MARCH 2006

March 30, 2006 - Before Sunrise...

Comments: It's no great secret that I am up and gone long before the Sun rises. As I walked out to my car this morning I realized just how far west Jupiter was starting to become and just how pretty Venus is when it is first rising. It seems so spectacular to see Scorpius and Saggitarius again and I hope someday I feel like take a morning walk through those constellations.

As I drove into work, I tried not to dream too much over my left shoulder at the coming summer. It seems so wonderful to see those stars again that I have a hard time not wanting to just look at them. Dawn is not far away and in my rearview mirror I watch the awesome appearance of the Belt of Venus with Venus just above it. What a wonderful picture that would have made!

But the best was yet to come...

I was maybe 5 miles or so away from town when I glanced back again and saw something that literally took my breath away. Well ahead of the rising Sun was a spectacular pillar! To my recollection this is the very first time I have ever seen a sun pillar that preceeded the dawn and the sight is hugely inspiring. Stretching up over the belt of Venus by about 15 degrees, the color was something that I find hard to describe... It was orange, yet it was pink at the same time. Just an incredible color of nature...

Although the day turned beautiful and I did venture out to sit in the Sun a few times, it was also a rough one. Deep, deep depression that I did not understand. How could a day that began so beautifully end so strangely? But, do not worry about me. I might always have my head in the stars, but my feet are firmly on the ground. The thoughts of ending it all passed - washed away by the tears of pain. Take a pill and go on, kid. I feel so sorry for those that live in agony, for it tears at your soul - doesn't it? If you will let me, I will take it for you. Pain and I are old friends...

And we walk hand in hand amoungst the stars.

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem. The consequences that are rendered... I've stretched myself beyond my means.

And it's been awhile... Since I could say that I wasn't addicted. And it's been awhile... Since I've said I'm sorry."

March 29, 2006 - Playin' With The Great Bear...

Comments: Guess what? A clear night in Ohio! Too bad we couldn't have seen today's solar eclipse from here, huh? While I've felt better, there is nothing I need more than to get out and do some scoping. I know I'm not up to an all night Messier hop, but right now Ursa Major looks mighty fine and it's sitting in one of the darkest portions of my northern vista. Dob out, eyepieces out, Uranometria ready, notes ready... I'm ready!

First up is NGC 3998. I'm glad I found it, but I've never gotten an real thrills from elliptical galaxies. It's small, reasonably bright enough with the 12.3mm eyepiece, but nothing outstanding. At short hop away is NGC 3963 which is in the same field with Zeta UM and is nothing more than a faint, small contrast change.

NGC 3945 is about halfway between Alpha and Delta, it's hard to find but it is a real beauty with a resolvability to its sturcture. It's a spiral with a concentrated nucleus and a halo-like set of arms that form a complete ring.

About two degrees west of Gamma is an easy finderscope star and a hop north for same field lowe power pair NGC 3888 and NGC 3898. Both are round in structure with just a slight concentration towards the middle. Further west is NGC 3780 which would probably be a spiral because it is very round - but it's also very even looking. About four degrees west of Gamma is NGC 3738 and NGC 3756. Both are difficult, but the 3738 has an extremely bright core region.

And that will be enough for me now. Although the Moon will figure prominently in the scene very soon, I also love the Moon...

And the galaxy fields will be waiting.

"And it's been awhile... Since I could say that I wasn't addicted. And it's been awhile since I've said I'm sorry. And it's been awhile... Since I've seen the way the stars light up your face. And it's been awhile... But I can still remember just the way you taste."

March 27, 2006 - The Vampyre of Omega Centaurus...

Comments: Of course it was clear when I got up. You and I both know that if one's schedule calls to be in hours before dawn that the sky will be beautiful, don't you? It was so pretty it was a wonder that Jupiter wasn't casting shadows...

Well, I didn't have a whole lot of time to spare, but I did take the big binos out and gave the sky a wave for my friends John and Bruce who are at the Observatory doing their Messier Marathon. I swept the M84/86, took a grin at M81/82, said howdy to M3 and M5, caught a glimpse of a very faded out M98, M99 and M100, caught up with M65/66 and headed off to snatch M104.

Here I sit in the dark on the park bench. Sipping coffee out of my thermal cup and knowing I've got to leave soon and thinking I don't want to. Instead I'm admiring Jupiter's moons and hearing Robert's voice.... "They say you can see Omega Centaurus..." I don't have a clue of where to find it - but I've an idea. I start sweeping along the tree line and when I made the second pass I pushed one field up.

And about dropped the binos.

