November 28, 2007 - Some Binocular Time...
Comments: Hey! A high pressure system and some nice clear skies... But it's also very cold and windy. What's an astronomer to do?
Right now binoculars work very well for me because there's such an imbalance between my two eyes. I know that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is enjoying the M42, finding the Collinder cluster that looks like the "37", enjoying M44, M67, the "Double Cluster" and just wandering over and over Cassiopeia. I never tire of the Plieades and as long as Comet Holmes is around?
So am I...
"And they say that a hero can save us... But we're not going to stand here and wait..."
November 27, 2007 - Comet Holmes, Mars and the Moon...
Comments: Yep. It's Ohio. When it isn't raining, it's cloudy and that's the way it is when the seasons change. Fortunately we did have a little break in the clouds and I got an opportunity to take the binoculars out and check on Comet Holmes again. It's moving at last!! Sweeping right through the Alpha Persei Moving Cluster and fanning out, it's so close to Mirfak that they're a reason duo in the glass.
A bit later, I stepped outside and saw Mars and the Moon rising together. What an awesome sight! I can't get over how bright Mars is getting and to see the two so close together is a real picture postcard...
Except I'm not a good photographer. :)
"A world full of killing... And blood spilling... That day never came."
November 16, 2007 - Spot On Holmes...
Comments: Back to the clouds, the rain, the spitting snow... It's the winter wets before the freeze and then the winds will come along and scour the ground. Needless to say there hasn't been sunshine, let alone stars... But the skies did clear for about an hour!
Because the clouds were still racing around, I didn't set up a scope, but used the 16X60s to have a look at Comet Holmes. Hey! It's moving a little and much closer to Alpha Persei than last time I looked - and it's much more diffused as well. I'm not spotting a central nucleus, but that may be just because I don't have the power and there's a Moon. Regardless, it's still nice to see it's out there and still shining bright!
Let's hope you were a little more lucky?
"But how can that be? Look at what love gave us..."
November 13, 2007 - The Moon, the ISS and Comet 17/P Holmes...
Comments: Did ya' figure I was gone again? Nah. Except for a rotten hacking cold, things are fine here - it's just been raining! And I'm not kidding either... We actually had a lightning and thunderstorm yesterday. I recall reading in a Farmer's Almanac something about thunder in November once... and what it foretold... but I'll be darned if I can remember it now!
Anyhow, the skies weren't exactly what you'd call great, but when I went out for my evening walk I was delighted to at least see a little sliver of Moon peeking in and out between the clouds. I've been trying to practice with my camera, so when I got back I put it up on its little tripod and figured I'd try for a color shot this time and hopefully get that earthshine thing a little more clearly! Well, sometimes you just get lucky and this was my night. The Moon itself isn't that great, but my first two test shots included a little surprise... the ISS! The first one was down low and I didn't even know it was there. I set the timer, took my hands off and let it go for the second shot and as it was doing its thing I looked up and there it was! All I could do was laugh when I looked back at the images. Had I known, I would have zoomed a little more... Maybe gone black and white to avoid some overexposure... centered things better... But that's not the way it works is it?
You just get lucky.
And I did get lucky later on. The skies never did clear properly, but there was a period of about 30 minutes or so when things were really clear over Perseus and I had a chance to go out and look at the comet again. It's moved ever so slightly... And it's just HUGE! You can see layers inside the coma and the nucleus is still visible. What is this thing now? Something like 50 arc minutes? To the unaided eye you can see a definate tail structure and it's sure been a very cool comet to follow.
Hope you got lucky, too!!
"Somone told me that love will all save us...."
November 5, 2007 - Comet Chasing Around the World...
Comments: For awhile there I thought tonight was going to be a cloud out. Thankfully after the temperature took a nose-dive the clouds rolled back and it was time to roll out the dob and do my surveillance on Comet Holmes!
As I was setting up, I got to thinking about all my friends from around the world. Because Holmes is holding an extremely steady northern position, my good friends in the southern hemisphere really don't have much of a chance with this one. Instead, they've been chasing 2007/F1 LONEOS!
If we could turn back the hands of the clock a bit more here, we could also see LONEOS. Sweeping along through the mid section of Scorpius, and only a little more than half an AU from the Sun, LONEOS is holding around magnitude 6 and would be possible from the north - but not this time of year. Thankfully Justin Pyke of Australia has had his camera out and we're able to share! It really looks like a nice, brilliant little compact dude that we'd be yapping our flaps about if we could see it. I'm so glad I have friends down under that share! You don't know what I'd give if we could get these guys up here some time.. and how I'm hoping I can save the money to head to Macedon Ranges and enjoy Skytopia this coming year!!
Anyhow... I'm rambiling again, aren't I?
As I watch 17/P Holmes, I think about how much this particular comet has brought together friends as well. I've been talking with people that I haven't communicated with in so long... Canada, Northern Washington State, Kentucky, England, The Netherlands, and one very special and very talented lady in Ireland...
