November 30, 2003 - The Moon...

Comments: I was surprised when I saw the Moon. I honestly didn't think it would clear enough to do any observing - but I was appreciative of the opportunity to get out for a bit. The lunar surface is always a pleasing study while it's phasic and tonight is no exception.

While there were a great many features that took the eye immediately, like Eudoxus, Aristotle and the partially disclosed Hipparchus. I kinda' found my attention wandering a bit to the south and exploring Stofler. I can see my "wizard" standing at the edge of crater Farraday, but it just doesn't look the same in this light. I guess if there was a feature that would capture my imagination and keep it there?

It would be the "Horseshoe" tonight.

Caught in Mare Vaporum, both the Ariadaeus Rille and Hyginus Rille show very well, but the "Horseshoe" looks very unusual at just this point in time. It's really not anything special... Just an unusual area caught in the lava flow that resembles a healed scar. There are a few nice features that show as well, like crater Boscovich and its' central wall... But I just like that eye-shaped area with the rille creasing through it.

I watched for awhile and admired Mars as well. There are a handful or two of bright stars out tonight, but I am tired from my long hours and it is enough for me to have danced in the moonlight again. I try not to think too much, but sometime I still do. It has been an excellent month, despite the recent clouds. Soon the cold will take away these casual observing sessions...

Or will it?

"I can tell you why... People go insane. I can show you how... You could do the same. I can tell you now, the end will never come. I can tell you I'm... A shadow on the Sun.

A shadow on the Sun... A shadow on the Sun..."




November 29, 2003 - Looking For Anything Remotely Colorful Besides Grey...

Comments: All right, all right! I've been virtual observing again. It just can't be helped. Right now in Ohio it's either raining or snowing... Or both at the same time. In a way, it's pretty. During the daylight hours, everything appears sugar coated.... And at night? The skies are steel grey and the frosty ground looks like it glows with its own light. Not that it matter much, cuz' I'm back to being the Vampyre again, but even we night creatures crave a bit of color in our worlds.

And SOHO provides....



SOHO He II camera


I've watched as our happy little "monsters" have behaved on this pass around the Sun and are now nearing the limb. The spot that caused the beautiful aurora is long gone, and MDI images are peppered with series of smaller spots. I saw a prominenance yesterday on BBSO's h-alpha camera at it shows in the SOHO image as well. Just looking at this picture is enough to make one feel warm again! (makes ya' wanna' hold your hands right out against the screen and rub 'em together doesn't it? ;)

Ah, well... The days will go by and night shift ~T will carry on. Let's hope by the beginning of December that those clouds clear out and we're able to observe a bit before the end of the year. The way I've got this figured, they should be gone around, oh, let's say...

Full moon?

"Shapes of every size... Move behind my eyes. Doors inside my head. Bolted from within...

Every drop a flame... Lights a candle in... The memory of the one... Who lives inside my skin."



November 24/25, 2003 - The Sun... M44, NGC2623, Wasat, NGC2392 and the NGC2535...

Comments: Ohio has taken a nose-dive in the temperature department. We've dropped over 30 degrees in a matter of hours and predicted to drop another 15 tonight as well. The day dawned as grey as the skies have been now for several days, and deposited a nice skift of ice and snow on the ground. By mid-afternoon, the front had moved a bit and some Sun broke through the clouds. Setting the old Celestron just outside the garage door, I hurriedly popped the solar filter on to sneak a peek before the cold winds threaten to worsen this flu.

Sunspot 484 is now nearing the limb and our two monsters, 486 and 488 are pretty much front and center. 486 has changed slightly structurally, and 488 looks as if it has spread just a bit over the last few days. It was hard to observe them, because the wind kept shivering the scope, (or i kept shivering - i'm not sure.) so I simply gave it up. Good to see them, though...

Checking the data, I see that 488 has now gone beta/gamma/delta which means that it could be up for another coronal mass ejection. If so, this would be squarely Earth directed and could cause some more of the fantastic aurora like we had the other night... Co-AFY member, Curt, once again was sharp enough to be looking the right direction that night and managed to capture on film when the "glowing green clouds" merged into one and formed the ribband. Check this out!



Image by: Curt Goff, Mansfied, OH


Great work, Curt! Makes me feel good to see that one of my cohorts was out and about at just the right time. Still just incredible...

As for me? I'm hangin' in there. This dose of the flu is real slow to go, but I'm hoping by the time the skies clear that I'm feeling the spirit again. I think there might have been stars out sometime over the last few days, but my thoughts have been focused only on doing my job and surviving the delerium that follows. Right now, anything short of a supernova would probably not get me out of the house and away from the fire. Each time the fever comes back, I fight it and my head hurts and my thoughts are as black as the moving storm clouds. I find myself very gently losing my motivation and I'm not sure if it's the way I feel... Or the way I "feel". Whatever it is...

It feels tired and empty.

**************************************************

I stood at the western picture window after the Sun set, watching Venus fall. I was cuddling Edj the lizard and feeling sorry for myself. You'd like Edj... He's an enormous bearded dragon about the length of my arm and covered with soft spines. I have this tendency to adopt unwanted exotic pets, and Edj is the only reptile i've ever had that displays a personality. Of course, he's kinda' like trying to pet a wilted cactus, but I don't hold it against him. After Venus has set, we go to the sliding glass doors that face south and watch Mars for awhile. So pretty out! And I just don't feel like coughing my head off...

I did say supernova, didn't I?

I went to sleep for a few hours, because that's all I want to do right now. When I woke up around midnight and saw all those stars out there, I knew I couldn't stay inside forever. Carefully chosing attire that would brave those teen temperatures instead of making a "fashion statement", I walked myself out to the garage and pulled the dob out to the courtyard. Just a few minutes... I promise.

I had been busy in my convalescence studying maps to do some new field work. One such area was a "return" to the M44 for there are galaxies in there! It doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to find the M44 when it's visible to the naked eye, but I can tell you now that it's going to take more aperature than I possess to draw those five little galaxies out of this magnificent stellar field. Dropping down to 9mm to help darken the field and restrict the amount of stars in the eyepiece was a good move, and I'm seeing some right fine magnitudes and doubles... But no galactic signatures. I am disappointed, yet I am not. Most people would merely glance at the M44 and not appreciate all the fine little stars of color. It's worthy of some time...

My next hop was NGC2623... Talk about a disappointment. Pictures of the NGC2623 show a great irregular structure similiar to the "Ringtail Galaxy". Reality check? It's a muther in the 12.5. Difficult to find, and once located? Whoopee. Small, very faint, and with a slightly concentrated nucleas. Very wide aversion and a slight tap of the eyepiece are what it takes to make out even the slightest hint of extensions. This one is just not a spectacular in the eyepiece as it is in photographs.

Thinking that it might perhaps be sky conditions, (rite... i didn't start yesterday.) I went on to Wasat to confirm stability. Check, dude. A short hop from there is all it takes to turn up the NGC2392, "Eskimo Nebula". At lower power, the NGC2392 is quite distinguishable as a blue green planetary accompanied by an orange field star. Power up? And rock on! The "Eskimo" shows a definate central star and shelled structure. It's like a very bright diffraction ring that haloes itself again, very specifically to one side, upon aversion. There's a muddiness to the middle that I believe photographically makes out the "Eskimo's Face", but this is just a misty appearance in the eyepiece.

While hounding Gemini, I went to Pollux and started my patience finderscope hunt for Psi. This is my "locator" star for another study, and this time I am not disappointed. The NGC2535 reveals structure that I only wish the previous galaxy study did! Yep, it's small and it's faint, but the stellar nucleas snaps right out when you move across the field and grabs your eye. Accompanied by a nice chain of three stars to the side, the NGC2535 shows a bright nucleas and definate arm extensions. A real pretty little dude! There is also supposed to be a companion galaxy here as well, the NGC2536, but I simply do not see it.

Feeling the cold beginning to seep through, I decided that was enough, brothers. There's a lot of other things right here in the constellations on Cancer and Gemini that I wish to explore, but tonight ain't the night. I'm pushing my luck enough. I cover the dob back up and pull it back into the garage. I gotta' stop and smile up at those stars one last time before I go back in! I know that my body will be as cold as Edj, the lizard when I peel these layers off... But there's a big difference between him and me.

I warm up.

"Staring at the loss... And looking for a cause. And never really sure. Nothing but a hole... To live without a soul. And nothing to be learned.

I can tell you why... People go insane. I can show you how... You could do the same. I can tell you why... The end will never come. I can tell you I'm... A shadow on the Sun."



November 20, 2003 - The Sun... A note from Dr. Tony Phillips... And "Aurora" by Terry Mann...

