August 31, 2001 - The Moon and Algol...
Comments: To be proper, I should have labeled this date as September 1... because the sky didn't clear until around midnight. (It really doesn't matter anyway... it still feels like August.)
The Moon was what I viewed tonight... Craters Schickard and surrounds... the unusual Wargentin. Reiner and the highlighted Oenopides... The bright surface hurts the eye. I spent some time practicing with the camera. And for sake of "space" (pun partially intended) I placed my photographic results in "Camera Shy". (What can I say? Storage is another limited capacity of webtv... and I'd at least like to finish of this year's observing reports here.)
A look around the sky told me that there really wasn't going to be too much more else that I could do. While to the casual observer, the sky did, indeed "look" clear... I know by what stars I can see, or more properly, the ones I can't, that a great deal of skywatching would be simply futile. (It's the way of things... I know from re-reading my own observing notes for past years that this is not prime season for my part of the world!) But I did notice one thing... Algol. Ordinarly I don't notice much change in magnitudes... but the "demon star" has always been one of my personal favorites. Why? Mostly because as a novice in variable and double stars, this one REALLY shows a difference in a very short period of time. And last night...it rocked!
So, I puttered around a bit... then went back out. The Moon was still hanging around... but Saturn had cleared the horizon. I figured I'd just plant my carcass in the thick cushions of my favorite chair and watch the planets rise. Instead, when I wake, it is to see Venus... and the sunrise.
Like summer, I have grown tired...
"Where do I take this pain of mine? I run, but it stays right my side. So tear me open, pour me out... There's things inside that scream and shout. And the pain still hates me. So hold me, until it sleeps..."
Comments: Ah, the sky gave a repeat performance of yesterday morning! There is just something about walking outdoors when you first wake up... holding a steaming cup of coffee. When you look up, all you can do is think... (for i've never stopped.) About how very black the sky is, and how bright the winter constellations are... About how the planets look like they are being "poured out" along the ecliptic plane... And about taking the big scope out for a stroll...
Comet Petriew gives me a bit of a search this morning. Even though the sky is very dark, this comet has very low surface brightness, and I haven't learned to predict its' path just yet! It took many sweeps above Jupiter before I located the little furball. Why such a hurry to look? Simply because the Moon will interfere in just days... and during that time, I WILL lose track of it!
The M36, M37 and M38 were much more willing to cooperate, though. (Tis' not hard to find a naked eye object!) So, I enjoyed these prettry open clusters for just a few minutes, because I want to chase Perseus about the sky before dawn! And when I (finally!) found the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, I was a bit disappointed that I could only make out three... for I know that many, many more await in this area!! Sure, I'm being somewhat premature on this hunt... But if you had the opportunity, wouldn't you? ;)
Now, on to the planets... Saturn was just as spectacular again, today. Cassini is crisp and clean! Jupiter's belts are very, very varigated! (if I had more time, I would have sketched to show you just how many different shades of grey there can be!!) The galiean moons were dancing with three in front, and one behind. And Venus? Is simply Venus... and dropping quickly. I do believe it won't be long before Mercury comes to join in the act!!
"And I still haven't found what I'm looking for...."
Comments: Initial thoughts this morning when the alarm went off was to smash it out of existence and go back to sleep.... But, somehow, I just felt something. And I was right. I didn't even bother to wait on the coffee...
The sky is perfect with no fog this morning... and that means the dob!! The Plieades are a treasure to the 12.5... it is simply loaded with small doubles and triples, and more color than just blue! The Hyades are their mathmatical selves.. with their perfect spacings that never change. The M42 is totally captivating. I tend to forget from season to season at how truly lovely this detailed nebula is! The Trapezium area is clean this morning, and shows two of the four with little effort. (hey, i probably could have split it... but i've other things to do!) And so I just find myself lost for a bit in that sensational nebular clouds, marveling at the stars embedded there. Not only does Orion dominate the morning skyline, but Sirius is quite into the picture too! Bringing with it, of course, the M41. I was pleased to see it.... even if there was a touch of tree branch in the view! And if I can see this... well... what else can I see?
Hello, M67! What a great old favorite you are! (and still right where I left it, too... fancy that!) And the M44! Still loaded with stars, and ready to come back and play again! A couple of minor adjustments, and poof! There be the M1... and in the dob, it, like the M27, has a very unusual, almost "living" quality to it's light!
I can't tell enough how impressed I am over Astronomer Petriew's find! If I hadn't have been specifically looking for it, I probably would have grazed it over... Not because I wouldn't have noticed it, but because it wasn't what I was looking for! Comet Petriew has very low surface brightness, and is probably roughly half the diameter of Jupiter. It is noticable because there aren't any bright stars in the area... I was pleased very much just to see it!!! Extraordinary.. I guess this is just the year for comets!
