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California Dreams - 2003

"Earthquakes are to a girl's guitar... They're just another good vibration. And tidal waves couldn't save the world..."

Hey, ya'll... Time for this "night owl" to fly on back to California for a new adventure. It was my great pleasure to visit Jeff Barbour and all of his wonderful friends. The California skies have definately got Ohio beat!

Have fun. I did.

Outta' Here

A Night At Monte Bello

In the Santa Cruz Mountains...

At Freemont Peak...

Glacier Point, Yosmite...

Dayuseonly Ridge...

Dayuseonly Ridge...

"Backyard" Bonny Doon...

Farewell to Monte Bello...

Backyard Boulder Creek...

Dancing Alone In The Dark...

A "Farewell To Arms"...


June 25, 2003 - Outta' Here...

Comments: What can I say about airplanes? I love airplanes! These ungainly, lumbering creatures able to reach such speed within such incredibly short distances! The raw power fascinates me. Heck, the view fascinates me, too! Watching the world go by under its' white wings - things of beauty like the patchwork structure of fields, the hidden patterns of stream and lake... The awesome majesty of snow covered mountains and the stark reality of the harsh desert...

And I almost missed it.

When I tell you I was within three minutes of missing my flight, I ain't kidding. I am not the most graceful of souls, and I probably frightened on-lookers by running through Port Columbus like an astronomer on a mission... An astronomer who wasn't going to miss their flight to California. No sonner than I found my window seat in an already filled plane, the concourse rolled away and the engines began to wind.

I made it, dude.

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June 25/26, 2003 - A Night at Monte Bello...

Comments: Hey... Do you know how nice it is to just see stars again? How about the Sun? After having arrived in one piece, Jeff and I took it pretty easy the rest of the afternoon and headed for the TAC observing site, Monte Bello just before sundown. Arriving in more than enough time to set up the "Pup" for some solar observing, it was long until we had homed in on good ol' 386. Having dispersed far more than last time I remember seeing it, I was pretty impressed. (of course, high altitudes are enough to impress anybody and i'm not ... snake... wondering... snake... too far off the... snake... beaten... snake... path... snake.) Happily, as things stabilized, Jeff noticed a giant plague corridor on the limb. Looking like a huge absence of granualtion, I'm thinkin' that's a pretty good catch for a guy that hasn't solar observed in a while!

As the Sun began to set, and others arrived, the "Pup" went back under wraps and "Argo" and "Lightsop" were assembled. But they are far from the only ones! To keep good company, we were sharing the lot with lots of other great scopes, like an 18" Obsession, a 10" Celestron, and some very clever 12.5" dobsonians desgined by Albert Highe. As the twilight turned to night, we were honored to receive the presence of yet another of our Astro "Circle"... Andy P.

Looks like this night is gonna' be all right!

Andy set up his 4" Edmunds refractor and the 8" Orion dob as well, and were were off and running. Want a low down on what we had a look at? Name it. Any conceivable target without our aperature range from Jupiter descending to Mars ascending was captured. What fun to move between scopes, comparing views of the M4, M3, M5, M13... etc.! (and i gotta' tell ya', even at precisely the same aperature, Andy's dob was wipin' up the turf!)

Was it a game of musical scopes? You know it. And I know I like the tune. I like the people. And I like this place. It seems so different to me to see the sky at a slightly unusual angle, but what a pleasure to see it again! There was no shortage of laughter as we moved between scopes to take in everything from the "Leo Trio" to the "Virgo Cluster" , up through Markarian's Chain. Varieties of telescopes trained themselves between globular clusters and nebulae, happily picked at some of the best that Summer has to offer. It was a real treat to use Jeff's OII filter to pick at the M20, and his expertise to explore the "Veil".

Of course, as the evening wore down, all eyes were turned toward Mars. So beautiful. The pregnant pause of the polar caps and just mottled with dark markings tonight. Of course, the fun didn't exactly end there. Some much went on in such a short span of time, and I'm afraid I was a bit lax in keeping my notes. (shoot me. i'm on vacation.) So, if nothing else, I say a deep, and most felt thank you to all the gentlemen who toured me through their telescopes and took time to make a stranger feel welcome in their midst. You guys are finest kind!

Hey, Andy? I owe you for the snakes... ;)

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June 26, 2003 - In the Santa Cruz Mountains...

Comments: At last... A night just to work with Jeff. Hey. I'm not being selfish here, but this is precisely why I came. As an admirer of Jeff's work for a great deal of time it is my pleasure to be able to spend the evening with the man one-on-one in study. As partners in several projects over the years, one of our "pets" is AstroTalk, and an integral part of AstroTalk is our observing challenge pages we have presented through the Astronomical League. Since Jeff is required to travel for his employment, it isn't always possible for him to keep up with seasonal challenges, so when an opportunity arose to do the Messiers in Virgo?

We were on it.

The previous evening on a return trip from Monte Bello, we had passed a very promising overlook with an excellent view to both the south and west. This looked like the perfect spot to do some studies, and the addition of a nearby table was a welcome sight. Arriving shortly after twiglight, our plans were to keep it simple and to keep it focused. The decision to stick solely with the SVD8, a 25mm eyepiece and a barlow was easy, as the Virgo Messiers were the focus of our project. Maps out, notes ready...

Let's rock.

(from our notes)

M98 - (10:10) Both 6 Comae and M98 present themselves in the same field. Subtle edge-on, stellar core on movement and a condensed nucleac structure. Some spiral extensions in evidence. SE/NW orientation. The western edge is somewhat brighter. A "pyramid" star structure to the south. (~T: Large, diffuse, some central condensation with a stellar point on aversion.)

M99 - (10:15) Stellar nucleas upon aversion. Face-on, extends toward west. Large. Spiral hints. Forms triangle with 8th and 9th magnitude stars, with the brighter of the two toward the north. Flares west. (~T: Held direct, face-on, definate spiral structure.)

M100 - (10:20) Brighter than the M99. Stellar core. More defined to the N/NE - Spiral structure. W/NW to E/SE orientation. Face-on. Spiral arm detected to S/W. (companion detected to E/NE some 12 arc minutes away.) (~T: Face-on spiral. Large and diffuse. Concentrated core region. Arm detected to the NW. Offset stellar nucleas. To the east and south, two 10th magnitude stars trail along. Stellar nucleas also present and curiously offset. A supernova candidate The companion I see appears much like a UGC galaxy signature.)

24 Comae - (10:23) Easily split with a delighfully faded green and gold coloration.

M85 - (10:27) Condensed core - Elliptical. N/A orientation. Intense nucleas. Bright, diffuse with a faint companion to the N N/W... Much smaller, approximately 1/3 the size of the M85 - 1 to 1.5 magnitudes in difference. 13th magnitude star trailing and to the north. (~T: Direct, bright, very concentrated. Companion NGC diffuse, easy and direct with a smallish mantle. We both confirmed the location and approximation of the companion galaxy.)

M85/86 - (10:35) Two companion galaxies direct. Two NGC to east. (at this magnification we are easily holding 7 galaxies in the field.)