Comments: Hey, you know it. As incredible as last night's aurora activity was, I had to go and at least try and capture those sunspots again for my own personal records. I did everything but run home from work and a bit disappointed because by the time I got back, there was hazing clouds covering the Sun's face. No matter... I'm willing to give it a go anyway! And so I set up the trusty old Celestron, take out my video camera...

And here's what I got.

Let's start with our little "troublemaker" first, ok? This is spot AR484...


Not great, but far better than the one I took two days before. At least in this "still frame" you can see the umbra and penumbra structure more clearly.

Now, let's see what we can do with AR486...


Now this one I had a really difficult time chosing just one frame! As the video footage plays, the result is so clear and so perfect as to what can be seen in the eyepiece that it is difficult for me to chose just one frame (go ahead... pause your VCR once and see what kind of image YOU get! ;) because each one of them shows a difference in both sharpness of penumbral field, or else reveals a tiny follower that another frame does not. (yes, cor... i should be registaxing. but you know me... a slave to ease.) All due respects? It just doesn't matter. I solar observe because I love to solar observe. Let me give you my best Dr. McCoy imitation...

"I'm an astronomer, Jim. Not a photographer!"

Having said that... Wanna' have a go at AR488?? Then let's rock...


Isn't that something? It still blows my mind that I can hold the video camera up to the eyepiece and share (at least close) to what these gargantuan sunspots look like with you. The super-fine, almost crystalline-like structure of the penumbral fields will blow you away in the eyepiece. The absolute lack of light in the umbra regions is always fascinating... And to watch a series of spots expand, change and come round again is a treat that all amateur astronomers should share in.

Now that I've observed today's sunspot activity, I went in to check the data reports and magnetogram information and my call as to "why" last night's auroral activity appeared to the south did not go unaswered. One of the finest writers of astronomy articles I know, and also the editor and webmaster for Spaceweather.com, Dr. Tony Phillips answered my question:

"I've just this instant posted a picture on spaceweather.com taken tonight in Ohio. That photographer also noted that the auroras were in the south. This means the auroral oval, which normally surrounds the north pole, expanded to such an extent that Ohio was actually inside it.

The oval was south of you!"

Absolutely fascinated, I had to go immediately and check out the photo. Holy batscreen, Sunman! This is just exactly what I saw!! Definately excited, I wrote to the photographer, Mr. Terry Mann of West Manchester, Ohio and he gave me permission to share his photos with both you and the WRO website!



Photo credit: Terry Mann


You can see his Observatory in the photo, and the incredible skies we both witnessed... And not only was there one shot? But two! Check this out...



Photo credit: Terry Mann


(click on either one for the full size image... they rock!)

Wow... You can see Mars right in there... Just like I described it. Awesome job, Terry! I could have said 10,000 words and not have created a picture as beautiful as you did. Not only was I pleased to be allow to use his photos, but to find out he has also been a guest at the WRO during our "Hidden Hollow" convention. Thank you so much. I hope we meet in the future!

So for now? I am content to stay inside and heal. I've had a wonderful time viewing the shadows on the Sun and reliving last night's previous aurora through those great photos. The "vampyre" shift and the flu will keep me grounded (rite...) for a day or two, but I fully intend on keeping watch on the solar activity.

And the stars...

"Once upon a time... I was of a mind. To lay your burden down.... And leave you where you stood... And you believed I could. You'd seen it done before. I could read your thoughts... Tell you what you saw. And never say a word. Now all that is gone... Over with and done. Never to return.

I can tell you why... People die alone. I can tell you I'm... A shadow on the Sun."




November 20, 2003 - Aurora Over Ohio... The Sun... Aurora Comes Dancing Down - With A Vengeance...

Comments: Can I just die now and have it over with? Even my hair hurts today. Seems like this "cold" has my timing off, for I received a phone call this afternoon from a friend who is not into astronomy, but saw something this morning he wanted to know about. According to him "It looked like a big red wall to the north. Does it have something to do with those meteors I was seeing?" Ah, bless him. At least I wasn't the only one outside looking up this morning. But my friend did something I did not... And that was be out past 5:30. Smiling softly to myself, I congratulated him for observing the meteors and told him he had just witnessed the aurora borealis! I don't think this fellow will ever make a convert to my own form of "starry religion", but at least he's seen the light, eh? If I do nothing else in life, at least I've got the people I know standing around and looking up in the sky like a buncha' turkeys in the rain.

If I can't get you to look? Nobody can...

And speaking of look, I had to go back this afternoon for another look at the Sun as well. I didn't much feel like it, but I really did want to see. Setting things up, I was pleased to see that 488 had now rolled in far enough to begin to see some structure in the umbra and penumbra and went back in for my camera. Dead as a doornail. (don't worry... i'll be there to join you soon.) Apparently in my excitement yesterday, I left it on when I took the tape out. Oh, well. Forecast for the days ahead are for continued sunshine, and today SOHO has me covered...



SOHO MDI image


I'll sure give Michaelson Doppler Imaging credit for one thing... They manage to capture the faculae and granulation that I see and my camera resists. Absolutely awesome...

ShockSpot also barked today, so that mean the proton stream from the CME on the 18th has now struck Earth and we are in the "zone" for more aurora. Time for me to go see if I can make something I can stand to swallow and have a nap.

Who knows? I might even be awake to see this one.

****************************************************

Not only was I awake, but I was in a state of unreality. I walked outside at 6:30 pm EST and was met by four, huge, neon green, glowing clouds due south. Excuse me? South? Absolutely in a state of shock, I walked to the east field edge and looked about... Nada. Turning around, I still could not believe what I was seeing!

Believe it, ~T...

Mouth open, I stumbled out to the south field like I was in a dream. This is aurora! Oh, my gosh... Clouds simply do not glow like this! Not only do they "not glow", but considering the stiff breeze we have tonight? They should be moving as well. Pulling my coat tighter around myself, I looked around. There is not a cloud in the sky, nor has there been all day. The southwest is simply eradicated in this glowing mass. Huge pods of neon green spaced themselves out from about 40 degrees above the horizon completely to the southeast! Still in shock, I could only watch as they brightened and dimmed, then a huge white spire rose directly from the southernmost and shot straight up toward the zenith...

Clouds do not produce spires.

As I watched, a deep red nebulosity began to engulf the sky just south of Aquila. All thoughts of chasing Comet Encke, even briefly tonight, vanished. The deep red continued and held as the seperate clouds of green melded together in one long ribband across the entire southern skyline. The wind was so strong I could barely breathe, and I know I'm risking giving myself pnuemonia from being out here... But it looks like the a scene from the movie "Damnation Alley"! If this really is radiation, and it is... Guess it ain't gonna' matter, huh? But, after a few minutes longer, it did start to matter because my head was uncovered and I was sure starting to feel the effects of that cold wind. Fearful of missing something fantastic, I ran back in the house and put on an additional coat and grabbed a blanket as well.... I should be calling and alerting people to look, but oh, man.. They ought to be seeing this!

After about an hour, I took my eyes of the southern skies long enough to drag my lawn chair out and tuck down beside the pool for some wind break. Spires continue to appear like white search lights. Around the beam itself, the sky would gradually turn red, and then the spire itself would turn red. The green glow would come and go... Allowing the stars of the westered Capricornus, the southern Aquarius, and the eastern Cetus to show through once again.

Clouds just don't fade in and out like that.

At one point, I thought the show was over... And then it mirrored the Milky Way! A huge faded white spire absolutely copied the angle of the Milky Way and the constellations of Cynus, Aquila, Saggitta, and Vulpecula ended in a cone of multi-colored auroral light. This had to be one of the most fantastic things I've ever seen! The southern clouds are gone now... But as the spire that paralleled the Milky Way disappeared? They re-appeared again. How long is this going to go on? I don't believe it...

Here and there random meteors scratched the sky adding appeal to the show. I really wasn't looking for them, but movement catches my eye. Any type of movement... I almost went back in, but I don't believe what I'm seeing and I pull my blankets tighter around myself. The effervescent glowing clouds continue to dissolve, reform and emit towering spires. At one point in time there were ones positioned both east and west of the now culminated Mars. I watched as first one, then the other turned slowly red and evolved into nebulous patches. Each time I thought this was about to end... It would begin again... And always with those glowing green clouds.

I watched this incredulous display of the aurora borealis that doesn't polar align for two hours before I gave it up. Somehow, somewhere, I need an explanation for all I have seen tonight. Away from the pole? Yes. Away from normality? I need to know why. My head hurts from everything I have seen and I realize that I must stop now. It is time for me to send my auroral sighting reports and the facts out to the proper places and write a few words here while I still have presence of mind to do so. For a few moments there, if I had been anyone less than myself?

