July 31, 2001 - The Moon and Mars...
Comments: Hey... the Moon! Big, bright and beautiful... you simply cannot ignore it! (besides, when it makes its' presence known, you have no choice! ;) So let's walk...
Tonight the Moon held just as steady as last... very little shimmer at the limb, and clean, excellent detail! Gassendi and Keplar were quite prominent, with their flattened structures and interior components... and the "Straight Wall" is still visible, but much less shadowed. For me, the most interesting one tonight is Crater Schiller. On the southern pole, Schiller has an unusual, elongated structure, and excellent shadow play! Instead of the interior surface being stark and flat, with mountain ranges, Schiller seems to possess "waves"... almost "dune-like" features inside the crater proper. The northern wall projects a long shadow that runs the length of Schiller, emphasizing its' "peanut" shape. Excellent crater... and well worth a look!
Sit down now... got a treat for you! Just kick back, and look up! (and enjoy a cold corona...) Ah hah! There it is! And right on time, too... The International Space Station makes a majestic pass overhead!!
Maybe a bit of Mars, now? Sure! The one polar cap is still very bright, but has reduced that "stand out" quality that it has most recently displayed. The view is not only steady, but steadily improving! Even unfiltered, the Cimmerium and Tyrrhenum Mares are very evident, and subtle shading suggests that Utopia is, too!
And speaking of Utopia... that's enough for now. Time to just relax, enjoy the Corona... and watch the bats do their crazy slow dance against the moonlit sky! (I love watching them duck down and nip a drink of water from the pool! All they leave is a little tiny ripple where they've touched the surface... amazing creatures!)
"The lunatic is on the grass..."
Comments: Staring into the Sun again... what can I say? (i was actually having a rather good time cleaning out the pool! very relaxing...) As soon as I saw if reflecting on the water, I knew I had to go have a look...
I'm rocked again by what at first, appears to be a blank face. After just a few seconds, the image stabilized and a handful of small spots appear. There are only two of any remarkable size... one is fairly centrally located, and attending by a couple of very tiny ones... and the other is just coming into view along the limb, also bringing along a few diminuative strays. Not terribly exciting, I know... But, Sol has a way of just "happening" when you least expect it!
And, of course, a splendid sunset means clear skies for later. Although the Moon is quite present long before dark, I decided just to wait it out... plenty of time for Selene tonight!! What an incredibly steady show it gave, too... The Caucasus, Apennine and Carpathian Moutain ranges were so crisp, it felt like you could climb them with your eyes! I am always drawn toward the Sinus Iridium area... fascinated by the way the Jura Mountains cup the smooth area. New crater identification for tonight? Crater Bianchini.... Now I have a name for the lovely, bright ring that sits so conspicuously in the incomplete circlet of the Juras.
How about a walk along the smooth surface of Mare Ibrium toward the south? The punctuated holes of Helicon and Le Verrier show no detail except for their bright orafices and deep wells of shadow. Lambert and Pytheas, however, seem to be much more shallow... with their bright ring edges and central peaks. And now Copernicus... Always fascinating... Copernicus and its' stepped walls and great rays eminating away... This is one crater that begs for magnification, and for once, I am happy to comply! The broken ridges toward the west are wonderful... because there are tiny craters there, too! What an ancient wonder Copernicus is... Continuing on my southward journey, Mare Nubrium... Hello, then! What's this?! What a surprise! Rupes Recta! I really wasn't expecting to see YOU here tonight, but I'm most delighted anyway! Just a lovely straight line... bordered on side by the Mare and one deep crater, and on the other by soft mountains, eroded shallow craters and Thebit! (Thebit is also most amusing... showing detail of interior structure and an extra crater that smacked into it's original outer ring.)
Enough of the Moon, now! (even filtered, it has left me feeling quite blinded... so i just regard the stars for a bit while sight returns!) Now for Mars...
The view holds steady and true for Mars... The polar caps still seems to "bulge" away from the limb, and it is bright tonight!! Let's filter, ok? Blue helps... it tones it down somewhat and makes a delineation where the cap itself ends. How about red? Nope... not worth it. How about... polarizing? Yeah! Not great, but it does help bring the subtle shading on Cimmerium more to the forefront. It's the fickle face of Mars...
Now, let's roam awhile before a nap. Cor Caroli? I appreciate this double... not as distinguished in color, but still interesting! Mizar and Alcore? (sure, laugh if you want... it's a cheap thrill, and i know it, but the Moon is toasting the sky!) How about Albeiro? Superb! The colors are much more distinct... Saggitarius? Trashed... only the brightest of stars come forward. I did find one startling double though! Twin stars in every respect... looks like a pair of bright, blue/white eyes staring back at me through the dark!! Good enough for now... Let the Moon set and I'll be back!
OK... even at just before 2:00 a.m., the Moon is still putting the brakes on deep sky study. (but i can put a tree between me and thee... ;) As soon as I can pick out Delphinus, I'm on the way for Comet LINEAR!