Time now, for the planets. Saturn is exceptionally clean and stable this morning. (No! I take a pass at photography today.... skies like this are hard to come by in the morning!) The shadow play is deep and very pronounced. The Cassini is a pencil perfect line in the ring structure... and all five moons are very clear! Jupiter dances right out... the equatorial belts are very contrasty today. All four of its' moons are also in attendance, with one coming out from behind the limb of the planet. Venus is still hanging on to the morning skies... and bearing at great 60% phase.
Ended the morning session in Auriga... with the M36, M37 and M38. Easy naked-eye objects, but fast fading due to the encroaching Sun! I study them rather quickly... because I just really have an aversion to having the dob pointing anywhere close to the horizon when the Sun is about to enter the picture!!! Wonderful morning... I'm glad I didn't chose to sleep in! And even more so... to know that some of my favorite things are still alive and kickin'!! ;)
And speaking of kickin'.... the Moon most certainly was last night! Very bright, and looks like time to filter for comfort. (nah... no pics today. the cam damera has a minor flaw. no battery recharger! i shall have to go back to the shop where i rented it tomorrow and be my most polite self...) Who needs it anyhow? Because the beauty of Copernicus is something we all know intristically... without being shown a picture! And it was great, but something new caught my eye... Crater Euratosthenes... This was THE one to capture both attention and imagination. It appears to be very deep, with lots of steps in the walls. There is an interior crater that is cut through be a wall of its' own. Several small impact craters surround it. A very sharp, rigid wall of mountains connects to it, running back to the east for Mons Wolff. Very nice crater...
And for that matter, Timocharis to the north was also resplendent in detail last night. It has a very bright crater ring structure, with and equally bright ring in the center. The rilles set around the general area of this one are quite pleasing...
Now, for some peaceful contemplation of Plato and vacinity.... and I simply like the Sinus Iridum! Mars? Well, I checked it out, but for some reason tonight, there just isn't really much detail. A soft indication of shadow across the central meridian is about as good as it gets... Picked up on my favorite, easy doubles... and tried for a new one. What can I say about this one, except there appears to be two sets of doubles in the same field! Hmmmmmm.... sure I got the right one?!
"Look in my heart... Look in my soul... I get stupified!"
Comments: Tried my hand again at photography this morning... (who need sleep, eh? not me!) The results are not exactly what you would call "stunning"... but YOU try to sit through 8 minutes of Saturn video and pick out just one! (it was rough... ;) Anyhow, allow me to present the following... which do not depict the fact that all five moons were visible for Saturn, along with the Cassini and exquisite shadow play. Nor does it show that Jupiter had one moon about to go into occultation... but hey! Venus is pretty accurate!!
And I did try to image the M42 and the Plieades, but that low level light requires a timed exposure. Time to just enjoy now... Marvel on the Meriope Nebula... Be consistently impressed with the beauty of the M42... and hang out with "the Crab" for a while. (I poked around a bit for Comet Petriew... but it wasn't to be this morning! Sunlight is coming on fast...)
The Sun did actually make a periodic appearance today in Ohio... and what a magnificent array of sunspots! WOW! The "naughty" group has now made its' way to the mid-section of the Sun. It still remains just as dark as the day it appeared... but the dispersion field changes gradually each time you view it, and it is still very irregular. Most significantly today is a NEW grouping that is coming into view! This one is highly interesting... Two sets of smaller spots, close together. Each are comprised of more than a half dozen of various sized members, and a low about of dispersion. But, oh my my! The "stress" lines are really walking and talking with this bunch! Who knows? Maybe they'll do something cool, too...
(and in the interest of conserving storage space, i've had to remove all the photos and place them in "Camera Shy"... sorry! And you know I'll keep trying! (until i have to return the camera, anyway... ;)
Spent the remainder of the night just poking around in the sky. Mars was better than usual... (yeah, there's video on that too.. ok?) Fairly featureless, except for what I believe was the Tyrrehenum Mare, and the polar cap... But the image was very steady.
Too much Moon to do much else except split a couple of doubles up... like Cor Caroli, Albeiro, Mizar and Alcore and Polaris. (didn't try Antares!) But I feel very rewarded for just having taken the time and initiative to play with the Moon!!
"Well, I don't believe in... I don't believe in sanctity... and hypocrisy. Does any body believe that no one should be left alone? Could you only take my picture? Because I won't remember..."
Comments: Well! I certainly am glad I got angry with the weather... because it changed!! (and i was grateful, indeed. most because it gave me a chance to play with some new equipment!! ;) Can you say digital camcorder??? (yep... right before i said "time to clean house..."! ;) Again, I've had to remove the pictures in interest of storage... saved in "Camera Shy".
