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September 2007

September 29, 2007 - At the Observatory: Board Meeting...

Comments: Oh, yeah. We've had our fair share of rain here lately and skies that simply weren't worth trying to observe. You know the kind I'm talking about... Where you can see Jupiter and the Moon - but little else? Ah, you understand!

But, tonight wasn't about observing, but about heading over to the Observatory for our Board of Directors meeting. Thankfully, it was a nice quiet one and we did manage to finalize plans for Hidden Hollow weekend and everyone is psyched up and ready to go. As we were leaving, Terry noticed a few stars in the sky... and the view improved on the way back home.

As I was driving, I watch a beautiful, orange, gibbous waning Moon rise out of a bank of clouds. It looked very much like it was rising over a distant tall moutain top and when I see it reflecting off the lake at Clearfork, I can only hope that some of my friends who are doing outreach programs tonight also have such a wonderful view!

You did, didn't you?

"And every day there's something hits me oh-so cold... I'm finally sitting by myself. No excuses that I know."

September 19, 2007 - At the Luthern Church Camp: Star Lab...

Comments: Hey, hey! Time to do a little public outreach. I noticed when I logged in today that I hadn't released my reports to the public yet, so I do apologize for keeping you waiting.

Our mission for tonight was a combined effort of the members of Warren Rupp Observatory and Astronomy For Youth. Greg and I have done the Luthern Church Camp several times and it's wonderful to have Robert, Keith, Tina and Kamin join us as well. For once, I assisted with the program rather than give it and I can't tell you how proud I am to watch my friends grow and be comfortable in giving outreach presentations!

Star Lab has been a godsend to us for doing public outreach and despite blinding everyone with the camera for a few seconds, I just had to take a picture inside the planetarium to show you. Robert is quite happy with being the "planetarium guy" and I am so proud of him. I took loads of pictures and I can only laugh at the ones where the kids are coming back out of the tunnel to the dome. It's star birth!!

We had a very large group: 75 young folks and 10 adults. Because we cannot put that many people inside the dome at once, we split the groups and Keith and Greg did the NSN presentation while I assisted Robert, Tina and Kamin with the Star Lab. You never saw such happy faces and cheers for the program! I hope one day we can adquately express to the Rupp Family just how important their donation is and how very much it is appreciated by the kids and adults alike. After all of them are gone? Hey...

We just laid around inside and enjoyed a starry night!

"You my friend... I will defend.
And if we change? Well, I love you anyway..."

September 18, 2007 - Rimae Ariadaeus, Eta Cassiopieae, Gamma Arietis and Gamma Andromedae...

Comments: More practice? Darn right more practice. It's time to throw more light on the situation a exercise the right eyeball with finer details. Tonight's lunar assignment is one I let the Moon chose for me - Rimae Ariadaeus. With the 12.5, the moonbeams fairly flash fry the old eyeball, so it's best to tone it down with polarizing filter. In this case, it really makes the Ariadaeus rille jump right out in the eyepiece. I love the dimensionality... You can see that it's a fault line and how I wish we could see details on other planets like that!

Afterwards, I waited for awhile and then took on some double stars. Started with an easy one - Eta Cass. Very nice a pretty daggone exciting color-wise! I shall have to remember it for public nights, because the primary is a delightful lemon yellow and the wide spaced secondary to the northwest most definately has a reddish tinge. Next came Gamma Arietis. Hey. Mesarthim isn't particularly hard and this matched set of double whites are just simply cool to look at! Last for the night is Gamma Andromedae. Who doesn't love the gold and green/blue of Almach, huh? Well, I do... And what I really want to do is drop the 12.3mm ED eyepiece into it and wait. I am not disappointed. When a pocket of pure stability hits, I see what I have always seen and what those who are aperture impaired can never see... The C star. You have to watch for it to appear almost due east of the primary and due south of the secondary. It's blue... A lot of time the diffraction spikes will hide it, but there's always that one clear moment.

When you can see.

"Yeah, it's fine... We'll walk down the line. Leave our rain, and cold... Trade for warm sunshine."

