OBSERVING REPORTS ~ April, 2001

April 30, 2001 - The Sun, and the Moon...

Comments: It was near sunset tonight when I had a chance to observe our nearest star. AR9393 has rounded the bend except for one last, lone spot. The large depressed area at the northern pole is also gone. The result? Wonderfully warm weather! I'm ready to catch some "rays"! Tried my hand at photographing the Moon while it was still in the "blue"... I shall be interested to see the results!! As darkness claimed the sky, I just enjoyed watching the stars pop out one by one, and drank in the view of "la Luna". Curiously enough, my attention was drawn (pun semi-intentional) to the Southern HIghlands. Normally I prefer the northern area, but tonight Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus, Arzachel. and Thebit commanded my attention! The shadow play was simply stunning!! Break out the sketch book... Again! ;-)

"If I had the Sun and Moon... and they were shining... I would give you both night and day..."  

April 30, 2001 - (4:00 a.m.) M57, M27, NGC6826 and Mars....

Comments: Ok, Ok... I know I should be sleeping, but I've got all of tomorrow for that! And that sky... overhead it IS virtually black... the stars simply meld from Lyra down to Cygnus! The North American Nebula area glows sweetly from the swath of light that is the Milky Way! Come on, 4.5! Let's go!!! My intention was solely to look at Mars filtered this morning... but I was feeling a bit "planetary" when I saw how transparent the sky is! The "Ring" was a perfect start-up... (makes me want a doughnut with this cup of coffee!). Then off to the "Dumbell"... (which is also a personal favorite) to delight is it's living appearance! (yes... you know i went there. how could i visit the sky and not caress it?) Eyes front, astronomer! Concentrate, remember? Back up again into Cygnus, and over to Theta to catch the NGC6826. What a delightful tease this one is! If you want to play games with your averted vision... go here! When you hold it directly, it looks like a pinpoint of light... give it the "lazy eye" and poof! It becomes a nebula! Back and forth... until I feel dizzy with delight! (Somewhere in the back of my head, I can see Mr. Spock arching an eyebrow... "Fascinating!") And as for Mars? No matter what what filters I use, or magnification (i haven't tried with the barlow yet... didn't feel like throwing up this morning, ok?), I still can make out no more detail than the dark maria! Perhaps I shall unleash the dob on it... soon!  

April 29, 2001 - the Sun, (9:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.) Jupiter, the Moon, M81, M82, Castor, Wasat, Algeiba, Mizar and Alcore, Dubhe, Polaris, Cor Caroli, Ras Algethi, and Porrima....

Comments: Our outstanding sunspot area has rotated almost completely out of view... on one last straggling bit is left! No more interest? (Are you kidding?!!!) There's still eleven great active areas left of the face the Sun is showing now!

Back again as soon as the sky has darkened... peeking in on Jupiter reveals all four moons tonight, paired off evenly to either side, with one group appearing to be ahead of the planet, and the other group behind! (still love that depth perception!) Now, off to the Moon! Back once again to haunt Serenitatus and dream of how magnificent it must have been to gone there! I could simply bore you blind with details, but I think I'll just let the sketches speak for themselves... Now, on to try my hand at the M81 and M82! Using the 4.5, it was easy enough to find them, but trying to add the faint starfield was driving me crazy shifting my focus between the eyepiece and sketchpad! (Enough of this... wheel out the Great White.) Talk about a dramatic improvement! Using the 32mm, 2" eyepiece gives the same basic view that you see with the 25mm in the small scope. (a bit more precarious to balance on a step with flashlight, pencil and pad in toto... but hey! The results were well worth it....) When I had finished, I just felt like a bit of play. So off to see what the dob can do on doubles! Castor was a wide split! Now walk east... Wasat, Algeiba (very tight, yellow and orange!), Mizar and Alcore (sheer electric blue... intensely bright!), Dubhe (creamy yellow, tiny flat, blue companion), Polaris... now here's when I became excited! I haven't tried this one in a great many years! Appearing very close, like Dubhe, Polaris is white, faintly tinged with yellow, and also had a tiny blue shadow star!) Cor Caroli (personal favorite), Ras Algethi (stunning red/green combination) and ended at Porrima, a sweet pale yellow double of virtually equal size and brightness! Enough for tonight...

"Hello darkness, my old friend... I've come to talk with you again."  

April 29, 2001 - The Moon, Epislon Lyrae, M56, Alpha Herculis, M92, Beta Cygni, and a Surprise(!)...

Comments: I had held more hope for the sky than what I received, but as long is there is anything to look at... I am pleased! The Moon sat in its' own collective field of hazy light, but the seeing condtions were quite steady. Craters Theophilus, Cyrilus, and Catharina held my attention quite well! (As did another bright star in the constellation of Gemini... and here I was hoping to catch yet another occultation! No matter... it was still quite pleasant to watch a star compete with the Moon!

Off to Epislon Lyra... negative on seperation. The pairs look like "siamese twins"... irrevocably locked together for tonight. The M56 globular was simply a charactuer of itself, appearing as a large "out of focus" star... Now for Alpha Herculis... same effect. No forgiveness in the sky tonight! The M92? Just a fuzzy ball... Ah, well. Off to Albeiro! As long as you can see it, this lovely orange/blue double never disappoints!! And as I stood counting stars... "Goodness gracious! Great balls of fire!!!" A wicked metallic green bolide dropped straight out of Hercules and down to the horizon!!! By the time it neared the tree line, it was trailing orange sparks and breaking apart!! Fan-damn-tastic!!!!!! Perhaps somewhere else the the world the skies are clearer than mine?!

"I know, I know for sure! That life is beautiful around the world..."  

April 28, 2001 - (4:30-5:30 a.m.) Mars, M8 and Venus (3:45 p.m.) the Sun...

Comments: Kill the alarm clock...

After calling myself an individual of extremely limited intellegence capabilities and a highly questionable birthright... I stepped outside. All is forgotten... As soon as I opened the 4.5 on Saggitarius... all is forgiven! Of course, YOU know I walked the starfields... for I cannot help myself. To tell exactly what it is like to walk the field of Saggitarius belongs to something inside me... but the M8 and Mars belong to all who care to look.

Mars is big, bright and beautiful. I am still unable to make out any detail save for the dark plains of maria... but it's retrograde motion is making it do something remarkable... inching ever closer to the "Lagoon" in the sky! At approximately one half finderscope field away, the M8 is a dreamy cloud of silver light, with an intense star, and one lone beating as it's heart. It carries with it many more members, buried within the folds of the more diffuse area of the nebula. Much like the Trapezium, the central area fades away, the gathers to concentrate itself again in a band of light that staggers the imagination! Quitely to the east, Venus has risen. It mimics the very Moon that I followed to it's disappearance merely hours ago... How unusual it is to see Venus appear so very yellow! Probably a trick of the horizon haze... maybe a need for more coffee!

The Sun... I look at the Sun whenever it's visible! The AR9393 still remains strong. The dispersion field changes daily, but the central spots seem to be locked permanently in place! Currently on the eastern limb of the Sun, this active region, and the one sitting at the solar north pole are displaying those curious "stress lines". The "polar" spot has the odd "dimpled" look... probably a trick to the eye from being on the extreme of the limb, but fascinating to look at!

"Silence is beauty... words can only complicate the task."  

April 27, 2001 - The Sun, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon...

Comments: Checked out the local hotspot on the Sun again today... over the last two days the dispersion field has gradually widened but the central spots remain very dark and intense! Very soon it will slide out of view again, a perhaps (?) makes its' third go around the Sun!

Saturn still walks on the horizon, with tiny Titan holding on for dear life! Jupiter jumps and jitters in the atmospheric turbulence, but all four moons are visible tonight, three to one side (nice pairing at the top!) and one (duh) to the other! (I'm going to miss peeking in on the neighbors, but it will be something to look forward to in the morning sky in the near future!)

Tonight's show stealer was the Moon... started off sketching along the terminator. (Thanks, compadre... a look at my old notes says it's been almost a year since I'd done that!) As I watched, I noticed the Moon gaining on a red star. Oh my STARZ!! We've an occultation about to happen!!! (and wouldn't you know it... i totally wasted the last seven shots on my roll of film "doing" the moon...) No matter. No picture, no video, and no report can take away what I saw... At 10:34, red star Eta Geminorum winked out...

