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April 2007

April 30, 2007 - Jumpin' Jupiter!

Comments: Dudes! If you aren't out looking at Jupiter high in the south before dawn, then you're missing something. Besides the fact that it's in this incredible unaided eye field just smoking with the bright summer stars... You should see it in the eyepiece!

Although I am not particularly a fanatic of the planets, I do enjoy watching phenomena. There weren't any grand transits or deep black holes... not even a peek at the Red Spot... By, oh my. You should see the field of stars it's in! I'm telling you, it's remarkable and there's so many little points of light that it looks like Jupiter has 47 moons! Yeah. All the galieans were present and accounted for...

But boy, can I dream!

"I just can't take anymore... this life of solitude...I guess that I'm out the door... and now I'm done with you... I love you... I hate you...
I can't live without you...I love you... I hate you... I can't live without you... I just can't take anymore... this life of solitude... I pick myself off the floor... and now I'm done and through...

Always... Always... Always..."

April 29, 2007 - Clear Skies... But Lotsa' Moon!

Comments: Figures, doesn't it? When we finally get clear skies again the good ol' Moon is just daggone near full. So what the heck? I like looking at the Moon!

Blue filter in and ready to rock. Tonight's super spots are the enigmatic Reiner Gamma, the little orafice of Galileo and the bright splash rays of Byrgius. I don't know if anyone was looking or not, but Spica looked really great around a fistwidth away to the southeast.

Before I called it a night, I had a look at Venus and a few double stars... Mostly just a little surf around kind of thing for bright areas of the sky that can be interesting activities to do when the Moon toasts the dark. Of course, one of the most interesting things right now is to avoid being charged and flattened by a leggy german shepherd who seems to think astronomy is a full body contact sport. Dog C is not quite as into stealing as that great black bear H was at his age, but instead of making "run-bys" he prefers body slams. He's growing in leaps and bounds - now taller than H - but only half his weight. Thank goodness or I'd never be able to stand the body shots! Partners in crime, they are...

Just like the Moon and Spica.

"I left my head around your heart... Why would you tear my world apart? Always... always... always... always... I see... the stain all over your hands... does it make you feel... more like a man... was it all... just a part of your plan... this world's shakin' in my hands... and all I hear is the sound... I love you... I hate you...
I can't live without you... I breathe you...
I taste you... I can't live without you..."

April 22, 2007 - Da' Moon...

Comments: After days of just looking at it, looking all around it, photographing it, and just basically loving every second of it, I finally took a telescope to the Moon.

Tonight's sky isn't that great, but the rewards were. I slept most of the day recouping from yesterday, took a motorcycle ride, grilled a hamburger and now I'm looking at the Moon. More specifically...

The Serpentine Ridge.

I guess that not working has its advantages. ;)

"I just can't live without you... I love you...I hate you... I can't get around you... I breathe you... I taste you... I can't live without you..."

April 21, 2007 - Astronomy Day!

Comments: The long awaited event has come at last and we couldn't ask for a more beautiful day. The Sun is shining, the birds are singing, my car is actually clean and packed in advance...

Let's roll!

First stop is by the Observatory to pick up and few extra posters and displays. Jon has come along on his with me and we meet with Barb, Ken and Terry and head out. By the time we get there, Robert has already taken great charge and the members from AFY have started set up and the folks are pouring in. It's really very exciting to see all the people and the great area we have!

Everything we had imagined and planned has come true. We've got two groups working together and I couldn't be more proud and happy with the results. From the kind of people numbers we have today, having so many of us on hand to help is like a miracle. It just couldn't be more perfect! Lotsa' solar telescopes, stomp rockets, displays, you name it! We've got it...

As you can see, Malabar Farms Visitor's Center had also offered their library for us to set up displays in. It was really a beautiful place and with all the activities we had to offer it was very nice to have the indoor facility. But the people are outside! Big Jon to the rescue. I was very proud of my son as he took over the spectra displays, watched over the telescopes and manned the Mars Rover exploration game.