September 17, 2007 - The Serpentine Ridge and Iota Cassiopeia...

Comments: It wasn't the greatest night out... Lots of sky haze but steady as a rock. How long since ya' looked at the Moon, kid? Don't ya' think you ought to get busy retraining yourself??

And so I walked the Serpentine Ridge. It's hard for me to take my eye off of Posidonius, simply because I really like that fractured old crater... But the purpose behind the exercise is to train my right eye to see details. Of course, spotting the Serpentine Ridge isn't exactly a challenge for a well tuned small reflector, but it is fun!

After that? Time to get more serious. Take on Iota Cass. For those of you who enjoy double stars, one of Iota's two secondary members is fairly easy... The C star east. The one that's hard is the one that almost seems to touch it. Of course, a lot has to do with the instrument and steady skies, but I'm very happy to report...

The B star is southwest.

"Everyday it's something... Hits me all so cold. Find me sittin' by myself... No excuses, then I know."

September 14 & 15, 2007 - Black Forest Star Party, Cherry Springs, Pennsylvania

Comments: Hey, hey... It's a great morning for a drive! My car was packed yesterday afternoon and after a couple of hours sleep I was ready to just take a shower and hit the road. The skies were still beautiful this morning and it was oh-so-tempting to just wheel the scope out into the driveway and poke around in Orion for awhile before I left. As much as I'd like to, I've got folks waiting on me down the road and it's time to just turn the key and put 460 miles between me and the backyard.

Yes. It really was a great drive! I had my thermal mug of coffee with me and caught up with Barb and Ken just before dawn for a bowl of oatmeal and a pit stop. There was more than once I found myself trying to doze, but I'd keep fighting it off and moving forward. It wasn't long (or at least it didn't seem that way) until we were on the New York / Pennsylvania border and ready to stop for lunch. It felt good to get out of the car and stretch... Good to ingest some caffiene... And even better to know that Black Forest wasn't that much further away.

We arrived in the early afternoon and found the rest of our friends with ease. Hey! Who could miss that big banner that reads "Warren Rupp Observatory - Mansfield, Ohio"?! Our motel room was already secured for the night and it was time to set up shelters, prepare equipment and just generally moan because the rain was on the way. Honestly? I love the dark clear skies there, but even more so I love the opportunity to see friends. What a pleasure it was to have Michael around for the afternoon and early evening! We converse a lot by email, but nothing takes the place of having the person right there with you. I know I grinned around like an idiot and didn't talk much... But, hey! Ya' found out I am what I am in person, didn't you? ;) Just me. It was just great to be able for all of us to go out to dinner together and have a few laughs!

And yes. It did rain that night. It rained hard and it rained often. Time to give up the ghost around 10 or so and head back to the motel room for some rest. Eat my handful of pills, chase it down with a cold beer or two and just finally get some much needed sleep.

I was up well before dawn.

Yeah. I'm a night crawler. I sneaked out of the room as quietly as I could so I didn't disturb my sleeping friends. I walked around outside and had a smoke. Went to the lobby and fixed coffee. Walked around for awhile more and then sneaked back in for a shower. Sleepy sounds were coming from the other side of the room, so I just headed down to the lobby for a bite to eat, some more coffee and went wandering around in the little town of Coudersport for awhile. When it got close to time for the guest speakers to start I went back to the room and woke 'em up. I distinctly remember Barb swearing at me and even if it is sarcasm, I'm outta' there. I really enjoy coming here each year and I'll sleep when I get back, thanks!

It's time to listen to some of the speakers that interested me, find other old friends and visit with the vendors. Yeah. It's misting rain, but there's always a welcome canopy here and there and lots of good friends to talk to. I took pictures of everyone and if I had to sum up the whole weekend in just one shot? This would be it...

You'd have to know Joe to know how important this picture is. Joe seldom smiles and Joe even less frequently laughs. Catching Joe in a picture both smiling and laughing is like trying to catch spontaneous combustion, ok? I considered myself quite lucky and I've got a lot of other great pictures of my friends that I'll enjoy over the years. One is of my good friend Vic and his daughter. Hey, now... He's one of the reasons I love to come to star parties! We just really hit it off with one another and as the afternoon creeps on he, his daughter and I all sneek off to grab an early dinner before the draw for the door prizes.

