Observing Reports ~ December 2001

December 31, 2001 ~ January 1, 2002 - Of endings... and beginnings...

Comments: I find myself procrastinating far too long in writing this report... Because I know when I finish I will have ended a chapter in my life...

And began a new one.

This will be the last report of 2001... and the frame saved to begin 2002. The old reports page will be archived.. My words sent to an "retirement" home where they belong... Part of my past. Do you know how hard it will be for me to push that erase key? And watch all that I have worked on for the last year dissolve away in a split second of electronic time? Ah, then... You know how I feel! I shall print off a copy to add to my observing books of other years... other times... And take faith that what I have stored in another server will not disappear...

And if it does? I will start again.

Began the evening by teaching some of my younger extended family members about the night sky... How rewarding it feels to say, "Here! This is the Plieades... And there! Let me show you the ecliptic plane.... the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter! And over here? Mars! See these stars? That's Orion's belt... and there? That's the M42... where stars are born. This "M"? That's Cassiopeia..." If I can give nothing else in life... perhaps just for one moment in time I gave "the next generation" something of myself. Maybe they will remember me for it...

Upon returning home, I set the scopes out to cool. The Moon had well risen, the sky was clear, and it was so beautiful just to see how the moonlight bathed the snow covered fields in blue light. Above it arched the black canvas of night... studded with the diamond hard brightness of winter stars. Time to end this year as I began it...

How beautiful the slow waltz of Saturn! Its' tiny moons triangulating it with perfection... the others keeping watch from outside the system of rings. I hold myself to my promise to watch for details I may have missed while deep in my eternal fascination with the moons.... and it is there. I had always assumed the crepe ring to be the shadow of the rings upon the surface of Saturn. The true shadow lies behind it, to one side of the planet, giving depth perception. Limb darkening enhances the effect... and again, I am deeply reminded of how it appears like a ball set within a vinyl record album. Each ring division sings a song of its' own.. Be it darker, or lighter... wider of thinner... transparent or impenentrable... Saturn's system of rings will hold you in a trance. And I am in no hurry to leave this place...

Near me, Ranger lies upon a blanket I have put down to keep him warm. Despite his age, and the single digit temperatures, he is my scopin' buddy... My old partner in a familiar dance. Around us, H cavorts about, oblivious to the cold, and deeply engaged in playing with.... of all things... a brick! ("and the wisemen don't know how it feels to be... thick as a brick." ;) Ah, but he learns quickly... and well. For each time I move the scope, or reach into the case for an eyepiece... he watched my every move. He has learned my body language perfectly, and knows when we are going out or in... if I'm moving to another part of the yard... or if I have no intention of leaving. H is an eager young partner... full of vitality. One who always looks a my case with a twinkle in his eye... as if to say "I could steal this from you..." ;)

On now to Jupiter... and the 4.5 comes first. Wow! First thought is for the galieans... three bent toward us, and one "behind" the planet. But the detail? Oh my gosh... When the 4.5 walks it out, I cannot wait to set the dob upon it. At 9mm it swells into the field of view, unleasing an orgy of striations. The dob will never provide clean, hard edge detail... but I don't mind. For you see, I am a galaxy hunter... but tonight Jupiter offers me satisfaction... and I will take it. From the ubiquitous soft, smooth, delicate shadings that exist both above and below its' famed belts... to those hard-edged, highly defined equatorial zones themselves. A tasty treat. And I am in the mood to indulge...

When walking back down off the power, it is my turn to enjoy the moons! Each one different, each one in their own place in space. How can anyone look upon the galieans and NOT see that they are dimensional?! And how quickly they move!! For in just the matter of time it took me to study Jupiter itself... perhaps an hour or so... the one has come from behind, to stand beside Jove! Eternally locked in the dance... I find them fascinating.

Time to go indoors for a bit. The hours have slid past me unawares... and the cold has found its' way through my many layers of clothing. (and the camera battery has gone quite dead... ;) Let's go recharge a bit... and when feeling returns to fingers and toes... Return.

And that magic hour approaches... Time to end one year and begin another. It is custom in my part of the world to shoot a gun at that time... and who am I to break with tradition? (hehehhee... my choice? two semi-automatic rifles and my favorite old 12 guage shotgun... ;) Once the formalities have been dispensed with, guns returned to the cabinet where they belong, and spent shells taken away from H's reach, I am ready to "shoot" the Moon....

And what a magnificent player Selene is tonight! Mare Crisium will knock you down, and drag you away by the hair to claim you as his own. The shadows sit just right to highlight the "curve" of this outstanding feature.... Making it appear almost "blister like"... smooth and shiny, only broken by the tiny orafices of Peirce and Picard. Promentorium Agarum seems to stand out with a life of its' own, while Craters Lick and Shapely add interest to the walls of the boundary. At the other end, Crater Rheita seems to stand out... it's central peak sitting high and proud above the soft texture that surrounds it. The runneled surface of the Southern Highlands still sits in wait... Its' day will come. So I return again to Crisium... and drink my fill.

The hour has grown quite late. Frost has long ago formed on the body of the Celestron...But still, I am not ready to leave. I return to Taurus to make my mark for Vesta... smiling to myself at how quickly it, too, has moved. This is a time honoured dance... and I know the sky well. It is a new year... and I seek the peace that Cassiopeia provides, the excitement of Peseus, and the strength of both Gemini and Auriga. These open clusters I view are old, old friends... I both know them well... and not at all. And I love them.

I have needs, just like anyone else... and right now I need to see Jupiter again. Earlier details so rocked my world, I want to look again! And as soon as I go to the eyepiece, my laughter brings H to my side... The Moons! Those crazy little, ever-loving moons... Not only has the one moved out from "behind" the planet, it has come towards us!! I will give Jupiter credit for one thing... It keeps me amused!

I begin slowly putting things away. I really don't want to leave this place, but my hands and feet have become quite numb. I saved the dob for last... and left in the 32mm. Why? Because I still need... And it will give me something...

The M81 and M82....

"Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner... Sometimes I feel like my only friend... Is this city I live in... This city of Angels. Lonely as I am.... Together we fly..."


December 30, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter... and the Sun...

Comments: Very, very cold here in Ohio! (but you realize that 12 - 14 degrees is going to seem warm in the months ahead, don't you? ;)

Up in the middle of the night to go to work, and stepped out to clear skies! Hey... no problem. The 4.5 is always ready and willing to go for a walk... Saturn was a basic "no go"... situated directly above a neighbor's chimney the image waived and roiled, leaving only tiny Titan visible, and masking detail. Jupiter was quite a different story though... crisp and clean! The belt details simply smacked right out. The conventional three belts were highlighted by darker ones, sandwiched in between... and the lower half (eyepiece view) of the planets showed some terrific striations that just begged for the bigger scope! Perhaps later, eh?

Off to work, and out on break to enjoy the penumbral eclipse and close pass of Jupiter on the Moon. Even from a city locale, the sight was most splendid... for the Moon took on that great orange cast, and the nearness of Jupiter made it very worth a walk in the cold!

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Later that day, I had an excellent opportunity to do some solar viewing... and what a treat! The Sun is literally "buckshot" with spots at the moment! Several dozen of them formed loose triangles across the solar surface. The center is dominated by one very large spot, sitting in a nice dispersion field, but looking quite docile.

But where was the "hot spot"? On the incoming edge!! Rounding the limb a fantastic solar scab is displaying the "depressed" look of major activity!! The Wilson Effect is so very prominent on this one, it's actually warping the surface for an incredible distance around it! What a fascinating display of magnetic disturbance... The wrinkles in the surface stretch along the limb and it's easy to see where the granulation has been disturbed!! Incredible view!! (and then to find out later that this spot had released a CME just before it came round our visible limb.... whooooo hoooooo!!!! ;)

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Set the dob out just after sunset... ready to take on those bright and beautiful planets!