I might have believed it was the end of the world as we know it.

"I need my serenity...."



November 19/20, 2003 - Comet 2P Encke, Comet 2002/LINEAR T7, NGC869 and NGC884, M31, NGC206, M32, M110, M33, NGC604, NGC891, NGC7662, M1, M42, M43, NGCs 1973/75/77, IC434 and the Leonid Meteors...

Comments: Ah, man... No one deserves to feel this rotten. (well, maybe they do. but i can't think of anyone i dislike enough to wish this "cold" on them.) So, forgive me if my reports are somewhat disjointed or seem out of sync. I simply don't feel like taking many handwritten notes tonight and transposing them tomorrow, so I'll keep track as I do what I do tonight when I take breaks. All right? (yeah, rite. ;)

All right... Aaa aaaa aaAACHOO! Then let's do this.

Since I don't feel like assembling anything, and I don't feel like working real hard, I chose the dob and the 32mm. Rolling it out to the "courtyard", I walked out into the south field watching Venus blaze above the very end of sunset's glow. Then I go to the edge of the east field while the scope stabilized and watched for awhile for aurora. Well, if there was any... It ain't happenin' at my latitude tonight. But what is happening is some of the clearest skies I've seen in awhile, and I am very ready to go hunt down Comet 2P Encke again.

Using my "vague" map, once again it didn't take but a few minutes to find Encke's signature. Tonight it is captured in the field with a roughly 6th magnitude star and a brightish asterism that reminds me of the symbol for Aries. There's some other real fine pinpoints in the field as well, but I can't judge those down and dirty magnitudes very well. Following the lead from friend Paul, I tried to judge Encke's magnitude by going to a place where I knew the magnitude of a particular star. Again, I chose the M27. And again, M27 appears far brighter than Encke's diffuse form. But, what he told me to do was defocus a known magnitude star and have a go at it from there... And M27 is flanked by two 9th magnitude stars. Running that gorgeous nebula out of the edge of the field and defocusing didn't do it... So my next choice was Alberio and move just a bit west where the stars are also a known magnitude. And that number, sir? Is 9. My guess is that given Comet 2P Encke's diffuse, low surface brightness, we are looking at approximately a visual magnitude 9. (thanks, paul! cool trick!)

Oh, by the way... If you're hunting Comet Encke and want the type of directions I give ya'? Then look at the point star of Saggitta... And then look at Albeiro. Right in the middle between the two! Now... if ya' want me to be more technical? Then you take the map and look... It's probably 12 Vulpeculae in the field, but I've got a rather nasty headache from looking at the map at the moment.

But! Before I got that headache, the next thing I was after was 2002/LINEAR T7. And it's definately dimmer yet than Encke, a lot dimmer. At least a magnitude and a half dimmer, considerably smaller, but not as diffuse. Son-of-a-gun was right smack dab in the middle of the chain of Perseus! Again, I was working with a rough locator chart and LINEAR popped out because there is almost, like, nothing in the field with it. A couple of testy little stars, that are bright enough to be magnitude 11 or 12 anyhow... And when defocused, LINEAR is brighter than them. About that time, I was happily thinking of finding something to compare with when I noticed how bad my head was starting to hurt, and as my eyes began to water, I realized "why". Yes, I have a very bad cold... But I also have a neighbor that hasn't learned how to burn wood yet, bless 'em. It really isn't even cold enough to have a fire tonight, and they've shut their chimney down to keep in heat and they got an incomplete burn going on. The result is not smoke... It's a nasty, colorless gas that will burn the eyes and shut down what little breathing I'm capable of. No wonder my head hurts!

Rather than continue to pick at the map and identify the field stars, I just enjoy LINEAR for a few minutes longer. This one is definately different from Encke, because its' form is much more compact yet. I'm not picking out a nucleas, but I'm not exactly powered up enough to do that. Now, it's at the point where I can simply stand it no longer, and I put all the covers back on the dob so I don't stand a chance of getting any stray ash in there, and tilt it down. For now? It's right around 9:00. Time for me to go take a Tylenol and rest my head for while. Perhaps the winds will change and I'll feel better in a bit.

*********************************************

About an hour or so later, I couldn't stand knowing there were clear skies out there and I was sitting inside sniffling and snuffling and feeling sorry for myself. Bundling up a bit more warmly, I headed back out and one sniff of the air was enough to tell me things were gonna' be alright for awhile. Before I make the switch back to my good study 1.25 eyepiece, I decided to have a look at the NGC869 and NGC884. To be sure, the "Double Cluster" is an easy target in any scope, but the reality check lies in aperture. The incredible amount of stars that lay in these two open clusters are breathtaking in the dob. Only the 32mm will put them in the same field together, and that is how they should be appreciated. Either one taken apart is a wonderful cluster, but together their combined light is enough to narrow the pupil and broaden the mind. Truly this is one of the most premier areas in the sky!

After having my fill of direct starlight, I was ready for some galaxy "stuff". Trying to keep things light and simple so I don't get that headache back, I head for the awesome Andromeda with the 26mm and watch as it expands across several fields of view. The core is golden and gorgeous. As you drift out to the edges, here and there you pick up a sense of a dark dustlane. Using the 9mm picks out individual areas of brightness - structure in a distant galaxy! But no structure is so prominent as that which lies at the southern edge - NGC206. Knotted and clumpy looking, this particular region screams for more resolution, but if you yell at me? I won't listen. Two other real beauties are here as well, and I deeply enjoy the ellipticity of the M32, as well as the stretched form of the M110 and its' bright nucleas.

Hopping back down to Triangulum with the 26mm, it doesn't take long to realize my "Flying Dutchman", M33 is texas toast with this magnification. But... I see something, ok? There are clumps and knots everywhere in this diffuse structure, but the trailing edge has one big splash! Fumbling in my pocket, I take out a piece of scratch paper and make a few brief notes and one of my rotten field sketches. Right now it's time to tip this bad boy down and go find out what the heck this is! Putting on a pot of coffee, it doesn't take very long to find the "shiny spot" at the eastern limb of the M33 is designated as the NGC604 - a nebulous area. Too cool... Another such area as our own M42? Awesome...

Taking out a thermal mug with me, I stand staring at these magnificent 6.0 skies with map in hand. Too many stars! Like with trying to identify Encke and LINEAR's position earlier, there are more stars than what I'm accustomed to seeing on a routine basis, and the best I can do is stand and stare until I can pick out a pattern I can't miss. Laying down my chart, I make the moves for my next target and several sips of coffee and several minutes later I have located NGC891. Sweet!! A nice little edge-on galaxy that requires aversion to see a bisecting dark dustlane. Captured in a very stellar field, the NGC891 has a very noticable central bulge and very nice extensions. The dark dustlane only shows across the core area... But I am not complaining!

Grinning to myself and feeling much better about the world at large, I slide back in for another cup of coffee and hit the maps in search of NGC7662. For some reason, I have this object marked on my pocket notebook as something I need to study this year. After having found 13 Andromedae, it doesn't take long before this blue little egg shows right up with the 26mm. I've seen this before. Joe? This is your "blue snowball", isn't it?!? Dropping in the 9mm I can hear my war whoop echo of the distant woods... It's a ring! It's a ring, ring, ring! Not as perfected as the M57, far brighter, a hundred times smaller (figuratively, of course) and more compact than the "Helix" - the NGC7662 is definately a "shelled" planetary nebula! Trying to contain my excitement at the wonders a deep dark sky helps to reveal, I start picking my way with averted vision around the edges. Holy guacamole... We've even got a slight shell outside the shell... Then it happened. Blink! Right smack dab in the middle of that puppy is a little yellow star. Wow... All I can say... Wow!

Stepping away from the scope, I imagine I had a look on my face approaching stupidity. Ask me if I care. That was incredible! Flipping my little flashlight inside my mouth to keep my jaws shut and trying not to drool, I realize that I've gotta' make some notes. I'm getting further ahead of myself than I thought I could tonight, and my first best and true love of astronomy is keeping track of what I do. Notes taken, I finish the last of my coffee before it grows stone cold and realize I ain't feelin' so hot again. What say we move on to the M1 and then take a break for awhile, ok? And it is there we go to next... For the M1 is one of the finer objects the 12.5 dob can do. To my little scopes, the M1 will evermore remain a little glowing patch. To the big Meade? M1 is a collection of beautiful filaments that will rivet the attention because there is just "something about it". Like the M27, I was called to further study "why" I see the things I sometimes see. This will never happen to you if you only look at the M1 for a few seconds and move on. Stop. Really look at it. Do you see that sense of "movement"? Do you see that the M1 appears to live and breathe before your very eyes? The central pulsar is a well know fact, but as it pulses, it sends out polarized light in broad beams like a lighhouse. To watch the M1 with aperture is to see this. It shows in small scopes as well, but it is undefined. The sense of wonder I feel when an incredible object such as the M1 is in the eyepiece can never be matched. It's the reason why I do this...