Whoa... lot's of nice apparent doubles in this area! And there it is.... a great "dustball" in the sky! The nucleas is gone for now... no tail, no nucleas, no "fan"... no comet? Wrong! LINEAR is still holding on to some excellent surface brightness! Resembling a soft globular cluster, this baby is still on the move!! I can't help but wonder to myself as I study the comet ~ What's it going to look like when it cruises across the Milky Way?! (could it be that stars can be seen through it? it seems so "transparent"...) And it's heading into one of the most densely populated areas of the sky! Why, were just a hop away from two of my favorites right now...
NGC6940... aaaaaaah! (Thank you... I needed a dose of concentrated stellar affection! ;) And if you don't mind, I think I'll just hang out here for awhile. I like this open cluster... it makes me feel good! And M27? Not bad, but a darker sky is really need to appreciate it more...
How about M31? Even the "Andromeda" galaxy is no match for the Moon. It still shows up fairly well, and although the Moon is gone now, there isn't even a hint of it's companion galaxies. Ah, well... sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. So let's just adopt a Ferengi philosophy and head toward a game we can win!! ;) How about the Perseus "Double Cluster", NGC869 & 884? Now, that's more like it! The 32mm rocks on this... It gives a "field" view of the area, making this pair of opens much more spectaular!
Ready for a planet hunt? Neptune is at opposition right now, so let's get it! Upsilon Capricornus... easy enough! Nice red star. And Neptune is right there, a flat blue orb in the field with it! It is considerably less bright that Upsilon, but it doesn't appear to mind having a playmate! The contrast between the two is excellent...
By now, the first indications of dawn are beginning to seep into the sky. The Plieades have long ago risen... and the rest of the morning planets are in their prime!
Saturn is excellent this morning. The recent heat makes lower studies a bit hazy, but this add stability to the view. The outer two moons are easily recognizable... (but I can't be definative about the inner ones, otto... my attention was captured by cassini as well!) And speaking of Cassini... it was very apparent this morning, but only sharply defined along the outer curves. Nice shadow play going on here... the best for this morning was the shadow of the planet on the rings!
Venus? Still phat.... and so bright as to make it very hard to pick up on a phase! Green filter? You bet! Still an excellent 50%... probably going more toward 60%... But, it doesn't rise as high each night... it won't be long for the morning! How about Jupiter? It's certainly climbing up more each morning! The little galieans put on a show of their own today... the configuration reminded me very much of Leo... and Jupiter made for one BIG Regulus! Outstanding. The equatorial belts are nice and contrasty, but a better position in the sky is called for to reveal more detail.
A very good night, indeed...
"How... how I wish you were here! We're just two lost souls, swimming in a fish bowl... year after year... Running over the same old ground, and how we found... the same old fears. Wish you were here..."
Comments: Fast running clouds tonight make all views unsuitable... except the Moon. (and you really don't have to twist my arm to get me to stand out in the backyard on a warm summer night, to sip a corona and peek at the moon!) During the moments of clarity, it presented itself exceptionally well. From the flat, loveless eye of Plato to the science-fiction fabled Clavius... the view is astonishing. Copernicus holds court near the terminator, sitting fully in the light... asking for study of its' terraced wall and interior detail. Mons Piton (8000 feet... the science half just had to know! ;) is shining brightly and casting an excellent shadow. And I stop to study Tycho for a bit... remembering a time when I spent hours doing a painstakingly detailed sketch of this area. (Then somebody ripped it in half to use it as scratch paper... sigh. I never sketched it again...) I am quite surprised that there are no background stars close to the Moon. I would think that there would be enough in Scorpius/Ophiuchus to at least make for an occultation! But, there were none to be found... and I tire from the long hours I've kept the last few days. Let it rest....
And when both the sky and myself have had enough sleep, I take my morning coffee to the east side yard to view the morning planets... How I love the mystique of Saturn! It's sitting level in the constellation of Taurus right now... looking at Aldeberan eye-to-eye. Only one of the moons are visible at the moment, but who cares about that when there is that great ring system to drool on?
(Oh my... you should hear the coyotes yip yapping in the woods!! Sounds like a bunch of little girls screaming... LOL! These are young'uns... you can tell. One will "yip yip yip yoooooo" and the rest of the pack will join in with a cacaphony of puppy barks! Crazy things.. ;) Jupiter has risen considerably since the last time I viewed, and still tugging its' tiny aramada of moons along with it. The atmosphere washes out a lot of detail this morning, but the equatorial belts are still wonderfully visible!
And how lovely to take a moment to regard the Plieades! This, too, is a stroll down memory lane.. I remember how very anxious I was before I got my first "real" telescope to explore this great fuzzy patch in the sky! Venus? If you want to take a look, then best go soon... It drops lower and lower each time I see it, and soon enough it will disappear until the seasons change again...
"Well, if I leave here tomorrow... will you still remember me?"
(but i did add some new sketches to "The Sketchbook"! please feel free to go and look...)
"I think I'll just lay my guns to the ground. Because I can't use them anymore... Those cold, black clouds are coming down. Feels like I'm knocking on heaven's door..."
Comments: One of the greatest lessons, and most difficult to learn, in the life of "the astronomer" is to never get your hopes up. And so it goes for meteor showers... Of course, no matter how many times I've been "shot down", I still keep flying! Patience ~ Practice ~ Persistence...
