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October 31, 2006 - Trick or Treat - On the Moon!

Comments: OK. It was cold, crappy and rainy. Not a pleasant evening for kids to be out wandering around begging candy. As always, my few decorations were out (all the kids love the giant scooby doo) and I was made up and ready to go by the time the kids started. Pumpkin lit, candy basket full... Let's rock.

When the first kids arrived, I smiled, poured handsfuls of treats into their bags and wished them well... Then the largest behind the mask said "Aren't you going to have a telescope out this year? We always look through the telescope." Surprised, I stepped off the covered porch and out into the yard. I think I mumbled something about there isn't anything to look at... But there was.

Behold the Moon.

Needless to say, it didn't take very dadgone long to get the little Celestron 102 out of the back of my car and have it set up on the front lawn. While refractors are notoriously uncomfortable to full sized adults, they work wonderfully with kids and even the smallest didn't have a problem catching a glimpse. Some thought it was cool and then just went on... Others were glued to the eyepiece. I like those kids. You know, the ones whose parents say "Now, let your sister look." and they do, but literally shove lil' sissy out of the way so they can look again?

Yeah. It's a small village. Almost everyone is here just visiting family. No marvelous number of outreach. Just about 20 kids at tops and a lot of adults who have been coming here and looking through the scope and getting candy since they were kids. A lot of that 20 are now almost adults themselves and it won't be many years until those teenagers will be back around with kids of their own...

And still remembering "Trick or Treat" on the Moon.

"It's only teenage wasteland... Yeah, yeah. Teenage wasteland. It's only teenage wasteland. Yeah, yeah. It's only teenage wasteland.

We're all wasted."

October 30, 2006 - The "Herschel Vampyre"...

Comments: Guess what? This is the next to the next to the last vampyre shift I will ever work. What's that you say? Yeah. You heard me right. It's time for this old kid to go into semi-retirement. Can I afford it? Well, what can I say besides: "Can any of us?" The reality check is if I wait until I feel like I can truly afford to stop working so much that I will probably work for the rest of my life. So, for better or worse, it's time for me to lay the gauntlet down and take on a less physically demanding occupation.

But I ain't givin' up the stars.

With two hours to kill before I go into work and some reasonably clear skies on my hands, it's time to get out the Big 'Un and practice a little of what I preach!


Herschel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/30/06 12 - 2:00 am EST
Skies: 5.0 Stabiliy: 7/10
12.5" reflector 26mm 12mm

NGC 157 - East of Iota Cetii and a difficult find. The rewards are a large, bright galaxy that appears to be an inclined spiral with a star caught on the east edge. At higher magification, there is some patchiness in the structure.

NGC 246 - About 9 to 10 degrees north of Beta Cetii. An easy and very pleasantly bright planetary nebula that seems to be missing a side! Three stars are easily apparent and seem to be connected with the crescent shaped nebula.

NGC 247 - About 5 degrees south/southeast of Beta Cetii. Very difficult object. Just a fine, elongated haze with little or no details. Disappears at higher power. Shows a slightly brighter galactic nucleus at low.

NGC 584 - About 4 degrees northeast of Theta Ceti and involved with a 6th magnitude star to the east. Very small elliptical galaxy.

NGC 596 - South of NGC 584. Another small elliptical, but slightly rounder with a pin prick nucleus at power.

NGC 615 - Southeast of 6th magnitude star. Also elliptical. Faint, but shows a brighter central region at power.

NGC 720 - Located almost equodistantly between Zeta/Chi pairing and Tau. Elongated, brighter, with a brighter core region.


And that does it for me tonight. As much as I'd like to stay out and play, I still have to do the work thing. I know one thing for sure, bouncing around between all these strange hours have defiantely left me with a sense of sky confusion! One time I'm out and Leo is getting up towards the top east third of the sky... Ursa Major is singing... Orion is setting! The next day, Orion hasn't even risen yet... Or, like now, is just starting to rise well. I guess it doesn't matter.

Cuz' I always seem to find something to do!

"Come and take my hand... We'll travel south cross land. Put out the fire... And don't look past my shoulder. The exodus is here. The happy ones are near... So, let's get together. Before we get much older..."

October 28, 2006 - Werewolf Moon...

Comments: Did ya' see it last night? Huh? Did 'ya? Did 'ya? I did! It was like looking at the Moon above a huge, big mountain range... Only it wasn't mountains - it was clouds!

I was really impressed by how clear the holes looked. So much so, in fact, that I dared to whack the old Celestron out and see if I couldn't do a little shootin'...


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/28/06 9:00 pm ESDT
Skies: 75% cloud cover
4.5 reflector 25mm eyepiece
(magnification with zoom lens)

Messier, Messier A and Rays - Alhough it was a bit overlit, I was delighted to have the opportunity to view both Messier and Messier A. Neither are particulary outstanding craters, but they are unusual. Messier turns into a bright ring when well lit, while Messier A remains dark for now. The ray system extends from the A crater almost due west, like a tail of a comet.


And speaking of comet... You should check out SWAN! Very, very visible in even small binoculars, it's even bright enough to be caught quickly during a sucker hole and a near quarter Moon!

Comets rock...

"Don't cry... Don't raise your eyes. It's only teenage wasteland...."

October 26, 2006 - Urban Observer...