"So I walked up on high... and I stepped to the edge, to see my world below. And I laughed to myself... as the tears rolled down. Because it's the world I know..."  

April 26, 2001 - Jupiter, the Moon, Wasat, Castor, M44, M65, M66, M81, M82, Cor Caroli, M3, M5, M10, M12, M92, and M13...

Comments: Hazy night tonight! (Can't will 'em all, eh?) So I guess I'll just catch what I can catch! Starting with Jupiter, who sports only two moons tonight... the view is like looking at the planet under clear, shallow water. Not much fun, so let's take a blast to the Moon! Ah... now that's more like it! Even though it sometimes wavers a bit, it is still terrific! Mare Crisium makes the most of the shadow play... its' dark, bullet-hole like craters and bright peaks add interest! Cleomedes, Geminus, Burkhardt and Masala also share their detail quite well. Even though we all hate the "coming of the Moon"... its' intial phases make it a fascinating place to visit!

Now, what else can we do? How about Wasat? Ok.. no problem. Castor? Even less of a problem... it's red dwarf companion sets well away from the main star. Now what? (hey, i tried for the comet, ok? but i'm a confirmist... the was just too much light and haze for me to be SURE of what i saw!) How about the M44 again? This time with the 12.5. The lesser stars are easy enough... indirect vision keeps them steady. But, you know what? We simply are not mentioning the fact that those lovely doubles and triples sport color! The central-most, and brightest of the triples, is unmistakeably red, white and blue!! Pale reds and blues dominate the pairings... some of the fainter stars are also red. (just like the "heart" of the m41 and castor's shadow!) For the most part, the fainter members are white, but there are some toward the southern edge that are tainted a bit yellow too! Color... look at it! You can't miss... What about galaxies? Ha! Even though the Moon has fairly well set now, the contrast is still bad. The M65 and M66 are characatuers of what they were just last night... Coma/Virgo is simply out of the equation... But, oddly enough, the north and east looks dark and clear... So what do you say? Rock on... The M81 and M82 are still nice and bright! Visual acuity tested... positive! The north and the north east may yield up a surprise or two for tonight! So hop on off to Cor Caroli, and smile at it's colors! And let's see what we can find...

Leaving Arcturus alone, (i don't feel like blinding myself!) I head off to the M3. Gotcha'! (Coolies... you look exactly as you did last night!) Then a blind pass over Arcturus again and (after a bit of a hunt, because i haven't Practiced this one in a while...) I pick up the M5! Wow! I should have thrown this one in last night's arena! Once again, it is roughly the apparent size of the M3 and M13, but this one is REALLY different! Although it is designated as a "globular" it is very irregular in structure! At first glance, it appears to be round, but the more you lay the "lazy eye" on it, the more you notice branches of concentration shooting off of it! It's a even globular... the core is not intense, but there is a dense area to the southeast that cannot be resolved. It's unusual, to be sure! (It looks like a "top"!) Now, off to the north to net the M10 and M12. They are much smaller, and thanks to the fact that they are not very well placed at the moment, show only the fact that they are globular clusters! (The clouds have pretty well munched the sky now... we're at 3/4 cover and moving fast!) Rock back over to Hercules for the M92... yeah! This one is bright! And it shows a definate central core! Hurry now... and the M13! Works for me! You can come ahead now, clouds. Have at it!

"Livin' it up! Not giving a &#$%!.. Life in the fast lane..."  

April 25/26, 2001 - (from dusk 'til dawn...) Marathon Time!

Comments: Once again, extended viewing means extended reporting... thus a change of style is in order! (That, and the fact that I'm sitting here with a handful of Oreo cookies... and cup of coffee... and a stack of envelopes, scratch paper, receipts, check stubs... all covered in the barely legible, excited handwriting that I call my "field notes"...) Although I hate breaking away from my structure... what can I say besides,

"Walk upon my journey , I must go... To where the river flows..."!

Saturn, The Moon and Jupiter: As usual, I start off with the things that "disappear" first... and Saturn is well on its' way, my friend! The three make a very picturesque scene from between the trees in the side yard... (and you know me, gotta' fetch the camera and take a picture of the "kids"!) Using the 4.5, (and shuddering from the huge amount of orange light that ensues from village street light) Saturn still shows it stuff! Titan still hangs bravely on at the edge of the ring system... and although no detail is possible, it's just great to see an old friend again... and wish it well on it's journey across the sky! The Moon was next... and just loaded with "earthshine"! (I kid you not... the maria in the shadows was very evident!) The leading edges of Mare Crisium were crisp and clean... Now, on to Jupiter! Three galiean "dancers" put on a show for tonight, and the fourth? Well, I'd say it's "backstage" at the moment!! The Celestron doesn't reveal a wealth of detail on Jupiter, but the equatorial bands and their striking contrast to one another are quite worth a bit of study! And speaking of study... best head out. I've got things to do!

Comet Schaumasse and the M44: By now the sky has really deepened in contrast... time to set the scopes in my sacred shaded observing area, and open the lawn umbrella to ward off the "Sutton Light Bank". ( I could have called, you know... but one of these days a well-placed round from the 30.06 should cure the problem. ;) With no distracting sources of light in my peripheral vision, the sky becomes incredible. The M44 shines like a globular cluster, and hanging out to the east, Coma Bernices glows like the M67. I am ready! ("hey ho... let's go!") Come on, LIttle Celestron, let's see what you can do! Homing in on El Nath, I started my quest for the comet... over and over the field I went, where it was "supposed" to be. Grrrrrrrrrrr.... I had this most horrible feeling that I had taken a wrong turn, and lead not only myself, but another down the wrong road! (Patience... astronomer... Persistance...) Everytime I passed over the fuzzy double, my heart would take a leap, sure that I had found it... only to see through "lazy eyes" it's true nature. Finally I found a field that was relatively devoid (curiously) of stars... but there was one, with a ghost perhaps, sitting near it. Imaginousity? Then it affects us both... Pointing the 4.5 at the M44 required only the reflex sight... and with the 25mm sma, the central triples jumped right out! Time to relax the eye... to see what I could "see". As my gaze softened, out jumped a tiny chain of stars just off the bright central triples! Holy katz! Then I looked right at them.... POOF! Gone... Then away... and back they came again! Coolness! I dipped into the accessory case and brought out the 17mm plossl... same effect, but it was not an improvement. It merely restricted the field of view. Now for the 26mm plossl... it rounded the area out nicely, but I think I like what the 25mm sma sees better! So back in it went, and back to the eyepiece I go... I have absolutely no idea of how long I stood there, moving across the field of the M44, watching those little stars tease in and out at the edge of my vision... (I keep hearing Nirvana in my head, "I wish I was like you... easily amused.") all I know is that I had a wonderful time with the study!! Thanks, amigo...

"Hey, shout! Summertime blues... jump up and down in your blue suede shoes! Hey kids, let's rock and roll... rock on! Oooh my soul.... And where do we go from here? Which is the way that's clear? We're still looking for that..."

NGC1664, M38, NGC1893, M36, M37 - Now let's uncover the 12.5 and "keep rollin'... rollin'... rollin'"! Off to the bright Auriga, and center on Almaaz... a hop to the west brings the NGC1664 on line. This is not an impressive cluster, just a faint chain of stars forming an elongated "jewel" in the sky.. ("Shine on, you crazy diamond!") Now for the cross-like structure of the M38... Yep. Still there! Now for a jump to the southwest to catch the NGC1893. It's no great shakes either, just 50 or so faint stars in a random pattern... but hey! We're walking the sky tonight, aren't we? Damn Skippy! The M36 is up next... also a reflex sight, because it's naked eye! The are a host of hot, young blue/white stars here, but the numerous doubles make this cluster worth a bit of a look! And speaking of easy visuals, the M37 is just sitting right there... crying out for resolution! And I'm happy to oblige it... ;) There are virtually hundreds of stars here! The brighter ones form a rough trapezoid figure in the center, cut through the center by a chain of fainter ones! Terrific! Now, let's go catch some more....