But hey! We're digressing here! We're smack dab in the middle of the "Field of Dreams" and it's damn hard to concetrate isn't it? But concentrate we do even though my notes are sometimes a bit "helter skelter". ;)

Western-most slightly smaller than east. Both stellar cores presented. Smaller and dimmer than the companion, it flares to the S/W. Both bright and relatively small. The 86 is largers and more expansive with a mantle or aura. It is not only more extended, but more developed toward the N/W. As for the field in general? We have a triangulation with an edge-on with a highly prominent stellar core. In the center of this "triangulation" is a small, diffuse galaxy with a flared mantle. Another galaxy presents itself to the N. Very diffuse. Movement brings on a sense of condensation. Two brighter NGCs trail the M86 at half field to the N/S roughly seven arc minutes away. They are stellar points, cores with faint mantles. Messiers overlooked? (~T: ~T's grinnin' here... Our notes are covered in rough sketches and excited hand-writing that I'm having a rather difficult time reading with sweat running in my eyes, dude. I think I'll pass on my own comments at this point. I've hounded this particular region to death. ;)

M87 - (10:50) Face-on, bright, direct, round and slightly blue. High surface brightness. Large, expanded mantle - a companion located to the S/W. Tight nucleas and slightly diffuse. A "come and go" stellar point. Possible faint companion to the N/E near a magnitude 11 star. Another approximately 15 arc minutes to the S/SW that is diffuse and averted. (~T: Definate spiral with a concetrated nucleas that covered approximately 50% of the easily visible structure. Notes a bit fuzzy here but obviously we validated each other's sightings of companions.

M89 - (11:05) Large, diffuse. One field due north, approximately 1 degree away from the last study. Confirmed. Tilted spiral. Large with a bright nucleas. So far, the largest of the studies. Oriented N/S witht the eastern frontier more defined. Centered between 10th magnitude stars. Spiral arm to the N/NW. (~T: Tilted spiral! Definately the largest yet. A condensed spiral arm (ok, jeff... flaring) to N/NW.

M91 - (11:20) Stellar core held direct. No real central region but flares to the west. High surface brightness. Possible faint companion with a star-like core to east/northeast. Possibly 10 arc minutes. (~T: Very diffuse, a mid-sized galaxy. Stellar core on movement. Bluish face-on spiral. More structure to the N/W. Again, hazy notes - but the gist of it is that we confirmed each other's sightings and positions of companion galaxies.)

M90 - (11:25) Tilted-spiral. Stellar core seems immersed. An extended spiral N/S oriented. Large and more developed toward south. The eastern frontier more defined. Requires slight aversion to make out structure. Small companion to north approximately 6 arc minutes away, with a stellar core. (~T: A tilted spiral with a star point and extended N/S orientation. At this point our notes are also covered with excited field sketches as we point out to each other what is quite probably barred spiral structure. The beauty presentation is the actual arms themselves and how the relate to the galaxy's structure.)

M99 - (11:40) Barrred, face-on and upon aversion a stellar core. Oriented SW/NE. Expanding mantle that flares in all directions. A 10th magnitude star approximately 8 arc minutes to the west. Here we have lots of potential companions in the same field. These are several distance NGC galaxies within in approximately 1/2 degree of area. (~T: Easy, direct, with a stellar core. A very "haloed" structure. To me this halo concentrates to the south and southwest, giving every indication of a grand spiral arm. Again, we tend to confirm each other's relative positions of companion galaxies, but our point tonight is to study the Messiers so we let it go at that.)

M59 - (11:45) Tilted spiral - N/S. Star-like core. Core region flares to S/SW. Frontier present to the east. Near edge-on, but with the sense of spiral. Possible companion due north in a field of small stars. Bright NGC to S/W, condensed mantle and a small star-like core.

M60 - Expansive, tilted with a stellar core. Extensive nucleas with an Andromeda like presentation. Blue tinged. Oriented S/SW to N/NW. Like M83 the core sinks in to the spiral extensions. The east is well defined. (~T: Yeah. Whatever he said. ;)

So, it's roughly midnight here. We've had a wonderful time studying with each other and watching the stray Bootid meteors flash across the night. It's been a long, hot day... But a damn fine night. I'm sure my notes and reports here are probably incomplete... Have tons of typos... And probably don't make a whole lot of sense here... But hey. I don't care. We got 'em in here and there's places to go... People to see...

Stars to catch.

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At Fremont Peak...

Comments: June 27th and hotter than Hades. Time for a cruise into the mountains and a visit with one of my favourite people, Mr. Paul Bradshaw of Freemont Peak Observatory. Arriving well before dark, it was my intense pleasure for Jeff and I to be allowed to use the Solaris scope and the H-alpha filter. This would be my very first experience with being allowed to view solar prominences direct and I was very excited. Minutes after Jeff had begun the assembly of the scope, Paul arrived and we were on our way. And I gotta' tell ya'... I was blown away.

After years of having observed the Sun with a white light filter, I really wasn't quite prepared for exactly the type of views this gave. Within seconds of Paul's final adjustments, a huge prominence was exposed and I was lost. Being the very kind gentleman that he is, he went and fetched his prized Naglers and set me right down on the solar surface. Holy photosphere! Not only did things begin to look like features that I have only seen in SOHO's fine presentations, but they took on depth and dimensions as well!! I guess ya'll read this because you like my descriptions, so I will elaborate. A solar prominence appears almost like a nebular "tounge". It carries itself away from the solar limb in fantasy filaments. Probably the feature that I got lost in the most was "loops". Nah. We ain't talking fruit loops here... We're talking a genuine solar feature that I know in my heart but have never seen in my eyes. WOW! These "loops" look almost like braids of hair that curl of the edge of the photosphere and come back down to touch!

Well, by now I've got my backside plumped on an observing stool and my shirt over my head to block stray light. Just check out this granualtion! Again.. the view is absolutely nothing like white light. The granulation is far more present and faculae areas just smack you right in the eye. As far a sunspot umbrae and penumbrae surfaces... Well, white light definately defines them a bit more, but they still rocks!! So here we go... Another incredible new experience...

And more to come!

Paul and I made the close to three thousand feet descent back down the mountain to hit a local pizzaria and wait on skydark. Many other fine gentleman had already had there telescopes set up for imaging that night... But I don't want to image. I want to visit with my friend and this fine facility and simply enjoy another California clear night. Sure the thought of a 30" reflector is not a new concept to me... But you're missing the point. The point is this time, this place... And these friends.

As soon as those skies started walking down, Jeff had the scope open for business and was entertaining the public at large. By the time we got back, the M57 "Ring" nebula was front and center in the eyepiece. Hey. It's always awesome. But what's really awesome is tiny IC1296! Requiring slight aversion, this nearby galaxy to such a famous Messier is round, contains a condensed nucleas region only. A nearby companion star round this picture off and we're ready to roll!

NGC6940 - OK. My request. It's no great secret that I've been sky-starved and the NGC6940's ultra dense and highly scattered field of stars is simply a long time favourite. What's revealed in this great scope is a highly rich open cluster and the fantasy overlying density which I so admire. By now the time has hit 11:03 and we take a short break to watch a darn fine irridium flare.

When we go back to work the Western Veil is the target. Totally incredible! Stretching well beyond the field of view (and I mean very well... ;) it shows incredible filamentous with some embedded star regions. Heading off in the direction "Witch's Broom" area, again the view is fanned out to incredible distances. The tiny crystalline stars embedded in just rock right out! Cruising for the Eastern Veil, I could hold the controls of the big scope in my hands and push it 3, 4, even 5 fields of view in either direction. The most fantastic portion is almost tarantula like in appearance. The filaments simply drizzle across the sky like an opaque frosting on a very rich cake.