But the clouds had other plans....

"What else can I do? I've gave all I am to you. No more questioning... I've brought all I have to bring Why should I stop? Bearing alliegance to you... Oh, I don't believe in the soldiers or the preachers. I just believe in you. Oh, I don't believe in the scholars of the wisemen. I just believe in you. You... You..."


December 28, 2001 - Of course it was cloudy. Not only cloudy, but with the insult of more snow besides!

I think I'm gonna' have to work overtime to cover these bets... ;)

"Well, I don't believe in the scholars and the wise men.... I just believe in you."


December 26, 2001 - The Moon, Saturn and Jupiter...

Comments: Not exactly what you would call a "satisfying" night... The sky remained furry and tiny ice crystals floated about in the air. But, as always, I long for what I cannot have...

The Moon looked like a furball. Only the dark maria drew the eye away from the look of a pearl. But, hey... Aristarchus shown like a beacon! And Saturn? Saturn looked almost like the nebula that bears its' name... it was only possible to make out that it had rings! (ah, now... but H is having a fantastic time! he has discovered the finer art of "pouncing". and you've not lived until you've had an 85 lb. german shepherd "pounce" off the deck to knock you flat in the snow! i swear you can hear him laughing as he gallops away... ;)

Jupiter gained a bit of something with the cloud "filter". The galieans were surrounded with a faint halo, as was the planet itself... But those magnificent belts cut right through! It doesn't matter if the view was great or not...

Because it feels good to be out in the night.

"Oh, I don't believe in the poets or the prophets... I just believe in... I just believe in you."


December 25, 2001 - The Moon, Saturn and Jupiter...

Comments: I really didn't expect anything... I wasn't asking for anything. Then out of nowhere it came down like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"...

The Moon.

(And you know I had to go look, don't you?) The craters were splendid last night. A fast drop in temperature scattered the clouds and left crystal clarity behind. The image sat smooth and steady... Bulladius Crater, Weiss, the "Straight Wall", the Apollo 14 landing area... in perfect bright detail. The delicate curve of the Sinus Iridum and the shallow form of Pythagoras balancing out the view. A very pleasing was to spend Christmas Night!

But, oh my... the show stealer was Saturn! I had only taken out the 4.5... and usually view is rather limited... but there are exceptions to EVERY rule! Five easy moons showed themselves with NO trouble at 25mm! (and Iaepetus is a prize!) The Cassini shows as only a perfect pencil slim line at the edges... and the shadows are much the same... but who cares when all those moons have come out to play?! Iaepetus was flung away to the northwest, and Titan came in toward the planet a bit closer to the southwest. Another of the smaller moons held in direct alignment to the tiny Iaepetus... and two more trailed their way around the outer edges of the ring system! I found it very arousing!! So much so, that I didn't even notice how very cold it was for a long time...

Still in a state of exaltation, I hopped off to Jupiter to see if it stimulated in the same manner. It is incredibly bright... I'll sure give it that! All four moons rocked right out on film, and that's an achievement with the 4.5. But somehow, it just didn't turn me on... I imagine I wasn't doing it any justice by not blue filtering, but I was still feeling giddy from the magificence of the other! What can I say besides...

I believe.

"Who have I left to please? Take what you've yet to seize. No more questioning... cause love is what love should be. Unveil to me all that you want me to do. Why should I stop bearing allegiance to you? I don't belive in the sorcerers or the preachers. I just believe in you. Oh, I don't believe in the the scholars or the wise men. I just believe in you..."


December 22, 23 and 24, 2001 - A deep, cold fog turns to drizzling rain... and the temperatures drop steadily changing the skies tears into a gentle snow.

Snow? For Christmas? Not a rarity in this part of the world for this time of year... For there was several inches on the ground when I observed the partial solar eclipse last December 25. So what makes it special? Because it's almost like magic.

Maybe... maybe it's time to believe in Santa again.

"December promise that you gave unto me. December whispers of magic I see...."


December 21, 2001 - Morning Walk... the Sun... the Moon... Saturn and Jupiter... doing a "Double Take... the M41...

Comments: Well, what do you know about that? Another clear morning! Ready for a walk? Fine by me... but let's "deviate" from the path and invite the 12.5 out to play!

And where to go? The M51... After so very much galactic study, I just had a hankering to take on one of the most beautifully structured in the sky. The spiral arms embedded with all those knots of stars never cease to fascinate me! Aperature rules on this particular galaxy... for the "Whirlpool" and its' spin-off companion ROCK in the big scope!

So, how about a "real" globular cluster, huh? There's not been too many of them recently... and I know of a GOOD one! M3 it is... Oh, yeah! At 17mm, resolution is the word! A deeply concentrated center, dispersing itself evenly outward in an almost perfect circle... ending in perfect pinpoints of light! And set within a triangle of companion stars. Fantastic....

One more please? For I've watched Spica anxiously now for days... A hop west and... O'mygosh... There you are. The M104 has got to have the finest dark dust lane of all galaxies!! I am at a bit of a loss for words... because it appears almost translucent! As if.... as if you should be able to reach round behind it with your eyes... Aaaaaaah.....

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A fast shot on the Sun today... enough to check out the rotation on our latest solar "hot spot" and get a look at the new "depressed" beauty on the incoming edge!!

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And the night continued to be clear... Selene called. I continue to be drawn to the Highlands... Magnius, Orontius and Clavius show such trememdous depth and detail... Who could not be interested in looking at these!! Aristoteles and Eudoxus in the north are splendid deep wells... But the show stealer? The Caucasus Mountains...

Magnificent single peaks... Crisp, perfect ranges delineated by shadowed valleys... Petite craters buried within, waiting like tiny, open mouths... Riveting...

Time for a bit of rest, and back for the "Giants"! Saturn is also razor sharp tonight. The Cassini a perfect line, highlighted by lighter bands... the moons tossed away to the outside.. and the "trooper" still scurrying around the edge! And Jupiter? Most definately showing hard edge detail on the equatorial bands... but I can't take my eyes from the galieans!! Tonight the are all come right AT us!!! Talk about stereoptical effects... Woooo! There is no way I want to concentrate on surface detail with THAT kind of dimensional quality staring me in the eye!!

Take it easy, eh? Yeah, yeah... I hear you.

After I rested for a bit, went back out to shoot on some "doubles". And Iota Cancri is a beauty! Easily seperated, the yellow, blue double is tasty! The B star comes right out to the north west, and is very blue!

How about Polaris? I LIKE doing this one! I always thought it was so hard with the 4.5... but the 12.5 pulls it right apart cleanly! Polaris itself is a creamy yellow white star, and the companion is tough because it is so small... but give that atmosphere one clear second, and WHAM! A little blue beauty leads the way at the feet of the Pole Star! A real treat... Sigma Orionis? Oh, now we're playin'! To the tune of "white, white, red and blue"! Great multiple star... with the companions sheering away and curving toward the northeast.

One more and then I'll rest again... OK? Beta Monocerotis... Yeah! One great white in the center of the field, with two charming small blues, running in an east/west line to the south of the primary. I like it!

Now for a break, and back for a study for "Ottoman"! I supposed to take it easy, and it's damn hard with all that great stuff waiting out there and the Moon almost set! Ah... I can do this. One study and a smile!

The M41 for the most part is comprised of mainly young, blue/white stars.... but does contain exceptions to the rule! This open cluster is one that follows a pattern similiar to the M44. Rather than a collection of double and triple stars, or a dense cloud of similiar magnitudes, the M41 is made up of "chains", and the magnitudes vary greatly!

Two very noticeable asterisms within the body of the M41 itself are an upside-down "2" (eyepiece view) and a "shepherd's crook". Several chains of finer blue stars surround this pair... but the real "kicker" is at the center... a definate red beauty! But only one? Oh no.... For the "shepherd's crook" also has one of similar magnitude right at the "end" of its' curve! Toward the eastern frontier, another star holds quite a surprise... a "white" one thrown in for good measure! But that's not all either, chief.