M35, NGC2158, NGC2392, M44 and M67 - Castor makes a nice, clean split in the dob... so a drop to the west to snag the M35. Of course, you know this is a nice, bright open cluster... made all the more fascinating by its' dim little companion, the NGC2158. And back up we go to Wasat (also a decent double, with the primary a creamy yellow and its' mate a tiny red dot.) and hop to the southest to rub noses with the "Eskimo"! This small, bright planetary is a soft, blue/green color, with a hint of brightness at the center (sorry, no hubble vision here)! Now for another "pass" at the M44. Outstanding. What just a short time ago took averted vision to collect, now holds with direct sight! What a tease!! Because when I use the same technique now.. I see even more! (OK, astronomer.. enough! The night is grand and the sky is calling...) On to the M67... (by knowing where to look, I can see it as a soft patch of light below the Praesepe!) and those hundreds and hundreds of stars!

M95, M96, M105, NGC3384, NGC3389, NGC3593, M65, M66, and NGC3628 - (Alright, Lion... I hear you! And despite your akward position for aiming the dob, I'm coming your way!) Sticking to familiar ground, I zeroed in on the "hairballs" on the Lion's belly... M95 is a wonderful little globe of light that requires the "lazy eye" to pick up on its' ever-so-faint arms. But, the M96 is a silvery beauty that somehow appears more defined! Unlike the next the M105, that appears almost to be out of focus. The NGC3384 looks like a negative print of a candled egg, and the NGC3389 is nothing more than a streak of light! A hop to Chort, and a drop south is the NGC3593... another faint fellow. Now for the M65 and M66! Much, much brighter! (It would appear that the M66 is giving the "finger" to its' lesser companions!) So, now I'm ready to start living on the edge... and NGC3628 is it! It's a toughie, just another "scratch" on the sky! So... I'm ready to let "the Lion sleep tonight", and go "Bear" hunting! ;)

M101, M109, M108, M97, M81 and M82 - Back on familiar ground again! Pausing for a moment at Mizar and Alcore (delightfully appearing as pair unaided!) I head for the M101. Pretty faint stuff tonight... and a hop to Phecda shows the M109 to be the same. (Hey... I said I was ready to live on the edge, right? So let's go get one!) On to Merak where just a nudge picks up the M108. (Ooooh! This one could stand some study!!!) It appears "flat"... no central core. But the more I avert my vision, the more detail comes to the surface! After a few moments, it became wonderfully "mottled" looking... and four bright stars (?) spots (?) tantalized the eye! Fantastic!!! I kept pulling in back into view, hoping for more... but I guess that's all I'm going to get. (And you know what? That's all right by me...) Made a Practice run on the M97, then hopped away to the west for just a quick peek at the M81 and M82. I'm ready to relax for a bit! So, into the redwood lounger I went... time to unwind some more. You know, just look up, and think for awhile? (and what pleasant thoughts they were, too!) There are just so MANY stars out tonight... ("I want to get lost in your rock and roll, and drift away...") The Coma Bernices looks like a tuft of hair on Leo's tail! And now that I've finished my cup of coffee, it's time again...

Coma/Virgo Galaxy Cluster - Still in my hazy, dream state, I step up the ladder once again. But I'm ready for a bit of play! (I guess I shall have to add another "P" to my catch phrase, eh? Patience, Practice, Persistance.... and PLAY!) I just hopped here and there... stopping for a while at this one, making a pass at that one, and enjoying myself tremendously! (Unlike conventionally mounted scopes, the dob moves in perfect horizontal and vertical increments, and by moving the scope one field of view each time, you can literally "drink in" and entire area of sky!) But there is a couple of things to the north of the playground that I'd like to see and study.. so let's go there, eh?

"Hey, hey, hey! Come out and play!"

M3 vs. M13 - Well, alrighty then... let's do it! (Dueling Globulars... LOL! I can hear the banjo music in the background!) Roughly the same apparent size, these two heavy-weight globulars battle it out in different parts of the sky. The M3 is very concentrated... it tickles the eye with it's basic unresolvability and faint core. Only toward the edge will averted vision allow some bright members to show through. The M13 is a true "heavyweight champion"! The core of this globular is absolutely INTENSE! And as you move away from it, upping the magnifiation brings what looks like hundreds of tiny pinpoints of light drawn toward the center, like iron filings to a magnet! WOW! Yep... M13 is "king". No doubt about it! (And I know where so much more is! Can't it just stay dark and clear like this forever?)

M4, M80, M19, M62 and Mars - Who is that red stranger I see on the horizon? ("Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?!) Now off to the domain of Scorpius and Ophiuchus... believe it or not, I am finally getting tired! (Only the body... the heart still wants to soar!) The ghostly globular M4 comes first, and after having played with the "big boys", it's almost disappointing! Almost... Then on to the tiny M80. And since I'm circling Antares, why the heck not? Let's pick off the M19 and M62 too! Of course, you know I can't resist a peek at Mars. It's brightness is almost an assault to the eye after the hours of faint targets! Detail? Are you kidding? I can feel my pupil in my left eye shrinking as I tell you about it! What a glorious night. I cannot express how relaxed and "at home" I feel when I look at the stars... Who cares if I've missed a bit of sleep? There's cloudy days and moonlit nights to catch up... ;-)

"Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there! With open heart and open eyes..."  

April 25, 2001 - (4:00 a.m.) M57, M13, M4, Mars, M27, M11, M17, M22, M28, M8, M20, M21, M23, M25, M54, and the M55...

Comments: The weatherman was right! As soon as I stepped onto the deck this morning, holding my cup of coffee, the first thing that struck me was how bright the Milky Way is! And, like the proverbial "Carefree Highway", I long to slip away, slip away on you... Before my morning dose of caffiene had even begun to cool, I had the 4.5 out and set on the M57. In the 26mm, with averted vision, the tiny "smoke ring" stands out clearly, giving me a head rush that rivals the expresso... I am wide awake now. And the sky commands my attention... On now to the M13... I know I've been extolling the virtues of the M3, but the "Great Hercules" globular puts all others to shame. Its' intense concentration has no match... no equal. To confirm its' grandeur is to sweep to the south and catch the M4, who looks almost "diffuse" in comparison! How fascinating it is to observe retrograde motion... when I first noticed Mars had made its' reappearance, it was part of Scorpius. Now it has walked contrary to the natural motion of the sky and lies at the edge of the Milky Way... a dusty, ruddy traveler who will soon become part of the "Archer". On now to colorful Albireo, to take in my personal favorite of all nebula... the M27. Even with the moderate magnification I chose to use this moring, the "Dumbbell Nebula" is simply fascinating. I don't understand exactly why it appears to be "living"... maybe because it is one of the most bright, and dense of planetaries, but whatever it is... I like it! Cruising south along the highway, the M11 is next. The distinctive "boomerang" shape of this cluster is highly attractive! It's leading star far outshines the others, and it shows a certain density that I can't wait to explore with the 12.5 this summer! Away now, from the "ugly ducklings"... to capture the beautiful "swan"! The M17 is simply incredible. Set in its' own field or tiny stars begging for resolution, the concentration of stellar activity that forms the giant Nike "swoosh" of the sky is awe-inspiring! Now... you know where I want to go. And you know what happens when I go there... Saggitarius. I have listed the numbers...

"Take me away to that special place... where if I stare too long, I'll probably break down and cry."  

April 24, 2001 - The Sun... Saturn, Jupiter, the M44...

Comments: Wow! I can't believe how much the Sun has changed in a 24 hour period! Sure, the major spots still look the same... but you cannot believe how the dispersion field has changed! Yesterday, it had no real structure... just a loose configuration running between the major groups. Today it looks like the crest on a wave! The configuration looks like this: } Very impressive! Now, let's hope the clouds back off for later...

Ha! I was allowed a fast shot on Saturn between the moving clouds. The moons are no longer visible, but at least the ring structure still is! Waiting for the clouds to pass... and a quick peek at Jupiter. All four moons were visible tonight, and the striations on the planet's surface were a visual treat! Waiting for the clouds to pass... Homed in on the M44 with the 4.5, but only long enough to smile at its' now familiar star patterns... the clouds are back. I practiced patience, and waited for a couple of hours hoping the sky would clear. No such luck. The clouds have virtually stalled, and I can see the lights of the distant towns shining on their bellies... The weatherman promises clear sky overnight, with a nip of frost. So... I guess I shall retire. And dream of Saggitarius in the morning....

"The world is spinning around me... and all my thoughts are cloudy..."  

April 23, 2001 - The Sun...

Comments: Current sunspot group AR9433 is slowly trundling its' way across the surface, disolving a bit more each time I view it... It remains in good company, because there are seven major areas of activity at this time! Solar observance has really been quite interesting lately... thanks to all those great "dark" areas to keep me company! 04/23/01 - space weather photo And it's a good thing I enjoyed what I could, because the warm temperatures have brought back the clouds and rain... :-P

"I eat from the Sun... though my tounge has been burned from the taste..."  