I went up to Spica and started dropping straight down... And there is an undeniable round haze of light less than two handspans south. Is this Omega? I recognize nothing and I have brought no charts out with me. You'll never know how tempted I am just to tell work to clock off and get the big dob out and make sure. Grrrrrr.... What I wouldn't give!!

But duty calls....

"Why must I feel this way? Please make this go away... Just one more peaceful day!"

March 25, 2006 - Lost In The Dark...

Comments: Back awhile ago, some friends of mine from the MVAS had wanted to make arrangements to visit at the Observatory and just have a great evening amoung astro-friends. "Frosty" (a.k.a. Mark) had a log cabin at farily nearby Apple Valley and we just had every intention of spending the night star hopping and having ourselves a fine party. Well, you know what happens when you try to make a date with the sky, don't you?

Yep. She backs out on you.

Well, Frosty had called me and told me they were still on for the cabin and that they had arrived. He had also sent me some very explicit instructions on how to get there and since it was relatively near where Joe lives I was feeling pretty confident that I could find it with no problem. I printed off map quest instructions just in case, took my meds and promptly trashed in the easy chair for far too long.

When I woke up, it was already getting dusk and the cloud cover was thick and steady. I thought about just staying here, but I would never forgive myself knowing that my friends were that close and I didn't take the opportunity to go see them. I cleaned up, grabbed my maps, a bottle of water and my cell phone and I was good to go. Late... But going.

About halfway there the phone rings and it's Frosty. Yep! On my way, dude... And not far. They had set a red blinker out so I could find it - but oh, lord... They should have set one out at every turn I needed to make! Well... I followed the instructions - and made one huge circle. The phone rings again. Am I ok? Yep. But, I am lost on the county roads from hell. Keeping me on the line, Frosty coaches me along as I cruise roads that have a different name each time they cross a township. He's telling me the skies are clear where he's at and I'm driving in snow! I was ready to just turn back while I could still find my way to civilization, but he told me if I'd just stop they come and get me since I was that close. Stop I did.

And within 10 minutes we were there.

Wow! Do you know how good it is to see Joe T. and John again? Or just to see Mark smiling in the light? His log cabin is just beautiful and many of the faces there I am familiar with. The skies really were clear and the bonfire welcome! After a round of hugs I was feeling much better and the laughter flowed freely. John had brought me a beautiful book about the Moon and he and Joe got me very interested in some software programs. The time was just going TOO FAST!! They make me feel wonderfully at home and although I know I am welcome to stay - I know my work schedule will not permit it.

After a last round of hugs and well wishes (for I will see them all very soon at Apollo Rendezvous) I set back out with the easy way of right, right, left....

And bloody well got lost again.

Call 'em? Hell, no! I might be a dyslexic blonde when it comes to driving somewhere, but I've darn well make it to wherever I've set out to go! Sometimes in a bit round about fashion... But made it. I was feeling good when I found Old Mansfield Road again - but Mt. Vernon was a bit of a shock, eh? Upset? Nah. I dug out my water bottle, had me a swig and checked my atlas. I can see a state highway up ahead at an intersection and if I follow it west the very worst that could happen is that I would end up in Delaware.

I ended up in Delaware.

Welp, at least it's an interstate and at least I really do know my way from here. Turn left and you go to Columbus, turn right and you'll either find Marion or end up in Upper Sandusky. I thought about just cruising on up... But the hour was rather late and I did opt for the town in work in, eh? Plenty of time... Plenty of gas.

While what should have been a roughly 80 mile trip turned into a 180 mile trip, I can tell you now that it was a happy one. I wasn't scared and I was far from upset. It's a wonderful thing to have a reunion with distant friends at any opportunity and their warmth and laughter...

Follow me all the way home.

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem - to be. I cannot blame this on another. He did the best he could for me... You see."

March 18, 2006 - At Malabar Farm...

Comments: It had been a very long time indeed since I had joined my friends at AFY for an observing night at Malabar Farm. It is also our first scheduled public program of the year year and just as with WRO - I was thinking twice about going. The temperatures are going to get down in the low 20s and all I can remember is how horribly my head hurt for 6 days after the last time I tried to tempt fate. So... I decided I'd let fate decide. I checked accuweather. Not bad. I checked to see if everything was still packed together to take the Celestron NexStar 102. Yep. Even my duffel bag still held all the right ingredients. I plugged my battery pack in. An hour later it gave me a "full charge" light. I found my thermos. I had clean clothes. I ain't feeling bad. In other words?

No exuses.