The Capricornid Meteor shower did not disappoint me in the least! Although it was partly cloudy, I managed to see six during the clear "spells"! (and i would count myself very lucky to have just seen one...) These were FAST moving meteors, leaving long, gray trails that disappear abruptly! All of the activity occured toward the zenith, and only one deviated from a southeast trajectory...
It was a pleasant night... at one point I became very aware that I had a "visitor" nearby! Seems like a foraging deer was a bit curious about my music!! As soon as I moved my hand to stay my canine observing companion, it was off!! (Ah, that poor old german shepherd only made it to the edge of the field before the deer had long outdistanced him!) Watching the Plieades and the planets rise was very inspiring... and I was awfully tempted to take out a 'scope and have a look! The sky has a way of saving the best for last, doesn't it? Just before dawn a "fireball" came out of the northeast heading southwest... leaving a great "shimmering" trail acoss the zenith! Was this a Perseid?!
Mmmmmm... I like thinking about things to come! (But I'm not getting my hopes up, ok? ;)
"Won't you take this badge from me? Because I don't use it anymore... It's getting dark... too dark to see. Feels like I'm knocking on heaven's door..."
Comments: WOW! What a change in the weather!! During the latter part of the afternoon, the clouds departed, the sun came out and the temperature took a nose dive! You know what that means, don't you? Damn skippy! (High pressure system? ;) Very clear skies....
The Sun at first glance appeared to have no spots today! But, as it settled itself down in the eyepiece, thirteen came into view... with a great dimpled area along the limb containing the majority. (For those of you who have a solar filter, I am quite curious to know if you've seen this effect, too...) I can tell it is the same grouping that I viewed the other day, but it's fun to see how the spots have rotated!!
Sky dark... and I'm out there. The Moon has perfect clarity tonight! There is only the slightest hint of atmospheric ripple. Posidinus looks its' shallow self in this light, but Atlas and Hercules maintain a depth that make them outstanding!! My attention is drawn toward the terminator, and a unusual looking 8-shaped formation. Thin glimpses of interior rings and mountain tops, make it most interesting! Upon further study, I find I was viewing Hipparchus and Albategnius... and how different they look in the shadows!
(I really should point out that tonight I chose the 4.5.... Why? I don't know! We're just old friends, that 'scope and I...)
Mars is bright... beyond bright! The polar area is reflecting so much light it almost appears to "bulge" away from the orb itself! I'd love to stick around, but hey! There's other cool stuff waiting... So, I anchored on Antares to hop to the M4... and just got the surprise of my life!! Its' tiny little green companion just walked right out of the sky!!! Fancy, that... I was surprised at the amount of distance that are actually between them! Sure, it wasn't "earth shattering" news... but I found it really EXCITING!! (The dog turned his head in the funny way that they have when I started laughing out loud... but took off running before I could hold him up to the eyepiece for confirmation! Fickle mutt... ;)
Now to be abbreviate... I roamed the southern constellations, just like I always do. It makes me happy to see the Moon doesn't do too much harm to the brighter DSOs.. but what of Ceres and the M54? Then let's go there! Tonight it presents more of a challenge. I have to sweep the field several times, but when I finally relax (and avert my vision) Ceres pops into view! And still softly embraced by the M54... This one is so trick! Look directly at Ceres and the M54 fades away... Avert your vision and the M54 has a "guest star"! Fascinating... (This is why I chose the 4.5 over the 12.5... It is easy enough for me to tell you to go look at something, but I need to know in my heart that it can be achieved with a small telescope!) I simply cannot believe how many stars are out tonight!! The Milky Way walks and talks... Along the "spine" of Cygnus, individual stars reveal themselves. The dark dust lane looks like a curious child has traced a finger through a line of frost. Simply beautiful.
And I lose myself there... Flowing along the crystalline river of light... Laughing to myself as I "trip" over recognized objects... And stopping to admire the ones I do not! Do all of these knots, doubles, clusters and patches of nebulosity have designations?? For if they do, a starchart would be unreadable! What a journey...
Time now... to look for LINEAR! So I hop to the star where I had anchor last night... or is it?!! 8-O Come on, astronomer... this should be easy. On the contrary! Tonight there are more stars than I have seen in a long time, and I'm having trouble getting my bearings!?! (Are you trying to rock my world? You're succeeding... ;) OK... Pegasus, Cygus, Altair... that one? Uh uh... try again. This one, then? Nope... keep trying. And trying... and trying... (Maps... must have maps...) So I go fetch one!
Pegasus, Cygnus, Altair... Delphinus! Well... what do you know about that! The graceful little constellation pointed the way... LINEAR was not as remarkable tonight, even with the excellent contrast of dark sky. But there's magic here! Even though the comet has faded to a soft ball of light, the field in which it's playing is awesome!! Soft chains of stars surround it... and I simply cannot believe what I'm seeing with it! At first I thought I was picking up a "ghost image"... perhaps a light source somewhere was adding an extra "furball" into the picture. But, "ghost images" don't reveal stars with averted vision! WOW! What the heck is that thing?? About one third the apparent size of LINEAR, a tiny open cluster (or globular?) reveals an inner set of six stars, with four of the brighter ones forming a diamond-shape. About it is a field of nebulosity (or unrevealed stars??) that softens the look.. What a treat!! My initial reaction was to get a designation... But you know what? I like it just the way it is! A delectable little secret...