April 22, 2001 - The Sun... Jupiter, M44, the Virgo Galaxy Field...

Comments: I was pleasantly surprised at how much AR9393 had moved since I last observed it! It has maintained its' general appearance... but the dispersion field has greatly widened. As a whole, the area loosesly resembles the constellation of Gemini, with the AR9393 representing Castor and Pollux. There is also a new, large dark area to the bottom of the grouping... very round, and very black! It's dispersion field is equo-distant around the core... and overall gives the impression of a dense globular cluster!

Reasonably clear skies held for later, so away we go with the 12.5 dob! Jupiter was spectacular (as always!). Even so low in the skyline, it is my pleasure to watch the galiean moons dance around the body of the great planet! Tonight, all four were visible... with three to one side (two forming a close double) and one to the other.

Now, on to the M44 and some detailed observation promised to a friend... ;-) It is absolutely amazing how many more stars become visible with aperature. The main ones are incredibly bright... with the doubles and triples jumping into resolution with the lowest of powers. Tonight I pushed to see just what the limiting magnitudes the Meade 12.5 Starfinder could reach... 14 is no problem. It does not require averted vision, and stands up very well to magnification!

Now, "the astronomer" has done the work, time for a treat! The Virgo Galaxy Cluster... no rules, just "surfing" for fun! I wish that I could just give you the dob and let YOU play!!!! Put your hand on the end of this scope and guide it where you will... the galaxies are EVERYWHERE! Even in the 32mm, 2", under moderate light pollution, (grrrrrrrr....) they are easy to spot! It is just so much fun to move from one to the next... dancing on the galaxies... and smiling up at the sky!!!

"It's been awhile... since I could hold my head up high. And it's... been awhile... since I first saw you..."  

April 20 - 21, 2001 - Nothing but clouds and rain... Here's wishing all my friends around the world best of luck for tonight and the Lyrid meteor shower!! May the force be with you...

  April 19, 2001 - Very hazy skies tonight... so I simply amused myself by viewing the visible major stars and comparing colors... "I'm on the outside. I'm looking in. I can see through you. See your true colors..."  

April 18-19, 2001- (Time for a walk with the 12.5... and this time I am going to vary my report style, so I may do thorough justice to where I've been, and what it was my great privelege to see...)

"All right partner... you know what time it is! Chocolate Starfish Navigation time... Move in, move out! What 'cha gonna' do now? Breathe in, breath out! Let's keep rolling... rolling... rolling...."

Saturn, The Plieades, Jupiter, Comet Schaumasse, M36, M37, M38 and NGC1907 - Saturn was first up, (of course) and thanks to the horizon, displays a wonderful, natural yellow color. Only the vaguest hint of the Cassinni is still visible, but just to see the shadow play of the planet upon the rings is quite enough! More aperature sweeps the tiny moons out of the sky, and gives them placement... a "depth perception", if you will... similar to Jupiter! And the Plieades are still an excellent target... although it's low position has robbed the nebulosity from around it's bright members, it is still quite possible to resolve its' many inner companions... and make out color in its' tiny doubles and triples! Now... out with the old, and in with the new! Comet Schaumasse was my headliner for tonight... and it was a tough one too! It lay directly above El Nath... and took a great deal of concentration to pinpoint. Even bumping up the power did not reveal a wealth of detail... merely a tiny fuzz ball that does not belong in the area! As it climbs farther and farther toward Gemini, I look forward to following it, as I once did LINEAR...

Let's ride with the "Charioteer" in Arigura... the 32mm reveals a sweeping vista of stars! The M37 is very compelling... and very "star rich" in the broader view. Time to home in... The M36 is possessed by bright stars lapping over dimmer ones. One of its' more notable features is a tiny double set slightly away from the central mass! The M37 now reveals features... It is much more concentrated and contains several red members! Doubles and triples pop out everywhere! But there is one thing here that you don't see everyday... (dare I call it my own asterism?) Set ever-so-slightly away from the bright interior is a delicate chain of stars... which, to my minds eye, resembles the bass clef! And last, but not least for this area is the M38... It's brighter members look almost like the constellation of Hercules! It has no real "core" concentration... (but there is a sweet double right in the middle!) and contains a multitude of doubles and triples... There is something remarkable about this one, however. A tiny little cluster that is just hanging out with its' bigger playmate... the NGC1907! ;-)

Mizar and Alcore, M101, M109, M108, M97, M81 and M82 - "Come on, baby... just a dip in the road." Ursa Major was next on the grand scheme of things. Starting with the wonderful Mizar and Alcore, a hop to the east netted the M101. Although it is a relatively bright galaxy, it tends to be very diffuse at the same time! The 17mm gave the best impression of this galaxy... allowing a glimpse of its' knotty arms fading away from the core! And the M109? Very similar, but it lacks that grainy look of unresolved stars... it appears to be almost like a structured nebula! Now a hop to Merak, and a dip to the southeast brings the M108 up to bat. This one positively "glows" white! There really isn't an indication of a central core... merely hints of giant clusters and a faded dust lane. Now I am ready for a visit to the "Owl"! Simply superb... it appears roughly the size of Jupiter, and although I can make out a pinpoint star in it's center, I only see one "eye"! (Maybe my friend is a pirate... arrrrrh! ;) Time to pick off my favorite pair... and here is where the view differs radically from the 4.5 using the same eyepiece. The 4.5 with the 26mm keeps the M81 and M82 in the same field of view... albeit at the extreme edges... but part of the whole picture. Drop the same eyepiece into the 12.5, and watch what happens! Not only do they seperate... but appear to have achieved a whole field of view difference between them! WOW! Now... let's mag up, and talk about it! The M81 is spectacular... It central core is its' arresting feature, and as the eye moves away from it, the galaxy remains smooth and consistent, until you reach the outer edges where to spiral structure begins to reveal itself! And the M82? The little "cigar" simply smokes up the sky! It positively "bulges" with its' heavy concentration of massive stellar activity. Here and there dark dust lanes show themselves, but this fellow is about as irregular as they come!! (I hear the "Lion" roaring, and I've come to answer the call! Despite its' akward position for the moment, I took sights on the area of the M65 and M66 and stepped up on the ladder to home in on them... and as I concentrated... pow! RED, WHITE, GREEN, MOVING! It startled me so much I honestly jumped off my perch! Now, laugh if you will, for we have all had an airplane fly across our view, but incredibly, this was the FIRST time I've had it happen with the dob! I'm surpised I didn't see the numbers on the plane, because it appeared THAT close! Laughing at myself, I chose to leave Leo alone for now... I came with the intent of feasting on Virgo... and Virgo it shall be!)

The Virgo/Coma Cluster, M98, M99, M100, M85, NGC4394, M88, M91, M53, M60, NGC4647, M59, M58, NGC4567/68, M89, M90, M87, M86, M84, M49, M61 and Quasar 3C273... (Starting with the 32mm, 2"... I wanted the "big picture" to begin with. Holy Mother Of Meade!!! Where do I begin??? Spread before me was an open bowl of sky candy! I wanted so much to go here... and taste this one... and go there! And taste that one... But I promised a "plan" to a friend, and I am one to keep my promises! ;)