Back outdoors, the people and kids kept coming. I finally had my dry ice comet mix down right and I was quite happy to see it sublimating perfectly in the sunlight, blowing off jets of gas and amusing the folks walking past. Robert had the Moon thing down great and between all the different activities and displays the people were having a great time and returning over and over again. It doesn't get much better than this...

Or does it?

After we took a quick break to grab some dinner, we came back to the Horseman's Area to find it filled to capacity with more people! We literally had to shoo them out of the way of the cars so we could park and they just kept on coming. Our headcounters had kept after it, but we simply lost track after about 320 guests. No matter if it was dark, we kept taking out our NSN display materials and repeating programs over and over again for those who hadn't joined us during the day.

Telescopes were everywhere and some of the members of the CAS had also joined us for the night. It was so good to see Greg again! Oh, my... And all of my other friends and new faces! Binoculars were passed round, lasers pointed to help explain, posters, handouts, props... The night was so busy! And to top it all off, the Lyrid meteor shower was just smoking.

It was midnight before the public left and by then I was pretty tired. It was time to go around and hug all my friends and tell them just how wonderful it had truly been. There was a lot of laughter after Joe came and it was just a darn good time. I hated to go! But, it had been more than a 9 hour day and I was just ready to go home and relax. The only problem with doing that was I kept seeing all these meteors on the drive back!

By the time I made it here, the Moon was gone and the skies were dark once again. Time to make a bowl of soup, find a cold beer and kick back in the lawn chair for awhile. I grabbed my note pad for meteor watching and logged a bunch of them... But mostly I just yahooed a lot and enjoyed the show!

It was a damn fine day.

"Always... Always... Always... Always... Always... Always...."

April 20, 2007 - Still Haunting the North...

Comments: And Venus and the Moon are still haunting me! Just look...

I did practice some more at photography tonight... Experimenting with my tiny tripod and timed exposures. I seem to get the best results when I have something in the foreground, like tree limbs. But, you at least know I am trying! Perhaps one of these days I'll get a sky shot that I'm really proud of... And then again...

Maybe I'll never have that much patience. ;)


Herchel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
4/20-21/07 - Start 11:00 pm
Sky: 5.5 8/10
Scope: 12.5 Meade reflector - 26mm - 12.5mm ultrawide

NGC 3938 - A big hop southeast of Chi and difficult to locate. A nice, bright, fairly good sized galaxy to star with that begins to show some detail upon magnification and aversion.

NGC 3941 - Again in no man's land, but at least between to finderscope stars toward the east end of the handle. Bright, elongated and a concentrated core region. Also shows structure, but better at low power.

NGC 3945 - On the north side of the bowl. At first appears very small, but it's another low surface brightness with a bright core. High power sucks on this one. Keep it at low and really avert to see a halo structure.

NGC 3949 - A short hop east of Chi. Very bright compared to the others and either has patchy outer structure or something else is with it. I don't have Uranometria out with me to check. (note to self).

NGC 3953- Yahoo! Bright, large and bright core. Due south of Gamma and an easy find.

NGC 3982 - Dead in the bowl north of Gamma. Lotsa' galaxies in the field here. Round, slightly brighter in the center, my guess is that this is the one because it's the brightest in the field.

NGC 3992 - AKA-M109. Big and knock your socks off after playing with these small and fainter galaxies. Lotsa' structure. I feel like I've just killed my night eyes!!

NGC 3998 - Another line of galaxies inside the bowl north of Gamma. Once again, I'm guessing the larger, brighter of this group (the most northern) is the one I am looking for.

NGC 4026 - Back outside the bowl and south of Gamma again. A near edge on. Bright, very elongated and shows a central concentration but no real structure.

NGC 4036 - Outside the bowl again in no man's land toward the north. A difficult hop and a difficult find. For all that work, it's actually pretty bright, but small and slightly elongated.


And that's enough for me tonight The skies certainly look promising for Astronomy Day tomorrow and I'm looking forward to the event. Guess it's time to get some rest!

But... It's hard to leave.

"It's all... been bottled up until now... as I walk out your door... all I can hear is the sound..."