Time now, to put the scope away for the night. It has been more than kind to me... Time to just kick back here in this old redwood lounge chair, sink into the cushion... and look up! (and dammit! there i go.. thinking again! ;) All of these beautiful, beautiful stars... The Milky Way is superb. It does not follow the curve of the Earth... Like a stellar "Arc de Triomphe", its' majesty spans the night sky! Shall I toast it? Salute'! Time to relax... Breathe in the cool air, and listen to the music that is all around me...
"Feels like I'm knocking on Heaven's door.."
Comments: The clouds are back... and with a vengeance! Storms lashed the countryside, and black clouds raced across the sky all day. I figured any viewing was a lost cause tonight. But, as usual, I can be quite wrong...
At one point in the evening, I found myself very frustrated with MSN services... actually angry enough to swear at an inanimate object! (hey... let it drop your reports out from under you five or six times, and see what YOU call it!! ;) So I decided a bit of a break was in order... perhaps a swim would do me good. And when I stepped out on the deck? Behold the Moon...
Nothing relaxes me like 'scopin'... and within seconds I was set up and ready to go! What to my wondering eyes should appear? But the vision of Posidinous... in "the clear"! Knowing that I've not really had a opportunity to do a comprehensive sketch of this crater, I zipped back inside to fetch my coloring book and crayons! Engrossed, I find secret delight in watching walls, shadows and form take place on the blank paper. From eyepiece to pencil tip, my eyes and fingers do the time honored dance of transfer. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the eyepiece becomes blank and only the paper holds the Moon? What's this?!? Grrrrrrrrrr.....
The most amazing thing about clouds is the way they can sneak up on you like that...
So that's it, then... right? Back to garage with the scope, and back to the keyboard to work on reports and webpage correction. And back to smiling instead of swearing... When I'd finally (!) finished, I rummaged about in the refrigerator and found a rogue beer. And walked past a window... Mars! (oh, thanx... now you come out to play!) Hey, alright by me! I don't have to work tomorrow!! So, off we go again... As soon as the "Grasshopper" and I had transported the dob to the south field, my eyes had adapted enough to see Saggitarius was quite evident. Forget Mars! I'll take Ceres tonight... (and grab that sketchbook, ok? i didn't like last night's anyway!)
The clarity of the spaces between clouds still fascinates me. (Let's see... what did you call those? "Sucker holes"? Give me a shot, and I'm reborn every minute! I can laugh... because I've "got no self-esteem"! ;) Let's rock... Wasting no time, (because I can see that there are more coming) I managed a much more presesentable sketch of Ceres and the M54. The Moon is fairly well out of the picture, and the M54 is still just a tantalized "hint" of texture... but having Asteroid Ceres on the top of it is quite exciting! I like it when the sky has a bit of fun!!
I can see by the placement of the here and there stars that Comet LINEAR is a possiblity... and rather than miss an opportunity at a clear spot, I decide to just be patient and wait. And it pays... Once again, LINEAR has moved an incredible distance in the span of 24 hours. (This comet drives as fast as I do!) My first thought is to do another sketch so I can convey how quickly it passes across the starfields... but tonight the clouds are winning the race!
Oh, very well then, clouds ~ have at it! I think I left my beer around here someplace....
" Well, I know, I should say no...But it's kinda' hard when you're ready to go! Well, I know you're playing with me! That's ok... Because I'm just a sucker with no self-esteem..."
Comments: Wow! I thought the sky was never going to clear again... But the night is back, and so am I!
The Moon is back to normal. Loaded with "Earthshine" and razor's edge detail. A walk along the terminator reveals craters Atlas and Hercules to be in their "prime", but my attention is drawn to the Southern Highlands and a great series of overlapping craters I see there!! By the time I did this report, I found their names to be Metius, Fabricius, Steinheil and Watt. ("Watt" an irony! LOL! I shall remember THAT one!) The shadow play was simply excellent... revealing interior surface detail, and giving great perception on depth! I truly appreciate the excellent optics on the dob. A worthy study...
Mars seems all but blinding tonight, so let's go have a look! And it might be bright, but it's not giving up much detail! Only the softest of indications of one polar cap, and a vague shadowing on the meridian to suggest Sirenum Mare. Magnification doesn't help, either... So let's just go play, ok?
Party Time Ophiuchus Style!! Sure... it's not "scientific", but I rather enjoy just drifting around the general vicinity of Mars and seeing just how many globular clusters I can pick off! A drift in any direction brings one into view... and what a pleasure it is too!! ;)
Oh, all right... I'll settle down now, OK? (But just for you.) On to Antares and the M4... Splendid! Very bright tonight... (So what do you say? Let's go get the 4.5 and see what it can do!) Same study... different scope. Yes! This is what I wanted to see! Excellent contrast... Now for the M80. Perfect! The 4.5 lacks the resolution of the 12.5, but I'm here to tell you... my old black scope can still snatch 8th magnitude objects right out of the sky with room to spare! (Cap it up, and give it a stroke... We'll be back for you later, because you've got some "work" to do tonight!) Now let's go play with the dob... :-D
The M81 and M82 are still in excellent position. Put 'em together, or take 'em apart.... These two bright galaxies always deliver! Although they differ from one another in structure (duh...), both offer their own unique perspective. One soft and curvy... the other slim and knotty. Both excellent in their own respects... But put them together... and you've got magic!!