Comments: Well, if the Moon was out last night, I didn't know it. It's happy "inventory time" at work and that means vampyre beyond vampyre shift. I was in bed before it even got dark and back on the road before the date changed! The good part about all of this is that the counting crew starts at 5:00 a.m and my tired backside is done long before they get there. I toured the sleeping town of Marion, hoping for donuts, but ended up driving home without. Who cares about donuts when Ursa Major is standing straight up in the sky like that and I've got almost three hours before dawn!

Let's get the scope out and head for the front yard, shall we?


Urban Observing Club
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/26/06 4:45 am - 6:30 am EST
Skies: 4.5 Stability: 9/10
4.5 reflector 25mm - 10mm

Gamma Arietis - Hello, Mesarthim! I'd know you anywhere, kid. An equal magnitude double white with north/south orientation.

Beta Monoceros - Although this is listed as a double, Beta is a triple system. Somewhat disparate and white, blue and red!

NGC 2287 - Easy find. Well resolved, bright, large and fills the eyepiece. AKA M41.

NGC 2548 - AKA M48. Large, well resolved and very bright. Around 50 members.

NGC 2632 - AKA M44. Just barely visible w/o aid. Easy finderscope object. Well resolved and bright.

NGC 2682 - AKA M67. Drop from M44. Very pretty, well concentrated, similar magnitudes. Looks like a grainy galaxy!

NGC 3031 - AKA - M81. Pairs with M82 in eyepiece. Very bright, very concentrated spiral galaxy.

NGC 3034 AKA - M82. Pairs with M81 in eyepiece. Notably irregular at high power. Clumpy with a dark notch.

NGC 2323 - AKA - M50. Very largely scattered, but bright and colorful. One notably orange star.

NGC 2281 - Widely scattered. Concentrated more on the western half. 50 or so stars. Bright and slightly concentrated towards middle.

NGC 2232 - Poorly populated. Long chain of stars with brighter star in center.

NGC 2244 - Wide open cluster. 50 or so stars with some nebulosity at low power. Some concentration towards center.

NGC 2264 - Triangluar pattern of stars with S Monoceros at apex. Christmas tree cluster!

NGC 2301 - Difficult to find, but worth it. Very rich with multi-magnitudes. Compressed and superior cluster!

NGC 2392 - AKA - Eskimo Nebula. Small, green and round. Contrast well with nearby orange star.

NGC 2539 - Difficult to find. Elongated patch of similar magnitude stars, but compressed. Bright star on edge. Very nice object at low power.


What can I say besides I went right back out to the backyard when I was done. There's another object that I'd like to see and although I'd prefer it with the 12.5? Hey, hey...

You can still see the Hubble Variable Nebula in a small scope!

"I don't have to fight... To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven."

October 25, 2006 - Binocular Deep Sky...

Comments: An absolutely stunning morning! I woke up a bit earlier than usual because the dog wanted out. When I opened the door and saw those diamond hard stars, I knew I had to be out! Starting the coffee and getting dressed, I laid the 16X60s out to cool and with two full hours before I have to leave for work?

Let's dance...


Binocular Deep Sky Studies
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
16X60 Skies: 6.0 Sta. 9/10
Time In: 4:30 am ESDT - Out: 6:30 am ESDT

NGC 2403 - Camelopardalis is a tough constellation for me, and this galaxy is nothing more than a round smudge and a bright star caught on either side.

NGC 1893 - Elongated open cluster. Grainy texture. 3 resolved stars and rather small.

NGC 1907 - Small, grainy patch with some resolution upon aversion. Borders the grand M38.

NGC 2281 - Includes Psi Aurigae. Elongated, compact and grainy.

NGC 2360 - Very scattered with fine stars in loops. Around a dozen resolved with aversion.

NGC 2527 - Loose and small. S-like chains. About 20 stars fairly well resolved.

NGC 2539 - Small concentration with 19 Puppis to the east.

NGC 2571 - Crescent shaped group of stars. About 10 resolved over a grainy structure.

NGC 2251 - Pairs with NGC 2264 - Elongated structure with 5 resolved stars.

NGC 2264 - Pairs with NGC 2251 - A triangle shaped concentration. S Monoceros is at the apex.

NGC 2232 - A long chain of stars with one bright one in the middle. Well resoved. About 2 dozen members.

NGC 2244 - Cluster within the Rosette. Faint concentration, large, and surrounded by faint nebulosity.

NGC 2301 - Bright and loose. A kite-shaped asterism.

NGC 2343 - A small, round concentration. Grainy.

Melotte 111 - The "Queen's Hair". Not visible to the eye, but seen in binoculars on the horizon just about 6:30 a.m. Well resolved and very large.


And that, my friends, is that. These observations left me cold, hungry and more ready to go crawl back under the blankets than go to work! But, as always, I smile and pour another cup of coffee for the ride in. This morning my smile is a little wider than usual...

For that completes my Deep Sky Binocular Challenges!

"Out here in the fields... I bow for my meals. I put my back into my livin'...."

October 19-22, 2006 - At the Observatory: Hidden Hollow....

Comments: It's that time again. There's more than just a hint of Fall in the air and the last few days have been spent at the Observatory cleaning things up and doing a bit of TLC to prepare us for our annual "Hidden Hollow Star Party"!

By the time Thursday arrived, I was wired for sound and very ready to spend several days amoungst my friends at a place where I feel at home. We had all pitched in a helping hand and by late afternoon the whole place was very ready for a star party to happen. And what changes have been made!

One of the nicest things to happen in a very long time is the complete restoration of our ClubHouse. It's one of those things where you'd really have to know the place to understand just how badly in need of repair things were... And how wonderful they look now. It's really great to have a place that we can all be extremely proud of - one that feels like a "home away from home".