April 19, 2007 - Rockin' the North...

Comments: Ah, my starz. What a gorgeous night! The skies are as clear as a bell, the wind is warm, the nightengales are singing and what do I do for the first hour or two? Sit and stare at Venus and the Moon...

Although I am not a photographer, I am sure trying to learn. I guess the compelling thing here is that it's just so beautiful that I feel like somehow I need to capture the moment. I mean, even someone who doesn't care much for astronomy can walk out the door and take one look at the sky and know there's something pretty special going on! Yeah, it's nothing more than a conjunction, but it sure is bright and achingly panoramic. I certainly don't do it any justice, but I am sure even my raw image will help me to remember one day.

I can't take my eyes off it...

Even when it starts to go into the trees, I'm still looking. I know I can move just a bit this way or that and there it is again. It's like this incredible magnet that keeps drawing me back. And so I keep staring as I glance over my charts and decide to work a bit in the north tonight.

Herschel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
04/20/07 - 10:00 pm
Skies: 5.5 9/10
Scope: 12.5 Meade reflector
25mm, 12.5mm ultrawide

NGC 6217 - Eta and Zeta Ursa Minor and a hop to an easy finderscope trio for this bright galaxy. At low power it is large, elongated and has a bright middle. Not much more structure seen at high power, but it contains a very stellar nucleus.

NGC 2681 - Mizar and Alcor - hop west. Go past small, faint NGC 2693. NGC 2681 is very bright and recognizable by a double star caught on the edge. Stellar nucleus, bright core region and slightly warped.

NGC 2742 - Southwest of 16 UMa. Tough find, tough galaxy because of a distracting bright star on the edge. Low surface brightness, elongated and little detail.

NGC 2768 - A half degree southeast of 2742. Slightly brighter and elongated. A small concentration seen in the central region.

NGC 2787 - Hey! Not too far from the M81 and M82. Actually, this is a nice galaxy for the large scope. Round, bright, and bright cored with superimposed stars. Shows surprising structure!

NGC 2841 - Right back to Mizar and Alcor, shift down the handle towards Iota. Pow! It's big, bright, concentrated core and shows a little arm structure. Barred?

NGC 2950 - Southwest of Upsilon. Very small, faint, no structure, but a pinpoint nucleus at hight power.

NGC 4041 North of Delta, north of 4036 in lower field. Perfectly round with a bright nucleus. Decent pair.

NGC 4051 - Southeast of Chi. Slightly elongated, decently bright and shows some spiral arm structure with aversion.

NGC 4085 - Low surface brightness. A thin scratch of light which pairs with NGC 4088 at low power.

NGC 4088 - Pairs with NGC 4085. Far bright, perfect oval with slightly brighter central region.

NGC 4102 - Southeast of Gamma past M109. It's kinda' bright, a little stretched and seems to either have an offset nucleus or something bright caught inside.

NGC 5322 - Northeast of Mizar and Alcor. Several galaxies in this area. This is the brightest of the bunch. No structure but a very intense looking core region.

NGC 5473 - North of M101. Again, an area with a lot of galaxies. It's just a small, faint little blob.

NGC 5474 - South of M101. Are these satellite galaxies?! A little brighter than the last, but again, nothing but a small ovid with no detail.

NGC 5631 - Essentially northeast of M101, but this one is a tough find. It is very small and faint. This one takes a lot of time to find.


And, on that happy note, I end my northern excursion for the night. It's taken me several hours to do this and I am happily ready to stop for the night. Heck, the Moon and Venus are long gone!!

But them stars shine on...

"I feel... like you don't want me around... I guess I'll pack all my things... I guess I'll see you around... "

April 17, 2007 - Writer for Hire...

Comments: Gawd, it was a beautiful day! I stayed up until almost sunrise looking at the stars and still had plenty of time to sleep before going into work. It was warm, the Sun was shining...

And then the hammer dropped.