Now let's go rest...

**************************************************

Around 12:30, I went back out fully intending just to put away the dob and go get some sleep. The winter Milky Way stopped me in my tracks. ~T? How can you even think of sleep when the skies look like this and you know you don't have to work tomorrow? (easy, dude... my head feels like it's stuffed with poison.) But I always fall for that siren song, don't I? I know the days ahead will mean more "vampyre shifts", limited time, and quite probably clouds, so I open up the dob one last time and turn it toward Orion.

Bad? Who feels bad?

At 26mm, the Orion nebula overfills the field of view and turns into a fantasy. Throughout the structure, filaments and embedded stars come to life and the dark little notch where the "Trapezium" waits wants to know if I have what it takes. I reach into my eyepiece case and carefully unwrap my seldom used barlow. With just the 9mm, six stars within the Trapezium are easy... Double that power and try not to throw up. Oh, man... This is just as sweet as the "Snowball"! They are doubles... I don't know how else to describe them. In blue and red... Stretched farther ahead is one lone star that makes the area appear pentagon shaped. It's white. And all around this? Is scallops... Like fish scales. Feeling myself reel from the power, I went back to 9mm and skipped over to the M43 to enjoy it seperateness. Going back further yet, I went down to 26mm, moved entirely and went for the little "triangle" of nebulae, the NGC1975375/77. This is a very pretty series of soft spoken nebulae with embedded stars... But I knew what I had to do.

The "Horsehead"...

Putting in the 9mm, I stopped only for a moment to enjoy Alnitak's duplicity and gently guided the dob south out of its' influence. Oh, man... There it is! Without a nebula filter, I don't suppose I shall ever see the IC434 as anything but a tiny dark notch in the long thread of nebulosity that flows across the sky like a whisper of cotton candy. Even then, I am never sure... But yet I am sure that this is the thread. It can be no other... It makes me feel complete tonight and I am happy to cover the dob for the last time and put away my eyepieces. It has been a glorious night and I am ready to nap again and look for meteors in just a few hours...

Care to join me?

*******************************************

I was pissed when the alarm clock went off at 3:20. I'll admit it. My head was feeling better, I was warm and sleeping... And I really didn't want to get up. Then I remembered "why" I had set it, grabbed a loose collection of clothes off the floor, threw on a coat and stepped out the back door at 3:30...

At 3:37 I came back in for more clothes and to start a pot of coffee.

Needless to say, the Leonid Meteor shower's response was immediate. After the first bright streak creased Ursa Major the moment I stepped out the door, to be followed within minutes by three more, I was wide awake and ready to watch. Knowing I'm risking making myself really sick, I take great care to bundle up well, and with my favourite blanket and thermal mug, I leave a crying H in the house as I go into the garage to fetch my warm, dry cushion for the redwood chair. Radio on, blanket wrapped, and just as snug as I could be, I saw the orange slice of the Moon on the horizon and moved my chair so that part of the sky was blocked. I was rewarded. Although I couldn't see a portion of the eastern sky, it was truly my pleasure to observe 30 bright Leonid meteors in a period of 90 minutes. Yep. That's not a great fall rate... Only about once every three minutes... Well, more like a flurry of 5 to 7, then nothing for awhile... But to me? That's outstanding! I may have missed a few by going back in after coffee and a peanut butter sandwich... But hey! Sometimes sacrafices must be made.

I notice there aren't very many cats around these parts anymore...

By 5:00 the fall rate had decreased to the point where I was starting to get sleepy. The Moon was defiantly lighting up the sky, seconded only by Jupiter which looks almost supernova bright. I feel no call to get out the scope and look. It is enough for me to see Arcturus on the horizon and to have watched the cloud of the M44 hang overhead. As nights off go? I couldn't have asked for a better one. All this and meteors, too. I thought about ya', Mr. Wizard. You're never too far away, you know...

I wish you well.

"Where do we go when we just don't know? And how do we relight the flame when it's cold? Why do I dream when my thoughts mean nothing... And when will we learn to control?

I need my serenity...."



November 19, 2003 - The Sun!

Comments: Well, well.... What have we here?

"Guess who just got back today? Them wild eyed boys that had been away... Haven't changed, still got lots to say... And man, I still think them cats are crazy!"

Not only did the Sun actually shine today, but rockin' spot 484 is lean, mean and back on the center of the scene! According to reports, this innocent looking sunspot...


Not only knocked off an M class flare, but also spit out a CME! Now how's that? Another from 484? Yep. It rotated in again, and it's still full of fire. It's been a real treat watching SWAN far side imaging as our "bad boys" have continued to live up to their reputations and still have been blasting away. This is really cool! If you've been following me for awhile, you'll remember some of our past lessons on Hale Values, right? This means that on half the solar surface, the positve field leads and the negative follows... At the other pole? It's reversed. Scientists have known for a long time that every 11 years the Sun reverses it's magnetic poles and Hale Values switch. The way this is accomplished is when the Sun expends it's magnetic energy through coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Of course, the astounding new theory is that the Sun's core is made of iron... But I'm not getting into that right now!

Cuz' looky here...


"They were asking if you were around... How you was... Where you could be found. I told them you were livin' downtown... Drivin' all those old gals crazy. The boys are back in town! The boys are back in town again..."

You got it. 486 and 488 are back in town. 488 is so embroiled in the Wilson Effect that it was impossible to get even a halfways clean shot on it. The granulation and faculae surrounding it were just incredible! But 486 was just a bit more cooperative... Not much, but a little. Wanna' look before I toast it out of existence?

Here ya' go...


Pretty cool, huh?

I'm looking forward to some sunshine tomorrow as well, and a chance better than the quick few minutes I got today to have a look. All three have returned and they are looking as good as... Well... As good as I'm sure you still do. For now? We're up for aurora alert. I've got clear skies and a couple of comets to keep me busy. If I can stay on my feet long enough? I'd actually like to see some deep sky again too. And if not? I'm perfectly content to make myself a themos of chai, snuggle up in that old redwood chair with a blanket, sniffle, sneeze, think some very wicked thoughts...

And see if I was right about the Leonids. :)

"It's serenity... In a place where I can hide. I need serenity. Nothing changes, days go by..."



November 17, 2003 - Comet 2P Encke, M27, M71, M29, M15, M34, M36, M37, M38, M31, M32, M110, M33, Saturn and the M42...

Comments: What's this? Clear skies? What a rarity given Ohio's current weather conditions! There's only one problem, though... Ol' ~T here isn't precisely feeling up to doing a whole lot of serious scoping. No, it's not an attitude problem... It's just a rotten cold. Something about a stuffy head, sore throat and feeling like you've been pretty much ran over by a truck tends to take some of the thrill out of a clear night. But, I'm also the kind of person who believes that anything that takes your mind off misery is a good thing...

And seeing Comet 2P Encke again would be just what the doctor ordered!

If predictions held correct, Encke should be easily visible in the Celestron 114. (good. cuz' i honestly don't feel like assembling anything tonight. just give me a scope i can whack outside the garage door, a couple of eyepieces, and some kleenex. i'm good to go...) I had no real clear cut idea of where Encke had traveled to besides the very generalized map in Sky and Telescope magazine. Just how close is it? Well... No offense, but they're about a close as the finder on my little Orion scope. They show you the highway, but it's up to you to know where to drive. Is this a bad thing? Nope. I've been navigating that old Celestron on the stellar freeways for so many years now, I know precisely what it's capable of and I picked up 2P Encke's signature in less than 10 minutes.

Hola! Look at how big and bright you've gotten since I've seen you last! And how diffuse... And there's coma! Near a moderately bright star... Nice asterism also along for the ride... A little condensation toward the nucleas, but not very daggone much... And just the most delightful suggestion of tail where the coma narrows down! Rather excited, I quickly took note of both the reflex sight and the finder's position, looked at where they were at in correlation to the stars, and immediately went for the M27 to try and confirm this baby's magnitude. OK, not a prime choice, for the M27 is always awesome and stops me in my tracks to enjoy it's "living" qualities. Mentally smacking myself back into the game, I note that 2P Encke is considerably dimmer than the M27, and I need something more diffuse to guage the magnitude by. Next stop? M71... Now we're talkin'. Still not quite as diffuse at 2P Encke, but roughly the same apparent diameter and very, very close to the same magnitude. Hmmmm... How do I describe this? So I go back to my marker star and repeat Comet Encke. It requires more aversion than what the M71 does, (actually M71 is direct and you do have to avert slightly to see the perimeters of the coma on the comet) but I'm pretty confident in saying they are within a half a magnitude of each other.