Back right in the nick of time, I took my few tickets and joined everyone else at the pavilion who was hoping to win a prize. Before we left for dinner, I had put my tickets in on two things... A video and DVD to use for public outreach and a Celestron Sky Scout which would also be a great public outreach tool. Guess what? I won all three. No one was more shocked than me, because I know the can for the Sky Scout was crammed full of tickets. All I can say is "Come round and enjoy it! I've got plenty of batteries and you're welcome to play with it any time!" LOL... Remind me next time when I go to put a ticket in for a prize to really hope I win a Nagler eyepiece for public outreach, will you? Heheheheeee... Aw, smile. I can't use an eyepiece anymore and I can't help but look at everything as a teaching tool.

It's just the way I am.

Despite everyone's worry, the sky gods smiled down on us and the clouds departed not long after it got dark. My friend Charlie had sent his astro scan telescope with me and I was really looking forward to just putting the little round ball through its paces and seeing what it could do. I started off with it on a camera tripod that holds its bowl-like cradle. Because it's not very tall, I ended up sitting down which was strange for me and observing with my right eye was even stranger. The whole arrangement just really made me nervous because the astro scan moves so easy and I just couldn't keep from worrying that despite the strap that it would tumble to the ground. When it started to dew, I decided it would just be best to put it away for safety's sake and there in lies the rub...

You cradle the baby in space.

The moment I put that thing in my lap, every astro gear I have in my head began to click and whirl. By cradling it in your arms like a baby, the eyepiece falls into the perfect positon for the right eye. Well, surely it's impossible to use your body as a mount and hand hold a telescope!! Oh, my... I've never been so wrong in my life. The super rich field of an astro scan is an entity unto itself and by positioning my chair with my left shoulder pointed toward the section of sky I wanted to examine, everything fell into place. I could literally hold it, look up at someone and talk, and look down and the same object would still be in the eyepiece. Would this work for everyone??

Excited, I called Robert's son Carl over to give it a try. Carl is like me... He's a dob user and very accustomed to finding objects by simply knowing the field that's in the eyepiece. Talk about a young man laughing! He was amazed as well, and soon after the astro scan made the rounds of eager hands. The design is so perfectly balanced that it's very, very easy to hold it steady and looking straight overhead is as simple as putting it in your lap. No wonder Edmunds continues to make and sell these delightful little telescopes!

Through rich field eyes, I explored every inch of the heavens. Dark nebula became so apparent they were almost heartbreaking. Star clusters spangled, planetary nebulae glowed, globular clusters rolled across the night and huge vistas like the Veil and North American nebula strung against the starry background like wisps of smoke. Body heat kept the little beast dew free and although I took more than one good natured joke about nursing a telescope, I cradled that baby in space until my eyes were filled with stars... Then I... Still stopped and stared into the sky.

The clouds came and went. I visited with friends and looks through myriad scopes. Many friends I will see again in just a few weeks! The night turned very cold and despite my many layers of protection, my hands began to ache horribly and I found myself chilling. I took a brisk walk after a cup of coffee and then again later as the shakes settled in. It's too late now. The damage is done and when the clouds roll back over to cover Orion's beauty? I know it is time to stop. I take the quiet walk back to the car, drive down the hill and sneak back into the motel room. I don't sleep a whole lot anymore, so it's strange to me. A hot shower cures the chills and a boxed dinner finds itself in the lobby microwave. I swallow my pills, enjoy a beer and quickly enough the dawn arrives again after a few hours sleep.

I exit quietly and drive back up the hill to collect my gear and wish my friends vaya con dios. The drive home is long and quiet... And I find myself seeking out a safe spot to snooze away the sleepies for a short time. Long before sunset I am home again. There's always a price to pay for overdoing, but I am a willing purchaser. I'll ache and be tired in the days ahead, but who cares?

I had a wonderful time.