When everything has been done, the whole group of us invade the local Cracker Barrel. What a wonderful time! I don't think any of us stopping laughing and it felt so good to unwind amoungst friends. When we got back to the ClubHouse, more were waiting. See what happens if you don't lock the door? The MVAS wanders in!!

Although the night was cloudy and colder than I really want to remember, that didn't stop our happy group and we partied in our own fashion until the wee hours. Terry and I had opted to share the Mohican Lodge with its two private rooms and baths. I thought I was brave and didn't build a fire in the fireplace that night... And it's a wonder that both of us were able to move the next morning. When it gets cold and windy in Ohio... It gets cold and windy.

By the next morning, we both managed to drag ourselves back to the ClubHouse and start the coffee. Little by little, folks were wandering in and it felt very good to have everything so well organized and ready to go. Although it was still cloudy and misting rain, the forecast for the night was very promising and by the time the scopes began to arrive the skies had cleared.

One of our first guests was here and this time he didn't need a pair or socks to enter... Just that big ol' 30" scope he loves bringing around! Howdy, Tom! It's great to see you again, my friend... And good to know that you have made the trip safely. As we direct people here and there to get them acquainted with where things are at, where to set up an RV or grab a bunkhouse, more and more friends are coming in.

One of the first places I got called over to was also a voice I knew in the dark. He had completed his 16" portaball and I was blown away by the handcrafted wood. (and later i was quite blown away by the precision with which the mirror had been ground as well. even at low magnification, the third companion to almach was easily split.) What a great scope! As we point guests in the right direction, they take advantage of the workshops that started early in the Sky High Lodge and night soon falls.

Looking through this scope and that one, the hours seems to pass so quickly and I didn't even realize I hadn't eaten until I heard my stomach growling loudly. Deciding a bowl of chili was quite in order, I trucked down the lane and was happily grabbing some chow when I got the surprise of my life... Vic! Ah, man... It just wouldn't be a star party without the Doc and I am so glad he had an opportunity (even if it was just for a very short time) to join us. Forgetting all about food, we walked back down to where Tom had set up. Unbeknownst to him, Tom commented that he wished Vic had made it this year and he was just as equally surprised to find out he was here! We all love the Doc...

Once in awhile the clouds would pass through, but they'd leave quick enough. Long about the 2:30 hour, the cold came back with a vengence and I'd keep slipping back into Mohican Lodge to throw a few more logs on the fire. Of course, others had found the fire, too! Curious as to what was in the 31", Vic and I went back up to the observing platform and the Orionid meteors were just slamming the sky. We looked at a few choice objects in Big Blue, but ended up finding a seat to watch the shooting stars. Although I won't bore you with details as to what, when, how bright, how long, etc. it was a great two hours as we huddled under blankets and watched until we got shut down by clouds.

Making sure things were secure, I stepped into the ClubHouse and therein made an error. Daggone, but it was warm! A gentleman had fallen asleep on one of the sofas and I can't say as how I blame him. One look at Vic and we both had the same thought. You take that half of the floor and I'll take this half. I don't mind your snoring if you don't mind mine and just don't step on me if ya' gotta' get up. It only seemed like a few minutes later when the dawn arrived and people began wandering back in. Hey... As long as you're here, grab that coffee pot and get me some water!

The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup, dude...

Not long after, the sun began to shine and the party went into full swing again. More folks were arriving - along with working club members - and it was time for this old kid to snag a hot shower, put on some respectable duds and go announce our guest speakers. As I walked down towards Sky High Lodge, I was totally taken by the view...

The sunlight graced the trees and every beautiful color you can imagine had come out. The area of the big lodge is just beautiful and it looks down on the olympic sized pool, tennis courts, and this lovely bit about half a mile away carved from the very trees themselves. Although I might have joked about renaming us "Hinckely Hollow" from all the turkey buzzards who circled above us while in migration, the view goes beyond outstanding.

Just as I came in the door into the area where the activity was at, I met my friend Jerry. After our customary hug, I asked him if he was having a good time, and as you can see he most certainly was! And he wasn't the only one... All around were happy tables full of people. Talk, laughter, conversations, and anything you can think of was here... And there, too!

What did we have to enjoy? Why you name it. Smart Astronomy and Tech 2000 had joined us this year as vendors, and with the wide open spaces and beautiful backdrop of the mountains outside the windows, people were happily going through the vendor's goods. The atmosphere was just wonderful and I could tell by the faces around me that everyone was having fun.

Jason Shinn and Mark has set up a live demonstration this year of Radio JOVE. While this might not be some folks cup of tea, for others this was the living end. Just below the windows you could see the dipole arrangement and two screens were running programs... one following the Milky Way continuum and the other monitoring solar activity. People were fascinated and it wasn't often you could catch the display open enough to even photograph it!

Wanna' see some really happy faces? Then just take a look see at the many tables set up giving a free "make and take" solar filter workshop! I can't thank Barb and Ken enough for the wonderful idea and almost every single person that attended this weekend left with their custom made Baader filter - be it for a 12" or a pair of binoculars! This was something that really made the people happy and we're so glad they are!

Not enough? Then feast your eyes on amateur astrophotography that I defy you to call amateur. Rick S. had joined us again this year as well, and Jason had brought along a display from the members of the AAC as well. Do you think you're good at identifying objects? Then have a look at the contest and see if you can name that NGC... Or Sharpless object! There's a prize waiting at the end... ;)

Our guest speakers were also fantastic! Along with both Barb and Jason's presentations, we also had Terry Mann from the Astro League, Brent Archinal, Rick S. on imaging and Tom W. gave a great "chalk talk"!