Feeling like my throat was being ripped out by the roots, I capped up the Celestron and headed back inside the dark house to make a cup of hot chocolate and alert a few people I know that might be interested in looking up Encke before it falls too far west. Realizing that I can't convey where it's at in the sky without at least a little bit of common information, I went back out with an old Tirion, reset the Celestron on the comet and called the shot. 21 Vulpeculae is your guide...

I've given you the right street. It's up to you to find the address.

Returning to my hot chocolate, it's time for a couple of Tylenol as well. Still excited from Encke, right now I'd rather ignore how I feel than just give up and die. The warm feels good, but for some odd reason I haven't put the scope away yet... And I find myself going back out again before 9:30. Right now we're "in the stream" for some Leonid meteors and I've got a little side bet going on when the activity will peak for our area. I know it's too early in the evening, but I can guarantee you that you won't see any meteors if you're inside! The sky is currently holding a nice, steady 5.0 and I can always sleep tomorrow. Heading for the west first, I look up M15 more out of rote than anything. It's just a right sweet globular cluster that has always been a Fall favourite and I enjoy it for what it is.

Of course, looking at a map meant that there are probably a few loose Messiers I haven't cataloged for my certificate and I can't help but wonder if the M34 is one of them. Located roughly halfway between Almach and Algol, the M34 is a pretty little open cluster to the 4.5. With the 25mm Celestron eyepiece, there are perhaps two dozen resolvable stars of various magnitudes. There is no real "asterism" at least to my mind's eye... Just a nice bright chain that loops back over itself like a celestial ribbon, with a notable orange star a bit south of the center. A loose, well-resolved collection and very pretty in the small scope.

Of course, you know I had to hop through Auriga. To my own shame I have totally lost track of C/2002 T7 LINEAR. I image it's probably climbed up into Perseus or Andromeda by now, but my head isn't in the mood for a further hunt and I am satisfied with simply cruising the M36, M37 and M38. Saturn is still too low yet, and the awesome galaxies are in a difficult position for an EQ mount... Besides, I could stand a few more minutes by the fire and a taste of peppermint schnapps to soothe the throat.

About an hour later, I went back out. Still no meteor activity, but the night is young. The M32 had westered enough to be enjoyed by now, and so I view this awesome galaxy with it's golden core and two companions: M32 and M110. I half heartedly went after the M33 as well, and I find I appreciate it's appearance much more in the Orion short-tube design than in the Celestron. I promise myself that in the days ahead I will unpack the SVD8 and set it that way. I know what these particular designs do to low surface brightness DSOs and I'm looking forward to using it again. Perhaps I'm allergic to that scope, eh? For I seem to remember the first time I got it that I was too daggone sick to use it as well... Maybe there's somebody out there with a voodoo doll of me sticking pins in my adam's apple for even thinking about using it, huh?

Smiling, I move on to Saturn as H whispers by in the dark. He has been as happy as myself to be outdoors again. The days of rain and low clouds have left us both feeling claustrophobic and restless. And the days have seen Titan reach the outside curve of its' western orbit to start round again. T Geminorum is now long out of the influence of Saturn, but it's still nice to see Rhea spaced out ahead of the leading edge, with the other "troopers" above and below. At 9mm the Cassini is a only a "hint" in this scope, and I move on before I start to miss my aperture. One thing never disappoints in any scope, and that is the M42. As I look, I remember how wonderstruck I was when I saw it for the first time... And I remember the deeply moving experience I had as I shattered the "Trapezium" and beheld all the true wonders that lay beyond the threshold of all that I know with the Observatory scope. I miss those times of innocence...

Perhaps one day I'll return.

"Tragic visions slowly stole my life. Tore away everything.... Cheating me out of my time. I'm the one who loves you. No matter wrong or right. And every day I hold you... I hold you with my inner child."



November 13, 2003 - NGC663, NGC654, NGC659, M103, NGC457, NGC637, NGC7789, Iota Cassiopeiae, Eta Cassiopeiae, Gamma Andromeda, Theta Auriga, the Moon and Saturn...

Comments: Clear skies! They happened a bit late, but I'll not argue with some sky time. It has been a very long time since I took the dob out for a walk and the rising waning Moon will not harm some work with open clusters or double stars. It has been a long time since I've worked my way through Cassiopeia, and with map in hand...

Off we go.

First port of call is the NGC663. A most excellent open cluster! Quite large and well resolved, the NGC663 has a curious "heart shape" to its' structure. Brighter stars seem to outline the edges, yet there are at least a dozen more brilliant yellows that snap into clean focus across the central portion of blue white pinpoints. A hop north brings open small, grainy little NGC654. It is slightly elongated... Almost UFO shaped and has a very conspicuous star to both the south, and one perhaps a magnitude dimmer to the west. South of the grand NGC663 is another small open cluster, but far brighter than the last. NGC659 is a small, lumpy little fellow whose appearance reminds me of a mis-shapened globular. Very clotted, like a tiny kidney bean with a growth on it... (sick, ~T... very sick. ;) The M103 is also a smash in the 12.5... Beautifully resolved, the entire cluster fills the void between a northern and southern sentinal star.

NGC457 is just amazing in this scope. What I percieve to be a loose open in small aperature, is a grandoise cluster in the dob. Very colorful... Sometimes called the "E.T.", friend Dave also described this one as "the Phoenix". Truly it bears out that moniker with aperature! The next is also really incredible... The NGC637. It is a "delta wing" formation a tiny blues that hold slightly higher magnitude stars at the north, west and east points. Very, very satisfying! And before I hop off to some doubles, I try my hand at NGC7789.... Awesome! A huge, sprawling cloud of starlight. Resolvable starlight. This one is so massive, you really must drop back to around 26mm to take it all it. Simply "star struck"...

Noting that we have extremely steady conditions, I thought I'd power up and try my hand at a demanding triple system - Iota Cassiopeiae. The A and C stars are no challenge. C seperates well away to the east, but that little bugger, B hugs right in the influence of the primary. When a moment of perfect clarity comes? Pow. Right there the little guy is! Watch drift... Gotcha'. The B star is at the west, southwest edge. Beauty! Eta is less of a challenge, but a pretty one. The primary star is quite yellow, and counterpointed nicely by a brilliant little red leading to the northwest. For the most part, people wouldn't consider Gamma Andromeda to be a challenge either... But put aperture on it and see what happens! The primary star is an awesome gold, and the secondary walks straight out as green at 2:00. (oh, sorry... northeast.) But watch it... Ah, there you are "blinker"! Due south of the secondary is a third companion whose blue color likes to "meld" with the green. I love this scope!

And I love Theta Aurigae...

My silicon star will always fascinate me in terms of its' spectral qualities. (yep. there is the B star and it's a light yellow...) Theta is the attraction here, with its' incredible "black flash". I know I've described it this way before, and I'm darn well going to do it again. Theta Aurigae looks like a black diamond. Most stars "pulse" in reds, yellows and greens. Not so Theta... Its' flash, its' fire is in purple, white and blue tones. Just an incredible star that's worth a visit.

I thought I'd steal a glimpse of the Moon before I packed it up for the night.... Ow! Wrong move. I had been keeping it behind the house while exploring the north and its' light is a hurtful insult to my eyes! Yep. Posidonus, Theophilus, Cyrillus, Catherina.... Too cool. And enough! Thanks... And I just kept looking a daggone Saturn. What cha' think? Wanna' do it before we go in? Works for me...

Yep. It's Saturn. Cassini very visble, nice back shadow.. Little troopers all spaced out on the leading ring edge, and both little Titans leading the way. WHAT THE????? That got my attention, folks! Laughing like crazy, I knew immediately that we had a star in the field, but not which one! Abandoning the dob, I ran back in the house to shoot off an e.mail to Otto and Joe. Check it out! Returning to the scope, I continued to grin... For I'll put money on it that Saturn will eclipse this little guy! Of course, my curiousity got the better of me, and both Otto and I have confirmed that the star is T Geminorum. Further research indicates that Saturn will indeed occult T Geminorum on the night of the 14/15th. Too bad I'm up for "Vampyre" shift again...

That would be a sight to see!

"Nothing changes, days go by...

Where do we go when we just don't know? And how do we relight the flame when it's cold? Why do we dream when my thoughts mean nothing? And when will we learn to control?"



November 9 - 12, 2003 - Of Moon Madness, Sun Dogs and Pillars, Cold Rain and Windswept Visions...

