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- 2004 -

Sorry. The pics are messed up right now, but I will fix them soon! Promise... ;)

August 20, 2004 - Hidden Hollow "Wet"...

Comments: Hey. You knew it would rain, didn't you? Of course. It's just the way our luck runs. It doesn't matter, though. I'm still happy to show up at the Observatory and do what I can when I can. Things looks so wonderful all cleaned up, and it's just nice to sit here in the ClubHouse and watch a movie.

Of course, I chose "Signs"...

By the time Dan arrived, I was ready for company! Even as many times as I have seen this movie, it still bugs me a little. With everything done, we can just kick back, relax and wait for others to arrive. Terry, Keith, Mike, and Joe all join us as well, and we opt for a little "Star Trek". The laughter is free and easy, and despite the continual rain, it feels good to be here amoungst friends. ("somebody turn off that (&#! alarm!" ;) We have an easy-going meeting, but there is no guests for Hidden Hollow. Who can blame them? It's wet!!

After a reasonable amount of time, we all head out for dinner. Our laughter and conversations continue, and it is just good to enjoy each other's fellowship. There is talk of clearing skies tomorrow and perhaps that will bring visitors to the Observatory. I am looking forward to attending AFY's picnic as well, and hopefully to some faces that I have not seen in a couple of years. I hope the clouds and rain stay away...

It's been too long.

August 21/22, 2004 - Hidden Hollow "Light"....

Comments: Ah, man. This is more like it! A beautiful partly sunny day with mild temperatures and a picnic with really good friends. It was such a pleasure to see Robert, Curt, Trish, Bubba, Greg, Tim, Stuart and all their families again! Just a really nice time set in the incomparable grounds of Malibar Farms. And you could tell who the astronomer's were in the bunch, too... Cuz' we were lookin' up. Taking my leave early, I headed back out across the hills to the Observatory. Weather this nice means we will probably have guests for our "star party" weekend and I wasn't wrong. As soon as I turned the corner into the Observatory drive, I could see unfamiliar telescopes setting up and that in itself is a true pleasure.

Fortunately, Terry had beat me there and gotten the ClubHouse opened up and started people registering for the evening. A few minutes later, I had the Dome open and cooling... As well as laughing with our guests who had taken bets on just "who" I would be. Making all their acquaintance was a pleasure, (another Harley rider! awesome...) and as the afternoon shadows grew long, more and more began to arrive.

Terry, Dan and Mike headed into the dome to work on Terry's scope...

Hanging out with our guests, I'm sure I had a grin six miles wide when I saw Jeromey and his son come up the steps... For I have a telescope waiting on them to use.

Most of these faces are familiar, a lot are not, and it is good to see Dan, Dave, Mike A., John, Joe, Mike G. and even a few blasts from the past like Steve and Ron.

We had an H-alpha filter in the crowd and it was truly my pleasure to walk out into the area around the fire ring and get a peek at all the lovely prominences on the east half of the sun. The skies are looking awfully promising and it's time to start getting some equipment set up. Carefully nestling the SVD8 into a safe spot, it's time to give the "Ottoman" the honours tonight. Just for laughs, I brought the little TV out to the observing area and we hooked up the video eyepiece to John's telescope to have a peek at the Moon.

Of course, this is totally cool... And it's not long until I have Jeroemy plugged in with the little Orion and turn them loose to explore with a map. Around the edges, the "Ohio Photoman", Ron is busily taking pictures of the action and scopes of all shapes and sizes (obsessions, yum...) are assembled and ready to go.

Enlisting mentor Dan's aid, we tag team out the Moon and do a little exploring with the big scope.

Of course, there's lots more scopes and things to be seen!!

Dan becomes my invaluable "driver" tonight as we work in perfect tandem with him positioning the lift while I aim at a variety of DSOs. The darker and darker the skies become, the better and better the viewing gets and I tend to suprise even myself at just how reasonably well I can still aim this metal monster. What did we look at? M4, M6, M8, M22, and M28... I know this sounds like very little, but you would actually have to try to move this big scope around by hand to understand just how "physical" you have to get to move it to the smallest degree. Is it balanced? Of course. If you could aim it at the mirror end and the floor! The really big kicker is that the finderscope is at the viewing end, and even the smallest of movements means some very sincere pushing, pulling and tugging.