The M27? Hey. You know it's one of my favourite studies of the past as well. How many years did it take for me to find the answers to my own questions? It's beauty between polarization and doubly ionized oxygen sing the songs I love. The Freemont Peak scope delivers across all ranges of magnification revealing all of the "Dumbbell's" splendid mysteries.

The M71 is beautifully and incredibly resolved. As always, with these rich borderline between galactic and globular clusters, the appear to resolve completely out, except for the underlying density of stars that hang just beyond the incredulous edge of resolution. The M51? OK... We all know of my on-going debate with aperature and the M51. I simply don't think I can be presented any finer than with a 12.5 reflector and a 9mm... Tonight? Hey. You matched me. Honestly, I am not being facious here, for I do not understand "why" too much aperature shreds the "Whirlpool"... I just know it for fact. Tonight the deep dustlanes were easily in evidence along with some mottling in the outer arms. This is truly more than satisfactory considering this isn't exactly the best time of year to view it! (Hey, Dave? M51, dude... Always. ;)

So what can be said about the M11 "Wild Ducks"? Complete and utter resolution. As a curious note, I observed the elad star to have a daggone double companion. A definate "out of sequence" event, but it sure was nice to have a couple of other sets of seasoned eyes to confirm it. The M17 was next, and you know... I've never thought to slap apearture beyond the 12.5 on this one.... What a crime! The "Swan" simply walks and talks with filaments and embedded stars. at mid-range magnification and no filter, it is outstanding. At 22mm with an ultrablock, it turns amazing. Between the embedded stars and the Barnard nebula, this one is truly a nebular beauty. So what about the M20? Unfiltered? Incredible. Nice structure... Concentrations and stellar points in the lobes. Filtered? Drop dead gorgeous, dudes. Filamentous presentations are snapping out everywhere. These show fronm raggedy to diffuse edges that I've only seen in long and concentrated study times. When hammered down with the 12mm Nagler even some of those intesenly deep magnitude stars that exist along the dark rifts become easily apparent with direct vision. All in all, a very superior view as much as watching cloud patterns. An incredibly study object and worthy of all the time you can spend on it.

Time to look at Mars. I keep tryin' to get really excited here but I'm just not really deeply into planetary studies. Don't get me wrong!! For the Freemont Peak scope rocked those details right out that most people would kill or die for. But ya' know what? I like... But what I really like is going deep.

And the only other person I've met that could follow Paul's act is my own study partner, Bruce... Bruce? You two gotta' meet! Between you guys? I'd probably die of photonage!!

So what did we do? How about NGC7335, 7336, 8331, 8337, and 7349! Again, I am totally blown away by this galaxy field. &331 just conquers the eyepiece while averting to capture the smaller sattelite galaxies. What an incredible treat is is to be holding magnitude 14.5 studies so easily direct! (yeah, and i should be being more dreyer descriptive here, bossman... but i'm having fun, ok? besides... paul had us all rolling on the floor of the observatory with his comment that dreyer descriptions that start with !!! mean "holy @&$(#&%!~!! this one's cool!" ;) But, for you? I'll break down and say that NGC7336 was pretty small, even and diffuse with no present nucleas.

The NGC7316 and it's superimposed 13.5 magnitude star masquerading as a stellar core is part of this round, even and somewhat diffuse galaxy. The NGC7343 is a small spiral that shows some beginning signs of structure. Small star captured at the edge, this particular galaxy shows an "edge" condensation. NGC7320B is very diffuse and requres wide aversion. No structure is detected by this kid. Very even, it's not much more than a small steady patch of contrast change. And to top it all off? NGC7320A. Swish! A magnitude 16 galaxy right out of the night!! Very diffuse, small and round, this little NGC has gotta' have a higher surface brightness than it's billing.

Now, I read on my notes that I haven't mentioned all the Bootid meteors that I have observed since I came out here. Don't now how I managed to miss it yesterday, since I wrote it in inch high letters across my written notes, but I did!! "Don't cha' know that you are a shooting star?" And the shooting star of tonight's show was Mr. Paul Bradshaw. I simply cannot thank him enough for sharing his time with me and making my visit extra special.

Call me anytime, dude.

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Glacier Point, Yosmite...

Comments: Ah, man... Here is the point where words fail me, my friends. Not only did the incredible scenery blow me away, but the night was going to turn into an experience some of us can only fantasize about.

Arriving just moments ahead of skydark, it was my pleasure to catch the end of the SCAS's "Star Party" presentation, and check out all the great scopes set up to capture the night. Ahead of us stood a huge mountain called "Half Dome" that looked all for the world like that big rock in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". I found myself a comfy boulder, content to allow the SCAS's two hundred guests access to the scopes. I really just can't help myself when I see the Milky Way starting to appear and souther stars that I have absolutely no clue as to what they are. As people happily mill about me, I'm just kicked back... Listening to Jeff give his presentation and groovin' on the night. The something truly incredible happened...

The Milky Way came outAt over 7,000 feet, the heavens are so close that you can reach out an touch our own galaxy's spiral arm. Never have I seen anything so incredibly beautiful. These stars... All these stars I know by heart. Skies like this happen in Ohio perhaps four times a year, but what has never happened, nor ever will happen is that incredible appartion of the Milky Way. There are depths to the rifts, clouds, dark dustlanes and simply portions of it I have never seen. Around the tip of the "Teapot" of Saggitarious, the star clouds are so dense that the stars themselves almost disappear. There a living veins that course through this that I had no clue that existed! Needless to say? I'm having my head fixed this way.

Of course, I didn't stand entirely still over the evening. Another terrific gentleman that I had met on a past visit is Mark Buxbaum... Another 12.5 dob man who skills surely surpass my own. And he's not alone. Other members of the SCAS that i've heard talk about but never met like Andrew and Paul were there as well. I really felt badly that I had rusted so much and wasn't right in the middle of everything hoppin' and walkin' with the rest of them... But I can never express to you how wonderfully comfortable they made me feel. (yeah, i was feeling bad about being out of practice... but in the time that i've been here, if there were any people that made me feel "at home"? these guys sure did it.)

Yep. Most of my night was simply spent staring straight up into the night. You know... That was alright by me. I'll never see this again, and I want to toally burn it into my memory for all time. There were objects such as IC nebula that were naked eye, and I want them permanently embedded in my brain!

El Marko made sure that I didn't just get lost in space though... Between views of the North American and Pelican Nebula, along with assorted galaxies and my own personal request of a Barnard Dark, I didn't just feel like I could touch heaven...

I felt like I was in it.

Jeff? Mark? Paul and Andrew? You guys have given me a memory to take back to the MidWest with me that is totally priceless. I can't adequately express my thanks or appreciation for both your hospitality and your ability to put me totally at ease. I shall never feel bad when skies are cloudy and rainy for months on end. Your insistence on us being in this time and place have given me a vision that shall exist until the day I die... And when I do?

It will be with that vision in my eyes.

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Dayuseonly Ridge...