The M51 is taking the fast track toward the northwest, so best visit here while we still can! The lower sky position is beginning to rob it of its' wealth of detail, but I still make out the arms of the spiral, the concentrations of stars, and its' spin-off companion. Even the great "Andromeda" can't compare! Out of all the galaxies it's been my privelege to see over the years, the "Whirlpool" shall ever remain my favorite!! (Among other things, eh? ;)
Now how about if we go straight up? This is where I really appreciate the dobsonian mount! With no tripod to contend with, the only contortions required is a step up the ladder!! So how about NGC6940? (I think I'm beginning to have a "thing" for that one!) Loaded with bright, resolvable stars and hints of ones that are not, make this open cluster a true pleasure! The M27 is next on line... and I revel in its' "living" appearance! And the M57! No "furball" tonight!! Perfect circle... outstanding!! And M13!! Wow! I guess more than anything, I get off on how many stars can be resolved in this one. It is... stellar!
Saggitarius is ready now... let's go rock!
Ceres. I've been following you! And tonight it is just starting its' grazing passage of the M54... It resembles very closely one of the galiean moons, displaced in the sky. Although I be guilty for lack of imagination, perhaps I shall take a "flight of fancy" for you on this. The 12.5 will not resolve stars in this cluster... it merely has a "powdery" appearance. Given it's "orb shaped" nature, you may well imagine it to be a "ghost" of Jupiter, and Asteroid Ceres is Europa... in the beginning stages of transit!! OK... enough. Let's see what the 4.5 sees! M54... a circular smudge of light... Ceres? A bright "dot" superimposing itself!! This is the kind of thing that makes having two disparate 'scopes so much fun... Comparison!! (Now for a bit of "sketch" time... and forgive me when I reveal them, ok? Because I did a rough sketch on my field notes... and I forgot to place in cardinal directions! You may feel free to tilt the monitor at any time... ;)
Now, if you don't mind... I think I'll just give in to my "primordial urges" and visit with Saggitarius for awhile! It's been far too long... Who wouldn't want to NOT spend time with the M22? Or gaze in awe at the M8? How could I move on with the M20 right there? Or just say goodbye without a backward glance at the M17? I just can't leave, ok? I need the M23, M24 and M25!! I require disport. (And, oh my... how good it feels to see you again...)
Now let's go get LINEAR!
Second star to the right in Pegasus, and straight on 'til morning, correct? BLAT! Wrong answer! I searched all over the place for this crazy comet, with both scopes! It seemed like an eternity passed... and I was getting rather worried that it had faded away to nothing! Swallowing my stubborn pride, I ducked back into the house at the risk of my night eyes and printed a current map. When I stepped back out, a glance to the gathering clouds in the north greeted me! "astronomer" you better get good... and you better get good fast!
Know what? I took all of about 45 seconds to find... (lesson learned, eh?) I was very pleasantly surprised to find that both scopes revealed LINEAR equally well. It was positioned in a decent field of bright stars to give it scale... and it is still wonderfully visible! The halo/coma area has reduced in brightness since I last viewed it, and there wasn't even a slight hint of a "tail"... but this is sure one very reputable comet! (And since I just "happened" to have a pencil on me, and some paper... well... you know!) I might not be able to photograph it, but I can darn sure draw it! And I chose the 4.5 view this time!
Even if the sky goes cloudy, and it's days before I see the stars again... at least I had tonight! And it is my honor to take the stars from my eyes and share with you...
"Come on and shine!!"
Comments: Unfortunately, it was hazy tonight. But, hazy is not exactly cloudy... and I was simply delighted to see ANYTHING!
Of course, the Moon is back... surrounded by a soft halo of light. The humidity robs it of its' beautiful "Earthshine", and takes away the fine edge of detail. Far from perfect... Ask me if I care? Hell, no! I'm just pleased to see it!! From Mare Crisuim's smooth dark surface, through the chain of Cleomedes, Burkhardt, Geminus and Masala... and most especially, Langrenus. It's always fun to observe during the early phases, when the shadows come out to play!
And when I've chased the Moon down into the trees, Mars comes next. How very quickly it seems to have moved! Believe it or not, it does not suffer from the atmospheric conditions. If anything, it provides a natural filtering effect... making the image hold quite steady, and damping down the reflected light. One polar cap shines quite brightly, with the soft underscore of Cimmerium Mare truncating the meridian. Other than that, no other detail reveals itself. Of course, at this point I become curious, (Call it a personality flaw...) and hop back over to Antares (Just in case a certain phenomena should care to repeat itself! ;) It's amusing to note the differences between reflected and generated light versus the atmosphere! While Mars held steady, a perfect orb... Antares is pulsing with flashing color! Spectral classes literally come alive with the introduction of fine water droplets... Antares shows primary red, generously interspersed with green, and occassionally blue. Arcturus generates orange, and a high rate of green. Vega holds white, with blue as its' secondary, and an occasionally glimpse of red. Altair is also white, but flashes with orange... and Alkaid is an amazing electric blue with white spikes! (But, of course, I just goofing around, eh?)