Deidre Kelleghan has been a friend for quite some time now and she produces sketches that are simply beyond compare... As you can see! When she shared this sketch with me, I knew I had to share it with you because you've seen Holme's "bubble like" outgassing qualities and her sketch relates that far better than any photograph I've ever seen. As I look in the eyepiece, I can see the ion tail dragging back and I don't know if it's a trick of my eyes or not.... But it's beginning to show visually, too. Oddly enough, it persists in binoculars, so it must be real! Look at what this great comet has done for all of us... We've been watching from Mansifeld, Howard, Fredrickstown, Crestline, Seville, Ashland, Ontario, Galion, Martel, Akron, Cleveland, Canton, Columbus, Dayton and so much more...
I salute my observing heros all around the world tonight... You guys make it all worthwhile.
"They say that a hero can save us... And we're not going to stand here and wait. We hold onto the wings of the eagles... Watch as we all fly away."
November 5, 2007 - The Moon and Venus...
Comments: Did you see them? Oh... Did you see them? It's almost impossible to explain. They were so bright there was no way that you could not see them. So beautiful...
"No heaven, no heaven don't hear me."
November 3, 2007 - At the Observatory: Public Night, the Taurid Meteor Shower and Comet 17/P Holmes Laid Bare...
Comments: Oh, yeah! Promising skies and a great public night! This is our last one of the year and by the time I arrive I can see that we're already going to be very well attended. Time to get the public rolling with a video in the Dome and to take care of a little business..
My first thing to take care of was to see that John got his Herschel 400 Certificate! I am very, very proud of John and his accomplishments. The certificate is beautiful and the pin is even more so... After seeing it, I can only hope that one day I get up the gumption to go back through all my reports and send in my listing so I can join our honored ranks as well. For any of you who have ever tried the Herschel 400 list, this is not an easy one - nor is it one you will complete quickly or without a lot of work. It is truly an honour to see the effort that John has put into this and I am so proud of him!!
What seemed like just a couple of minutes later? Time to work on the show again...
We had a very nice attendance of around 75 for our last public night of 2007 and they had been busy watching "Cosmic Collisions". I knew that we'd be looking at Comet Holmes tonight and I really wanted them to get a feel for just how close this comet is! We went through our solar system and stellar sizes routine and then it was time to pass around the paper and have them create their own "Pocket Solar System". It's really fun to watch folks get into this and afterwards we did the door prizes and it's even more fun to watch the smiles as people win nice prizes for their attention!
Afterwards, they went down to the ClubHouse to watch Mark Friedman put on his eclipse presentation. I can't even begin to squeeze all the people into the picture! Needless to say, Mark did a wonderful job and a I really appreciate his making the trip all the way up here to do something special for our last public night. It was really incredible to watch a real time video of a total solar eclipse and to hear everyone's comments as it was happening. It was the next best thing to being there!
When we were done, it was off to the Dome and the Observing Area to cut loose for the night. Scopes everywhere were aimed at the stars and we had a great member turn out as well. Everywhere you went people we happily looking at one thing or the other and it was just a super night! Of course, I couldn't wait until 17/P got high enough to put the 31" on it...
When the time arrived, I was blown away. Even with a 55mm, 70 degree field eyepiece, it was filling it up. Here was the comet we'd all been watching laid bare. I wish I could have photographed it so you could see the changes! The stellar nucleus is now gone and only a tiny wink remains. Instead, the inner coma has widened with the outgassing from the nucleus and looks all for the world like a "bubble". The leading edge of the comet is so sharply rounded, that you'd swear you were looking at some huge planetary nebula or something. The outer edges of the coma are now very much in the cyanogen green state and there is a very notable blue ion tail forming. Can you imagine one of the little pacman figures? That's what it looks like. Very sharply rounded on the leading edge. Donut-like coma and a frayed following edge thats as wide as the leading one. You can almost sense movement!!!
The Taurid meteor shower was also showing its stuff tonight, too. Everywhere around you'd hear exclamations as people would spot one of the great fireballs. The moment you'd turn your back one would happen! Folks really had a great time and it is so much fun to see people like Terry and Greg, Barb and Ken, Dave and John laying it out for the crowd. When things are winding down? Hey, hey... It's time to fire up the old grill and toast a few hotdogs to end the night!
As I leave, John is staying to pick up the last few objects for his Deep Sky Binocular Certificate. Well, now.. I'm not a competitve spirit, but John is definately inspiring me to one day get on the stick and finish submitting my reports!
"I am so high. I can hear heaven..."
November 1, 2007 - Changes In 17/P Holmes...
Comments: Well, the grandbabies are still here, but I had to sneak out after they went to sleep and at least set the old Celestron on the comet. Our tour with binoculars had showed me there were some changes going on and I needed to see...
Although this really isn't enough aperture to sock it to the nucleus, it has definately lost some of its stellar qualities and is beginning to fade. There is a growing "bubble" of outgassing in the center of the coma and it, too, is getting far larger! What a great comet this has been...
I hope skies are clear for Saturday!
"I am so high. I can hear heaven..."