Comments: How can I describe the last few days? Cold desperation, would be a way to sum in up in two words. I have felt totally lost and at odds with myself... When I arrived home from work on Sunday, I received the news that my Uncle had passed away of a sudden heart attack... And I went numb. I think it was perhaps two or three days before I could bring myself to record the date here. I have been in a curious limbo ever since.

One foot in Heaven and one foot in Hell...

I stood outside that night, watching the Moon. There was no desire to take out a telescope... For I am angry. I am mad at the Moon for trashing up such beautiful clear skies... I am mad at life for taking such unexpected turns... I am mad at myself for my lack of desire. And yet I watch... Feeling a cold peace in knowing the Universe goes on. The red eye of Taurus, Aldeberan, is my companion. Mars' frosty orange fire never seems to leave this sky. This Moon will shine on, despite the stars or my feelings... Even anger will not stay it from its' path.

The following day brought feather-like clouds to the sky... And a beauty of their own. It seems that no matter what time I went out to look, there was a "sun dog". I am sure that everyone who reads my babbling garbage has seen these tiny "mock rainbows" cached against the clouds. They, too, are cold... A simple trick of atmosphere, curvature, and tiny droplets of moisture diffracting the sunlight. They are a natural phenomena, both fleeting and inspiring. But none so inspirational as the "sun pillar".... Just before sunset, I walked past a window and saw its' perfection. Not even in the mood to take a camera, I walked outside to the south field where I could see it unobstructed. Again, a natural phenomena, brought on by Ohio's rapidly changing weather. I watch for perhaps fifteen minutes as the Sun creeps down to the horizon... This tower of pure gold reaching for the clouds.

It is cold.

The following day is warmer, but the rains have began again. They wet the dying grass all through the night, plastering the wind fallen leaves against the ground like a Cosmic child had mounted them on earth-toned carboard. The grey days of early winter have returned and hope seems so far away. The rains carry on through the next day, yet here and there, the skies clear and the sunlight stabs though with blinding intensity. It illuminates the tears on the faces of those I love, while the wind dries my own. It lights the barrels of the guns as they fire a last salute, and echoes along the brass as the bugle calls out "Taps". As night falls, the change in weather becomes inescapable. The rapid shift between temperatures has put my area under tornado advisory, and as the Sun sets it illuminates a huge wall cloud to the northwest. Lightning flashes, thunder rumbles... And H cowers at my feet. The storm passes, but it brings with it scouring winds that bend the giant pine tree at impossible angles.

And visions of the night...

The force of the wind is incredible. It lashes my hair around my face and threatens to tear away my coat. Yet, there is a chill and solemn harmony to this scene, for the stars shine on in the blackness of this night. Mars is a silent sentinel in the south, counterpointed by the blue peace of Cassiopeia. The Moon hides behind a wall of clouds, its' own form of eclipse, revealing the crystalline perfection of the stars. I watch as the storm front moves east, its' edge turned golden from the moonlight. The Plieades appear and the deep "V" of Taurus is revealed. The winds threaten to take me from my feet, the driving cold making me shiver despite my covering. It sends branches flying and trashcans bumping their way past like synthetic tumbleweeds. The pool cover snaps and flutters like a child's handkerchief held outside a car window, held only in place by the rainwater which fills the center, the lashings cracking like whips. The very sheer of the wind rips loose all manner of things and sends them scurrying across the open east field for the woods...

And reveals the gibbous Moon.

Cold silver fire rains down upon the scrubbed landscape, illuminating the damage brought about by the inexorable wind. It turns the captured rainwater between the furrows of the plowed field into liquid ice. The wind screams through the skeletal branches of the trees, and the pines are crying out a frightened song. The gusts take on a freight train fury, and you can hear them coming across the fields to claim you. It howls around the village's buildings like the lonesome coyote in the south woods. Chimneys play a mournful tune, and wires thrum from the intensity. And above it all? The stars shine on... Oblivious to the chaos below. What power our Earth has! I don't know whether I am shivering from the raw temperatures or the magnificence of the change... Whatever it is, it brings me...

Cold peace.

"As I stand here and slowly close my eyes, I take another deep breath... And feel the wind pass through my body. I'm the one in your soul... Reflecting the light. Protect the ones who hold you... Cradling your inner child.

It's serenity... In a place where I can hide. I need serenity..."


In Loving Memory...

Of Aurthur Wendell Watt, who passed away on this day, November 9, 2003.

Born on February 24, 1924 he was a sailor, a father, an electrical engineer, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, an accomplished fisherman, and a damn fine human being.

Godspeed, Uncle...




"Because no one knows what it's like... To be the bad one. To be the sad one.

Behind blue eyes..."



November 8, 2003 - A Total Lunar Eclipse...

Comments: I guess there comes a time in one's "astronomy life" when you have to reflect on how you feel about things. Whether or not what you do as a public personnae is appealing to you... Or whether you'd rather be alone. I had made the decision to be with my friends tonight at the observatory, and it would be the first time in my life I had ever witnessed a total eclipse in the company of a large group of people. I'm not sure how I'm going to react to the whole thing, but I know I'm excited... And that's what counts.

Arriving in plenty enough time, I had the little Orion with me, for I find lunar eclipse watching far more satisfying with the naked eye than with a telescope. Mind you, I stil like looking through the scope as the shadows race across the features, but the true beauty is looking up and seeing the movements of our own solar system brought to life before our eyes! And, of course, the movements of our own atmosphere as well, eh? For as the Moon started into the penumbral shadow of the Earth, it was partly eclipsed by the clouds as well...


But there was no despair on my part, or on any of those around me. We here in Ohio understand our skies, and it is not uncommon for clouds to follow either in the wake of, or proceeding the Sun. The temperatures are dropping rapidly and the clearing will come. The beginning penumbral shadow was incredibly deep... Deeper than most of us expected it to be. Is this just the contrast from the glare of the full Moon? Or will totality be the darkest we've seen in some time?

The minutes ahead will tell...

The skies began clearing immediately after that, and the collective crowd began to hold its' breath as we watched the shadow progress futher and further across the lunar surface. Dave is with me tonight, and we trade of views in the eyepiece, watching a bright point slowly being eaten by the terminator. We check our watches, both of us amazed that an hour before the predicted time that we have so much shadow coverage. Ordinarily the penumbral only makes a slight coloration difference... But this acts almost like the umbra! Again, we are sure it is just a trick of the eye... But it's a fine trick. The further and further that shadow progresses, the easier and easier it begins to be to see those "red tones" that lay just at the edge of perception.


By now the cold has become a force to be reckoned with. Any exposed skin has felt the bite, and it is difficult to breathe without causing a blue haze on the eyepiece or the camera. And it's so hard not to breathe! The excitement of the people around us is palpable... Including our own. Many voices talk at once, each describing what they see in either the eyepiece - or as they watch. All about me, cameras are snapping pictures, and children are chattering. I take a few minutes away to hand out some of the last of our JPL/NASA goodies to the many young faces in the crowd, as well as take them up on the lift to view the eclipsing Moon through the slit of the dome. I have no real urge to unleash the 31" on this scene, for I find it more satisfactory to behold with one's own eyes.

Slipping away to the outside, I go back and find that Dave has happily taken over keeping the little Orion on the eclipse. I can't tell you how much pleasure it gives me to stand away and watch him talk to this one and that as they view through the scope. Mon ami? This is what it is all about... I lay a hand on his arm and give him a smile as I reach for my camera. I can only hope the cold has not found the battery just yet! We laugh together and we watch the Moon through the camera's screen... It looks like a reverse "buckeye"!

A delightful piece of "eye candy"...


(and no, i haven't gone daft on you... some photos were taken through the scope, and you know what happens when you use a reflector. ;)

The time is drawing ever closer to the magic moment of 8:06... And it seems to slow down. Even the people around me are quieter. I slip away from Dave to look through Joe's "Skywind" and find myself spiriling toward the lunar surface. Joe laughs at me in the dark, because he knows what kind of impact stereo vision has on me. I take a moment to visit with Terry, both Mikes, Ted, Keith, Curt and Robert as well. Monty is here, manning Mike's videocamera, and Ron is happily taking pictures as well. There are many faces that I do not recognize in the dark... But they all are welcome. But it's coming down to that moment... That one moment I find the most special of the eclipse... And I head on back to my own scope.

Totality is near.


Tycho explodes into a golden cauldron, its' bright rays transformed into splash marks of molten lava. I hear myself calling out to alert the others to look... It is incredible. I am amazed at the stellar field, there are so many grazers around the orb of the Moon, I am surprised that there is not an occultation. Truly it doesn't get more beautiful than this!! I look down at my watch and realize we are in totality...