Now, in all honesty, I know these aren't "earth shattering" photographs... But, please consider trying to hold a camera steady at the eyepiece while eighteen mosquitoes are dining upon your ankles!! There were no tricks here... just me trying something different. (and i think it's kinda' cool!) So... I'll practice more, ok? And if anybody reads this, let me know what you think... (nicely... ;)
"Could you only take my picture? Because I won't remember..."
Comments: What can I say? You know I just had to get up early to see if it was possible to see the newest "kid" on the block... Comet Petriew! But alas, the morning skies were as foggy as when I went to bed, and the planets were basically the only thing of interest. Saturn is its' usual spectacular self. Thanks to all the moisture in the air, I had to stick with the 4.5, but even with that small aperature, it wasn't hard to pick out the five moons. Jupiter was pretty much a wash.... only the equatorial belts were visible, and I could just barely catch two moons! Ah, well... there's other mornings.
When I came home I was very pleased to see the Sun shining enough to observe. Grabbed the 'scope first thing and headed out. And what a change! The "sunny side up" pair on the incoming side are still basically the same... great, dark blotches surrounded by an uneven dispersion field. (That in itself seems odd to me... usually the dispersion field fairly well matches the area the spot itself. Perhaps their close proxmity to one another is why it appears so ragged and out of sync...) The most remarkable part is the one sunspot that leads ahead of this pair. Yesterday it looked just like the others... but today it has broken apart! Gone is the dispersion field and single spot. In its' place is now a double handful of minor spots that imitate the M11! (And when I had gone inside, I caught the recent alert that we had yet another CME! Perhaps THAT would account for the difference in appearance!) Too cool.... ;)
And, of course, I had to work night shift this weekend, but I did get some time to play with the dob before I went in...
NGC6940 still remains a favorite of mine. I don't really put open clusters up to the top of my list, but this one is "star rich", and very rewarding. The resolution and concentration are what makes it... uncountable stars massed in one area. I like it! And a hop off to the M15... very nice. This one is also superb in the dob. It has a certain amount of resolution on the golden stars, but takes a pass at the blue. I always get the sense when I look at this one, that I'm not really doing it justice because I don't take the time to power up on it. Perhaps on a night when I have more time, I'll do just that! Heading into Cassiopeia now for another pair of favorites, NGC7789 and the M52. These are also "stellar" open clusters. At low power, and first glance, they appear almost galactic. Innumerable stars gathered together in one place... and how soul satisfying they are too! Like diamond dust laid over black velvet, each tiny point of light seems to have a personality of its' own... but no "one" star really steals the show! Well, except maybe for the M52... seems there is one there that is just determined to "outshine" the rest! Now for a dip through Perseus.... the open cluster M34 is not all that spectacular. Just your basic collection of stars that resemble an open-ended figure 8. But this one is very nice in the finderscope! The "Double Cluster" is especially nice when using the 32mm. Lower power gives a wonderful sense of this formation as being part of the trailing end of the Milky Way... like one last ditch effort of a galaxy to do something special before it ends...
"Lying in my bed... I hear the clock tick and think of you. Caught up in circles... Confusion is nothing new. Flashback... Warm nights... Almost left behind. Suitcase of memories... Time after time...."
Comments: An all too brief appearnce of the Sun today, but I was delighted to catch a look at the current "hot" sunspot group that was responsible for our most recent CME (thanx for the tip, john!). Although there were several different areas of activity, this one is a very arresting feature. Twin spots sit side by side in a great dispersion field (an "irregular" dispersion field, i might add... ;) appearing like two sunny-side up eggs! The entire area around it is covered is visible faculae... Outstanding!!
Again, tonight... ground fog. Limiting me to the 4.5 only. The Moon gives a very stable image tonight. If nothing else, Posidonius crater is even more lovely than it was last night. The entire Ariadaeus Rille is now exposed, connecting itself to Hyaginus. The same basic study craters are prominent, but tonight's "moon coolie" is crater W. Bond... Sitting right on the terminator, W. Bond is currently half in, and half out of the shadow... But what makes it the most fascinating is that the entire crater rim is visible! (Hey... what can I say? It just looks wild seeing that loop hanging out there in the shadow!! ;)
Turned my attention toward Mars... who did not put on a very good showing at my viewing time. Only a soft indication of one polar cap was all the detail I could get! I thought I'd sweep round for LINEAR (ar2001), just to keep tabs on it... but pointing the scope up only invited the dew inside the tube!!
Hey... Albeiro looked good.
"The second hand unwinds..."
Comments: Whoa! Where did that Moon come from?? (Amazing how that thing will slip right up the sky when you're not looking, isn't it?!) But that's cool by me... I like it in its' beginning phases! Mare Tranquillatatis jumed right out at the eye last night... Running the expanse of the quiet, grey mare was wonderful rille. Caught just right in the light, it shows itself in a manner which is entirely new to me! (And down right confusing... because my maps don't make mention of it.) How could anything so BIG not be on the... Oh my STARZ! It's the Serpentine Ridge!!!! I do believe this has got to be one of the finest appearances I have ever seen of this area! I can rightly see why it got it's name... for it truly does look like "the serpent beast"! Absolutely magnificent...
