on my study list. Daggone! It's even fainter! But... There is no mistaking this galaxy as a near edge-on in structure. Orients from north to south and has a little bit brighter core area. I had to drop back to the 32mm to locate NGC 2076, but it immediately became apparent as edge-on in structure. It takes really well to magnification and there is a pronounced nucleus. Wide aversion shows a dustlane that's more noticable toward the outer edges than across the center.

After I rested for awhile, I went back to pick up ones I had looked at before. NGC 2179 is a faint roundish patch with a star on either edge that sucks at high power. NGC 2196 is ever so slightly brighter and just a bit more oval. This one looks like it has more concentration in the center. NGC 2193 is also just a little round fuzzy in a nice field and almost disppears when you power up.

Now, I'm about ready to give it up for the night, but I really had something I wanted to look at that I had never powered up on before. IC 408 is a planetary nebula that I had gotten as part of my own planetary studies, but never really, really taken a lot of time with. Even at low power the central star snaps right out, but it turns magnificent with the 12mm. It has a quality to it that reminds me of the "eskimo", like there is a shell within a shell. The longer I study it and keep moving the scope back over it, I somehow get a sense of color. Now, I know I really am going crazy! It's primarily greenish, but once in awhile I get something that just verges on the edge of red and is gone - just like that.

Time to stop for awhile, eh?

"Cuz' nothing is really... More than a feeling."



Feburary 14, 2006 - Out Goofing Around...

Comments: A clear night? You betcha'. And just enough time before the Moon rises to get out with binoculars and do a little snooping. It's pretty obvious that the Moon needs to be absent to see any stars of Monoceros (why on earth did i pick such a difficult constellation to work on???), but at least I've got a pretty good idea of where I'm going.

I think the M50 would show through just about any conditions, but it performs admirably well tonight. A very nice open cluster and one very worthy of binoculars. The NGC 2264 doesn't fair as well, but it is recognizable as an open cluster. Collinder 91 is a... cough, cough, is it a cluster? Four stars in a kite shape. Maybe more lurks behind it in the telescope? Collinder 97 is only marginally better. Collnder 106 is even more improved and double the population - while Collinder 107 is again - sparse. By now, the Moon is already rising up with a slender slice taken off the eastern edge.

It was fun while it lasted!

"It's more than a feeling... When I heard that old song that they used to play."



February 12, 2006 - The Moon, Iota Orionis, Beta Monocerotis, Delta Monocerotis, Xi Geminorum, Mars and Saturn...

Comments: It didn't look like it was going to happen at first, but as the temperatures dropped steadily - so did the cloud cover. I don't want much of anything, really. Just being outside in the bright moonlight is good enough and having a look around so I can accurately write what can been seen at any given time.

Of course, the 4.5 Celestron is my companion and although the Moon will fry your eyes, I still love to trace lunar rays. My main goal tonight was to see if one of the Tycho rays actually crosses Mare Nectaris, and it by-gosh does. More than anything, I'm just making some notes of bright features that look interesting.

And other interesting things are happy multiple systems I've known and loved like Iota and Beta. So what's next? Having a look a systems that aren't truly gravitationally bound, but look daggone good in a telescope under high lighting conditions. Of course, before I call it a night I have a quick peek at both Mars and Saturn. More than anything?

Just because they're there.

"But I still recall... As I wander on. As clear as the Moon in the winter sky..."



February 9/10, 2006 - Sundogs, Pillars and Haloes...

Comments: Unfortunately, there hasn't been a whole lot to look at over the last few days. While it's not precisely totally cloudy, it's far from clear as well. Even as bad as that sounds, there is a certain beauty to that as well, for the skies have been filled with colorful sundogs and the last two sunsets have had a gentle pillar to point the way to the descent.

Out of all of it, probably the most unusual a rather special atmospheric phenomena has been the huge halo around the Moon at night. It is hard for me to describe, but a friend of mine, Steve Mandel captured one that I would like to share. While the nights are cloudy, why not take the time to visit with Steve and have a look at all the great things he's seen? As I stand here and look at this gorgeous halo around the Moon, it reminds me of how other people are terrifically patient enough to capture such beauty and share it with others.

Me? I can write about from here until eternity, but I'll never be able to grasp the art. I guess we all have our special niche in the grand scheme of things. Some people can tell you, and others show you. No matter where you and I fit in, the most important thing is we share...

Amour du nuit ciel.

"So many people have come and gone... Their faces fade as the years go by."



February 6, 2006 - After the Storm...

Comments: Winter weather has returned and with it a goodly amount of snow. Viewing has been at a premium, but with a wonderfully sunny day on my hands, I had to set the scope up just outside the door and have a peek at long absent Sol! I couldn't help myself but to laugh - for there was not a single sunspot!