Are you ready for prizes???

Each year we genuinely sweat being able to afford to give the Star Party, and each year our visitors come through with their unselfish amount of money they donate toward the prize raffle. As Joe and I set about annoucing the winners, I told the audience they should email our member Dave with a get well. Unfortunately, he had bronchitis very bad and was unable to attend. Like magic, he called during the raffle and the whole crowd got to wish him well! Not only that... But he won a prize only minutes later! What fun it is to watch people win... Our own club members who have worked so hard to pull this together and our friends who have donated. It was great to see both Johns and Joe with a prize... I could have cried I was so happy when I won the green laser.. but the pi'ece de resistance?

Terry McQ won the grand prize!!

All these years of being skunked and the kid did it!!

Everyone left very happy and very, very few left with nothing in their hands. There were plenty of extra posters and hey! A solar filter sure isn't anything to sneeze at either!

With the Sun still out to enjoy those filters, the scopes began to sprout like mushrooms. Terry Mann had kidnapped me for dinner and it felt very good indeed just to go someplace quiet for awhile and wind down. By the time we made it back and I had changed, it was off to the observing field to enjoy the view through the many scopes. As we were watching the sky, I watched what looked like a beam of light coming up from the west. I yelled at everyone to look because it was a total 360 arc and it just looked weird to me. I was told it was a contrail, so I let it go a that. I stepped back in to put another couple of logs on the fire and as I walked out my cell phone rang. It was Terry M. at the motel who told me Kansas City was experiencing a level 10 geomagnetic display and the second she said that I knew that wasn't a damn contrail...

That was AURORA!

Back out, I put out the call and many of us saw the glowing green clouds and vertical banding. Some folks will never get it, and I feel sorry for them. Not every aurora looks like a picture, but clouds do not glow green and move contrary to the prevailing winds. It didn't last, but it sure was fine!

And them clear skies didn't last long either. Around midnight the skies began shutting down. People who had traveled for a long ways had began to pack up and although it was kinda' sad, I understand. Some of us stay on for awhile longer to talk and watch videos. I put a couple more logs on the fire and Terry McQ and I sleep far warmer in the deep reaches of Mohican Lodge. Snoring is heard from the shadows lighted by the dancing flames and not much longer away, I join them.

The next morning is also damp and rainy... But no matter. Dressed in rag tag whatever was warm and dry, I opened the ClubHouse for coffee and visited with the last of our guests. I had asked for their comments and ideas and came away with a lot of great feedback. As the last of them leave, our members arrive and in short order we are cleaned up and finished again for the year. When I find my keys at last, it's time to join the Archinals and others for breakfast, then back to reality. Regardless of the toll taken...

I had one helluva' great time!

"Fun yet?"

October 15, 2006 - Morning on the Moon...

Comments: Hey, I slept in! I was gonna' work on my binocular deep sky and urban challenges, but they'll wait until later this week. Right now I have a date with some craters!

Wanna' walk?


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/15/06 Time 6:00 am ESDT
4.5 reflector 25mm
(zoom camera lens)

Mons Rumker - Hello, there! An added treat this morning. Known as the "Megadome", Mons Rumker looks like a big mosquito bite.

Mairan- If I had a dime for every time I had viewed this crater and mis-spelled it as Marian, I'd have enough to go out to breakfast. It's there!

Bullialdus, Bullialdus A and B - It's a miniature Copernicus! Of course, I'm smiling, because the A and B craters show very well under this lighting.

Kies and Kies Pi - A very tough crater because it is very shallow and small Kies Pi is nothing more than a tiny little brighter smudge.

Rimae Hippaulus - Right off the northeastern edge of crater Hippaulus, this is tough to define and looks like a slim, white thread against an overlighted background.

Schiller - Highly elongated and on the bare side in the center. Schiller is also viewed well in this light.

Segius - Just another shallow crater, but very close to the southern limb.

Zucchius - A little bit deeper and futher south. This one has some details.

Hainzel, Hainzel A and B - Not a whole lot of details to be seen other than they are three overlapping craters. This one would probably be better when the Sun is rising over it.


And speaking of Sun? The sky is getting mighty pale to the east. Is that Venus I see down there???

Nah. I'm dreamin'....

"Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... No. No."

October 14, 2006 - Doin' the Herschel Hustle...

Comments: Too many things to do right now and I've got clear skies! Think I'm gonna' pass them up?

No way, San Jose...


Herschel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/14/06 Time: 11:00 pm ESDT
12.5 reflector 26mm 12mm

NGC 6775 - A very nice open cluster! Not very compressed, but contains roughly 50 or so members. Just a touch away from the next study...

NGC 6756 - Small, compressed and definately richer, there are at least a dozen stars that can be picked out from the background noise. This one quite probably could have been put in the same field had I used the 32mm ultrawide.

NGC 6781 - A fairly bright and large planetary nebula that has a bright star involved. Studying this one closer with high power reveals that it appears somewhat flattened along one edge and is brighter along the southern frontier.


And now? I can see that Moon coming along... Let's have a beer and wait....


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/15/06 Time 12:45 am ESDT
12.5 reflector 25mm
(zoom camera lens)

Rupes Recta - Ah, ha! I caught you, you little bugger! I like this one best at this phase and although I've smeared the next crater, I'm still happy!