To the dark side of Tranquillatatis, Ariadaeus Rille is making its' appearance too... superbly shaded, and looking impossibly deep. Posidonius is also in its' prime at the moment... showing of its' "broken" structure and interior components. And snuggled up beside it is Chacornac... not as grandoise as its' companion, but a lovely counterpoint, none-the-less!!! Atlas and Hercules are also making a fine showing tonight, too. But my strange study crater for tonight is named Torricelli... it looks like a little keyhole! Of course, I cannot leave this place unless I dwell for awhile on Apollo 11's site. Upon magnification, I can see many small craters around it... and I've heard tale that there are ones named Aldrin and Armstrong. Perhaps I have viewed them tonight.
Unfortunately, the ground fog has limited me to the 4.5 tonight... But, like the Moon, I don't mind this scope either. If it gets a bit of dew... ah well! It sure won't be the first time! So let's set it on Mars and see what we can see...
And how on Earth could you not see Syrtis Major? The whole area looks like a black ascot hung round the middle of Mars!! The 17mm plossl and the barlow and a bit more hint of detail around the central meridian. Hellas Basin appears as featureless area, curved round with a caramel colored shadow. Syrtis Major is a deep black wedge highligted by the circle of Isidis Regio... But moving out toward the poles or the limbs... detail gets lost is the showy sauce of Mars.
The fog has gotten the best of my optics for now, so I return it the the garage, turn on the ventilation, and leave it in dry-down mode. Despite the ground conditions, overhead is wonderfully clear. And I simply take pleasure in watching the Milky Way for a time...
When the little scope has dried, we return to our favorite spot to enjoy Saggitarius. Only the most prominent of features are attainable tonight... but I would reach out for them...
And take them on a slow dance here in the shadows...
"If you're lost, look around. And I will find you. Time after time... If you fall, I will catch you. I'll be waiting. Time after time... Time after time..."
"December clouds... come. Cover me. December songs... No longer I sing."
Comments: Feeling rather relaxed tonight, I really didn't have much of a plan other than to take a look at Nova Cygni. Since the target area for this object is basically right in the ballpark areas I've been recently studying, to find it was no problem. (Thank you, Alistair... the maps were excellent!) Of course, I am not "trained" in what to look for... so Nova Cygni simply appeared to me as a bright, bloated star in a field of much smaller, dimmer ones. (A couple of nice triangle formations, and rough doubles...) Just another "space oddity" to add to the collection, eh? (Hah! You don't know how much I wished I had a spectroscopic eyepiece to study on this one!!! Some day... ;)
Next I thought I'd check up on LINEAR... and wouldn't you know it... Heavens Above isn't in the mood to provide info! (No problem... I doan need no steenking maps! ;) After tripping around on the M27 and the M71, I hit on Albeiro and dropped down. Ahhhh! "Thar she blows, Cap'n!" LINEAR is changing faces yet again. Instead of that "out of focus" globular cluster look, LINEAR now appears to have a central nucleas surrounded by a soft glow of light... a "halo" , if you will. There is a small red star to one corner of the field, and a formation of small stars that looks like Pegasus to the other side. For those of us who have followed LINEAR since its' appearance in the northern hemisphere, it's changes have been quite interesting... and here's hoping it still has a trick or two left up its' sleeve!! Interestingly enough, the neighbors appear to have forgotten to reinstate their security light... (gosh, i hate it when that happens! ;) so the "grasshopper", the dog, the sketchbook and I head for the south field.
Capricornus is awfully tempting... but I came here to see Mr. Wizard's Galaxy! And the NGC6822 is just as remarkable as the last time I saw it. (And I tried, Jeff... honest I did. But, I'm not quite able to convey galactic light in sketch form yet!) Part of my problem is that to look at the Wizard is to have my eyes glaze over just a bit... It just wasn't what I was expecting it to be! Of course, having your eyes go out of focus that way does help many more stars appear with averted vision. So I pick up the pencil and start again... And again...
Hey. Maybe one day I'll get it right...
"Don't speak about it... Don't talk aloud. Turn your head..."
Comments: Hey. This was the night I had been waiting for. Perfect dark. Perfect sky clarity. (and no work the next day!) The "Sutton Light Bank" has been extinguished... Come with me. Time to walk the night sky...
Scorpius must come first. The clouds did not pass until around 11:00... but when the heavens revealed themselves, it was with a vengence! The body of the "Scorpion" has begun to recline on it's side... Let's go get it! M80 is up first with its' compact structure. Then down to the M4, more to enjoy its' tiny companion, the NGC6144 than the diffuse, pinpoints of light structured in the massive globular. Then on the the M6 and M7... who seem incredibly bright after the last!!