I had no sooner stepped in the door before I got called to the "big office upstairs" and got my official notice that after Friday I would be laid-off from my job. Quite frankly, I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, call my union rep or just tell them to shove it right up the old asteroid. Fact is, I ain't gonna' die without them - but I've involved so many years of my life with this company that it down right stung. Just another cog in the great wheel of you can't trust anyone but yourself in this world....

Numb? Yeah. Dumb? No. Let's just say there's a writer for hire...

And so I find myself sitting on the deck with my binoculars enjoying shooting between the holes in the patchy clouds. A lot of stuff is going through my mind and I'm old enough to know that when one door closes another opens. If times get tough, I'll take the trade skills the company gave me and give it to another. A secret part of me is laughing my butt off because I'm going to have a wonderful summer vacation like I haven't had in 20 years. Time to lounge in the pool, catch a tan, go fishing, plant a garden... Write a couple of more books, eh? Then when the summer is over, business will pick back up and I'll work again. Or maybe I'll just kick back here and stare at the stars some more. Cuz' ya' know what? When the clouds cover M67...

The window over M65 and M66 opens up!

"I guess that I'm out the door... and now I'm done with you..."

April 16, 2007 - Finishing Up the Urban Observing List...

Comments: What a gloriously clear night! After what seems like an eternity of clouds and rain - at last it's clear. And what am I going to do?

Stand in the light and use a little telescope.


Urban Observing Club
Tammy Plotner
04/16/07 40.6 82.9
Scope: 4.5 Celestron reflector
Sky: 5 LM Stability: 9/10

NGC 3432 - Also known as the Ghost of Jupiter, this bright planetary is easily seen in the small telescope under high light conditions, but the guide stars are more difficult to find.

Mel 111 - Melotte open cluster 111 - also known as the Coma cluster. This one is just barely discernable unaided, easily noted in a small finderscope and rich with stars in the eyepiece.

M84 - Pairs with M86. Also more difficult to locate in brighter light situations, but doesn't suffer in the eyepiece.

M86 - Pairs with M84. Locate one? You've located both of them.

M87 - Definately a difficult star hop object under light. If they clarity were not so good tonight, it would probably not look as bright.

M104 - Easily found because Spica is the lead star and shows easily in urban light. Star hop objet that shows as elongated, slightly bulging galaxy in scope. Shows fine central dustlane.

M94 - Actually, this galaxy wasn't as hard to find as I though it would be. Small, round and shows a nice little dustlane.

M64 - A little more difficult to locate and a significantly fainter object than the last galaxy. Doesn't show a whole lot of structure in the small scope.

(At this point, I took a break for awhile and watched a movie. I'm not going to kill my dark adaption cuz' I'm standing under a dang security light anyhow.)

M3 - An easy find in the finderscope as a small smudge and very bright and easy in the telescope. One of my favourite globulars!

M5 - It took a little bit of poking around to find, but also showed as a faint smudge in the finder and easily in the eyepiece as a very nice globular.

M4 - Let's dance! Gosh, do you know how long it's been since I've seen Antares? Whew!! M4 is always easy and is a large and powder fine globular under high light.


And that, my friends, does it for my urban observing list! Of course, It's really early in the morning and I can't believe how good it is to see Scorpius, Sagittarius, Cygnus, Aquila, and Lyra again. I carried the little scope back around to where I enjoy observing the most and hit the switch on the security light. When you've got clear skies and a taste for the summer stars?

Listen to it.

"I just can't take anymore...this life of solitude..."

April 12, 2007 - At Wynford High School...

Comments: Yes. It's been a rough few days. In the middle of the night, H became the "Wonder Bleeding Dog". This is going to sound very strange, but he's prone to nosebleeds, and this time it wouldn't stop. For an hour, he flowed to the point where he was scaring me very badly because I simply couldn't get it to stop. How do you tell a 110 pound dog to hold his head up and let me pinch his nose and pack it in ice? It didn't help much having the young one screaming in fear, either. My house looked like Gettysburg...

Once the crisis was past, it was time to go to work. A trip to the vet is in order... but not until after obligations. Are you ready to dance with the freshmen? Then let's head out on a 56 mile round trip and visit with Wynford High School!