Anchoring on Denebola, let's head east and catch the M98. It is a thin string of light, with a pregnant pause of a galactic bulge in its' midsection! Now, to 6 Comae and a nudge to the southwest for the M99, "Pinwheel" galaxy. Looking at it face-on, it quite lives up to its' name, because from its' center outwards, the wide arms literally "sweep" away! Back to 6 Comae, and a hop northeast brings in the M100. Very round in appearance, it contains a bright, almost "star like" central core, and very faint arms! Bumping to the northeast with the 17mm in place brings on the M85... rather than up the power, I stick with this choice, because the round little fellow has a companion! The NGC4394 is in the same field of view... Both are nothing more than circular patches of light, revealing nothing... showing everything! Now, back to 6 Comae again.. pass over the M99, and on we go... M88 is next on the "hit" list. It appears stretched out... quite lovely... with a decently bright center. But the M91 is the capture for this area! It is faint, of course, but when I take the time to insert the barlow, allows me to uncover the hair thin line of the classic barred spiral! Now for a hop to the northeast for the M53... pass through 42 Alpha Comae, and just a bit more nets this sweet globular cluster! It has a nice, compact, unresolvable core... surrounded by a lovely halo of its' own stars. Remarkable... Now... let's drop anchor again. This time with Vindemiatrix... By heading west, and easing north, the M60 is the next to come "on line". It is a terrific eliptical... and much brighter than some of the rest I have viewed so far. The core is outstanding, and the body of the galaxy itself envelopes it in a soft field of light. One it shares with its' close friend , the NGC4647! (Gosh, I love it when they are both in the same field!) And speaking of which... how about the M59? Because this bright oval is happy to share too! Westward we go... (just a bump!) and step up the power on the M58. It appears stretched out... and faint, but it is my high magnification "guide post" for next set that is just a touch to the southwest... the NGC4567/68! What an incredibly "twisted" pair the "Siamese Twins" are! (sort of like the "kama sutra" of the sky! ;) And away we go... A shift to the north brings in the M89... fairly unremarkable, just a round glowing patch with a slightly brighter center. An increment to the northeast call is the M90... and elongated oval, very graceful... sporting hints of dark dust lanes! A drop to the southwest pulls the infamous radio source, M87 into view. It is nice and bright, and sufficently large to stand up well to magnification. Although it does not reveal crisp detail... the very "lumpiness" of the light is quite exciting, because you know that you are looking at massive globular clusters residing in another universe! Drop the mag back now... and shift to the northwest for the M86. A nice even-looking oval, this galaxy just barely brightens toward its' nucleas. And the lower power allows the rounded M84 into the same arena...

Now off to R Virginis... (does the R stand for red? it sure ought too, because it sure is!) A hop to the northwest bags the M49... a very evenly lighed oval in the sky! Dropping southwest, I cross 17 Virginis, a tasty yellow double, and just a hair south of that... the outstanding M61. This one is far superior to the rest!! Magnification brings out its' intense central core... and those grand, sweeping arms positively loaded with unresolvable globular clusters!!! Beneath it, like the belt of Orion, lay three even-spaced stars... keeping time to the mysterious celestial music of this fantastic galaxy! One more? Then let's do it! Carefully reviewing the map, I head to the southwest, and center on a rather droll little star. But is it? No way! Although it looks like any other star, Quasar 3C 273 is mine tonight!! (Now it's time for a break... the hours of concentration are taking its' toll! I am quite ready for a beer or two, and perhaps a bite of "soul food"?! Working the unaccustomed night shift has given me an advantage, though... because the advent of a clear night has left me wide awake! And hungry for more....)

When I return a while later, it is a pleasure to see how the sky has changed! Leo is standing on its' head in the west... (good! stay there!! because you almost dumped me on mine earlier!!) Spica has taken up comfortable residence in the south, and this well help me pursue the sky in a more leisurely fashion... with my feet on the ground! ;)

M104, M68, and M83... Cool, blue Spica... how wonderful you are! You are my anchor here, for I have come for the M104, my friend... and I am going to embrace it with both power and aperature, and let it print itself upon my memory. The 26mm brings it into view as I walk the scope west... its' ufo shape is most distinctive. The 17mm plossl brings the dramatic dust lane into prominence... and for sheer eye relief, let's use the barlow. Oh my stars... (words, don't fail me now!) It appears positively alive! It's bright central core fades out toward the edges... giving it the appearance of a transparent Saturn! It feels almost like you could see through the core, and catch the dust lane on the other side! The elongations show hints of brightness where they stretch out! And through it all runs this bold, black line... like a magic marker slash meant to highlight it's shape by virture of darkness... It is awe-inspiring in the 12.5... no doubt about it. Wiping the drool from my chin, I move on to Beta Corvi, and dip south and bit east for the M68. It is a nice globular cluster... the 17mm resolves a great many individual stars. Now, I am ready to see just how far I can push the dob into the southern skyline... And I have it... the M83! (I am virutally on my knees to view this one!) I am quite pleased that I am able to pick up the fuzzy little patch with the bright center, so low on the horizon!

Standing up... I look about myself. The sky has almost come full circle from where I began the day! Scorpius and Mars are well met, Lyra and Hercules call, (but not tonight... eh?) Ursa Major has silently wheeled around Polaris, and Saggitarius is emerging in the east. What a grand time I've had!!! The "Grasshopper" and I wheel the Great White back to shelter... But before I go, I spend some time just looking up...

"You're so far away... and you leave me to myself. So far away..."  

April 18, 2001 - (4:00 a.m.) Saggitarius...

Comments: I rose before the Moon did this morning, because at times, there are old friends I need to visit... simply because I love them. Saggitarius... No rules, no numbers, no game plan... (no polar alignment! ;) I seek you out because you are the best I've ever had! I would not hold you up on your journey across the sky... just allow me to look in upon you from time to time. I need no guide when I "walk" here... for this constellation is indeliably etched upon my memory. When I am here, it becomes a transcendental experience. I am looking into the "heart" of our galaxy... Perhaps one day, when I am in the mood, I will recite the numbers once again... and describe all the beauty the lies within. For now, not even the lure of Mars, or the promise of Venus will take away from what I have seen. It is somewhat a private experience... shared only by myself and that damned rooster who lives somewhere to the north of me. He has done nothing but "crow" since I came out to seek a bit of solitude...

"Here they come to snuff the rooster..."  

April 17, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, M42, M41, M35, M50, M46, M93, M44, M67, M81, M82, M51, M94, M3, M53, M64, M65 and M66...

Comments: I had given up hope. All day the sky had been filled with steel gray clouds that would sporadically send down a frenzy of huge snowflakes. So, I resigned myself to practicing the accoustic by the firelight... I played for awhile, just enjoying the mellow sounds and the warm environment, and as the last chords of "Glycerine" were fading, I looked out the window... Sirius! ("bush"! The sky likes "bush"!) Out I went, to sweep the 4.5 off its' feet and into the backyard... Saturn came first. I was proud to see that even as low as it was on the horizon, the ring system was still quite apparent... and one brave moon still followed along. Then on to Jupiter... all four moons were visible, but that unique "depth perception" effect allowed me to see that one moon was about to go into transit/eclipse. You know I was destined to return... again and again.

Now for the M42... it is almost touching the distant tree tops, and has lost some of its' grandeur, but none of its' attraction. Then to the M41. I begin immediately to despair my choice of aperature tonight, but the wind is much too strong for the dob! Does it really matter? No! For the gods of the sky have smiled upon me... and the 4.5 and I are the oldest of friends.

With smaller aperature, the M41 is a bright, loose collection of stars, with one far outshining the rest. And the M35? Very similar... as is the M50. A scattering of stellar gemstones, to delight the eye. Leaving those wide-open spaces, I head to where the action is... show me some stars! The M46 came next. Ah..... now this is more like it! Great whorls and swirls of pin-point lights, and one bright jewel set in this heavenly background! And the M93! Irregular, its' beauty lies in a concentration of activity that runs through its' midsection... the higher the power, the more stars begin to resolve, bringing the handful of bright companions on its' north/western front onto the stage!

I return again to Jupiter... the moon has moved even closer to the planet's edge. Although the winds occasionally makes the image shiver, and most definately made my eyes water, I just "need" to see this living system go through its' changes...

Ready for a taste of honey? I have to drop back the magnification to truly enjoy the M44. Even in the 26mm, the "busy bees" swarm beyond the edges of the field of view. Ah... the M67! At this power it appears almost "galaxy like", and as I step up the strength, resolution occurs... I have a fondness for this cluster, and I always stand transfixed at the eyepiece when averted vision brings out more and more stars... Now for the north... and the M81 and M82! This time I drop the power back again, because I just wish to see them as they are... a bright, beautiful galactic pair... holding court in the land of "the bear". A sweep to the M51 is far less delightful without aperature... to the smaller scope, the "Whirlpool" lacks the incredible structure that the dob provides. But, by "stepping up", it's spin-off companion becomes more evident, and the over-all view is much more satisfying! And since I'm hanging out in Canes Venatici, I have to view the colorful Cor Caroli, and at least make a "pass" at the tiny galaxy, M94. It is fairly unremarkable because of it's small size, but add the barlow to the 9mm and a teasing hint of a spiral arm begins to show at the northern edge... and a vague sense of a core appears!