Now I'm ready to trace the lower body of Ophiuchus with my eyes... This, too, is a familiar path. I've followed the zig-zag many times, drinking in the various globular clusters... often remiss in mentioning them. They are a splendid study. Not all globulars are created equal, and one stroll through Ophiuchus will confirm that!! As always, the M19 and the M9 remain favorites. They are "super-structures" compared to the rest... But, between this pair lies a target I've not visited for some time... Barnard 72. The "Snake" is not easy. (Would I really want it, if it were?) By relaxing the eye on the grainy background field, the lazy "S" of dark nebula becomes apparent. It pleases me to see it again. (I love it's little "phat" belly!) But before I leave this place, I would look for the M62. I like the ones who can and cannot be resolved at the same time!! And, of course, I visit with Mars... the "toyboxevel haze around the edges of the sky, but I don't think that's going to hurt what I'm after tonight. But, let's start at the M81 and M82 just to be sure...
Excellent! These twin eyepiece galaxies are like a favorite meal to the hungry... they fulfill a need with their bright appearances and disparate shapes! Now a bump (or two!) up in magnification seperates them cleanly, revealing outer field structure and a mild core in the M81. The M82 takes on its' irregular shape, and diplays its' dark dust lane. (ok... galaxy check is a go!) Now for Polaris. No problem. Actually took very little concentration, and its' tiny blue companion companion comes through at all ranges of magnification. (i'm ready! let's go...)
The early evening sky dark gave me a great opportunity to do some study work. Let's just call it the "beginning phases" of a new area. Success was minimal... I could only find one of the things I was after. But like with all new sky studies, it takes awhile to become familiar with the star patterns, so I don't sweat it. Took a moment to rock with Cassiopeia for awhile... I like the open clusters of this area! Some are very "rich", others are diverse... but all are a treat! As is just sweeping up the Milky Way... When the dob reaches "stop", I'm at the beginnings of the northern half of Cygnus... and simply amazed at all the doubles, knots, and clusters there are! Unreal...
Made a brief pass at LINEAR, but with no success tonight. I probably should have printed a map before hand, and now occassionally flashes of lightning says I best shake a leg if I want to look at anything else! Since I was in the area, I thought I'd take a bit to look at the M27. And, as always... I take great delight in the filamentous. living appearance of this grand planetary. It's showing its' stuff tonight, too! (yes... i had a corona after i got done with the study field, and i thoroughly intend on several more, ok? ;) Just because I understand now what gives it this "living" appearance, doesn't detract from what it does to the retina! Perhaps a "rainy day" special report on phenomena should be a future consideration...
Fly on, now... to the "Wild Ducks"! I always get a kick out of the M11... mostly because I remember a time when I searched and searched for it! And how pleased I was with myself when I finally caught the little boomerang of stars in the 4.5...
More lightning... that means Mars! (geez... if you only knew about my first experiences with Mars and lightning!! i was a bit braver then...) LOL! Yep... I wasn't seeing things last night. It's still there, compadres! Just one of those laughing "cosmic jokes" our solar system likes to play! Time to cover the dob back up, and wheel it away. Park my old bones in this here chair, and unwind! I don't know which part I enjoy the most here... watching the clouds and the Moon move softly in, watching the random meteors and the sattelites busy up the sky... or just watching the cooler go slowly empty!
Vive la summertime!
"Staring straight up into the sky... Oh my, my. The solar systems that fit in your eye... Microcosm. You can die, but you're never dead, spider Web... Take a look at the stars in your head. It feels like space, kid..."
Comments: Woke up a little before 5:00... even without my glasses I could see the planets smoking up the morning sky! (and it didn't take long to throw on some clothes and head out!) set the 4.5 out the garage door, open it up to cool... and go start coffee... As soon is the first cup was ready, the 'scope had stabilized and was ready to go! (and my... isn't the first cup strong?!)
Saturn was it's most excellent self this morning. The 4.5 won't reveal the Cassini, but even with the old 25mm, the moons come out to play! All five were grouped to one side along the curve.. the inner three are along the rings, one is straight out, and the other is a bit off to the 5 o'clock position. by using the 17mm, shadows of the planet/ring come right out!
Jupiter has passed up Venus... The three major equatorial belts were very visible, and all four galiean moons. The sweet part here is that Jupiter is sitting in a starfield, so it looks literally "surrounded"!
Venus unfiltered... is like Nirvana unplugged. The true beauty of the "song" comes through. Only snatches of the phat phase can be seen, but the harmony of the radiating colors are outstanding. And what's this I see???? Mother of Pearl! It's Orion!!! (and the "sword" is well clear of the horizon...) M42... how do you DO!! (rather well, actually. ;) Oh man... I can't even begin to tell you how much it means to see some things again! And the M42 wasn't bad either!!