Comments: Hey... Made it to June 30 without melting. Time for some more serious studies? You bet. I think each of us who enjoy amateur astronomy are tempered by two frames of mind - part of us enjoys the free-roaming, "star gazing" style, and the other half requires discipline. By discipline, I do not mean tied to a chair involved in studies beyond ones capabilities, I think perhaps what I'm striving to express is the need for a structure observing session. One that serves a purpose.

This particular purpose is two-fold. It is allowing Jeff an opportunity to continue with his Messier studies for AstroTalk, and it simply gives me a chance to work with someone who's customs, mannerisms and styles are not like my own. The "Dayuseonly Ridge" is really a rather nice place for short studies. Located so it has an excellent view to the south and west, this is simply perfect for what we had in mind. Level ground, table on the premises, parking within feet of an observing area, and a kick-ass view of the valley below. What more could one ask for?

Hey... Them stars are nice.

So, without further ado, let me break from my over-antimate, effusive and rather silly style to present the following reports in a manner from which they can be used:

Date: June 30, 2003

Scope: 8" Orion Skyview Deluxe

Eyepieces: 25mm and 12.3mm

Seeing: Average of 5.0, 7/10 stability

M68 - (10:00 PDST) Located 1 degree east and 3 degrees south of Beta Corvii, at 25mm with a barlow, the M68 globular cluster first shows as a large patch of luminousity condensed toward the core. SW/NE orientation and oblate in structure. It is sprinkled with resolved stars against a gray background. A chain of stars runs along the same orientation as the globular toward the south. The 12.3mm darkens the field considerably. Mild aversion reveals perhaps 12 directly held stars across the central region. The resolved outliers basically triple the size of the cluster at about 6-8 arc minutes. (Quite bright and fairly large, there is a slight condenstation. It is visibly oblate and the outliers resolve nicely. What I see are three stars easily held direct against the core's central portion, and perhaps a dozen or more resolved with slight aversion.)

M83 - (10:10 PDST) Located by triangulation with Gamma and Pi Hydrae, it is a very large tilted spiral. Brilliant star-like core and core region. 10 arc minutes in length and oriented S/W = N/E. Billows on eye movement. The S/E frontier is much more defined. Paralleled by a chain of 10th magnitude stars to the east, many 12th magnitude stars are in the galactic area. It take magnification very well, and with the 12.3mm reveals a bulge around the core. S/E frontier is more pronounced. Several stellar points in areas. As Admiral Smythe would say? "Very lively." ( The core on this one is walkin' and talkin'!! Pretty large, relatively diffuse and very pronounced spiral arms. Many starlike concentrations are visible along the arm structure. Very sweet lanes. especailly pronounced to the south.)

(Just as a curious note, we took a few minutes here to observe a delightful double, Delta Corvii. A delightful lilac colored primary star that is easily and quite cleanly seperated from it's orange tinted B star. Very, very nice color relief displayed by the SVD8.)

M104 - (10:20 PDST) Pure edge-on. Stellar core and brilliant spiral extensions. Stretches perhaps 10 arc minutes. Oriented E?W and haloed. Accompanied by a swatch of 8 magnitude stars curving to the south. Power up? Dust lanes suspected. Souther frontier concentrates. Also takes magnification well. Eye movement causes extensions to jump outward visibly. (Hey, now... I could never tire of looking at this particular galaxy in any aperature. First impulse is that outstanding core region which is quickly overshadowed by that laid back "edge-on" that I so admire. So I'm getting away from the notes that Jeff kept for me on my spoken obervations... Shoot me. There's nothing wrong with my memory... Just yet. ;) To me? I dig this particular galaxy's "see thru" core qualities. The dark dustlane at smaller aperature is a trick that is easily learned. It can, and does show the most widely at the extensions. While concentrating on these extensions, what happens is that the nucleas will seem to "double" just inside the conscious view of aversion... Now don't look, daggone it!! Just go eye easy and keep your vision at the outside. Aaaah... Yep. There it is. A noticable division that tends to run just a bit more toward the south of the region. Now that you've seen it? Look directly at it. Still there, huh? Kewl!!! Now watch what happens to the outer structure while you're playing with the inner dustlane... I can only smile here as I watch that silver signature of a high-surface brightness galaxy walk out 1/3 of the field of view at 115X. Rock on, M104... You are one of my favourites.

M61 - (10:25 PDST) Large and diffuse, possibly elliptical oriented toward N/S. Vaguely football shaped. Stellar nucleas exists inside a diffuse mantle upon eye movement. Several faint stars appear in the line of sight. Perhaps 3 to 5 arc minutes in size, and shows a frontier to the west. (Very diffuse and moderately bright, I'm not seeing a stellar nucleas. There is a slight concentration that eveloves to the N/W. For the most part, it is very even and slightly ovoid.

M49 - (10:40 PDST) Brilliant circular core region with a bluish nucleas covered by a mantle of nebulosity. Star trails less than 1 arc minute to the west. This appears to be the core region of a huge spiral with an arm to the S/W. The core takes magnificatin well. Extension to the S/W still suspected. Flares to the southwest on eye movement. (Oh, yeah!! Very large with a stellar nucleas. Concentrated core region and again, I'm breaking from the notes taken for me and tell you there is a notable interior dustlane to the east located quite near to the nucleas itself. The spiral arms themselves are very far flung and diffuse, and I'm catching clumps in the structure that are possibly bright nebula or maybe concentrations of some type. Wide aversion really snaps out those faded spiral arms. It is highly elongate the the E/W. And just for the record? Jeff has penciled in here that what he refers to as "stars" within the galaxy? I refer to as "clumps". Well, fine then. Clumps it be for me... Three please. ;))

From this point on we did just a bit of joy riding. Again this is something we quite define as "work", but let's just say it's "pleasurable work". Our target? Quasar 3C273. This is not a deep sky object that you observe for the fun of it. This is a true test in map reading abilities cooridnation between eye, brain and eyepiece. It is a long, a painstaking process using a limited map, but one that is correctly marked. At this point, we're kinda' keeping under wraps our precise starhopping plan, but let it suffice to say that neither of us are exactly what you'd call "quitters". It might take a while to find the correct field. And it might be awfully hard while locating this field to not want to stop and at least look at NGC4623 and NGC4420 (i looked at the trap, ray.) but my own 3 "P's" won out. With patience, practic and persistance, that distant Quasar was ours last night. And soon?

It will be yours.

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Dayuseonly Ridge...

Comments: July 1. Another clear and sunny day in California. I understand where the phrase "California Raisin" comes from, for if I were to live here I would probably look like a raisin - dark and wrinkled. But hey! The sun is free here and I'm diggin' every second of it.

By the time sunset came along, Jeff and I had planned to head back toward our recently discovered observing area to continue on with Messier studies. But, "Dayuseonly Ridge" had other plans for us. The previous night, I had stood in awe at the overlook, watching what Jeff called the "marine layer" of fog roll in over the valley below. It's like watching a huge open expanse being filled with s luminescent, almost living quality of white smoke. It's pretty in its' own way, but it can spell disaster for astronomy.