"It's okay.... Had a bad day. Hands are bruised from.... Breaking rocks all day. Drained and blue... I bleed for you. You think it's funny, well.... You're drowning in it, too..."

September 13, 2007 - Dancing Along the Milky Way...

Comments: It's the night before the Black Forest Star Party and if you think I could go to sleep early then you might as well forget it. It's a tad bit cooler than normal... No moon... And clean skies.

Who let the dob out?

Deep blue study? Nah. I'm afraid I'm having a hard time getting myself back in to mood to finish conquering the Herschel 400 list. Heck, if I review my reports I've probably done them all any way. No. No. My real reason that I haven't been out there every night there's a star shining is just a little deeper than that. I haven't even wanted to write my reports for the last couple of months because of it... And it's just about time to be honest with you, faithful reader, and myself. Yeah. I've been out there. Yeah. I've been lookin'. And I just need to admit to myself and the rest of the world that my left eye is almost gone.

There. I admitted it. I told the whole goddang world and I came right out and said it to myself. I wrote it out in bloody print for posterity. My left eye is gone! Yes. It's in the socket. It doesn't look weird or anything. But, if I close my right eye I can't even see the words on the screen, ok? It's been that way since the zoster crap. It's like someone popped the lens right out of my glasses on that side. Everything is smeary... And to make things worse? I see double in that eye. What a treat for an astronomer, huh? Since I began observing I've relied on my left eye. It was the most light sensitve and most able to see detail. And now it's gone. Just like that. I don't use binoculars well anymore and I just have the damndest time trying to learn how to use my right eye to observe.

And so I stand out in the back field with the 12.5 feeling sorry for myself. Tired of making excuses as to why I haven't been observing and reporting. I love up on the things I can find with ease, like the M8, M20, M22, M24, M17, M16, M11, M2, M54, M70, M15, M27, M71, and M54. I slide over NGCs that I should know by heart... Some I do, like NGC 451 and NGC 7789, but I also know I'd be frustrated if I tried to get out my charts and red light to look up the others I see and note them. Yes. It's laziness. It's an excuse.

But what a grand excuse to just dance along the Milky Way...

"Everyday it's something... Hits me all so cold. Find me sittin' by myself....No excuses, then I know."

September 5, 2007 - Into the Halo...

Comments: What's that you say? Yeah. I've been out working again. I've decided to retire from Kroger and spend the rest of my life dedicating my time and my minimal talents to astronomy. Thanks to the wonderful people at Oceanside Photo and Telescope (OPT), I no longer feel like I am not wanted in the workforce and they have given me a reason not to sleep all day. They gave me a job! You'll never know how good it feels to be working again... Or to have an employer who allows me to set my own hours and work at my own pace. What a shame the Big K couldn't have done that for me. I'm actually a very good worker - but they could never understand nor be forgiving that I have times when I am not so well... And times that I am very well indeed.

Just feeling needed again has given me a new lease and a new outlook on life. A reason to be busy again without getting my feelings slammed. Sure. I'm nervous. Ain't we all when we start a new job? But I've never met folk more patient and understanding. What a great place! I spend the day writing, the evening learning and when the skies get dark?

It's time to practice what I preach.

It had been a very long time since I had just taken the big dob out and did the globular cluster walk. Tonight my intent is not so much centered on those big and splashy ones... But ones like the squeezed, blue M19 and the dusty M62. I really, really enjoy powering up on more vague ones like NGC 6304 and NGC 6316. Other objects for tonight's study also included NGC 6355, NGC 6293, NGC 6284, NGC 6287, NGC 6325, NGC 6401, NGC 6342, M9 and NGC 6356. All in all, I considered it a very good night's work... And then?

Then I spent 30 minutes drooling on M17.

"No more hiding from the skies and truths I've sold..."

September 4, 2007 - Tuesday Night On Jupiter...

Comments: Did I overdo it? Yeah. It's been a couple of days since I could walk. My feet had swollen so bad that I couldn't wear shoes and my ankles look like watermelons. Ain't that the way it goes? No matter. I am happy and I've been looking at the sky. I still can't stand for long, but who's gonna' stop me from breaking out the big guns and just sitting and watching Jupiter?