Back to Jupiter... Now the moon is literally "touching" the body of the planet. How fascinating it is that they move so quickly! At approximately 10:20 (no watch, ok? just guestimation by the radio's continued update on the passage of time...) it disappeared. How lucky I was tonight to have witnessed it!!

On to the M3... This one is big, bright and intense! (It absolutely begs... "resolve me, resolve me!") Even with limited aperature, it does not disappoint... The more magnification you give it, the more it returns. In the center of a triangle formation of stars, this remarkable globular becomes so concentrated at its' core that it rivals even the M13 for unsurpassed beauty!

Now, off the get into the "Queen's Hair"... and see what the 4.5 can do! The M53 was a delicious little "treat"... Very round, and very compact, the 9mm teases a bright central core out of the stellar fuzzball. And speaking of "fuzzies", the M64's tear-drop structure was an intense pleasure... When my eyes aren't watering, I seem to catch a glimpse of one bright "star" within! I can feel Leo breathing on my neck... and although I lack the "muscle" of aperature to conquer its' galaxies, the M65 and M66 are quite within my "reach"! In the 26mm and the 17mm, this pair "shares"! Not only do they stay within the same field of view, but they are quite delighted to reveal the fact that they differ in structure! (I don't know why, but somehow Abbott and Costello come to mind... who's on first? ;-) More sky awaits, but I am cold and tired. Tonight, I believe in magic...

"When the darkness comes, you'd be well advised.... Not to plan my funeral before the body dies!"  

April 15-16, 2001 - rain and snow... :-P  

April 14, 2001 - (5:15 a.m.) Cor Caroli, Albeiro, the Moon, Mars and Venus...

Comments: Selene sits directly above Saggitarius this morning, so I must content myself with the brighter objects. Cor Caroli and Albeiro are a constant treat... although I would know the two of them apart by simply looking at them, their similarities in color are absolutely striking. The lunar surface was incredible this morning! The sky was very clear and steady, and offered up a view with amazing clarity. I was drawn to the north this morning... the Caucasus and Appenine Mountain Ranges stood in stark relief against the smooth Mares Ibrium and Serenitatis. I set the power against Mt. Hadley... just to simply stand and reflect on the fact that mankind had made it that far! What a fascinating age we live in...

Mars was next... and it has been great fun watching it turn retrograde and gain in magnitude. When I first realized it was there, it was no brighter than Antares, but has probably doubled in brightness since. Venus looks tremendous! Only when it is in the east am I afforded such a "skyline" view! The atmosphere has both magnified and filtered it at the same time, so it appears as a "miniature moon"... with the surface about 25 - 30% illuminated. It has been a pleasant way to start the day! But my mind keeps returning to Mt. Hadley...

"Ground control to Major Tom..."  

April 13, 2001 - The Sun... Saturn, Jupiter, M45 (the Pleiades), M42, M41, NGC2362, M47, M46, M93, M35, M36, M37, M38, M44, M67, M65, M66, NGC 2903, M81, M82, M51, M94, M3, M53, and M64.

Comments: Started the day with the Sun... our active sunspot group has rotated to the southern pole, and still contains two very dark components in their dispersion field...(ssssh! looks like two "sunny side-up" eggs! ;) and shows those remarkable stress lines...

At twilight, I came for the planets.. Saturn's golden hue and attendant moons are a welcome sight, as is Jupiter's striated body, and galiean moons paired off on either side. I needed to see the Pleiades again, and the M42... for a few days of clouds may take them from my view for months. Now, into the area that I abandoned last night! The M41 still looks the same, (duh!) but NGC2362 resembles a miniature solar system... with it's bright central star, and the other components seeming to orbit around it. The M47 is quite loose, but the M46 is filled with literally hundreds of stars... and one bright "grandstander". The M93 is also a very fulfilling cluster, with a half-dozen or so bright stars at the edge... and a deep streak of stars layered one on top of the other!

As I stood up to contemplate my next area of exploration... my eyes were drawn to the north. Glory of glories! The Aurora!!!! The delicate fan of pink light spread from Capella to Alkaid... looking like faded spot lights aimed into the sky!! (hey... cover the scope and let's have a sit... this doesn't happen often!!) So sit I did... and simply regarded it's beauty! The light show was accompanied by the newly awakened tree frogs, the smell of hyacinth, and the whirring of my mascot... the owl. (please... please don't buzz me! i can hear you're no more than 20 yards away!) What a profound experience... occasionally the light would "ripple"... and at each "ripple" my heart would soar! And how magnificent it was just to look up! The Ariguran clusters were easily seen... as was the M44. And the bright, silent beauty of all those stars! When it had faded away, I went back once more. Fine, clear nights are too precious to waste!

On to the M35, M36, M37 and M38! Then back again for the M44 and M67. And even though seeing the Aurora has tamed some of the "hunter" in me tonight, I could not pass over the delicate spiral of the NGC2903, any more than I could NOT look at the M65 and M66!

Chasing the rainbow, I continued northward and into Ursa Major for the M81, M82 and M51... practice is the essence of the game. Now for a visit with Cor Caroli, and a hop up. The M94 is a tiny galaxy... quite resembling a globular cluster until magnified! It doesn't exactly "smack" the eye, but there is an underlying brightness toward its' core. Now for the M3... and what a fine globular this is! Don't overlook it!! The more magnification you put to it... the more it resolves itself! And, I know you've heard it before, but with the exception of the M13, this is one of the very best in the sky! Let's get in the Queen's hair... shall we? The M53 is next... It is a small, dense globular, that contains a bright central core that defies resolution. And the M64? The "Blackeye" Galaxy is a seasonal favorite... At low power, it appears as a "tear drop" shaped area of luminosity. By "powering up", it reveals a black band of dark, obscuring dust across the center. Although Virgo has her arms extended, and the night is still clear, duty calls me early. So, I blow her a kiss and a promise. I'll be back...

"It's been awhile... but I can still remember just the way you taste."  

April 12-13, 2001 - The Sun... Saturn, Plieades, Jupiter, Hyades, M42, M41, M35, NGC2419, M36, M37, M38, M81, M82, M100, M51, NGC2261, M50, NGC2244, NGC2264, M44, M67, NGC2903, M95, M96, M105, NGC 3389, NGC3384, M67, M68, NGC3593, NGC3628, NGC3608, NGC3607, the Virgo Galaxy Field, M104, Mars, the Moon, and Venus.

Comments: Started the day with some solar observance. There are currently more than a dozen sunspots to chose from! The largest is the one I have been following... it still contains two dark, almond-shaped areas, but the shape of the dispersion field has changed! Curiously enough, those light, "stress lines" are appearing around a relatively small spot on the south-eastern area. What's up with that?!

Twilight Time... Time to break out the 12.5 and skywalk tonight! As always, I start off with the objects destined to set first, and tonight it was the lovely Saturn... using the 17mm afforded what will probably be the last semi-turbulent view of our fast setting friend. The Cassinni was no more than a ghost of its' former razor-sharp self, but saturnian moons and shadows were worth the time! The Plieades were next... the Merope Nebula has faded, but the tiny, colorful doubles and triples have remained! Now for the mighty Jupiter! All four moons, present and accounted for, sir! One up, and three down... The planet body itself still remains bright and beautiful, with the equatorial bands simply saturated in contrast change! Then a pass over the "mathmatical" Hyades, and on we go to Orion. The M42 is still just as mysterious and incredible, no matter how low it goes. I still marvel at the stars frozen inside the tendrils and filaments, and even though the quartet of the Trapezium is begging for me to try to resolve the inner four, it's time to leave the dying alone and move on... The M41 was next on the hit list. Just barely clearing the distant tree tops, it still holds up well to mid-range magnification... the tiny red star still beats its' heart out at the center. I waved my hand at Puppis, because it's time to look up!

Dropping westward, I started with the M35 and it's tiny attendant globular, the back up to Castor for an easy split... this is my "anchor" for my latest challenge, the NGC2419... "The Wanderer". Moving northward, I take it in, and gradually begin increasing magnification one step up at a time... no success. The "Wanderer" defies resolution. There are a few reddish and yellow stars at the perimeter that can be picked out, but the body is simply impenetrable. It is cradled in a delightful chain of stars, which holds its own double... a worthy target, but I am ready for more.