The night before, the fog kept down low, but tonight it kept stealing up the mountainside on big cat feet. It did not sneak. It commanded. Not easily discouraged, we set up the SVD8 anyway and waited for it to pass. Knocking off what we both jokingly refer to as the "Nickle Tour" targets, as soon as decent sky dark came along I opened the notebook and we stared studies:

M53 - (10:25 PDST) Intensely concentrated, round and no interior star point, it contains and elongated core oriented W/SW. Two tenth magnitude stars located 15 arc minutes south. Blue hued and some resolution on eye movement at low power. Going up to 150X, the scintillation of a dozen interior stars and the outliers occur. Bright blue star trailing and to the north just outside the core. Brightest part extended along the axis. Squieshed core region but very round. A sense of truncation to the south. ( Pretty bright, and moderately condensed, a trail of stars is visible across the core from east to west. The brightest region appears northeast of the core's mantle. It is rather irregularly shaped and appears brighter to the north.)

M64 - (10:35 PDST) Bright blue core. Expansive mantle on a tilted spiral, aversion shows beginning of extensions. Frontier to the south and 6-8 arc minutes in length.

Then it happened. That fog decided to come up the hill and sit a spell. Not that it really matters, I guess. It was nice to sit and have a conversation and perhaps a spontaneous laugh or two. Time to cap everything up and put it away before the dew comes to claim it.

And just call it a night.

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"Backyard" Bonny Doon...

Comments: (06/01-02/03) It doesn't happen often, but once in a while you find a kindred spirit. Kindred in the sense that you share a certain amount of similiarities. It may be nothing more than in the way that you pronounce a word, a manner in which you coin a particular phrase... Or it could almost be like home.

I've met this particular gentleman before. We've shared observing sessions and from time to time exchanged e.mails. If he were to walk up to me in a crowded room, maybe I'd know him and maybe I wouldn't. But if he spoke in the dark? I'd know him anywhere.

Anyhow, as luck (or quite possibly begging, as the case may be.) would have it, Jeff and I had somehow managed to weasel an invitation to this fellow's private residence to enjoy an evening of observing. After having simply glutted on the stars for the last several days, this seemed almost like dessert to me. Is there room for Jello? Oh, yeah, baby... Pass that bowl my way. ;)

As soon as dark started to fall, I realized in one big hurry that the same flaw that has happened to my observing over the last few days was about to happen again. I was gonna' stand and stare at the sky all night. You can fault me if you like. You can call me dumb. You don't even have to like me, or my methods. But I have been one very starved astronomer. I am one who hasn't had the open sky above me since Leo was in prime position and Saturn still held court on the western horizon. To me the most wonderful thing has happened!! The constellations have somehow missed Spring altogether and moved their way on to Summer. And even more disappointing?

If ya' stay up late enough? Them daggone Winter stars are back as well.

But I digress here!! Do you know just how good it feels to be standing in a backyard again? To look up and just see a sky full of stars?? Like a long, cool drink, m'man... And you've just done me one better. Put me in a place with my most favourite person in the whole world and friends besides! So, shall we set the stage? Then let's add an SVD8, an Intes IM503, and a TV85. This is gonna' be good!

In all honesty, I took my notebook. Ya'll know me, I'm the weird rat in the corner with a flashlight and a space pen keeping notes on everything I've observed. (darn well better, too... i've heard it's still raining in ohio.) But, for some reason last night? Well... That book just never made it out of my observing bag. Jeff started out picking up DSOs right and left, and friend Andrew joined right in as well. Happily hopping from scope to scope, it wasn't long before Mark joined us as well, and the "round robin" of observing began in ernest. From this galaxy to that globular cluster, just one right after another! And the real frosting on the cake?


Ah, now... You know the way straight to me heart, don't you? Edge-on, baby... And just as sweet and storybook picture perfect as could be asked for. And you know? I'd like to say that I remember every single thing we looked at last night (hell, i'd like to say i remember exactly where the m27 is right now, but it ain't happenin') but I'm doing good just to remember my name! I know for fact that we did all of those terrific globulars in Ophiuchus, like M9, M10, M12, M14, M19 and M107. I recall looking at the M3 and the M5. I know daggone well we did the M81 and M82 as well as M51. We did some of the companion galaxies in that area. I know we split double stars. I know we cooked the NGC6940 the M27, the M71, M29, M13, M57, and whatever the heck those two little globulars in Hercules and Lyra are. I very well recall Jeff pullling galaxy after galaxy after galaxy out of the sky for my pleasure... And pleased is what I was. Here I am in the most comfortable of situations. What I see above me is what I would refer to as a damn fine night in the midwest. If I were there? I'd be out til' dawn pouring over those maps and re-familiarizing myself with the night sky... But hey!! These guys have got me taken care of! What can I say?

Spoil me. I love it.

And so the night turned into a wonderful experience. I truly believe that all the problems of the world could be solved in a situation like this. Who needs a "shrink" when you've got telescopes, stars, and a backyard to laugh in? Ah, man... Hand me a pair of binoculars and a patch of still warm from sunshine grass to lay in, cuz' I'm dyin' a happy camper here! There is just nothin' finer than cookies and coffee and creepy tales of all the creatures that reside in the redwoods. (feral pigs? oh, lord...) Normally caffiene is my drug of choice in astronomy, but I've found that adrenaline is quite nice as well. You've got to admit there's something quite pleasing about watching one of your observing companions running up hill with a deer chasing me. I'm not exactly sure what it wanted, but I do know that they usually run away from you... Not at you! (hehehheeee...) If nothin' else? Well, at least I keep you guys amused, right?

By the time Mars rolled around, the guys were getting serious. Jeff broke out the 6" Argonaut and filters and magnification were flying faster than I could keep track of. Of course, ya'll know that planetary studies are not my strong suit. They hurt my eyes, plain and simple, but I'm still happy to enjoy the incredibly fine views and all the splendid details that were handed to me.

So, now it's time to go off on another night's observing trip. I've been spared a few minutes to put some notes in here before I forget. But I've got to be honest with you...

I'll never forget you, El Marko. Never.

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Farewell To Monte Bello...

Comments: (07/02-03/03) I was surprised when we crested the last highbanked turn at dusk to see so many cars. I've sure got to hand it to California... These guys get all the skies. Finding a place to park, Jeff began assembly on "Argo" while i took the time to visit with Andy, his very fine Edmunds refractor and the crescent Moon.

What a pleasure it was to see the Moon again! And the Edmunds provided extrememly crisp and accurate images. After guiding him through what lunar features I knew without my constant companion, "resource material", (god bless ya', cor. you'll never know how much i love the rukl.) it was my turn and my eyes kept going back to a particular feature. Yeah, yeah... I'm simple minded. But there is always one particular feature that kicks.

Tonight it was Petavius.

Petavius was much more than just a central peak and the detail inside of accompanying crater Wrottsley. Yes, Paliztsch, and it's vallis was there. And yes, crater A inside of Petavius revealed itself well along the many ridged interior crater... But what rocked was the rimae! Catching the light just right at that point in time, the Petavius Rimae was so disclosed and highly detailed that I couldn't keep my eyes from it. But hey... I'm not an eyepiece hog! (yes i am.) Needless to say, I was very impressed by the high power views through the Edmunds and I can see that Mr. Andy is going to have many wonderful adventures with this ultra-long and ultra-fine piece of equipment.