Yep. I arrived in plenty of time, got my props ready to go and was very soon joining by 26 young folks in the first of two science classes. Needless to say, I was just a little unprepared for how rambunctious these young folks can be! I was there to teach them more about the area in which they were studying and within minutes they had taught me a lesson or two.

It ain't easy being a teacher.

OK. I'm adaptable. I guess what you need to do here is just talk louder than they do and go for it. While we might not have accomplished everything that I had hoped for, I know I did get a few of the students and some I totally lost. Regardless, they had fun and 40 minutes later it was on to the next group!

Now this is a little more like it! Although they were almost identical, this group of 28 was a little more sedated and more eager to learn. Either that, or having my cage rattled was just enough to put a tone of authority into my voice and a little more confidence into my presentation.

Nah. They were just better behaved. ;)

This time everything went as smooth as silk and although they weren't as impressed with some things as I hoped they would be, they were at least learning what I had come there to teach them. It's a little more difficult for me to break away from some of my standard presentations, but by the second round it was getting a whole lot easier.

Let's hope I can keep it up for a few more years!

Afterward? Hey. Time to get a certain big black dog to the doc. Prognosis? He doesn't know what the heck causes it, but apparently the dog is very healthy and things are going to be fine. At least we know that no dog on record has ever died of a nosebleed.


"I just can't live without you...
I love you... I hate you... I can't get around you...
I breathe you... I taste you... I can't live without you..."

April 7, 2007 - At the Observatory: Astronomy Day!

Comments: Well, I'm back to typing freely again. Are you ready to catch up? The last few days in Ohio have been stone cold. Our brief rise in temperature has left all of us yearning for Spring and flowers have began to bloom... Only to be blanketed by snow. No matter how many times I check the weather forecast, it looks like our Astronomy Day isn't going to be pretty.

But, it really doesn't matter. I don't think there was any one of us who wasn't having a great time putting together their displays and just looking forward to getting together for awhile. Heck, I even got my son Jon and his lady in on it, too! The dry ice had arrived for my comet, I had displays ready to go and my car packed to the max.

Of course, it was absolutely snowing so hard you couldn't see when we left. Round these parts we call them squalls and they will come down with fury for a short time and it's just as likely as not the Sun will be back out an hour later. Yeah, that fabled creature did peek in and out - but the wind and cold were merciless. I about jumped out of my seat when I heard my cell phone ring... What the? Dave! Dave is coming, too! How awesome... When I arrived, several of our other presenters were also there and we were ready to go!

So, off we went. Boxes flying, tables clattering, posters flapping, tape passed around and all manner of goodies that I had stashed away passed round. I had such a wonderful time gathering things together and it felt so good to have gotten handouts and small treasures. Yeah, it's a lot of begging... But, boy! Are they cool! Thanks to the outside conditions, we had no choice but to set up inside the dome and although it's a little crowded, the effect couldn't have been more stunning. We look like a regular science festival!

So what did we have? You name it. Terry McQ had displayed all of his wonderful galaxy maps and had seasonal charts and handout charts as well. Robert had the Moon Walk display with some of the activities from NSN. Curt is awesome with his spectroscopes and posters. I had a comet display and meteors... As well as several NSN activities. Jon had created a huge Mars expedition with a remote control rover. His lady, Laurie, had poster paper and glow-in-the-dark paints with celestial stamps. Barb had a very cool rocket display which featured indoor soft launches, small handout launchers... And the real deal we periodically went out and blasted off! Ken had done an awesome job with solar, and although we couldn't use the PST, it was still a big hit. Dan had done an alternate Mars rover and is one of the best people persons I know. Dave set up in the club house with demo telescopes and magazines, Joe took care of the planetarium program and made one of the coolest short instructional videos I have ever seen... And Aaron? Dude. He was the absolute star of the show with his incredible black hole exhibit!