Had a look at the Sun after work. The great "acorn" spot has broken up somewhat, and is showing that terrific "depressed" look as it nears the limb. It is also accompanied by fine lines of lighter areas... The "paperclip" has gelled more to the top, so it is beginning to look something like a "safety pin"! There are still two nice strings of spots... and the "Auriga" looking group hasn't changed. The new one? It looks like a "belly button"!! It appears concave, and the central spot is very black... also surrounded by the pale "cracks" on the surface. And would you believe it?! There is yet another coming into view...
So I swam until the stars began to come out! And each night, as the Moon makes its' appearance later and later, I am so delighted to see just how bright and beautiful all those summer stars really are!
What shall it be tonight? Study? LINEAR? Or Saggitarius?? (Another tough decision! But since you've already read the designations... you know I'm playing "favorites" again!!) But first, let's have a dose of Iridium 54... If you haven't taken the time to watch one of these sattelites pass over, you really need to! The prediction are right on the money, and it is definately exciting to watch the Sun reflect off these fast moving orbiters as they race across the sky!!
So, let's go get serious now...
(I've really been in the mood for study lately, and what I have in mind won't come together for a while yet!) But, I sure can revisit some of the study fields from a few weeks back!! NGC6522 is a great little globular right of the "spout" of the "teapot". Concentrated would be a good way of describing it, and it sits in a very star "rich" field! The NGC6520 is next... this is a very colorful cluster. The outlying ring of stars a definately blue tinted, and the central star hints at yellow. The best part of this cluster is to use relatively low magnification, because the void of Barnard 86 is right above it! Dark nebula are strange creatures... not what one expects, I guess. Simply a very noticeable "gap" in the field! Now, let's head for the bottom... and the M54. A "practiced" catch! Grainy in texture, but not resolvable... and Ceres? Long gone!!! (if you chase an asteroid, be prepared to lose it... ;) But let's head M70's way, just to check. Nope. Just the M70... a much more resolvable globular whose outer members come right into focus. But no Ceres... (Fine, then... be that way!)
Looking up, now... (yep, and still thinking...) and a pass over the M20, it's cool, but it's not what I came for! M21 is what I want, and a resolvable globular cluster is what I get!! Oh, yeah!! This is more like it!! And since I've been dancing on the clouds of late... M24. Sweet... Beyond sweet. Will you just look at all the stars!! (I can never tire of this constellation... ;) The NGC6603 is part of this inspiring stellar cloud... nothing more than a "tightening" of stars. But, oh my... how I love it! OK, I'm trying to keep my head in the game here... Let's breeze over the M17. Good! Even the fainter parts of the "Swan" nebula are visible, with its' stars neat and clean. Let's go for it... M16! NGC6611, gotcha'! And around it is the faint nebulosity of the "Eagle"... Soft and gentle, it folds its' way around the stars. A warm embrace... from a distant place! Aaaaaaaahh...
(So, I just stood around grinning like a lunatic, eh? Will you fault me for that?! Too bad my words can never match all the things I'd like to say...)
So let's go catch Mars! Bwahahahahhahahaaa!! Go look, eh? But keep the magnification to a minimum and tell me what you see!! (Prime rule of stargazing: Low magnification sometimes reveals the most astonishing things!! ;)
The Moon is well up and ready... and Mare Crisum ROCKS! Oh yeah!! (This one is soooo cool when the shadows reverse!) Crater Pierce (oooh! what a great name for this one!) is a deep well of shadows... Crater Picard (make it so...) is outstanding... and Crater Lick? (ok, "the astronomer" is having a REALLY hard time restraining my sense of humor here... Let's just say it was there! )
Before I go wait for the night again, let me say that the last several days have show a VERY marked increase in meteor activity. Each time I've been out to view, I've seen on the average at least five. (And can you imagine how many I may have missed while at the eyepiece?!) They've ranged anywhere from a fast, grey streaks to slow-moving lateral fireballs that makes me yell out loud! I'm trying really hard not to get my hopes up for the Perseids...
But you know me, eh?
"Deep inside of a parallel universe... It's getting harder and harder to tell... What came first. Underwater... thoughts can breathe... easily. You were born in the starry sea... Just like me..."
Comments: Just had to go look at the Sun again today! Those amazing spots from yesterday have changed yet again! The still retain their basic shaped, but some of the smaller spots have begun to "gel" together. And, to make it all the more fun.... a new, very large sunspot has now migrated into view along the limb!! Perhaps we'll have an aurora with the Perseids this year!!