Drop the magnification back to the point where the entire cluster, and a portion of the starfield is visible... and at the edge sits a tiny , "red" double... just smilin' away!!

Now, THAT is what I call "takin' it easy"!! ;)

"Why drink the water from my hand? Contagious as you think I am... Just throw away your basic needs. For ambivalence and vanity..."


December 20, 2001 - M44, M67, M65, M66... The Sun... The Moon, Saturn, Asteroid Vesta, Jupiter, and "Open" Season...

Comments: A splendid, clear morning! It's been some time since I'd taken the 4.5 out for a walk, and today I don't mind. But, it's getting right cold here! (At last.... ;)

Limited aperature doesn't do fantastic things for the M44, but such a splendid naked eye cluster simply cannot be ignored! Sure, I know there is many more stars there than meet the little socpe's "eye"... but it is grand just to see it. However, the M67 is fantastic in ANY telescope! The little one begins resolution on this fantastic star cloud... and if you just let your imagination go at lower magnifications it will appear almost "galaxy like"! Beautiful open cluster... I think this is one of my all time favorites!!

Leo's galaxy pair, the M65 and M66 are within easy reach of a small scope. You and I both know that they are not coughing up any detail with that small of an aperature... but they are a pleasant find! Two tiny galaxies... at odds with one another in the same field of view... What a way to start the day!!

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And the skies held beautifully clear as the day passed on, allowing some solar observance time! The "attention getter" sits basically right in the center of the solar disc... and is a fanatastic composite spot! All the differing variations of dark, light, conjoined, dispersed, and single spots are located in one area that covers at least 10% of the surface. Now THAT is one dandy present!!

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Still the sky stays clear... bringing on wonderfully crisp and bright images of the lunar surface. Posidonus was very well met tonight... displaying all of its' "shallow" finery. Tycho has started off the terminator, and I still dig the marvelous collection of craters that "ring" around one another. It's very hard to believe when viewing Tycho at this stage that it will turn into that fantastic "rayed" monster eventually! But if I had to pick only one? Then Stoffler would be it, folks. That incredible sheer cliff just turns me on! It just stands right up out of nowhere... almost out of place with the scenery around it. If you EVER have a chance to power down on Stoffler.... DO IT! The size of this feature will blow you away!!

And there's a bit more to the Moon tonight than meets the eye! Since I first started watching it this evening, I noticed a bright red star creeping up on the "dark side". I had thought and occultation was in the offing last night, only to watch it just graze by... Tonight there is no doubt!! So, I trained the camera on it best I could. Every so slowly it began to inch its' way toward the Moon... and I followed it until I could stand it no more! To heck with "filming"!!! I want to SEE!!! So, off with the camera... and into the eyepiece. It seems to hang at the dark edge forever... appearing brighter and brighter. (how i wished i had brought my watch and information!) Then, almost startlingly, it just winked out!! (the time was approximately 7:16... and i could retrieve the information easily enough.... but i'm supposed to take it "easy"... and boy... am i every "easy"! ;)

Back in now for some rest. (as much as i hate it.) When I return it's time to check out the "Giants" and make a mark for Asteroid Vesta. Saturn is a delight tonight. The moons are well spaced out along the ring system, and that in itself cuts a clean shadow. Very pretty. The Cassinni is also very sharp and clear... But more than anything, I simply enjoy Saturn's unique dimensional quality. And a hop over to Vesta.... and it looks as if we are finally beginning to turn for sure!!! Get 'em, space rock! On to Jupiter.... three galieans present and accounted for! The delineations in the surface are very pronounced. I kinda' have to repress the urge to "get down" on it... but it's quite time to rest again.

So... up for a bit of open clusters? I sure don't mind! Cassiopeia is delighted to rock us both... A familiar walk? Ah, now... you know it. But you also know that this is the most incredible constellation for opens! A sweep down throught the glittering "chain" of Perseus is also quite in order... for the "Double Cluster" and it's bright stars are always breathtaking! Into Auriga... and a hop across the M36, M37 and M38... And over into Gemini for the M35. And of course, Orion! (i'm relaxing... honest!) The M79 globular in Lepus is a treat!! Then back over to Sirius to fall down to the M41... And over to Puppis for the M46, M47 and M93!! I don't want to go "rest"... It would suit me fine just to stay out here all night!!! Hopping from one thing to the next... sipping on some hot coffee, and listening to H discover ice. But, there are many more nights left in my life...

I'll be back. Promise.

"Don't think about it... Don't speak aloud. Turn your head... Now. Baby, just spit me out..."


December 18, 2001 - The Moon... the "Andromeda Family", M42, M41, Saturn, Asteroid Vesta, Jupiter, M35, M81 and M82....

Comments: What a pleasure to have clear sky once again! I could hardly wait until the sky got dark enough to go out and view the Moon. (and imagine that... i seem to have left my maps inside. ;)

A fast, cold snap left the skies beautifully clear and the lunar suface was excellent. Mare Crisium had cleared the terminator quite well, and craters Pierce and Picard stood out in stark, dark relief against its' grey surface. Geminus, Cleomides, Burkhardt and Masala had become well lighted at this stage... but they still fascinate me.

But not like those highlands! Rheita and Mediius are incredible when set against the shadows.... And there are so many more craters that I simply cannot name. The Moon is a most beautiful, peaceful place when given a chance....

(Easy... they say. I am supposed to take it easy. Acutally I'd prefer it a bit more.... difficult, if you don't mind! But I will take a rest until the Moon sets....)

When I return again, it is to superb clear skies... and time to take on the sky!

In keeping with the Andromeda Family challenge, I decided to point both the 4.5 and the 12.5 in the same direction last night. And it was no problem to find, because the M31 itself was a beautiful, naked-eye silver sheen!

Through the 4.5, the M31 is spectacular. A massive galaxy that fills a 26mm eyepiece. The core area defies any type of resolution... and it gradually fades its' way out to the edges. The tiny M32 is quite visible at one edge... appearing much like a globular cluster. Pushing the view away to one side a bit, allows the M110 to also come into play.. whose "stretched" form is easily distinguished.

Hopping away to pick up the companion galaxies in the 4.5 is next to an impossiblity. This is reaching toward the limitations of a small scope! (You have asked me many times to try being aperature "limited"... and tonight I comply.) I can find the field stars, amigo... But, only through years of practice, and using my hood to block out any stray light, can I even make out a contrast change! With averted vision, only the slightest hint of the galactic pair, NGC185 and NGC147, is even possible. If I did not know the field stars, I would not have called the shot with the small scope!

Ready for the dob? Then let's take the exact same eyepiece... and watch what happens. WOW! Now "Andromeda" is walking and talking! At 26mm the M31's frontier extends way beyond the field of view. The nucleas smacks with a platinum/gold light, and the signature dark dust lanes become prominent. Moving the view toward the northern end, one very nice "loop" of galactic "stuff" shows very well. And pushing south, shows a more "raggedy" appearing edge with one nice "knot" embedded in it.... the NGC206! (But let's continue on with the 26mm and come back to study it later...)

By pushing the majority of the M31 to one side of the field, the M32 comes into play. Now you can see that we are talking galaxy here... and not globular cluster. What makes me say that? Although the edges of the M32 has the grainy appearance of beginning of resolution, the body of the galaxy itself is entirely diffuse. The classic signature of an elliptical galaxy. Now, push the dob the other way, and let's get the M110. This one is far more structured. Also known as the NGC 205, this galaxy does display a brightened core area that stretches out along it's frontiers. Tiny field stars give the illusion that resolution is possible!