But, man... The view is worth it!!

I kid you not when I tell you these things are stunning. Tonight I chose to drop way back and go with the 55mm and it was a very good call. This put things about three times larger than you would normally see things in any ground based scope and the resolution goes beyond imagination. The work is really, really worth it when you share the view and hear others gasps of suprise and delight when the most ordinary of objects turns extraordinary!

I've got to hand it to all our wonderful guests... The views through the 31" might have been great, but the people who are here are the ones that really make it!

Of course, it has been a couple of hours by now and I'm outright tired. In the meantime, I've kept a running supply of coffee going on in the ClubHouse and sometimes it just feels good to come down to the ground. I remember the vivid and beautiful views through Dave's large binculars. Who would have thought that concrete could feels so good? But it was, amigo... Still warm from the Sun, it felt just excellent to lie down and cruise the celestial wonders with both eyes! Behold... The "North American Nebula" in all it's glory! Joe had also set up his SkyWind and binoculars and I always deeply enjoy the very steady view and the effect of "falling into space".

Simply wonderful views through Mike Allen's Obsession, Terry's dob, the Intes, our guests scopes, and I even snatched the little Orion back and aimed it at as many things as I could recall. At one point in time, the sky was so gloriously clear that you could see the M33 unaided. Just a wonderful night... And filled with meteors!

Of course, there was plenty of time to relax as well, and it was wonderful to hear and see the ClubHouse alive and full of sounds... As well as people!

By now, I had both rested and resisted enough and it was time to put the "big 'un" on the Andromeda galaxy. Again, it is impossible to truly describe all the details that can be seen... But I'm willing to try. At no more magnificaton than the 55mm delivers, the core will blow you away. Dark dustlanes, hints of globular clusters, and the perfect resolution of the NGC206. A grunt, a groan, a push, a pull... And the companion M110 walks into life complete with vivid dark dustlane. More feats that woud require the services ofa California governer more than an old astronomer reveals the companion M32 as well and as each guest comes to the eyepiece I allow them to find these things for themselves and smile as I can feel them strain right through the floor of the lift. Ain't easy, is it? ;) By now, Greg has joined us as well and we go back down to snatch up the 26mm. When set on the M31, magic happens. It is totally possible to explore details in another galaxy and we delight in various globular clusters, nebulae and knots that exists not in our own galaxy, but in one two million light years away! It's a wonderful time observing, and when we have tired, we go back down to visit with our guests and to wish those who have had enough for the evening a pleasant and safe journey. We work with the telescopes on the ground for awhile, because quite honestly I have had enough. When Stuart arrives, I know we've got to go for one more, and I take him up to explore the intricacies of the Plieades. When he requests the M31, I honestly try... But sir? I am whupped.

Has the hour grown late? Yes, it has. It is fun to go back down with the small scope and pick up them M words in Cassiopeia and well as a very generous portion of NGCs. (hey, john? told ya' the 7789 was very cool!) Just fun stuff, like the E.T. cluster, the double cluster, M54, lots of others overhead and on down through Auriga. Greg and Terry go back in to try and set the 31" on the M36, and I know they acheived it... But I'm out of gas.

By now, only the really serious observers are left, and while I consider myself to be serious at times, I have had enough, thanks. Time for this old kid to wish my friends adieu and close the dome down for the night. There were many of them still there when I left, but they'll have to rock on their own. Tucking only the necessities back in my car, I head out on a tired, mindless trip across country. It has probably been a couple of years since I've been out observing this late, and I still find myself smiling at Orion and Venus on the rise. Dawn is not far away.

Goodnight, ya'll... It was real.

"Cuz' I need my serenity.... In a place where I can hide. I need my serenity. Nothing changes.... Days go by."