Heading out, I arrived just before the sky had gone totally dark. It had been since I visited Black Forest since I'd used the 102 and I was sure hoping I'd remember how to put it all together. It was clear back in them days that I first knew something was going wrong with me and six months later - here I am ready to try again. Bundling myself up, I started assembling equipment and was pleased that my hands remembered the routine. By now, my friends had began to drift over to talk and it was simply great to see Keith, Greg, Curt, Robert, Stuart and Al again. Apparently they still have faith that I remember how to do it!

And Stuart is just a whistle away...

Once assembled, I was ready to align. I smiled when I had a hard time remembering how to take out the Pennsylvania location, but managed. Using my cellphone, I checked the time, set things up, and away we go.

And I'm off by ten million miles.

Laughing, Stuart comes over to give me a hand. For some odd reason, my PowerTank totally lost its charge within minutes, so he gave me the cord to hook it to my car. Once there, away it purred and Stu went to realign it for me. As I watched him put the numbers in the keypad, it struck me! Like a total idiot, I had entered the time as military time and the telescope was responding to my erroneous commands. No wonder! At least Stu always makes me laugh and not long afterwards I was up and purring like a kitten - with notes and maps ready.

I worked my way steadily through all the NGC and Messier objects in Orion - then on to Monoceros, Canis Major and Puppis. For at least two or more hours I had a totally grand time hopping from object to object, making my notes and pleased as punch to be using this fine little scope again. It's a really surprising performer!

I walked around for awhile visiting with my friends and looking through their scopes. Stuart has an awesome binoviewer and Greg a new eyepiece in the AFY's new 6". Robert had our new 12.5" dob out and aiming at a variety of objects. Although I'm feeling a little cold, I'm also feeling very fine and although the sky could have been better, it's just great to be out with my friends!

Along about that time I decided I'd go back and start through my Hydra studies. And what's the first thing I do? Yep. Caught that cord and tripped off my power supply. No problem. I plugged everything back in and was tickled that I remembered how to align everything on my own again. This time so well that every object was right dead in the middle of the eyepiece! Since the telescope had decided to use Capella as an alignment star, I figured I'd do a fast walk through Auriga while I was there. By the sixth object? I'd done it again!! Pulled my own plug....

Me and my big feet.

Well, I thought about setting things back up again, but by now I had been at if for about four hours and was noticing that my core temperature had really dropped. Don't get me wrong - I'm a person that is extremely tolerant of cold and I didn't feel cold - but when your core temperature drops? Yep. There's that fear of being in pain again.

The public had long gone and Curt was packing up. I guess that's enough for me as well and it didn't take long before everything was packed back as perfectly as it came. I talked to my friends for awhile longer as the phat Moon and bright Jupiter began to rise above the trees and the clouds softly sneaked back. I've got pages and pages of study notes here - more than 50 objects - and it was just wonderful to be out and feeling like myself again.

Time to head west...

It's good to be driving again - shifting gears, exceeding the speed limit and jamming to the tunes. Sirius is just barely above the western horizon when I make it back and I stand for the longest time outside holding my bag of Taco Bell and looking at the Moon and Jupiter. Inside, I can see the coals glowing in the stove and I'm ready to put a couple of logs on the fire and just kick back with my seven-layer burrito and a beer. Even if I had to learn how to use my own telescope all over again?

It was still a damn fine night.

"And it's been awhile... Since I've mucked things up - just like I always do. And it's been awhile... But all that sh*t seems to disappear when I'm with you."

March 14, 2006 - Curses... Eclipsed Again!

Comments: And so I have been feeling more well and strong than I have in a very long time. It has been about a month since I've been able to work and it has passed in a dizzying round of doctor's appointments, tests, anethestic, pain and drugs. The time has come to put away the "sick things" and become well again.

I watched as the Sun peeked in and out all day long. I knew there was to be a penumbral eclipse tonight and I have longed for anything - anything to be myself again. Before the Sun set, the sky became totally cloudy and I just resigned myself to the old adage that it ain't gonna' happen. No amount of wishing was going to make the clouds go away... Yet I continued to check out the window hoping against hope for a bright spot in the sky.

About 45 minutes before the event ended, I took a chance and went outside with the camera. The driving winds had turned bitter cold and I found myself heading back into the house to wrap thick towels around my head and neck. One bite of the wind was all it took to fear the headache again! And, although I look rather foolish, I didn't feel that way as I watched the russet colored Moon peek in and out between the clouds. The southern edge was a dulled off characoal color and even the cloud color could not lie about what was happening. The clouds along the eclipse edge were lined with copper colors instead of the silver we associate with night. When the Moon would pass through a hole, it would be so sudden and so glorious that it would over-expose to the eye of the camera and by the time it began to readjust itself?