Time for a stroll through the still-bright Arigura... the M36, M37, and M38 were easy pickings! (hey, how can I miss? two are naked-eye! ;) The eastward into Ursa Major. Galaxies M81, M82, M100, and M51 stood up very well to magnification tonight, and I enjoyed their differing structures! Although I know where many more are, I'm off to Monoceros... I've a couple of friends to visit! The NGC226, "Hubble Variable Nebula" has changed since I've seen it last! Although it still remains an incredible shade of blue, the central star is no longer apparent! (a variable... go figure!) Now for the great open, M50... home to numerous doubles. A shot at the NGC2244, is relatively unproductive, except for the cluster itself. The Rosette is not giving itself up! Even though the tough nebula aren't coughing up detail tonight, I still went for the NGC2264. The "Cone" was also in hiding tonight, but the region showed definately nebulosity... I like it simply because the field is so "peppered" with stars!! Now, look up again! The M44 and the M67 are at the zenith! Perched on the step of the ladder, I try hard not to drool. The M44 is spectacular in its' own right, but I just have a "thang" about the M67! To me, this open cluster positively glitters... and as much as I hate to leave it, I can feel Leo breathing on my neck... the "hunt" is on!

Off the nose of the "Lion" is a new one for me... the faint spiral of the NGC2903 has been a pleasant capture. As with the M51, there are delightfully hints on globulars within its' arms, and a dense galactic core! The galaxies within Leo are always awe-inspiring! They run the gambit of size, brightness and structure.... If I should have to pick one out of the group to be descriptive of tonight, I would chose the M66. It stands up very well to magnification, showing dark areas and the absolutely "teasing" finger of light that extrudes from the southern tip. What a great beast Leo is! I know where some more faint galaxies are at from chasing Eleonora, and I am delighted to set eyes on them again! Like distant strangers, I know them by sight, but not by name. (Sure, I could look the up in the atlas... but hey, is it really necessary to get the name of every pretty face you meet?)

And as the dates change, and the hours deepen the night, Virgo has finally opened up it's arms... Not wanting to spoil the moment with maps and notes, I simply swept over the Galaxy Field... again and again!!! WOW! Absolutely magnificent! (I have a feeling it would take three days and hours of typing simply to write down their numbers!) I am truly humble to such incredible beauty... and to be allowed the opportunity to witness it. Who knows where the time went as I stood slack-jawed at the eyepiece? (and who cares?) Eventually I brought myself down enough to located the M104... most impressive. The 9mm grabs the dark dust lane in distinct detail! (Even as excited as I am, I have begun to tire... more coffee? Nah.... time to catch a nap and return again!)

I love the pre-dawn hours. I was hoping to flirt a bit with Saggitarius, but Selene had other plans! The half-moon literally fills the constellations of Saggitarius and Scorpius with light... but there is no negative here! For the Moon in itself has it's own grandeur... most notably Coperincus crater! (who can resist honing in on the mountains that reside within?) And tonight it has a companion, for Mars lies no more than two widths away! What a spectacular pairing! Still no incredible Martian surface detail, just the mottling of its' maria, but a sight to behold none-the-less! Somehow the dawn has crept up on me... time to put the scopes and myself to rest. As I pulled the dob back to its' shelter and returned for my eyepieces... the sunrise caught my eye. I just simply thought to stand and enjoy it for a few moments, when out from behind a low riding cloud appeared a dazzling light! I KNOW what that is!! (and do you think i could let it go? no way, baby!) I swished the 4.5 back out the door and took aim... How grand it is to see Venus again! ;-)

"With arms wide open... under the sunlight... Welcome to my world. I'll show you everything! With arms wide open..."  

April 11, 2001: (? - 10:00 p.m.) Saturn, Jupiter, M35, (!), M36, M37, M38, M44, M67, M65, M66, M81, M82, and the M3...

Comments: If I were to wax philosophical, I would say that the sky was "charmed up". I had basically given up hope, and took a glass of wine and the accoustic onto the deck to just enjoy the warm weather. Just one of those times... I found perfect tune. Made faces while I sipped the wine, and listened to the owl accompany me. (he likes "collective soul"!) I had even unwillingly made a sacrafice... (well, actually the darn thing committed suicide, i just wasn't going to trash my car for it! meOW! ;-) And guess what happened? You got it! The sky cleared....

Saturn has turned into a natural yellow, and still shows two moons. Jupiter's moons had paired off, with two "behind" the Mighty Jove, and two in "front"! Hastily, I made for the M35! Then on to just a bit of "wandering"... (psst! colors... there are colors!) and into Arigura for the M36, M37, and M38! Clouds are coming... Now for a fast pass over the M44... (nice doubles, baby!) and into the M67! (One of my favorites... lots of pairs and trios.... superb!) Then over to the M65 and M66! Roar! ThanX, Leo! Sky is clear to the north at the moment... time to stop, hop, and rock and roll! The M81 and M82 came next. What a pleasure to see them! (man... i don't believe how much i can miss the sky!!!) and on to the super dense and impressive M3! By now the western sky has disappeared... (and no matter what song i play, i cannot charm it back... :*) but I am happy! What a gift I have been given...

"You didn't have to do me... but you did! But you did... but you did.... And I thank you!"  

April 10, 2001 - dead cloudy...

"I have stood here before... inside the pouring rain. With the world turning circles... running around my brain. I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign... But it's my destiny to be..."  

April 9, 2001 - (5:00 a.m.) The Moon, Mars and M4... (5:00 p.m.) The Sun!

Comments: The sky was far from transparent this morning, but I was having withdrawl symptoms... so out I went! Using the most magnification at my disposal with the 4.5, I drank in Plato. Relatively devoid of detail, I was able to catch indications of highlights... probably lava flow... but the "seeing" was not that great! (hey, when the little scope can only resolve some of the stars in the m4, the sky is murky!) Mars still is not showing polar activity, but I was just delighted to see anything this morning!!

Later in the day I did some solar observing... our current large sunspot activity is definately dissolving. The northern-most of the group has broken up into six dark smaller ones, but the southern-most still rests in a "sea" of it's own particles. (in a flight of fancy, i thought it looked a bit like a comma... with two almond shaped eyes in the center! but then, i'm not given to such things... ;-)

"I've seen better days... been the star of many plays. I've seen better days than these..."  

April 7-8, 2001 - The Sun...

Comments: Beautiful, warm sunny days give way to cloudy, rainy nights... so I guess I shall be content to have done some solar observing! Our current large sunspot group has split into two distinct sections... displaying dark central cores, overlaying the "peppered" look of their dispersion mass. One still shows signs of stress lines, but lacks the "dimpled" look. (ssssssh! they look like black ink spattered on a bright orange plate! ;-) Heaven only knows what Rosarch would have to say about that!

"I might as well be walking on the Sun..."  

April 6, 2001 - clouds and rain...

"Some people thinking that my life is pretty plain... because I like watching the puddles gather rain! And all I can do is to pour some tea for two... and speak my point of view. But it's not sane..."  

April 5, 2001 - (5:00 a.m.) Scorpius, Saggitarius, Barnard 72, and Mars... (12:30 p.m.) the Sun...

Comment: This morning the early bird did indeed, "get the worm"! Barnard 72 to be precise... (now you know why i've been hanging out in the southern portion of the sky!) Just a hop northeast of Omicron, this terrific little dark nebula really belongs to Ophiuchus, but appears to be basically between Scorpius and Saggitarius. Using the 12.5 and the 32mm televue gave intensely satisfying results... the area is so "rich" in stars, it's hard not to just "drift away" on the Milky Way! (and THAT is why I have some difficulty with asterisms... just too darn many stars! ;-) Anyhow, the dark, "Snake Nebula" has been a pleasing find... a looping trace of "nothingness" set on a field of plenty!

Now... for my usual run on Scorpius and Saggitarius, leaving the 32mm in place. WOW! The panorama is spectacular! (doesn't really do much for Mars, though... ;-) Come on you sleepy heads! The morning sky is breath-taking....

(12:30 p.m.) The Sun is still rocking with sunspot activity! A new giant has appeared on the north/west limb... one that shows those unusual stress lines, and depressed look. It would not surprise me to hear of another CME... it seems that activity usually follows that unusual look! Now, good thing I've enjoyed the sky! The clouds are back again.... [:-(

"I'm on the outside... I'm looking in."  

April 4, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, Plieades, M41, Puppis, Arigura, M35, Cor Caroli, M3 and the Moon...