And that bright day turned into a beautiful night. I waited until the late side to go out, but it was wonderfully worth it. My goal was the Moon. As I watched the Appennine Mountains, I was touched by how they, too, seem capped with snow... When something caught my eye. Dropping in a little more power, I was delighted to see the hair thin black line that signifies the Straight Wall. What a pleasure!

I took a look at Mars, which has regressed into nothing more than a small red marble with some chocolate colored swirls. I gazed a Saturn, caught as always by the rings and the dance of the "troopers" around the leading edge. I let myself wander to the M42 and onto the M79. There was pleasure in the sprinkling of stellar gems in the M41, M50 and M35.

As I stood with my hands in my pockets warming them up, I looked around me. The bright moonlight had transformed the snow covered landscape into a fantasy of blue. The giant pine whose branches are bowed beneath the weight of the snow is a majestic sight. The old black walnut tree looks like its skeletal branches glow with an unearthly light... And behind it all... Behind it all are the diamond hard stars of winter.

It has been many years since my hands have truly wanted to pick up a pallette and paint again. But, as I look at this scene, I realize this is one of the true joys of winter. Capping up the scope, I return it to the garage for I have had enough tonight. It's time for me just to stand here and admire what Nature has painted before me.

Nothing can top that.

"More than a feeling... I begin dreaming. More than a feeling...
'Til I see myself walk away. I see my myself walkin' away..."




February 4, 2006 - The RAS Meeting...

Comments: Hey, it's February. And there's good reason that we close the Observatory down over the winter months. Here in Ohio - It snows!!

And boy, was it snowing.

All day long I watched it come down trying to determine whether or not I should call off our monthly meeting at a local eatry because of poor road conditions. I kept wrestling with myself, and the bottom line was... It's bad, but it's not so bad that I would drive to be with my friends. About 5:00 or so, I called Dave to see if he was willing to brave the storm. When he said he had also talked to Joe and that he and John B. were planning on being there, I knew I was going, too. Only a bunch of idiots would drive in weather like this...

"Only a bunch of idiots would drive in weather like this!" is exactly what I said when I walked up to the table of smiling friends. Were the roads bad? Yes. They were. Even in 4WD, on the average I couldn't go any faster than 30-35 m.p.h. Everywhere I looked there were cars in the ditches and I would at least stop, make sure the driver was alright, and offer the phone. Assistance? Heck, no. Once upon a time I would have thought nothing about hooking a chain around their rear axle and pulling them out. But this is a new century. Instead of saying "Thank you, man!" they'd be saying "You scratched my Audi and I'm suing."

So goes life, eh? Anyhow, it was really great to see my friends again. It's a lot of fun to sit around the table, discuss business and plans and just to laugh alot. We've only got one more month to go until our Public season opens again and it's time to start planning for Astronomy Day and Hidden Hollow events. After all was said and done, I guess I shocked a few of them when I chucked the snowball at a perfect stranger. (i noticed no one stopped me, tho'... ;) At least my aim is still good and it dropped a couple of feet behind him. What you don't know wont hurt you...

Will it?

"It's more than a feeling, when I hear that old song they used to play."



February 1, 2006 - Doin' the Dolidze...

Comments: Man, I couldn't believe how good it was just to see the Moon again! I know that sounds kinda' dumb because astronomers are supposed to hate the Moon, but when you see it all loaded with earthshine like that, you can't help but stop and admire...

And wait for it to set.

Tonight's aim was simple. Use the 12.5, the 32mm 2" widefield and do the Do. In this case, the "Do" is not a soda, nor is it a euphamism, it is the abbreviation for an odd class of open clusters and a catalog study that I've been working on for some year or so now - the Dolidze. Difficult? Not particulary. All ya' gotta' know is Gamma Orionis!

The first is an easy hop of about one degree northeast of Gamma - Dolidze 21. Here we have what is considered a "poor" open cluster. Not because it isn't nice - but because it isn't populous. It is home to around 20 or so low wattage stars of mixed magnitude with no real asterism to make it special.

The second is about one degree northwest of Gamma - Dolidze 17. The primary members of this bright group could easily be snatched with even small binoculars and would probably be more pretty in that fashion. Five very prominent stars cluster together with some fainter members that are again, poorly constructed, but a couple of nice visual pairs. Low power is a bonus on this one to make it recognizable.

The last is about two degrees north of Gamma - Dolidze 19. Two well spaced 8th or so magnitude stars stand right out with a looping chain of far fainter stars between them and a couple of relatively bright members dotted around the edges. With the very faint stars added in, there are probably three dozen stars are told and this one is by far the larger concentration of this "Do" trio. After that? Oh, heck. I just let the dob go where ever it wanted to for awhile...

All work and no play makes Tammy a very dull girl.

"I looked out this morning and the sun was gone. Turned on some music to start my day. I lost myself in a familiar song.. I closed my eyes and I slipped away."