Hesiodus and Hesiodus A - Located just west of Pitatus, Hesiodus is famous for the sunrise ray - but not at set. It's a plain little ring with just a bright point on the western edge to show its A crater.


Now, let's go enjoy this vacation by getting a little sleep and come back just before the dawn to see how things have changed!

Race ya' to the sheets...

"Are we havin' fun yet?"

October 14, 2006 - Back Up Before the Dawn...

Comments: Am I crazy? You know I am. Clear skies have been at such a premium that I cannot resist setting the alarm and going out to shoot the Moon while I can. It won't be long until I have to shovel a spot out in the snow to observe, so it's definately prime time.

Let's go!


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/14/06 4:45 am ESDT
4.5 reflector 25mm
(zoom camera lens)

Northern Polar Objects - Another exercise in the Lunar Club II activities is to sketch or photograph the northern pole (or southern) craters. I chose the north, because they are only slight less confusing to identify! It's easy to hop north of Plato for W. Bond, Goldschmidt, Barrow, Meton, Scoresby and Main. They don't get any more "polar" than that!

Alpine Valley - I also take this time to credit the Vallis Alpes. It really looks unusual to see this feature in the dark and only the very tips of the ranges on either side are visible.

Thebit and Thebit A - These are next up in the south, and both show plainly along with the "Straight Wall". Rupes Recta? You and I have a date later tonight.

Regiomontanus and Regiomontanus A - OK. Here's a crater for you... But is it a crater? At least to my observing eye, Regiomontanus looks more like an area that has simply been enclosed by other crater walls instead of being either an impact or volcanic origin. However, Regiomontanus A is definately a round little pit and possibly caused by impact.

Alpatregius - Cute little crater! This one's charm is that it appears incredibly deep, yet has a huge central peak. My guess is this is a rebound dome formation.


And now? Back to bed...

"Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... No. No."

October 13, 2006 - Friday the 13th Under the Stars...

Comments: An absolutely superior night out! The Milky Way is so strong that it hums. It's been awhile since I've done any deep sky work and I know that I'm horribly rusty. Wanna' go out and have patience with me while I look up a few Herschel's?

Then let's rock...


Herschel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/13/06 10:00 pm ESDT
Sky: 6.0 Stability 8/10
12.5 reflector 26mm 12mm

NGC 7331 - An old time favourite. NGC 7331 is exceptionally bright and large in this telescope. It's a very angular appearing spiral which shoots up a very stellar nucleus at even a hint of power. Just a whisper of the small companion galaxies are seen at lower power.

NGC 7448 - Much fainter and far smaller, NGC 7448 is also a highly inclined spiral and has a bright core region at high magnification.

NGC 7217 - Slightly larger than the last galaxy and definately brighter. This is a wonderful averted eye galaxy! It has a brighter core region upon magnification, but put it back to mid-level and really take the time to study. There's clumps in the structure!

NGC 7479 - Definately direct vision and slightly elongated, this galaxy is also a charmer at lower power. At high magification, the central bar structure shows very well, but drop it back and take some time with it. There's definately an over and under arm structure. Very nice!


And that will do it for me tonight, folks. Pegasus is getting in a position where it's hard to work with a reflector telescope and besides... This wasn't an easy jaunt for me. But, practice sure helps doesn't it?

Keep reminding me...

"Are we having fun yet?"

October 13, 2006 - Friday the 13th on the Moon...

Comments: It's early. Darn early. And it's cold. Do I really wanna' go out and try for some lunar shots? Or do I just want to stand in here by the wood burner? Well, folks... My indecision only lasted as long as it took for me to see the little stars in Orion's bow... And to see Lepus.

And I was out...


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/13/06 4:30 am ESDT
Sky: 5.0 Stability: 9/10
4.5 Reflector 25mm
(zoom on camera)

Tycho - First off? My observance of Tycho during lunar sunset. Easy enough. I know this crater anywhere!

Clavius - Second task. Sketch Clavius. Hah! About 10 minutes in this cold and my hands wouldn't work for the rest of the day. I'm hoping that my image will pass as a sketch and my the AL Club gods smile down on those who have very bad rheumatoid arthritis.

Timocharis - Now we're ready for the north and a crater which I did sketch through the 31" at one time - Timocharis. Looks almost like a nice little Copernicus!

Fueille Just a little pockmark out there on the sands. Nothing special.

Beer - At this hour? No thanks. But the thought is there! Another little pockmark crater.

Stadius - And then I saw Eratosthenes and decided I wanted crater Stadius this morning. Anyone who has ever tried this crater in a small telescope knows that it's a true challenge, because it isn't anything more than a little "ghost ring". I have seen what my friend Wes Higgins has done with photographing this crater and I've learned a whole new appreciation for his talents!


And now? Now I'm freezing! It's time for me to pack the old Celestron back to the garage and head out for work. The worst part is that it's so daggone transparent out this morning!! You can even see Columba...

But I can't stand the cold any longer!

"I've been wrong... I've been down... Into the bottom of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream...

October 12, 3006 - Lunacy...

Comments: And only a total lunatic would be out freezing their butt off long before dawn!


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/12/06 4:45 am ESDT
Sky: 4.0 9/10
4.5 reflector 25mm
(zoom camera)

Triesnecker - OK. I'm trying here. Triesnecker is easy enough because it's almost central on the surface, but the rimae is just a little bit tougher to spot!


Call me crazy... ;)

"This time I'm mistaken... For handing you a heart worth breakin'."

October 11, 2006 - Good Morning, Moon!