Wandering about a bit, I took a peak through this scope and that, meeting folk here and there, but the object of my fancy was just ahead. I have never been able to exactly get the maksuktov design telescope to cooperate with my dob ways... But I still appreciate what it can do and Jeff is just the fellow to give it to you. Once again, we continued after all those beautiful and resolvable globular clusters... So fine! After a handful or so of them, others interest began to wander a bit... and I found myself alone again.


Nope. I resepected his equipment. I left everything polar aligned, but what I did do was sneak inside the eyepiece case and fetch out a 35mm eyepiece. Right now, no one is around and I'd just kinda' like to wander across those open spaces and faraway places on my own.... And this is the way I like it. Low power. Low key. Yup. The M57 "Ring" nebula isn't huge at this magnification, but what it is, is precise. A tiny, perfect ring. (a cheerio, instead of a donut... but i just felt like eating "light". ;) Sure, the M4 and M80 have been routine the last few days... Just as the M6 and M7 have. Surely we've studying the heck out of the M22... But I kinda' like the M28. Again, I'm chartless and working strictly from memory. But there is a delightful array of less than spectacular globulars that run the base of the "Teapot". Forgive me if I get the designations wrong, but I'm pretty sure they are the M69, M70 and M58. Let's just say it felt pretty good doing "my own thang" again.

After that, I found myself wandering up to the M11, and thinking thoughts about Tarazed. Instead I found myself touring the edge of the Milky way beginning a Albeiro and I heard the voices coming back. Smiling quietly, I went back to the finder and dropped in down on the M6 and was quite ready to relinquish both scope and eyepiece. If someone is going to be able to call a deep space object out from study, that dude is going to be Jeff. We went hounding after Antares little green companion and did comparison views with other scopes. (by the way, again the Edmunds performed flawlessly.) Of course, moving between scope to scope also means that you overhear conversations, and one of those converstations was centering around a piece of equipment that so far I haven't had an opportunity to use. It's called a "bino viewer".

Hey. This isn't a new concept to most amateur astronomers, but it is a first for me. The gentleman in possession of this fine piece of equipment, we shall call Mr. M. And Mr. M was a very generous soul. Jeff cradled the bino-viewer back to the 6" Argonaut to do some experimentation, and like the Pied Piper? We all followed. When I got my first look through this bad boy it was at the M27. I didn't like it. Every perception I've ever had about how the sky should look was now turned completely inside out and upside down. A very large chuck of my cognitive "astronomy brain" had just been sheared away like a dead branch and my receptors were picking up totally new vibrations. I had to walk away.

So you were asking for my reaction? Gut instinct. I didn't like it. It scared the hell out of me. When I went to the eyepiece, I fell into the stars and this huge, glowing gas cloud that I've looked at so "un-dimensionally" at over the years looks as if it would swallow me whole. I had to walk around for a few minutes and truly come to grips with what I had seen. This isn't like sweeping star fields with binoculars...

This is like being sucked into space.

Of course I came back. I had to. I have to know. I have to see. I have to understand. And the more targets we went on to, the more outrageous my brain began to feel! Will I still say I don't like it? Heck NO! I love it. It really is totally cool! As lost as I can get in my own observations, they would have to send supplies and hook me to life support if I had one of these toys to play with all the time. One thing is certainly sure - I would become a "sit down" astronomer in a hurry because I was having a very difficult time keeping my balance while looking through them. It was an awesome experience, and to Mr. M? I owe my thanks.

Oddly enough, Mr. Michael just happened to walk by a bit later carrying what appeared to be a small suitcase. It's not odd to see someone carry a suitcase in California... Heck, I've done it for over a week now... But this wasn't a suitcase. This was an eyepiece case and it was loaded with the kinds of goodies we star freeks sit and salivate about. Once again, Mike's willingness to share went above and beyond the call of "friendly". Through the "eyes" of quality glass, the beauty and splendor of the beyond was brought to life with incredible views of both the "Veil" and "Crescent" nebula. I have been asked many times over the years if eyepieces make a difference, so just let me say this: He made the M8 appear in a 6" scope with all the clarity seen in a 12.5. Is that answer enough? Woo hoo!! So, Michael? If you're out there, dude... Thank you.

Of course, the night wasn't exactly over. Many things happened in between there. I remember hearing James voice and how I wished I could have found him again to visit for awhile! Andy had also brought a friend as well, and I'm afraid I didn't get to visit with Maurissio for long either. Just so many people and so little time. But you're all there, my friends... All part of what made my last trip to Monte Bello memorable. From the guy with the 30 year old Sky Quest, to the dude with the Obsession. There are scopes and voices here that I know I've met in the dark before.

And along came Mars. Again, it seems as if all scopes point that way. Yes, I am quite happy to take a look, but I know Mars is going to figure very prominently in whatever public presentations I might be doing in the near future, so I keep my observations both pleasant and brief right now. This year's apparition is going to be so fantastic, that as long as a dust storm doesn't obscur it, I'm sure we'll all be quite familiar with every detail Mars has to offer. Right now? I'm still diggin' on those starry nights. The few times I've allowed myself to call back to Ohio, I've found out that it is still raining. I only have a few more hours left here to study and it has been incredibly good to see Monte Bello one last time and all the wonderful folks that make amateur astronomy in California so great.

Vaya con dios, amigos... Go with the stars.

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Backyard Boulder Creek...

Comments: July 3 and 4:00 in the morning. So how's come we haven't found a shady spot and aren't sleeping? Oh, I know. You might not because you're not looking in the man's eyes...

Jeff saw something he wanted to explain.

After all these great views from Glacier Point, Freemont Peak, and Boony Doon... In particular the Crescent Nebula and the Veil... I understood without being told that he wanted to (heck, needed to) understand if exactly the same view could be re-created from a place in which he had searched for this very phenomena. And he wanted answers. Setting the Argonaut up just as soon as the car stopped, the first mission was Mars. The answer we received was positive. Stability and view were the same here. Now on the the real "meat" of this meal.

The entire Crescent Nebula area rocked right and and I was standing behind it to confirm what he saw precisely. No question about it. Not even a hint of "imaginousity". This is the real deal, guy. This is what it looks like, how it behaves and what cha' got. Only you know if you like what you see or not.

The next question that needed answered was the "Veil". Could the extensions and detail be seen inside this environment as well? Again, the answer is yes. Fully extended, but perhaps not quite as bright, all the detail that we've seen over the last few days from more remote and certainly more atmospherically "clear" sites have been duplicated. It's there, my friend. It's still there.

The final question for the night remain the NGC206. For those of you not entirely familiar with the NGC206, please know that this is a patch of nebulosity and some detail for large aperature telescopes located in the southern edge of the Andromeda galaxy. Jeff set the 6" Mak on the M31, had his look, metioned the NGC206, asked me to confirm and then put it on the M110. Hey. There are times when I might be dumb, and there are times when I catch wise. Returning the scope to the M31, I moved it in the direction that I knew the NGC206 to be and there it was. Yes. The detail wasn't as distinct as what I have seen it in a 12.5 dobsonian, but I am here to tell you that I am quite proud of what it would pick up. There is absolutely no shame in this view. With the major portion of the M31 well out and away from the field of view, the NGC206 is diffuse, but it is noticably diffuse inside of the equally diffuse edge of the Andromeda Galaxy. With averted vision certain areas of concentration could be seen and wide aversion could sometime pick up what would appear to be very fine stellar points.