Now, let's hop back off for the other pair. Sweet... no problem catching the NGC185 and NGC147 now! Of course, they do not display tremendous amounts of detail... but now you CAN see, with direct vision, this tiny elliptical pair! Let's power up now... The NGC147 is completely even... but the NGC185 seems as if the "nucleas" is slightly off-center... and perhaps it fades a bit more toward the three stars at the edge. Ready to rock back to the M31? You're on!

We've come for ya', NGC206.... No resolution, clear through... Sorry! What you can see is a "lump" of stellar stuff... (and you would not believe how much it reminds me of a tiny "Mr. Wizard's Galaxy"!) My best guess is that it is a nebulous patch... and one VERY pregnant with stars! Want to shoot the core while we're powered up? You got it... Absolutely impenetrable. The only thing that magnification does for it is make the dark dust lanes just slightly more prominet. But that's OK by me... I like mysteries!

Now, I should go warm up and rest again. (and you know what... tonight i don't mind.)

When I return again, Orion has risen very well, indeed... And, although I long to simply dance everywhere all over the sky, I don't mind just stopping for awhile with the M42. You know it's beautiful... and I know it's beautiful. And you know what I can do... So, how about if I just relax and enjoy? Just stand here and grin a big shirt eating grin and appreciate the M42 for exactly what it is? The most incredible nebula in the sky!! Maybe play with splitting Rigel? Or just homing in on Sirius to love up on its' simple beauty? Or dip the dob lower and marvel over then brilliant collection of stellar points that is the M41? Aaaaaaahhhh.... sweet sky!!

Saturn has gone zenith on me by now... but I really don't care. It looks pretty cool to see it standing on its' ring edge like that! The sky has started to debilitate some now.... and only the Cassini and ring shadows are prominent features. That's OK.... because I can see very well how the satellites have shifted position... and it pleases me! So I hop over to check on Vesta... (and i did bring my copy map!) It would seem that yon asteroid has finally started to change position!!! (ThanX to You... I think I have something to look forward to again!) And so I make my mark... and continue on.

To the mighty Jupiter! And revel in the dance of the galieans... (yahooo! i finally managed to capture all four of them on film!!!! big smile here.... :-D) The sky is starting to become a bit furry.... so only the major surface details emerge from the overexposed scene. But... you know what? They're still great! Like the M35! Just a loose collection of stars at the feet of the "Twins"... But what a delightful collection they are. It has really been some time since I looked at them. Although I can see many more places in Gemini that I could visit with tonight... I just want what I once had.

The M81 and M82...

"Why follow me to higher ground? Lost as you think I am. Just tilt your Sun toward my domain.... And my cup runneth over again."


December 15, 16 and 17, 2001 - Nothing but the ever-lovin' clouds and rain... Sigh.

"December rain... Won't you come unto me?"


December 13/14, 2001 - Damn skippy. It was cloudy and rained both days.

I think I owe someone 100 ... ;)

"Yes, you... You took me."


December 11, 2001 - The Sun... The ISS, Mars, Neptune, Uranus, the "Saturn Nebula", the "Helix Nebula", Comet LINEAR WM1, revisiting the Cetus Study Field, Asteroid Vesta, Saturn, Jupiter, M45, NGC1435, NGC1647, NGC1647, M1, NGC1664, M38, NGC1893, M36, M37, NGC1499, M42, the Trapezium, M43, NGC1973, NGC1975, NGC1977, Alnitak, IC434, NGC1981, M78, NGC2112, NGC2186, NGC2237, NGC2244, NGC2251, NGC2264, the "Cone Nebula", NGC2309, and the M50....

Comments: Incredibly beautiful day... I couldn't wait to get home from work and have a look at the Sun, because "it's been awhile" since I have seen it up close and personal. I was not disappointed! Two massive areas of activity are currently visible. On the "incoming" side, a crescent comprises of dozens of smaller spots, and lead by a larger one, takes up and almost incomprehensible amount of the solar surface. Even for its' size, it looks docile, however. Like the energy from this one has already been spent. Not so the one on the "outgoing" side! Two huge, incredibly dark spots sit like deep pools of oil on the surface. The dispersion field around them is rather regular, but the size is most impressive! Hints of granualation exist at this limb, and some very minor "stress lines". This one doesn't look particularly volatile either... But sometimes they can surprise you!

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Slipped out after sunset to catch the ISS fly-by, and then back in to confirm it. (Like I don't know what it is... sheesh! Think I'll ever give up on the need for confirmation? ;) There's a great night in the making here... All we need is for it to be a bit more dark! Coffee time...

And I was quite correct. Stars right down to the horizon! Shall we start by taking on those southern planets before they slip away? I realize that Mars, Neptune and Uranus are not terribly interesting... I know because I looked at them, eh? But like all things in the sky that don't remain "static", I get some sort of thrill out of being able to keep tabs on them! And since we're in the south, let's go have a look at the "Saturn" nebula. Crisp and clean tonight. Rather than just being "pulled" looking, it shows very well as a bluish cloud that bears out its' name. The "Helix" reveals some interior stars very well also. This large cousin of the "Ring" reveals a few twisted strands within its' structure, and makes for a pleasant starting point for a night!

LINEAR? Oh... I don't want to say goodbye! But, it looks as if I'm going to have to. Tonight I can sit down to watch... and amigo, that means it's low. Real low. WM1, the "Traveller" is cruising toward a field of decently bright stars... and heading way beyond my reach. (I hate the little weather icons that appear on my home page... because they say rain for the next two days.) It has been wonderful watching the WM1 go through changes... and race across the sky! When I first caught it, it was in Auriga, (if i remember correctly) and I watched it move through Perseus and head for Cetus. From a tiny, faded ball of light... to a full fledged comet sporting a tail. It's like a child that has grown up and moved on.... and I am not one to want it here in the nest. But how very, very much I have enjoyed the time with you! Fly on, Traveller... Godspeed.

OK, so are you ready to dig deeper into Cetus? Then grab that map and let's rock!

Delta will be our starting point here, and the "fall line" runs west to east on the north side... First up is galaxy NGC1073, a very pretty little spiral... with a very "stretched" appearing nucleas that seems to be "ringed" by its' arms! Continuing along the same trajectory, we find the NGC1055. Oh, YEAH! Edge-on, baby!! This soft streak of light is accompanied by a trio of stars... The galaxy itself is cut through by a dark dust lane, but what appears so unusual is the core is to one side!! I LIKE it! ;)

Now we've made it to the incredible M77. But, let's keep on the path and pick up the NGC1087, a nice, even looking spiral galaxy with a bright nucleas and one nice, curved arm..

Ready to head for the beautiful variable Mira? Then let her be the guidestar, because halfway between there and Delta is the N936, a soft spiral galaxy with a "saturn" shaped nucleas. Barred spiral, right? Phew! I'm getting tired! Ready to stop with Cetus for awhile? Me, too. Ya' done good, kid...

(apparently H is also studying cosmolgy... and his current theory is regarding black holes. rather hard to spot in the dark, too... shall i just say that i'm glad i took a tumble over one and not the dob? LOL! the beast's energy is boundless... ;)

Back to the east field, my favourite spot in the backyard. (mainly because there's windbreak here! and it IS cold...) While the maps are still out, it's time to make a run on Taurus and make the mark for Asteroid Vesta. Like the WM1, I've had a rather good run of luck at keeping track of it, and I mark the copy for tonight.

Now for the "Giants"...

Since I have the entire toy box with me tonight, let's try walking down on Saturn and see what we come up with. At 17mm we have a perfect Cassinni, and a tremendous view of its' satellite system. I have to push away a bit for Iaepetus, but Titan rocks right out. The inner moons are wonderfully "spaced" out around the rings and nicely bright at this magnification. Camera time? In the dob?!!! Oh, why the heck not? So, I gave it a go... Now, I'd rather study if you don't mind. 9mm comes next. Wow. I think Cor called this the "Crepe Ring"... a rather dusty looking affair that only shows at the gap edges. There are several variations in the brightness of the rings, most noticable is the lighter colored one... And brighter patches on the planet surface. One of the most stunning areas to me is that velvety shadow of the planet on the rings. Combined with limb darkening, the three dimensional effect that Saturn gives makes it most worthy of the time spent!!