As the others chatter excitedly, I walk through the bushes and out into the fire ring. It's all here, Bossman... Just like a dream. Arching up over the dome is the glittering Milky Way... You can see the "Double Cluster" and the Andromeda Galaxy with ease. The eclipsed Moon stands so near the Plieades, they paint a portait on these skies you know. Everything feels so close... Like you could reach out and touch it. Yet it's so far away. This moment is for you. Do ya' hear Van Halen? "Got my drink in my hand... Got my toes in the sand..." And I reach up... Just like I could touch that firelit Moon...

And smile.


I see John inside the Dome touring the sky with our guests and I return as well. Ted has his 17" Odyessy out, and it is my pleasure to view both Encke and NEAT. All around, scopes are moving to a variety of deep sky objects for the pleasure of our guests... And I think I got lost somewhere in the sands of time, dude. It feels good to get a hot cup of coffee and just stand here next to Robert watching this vision. I am frozen. No doubt about it. Despite my many layers, the cold has found its' way in... And it's here to stay. Dave and I laugh and hop to a few simple targets, and it is a wonder we can even find the Moon the finder is so far off. No matter. Back to the Moon we go... For totality is quickly passing away and the silver smile of sunshine is lighting up the eastern edge once again...


People are beginning to drift away now. For them? The show is over. I don't blame them. It is very cold. Small children and the older ones do not tolerate it well. There are some who have come dressed warmly... And they linger on asking questions. Those of us who do not know when to quit are rewarded with bright meteors who's radiant speaks louder of Taurids than Leonids. Like the beginning phases, the slow reappearance of sunlight as the Moon egresses from eclipse is just as fascinating as ingress. There are many of us who hold our ground... Joe, Terry, Dave, Keith, Robert and Curt. For us? It ain't over til' the Fat Lady sings... And brothers?

She's getting fatter by the minute!


About that time, my camera decided enough was enough. The sustained hours of cold had drained its' battery to the point where it simply shut itself off. I can understand... Even I am feeling the cold. (what is it about the cold and gettin' old, dude? even ozzy is gonna' walk better than me tomorrow... ;) The little Orion has been broken in right, for there is frost on its' shiny black sides. I stay on and watch until the shadow is almost gone, enjoying the free fall through space once again in Joe's Skywind. One by one, we begin to break our equipment down and tuck it away into our respective vehicles. The dome has long ago been closed down for the night and the last of our visitors departed.

It has been a very unusual experience for me. I have missed the solitary peace of my own backyard, yet at the same time I have thoroughly enjoyed the company of my friends. The event turned out very well... Very well, indeed. Our turnout was wonderful, we had more cooperation than I've seen in a very long time, and the people truly seemed to have enjoyed themselves. The only thing that was really missing was rock and roll!

And you...

"Because my dreams... They aren't as empty. As my conscience seems to be. I have hours... Only lonely. My love is vengeance. That's never free.

If my fist clenches? Crack it open. Before I use it and loose my cool. And if I smile? Tell me some bad news. Before I laugh... And act like a fool. And if I swallow anything evil? Put your fingers down my throat. And if I shiver? Please give me a blanket... Keep me warm. Let me wear your coat..."



November 7, 2003 - Wasting Time?

Comments: Yeah, it's clear. Yeah, it's cold. And yeah, that big, phat Moon is wiping out the sky. Still, I take a certain satisfaction in being outside at night and so I am. I watched in the earlier hours for the lunar position and rise times because I know I'm not crazy. Unless there is like an entire mountain in the way at the Observatory, the total eclipse should be totally visible from start to finish. And if it isn't? Then I'm gonna' be totally ticked that I just didn't stay right here on the flat lands where I belong, watching the whole thing. Trying to project the skyline on my imagination of another viewing area is tough enough, but it should come up in that little dip between the trees where the driveway goes up the Hill at around 6:30. Ah, well... We'll see, won't we?

I turned the 4.5 at Mars for a few minutes... It's been far too long since I've looked. Even with the power the 10mm provides, there's a really good reason why I haven't bothered in a while. There's not much to speak of. Still very conceivable as an orb, and still very much "bruised" looking, Mars has gone beyond it's prime for the small scope and I lose interest quickly. Instead I prefer to use the violet filter Otto gave me to pick at some bright lunar features that look electric in this color. Oddball things like Keplar and Aristarchus. Some are bright rings, like Pytheas, Autolycus and Dionysus. Still others are just cool, like Theophilus, Torrecelli, Manillus, Autolycus and Posidonus. There are some here I've never really noticed before as well, and I happily use my maps to identify Romer and Alfragunus.

It doesn't take long before I get bored with this as well. I'm just wasting time. Taking off the filter, I pick around at a few bright stars enjoying their color, but I'm wasting time. Although I look highly forward to the lunar eclipse, I'm sure looking a lot more forward to dark skies again. Sister Moon?

Go away.

"No one knows what it's like... To feel these feelings. Like I do.. And I blame you. No one bites back as hard... On their anger. None of my pain and woe... Can show through."



November 6, 2003 - Clear and Steady...

Comments: I'm not precisely sure of where the clear skies came from, quite probably from the cold temperatures, but I'm not arguing with them. The early evening had been a wash of clouds and I had spent my free time moving my this year's reports over to a permanent site while I had time. I had given up around 9:00 or so, and happily made myself a cup of chai and settled in the easy chair with a brownie and a sensless television program. Just dreamin'. I was content there by the fire...

Until I saw the blue light.

Knowing from the reflections that the Moon was out, I happily put on a coat and moccassins to slip outside for a bit. I wasn't going to scope... Honest! I was just going to look. At least until I saw how pure the skies were! The old Celestron doesn't mind a few minutes. I set it outside the garage door and turn on the radio to keep H and I company. He prowls around, nose down on the silvered grass... And I prowl around on the lunar surface. Not bringing anything with me but a 25mm eyepiece, it was a quick prowl. Hansteen and Billy... The "shoeprint" of Nasymth... A glance at Grimaldi, and a blast of Tycho's rays. It's good to see Orion so well risen, and even the gibbous Moon cannot eradicate the M42. I nod and smile and the M36, M37 and M38 as well... But I can definately tell my "at ease" clothes aren't exactly suited to the outdoor conditions. Capping things back up, I watch H for a bit, enjoying his antics. The night is lovely! I hope we have this kind of clarity for the lunar eclipse. Cold and clear...

Now, let's head on back to the fire.

"But my dreams... They aren't as empty. As my conscience seems to be... I have hours... Only lonely. My love is vengeance. That's never free."



November 4, 2003 - Soft Aurora... Solar History... Taking On Tycho...

Comments: No, I'm not crazy. I just bounce back and forth between night and day shifts, so you'll often find observations from midnight one night and the same date in the next report, only at a later hour.... Like tonight! Thanks to more incredible solar flares from the egressed 486, Ohio is still under the "blanket" of the aurora borealis. I was very surprised and pleased to see the pink tones once again through Perseus and Andromeda... Despite the Moon! Happily fetching my after dinner coffee, I dragged the lawn chair under the olive tree at the east edge of the field to "shade" me from the moonlight and again enjoyed the show. The interference from our lunar companion definately wiped out any of those blue/green apparitions, but the orange and pinks were absolutely unmistakable. Every so often a white "spire" would rise from the northeast horizon, but they didn't reach any higher than Algol. Still, it was a delightful way to spend 45 minutes or so... And I am still deeply impressed with the power the Sun has to create such beauty!

And, of course, I want to check the data... I don't believe this! AR486 has produced the largest x-ray solar flare ever recorded! An astounding X28 class...



SOHO EIT FE XII camera


Be careful of what you wish for, eh? This series of huge solar scabs that we've now followed in these reports from back to October 19th when AR484 rotated into view has truly made history. I am deeply appreciative of the equipment at my disposal and the initiative to keep watch. I'm sorry I slept during the afternoon or there might have been chance at capturing a white light flare (WLF) on film. Ah, well... Who would have believed that AR486 hadn't finished with us yet?

And who's to say it won't be just as bad the next time it comes around... ;)

Fiddling around the early evening hours, I decided to wait until the Moon rose a bit higher and see what's exciting on the lunar surface. I chose the old Celestron as my companion and return when it has pretty muched reached its' highest point to the south. Like our record breaking sunspots, the aurora is long gone...

But Tycho isn't.

At only 50 million years old, Tycho's 56 mile expanse has been, and shall always be, not only one of the most spectacular lunar features - but also one of the most difficult to draw details out of. Using a variety of eyepieces and filters, tonight it is my pleasure to take it on.