The familiar deep sky objects above me are toasted... The "Ring" is formless. The M13 is a ball of light with just a few prickles of stars coming through. The M81 and M82 are smears of light. The M27 is just a blob. Do I love them any less because they are not perfect? Their imperfections make me love them all the more!! Back to the south again, to sweep for what deep sky objects may reveal themselves. And the pickings are pretty slim... While the haze might be entertaining in some respects, it bleaches clarity out of all else. The familiar bright globular and open clusters are faded "ghosts" in the grey toned sky. Nebulae are reduced to mere contrast changes, with only their star structure to reveal their presence. (Perfect? Who needs perfect? I just need to know they are still there! ;)
And speaking of "still there"... Asteroid Ceres is still gliding along. At best it resembles a galiean moon... tonight it looks like Titan! Just a teasing little wink, a glint, and indication of its' position. (Hey! That's OK by me...) M54 sits right in the field, and the gap is closing!! (You do realize, of course, that tomorrow night is THE night??) Perfect? Of course not.... (I'm probably the only person in the world that gets off on watching an asteroid move!) It pleases me to no end to see that its' almost touching! Resolution on the M54 is impossible, and Ceres is nothing more than a glimmer, but come sparkle in my eyes anytime!!
"Teach me how to speak. Teach me how to share. Show me where to look, and tell me... Will you be there? Lay me on the ground, or fly me in the sky! Show me where to look, and tell me... what will I find? What will I find? Oh! Heaven let your light shine down..."
Comments: Well, hey... at least I did get to see the Sun today! (Color me grateful, ok? This long stretch of clouds has me crawling the walls...) It was brief, but at this point... I'll take it! There were twenty four seperate sunspots, holding in groupings. One large one was on the extreme edge and had that great "depressed" look, and a nearby grouping also showed "stress lines"! Suppose we're in for another CME? spaceweather.com Although this picture doesn't do it the justice it deserves, I find myself quite "needful" of my astronomy. There are just some things I find myself missing soooo much when they're not around...
"Give me a word. Give me a sign. Show me where to look. Tell me, what will I find? Lay me on the ground. Fly me in the sky! Show me where to look, and tell me what will I find... Oh! Heaven let you light shine down... Oh! Heaven let your light shine down... Come on and SHINE!"
Ah, well... I think I'll just go find myself a cool spot and revel in some science fiction!
"All I can do is read a book to stay awake... and it rips my life away. But, it's a great escape!"
(You do realize, of course, that a couple more days of this and I will have gone quite mad...)
"All I can do is to pour some tea for two... and speak my point of view. But it's not sane..."
Comments: Very, very warm night for Ohio. With the temperatures in the upper 70's, a night swim holds tantalizing possibilities! (of course, the prospect of having the next day off from work doesn't hurt either...) And since I've napped the early evening hours away, I am quite happy to indulge myself in the water's warm embrace and the beauty of the cosmos...
But first, how about a look at Mars, eh? It's as high as it's going to get... so let's go see! A very soft haze makes the view outstandingly steady... (curious thing, that... the atmosphere tonight gives crisp, sharp edges to the planet, but at the same time causes the reflected light to "pulse" like the gentle beating of a faraway heart!) Enough of the flights of fancy... The polar regions are simply soft "indications", underscored by the darkness of Tyrrhenum Mare! Oooooh! And I know what that means... One of the most outstanding of Mars features will be along in just a bit! I'm in no aching hurry to finish with "nuit" just yet, so let's go kill some time over there in the shadows... (for although i do enjoy swimming during the day, i far prefer the solitude and dark secrets of the night!)
So I indulge myself in tranquility... Stargazer now. Watching the constellations, and drifting in contemplation...
"Take this kiss upon the brow! And, in parting from you now, This much let me avow-- You are not wrong, who deem That my days have been a dream; Yet if Hope has flown away In a night, or in a day, In vision, or in none, It is therefore the less gone? All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream. I stand amid the roar Of a surf-tormented shore, And hold within my hand Grains of the golden sand-- How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep, While I weep-- while I weep! O God! can I not grasp Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save One from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem But a dream within a dream?"
Now Saggitarius fills my thoughts... as it always does. I would go there. But what of Mars? Then let's go see, eh?
The lapse in time fascinates me. Like the orbiting of the Galiean moons, or the movements of a comet... time moves within space also. It brings a certain joy and wonderment to view things over a period of "time". And how delightfully predictable Mars behaves in this passage! Syrtis Major has now taken center stage... with its' great dark form overlying the body of the planet. And speaking of watching things over a period of time...