Actually it was quite nice to spend such a long time in contemplation. It really increases the amount of details you see and I was just happily sketching away looking for details in places like the north temperate zone, the southern equatorial belt, and especially some very charming looking marks I can pick out in the south tropical and temporal regions. If you watch long enough, it feels like you can see the crazy things move!!

Of course, it might just be me that's crazy.

"Layin' low... Want to take it slow."

September 1, 2007 - At the Observatory: Public Night...

Comments: And brother? I am there way early! This evening I am looking very forward to visiting with my friend, Charlie, and treating him to dinner. He's a wonderful fellow, a great supporter and a good friend besides. Seems like we never get a chance to just talk when he visits! Of course, Chaz is about as understanding as they come, and he knows I always have a lot to attend to when folks are around. No matter... Tonight I have brought the trimmin's with me to make us a fine meal and we have every intention of just grillin' those steaks and sitting and talking for awhile. Why not? I only get to see him a couple of times a year.

Of course, it's the best laid plans of mice and mean... Murphy's Law... whatever you want to call it. In the end, we did get a very limited privacy for about 20 minutes to swallow our steak, but no time at all to share vacation pictures, stories, or the many things we keep trying to make time for. Like I said, he's patient and good friends understand. Besides that, it's going to be a terrific night and just look at all the people arriving!!

We have a special guest speaker for this evening, Mr. Phil Creed. We also have a wonderful and very large audience at I can't remember so many smiling faces in such a long time. Even our audience participates! Phil does a terrific job of presenting "Clear(er) Skies Ahead" and I am very pleased that he's enjoying himself as much as our crowd is enjoying him. It's what it's all about, right? Having a darn fine time.

In the meantime, some of the folks that couldn't fit into the meeting room (namely some club members) we awesome and took the initiative to run ahead and get our new Star Lab Planetarium set up and ready to go. Each public night now, we've also started other new things... Such as educational lessons and prize giveaways. If anyone ever tells you tis' better to give than receive? Believe them. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see our audience win door prizes and see how excited they are! Along the way, I've been picking up things that I can afford that I know others will enjoy... Like common meteorites, astro books, etc. Some of our prizes are the generosity of places like SOHO and NASA... And yet others come from good folks like Charlie who just want to see others have a good time. I'm serious here... Nothing can match the look on a kid's face when they "win" a meteorite... Or a poster... Or a flashlight. If you give astronomy programs? I highly recommend doing this. It's good!!

And, once its' done it's time to lead people down to Sky View Lodge and give them a taste of the new Star Lab! Gosh, I am so sorry that I did not take any pictures. I had the camera with me, but I was so excited listening to people that I totally forgot!! Our entire Club is just buzzing with this great new piece of educational equipment and I am so proud of them for learning and taking over doing programs.

Makes me feel mighty proud.

As for the night? Dude... It was gorgeous. Charlie had brought along his AstroScan (like porta-ball) and folks were really enjoying it. Our good friends from AFY were there to help as well and there were large telecopes set up everywhere, along with Barb's new BIG toy! What a fantastic time. We had club members laughing everywhere, the lift wheezing up and down... People talking... Just very, very exciting.

After the Moon came up people began filtering away even though I was bribing them with fresh grilled hotdogs. I can understand, because I get so excited that I forget to be tired. Still, there were enough diehards left to have us one very fine cookout party and to further enjoy company. Once again, I am so proud of everyone! You don't have to ask for help clearing things up.... It just gets done. Our Club is really becoming some super folks and I am humble to be part of them.

As the last few of us stand in the moonlight before leaving, I realize how tired i am. Sure. I'm stupid. I bring a chair and then I forget to sit down all night. That's the way it is and after a good 12 hours straight on my feet I just wanna' take a pill and a have a cold beer. As I head down the hill and see the last of the headlights following me in the rearview mirror, I think of how far we've come and just how much I love the place and the people.

There's no place I'd rather be.

"It's alright... There comes a time... Got no patience to search for peace of mind."