The 5200 foot central peak is a given... This is achievable with a minimum of magnification... But it takes a rare moment of clarity and stability to see 13,800 foot depths and draw out just the tiniest hint of ridged structure on the western interior rim. Accompanying craters, Pictect, Proctor, Sasserides, Hensius, Wilhelm, Montaneri, Brown and Street show wonderful deep wells of craterlets. And there is one very important craterlet here as well... It is to the north of Tycho proper and its' central peak shines easily as well. It is between these two that the soft "sand dune" effect takes over, and the knowing that this is where Surveyor 7 landed. Tycho baffles me. Its' details wink in and out, yet it responds wonderfully with yellow filter of all things! Of course, the night is not the steadiest I've ever seen, but it's not bad. The days ahead will turn Tycho into the awe-inspiring, in-your-face impact crater that it is. Its' bright rays will stretched for thousands of miles across the lunar surface, inspiring all who look at it. Tonight it is enough for me to have seen some of the lettered craters that accompany this magnificent lunar feature, and to have followed its' rays along the rugged Southern Highlands.

It rocks...

"No one knows what it's like... To be the bad man. To be the sad man. Behind blue eyes... No one knows what it's like to be hated. To be fated... To hearing only lies."



November 4, 2003 - The Moon...

Comments: Ah, you gotta' love it. Sleep away the late afternoon hours and the early evening... Arise when the night is the quietest. It so warm this evening, and when I look out to see the bright stars of Orion hanging to the south and the Moon descending, with Mars low to the west, I know I'll feel much better about the world at large if I go out and look for a few minutes.

What is it about the Moon? Most people simply look at it and say "Oh. The Moon." Most deep sky observers won't even venture out on its' journey across the sky. Me? I can never look at it without perceiving it as a perfect orb hanging out in space. I can only see it as a nearby member of our solar system... Forever dimensional.

And forever interesting.

I chose the old Celestron for my journey tonight. It always stands ready to go, taking me to my destination in mere seconds. Copernicus holds center stage, almost begging for attention. Clavius looks wonderful as well... But in my eye? There can be only one I want. Tonight it is Plato. Perhaps it is just the sparkle that calls, eh? And I answer... I rarely use the barlow, but the steadiness and clarity make it and the good 9mm my companions tonight. Despite the age of the Celestron, it's optics (while dusty and dew marked) remain impeccable. This is why I love this scope. The flat and loveless eye of Plato is anything but...

There is a long furrow that extends to the north of the crater proper, and intersects with its' northern wall. It is shallow, and looks all for the world like a meteor came in at an angle and carved into the soft dunes. It has this sense of curvature that cannot be missed and ends in a small craterlet. Speaking of craterlets, Plato is under the perfect lighting conditions at the moment to reveal four very shallow depressions that curve gently in a line from north to south. The west wall contains several well highlighted ridges and a minute crater of its' own. The east wall is far more rigid, and seems less eroded with time. To the south outside the crater rim stands two equally tiny craterlets overlapping one another. Plato gives such a shallow sense... The sands far darker and different than any other place but Billy. There is a crater due west, just at the edge of the soft dunes that appears to be three times as deep as Plato's 8,000 feet. It's is conical... Perhaps an impact crater. Beautiful nonetheless...

Before I leave I stop for a moment to smile at Mons Piton and Mons Pico... Those 17 and 18 mile high "pyramids" of the Moon. It is time for me to leave now... I put away my equipment and still look up as I return for my car keys. My reward is a bright, fast meteor who twisting silver trail momentarily eclipses Aldeberan.

Perhaps a Taurid?

If so, this is the child of Comet Encke. It's close pass this year will rejuvinate this particular meteor shower for the future. Singing along with "Korn" on the way to work, and definately feeling like a freak on a leash, I cannot help but wonder how far Comet Encke has cruised across space since I've seen it last... Or how bright it has become!! Just a few more days, Traveller...

Just a few more days.

"The king is gone but he's not forgotten. This is the story of a johnny rotten. It's better to burn out... Than it is to rust. The king is gone, but he's not forgotten..."



November 3, 2003 - Ciao, Baby...

Comments: Well, a bit of sunshine and vampyres don't usually mix... But I'm not missing the chance to have one last look at record breaking spots 488 and 486. (well, they had a little help from 484, too... ;)


Right on the edge of the visible solar surface, the two monsters are now rounding the bend and will be gone by tomorrow. You can still see the Wilson Effect dimpling the limb on the lower of the two. All the activity has been totally cool.. You know what, baby? Ya' might be gone...

But you're not forgotten.



image by Victor DeCristoforo


Yesterday's CME should be dealing the Earth a glancing blow tonight... And although this old vampyre isn't going to be awake to see it, thanks to an awesome friend and fellow astronomer, Vic, I can remember... He also lives in Ohio, and he was the only one out of my compadres who caught the aurora on October 29. Check out Aurora - 2003. These were some pictures he sent me that were far too good not to share!! (and keep... ;) I thank you most kindly, mon esprit sombre de la nuit. Doc?

You're incredible.

"Hey, hey... My, my. Rock and roll can never die. There's more to the picture... Than meets the eye. Hey, hey... My, my."



November 2, 2003 - The Sun...

Comments: Folks? I ain't believin' this. There was some cloudy sunshine today, so I thought I'd set up for a few minutes and have a looksee at gargantuan spots 486 and 488 on their outward rotation. Thanks to the happily passing clouds, I decided against trying to take any photographs... But given the extraordinarily warm temperture, I was delighted to watch the Wilson Effect that both of these spots are putting off in their egress.

It's really hard for me to say which of this pair is the more beautiful!



SOHO MDI image


Both are highly complex. It is like an all day chore just trying to gauge the number of followers in both series. I find myself doing something that I haven't done in awhile, and that is sketching the pair. It's a pleasing way to spend an hour or so in the afternoon sunshine... And I'm happy just to have seen.

Then I get up tonight to go to work and read the data...

Man. I still ain't believing this. We've rocked off another X8 class flare and a coronal mass ejection as well! Small wonder the distortion of the Wilson Effect was so high!! This is some totally incredible activity... Although we know that a CME on the limb means the proton stream won't be squarely Earth directed, it will still caress the edge of our magnetosphere and possibly produce more aurora for Ohio.

Let me share with you some of the beauty captured on October 30 by fellow AFY member, Curt....



image courtesy of Curt Goff


Isn't that totally freekin' awesome?!? Curt lives just a bit east of me, and I am so proud that he managed such a terrific shot! The on-going radiation storm has left our planet doing some pretty amazing things...

Kinda' like glowing in space, huh?


"Out of the blue, and into the black... You pay for this and they give you that. And once you're gone? You can't come back.... When you're out of the blue and into the black."


November 1, 2003 - At the Observatory: "Haunted Star Party"...

Comments: Well, unfortunately it was a haunted "Cloud Party", but all's well that ends well in Ohio... At least it didn't rain! (much... ;) I can't tell ya' how good it was to see my friends gathered around enjoying themselves. Massive quantities of food, tiny red lights, glowing pumpkins, a bit of fire from the grill and rock and roll are enough to make cloudy skies seem unimportant. (and if you're so inclined and don't mind waiting for the page to load? you can see us here!)

The rock steady members of the AFY were all in attendance, and that makes the night twice as special. Curt, Robert and Greg all have a wonderful sense of humor, and their costumes helped lighten the mood. I was surprised to see Dave, Joey, Keith, Terry, Ron. Mike and a new member as well! It was great just to be able to stand around and talk in a "no pressure" situation... Gabbling over the last few day's aurora activity and talking about anything that grabs our fancy from astronomy to cartoons. Of course, I hear drums... And no trip to "Hidden Hollow" would be complete for me unless I rocked for awhile with Sean!

We did have some guests however, and they turned up at the most oppportune time. A gentleman had brought his two grandchildren on the off chance that someone might be at the Observatory and they lucked in at the one moment the skies cleared. Greg and I both hustled to set up scopes, and I'm sure that they got to see Mars, the Moon and the Plieades before our unwelcome guests came back. No matter, I've always got a trick or two up my sleeve and managed to show the kids a good time for their visit.... Cuz' ya' can't come over here unless you listen to my silliness and at least get a ride to the top of the dome!! (and you aren't leaving without some goodies from JPL/NASA either...)

We talk and enjoy each other's company until the hour grows late... It's been a wonderful evening. With Curt and Robert's help, it only takes minutes to clear up the "party" and pack it away. While I wish more members had turned up to enjoy the food and fellowship, I also realize that ya' can't always be where you wanna' be. I missed you, "Bossman"!

Even Dave liked Nirvana... ;)

"My, my... Hey, hey. Rock and roll is here to stay. It's better to burn out... Than to fade away. My, my... Hey. Hey."

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