So, now it's dark! What do you want to chase tonight before moonrise? Saggitarius... or a comet? (Wow... tough choice for me!! Really!) Oh, what the heck... let's go find LINEAR! And it's still very much on the move! The "dust ball" has made it's way into Vulpecula already!! It still very much resembles a faded globular cluster, but the magnitude from first sighting has shrunk way down... It could be that the beginning brightness of the sky is putting the hurt on it... but I don't think so! There's not even a hint of a nucleas at the moment. (Come on, LINEAR! Hang in there, baby... Dark skies are coming!) The good news is, that it's only a short hop away from the M27! So, before the Moon has a chance to toast the dark to light, I had an opportunity to be awed by the "Dumbbell" nebula once again!
And here comes the Moon... big, orange and rising fast! (Even though I just watched this yesterday, I still just stand there getting about half dizzy from the speed with which our world turns!) I will spare it a glance, anyway. Enough to see that Geminus, Burkhardt, Masala, and Cleomides are on the terminator. (I'm tired tonight, ok?) Then off to Mars... which is still holding a fairly decent amount of clarity. Actually, it looks like it did last night... but I'm hours earlier! Fascinating...
I just want to spend some time with my favorite... it won't be long until Saggitarius becomes a dream again, and I would take every chance I get to enjoy it before it goes! So I trace across the starfields... quite content to see what I can. And when the moonlight begins to overpower the vista? I am just as pleased to cap up the scope, flop down here on the cushions, put the Red Hot Chilli Peppers cd in the walkman, and pleasure myself in the finer art of stargazing....
"Space may be the final frontier, but it's made in a Hollywood basement. And Cobain? Can you hear the sphere? Singing songs of specialization. And Alderan's not far away..."
Comments: What a great day! The sky was perfectly clear... And you just know I had to peek in on the Sun! Sunspot activity is great right now... There is one shaped like an acorn that is loaded with concentration... Another shaped like a paper clip, with uncountable spots making the configuration... A couple of dark ones with great dispersion fields... And even a group of singles look roughly like Auriga! (I actually started to count them, but lost track after 50! Who wants to count when you can just look at these great things!) Even more pleasant than having viewed them, was to see that one of my friends had outstanding success in photographing them! (Excellent work, Alistair!!!)
And it stayed clear... very clear. There were stars right down to the ground tonight! Even Spica is still hanging around... and what a lovely visual contrast it made with Arcturus and Antares! And there's a bit of time before moonrise... Let's go swimming on the "deep end"!
The M81 & M82 cut right through the still deepening skies! I always delight in this pair, and even though they are relatively low, they are still quite bright! The M13 presents itself much better. Riding just west of the zenith, the outstanding globular of the sky is a great thing to see again. M57? Perfect! Excellent ring structure... very clean! The tiny outlying star is still there. NGC6940? Committed to memory, but in a position in the sky where its' perfection is a pleasure! (I could just hang around swimming in this sea of stars for a long, long time!) It seems like forever since I've seen Scorpius and Saggitarius so bright!! But will the light take it out? (Yeah, contrast isn't the best, but there is NO mistaking what I'm looking at!) M4 is like a touchstone... if you can make out edges of this large, soft globular, then you're good to go!! And go I did... Right straight up for the M80! (But I didn't goof around too long, because I can see exactly where the Moon is going to be in just minutes...) So let's go down... M7! All right! Nice grouping of bright stars... best seen with the 32mm! M19... very decent, but I want what I want.
To steal a moment with Saggitarius...
Look at all these glorious stars! Everywhere I look, I keep getting caught up again... (Nothing does it for me like you, Archer... nothing.) The M8 is a splendid sea of nebulosity, home to an archipelago of stars! I want to stay in this ocean... and leave the world behind. To view the M22 is unforgettable... Stay with me, Saggitaruis... But take a moment to look over your shoulder, because something very beautiful is about to happen...
(Across the distance to the east, there is fire in the trees. Don't look away... Watch as the wonder of the Moon climbs up right before our eyes!! Did you realize that it comes up so quickly?! Look! Look at how it races away from the far flung branches!! Faster and faster... Selene ascends the night! Glorius...)
I turn my attention once again to the scope. There is something left inside me after all, I guess. But it belongs here... And here I stay until I can see no more!
Shall we journey to Mars? The hour has grown late, and it's heading west! Is it past it's prime? Who is to say?! The polar cap is still vague, but unscored by dark maria. (Does Mars sport a bit of grey in it's hair?) No matter, for this year it has shown me more than I have ever recieved! Solis Lacus is the prime feature along the central meridian... and below it lay Arcadia. Such a wonderful study in light and dark features! And speaking of light... I think the Moon wants a bit of attention!
Filtered down, (because you're just too bright for me!) it is definately different looking a crater shadows in reverse! Zeno... This one is special! Why...it even has a "lucky horse shoe"! ;)
Cassiopeia, you're next! Bright clusters M103 and M52 stand up well to the light... As does the Perseus "Double Cluster" and the M52! And Algol? The "demon" looks a bit different. Much brighter than the last time I saw it!