Comments: Ah, sweet... Another clear skies morning! Wanna' go out and have some coffee while we look at the Moon?


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/11/06 4:45 am ESDT
Sky: 4.0 8/10
4.5 Reflector 25mm
(zoom camera lens)

Dorsae Smirnoff and Dorsa Lister - Usually known as the "Serpentine Ridge" and equally beautiful whether the Moon is waxing or waning.

Promentorium Archerusia - Just a very nice, bright and a little hilly peninsula on the south shore of Mare Serentatis.

Linne - The bright dot of Linne! One of the smallest craters on the Moon that can even be resolved with a pair of binoculars.

And now? Work awaits...

"It's not like you... To say sorry. But I'm always waitin' on a different story."

October 10, 2006 - Dancing With the Moon... At the Luthern Church Camp...

Comments: Up early? You betcha'. It's beginning to get downright nippy here in Ohio and those chilly mornings mean some very nice skies! Another couple of days of the Moon and we'll back to to some deep sky studies again. It's hard to believe, but Arcturus is right down on the eastern horizon already!

But now? The Moon...


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.2 86.9
10/10/06 5:30 am EST
Sky: 3.0 6/10
4.5 Reflector 25mm
(magnification with zoom camera)

Julius Caesar - Eh tu, Brute? There you are... Rugged, wasted and very, very noticable. A nice crater!

Ariadaeus Rille - This came a surprise to me, because I didn't think it could be seen in the waning phase. Although, like the Straight Wall, it is better when it's dark, it still shows as a bright, white line.

Lamont - You big dummy! Hey, it's there... But Lamont is nothing more than a soft depression directly south/southeast of Arago.

Cauchy - One tough little bugger! Even more difficult is identifying the little bright mounds that are Tau and Omega.

Rimae Cauchy - Just barely visible as a super fine white thread.

Censorinus - Very bright! This is one of those unsual craters that show best under certain lighting.


The day passed much too quickly. So much to do! I had a birthday party to attend in the late afternoon, but some news during the day sure made me smile. Dr. Eric had written me with congratulations on having been certified for both my comet hunter's silver and gold award. I was shocked that he thought I did such a good job and even more shocked to find out that I am the very first woman to ever have achieved them both!

My word... Me?

After the party, I jumped in the car and hit light speed again as I headed out to give a program with Greg at the Luthern Church Camp. We had given one earlier in the year and the folks were so pleased and so entertained with what we did that they wanted us back again! Unfortunately, the skies weren't clear in the evening, but you know me. If I can't fly you along under the clouds just as well as above them... The I've got no right to call myself "TheAstronomer"...

Playing to a very full house, we had 68 very excited and very rowdy middle schoolers. Just my type! Although Greg went into the "quiet mood", he's been around me long enough to know that once in awhile I'm gonna' totally blank out. The very best part about having friends is they know when it happens to me and just a word or two is all it takes to wind up the little key in my back and set me running again!

One of the highlights for the kids tonight was "the toilet paper solar system". While this demonstration could be quite messy if held outside, indoors is the perfect medium and you never saw such a happy bunch of teenagers as they threw that roll of measured paper all over the place! It's such a fun way of learning about distances.

All in all, once you get me started, I have a hard time stopping. But, just for what it's worth, how many times do you see a group of kids this size sit still and pay attention to a science lesson for two hours, huh? Must be doing somethng right... And Greg is right there to "tick tock" remind me that's it's time to let them go...

Do we have to??

"This is how you remind me of what I really am. This is how you remind me of what I really am..."

October 9, 2006 - The Vampyre and the Moon...

Comments: Yeah. It's that day of the week again and I'm up long before the blessed roosters. What the heck? There's clear skies tonight and you know I've got to go out and get mooned!


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/09/06 1:30 am ESDT
Sky: 4.0 8/10
4.5 Reflector 25mm
(high mag with zoom camera)

Janssen Rille - Our first adventure of the evening is to identify the Janssen Rille. It is a bright line located in the interior of crater Janssen and very noticable even without high zoom magnification.

Hercules - Is our next stop and to identify the crater is easy enough, but a lot more difficult to pick out the very small E crater on the southern rim. The central G crater shows much better.

Lacus Mortis - No comment on the name... Just a cool place! At least to my eye, it looks like there is a slight elevation to this region.


And now my mortis had better boogey before I turn into lacus checkus! It's always great fun to take out the camera and do a little shootin' and see what I caught later!

Catch ya' later...

"And this is how you remind me..."

October 7, 2006 - At the Observatory: Public Night...

Comments: What a great night to be out under the Moon and stars! Just a little bit chilly, but not bad. Wonderfully clear skies and lots and lots of...


Tonight brought us 28 visitors and it was just fantastic to see the interest gaining again. Club members are busy setting scopes up and happy people are getting views. Many new faces are here tonight and we welcome them! Of course, it doesn't take long before the Moon rises, but who cares? It's beautiful...

And if you'll excuse me and my camera for just one moment, I wanna' take a quick shot through the scope because I know what I'm seeing!


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner (WRO)
10/07/06 Time: 10:30 pm
Sky: 4.0 LM 9/10
102 refractor 25mm

Mare Humboldtanium - This is a tough "on the limb" feature and can only be seen at very specific times - when the Moon is either 2 days old or 15 days old. Take your pick. Tonight it's 15 days old and it will be gone in a matter of hours. Showing as a smooth area with a little rim on the limb of the Moon, nearby craters Endymion and Gauss really set it off! Perhaps a little over annotated, but I was proud of making sure I logged it!!


