February 28, 2001 - (5:00-6:30 a.m.) M4, M13, Albireo, Mars and Mercury (6:30 - 7:45 p.m.) Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon (9 - 9:45 p.m.) M37, M38, M42, M41, M46, M93 and a surprise!
Comments: (darn cold!) Went in search of the elusive Mercury today... began well before dawn by admiring the advent of the summer constellations. The M4 is a great comparison to the M13... while they are both relatively close in apparent size, the density difference of contained stars makes for fascinating viewing! Albireo is a favorite... put it on your "must see" list! (I would have loved to caught the "ring" in Lyra, and the great nebulae in Saggitarius, but the pre-dawn sky is just too bright!) Mars defies magnification at the moment... the sky was just not steady enough to do more than just dream on it. Mercury finally made it's appearance (barely!) above the horizon cloud band that always seems to accompany Ohio dawn... it was roiling about too much to give accurate description of its' phase... but hey! At least I caught it! ;-)
Later... I green-filtered on Venus and was quite surprised to see that it is down to probably no more than a 25% phase... excellent! Two moons were visible in Saturn (who looks like it's standing on its' head now!) and all four for Jupiter!
And speaking of moons, the earth's was quite lovely this evening, with the rilles in Mare Tranquilius especially highlighted! The terminator lies exceptionally close to the Apollo 11 landing site... and although I can't quite make out the flag ;-) ... it was my pleasure to enjoy the terrain!
Later still... Can't waste a clear sky! Started in Arigura and slowly moved south... down through Orion and into Puppis. For anyone who finds the Puppis clusters "boring"... trying looking at the M90 with averted vision... it ROCKS!
As I stood regarding Gemini, (and seriously considering contorting myself into an akward position to view the M35) a rogue meteor appeared right off Pollux and traversed the length of the constellation!!! From that point on, all I could do was just stand there with a great big smile on my face!
Just looking up... and thinking! ;-)
Comments: The Sun is relatively devoid of spots at the moment. There was one small dark one in the center... and a "open cluster" of faint ones a bit to the side. Photogenic opportunities still abound with the crescent Moon and Venus... the clouds started scudding in at sunset! Took a quick shot a Saturn, with one moon visible... and Jupiter with all four! (Not hard to miss in the twilight that one was behind the planet, with the other three headed our way!) Watched the Moon beneath the moving clouds... (it looked like something out of an old werewolf movie!) and occasionally observed great detail around Mare Crisium, craters Geminus, Burkhardt, Cleomides and Masala. Craters Atlas and Hercules are on the terminator... and outstanding!
Perhaps later the skies will clear? I'll be waiting...
Comments: Set up the scope to view Venus and the heart-breakingly slender crescent Moon (absolutely "pregnant" with earthshine!). The double crescents were very inspiring with the clean-cut line on Venus, and the "chewed" terminator line on the Moon. The couple made such a pretty pair, that I decided to drive out into the country in search of a photogenic spot... and found it! The next thing I know, the car stereo began to sound damn good... the roads were fast and dry... and by the time I returned to the "backyard", the clouds had returned! You snooze, you lose, eh?
Comments: Went out before dawn with the intention of catching Mercury... and got a surprise! I thought to busy myself by viewing a couple of globulars while I waited for it to rise, so I went to the M13 first... magnificent as always!
Scorpio was partially obscured by the big pine from my original set-up, but I could see Antares... wrong! I couldn't quite figure out why it looked like a double star, until I looked through the eyepiece! Yeah... it was a double star alright... Graffias! And it's companion was MARS!! (I kept going in and out of focus... because I couldn't believe it! Guess I should really keep more current on the planets positions, eh?)
Daring the wildlife, I moved the scope out into the field, and no doubt found Antares exactly where it should be... along with the M4! No sign of Mercury yet... still lost in the horizon "soup", but there are days yet to catch it! Until then, you can bet I'll let barlow cool down next time, and view "The Red Planet"!
8:00 p.m. - Just came in... hazy sky! :-( But not so bad that I couldn't enjoy the planets! Venus still looks great... Saturn (when it wasn't fuzzing in and out) showed anywhere from two to five moons (so our little companions are still out there!)... Jupiter had three moons visible... (but if you were unknowing it would look like ten because it's in a starfield!) Clear enough at the zenith to enjoy Arigura... (love those clusters) they look like a cloud of tiny points of light! Swept into Orion and passed over the M42. Actually, tonight I was looking for the "37" asterism... and although I ran a grid all over the area (and saw several delightful chains and knots of stars!) I still haven't found anything that I could "positively" identify! (I did see "something"... ok? But it looked backward! Was THAT it? Only the owl knows.... who!)