Asteroid Ceres, anyone? (come now, you really don't think i spend all of my time in saggitarius lost in the celestial sauce, do you? ;) I've tried to tag you all with a bit of interest in the chase of a minor planet... Now I suppose I simply must smack you on the head with it, to get you to find it before it does something truly remarkable... Ceres has been quietly moving through Saggitarius for the last couple of weeks. It is not hard to track... simply print out a map and connect the dots! Yesterday would have found it in the eyepiece with Zeta Sag., (the southernmost star in the handle of the "teapot)... but then yesterday would have been a great opportunity to witness a daylight occultation of Venus too! (Can't win 'em all, eh?) No matter, it was still easy enough to pinpoint. And it is moving... Gliding silently toward globular cluster M54!! On July 25 it's going to tickle the belly of the M54, far outshining the globular's components! What lovely treats "nuit" can send our way!! If only we look...
Behind my back the clouds have enveloped the stars... (eh tu, brute?) eradicating any hope of seeing Comet LINEAR tonight. Disappointing? Oh, sure... But before me stands Saggitarius, and I will delight with what it gives me until I can see no more!
"The first time ever I saw your face... I thought the Sun rose in your eyes. And the Moon, and the Stars... were the gifts you gave. To the dark, and empty skies.."
"Because I don't want to come back down from this cloud..."
Comments: Wow! I haven't looked at the Sun in quite a while... and what a major change in sunpot activity! Counting just the very largest of them, I came up with 29. I guess the most unique way of describing it, was that they presented themselves in a configuration similiar to the constellation of Scorpius. (Sorry... I really do have "space in my head"! If you spill salt, I am the one going "ooooh! looks like the M44!" But if anybody actually reads these crazy reports, then they are "into" astronomy... and with Scorpius, we can relate!) There are several very dark ones contained within their own dispersion fields... and a nice grouping in a triangular pattern on the southwestern limb with the great "stressed" look to it! Very nice... glad I took the time to set up! And leave it that way...
A bit of food, a nice quiet swim... and a touch of what I treasure the most! Now how about a cold beer and let's go catch some stars?! ;) Mars... you first. According to the latest "buzz", Mars is consumed with a dust storm so invasive, that almost the entire planet is covered! My unrelenting curiousity just had to see... and I could still make out one area of "soft" darkness! Sytris Major, according to my information. But not like I've ever seen it before! Very, very soft... and most definately there. Now my curiousity is totally aroused! No hardcore detail... even under the scrutiny of magnification. Curiouser and curiouser, Alice... Now, if you don't mind... I prefer to hang around with Saggitarius!
M23 is a splendid open cluster. Vaguely tear-drop shaped, the interior stars resolve very well. There are hundreds of stars there that appear very much like one another, but I kind of like the pair that hangs out on the edge together! The M25 is sparse, but the tiny triple in the center makes it! There is a larger star to the east of this configuration which also appears to be a triple, but this one is comprised of a very large star attended by two much smaller ones! I like it...
M22 is next... with its very unusual shape. It looks as if the stars within it are trying to push their way out from the edges! Fingers of concentration move away from the center of the body... and the interior resolves into a sparkling explosion of points of light! Well worth taking some time with... I think this cluster just gets better with "age"!
And the M28? A very dense little ball of light, but hey! It does have something going for it.... One very bright, very noticeable star right there inside... As for the M55, this one could use a very clear night, and a wide range of magnifications. Somehow I get the sense when I look at it, that it's almost like two overlaying globulars...
Now I just feel like dreaming... and what better place to do so than with Saggitarius? You could just put me right up there in those amazing stars clouds and leave me forever... I don't want to come back down.
"Because I don't want to come back down from this cloud... It's taken me all this time to find out what I need. No, I don't want to come back down from this cloud! It's taken me all this... all this... time."
Warm and quiet... The right sort of night to just kick back in the old redwood lounger, and hug the accoustic. And look up...
"While my guitar gently weeps..."
Comments: An unsual day atmospherically... towards sundown, the sky was streaked with soft, "hair-like" clouds... the result? Wonderful "sun dog" activity!!! There were times when there were as many as six in the sky at once!! Just tiny wedges of rainbow... but fascinating to observe!
The "kids" came tonight... one car at a time, until the driveway could hold no more. They filled the backyard and the pool with their laughter and life! There was sodas and stories... and beers and tears. A campfire... and the telescopes. They come... because I understand them... and they understand me. We love the same music... and have the same taste for adventure. We can splash each other with abandon... and pass the accoustic from hand to hand. And although I don't care for any hotdogs and marshmallows... I have them there. And when this time of comfort in each other draws to a close... I am left with pair of companions who would seek the stars with me! (These are the ones who are not content to peek into the eyepiece and say "Cool!" and walk away...)
So I take them upon a journey...
"With arms wide open... under the star light. Welcome to my world! I'll show you everything! With arms wide open..."
And fill their eyes with all the hidden beauty of the cosmos... The M4 and M80... The flat red orb of Mars... The M19 and M9... These wonders that they have heard me speak of.... never realizing their whereabouts. Saggitarius speaks to them, also. For to be with me here, is to feel the overwhelming and unconditional love I connect with certain things. The M8 draws gasps of surprise! And a chuckle from me as they count the stars... ;) M20 divides itself quite well tonight... and elicits admiration. O course, M17 looks like the "Nike Swoosh" to these young men... and quite confidentially, it does to me too!! And I allow them to study the M27, keeping my own observations to myself... I wanted their response to be uncolored. (and Otto... they can see it too!)