Despite the bright skies, it was well after 1:00 before I returned. Tired... Happy... It's really a rewarding experience to have people. Kinda' like a party, you know? It was so good to see folks I knew and just as wonderful to meet new ones. I watch the Moon outside the window and it doesn't take very long after my belly is full before I begin to nod off...

And dream.

"It's not like you didn't know that... Said I love you and I swear I still do."

October 6, 2006 - Harvest Moon...

Comments: Ah, yes. It's that time of year again. There's a definate chill to the evening air - and the skies are more frequently clear in the evening.

For what it's worth, I stood outside this morning watching the Moon set as the Sun rose. Sometimes I do a lot of smiling to myself as I see my own analogies in action and it makes me dizzy thinking of us standing on the Earth sideways. So dizzy, in fact, that when the Harvest Moon rose tonight...

All I wanted to do was watch.

There's no harm in just sitting on the deck and looking out over the fields. The black walnuts are falling from the tree and some things are dying as others burst into their last glorious days of life before the winter begins. As I look at the Moon rising over the trees, I can hear the far off sounds of the tractors working in the fields and even smell the dust. Another year is about to come to a close and I've observered my feathered friends departing. Where once the finch feeder was a flurry of bright yellow activity, now the tube hangs mostly full because they have departed. The Moon glints off the ruby red hummingbird feeder, it's level no longer decreases each day and it's about time to take it in for the winter.

It's the winds of change. The chimes that hang off the corner of the deck tingle melodiously.... The summer winds never stir them except for in a storm, but the change is in the air. Giant mushrooms sprout like stark skulls along the fence rows, almost glowing in the light of the Moon. Gone are the sounds of the amphibians... Only a few soft peeps remain. Once in awhile a drift of skunk will waft by... Chased from there nests by the harvesting equipment. The coyotes have moved on and quiet settles across Ohio farmground.

And above it all hangs the Harvest Moon....

"I've been wrong. I've been down... Into the bottle of every bottle. But these five words in my head scream.

Are we havin' fun yet?

Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah.... Yeah, Yeah... No... No... Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... Yeah, yeah... No. No."

October 5, 2006 - Da' Moon...

Comments: So, here we are. A perfectly clear night and what do we have? Almost a full Moon! Ah, well... I'm not complaining. It's the day before Harvest Moon and I'm feeling good...

Feelin' like a little lunacy!


Lunar Club II
Tammy Plotner 40.2 86.9
10/05/06 10:00 pm ESDT
4.5 reflector 25mm
(ridiculously high magnification added with zoom on camera)
Skies: 3.5 Stability: 8/10

Grimaldi - And tonight's study? To catch both the inner and outer rings in the Grimaldi basin. This is one tough crater and even more difficult because of the high amount of light.

Montes Rook - Well, don't hold your breath because the Montes Rook are nothing more than a jagged line of peaks right on the very lunar limb. The run for quite a distance from Grimaldi down past Byrgius and border Mare Orientale.

Byrgius - Excercise? To view Byrgius at lunar mid-day. Well? There she is. It's an exceptionally bright crater, but it's the A crater that does the "ray magic".

Mersenius - Another study crater. This one is over-lit at this phase, but it still shows as a bright ring with a brighter patch in the center.


And so we tick a few more off the list. If you need something to get you interested during the lunar phase, this group of exercises are really good! Perhaps I can help develop a Lunar Club III some day, because I also see a lot of other very cool things and you'll never know how hard it is for me to resist the temptation to label the holy moly out of everything I get my fingers on! Like Sirsalis Rille.... ;)

Ah, well... It's getting much cooler now in the great state and I'm looking forward to a great weekend at the observatory. I guess I can hope against hope that it's clear Saturday night, too. Can't I? After all, you've had to listen to me complain when I feel bad - so know this. After this new series of drugs I started, I'm starting to feel pretty daggone good again. After all... I can't feel bad forever. Now watch my hair fall out!

Ah, heck. I hear that's in style. ;)

"It's not like you... To say sorry. But I'm always waitin' on a different story. This time I'm mistaken... For handin' you a heart worth breakin'..."

October 3, 2006 - Lunar Club Studies...

Comments: And why not? The Moon is out and shining... What say we take this big ol' telescope around to the side yard and see what's up?


Lunar Club II Studies
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
10/03/06 9:45 pm ESDT
12.5 reflector - 25mm
Skies: 4.0 Stability: 8/10

Montes Focault - This is a Stick Up! No kidding... I used to have this card titled "Retirement". It showed this old guy in bermuda shorts, socks and sandals pointing out something to a woman in a headscarf saying... "And that over there? That's called a Stick Up. We call it that because it sticks up." And that's what Montes Focault is. It's not considered a true lunar mountain range but it's a great "stick up" that runs parallel to crater Focault!

Montes Recta - a.k.a "The Straight Range". Located just east of the awesome Sinus Iridum, it's hard to miss this little artifical looking mountain range. Although a little overlit, it does show some peaks and valleys.

Montes Teneriffe - Further east and a bit south, the Teneriffes are much more scattered a contain a few higher looking elevations.

Montes Spitzenberg - Just north of Archimededs, the little grouping gets overlighted very quickly and shows as not much more than a bright Y shaped with minimal shadow definition.

Sinus Lunicus - Cool name for just a small little area that is nothing more than a grey bay.

Mare Cognitum - The "Sea That Has Become Known" is not quite fully exposed yet, but is still recognizable.