Time to be laid back for awhile... Watch the dome of the sky turn above me, and wait on some friends who would like a moonlight swim! I love these guys... with their strangely colored spikey hair, and piercings. And when they arrive, why, you get an astronomy lesson, of course! And then one in stargazing... Swim to you tire, then sit by the fire! And watch the Planets rise...
So I take them with me... Let's go! To the precision of the Hyades, the warm glow of the Plieades, the majesty of Saturn, the flash dance of Venus, and the grandeur of Jupiter and its' string of moons!! (Happy 21st Birthday, Mike!! May you remember long after I am gone....)
"Well, I'm still dreamin' of your face. Hungry and hollow for all the things that's been away... I just want to see some palm trees. And I will try to shake away this disease. We could live beside the ocean, leave the fire behind! Swim out past the breakers, and watch the world die..."
Comments: Charming the sky, again... Rain storms had been cruising through all day, and well after sunset. I really figured there was no chance what-so-ever... So, when the rain disappeared, I thought I'd take the accoustic out for a bit of practice and just enjoy the night. As I moved through each song, closing my eyes and conveying my feelings into music... each time I looked up, more and more of the sky revealed itself! From the time-honored songs of Neil Young to the beautiful harmony and deeply touching lyrics of Collective Soul... the sky cleared overhead. From the classics of the Beatles to the raw emotion of Bush... Mars revealed itself, and the Moon came out of hiding!!
Shall we go look? Awesome... It almost doesn't look real when it's full! I love tracing the rays that eminate from Tycho... and best of all, I love Grimaldi. I don't know why... Could it be that there's a bit of clown in us all? Or maybe it's because I can identify with a silent, grey teardrop on the cheek of the Moon.. And as for Mars? Splendid resolution on a caramel colored sea... highlighted with islands of bright, featureless plains. Very soft view of the polar cap... I shall miss it.
Time now, to return to my favorite chair...cradle the battered old accoustic once again. Perhaps somewhere in the world, another soul waits for the night... and maybe... just maybe... they still look up and think, too.
"And if the walls break open, a thousand years too soon... I'll see you on the dark side of the Moon..."
"I've locked the door, and thrown away the key. There's someone in my head, but it's not me..."
Comments: Morning coffee and planets, anyone? (Kool! We'll save the danish for daylight...) The three planets are putting on a splendid exhibition in the east! Seeing the ecliptic plane highlighted so brilliantly by the "neighbors" is worth getting up early to look at!
Saturn sits the highest right now... almost on a level with Aldeberan. The ring system and shadow play still fascinates me! And, of course, its' parade of moons! This morning I chose the 4.5, because I remember some things so well... (like i could ever forget...) and the inner moons are very visible! (thanks, otto... for reminding me to focus my attention!)
Venus? Jumps, jitters and jives... After all, it IS the brightest thing in the sky! Shall I filter? (nah... been there, done that...) How about just enjoy all the different colors it sends back my way? Sure! Jupiter? Closing the gap on Venus, for sure! Three of the four moons were dancing in the chorus line this morning... and I can't wait until it rises a bit higher so that 3-D effect of distance happens again! ******************************************************** A moment of Sun after work... (and it sure is heating things up in this part of the world!) Four very decent sunspots are visible. One of the larger almost resembles a centipede in the way its' dispersion field is arranged! Two are quite ordinarly... and the last? Looks like someone spattered a great drop of black ink on an orange plate!
Now for a bit of lunacy...
I have a preference for craters along the terminator... because more than anything, I get a charge out of seeing the rim of a undisclosed crater just hanging out in the dark!! (But, there is something to be said about the ones you can "see", too! ;) My maps suck... (does everybody's?) but with a bit of concentration, I think I can identify some craters correctly!! In the north, Pythagoris... Right along the terminator at the pole is where you'll find this spledid crater! It's shallow, but the western wall sports great detail... with several rims and high mountains contained in those rims casting long shadows. Very nice....
(Hang on... ISS break! Right on time... Low, but there! I like it!! ;)
Aristarchus is very bright tonight, especially the crater rims... Euclides outshines it, though! Now for Gassendi... flattened and old, but still impressive! Keep walkin'... Merisenius... also a shallow crater, but sports a nice deep puncture on the rim! A little further now... Aaaaah! Beautiful study crater!! (Took my eye the moment I looked in the scope tonight, and now I've mapped it out!) The name? Doppelmayer!! Excellent bright ring edge, and the interior is what makes it! From this perspective, it looks very "mounded up"... and with good reason! It contains several large mountains inside!! WOW! This one is very impressive...
And you know I had to peek at Mars... for a moment, anyway. That old lawn chair is looking pretty good about now... It's been a long day, and I think I'll just settle down here for a bit...
"The lunatic is in my head..."