Jupiter was next up. The surface brightness literally blows me away in the dob! Before I filter it down for study, I had a go with the camera again. This time the galieans had no problem turning up on film! (And, lo and behold... one of them is coming out away from the planet!) When I had finished, I dropped blue filter on it. Amazingly enough, it may rob Jupiter of its' natural coloration, but adds fantastic contrast to the many surface details!! So enjoy I did... the many variations are a most pleasant way to pass the time... along with watching that little moon seperate away! How long did I watch? Heck, I don't know... I'm not into keeping score. Long enough to notice rotation, anyhow...

When I had my fill of Jupiter, it was off to the Plieades for a bit. I enjoy the simplicity of the many double stars contained within it, and the spectacular NGC1435, "Temple's Nebula" that encases Merope. The cool, blue/white beauty of the M45 makes for such an excellent contrast to the tiny red star that lies within.

The NGC1647 in Taurus is also a fine target. An open cluster with several dozen easily resolved stars... and so much more in hiding. Magnification is essential on this one... and averted vision. It is quite dense with lesser stars! Another well resolved one in the same constellation is the NGC 1746. Not far from an outstanding blue/white double, this open cluster gathers its' components tightl together in the middle, yet sports delightful clumps of stars surrounding it! And Taurus would not be complete if I did not look at the M1. Sure, a recently repeated target... but a filamentous wonder such as this can repeat itself as often as it likes!

Ready to cruise on toward Auriga? Then let's go... The NGC1664 is first. Not an overtly populous star cluster, but it IS a very pretty chain of stars. It faintly resembles a "celestial kite" in its' formation! The much more dense M38 is next, with its' vague cross-like structure of stars. Then on to the NGC1893... and into the superstructure of star fields. This particular cluster is rather faint, but is quite apparent as a "stand out" in the crowd! Now, for the M36... loaded with blue white doubles, and condensing itself toward the center. Of the three "big" opens in Auriga, I like the M37 best. Its' vaguely geometrical shape is a very pleasing collection of bright stars, filled in with literally hundreds more... all tied together with a chain that walks right out with mid-range magnification. But let's drop back to that big, old, clunky 32mm, ok? Because the NGC1499 requires it. There are wisps of grey stuff here and there around Minkib, but I really can't see a resemblance to the state of California! And then again, I'm not exactly know for my imagination either.

Now, I want Orion. I have waited patiently for it to gain the sky position I know it needs. Starting with the M42, I enjoy the splendor of such a magnificent nebula. You know it's incredible, and I know it's incredible. There are so many wisps, wreaths, ribbons and curls... embedded stars condensed in areas of birth. And at its' heart lay the Trapezium. At 17mm six stars snap into focus... and I think the impossible by trying to film them. Results? Oh, they quite show. In some frames the intial four are clear, in others, one of the fainter members makes a key appearance, but as a picture? No. Without the nebula around it, it is reduced to a simple series of dots. So I go back to just enjoying it visually. My hand aches to reach inside that case and pull out the power. But, you know what? Maybe I don't want to win.

The M43 is just a nudge away. Let's go look at it instead. And have a laugh at the "Fishmouth" that seperates it from the great M42. A bit north of that is triple nebula, NGC1973, 1975 and 1977... pretty little clouds of gas. And a bump more north is the NGC1981... a nice, white loose open cluster.

Ready to hop to Alnitak? A nice double in its' own right, but what I have come for is the stretch of nebulosity and the IC434. This is not Hubble Vision... for the elusive "Horsehead" appears as nothing more than a "notch" in this faded band. But I KNOW what that "notch" is.... and it is for that very reason that I seek it out several times a season.

Yes, it's gotten late. And I'm sure I should go in... But I'm not ready. I have waited for hours for Orion to rise...

The M78 is next. A small round nebula encasing two beautiful little stars, and surrounded by a blackness that can only be a dark nebula. The NGC2112 is also right here... a compressed cluster of several dozen low magnitude stars that are hard to pick away from the field!

On the Betelguese, and the NGC2186, a large open cluster that rivals itself away from the Milky Way. And the Rosette! The NGC2237 cups itself around the NGC2244.... like a very special filling inside a "donut" of nebula, one yellow star is a standout in the crowd. A few hops brings us the the twisted string of stars known as the NGC2251. Nicely bright, it has many fainter members that follow along this star trail. Let's go get the "Christmas Tree"... The NGC2264 is a pretty triangle of stars and the black "Cone" nebula intrudes into its' "space". But its' beauty is that it is topped with a star all of its' own.... a fantastic blue white double.

The NGC2309 is a nice tight group... Centered around one relatively faint star, it is in an incredibly attractive field. But the M50 is the drawing card.... A great diamond shaped open cluster, ruled over by a yellow/orange giant. Two arms of stars reach out... What can I say? I just didn't want to go in last night.

I just felt like dancin'...

"And you... You shook me all night long... Yeah, you."


December 10, 2001 - The ISS, Albireo, M27, M71, NGC6940, NGC7789, M52, Comet LINEAR WM1, studies... walking with Perseus... then takin' Pegasus for a ride!

Comments: Another clear and steady night... what a deeply needed release from the everyday world!! As soon as it was starting to get dark, I had to be out there. Just admiring the sky with my after dinner coffee and watching the ISS cruise over....

It wasn't long until it became dark enough to start to scope... and I was ready! First some of those "summer" favorites that are passing away... like Albireo, the M27 and the odd-ball, M71. I know I can chase Cygnus down in the east side yard for some time yet... but the lower the sky position, the worse the clarity. So I shall enjoy these "treats" for just a few more times before I bid them a civil "adieu" until next season... By now, real dark has started to set it... and the dob has settled enough to start to get serious. I have truly come to appreciate open clusters far more than I once did... and the NGC6940 is no exception. I still greatly admire this glittering cloud of stars... It gives me peace.

There are so many stars in Cassiopeia that you might barely find her recognizable. But I know it well, and I would visit with two of them before I move on... My favourites of the set, the NGC7789 and the M52. Both of these cluster, albeit varying in form, are possessed of an uncountable number of stars. It almost boggles the imagination that so very many of them could exist in one place... But, how very glad I am they do! Ready to head out to the south field? Because WM1 is getting to be one tough customer. (no problem! tough customers are my "speciality"... ;) Darn near into Pices Austrinus, my fantastic friend, the "Comet" resides in a chain of bright stars tonight. How many more nights do I have with you, my friend? One? Two? Let me not count them.... For if I never saw you again, I would still treasure the time we had together. Always...

Enough thoughts for now. Put it behind a brick wall like all the rest, and throw away the key. The door is there...

Now I've got some studies to attend to. (and yep! you bet i hopped over those four great galaxies in cetus! i've had a lot of fun with them!!) The new stuff is somewhat difficult... but far from impossible. With sky clarity like the last two days, and one more in the offing... Why, I think I just might have really accomplished something in this constellation! To me... anyhow. Could be a Corona in my very near future... :) Let's go fetch another cup of coffee...

A bit warmer now, and when I return, it is to see Orion and Gemini well risen... what next? Studies are done and I feel like a bit of play! As I stand regarding the sky, the meteors seem to "drip" from Gemini... A precursor to our next shower? Let's hope so! Because these short-arc silver beauties move very slowly... and make a lasting impression!

Oh, let's take a walk with Perseus, shall we? The stars seem to pop right out of it tonight! Like the splendid NGC869 and NGC884... Don't ever sell it short. The "Double Cluster" is so loaded with resolvable stars that it is incredible! And the M34... Sure, it's loose as far as opens go... But the variences in magnitude make it worth a visit!