Comments: Quiet sort of night tonight... good one for the 4.5. We be old friends, that 'scope and I... Started with Saturn, and at 10:00 p.m., it's pretty well lost as far as surface and ring detail goes. But, I do enjoy watching its' moons shuttle around! Then on to Jupiter... I was amazed that the three moons had kept their semi-circular pattern for so long! It only helps to confirm what I saw last night. All four sattelites now orbit on the same side, and appear to be on the "earth" side of the planet.

I just felt like relaxing after a long day, so I coasted across the Plieades... the view is not as satisfying as with the dob, but it was interesting to see the contrast between the two. And so... we move on to the M41. I just cannot believe how many more stars can be resolved with aperature. Enough now!!! I came to relax!!! So, I just enjoyed the clusters of Puppis for what they were, and Arigura too!

As I headed for the Moon, I visited with the M35... (something of a "challenge" with all that light!) And the Moon? Filter time... or go blind! (One eye, eh?) The Southern Highlands were terrific! Some of the highlighted areas reminded me of antennae pointed at the sky! For me... Kepler was the best feature tonight. That one holds special signifigance for me, because I remember how strange it was during the eclipse! The peak was so high, it lit up well before the terminator! (but i digress...)

Cor Caroli is always a treat! (I forgot to mention during my last observing session how cool it was to see both Cor Caroli and Albeiro in the same sky!) As for the M3... well, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could find it with so much light! For now... I think I'll just open a beer and sit here on the step and enjoy the sky! It's been a long day, and nothing is more satisfying than just looking up! and thinking...

"I want to be a cowboy, baby. Wanna' ride all night and sleep all day..."  

April 3, 2001 - (3:30 -6:00 a.m.) Ursa Major, Canes Venetici, Hercules, Lyra and Mars... (8:30 - 10:30 p.m.) Saturn, Jupiter(!), M41, M36, M37, M38, M35 and the Moon...

Comments: Drank from the "dipper" this morning... ;-) (and now, quite honestly, i would rather chase down a hot shower and a big breakfast than decipher my field notes! hungry...)

(and my most sincere apologies for not having stayed a completed this report! duty called...)

From the field notes for 04/03: There is good reason why I've been frequenting Ursa Major, and in particular, the area of the M81 and M82. Especially in the morning, when the sky is at it's most dark and clear. Several nights ago I darn near tripped over the handle on the "Grasshopper", (yes, "you" knew i'd do so, sooner or later, didn't "you"? it was coffee... i swear! ;-) and it gave the 12.5 a fortuateous bump in a new direction! So back I came... again and again... A bit east of the M81, I though I'd found a faint cluster... which made me take to the books! Only to find out this was a galaxy... the IC2574! But that's not all... The NGC3077 is also in that area. It is a lovely, evenly lighted oval of a galaxy that I'd never seen! (Now the hunt really is on...) By running my basic "grid", I found the NGC2976... another galaxy that resembles a faint, dense cluster.

Ready for more? Let's rock! Shoot for the M97, "Owl Nebula". This one is very nice... about the apparent size of Jupiter, will reveal a single central star for me under magnification. Great, but not what I came for this morning! The M97 is a little below Mirak, but head off to the northwest and there is the NGC3556! Yessss! It's nothing more than a "scratch" of a galaxy... but I was delighted to find it! Of course, I took practice on the M101... I enjoy its' loose structure! And since I like target practice, I "did" the M40 (northeast of Megrez). I don't think Mr. Messier was drinking coffee that night... 'cause it's only two stars! On the the M51 and the M3... I've got some things in mind for this area, too! And my usual routine for M13, M92, M57, M56 and the "double-double". Mars is still bright and fantastic! Unfortunately, hazy clouds cover my Saggitarius, but I am quite sated with this morning's run!

(8:30 p.m.) I thought nothing could top this morning, (boy... was I wrong!) but the sky was clear, so I thought I would go out and relax.... you know, walk on the Moon... dance with the planets? Started with Saturn... its' moons were all tucked in nice and tight against the ring system. That allowed great magnification with all objects in view, but the Cassinni was just barely visible. Now for Jupiter... no moons. Must be to bright yet. On to the M41... Whoa.... wait a minute! NO MOONS??!!! Right straight back I went and dropped the magnification hammer on it.... LOL! They were there all right! At shortly after 9:00 edst, the galiean moons formed a "triple crown" on the head of the mighty Jove! And the fourth? Sliding happily down the belly of the giant to toss me a wink from the sky! What a show! I was caught completely unawares... (how unscientific of me!) and when I picked my jaw back up off the grass, had a wonderful time watching them seperate from the body of the ever-intriguing Jupiter!

(ahhh.... now you know me. i just had to peek at the M41 (42 too!), the M36, M37 and M38. and just because it was there... the M35 too!) And the Moon? Sinus Iridum was fantastic! Great lighting at the crescent! Blue filtering really brought out the detail... especially in Copernicus!

"Spinning around... two howling moons. 'Cause they're always there... whatever I do! I'm coming up, while going down! Scratch away... It's the little things that kill. They tear right at my brains, again. Yes, it's the little things that kill... the little things that kill."  

April 2, 2001 - (5:00 a.m.) Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Lyra, Hercules, Scorpius, Mars, and (ah...) Saggitarius! (8:40-9:30 p.m.) Jupiter and the Moon...

Comments: Decided to take the 4.5 out for a stroll this morning... (This scope is as comfortable as my old moccasins!) and just visit with the sky! Picked off my favorite galactic pair, then dusted over the "rocking chair", then a bit of target practice on the "Ring" and the M13. Traveled across Scorpius to keep the globulars' locations fresh in my memory, then on to Mars... Talk about it! WOW! As it moves retrograde, it has gained considerably in magnitude, and now most definately requires filtering to bring out the maria! Still no sign of the polar caps...

Now... this is what I came out here for. Saggitarius... Absolutely nothing can bring a sparkle to my eye, or a smile to my face like the giant "teapot" in the sky! (Who needs numbers, ok? I just needed to see it!! ;-) From the dim globulars at the base, I traveled through the "steam cloud" of the Milky Way up to the Dumbbell... and back down again. Virtually everything I could ever want is there... open clusters, globulars clusters, doubles, and nebulae abound... I think I'll keep it. ;)

(8:40 p.m.) Swatted Jupiter out of the sky before it even got totally dark! All the moons were to one side, with one either going in or out of transit/eclipse and the other three forming a nice, tight triangle in the sky!

Now for the Moon... (hey... I've no choice! The clouds are rolling across the sky faster than the surf on a stormy beach!) The Southern Highlands were the point of no return for me tonight. There was one great upheaval that looked like a pyramid! (hand me a beer and i'll swear i saw faces up there, too! ;-) Tycho Crater is superb in this lighting... it looks like an old fashioned rotorary dial that has been buckshot! Copernicus is as deep and dark as a well, but the terraced edges and interior mountain tops show cleanly through. Unfortunately the clouds keep moving past... making Jupiter wink in and out like the Marfa Lights! Grrrrrrrr.... Guess I'll pack it in for now, and leave the hunting grounds to the Owl!

"I'm alive for you... I'm awake... because of you!"  

April 1, 2001 - Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon...

Comments: Plenty of slow, trundling clouds tonight, but much better than the rain earlier! Took in Saturn before it gets away... under magnification, only the Cassinni and its' moons were worth any mention. Now for Jupiter, with its' bright equatorial belts and galiean moons paired off to either side.

Ah... behold the Moon! The Apennine Mountain Range was absolutely incredible... it showed in stark relief, allowing a sense of height and depth that only shadow play can allow. The Alpine Valley has lost some of it's charm... going from a deep cut, to a shallow scratch with the advent of light. The Tenneriffe Mountains, Pico and Spitzbergen positively glowed with light. Now... can you say "Straight Wall"? ;-) (YAHOO! Gotcha'!!!) Tycho looked like a deep well of inky blackness... except for one bright peak that seem to swim out of nowhere! The Southern Highlands were so peppered with craters that it would be next to impossible to name them all! And along the smooth surfaces of the mares ran the rilles... like bulging veins on the surface of La Luna... flexing it muscles! Outstanding...

(Personal Note: Took to "wandering" about in the Lynx when a hole in the clouds allowed... it's dim, my friend. Very dim and very small! Like trying to catch the M80 at sunrise!! What a challenge! Let me confirm it two more times... ok? But first I'll have to wait until the Moon gives way... ;-)

"Demons dreamin'... Breathe in, breathe in! I'm comin' back again..."