So to what do we attribute these incredible views? Certainly the sky itself is a contributing factor. The conditions a very good, but not particularly exceptional. My guess is just the final realization that these things are indeed there. The always have been.

But sometimes it nice to have someone to confirm them.

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Dancing Alone In The Dark...

Comments: Walking somewhere along the fine line of the real and the ethereal here. I dunno'. The last double handful of days have passed rather strangely for me. I remember being here, I remember being there... But somehow time has blurred and I'm no longer sure of what day it is, much less of what hour or exactly where I'm at. But hey... I'm a grounded soul. I can tell you exactly where I'm at. I'm in a friend's backyard with a familiar telescope... A sky full of stars.... And my Walkman. I can dance alone in the dark.

I always have.

I've learned many fine lessons over this time, and I'll not forget them soon. One that was taught to me last night was stability. Again, different observing locales present different circumstances. I guess until now I've never really seen a very unstable view. Yep. I've had image waiver, but never to the point where it was simply impossible to view an object. But, here I go again. Getting the cart before the horse...

When I first set up, the Moon was obviously the target. Although I will now agree that a refractor certainly gives a more "cutting edge" performance to very small features, there is absolutely notihing wrong with what a reflector can do, so I settled myself in with the SVD8 and a 35mm eyepiece only. At first the expanse of the terminator was dark and lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed the wells of Atlas and Hercules, and was really getting into Metius, Fabricus and Jannsen... Then it happened. What I generally see as an irritating wavier, or a moment of instability went off the deep end. While the view remained totally clear, the actual details themselves rolled, waivered, focused and de-focused to the point where they no longer could be studied. Not only that... But the air turbulence right over the top of that mountain make it impossible. To the naked eye, the Moon still looked terrific. To the telescope? It was a lost cause.

Now, don't be thinkin' I just stepped out from between the corn rows yesterday. (actually it's been a little over a week... ;) I've seen the effects of clear air turbulence before, but it just fascinated me the way it came on so suddenly! Of course, my next concern was whether or not it was going to effect DSOs, so taking great care not to polar align the scope, I turned the little pig around and headed toward Ursae Major.

The M81 and M82 were just outstanding. Both within the same field of view and just as steady as a rock, it was my pleasure to see how unusually 8" in sperature cuts apart the irregular galaxies. Ordinarily, what I consider to be smaller aperature makes them faint fuzzies appear brighter, but in this instance it totally shredded the light. The M82, instead of just appearing like an elongated "smudgie" at this magnification, immediately revealed its' dark notch and patchy structure. The M81 was as impenetrable as always, but that stellar core and even spiral appearance still rock and roll!

And I'm dancin'...

Next object I chose was the M51, and I'm not entirely happy with the view. Two stellar cores walk right out to direct vision, and wide aversion shows the general haze of the M51's structure, but doesn't give me that "confirmation" of spiral arms and structure within the spiral arms. Still, it was very nice to see it and it was time for me to move on to other "memory" targets such as the M57. As my "Cheerio" at low power, I tend to find it rather pleasing. I feel that this stellar field with the glow in the dark ring in its' midst is very worthy of a look. And while in the neighborhood and we're still listening to the same tune? How about the M56 as well? Small, resonably bright and most notably a globular cluster in this scope, it doesn't even try to resolve, but I do like its' compact appearance.

I found the shadows about then. The CD I was listening to had made it to some of my favourite tunes and I was more than happy to dance about where I could not be seen. Just myself and my strange methods. Both of us quite happy in what we are, and pleased to be under the stars again. By the time I had quit feeling quite so silly, (which coincided rather well with the fact that my music had moved on to a song which i associate with study) I noticed that Scorpius was quite in its' prime and all I need to do was to manuever the scope across a few yards of unfamiliar turf and set back up again. Inwardly cursing myself for not just going ahead and extending the tripod legs about another 8 inches or so, I chose to roll the tube a bit more for comfort and flexed the scope so I had perfect knowledge of what directions it would move with ease and set back out once again.

I think perhaps too much magnification doesn't do justice to the M4. Yes, it is not totally "shattered" at low power, but it does pick up a much brighter appearance that is quite satisfactory in the terms of allowing one to see just what a grand scale globular cluster this is. For the patient and seasoned sky freak, just a few simple eye tricks is all it takes for those tiny points of light to sparkle just enough to please one's inner sense of resolution. It just is powder perfect!

So will I continue to dance alone? Or do I want a partner? At this moment I wanted my partner - Uranometria. Again, there's this wonderful sense of familiarity and ease when one uses well-loved observing companions. Sometimes I think it's a wonder that I don't already know what particular page I'm after, but the smiles are just a genuine when I find what I'm looking for and head back to the sky to turn a designation into a reality.

N80 very closely resembles the M56 in this scope. Compact and easily distinguishable, this, for some reason, is a globular cluster I always need a map for!! Giggling softly at my own silliness, my next choice is to head back to my map pages and onto the M14. Oh, yeah... This is one very nice globular! (why on earth haven't we been checking this one out over the last few days? it rocks!) Moderately bright, with a concentrated core that spans perhaps 50% the size of the overall globular, there is not particular core to this region. The outside edges, while they do not resolve perfectly with this aperature and magnification, still give that great grainy sense of texture like something that lies just beyond the threshold. This very round globular is worth taking a few moments of your time and studying the map for.

Now, speaking of maps... There's one inside my head and there always has been. A few days ago we were blessed with an incredibly perfect situation for studying dark nebula and the first that came to mind was one that I had studied in the past - "The Snake". Mind you, I could not have set a laser pointer directly on it's position from a two-year old memory, but I darn well remembered the approximate position and it only took a few seconds to confirm with the map it precise correaltion to the stars. In the eyepiece, the B72 is outstanding. Even with this limited aperature, the fine chains of matched magnitude stars were quite eye-pleasing. What lay behind them, I refer to as "density" - an area of stars just beyond the threshold of resolution, yet still very conspicuous. And the "Snake"? Ah... The "Snake" walks and talks, my friends. The entire area looks like a handful of tiny crystals and diamond dust had been scattered on a sheet of obsidian and the finger of a wizard had been drawn through it, leaving a signature on the skies for all time.

And I danced...

Sighing to myself from my find, I kinda' wished inside that I had someone to share it with, but I realize that I do. You're here, aren't you? And while you are... Let's go have a look at the M19. Cool, blue and very perfect, this flattened globular appears almost spindle shaped at low power. Just a very powerful little beast! Another such "map hopping" and very satisfying small globular is the NGC6441. Nicely intense, this little globular has a bright concentrated core that is easily held direct. It's easy. Period.

By now it's midnight. If you were to look at my handwritten notes, you'd see that I kept track of my times, but now I just really don't care. Saggitarius is going prime and Saggitarius has been the object of my own personal "starry religion" for as long as I can remember. Actually it's not much of a chore to find the M8 with this really terrific finderscope, but there's more there, kid. There is much, much more there than you've realized. Yep. The M8 has interior clusters. The M8 has it's own brands of dark nebula. But what you've not really done with the M8 is to realize just how beautiful this can be a low power. Just a breath... Just a tiny breath away from this awesome and always visited Messier is a globular cluster called NGC6544. It is loosely structured, and at low power will just smack you in the eye as a patch of light that lies just outside the borders of its' grander companion. Also just a breath away is another target that has always been there if you would just look...`NGC6553. Here again, we have a small patch of light that reveals itself very easily to the "star cruising" eye. It is relatively bright and very "there"... But it doesn't resolve. (hey... can't win 'em all. ;)

From there I felt my own sense of self-confidence come back. It's really too bad that you aren't here, or loose enough to just enjoy the way I do things... But it's OK.