Galaxy cluster? Nah... We did that last night. Your talk of the M76 make me want to visit it again.... so let's go! Yep. It is very similar in shape to the M27... but smaller. Nice little grey/green planetary... Not big on filaments, but a pleasing target! And how about the NGC1342? Once again, a rather "scattered" open... but I just enjoy the heck out of them! Hey... Pegasus! Wanna' take me a ride? You're tipped off the zenith now... so let's dance!

Eta is the primary hop... I remember that much! Scope on... Now for the map. Ummm hmmmmm... Gotcha'! NGC7217. Nope, this isn't the one I was looking for, but it is a nice, even spiral with a decent core. Let's try again...

NGC7331? Shoot... That isn't it either! But there's nothing wrong with this target... One nice hint of an arm, and two faint attendant galaxies. Back to Eta.... NGC7457? Damn! That's not the one either! Just a small, furry ball... NGC7332? Nope. Another fur ball... So, I just stop for a bit and enjoy a few meteors. If the sky is going to make it difficult.... So be it! I dig a challenge. Let's get away from Eta, and try another.... Oooh! This is more like it! NGC7479! I remember this one! You'd like it, too... For this is a classic "S"! Pretty shape....

There's an exclamation point on the map on the last one I feel like taking on tonight... let's hope it's it. Oh yeah.... It is! This was the "edge on" I was looking for!! My, oh my! I'm smilin' now, compadre.... Fantastic example! Bright nucleas stretched out.... and one HECK of a dark dust lane that bissects it! Wow...

I think I'll just hang around, if you don't mind....

"I'm back... back... Back in black. And that's a fact."


December 10, 2001 - The Morning Moon, Jupiter and Saturn...

Comments: Oh, man... That aching sky clarity is still there this morning. Might as well put on the coffee and set out the 4.5... because I can't sleep knowing what's out there!

What a true beauty Selene is! Loaded with earthsine and detail this morning, Gassendi Crater was perfect. I was hard put, dividing my attention between it and the partially lighted area of the Sinus Iridum... A bit of filming was what I was after. And film I did...

But, before I called it in... You know I had to look at Jupiter and Saturn because I ignored them last night. How I wish I could get the clarity on film that Saturn shows! To the 4.5, the Cassini Division is only the finest of lines showing at the outside edges of the ring system... but the moons! Whooo Hooo! Even the little scope takes them from the sky! And how it makes me smile to remember a time when I first saw the "little troopers"... and my anxious confirmation. Damn those were some good times...

Jupiter is eye-aching bright. I had to put the aperature mask on just to make out the galieans. Three this morning, one on one side... two to the other. Nice, crisp belt detail. One is seriously darker than the other... and more detail exists on that same half. Nice. I like it!

Now, let shoot the Moon some more....

"And I swear that I don't have a gun. No, I don't have a gun..."


December 9, 2001 - The Andromeda Group, M15, Stephan's Quintet, the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, Comet LINEAR WM1, M77, more studies, M1, Asteroid Vesta, and the M74...

Comments: After having enjoyed a night of clouds the day before, it was terrific to step out to a clear night. Lights extinguished, and cup of coffee in hand, it just felt good to walk the dob out to a shady spot... and have at it. Just for fun...

Although I am beginning to tire (somewhat) of the Andromeda group, I know in my heart just how much I'll miss these tremendous galaxies when they are gone. I don't know whether it's because the M31 shows so well to the naked eye, or if there is just something "soul satisfying" about looking at such a large, bright galaxy... but whatever it is, I find it pleasing. Just as I find the companion galaxies...

The M15 is really hustling across the zenith. And it's been some time since I really "powered up" on this impressive little globular. In the 12.5 as 32mm, the M15 is a golden ball of stars, with a few outliers. At 17mm, pure resolution begins. A very concentrated core... with the stars thinning out to the edges in a most impressive way! For eye-relief, using the barlow with the 17mm pulls resolution further into the globular cluster... but makes me dizzy trying to "keep up with it"! No matter. It is a beauty....

Now, let's just slide that barlow back into the case, put the 26mm in and head for Stephan's Quintet, ok? (Whew! Toughie tonight! It's darn close to the ONE spot I can't set the scope on... but not quite, eh? ;) There you little fur balls are... Let's make this a bit more comfortable and put the 17mm back in. Aaaah.. Splendid! Resolution? No way, baby. Vague form is all you're getting here... But, to see this little conglomeration of galaxies laying "at odds" with one another is a real treat! They are at their best a brightest when near the zenith like this... and I surely don't mind a bit of ladder time to enjoy them!!

Ready for a bit more? Me, too... So let's walk it back to the good 26mm and head toward the ever-changing Algol. A push here... a pull there... and voila! The two round forms of the brighter galaxies appear.... Now we can walk it down! (But let's stick to the 17mm, ok? The view is far more pleasing...) Averting away, Chief! What do we have tonight? Oooooh... soft and touchy. It's very hard to resist the temptation to look directly at the galaxies as they appear... but to do so, is to lose them. So relax now... listen to the music and tell me how many you see? Six? Seven? Eight is the magic number for tonight. This is one incredible field for the patient... Much like dipping into the Virgo fields, the Perseus cluster also does NOT reveal astonishing detail... But for me, just to be able to SEE this amazing little collection gives me a thrill! Ready to rock a comet? Yoohoo! MY kind of fun! Let's go do it! Now, let's drop back to the 32mm, ok? Magnification, (in my opinion) does very little to "improve" cometary structure... "field" is everything! On to Cetus...

Glory be... This little bugger MOVES! I quite have a feeling that my friends in the southern hemisphere are already picking up on WM1! Still, it is a beautiful little snowball... The tail quite stretches away now out of the field of view, but I'm only catching one. Very nice structure. It has been a wonderful experience keeping tabs on this one... and I shall quite remember it for some time to come!

And since we're in Cetus, eh? ;) The M77 is an incredible galaxy. We are talking quite bright enough to be accessible in any average scope! This one epitomizes spiral structure to the max... very pronounced arms and dust lanes at 17mm. The mottling of impossibly distant clusters is evident... and the "halo" of this excellent galaxy makes it worth every second it takes to find it. Go for it... You'll never regret it!

Now, "pardon me, while I burst into flame", will ya'? Because there is much more in Cetus than what I've let on so far! There are several days of good seeing weather ahead, and what I thought might not be achievable this year, looks as if it might become a reality. Sorry to be a "scope hog".... But you may have a peek at my notes while I study. They're right there... by my good map and mechanical pencil... ;)

OK.... head out of the cosmos, and feet back on the ground. Do you want to do the M1 with the dob? Then let's go! You're in charge of the 4.5 for now... and we'll compare the view. Found it? Good. Now, let's pop the 17mm in the little scope. The M1 is a nice, shimmering cloud. There is something about it that takes on the appearance of the M27. (no, not shape... a "quality" if you will..) For some reason I can pick up something in certain nebulae that only a handful of others seem to be able to see. I call it a "living" quality. A sense of movement where I know there is none. Study has told me this is a spectral thing... and you wonder why I am fascinated by spectra!

(H seems to be studying physics again. Tonight it is the "Doppler Effect"... The ground is well saturated and hard... and when the great black beast runs full tilt, as he is doing now... you can hear his gallop approach and recede in true Doppler fashon. It would seem to have given the backs of me knees a mind of their own... for apparently they are in fear of the classic german shepherd "shoulder" of a run-by. No doubt the lesson of throwing rocks at his fleeing head has also had an "impact"... for he wisely choses to just brush the edge of my coat on each pass... ;)

Now, let's put the same 17mm eyepiece in the 12.5 and watch what happens... Hey! You like THAT, don't you? Effortlessly, filaments and ribbons appear in this outstanding supernova remnant! It turns into a delightful cloud of glowing gas... one that shows the structure that photographs have made so famous. This is one target that will capture and hold your imagination... Intriguing!