It was gone again.

Oddly enough, about 45 minutes after the eclipse ended the skies became totally clear. I wrapped my indian blanket around myself and had to stand outside and laugh at the irony of it all. Here now are the clear skies that I could have filmed the penumbral eclipse through the telescope - and the shadow of the Earth is long gone.

But at least I saw...

"And it's been awhile... Since I could say I loved myself as well."

March 10, 2006 - Cream of Moon Soup...

Comments: Well, at least the horrible headaches have stopped. The doctor told me they were migraines and I never want to feel that way again. We're trying some new meds and although I am tired of having my chemistry toyed with - I am so relieved to be shed of that mind numbing pain.

Of course, I would like to go out and observe but it has done nothing but rain here for awhile. At one point, I feel compelled to go outside and when I look up it is to see the Moon shining high above a deep fog.

It's like being in a dream...

"And it's been awhile... Since I could say that I wasn't addicted."

March 7, 2006 - Comet Pojmanksi on the tail of the Dolphin...

Comments: It's 4:30 a.m. I can't sleep. The pain in my head is so intense that I feel like I just want to beat my head against the wall to make it stop. Nothing touches it. No drugs I have been given will stop it. I make myself a cup of coffee and sit in the dark watching Venus rise through the east window. I smoke a cigarette and remind myself that what is... is. I can't give up. I can't cry and hide.

And I can't let what's happened stop me from being who I am.

I took the big binoculars out with me, even though my hands shake a bit too much. Right now? I don't care. The moment I breathe in the fresh air and see the stars a little switch kicks on and suddenly it's not so bad. When I'm here, nothing can hurt me and I push what I feel away and let the pleasure of what I can see take over. I scan Aquila for Comet Pojmanksi and find myself smiling when I catch it hung on the tail of Delphinus. Its nucleus is less sharp and a quick check on M4 shows me that it is perhaps a magnitude or more dimmer than that great cluster. I lay the binoculars beside me on the park bench and fumble through my parka pockets for paper and pen amoungst the many things that coats with many pockets hold. Holding my little squeezie red light with my teeth, I home in on Pojmanski once again and make my rough field sketch for my Comet Hunter's Gold.

And when I put it away, I delight in the stars. I hop to all the bright and beautiful things in the heavens and a sweet peace descends. I give a prayer of thanks that I am here. Perhaps one must understand what bad truly is to fully appreciate that which is good. If it is a trial, then I will stand tall. I remember the vision of the Milky Way that remains forever imprinted on my mind and my time has not ended yet. I sit there on the parkbench until dawn begins to stain the sky...

And I rest at last.

"And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem. The consequences that are rendered... I've stretched myself beyond my means."

March 4, 2006 - Warren Rupp Observatory - Opening Night!

Comments: What, me stay home on our opening night of 2006? Wild horses couldn't keep me away... (but they did try. ;)

Although I was not the most timely of souls, I did make it not horribly late. I honestly tried to be there by 7:00, but things just don't always work they way they should and I was grateful that I had at least gotten there before the bulk of our guests arrived for the evening.

How good it is to see my friends again! I definately needed a round of hugs, and it started with Dave, and made it's way to John B., John N., Terry, Joe, Keith and Bruce. It's good to see his girlfried here as well and it's not long before I discovered Heidi in the dark. All my friends are here! And so are some very special guests...

These are the wonderful young folks from Case Western Reserve College and they are here to study astronomy for the evening. My hat is off to these great young adults, not only were they smart and well mannered, but what great fun it was to have them here! It was also my great pleasure to make the acquaintance of several new members and re-welcome our guests from Nationwide Astronomy Club as well. It looks like it's going to be one fine night!

Although there was plenty of "moon shine" to go around, Bruce had the 31" aligned and fine. First item up was the incomparable "Eskimo Nebula" and it was very worth climbing the lift to have a look. On the ground, both Johns have telescopes going and I know my grin had to light up the dark as I listened to them "do their thing". At the other end of the observation platform, Terry and Heidi are also "shooting stars", and I am so proud of Terry's wonderful galaxy cluster maps! Center stage is Keith and his breathtaking binoculars - you would have to take a moment to look through them to understand just how fine the view really is!

I sure know one fine bunch of people.