I can dance alone in the dark.

Of course, I went on to enjoy the Trifid. But more so than the Trifid I found myself enjoying the wide field of view the encompassed the M21 as well. It's like getting a double treat, this low magnfication. The M20 is just a splendid unfiltered with averted vision, and I find it an incredible bonus to the very pretty, open and direct M21 there as well. It's really too bad it always gets sold short. The M18 is also a rather small and quite unremarkable open cluster that just happens to be on the way to the M17. And I find myself content to just look into "Omega" with no real desire. Like the M22... I find it best a low power. It seems more bright and full bodied that way. It has a spirit of its' own like the little power-punch kid, the M28. And if I'm gonna' have one last dance?

Let it be on the M24.

So, that's it for me. I've had enough, thank you. Time for me to find a place where nobody knows my name and I'm not going to give it. Just the sort of shadow where one can drink a cold beer and remember some of the finer things in life.... Or maybe they are just a reality check...

Like dancin' alone in the dark.

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A "Farewell To Arms"...

"What you tell me about in the nights. That is not love. That is only passion and lust. When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve. I don't love. You will. I know you will. Then you will be happy. I'm happy. I've always been happy. It is another thing. You cannot know about it unless you have it. Well, if I ever get it I will tell you."

Comments: It's July 4th. My last night here. The rest of the country is celebrating Independence Day - A celebration in which I usually share. This year is not annoted by fireworks. There are no colorful lights in the sky, nor crowds to mingle in. (although i will admit that i was highly amused to watch your neighbors across the street... nothing like watching a llaama, a three-legged dog, an amazon parrot and a belly dancer get into a serious altercation.) I am alone. I am here.

And I am soon to be gone.

It has been an interesting experience this time... One that has taught me lessons. The skies here have been beautiful, and if I had access to the night all of the time? I probably would burn out as well. But, hey hey, my my... It's better to burn out than it is to rust, isn't it? And like the TinMan, I have no heart but my rusty joints have been oiled and I have walked the night again.

Tonight we chose the Moon. The primary interest was in imaging and Jeff sets up the fine optics of Argo and leaves me with the laptop to perform magic. But I am not a magician. Imaging through the computer is not a skill I have developed, and I'm not precisely sure it's one I will follow through with. Of course, I am more than happy to give it a go... And you really didn't need to call in the re-enforcements. I know my way around the Cosmos.

Needless to say, things have been strained. It is not something I would have commented on, and I'm disappointed that you did. But it's OK. I'm always OK. And we give the Moon a try for a few minutes and I am left to wander about under these beautiful night skies once again. I make my way on to what you considered to be one of my nefarious "night walks". I assure you that I am quite harmless. I seek nothing more than a Dr. Pepper from the streetcorner vending machine and a quiet place where I am in no one's way to look up at the stars. You see, I am a private person as well. I deal with my pain in silence.

"We never get anything. We are born with all we have and we never learn. We never get anything new. We all start complete."

Right now I have found a "shady spot". It is nothing more than a curbside between two parked cars where no one seems to care if I sit and stare at the stars. It's nice here. Quiet. It gives me time to reflect upon the day and how much I enjoyed our time spent in "study"... Tossing ideas and facts about between us... Smiling and sometimes laughing as friends are wont to do. You caught me off guard with the suggestion of a beer at lunch, and this thought makes me smile as well. You? A beer?? I am amazed.

My body cries for me... My eyes dried days ago. I mean no disrespect when I say this, for I admire you greatly... But it is a shame that for all of those lofty ideals and noble thoughts that you have discarded a basic truth... Empathy.

"If you ever live to be as old as I am you will find many things strange. You never seem old."

I know I have been a burden. Somehow the timing was off wasn't it? And if I could take it back I would. But I ask you for just one moment... Look inside me. Look inside to the things you refused to see. Think about what I was feeling... How hard it was to be caught in a situation where you were not wanted.

"But what if she should die? She won't die. But what if she should die? She won't. She's all right."

So next time you play? Spare a smile for the old woman in black who had a hard time walking up to put money inside the open guitar case. She can no longer hide her age, nor what she is. Her "Los Gatos" days are gone... They are handed with pride to the next generation, to whom they belong. But, the smile that she gave to you was genuine. It covered a universe of things that she never wanted you to know about.

And we rise well before dawn to try for a few moments at imaging Mars. The pre-dawn hours are cold, clear and beautiful. I can only smile as we give it a try, for I have learned through practical experience that the imaging game is far more difficult than they let on, isn't it? Perhaps it will give you a bit of appreciation for what I've already achieved... And a certain understanding as to why I do not push for more. I am a sensual person. I far more prefer to see Mars with my own eyes. I would rather feel the chill of the air, smell the redwoods, know my belly is growling, and feel your presence nearby than to walk away with a brilliant image. To me? These are the real things. The things that make it all worthwhile.

Before I end this chapter of my life... Let me apologize. I am sorry if you were ashamed of me. So many weeks upon weeks have passed that allowed my skills to rust, and I didn't do very well with another person's scope or maps, did I? But, hey...

"You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you. Or they killed you gratuitously like Aymo. Or gave you syphilis like Rinaldi. But they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around long enough and they would kill you."

How I wished that you would have been here with me the other night! Ah, now that would have made you proud! My maps... My style. I couldn't miss. But, then again... It wouldn't have been "right" for you either. I don't follow the rules. And you are governed by them.

So farewell, my friend. The tunes echo through my head as I write this... "Make up your mind. And I'll make up mine. Don't you worry about me. I'll be fine. Those words that you said to me... Why wasn't I listening? I wish I hadn't met you at all." For now? There's a plane to catch. I won't look back. Pride is all I've got left, dude... And it's in short supply.

Catch you round the cosmos, kid.

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Comments: I must admit I honestly had a good time reviewing the video footage. I was sure, somehow, that I wouldn't like what I felt when I watched it... But I was wrong. Every smile caught on film, every place... It made me feel good.

So I want you to know, mon ami, that I still sing for you. I write and I carry on. It is nothing more than my way, and I can't change me any more than you can change you. But know this before I go...

I can still see this sunrise in my heart...

And I can see it in your eyes as well.

I thank you for all you have given me. No one has ever treated me quite the way you have. Nor will I ever give them a chance again. Although I am sure that I never see you again, the things that have passed between us over the years will always be a part of me... Now and always.

Take care, Jeff.

"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 Alderaan's not far away..."

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Once again, I would like to thank the Barbour Family for their hospitality in sharing their home with a stranger. I would also like to thank all the wonderful people that I met along the way, such as Mark, Andy, Paul, and a host of others from TAC, the SCAS, and the FPOA. From the lovely lady at the gas station who refused to let me pay for my coffee again this year, to all the wonderful people of Boulder Creek that made me feel at home... I thank you.