So, you're not into asteroids. Quite frankly, they are a bit boring. Just a slightly brighter "star" in the field. Nothing special except for the fact that it moves rather methodically. Hang on a moment and let me mark that rather dog chewed looking copy of my map... More than anything I just want to keep track of it until it "hooks" round in its' orbit... then it may go on it's way. Got it. Now, let's go check out one more "coolie" before we pack it in for the night.

Oh, yeah! What a way to end the show!! M74 is a WOW! kind of galaxy... The round, "rolled" look of this intense structure is most impressive. The core is just impenetrable! Several bright areas come forward as it diffuses its' way out to two impressive spiral arms. Of the edge of one, wisps of galaxy "stuff" fade away into the darkness of space. Wonderful, wonderful galaxy... This one could become destined to be a favorite in no time!

Come now... it's cold. We'll walk again soon...

"Take a rest.... As a friend. As a friend. As an old memoria.... Memoria...."


December 7, 2001 - Star Party of One...

Comments: Observatory time had been cancelled thanks to the volatile nature of our region's December weather. But, for me... the show isn't over until it's over.... At sunset the skies had gone to clear, and an opoortunity to watch the ISS fly-by was in the offing. Now, I realize that most of you consider chasing the ISS or an iriduim flare about as interesting as watching two laboratory rats mating, or a fungal culture grow... but I find it terminally cool! Coming in from the south/south west, the ISS doesn't appear to be anything more than an incredibly bright sattelite, but the most fascinating part is how it so poignantly displays the curvature of our atmosphere! The whole thing only takes four to five minutes of your time.... and I encourage everyone to use the heavens-above.com website to find an opportunity for your own area. You will not regret it...

Darkness fell quickly, and some gauzy clouds still hung about here and there... but for the most part the sky was clear, and you know I had to be out there! Starting with Mars and Albireo, and sliding over the rich Cassiopeian clusters and waiting on the kind of dark that means "Study Time". I left the equipment out to cool and headed in for a cup of coffee. This could be an excellent night....

When I returned, it was to view the beautiful arc of the Milky Way. Gone is the summer apparition that spanned from the north to south.... but the beautiful curve that flows from Cynus through Cassiopeia, Perseus and Auriga shines it's silver light still. With averted vision, single stars in the "Perseus Double Cluster" become apparent, as does the soft sheen of the "California Nebula"... the "Andromeda Galaxy" is an incredible shimmer in the sky, the Plieades look so perfect, and Saturn shines like a beacon! And I see Cetus... time to walk...

Finding Comet LINEAR WM1 was a snap tonight. Just a field away from Beta Cephii, or Diphda, if you prefer, the 4.5 sees it as sitting in a relatively empty "space". I don't sense that it has gained any brightness of more detail, but I know I LIKE what I see! A stellar nucleas, highlighted by a great fan, encased in a "glow" of ice particles, and showing one minor tail spiking it's way toward the northeast. A little beauty, it is. The dob is out here too, and so I set it upon the Comet. You would like this type of comparison!! The 12.5 reveals many more "background" stars... but does not improve detail within WM1! (makes the "tail" a bit more apparent, but not that dramatic....) I guess when it comes to brighter comets, lack of aperature doesn't hurt you any! (LOL! I guess what I'm trying to say is there is only so much detail that can be observed, and this is a case where either telescope works equally well... ;) It still amazes me how quickly WM1 has cruised the sky... and in a matter of days, it will be gone for me, too. Vaya con dios, yon Comet....

So, here we are. Set up in an area that allows us free access to all part of Cetus and Aries... and no maps. Why? Because this is the third time.... my proving ground. This is the time to take from the sky without help.... A personal challenge? You bet. For me, this is what it's all about.... Can I do it? Because I know that when I've reached this point, if I can find the studies on my own... they are mine. I deserve them. And I am free to speak of them as friends.... no longer strangers.

Cetus ~

So, are you ready to get into something new? Then you'll like the Cetus field. The challenge here has not been so much "finding" these objects as it is having the correct sky to "see" them! But Patience and Persistence pays... and now it's time to show you what I've Practiced!

Heading back to Diphda, (i like this star and its' name... ;) we're ready to drop down for galaxy study number one: the NGC247. A very definate spiral galaxy with an intense "stellar" nucleas! Sitting right up in the eyepiece as a delightful oval, the NGC247 is has a very proper galaxy structure... Defined core area whose concentration slowly disperses toward its' boundaries... with one well-defined dark dust lane helping to enhance a spiral arm. Most lovely!

Continuing "down" we move on to the NGC253. Talk about bright! Very few of my galactic studies come in this magnitude! (the 4.5 also picks it up very well, but i prefer the 12.5 to rock out structure...) Very elongated, and hazy, it reminds me sharply of the "Andromeda Galaxy"!!! The center is very concentrated, and the spiral arms wrap their way around it beautifully! Dust lanes and bright hints of concentration are most evident... and one of its' most endearing features is that it seems to be set within a mini "Trapezium" of stars. A very worthy study...

Now, let's hop off to Delta, shall we? I want to rock your world.... because the M77 rocked mine! Once again, easily achieved in the small scope, M77 comes "alive" with aperature. This one has an incredible nucleas... and very pronounced spiral arms!! Three big, fat ones! Underscored by dark dust lanes, the arms swirl away from the center is a galactic display that takes your breath away! The "mottling" inside the structure is not just a hint in this ovalish galaxy... they are quite there! One incredible little customer it is, and one I guarantee you won't find "ho hum"!!

Aries ~

So... you think it's going to be impossible for us to top that last one, huh? Then pull that hat down tighter on your head... because I'm gonna' blow you away....

We're heading for Gamma Arietis, and drawing a mental line between it and Eta. Approximately two-thirds of the way is the spectacular M74! Now, this... THIS is a by-gosh spiral galaxy!! It's "rolled" structure becomes immediately apparent in either telescope. The outstanding core area is intense, and the arms twist away from it quite tightly! It sports several areas of bright clusters/nebulosity... and as it twists away into space, two lovin' arms reach right out and wrap themselves around it! Very reminescent to me of the "Whirlpool"... the "galactic stuff" wisps away at the edges where several bright stars play the field with it. (now, now... you're fogging up the optics!) This is one exceptionally pretty galaxy... and it has been my very great pleasure to have found it at last!!

Cold, yet? Me too... Let's go fetch another cup of coffee and warm the bones...

When we come back, I feel far less serious. (acutally i rather feel like "playing"... ;) I'm ready to go "Walkabout", and just look at what pleases me... like the Andromeda Galaxy Group, and the M33. The latter is rather diffuse for my taste, but I always revel when I find it! And some doubles that I like... such as Ruchbah, Mesarthim, Almach, Rigel, and Castor.

The random meteor rate tonight has also been fantastic! It seems like every time I stop to simply admire the sky, and look up... one or two streak by! I cannot neccessarily say the are pre-Geminds, for they don't correlate to the radiant, but that doesn't matter... because they always make me smile!

Time to seek out the NGC2244, the open cluster accompanied by the wisps of the "Rosette Nebula". I just feel like looking at the "Perseus Double" and the M54. I want to see the M36, M37, and M38. I honestly enjoy the Plieades! And I make my mark for Asteroid Vesta.

As usual, I cannot leave the M42 alone. Can any of us? I find it most inspiring. Nor can I not at least "power up" to a degree (17mm works, chief...) on the Trapezium. Six.... there are still six. Perhaps one day I shall try to push the 12.5 to the edge on this one... I have seen the other two, but the observatory scope is an unfair advantage! Let me tweak the collimation before the hard edge of winter puts the stars into that "perfect" mode... and I shall "detach" and find what you seek. Would I tell? Perhaps to friends... But the rest of the world can seek it own their own.