Did I horse around? Yeah. A little bit. I knew better than to try and move anything around, but someone had kindly set up the SVD8 for me and it was great to use it again. Bruce had cleaned and aligned the optics as well as performed some minor repairs. While I will admit that most of Orion's optics are very good, I am sorry to say that their telescopes simply fall apart under a lot of use. I am very proud of the changes that Bruce has made and everything is tight and right on the scope again - and what an awesome view.

Both Keiths and I take turns aiming at a few odd things and split off to also enjoy the celestial scenery in the other telescopes as well. I know that object after object turned up in "Big Blue", but Saturn and the M81 are the only other two I feel like braving the steps for tonight. But ya' know what? It feels really good to be out. It's good medicine for a weary soul.

I tremendously enjoyed everyone's company and after about three hours I knew that it was time for me to stop. My brain would have loved to have stayed on, but my body says no-no. I stop to thank our guests and our club members once again for making our opening night...


"And it's been awhile... Since I could call you."

March 4, 2006 - Comet 2006/A1 Pojmanksi...

Comments: Woo hooo!! It's a clear morning and I'm awake on my own long before Venus has even cleared the distant treeline. The first thing I did was press my face against the bedroom window that faces east to make sure there were stars and the second was to start coffee.

Realizing I had plenty of time before dawn, I attended to my own health needs first. With fresh dressings applied, a cup of coffee, an english muffin and the happy pills swallowed, I am ready to put on the parka and snowboots and crunch across the snow covered backyard to have a look at this bad boy!

Yesterday, my friend R. Jay GaBany had sent me this photo of the comet from his remote observatory in Cloudcroft, NM. I was really impressed! (that brat beat me to it... ;) Since I'm still working on my comet hunter's gold project, I knew I had to try - but didn't want to wear myself out by going up the stairs to check the maps. I know I can do it. I had heard it was fairly near Venus, so that's where I started out...

But that's not where it was.

Holy eukanuba dog food! This son-of-a-gun is clear up in Aquila! In the big binos, it looks all for the world like a planetary nebula does in a large telescope. It definately has a greenish tinge to it, but unlike most comets does not look like an unresolved globular cluster. The nucleus is very sharp and the coma seems to glow around it! No tail... But needless to say, I'm grinnin' like a fool. I'm just astounded that it's that high in the sky!

Of course, being out means that I've got to at least compare it to the M13, M22, and M4 - don't cha' know. For overall brighness, I'm not rating the coma at more than 6. Of course, this also means that I've got to have a look at M11, M24, M17, M8, M6 and M7 as well. I mean, after all.. You can't just be out there and see the stuff of summer and not want to look at it!

But, I kept goin' right back to that comet. If there's a one degree tail, it's got someone with better eyes and better skies than me to see it. It really is fascinating, and I watched for about 15 minutes or so until I just got so tuckered out from holding the big binos up that I figured I'd better quit and scribbled up my notes. You don't know what I'd give if I were capable of carrying even the little scope out there to have a look! For a moment, the thought crosses my mind of grabbling the handle on the "grasshopper" and wheeling the dob out - but I don't want to end up back where I was.

Right now I'm just happy to have caught Pojmanski!

"And it's been ahwile... Since I could stand on my own two feet again."

February 3, 2006 - Playin' With the Binoculars...

Comments: I just went to get them out of my car - honest! There's a hot comet in town and it's supposed to be clear tomorrow morning and I know I can at least walk out and sneak a peek!

As luck would have it, it's been - I dunno' - weeks? since I was able to drive and my trunk was frozen. I really wanted my little ones, but there's no way I'm up to trying to pull the lid up, so I just figured it was the big binos or none. As I walked back to the house, I could see that Moon just smiling away - almost like it was laughing at me! Indoors, I sat at watched it set out the window - smiling right back.

I'm goin' out.

After the Moon had ducked, I put my boots and parka right back on over my pyjamas. I'm tired of feeling bad and if I've got to - it's going to be collecting photons! Unfortunately, I really didn't feel like taking notes, but I happy looked at all the clusters in Puppis, raked in the stuff in Gemini and Auriga, had myself a fine old time catching the M81 and M82 as well as the M65 and M66.

Since the recovery police haven't showed up yet, I dared to walk out to the edge of the east field and swooped in the M5 and M3 as well. By then, I was beginning to notice that it had been some time since I had stood up and moved around quite that much. It feels bad - but it feels good at the same time. Tomorrow will be the opening day of 2006 for the observatory and I'm sure hoping I can be there for awhile! Realizing I need to rest, I reluctantly head back for the house. Time for this old kid to find a blanket and a pain pill again, eh?

And a comet in the morning...

"And it's been awhile...Since I could hold my head up high. And it's been awhile... Since I first saw you."