Comments: 12:00-1:00 a.m. Early a.m. here! (and darn cold, too!) All four moons visible for Jupiter (three on the south, one to the north).
Took a quick look at the M42 and M41 before they head west for the year... then off to chase those galaxies! Started with the M67 (yes... it's a cluster, but it's a favourite, ok?) then shifted to the M65 and M66... magnificent! Then off to the north for the M81 and M82! (I don't think, with the possible exception of the M31, that there are any galaxies brighter than this pair!) While is was in the area, I picked up the M51... not as impressive in the 4.5, but a worthy target!
Thoroughly cold now, (low temperatures and windy!) I almost called it in, but Arcturus was so bright, I knew I had to catch at least one more Messier object! Sneaked a look at Cor Caroli, then began my search grid... didn't take very long (thank goodness!) before I located the M3!! Terrific globular.... reminds me of Hercules!
Would have loved to have stayed out longer, but duty calls. Let's hope those skies stay clear for later tonight!!
4:30 p.m. - Weather still holding, so I enjoyed the Sun! (as always...) Sort of at a boring phase right now... just a couple of groups of small sunspots, but it was enough to finish off my current roll of film! Keep those fingers crossed for later....
7:15 - 9:00 p.m. - Plieades, Hyades, M1, Cassiopiean Clusters - Ngc 457, 663, 129, 225, 7789, 426, 637, 654, 659, M52, M103, Ariguran Clusters - M36, M37, M38, Perseus Clusters - M34, Ngc 869 and 864, Orion - M42, M43, Rosette, Flame and Horsehead Nebulae(!), Ngc 2392, M44, M35, M41, M50, Puppis Clusters, M46, M47, M93, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.
Time to break out "The Great White 'Scope"...
Comments: WOW! The sky remain absolutely perfect!! I feel humbled by my incredible luck! (Well... almost... ;-) The Ariguran Clusters (as well as the "Double Cluster" and "Beehive" were naked eye objects! Venus has shrunken even more... perhaps at a 40%! All the moons of Jupiter were still visible, as well as two in Saturn. And, oh my! Those beautiful clusters!! All of the tiny little points of light are incredible! I was totally delighted to catch all the nebulae before they ducked away for the year... it's not often I catch the "Clown Face", the "Crab", the "Horsehead", the "Flame", and the "Rosette"! I am truly at a loss for words as to the transparency of the sky tonight... even the winter Milky Way was out walking and talking!!
Ended tonight's session by re-visiting the M81 and M82... Leo has risen in the east again, and it's time to call it a day...
Only one thing more that I could wish for... to have YOU here with me!
Comments: And looks to stay that way for a while! Guess the only view I'll catch is through someone else's "eyes".... ;-)
Comments: Plenty of hazy clouds today limit the viewing to pretty much our own solar system! The Sun made a excellent target, with two large, dark sunspots very evident. Venus is great right now, at a good 50% phase, and is excellent either filtered or unfiltered. Saturn sports two moons tonight, and Jupiter's moons are all off to one side... in a double pair! Trying for the "straight wall" on the lunar surface later... Hope the weather holds!
4:30 a.m. - Brrrrrrr... it held alright! Terminator not close enough just yet to highlight the wall. But the good news is.... Spica is right underneath it! (And everything wasn't a wash... caught a meteor flying out of Aurigura and into Orion last night about 10:30!)
Comments: As it is often wont to do, the sky clears up right before bedtime! (What the heck.. put a coat on over the pajamas and let's go!) Saturn is straying into a starfield, but shows two of her moons... while Jupiter shows all four, two paired off to either side of the equatorial belts.
Thanks to moonlight, a lot of the nebulosity of the Plieades and the M42 were bleached out... but the M41 and the Ariguran clusters were excellent! And since it is determined to light up the sky... we may as well look at the Moon!
Excellent choice... lots of crisp detail around the Hipparchus region! (Had to go out and peek at the sky in the wee morning hours... at 4:30 a.m., I was delighted to see that the constellation of Scorpio has arrived on the scene! Ah, yes.... warmer weather is on the way!)
Comments: You owe it to yourself to check out Venus right now... it's at a 50%, or slightly less, phase that tones down its' brightness and makes it much more interesting! Two moons were visible for Saturn tonight... and all four for Jupiter (aligned with the equitoral belts). Tonight's show stealer was the moon! You cannot truly appreciate the beauty of Tycho until the moon is full (or close to!) and the rugged terrain of the Southern Highlands!
Comments: The proximity of the moon, and hazy skies, made it impossible to see any deep sky, or detail on Saturn, but three Galiean moons were visible for Jupiter. Tonight's show stealer was the moon! Aristotle and Exodus craters were outstanding... and the Southern Highlands... WOW!