Since I'm feeling "at ease" now... perhaps this would be a good time to try filming the planets again. Saturn is splendid in the eyepiece! The Cassini is easy, and there are variations in the rings. A few bright splotches show on the surface as well. But I get a kick out of the moons... They are slow dancers, but a moment of steady seeing will bring them right to you! Jupiter also shows good detail tonight. Along with the easily distinguished belts, there are many variations on the surface. It gives it a "marbled" appearance that is quite pleasing. I know you find logging surface detail to be preferable, and I am sorry I do not always play the game your way. I am a galaxy hunter. It has always been so for me.. and shall always be. I love to watch the galiean moons shuttle round Jupiter, (all four to one side for me tonight) and their dimensional qualities never cease to fascinate me. But I am... what I am.

Lost.... In deep space. ;)

"Come... Hurry up. Take your time.... The choice is yours. Don't be late....


December 6, 2001 - Back to the rain...

The rain on the plain falls mainly on the brain.

"As a friend, as a friend.... As an old memoria.... Memoria.... Memoria...."


December 5, 2001 - NGC6940, Albireo, M15, Stephen's Quintet, the Andromeda Group, the Perseus "Double Cluster", the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, Comet LINEAR WM1, field studies in Cetus and Aries, Asteroid Vesta, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Uranus, Neptune, M36, M37, M38, and the M42...

Comments: Man, I knew this was going to be a galaxy kind of night! So, I start it off by being my annoying self... turning off lights and wearing "sunglasses at night". Sure. It looks dumb, but you wouldn't believe how much you can relax your eyes in advance! Since there was no real "race" with the Moon tonight, I waited until full sky dark to go out.... and started with Cygnus. How strange it looks to see this constellation diving head first to the west! The NGC6940 and Albireo won't be here much longer... Heading on up to Pegasus now... because some bad weather will be all it takes to eradicate some of my favorites there. It just felt so good to have the dob out.... who cares if it's kind of awkward hitting zenith targets? I'll hang upside down over the cart anyday to aim at a galaxy!

M15 came first... that splendid ball of golden stars! But "Stephen's Quintet" is what I really came here for. I've said such oft repeated phrases on this one, I shall not labor my reports with it.... because came here to look. And look I did!

As with the Andromeda Group.... infinately easier than the "quints", and just simply magnificent to behold. I don't care how many times I see certain things.... They always take my breath away.

Like the "Perseus Double Cluster".... boring? Nah... You would just have to see what the dob does to this.... more stars than you can shake a stick at! But the object here I was after was the "Perseus Galaxy Cluster".... And, oh m'gosh... sometimes I am very powerfully reminded of exactly why I wanted this big dobsonian telescope in the first place! The beauty of such a collection... and being allowed to view it... touches something inside me. How do I describe? Perhaps that is why I seek someone who understands.... It is a thrill that only another astronomer could comprehend. And after I had spent an hour and a half of my dark on "old friends"... I realized I'd best go hunt down WM1 and get on with some studies! There were no real "changes" in our current comet from my last observation... but I really wonder if what is being dubbed "the Christmas Comet" will actually still be visible from the northern hemisphere by then! This one MOVES! And it moves fast.....

Time for studies.... Thanks to our ever-changing weather, I don't often have an opportunity to really delve into Cetus and Aries... but this year I make the effort. Who knows what next season may bring? And there are so many things I would see... and sometimes life seems so short.

I make my mark for Vesta... and take time to visit with the planets and the bright and beautiful opens of Auriga. The clouds are beginning their slow interference.... but I am happy. The M42 and the Trapezium saw to that. The wind has become stronger here at the edge of the field.

And there's a chill to it that wears me down...

"Come as you are... As you were... As I want you to be..."


December 3, 2001 - M41, M44, M67, meteors and the Moon...

Comments: Whoa! What clarity this morning!! (did you REALLY think for one second that after all these clouds i was gonna' sleep? no way, baby!! ;)

Set the 4.5 out and fixed coffee... By the end of the first cup, the little scope had stabilized and we were ready to rock! Radio on... let's roll...

M41 came first. Not as impressive in the little scope, but I just like to "keep tabs" on things. Like the M44... I need to reach out and touch every now and then. But the M67? Huh uh. It was there, no doubt. But la Luna has toasted all the beauty out of it...

Seems to me that every time I stop to sip at my coffee and admire the sky, we've got some fast moving meteors here!! A pre-Geminds display perhaps? Hey... send 'em my way! Those celestial "fireworks" are my cup of T! So let's shoot the Moon! (and if i juggle it about just a bit, i can squeeze jupiter in the eyepiece, too.. but it's not THAT good. just close...) I really dig how the terminator has moved over miles and miles in just hours. And the surface features are so clear!! Yeah!

I like it! ;)

"All these words they make no sense. I find bliss in ignorance..."


December 2, 2001 - NGC6940, M27, M31, M32, M110, M33, Saturn Nebula, Helix Nebula, Comet LINEAR WM1, Cetus and Aries field studies, Saturn, the Moon, Jupiter, Cassiopiean open clusters, Auriga open clusters, Asteroid Vesta, Mars, Neptune and Uranus....

Comments: Racing the Moon... Started off with the simple, well-practiced objects while waiting on dark to get very dark. I am still quite fond of the cloud of stars that is the NGC6940... and as fast as Saggita is disappearing, I had to take one last look at the oft-repeated summer of the M27. (hey... it's still cool!)

Just as quickly as the sky faded to black, I picked off the M31, M32 and M110 for a very specific reason. I'm not a great judge of magnitudes, and I'm hunting a comet tonight. So more than anything, I want something I can compare it with. Now for a hop south to claim the "Saturn" nebula... still a small, blue stretched oval... just like I saw it last. The "Helix" is always tremendous, simply because it is so large. The double "bracket" of nebula "stuff" is always a pleasure .... Now what I came for...

Yeah. "It's been awhile..." hasn't it? A long while. Long enough to make me doubt. Confirmation would be nice, ok? So I checked out Heavens Above current information earlier, and had penciled an "X" on my map, (hey now! it's MY book, ok? ;) and took it out with me because I needed it for my study fields. But you know what? I like to challenge myself. I knew what three stars to look for, and I knew about where it should be. And when I relaxed, and did what I do best... I found it.

Comet LINEAR WM1 has went through some rather remarkable changes. The magnitude has increased tremendously. We are talking about as bright visually (to me, anyhow...) as the Andromeda Galaxy... so we're homing in close to a 6... and nearing naked eye brightness. Tonight finds it sitting at the end of a chain of stars, and most impressively "comet like"! The nucleas is very precise... the "fan" (coma?) is well pronounced... leaving the basic body of WM1 at roughly the size of the M13. And gentlemen... we've got tail! Pushing away from the beastie to the northeast, and going out of the field of view with the 26mm... WM1 rocks equally well in both the 4.5 and the 12.5!!!! And since I'm in Cetus... ;)

Studies until the sky brightened too much. Then off to explore Saturn. The image was clean... but waivered. At times the Cassini was pencil perfect... as were the moons. A moment later, smeared... But I watched anyway. (and practiced filming...)

Down the line to the Moon... and dancing around the edges of Mare Crisium. Think it's not interesting? Then think again... because during this phase, the curvature is so apparent the 3D effect is most remarkable. And again... practice on filming.

Jupiter and all four galieans came next... but the shimmer of the atmosphere was much more apparent from its' low position. That's all right... the mighty Jove will be around for some time yet! Now let's go get some that won't be!!

Like Mars, Neptune and Uranus... "Cradling the baby of space" in the timeless open clusters of Cassieopia, challenging myself to finding the M36, M37 and M38 with the Moon so near... and making a mark on yet another map for what should be asteroid Vesta. Is it? Or isn't it? Even I'm not too sure. But I know one thing...

It sure is good to have you around.

"Because I'm one step closer to the edge... And I'm about to break!"