Oh, sure. I've got pictures galore. I was so proud of everyone I could have popped buttons! Everyone's face was just shining, and to be honest, even if the public wasn't beating the door down we were having a great time! Of course, my poor comet flopped. I had seen this done on an instruction video, but dry ice is far less impressive when it's so cold it doesn't smoke. (that's ok, though... because jon, laurie and i also had a ball playing with the leftovers. ;)

At one point, it got so cold that we just all had to retreat to the club house to sit in the heat for awhile and drink coffee strong enough to kick a mule back. The time ticked on and fortunately Robert had discovered a wonderful place which would deliver pizza to the Observatory. Party's on, folks! So while we all dined lavishly, we watched Joe's stunning video again and played with the planetarium program. Then guess what?!


No, we didn't attack them... But we sure felt like it. It was simply great to be able to share all the things we had done and to watch the kids get excited about what they were seeing and doing. Rockets popping, rovers growling, planets flying, lunar landscape being explored, eager hands playing with 3D solar cards, maps and posters being passed around, rainbows tasted, and my comet even cooperated!

Even though Aaron's dry ice smoke effect had frozen the cup solid by then, I think the kids enjoyed the black hole most of all. We had put a black light above the display and when we turned the dome lights off, the gumballs glowed and when they rotated faster and faster before they were drawn in, it was an awesome effect! Although we only had a handful of visitors, they we just so excited to watch the rockets launch and do all the things, that I just wish the weather had been nicer. So who's to say that we just can't do it again on a warmer day, eh? It doesn't have to be Astronomy Day just to get good friends together and have a wonderful time!

When the public left, so did we. A handful of stars had come out by then... But the cold is really more than you can bear. After some 6 hours of being exposed, I seriously doubt I am the only one who is feeling it. Once everything was buttoned up and put away, it's time for hugs and to look forward to the next WRO/AFY adventure at Malabar Farms on the 21st. Let's hope we can get some great cooperation for the "Look Up For UNICEF" and reach a lot more people with the good word...

Astronomy is fun for everyone!

"Always... always... always... always... always... always..."

April 2, 2007 - Double Star Night....

Comments: Hey, hey! Another clear, warm evening on my hands... and a full Moon! So what do astronomers do when the Moon blots out deep sky?

Double stars...

Tonight's menu consisted of Sigma Orionis, Rigel, Delta Orionis, Procyon, Alnitak, Beta Monoceros, Gamma Leonis, Regulus, Beta Leonis, Delta Corvi, Theta Aurigae, Dubhe and Cor Caroli. A slim menu... But then the skies are so bright it would be like work trying to find anything else.

After that? Well, I just took my starcharts and poked around for some nice fields. Sometimes I like to add some things off the beaten path into my books... You know, things to do when the Moon is full?


"Am I... your one and only desire... Am I the reason you breath... Or am I the reason you cry... "

April 1, 2007 - Clear Skies and Lotsa' Moon...

Comments: Of course! The weather is beautiful and that means if you're going to be out a night without a coat that you've got the Moon to warm your old hide! So what's wrong with the Moon?

Not a daggone thing.

I learned my lesson long ago about looking at the Moon with big telescope and no filter, so tonight I used the dark violet. I started off with Venus and that color really cuts the glare and makes Venus snap right out as gibbous. You can even see a little limb darkening! Then on to the Moon. Violet is a great color because it makes all the bright features stand out like looking at it under ultraviolet light. Byrgius really stands out and other cool things like Reiner, Kepler, Euclides, Furnerius, Langrenus, Proclus, Censorinus, and Bessell. Of course, there is no place like Tycho and it is still a treat to the eye to see its long rays splashed across the Moon and wonder what it would have been like to have seen that impact first hand. Bet it was pretty scary!

Afterwards, I decided to drop the yellow filter in and look at Saturn for awhile. I love seeing the Cassinni division, but I really like it better without the filter. When you power up and wait on clarity, Saturn is so beautiful it doesn't even look real. You can see/sense different ring divisions and it really does look like an old fashioned phonograph record with a ball in the center. Without a filter, it's far easier to see the twinkle of the little moons dancing around the ring edges, too.

For now? That's enough. It felt good to be outside for awhile and to relax.

"I hear... a voice say "Don't be so blind"... it's telling me all these things... that you would probably hide... "