Rupes Recta - a.k.a. the "Straight Wall". This is supposed to be a lunar sunrise, but I didn't catch it last night so it's more like lunar noon. Overlit, it only shows as just a slightly more elevated place. My favourite is when the Moon is waning on this one because it is black then.

Hesiodus Rimae - Also not much more than a thin bright line that extends away from the edge of crater Hesiodus in a northeast/southwest direction.

Wolf - Very cool place! Is this a crater? To high power it appears more like a small series of mountain tops in a collection with a basin rather than a true impact crater.


And now? Hey, hey... I might enjoy studying the Moon, but those great star clusters in Cassiopeia are calling our name!

Race ya'....

"This is how you remind me of what I really am."

September 30 - October 1, 2006 - At the Sally Ride Science Festivals...

Comments: It's that time of year again, folks... And my great honour to be able to be a presenter in the Sally Ride Science Festival. Once again, I am joining Terry Mann as a co-presenter for the Astronomical League and a representative of Warren Rupp Observatory, Astronomy For Youth and Night Sky Network. Are you ready to rock?

Then let's head out in that little silver sportscar...

First destination - Port Clinton, Ohio. Why? Why not? Most of the time my parents live there and this is a nice "way station" for travellers. My Mom an Dad welcome us both and it's quite nice not to have to stuff Terry through a window this year to gain entry! We spend a happy and relaxed evening preparing our program and before dawn even stains the sky we are headed for Ann Arbor, Michigan and our first stop and the University of Michigan.

Unfortunately, rain and cold has kept the Street Fair indoors this year, but it doesn't cool interest or put a damper on the amount of young folks present! We set up our table in the hallway amoungst many other exhibits and it doesn't take long before the smiling faces start heading our way. Approximately 750 were registered for this event and we had an amazing total of 488 visitors to our little corner of the Universe!

Even though the weather prohibited us from setting up a solar telescope, I had still brought along a table top model and we had it aimed out the window. There was certainly no shortage of curious visitors as they took a look a distant rooftops and the city skyline! Eager hands seized issues of the "Reflector" and goodies provided by Astronomy magazine. Even more hands were busy at the table with our displays!

For five hours we were both very busy answering questions and presenting facts about space, astronomy and all the wonders right around us. Terry had a workshop program to give and I stuck around to keep the many visitors entertained and answered questions. At one point, I did sneak away for awhile to catch her "Toilet tissue universe" and talk about one excited bunch of kids! This was the first time in their lives they could ever legally tp a classroom...

As the afternoon wore on, the festivities wound down and it was time to pack up shop and head further north for our next destination. I have driven in a lot of places in my life... Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Raleigh, Atlanta, Richmond, Indianapolis and many others... But nothing took the cake like Detroit. Holy mother of pearl... Between construction, rush traffic and a few miscalculations, what should have been an easy hour turned... well... kinda' ugly. But who cares? We're on a day pass and I think we both probably felt like cheering when the signs for where we were supposed to be turned up!

Assigned to an incredibly nice motel room, it was time to head out for dinner on the town and back again to prepare for the next day. Wound for sound, I had a somewhat difficult night - but again a very superior motel who was right there to provide ice packs, coffee, enough hot water to set off the smoke alarm and even found me a 24 hour drug store! I waited until I was sure Terry was up, then told her I would meet her for breakfast as quickly as I got back. True to their word, the motel set me in the right direction and although I look and smell frightful... (kinda' like a cross between a canda mint and a broken boxer) it wasn't very long until we were setting up on the campus of Macomb College.

Again, we are indoors, but what a handsome set up! It doesn't take much coaxing to get the disc jockeys in front of us to play some of my favourite tunes and even less time before the young folks start pouring in. This time, there were far less registered - yet our attendance was almost identical with 486 visitors in a period of around 5 hours. Everywhere you look there are happy faces and interesting things to do! What a very nice place...

I can't tell you how very good it is for me to be able to interact with these young folks. When I look at faces like this little girl in front of me exploring the celestial dome, I totally forget all about myself and am lost in their own wonder. Who needs medications where you have this? I cannot tell you how wonderful it is for my own spirit just to lose myself in what I am doing and simply enjoy the moment....

While the focus is on young women in science careers, there is no shortage of the opposite sex either. While Terry goes off to do her workshop program again, the local scouts are in for a visit and I am totally charmed by these interested faces. All about me are fathers and mothers encouraging their children to learn and it just doesn't get any better than that, folks. Outside the door, the Warren Astronomical Society has set up several solar telescopes and are shooting through the holes... And it is also wonderful to be able to interact with them and several NASA individuals as well.

Although this is kinda' personal... It most surely made my day. While I was at the table, a gentleman came up and introduced himself and wanted to shake my hand for doing such a good job. I noticed he kept looking at my name badge and then all at once his face lit up... He was a "reader" and he recognized not the face - but the name. Bless him... He made me feel very special indeed!

At the end of the day, I have us packed and ready to roll. It's time to set out on around a 250 mile trip south - but not until we've had a chance to eat and unwind once again. Yeah, it was dark... And there were traffic jams... But who cares? The radio is playing some good tunes and I've got plenty of coffee in my thermos. Terry and I converse on the cell phone, laughing over seeing the Moon heading towards second base while we were sitting still.... But that's half the fun...

Sharing with a good friend!

"Never made it as a wise man... Couldn't cut it as a poor man stealin'. Tired of living like a blind man... Sick of sight without a sense of feelin'.

And this is how you remind me....

This is how you remind me of what I really am."