Laughter of discovery comes naturally with the M57! Who would have thought the sky would have such a sense of humor as to blow a smoke ring?? Let alone arrange bright stars to look like a common "Coathanger"! When I invite the up on the ladder to view the NGC6940 through the dob, more laughter ensues as I hear, "Oh, wow... Is that a galaxy?" And I gently explain the trick of averted vision, and listen quietly as they learn just how many stars can be in one place!
This lesson having been taught, we move on to the M13... (I have them now!!) And join in the excitement as they want more and more magnification! LOL! Ah... to be young again! (sorry! for i have never left... ;) So we bounce off to Albireo and Cor Caroli... to learn the lesson of color! And their fascination delights me... Like the proverbial magician, (for you, Mr. Wizard... ;) I have one last "trick" left up my sleeve... and call the M51 from the sky. The comments? "Whoa... that is AWESOME!!" (now where have i heard those words before, eh?) And I allow them to look for as long as they like... teaching their hands to move the dob to follow this amazing galaxy. I stand on the ground, and watch these young men fly to another galaxy... pleased inside to have shared with just two more souls.
Amidst the hugs and thanks, I watch them leave. Begging them to be careful... knowing the fate will deal whatever hand it choses. Time now to turn off the radio, cover the pool, and enjoy my solitude. The fire has burned down to deep orange embers... and quiet reigns once again.
Just me and the stars.
Now, do not think me wicked... but I had an overwhelming urge to just get very numb. And I quite indulged in it. By the time LINEAR was well met, it was a very good thing that it was so easy to find... because I seriously doubt I could have hit the "broad side of a barn" by then! But I needed to see it... in any state. And I watched it... until my vision blurred...
And I found myself once again sitting on the ground... weeping for the loss of a young man. I know why I took myself here... it was time to let it out. I so often find myself engaging in non-emotion. And if a bit of numb brings release, then it is a good thing. And when it is done, I am aware of the owl calling from the great pine tree... and the smell of the clover in which I am sitting... the keen of the coyotes in the distant woods... and the gentle yellow light of the flickering fireflies...
And above me? The stars shine again...
"With the birds we'll share this lonely view..."
Comments: This was the night I have been waiting for. I have been happy here lately... and it feels good. So I sleep the hours away until just before midnight.... because tonight I belong to the stars. And the stars belong to me...
As always, I start any observing session by going to that which I know will disappear first... and it is Scorpius. It is prime right now... very bright and recognizable, and the Messier and NGC objects literally fall into the eyepiece from practice. If I recite numbers, we shall be here forever! From top to bottom, I take in its' splendid objects... and move on.
Now to Ophiuchus... This constellation has also been an area of recent study. "Globular Country", would be a great way of describing it. Ophiuchus itself is a sprawling constellation... and within it lay every conceivable form, color, density and shape of globular imaginable. Like a favorite tune, the "notes" and "lyrics" of the "Song of Ophicuhus" comes naturally... easily. As with all things practiced, there is a certain joy in the litany. The knowing of these things gives me pleasure... Of course, Mars resides in "Globular Country" at the moment... this ruddy traveler whom I have watched shuttle back and forth across the southern sky. It gives me secret smile when I look upon it... for you cannot swing a dead cat around Mars and not hit a globular cluster!! ;) There is no real point in "powering up" tonight... for I have read the reports, and I know, that like our own world, storms will hide detail. But, I take the time to visit with Mars any way. For like an old friend, tomorrow could see you far away from me... and I would not let you leave without touching you again!
This is what I came for. Saggitarius... (Without it, I would have stayed in the shadow. Mute and numb... forever passing away the nights in a silent state of no feelings.) I suppose to each of us there is one particular constellation that captures the secret heart and soul like no other. And this one is mine...
Let us rendevous, again! M8, NGC6530, M20, M21, M22, M28, M23, M25, M17, M18, M16... I know you! How many times have I looked upon these things? Yet, each and every time, I find them just as fascinating... And love them... just as I did the very first moment I saw them!!! (And you keep on giving to me, Saggitarius. You breathe life into my dull existence... and I am grateful. You allow me to study. I shall place my emotionalism in check for now. And allow the rest of the world to join me...)
Al Nasl. It is the "tip" of the spout of the Saggitarius "teapot", and it is the anchor for this section of a star hop. North of here is NGC6522, a globular of little resoultion, that shares the field with NGC6528. This globular is also comprised of dim stars, and offers no resolution what-so-ever, regardless of how much magnification I tease it with! Another hop to the north brings up NGC6520, a compact, open cluster whose stars come out to play! Only a breath northwest is Barnard 86... this is a "dark" nebula. Fascinating... because it is a very conspicuous "gap" in a field of fine stars!
Now let us travel south along the "spout line". About halfway point is globular cluster NGC6569. It is grainy.... very grainy. What a delightful suggestion of hundreds of stars begging for resolution! Very nice... And even better? There's a sweet little double hanging out in the field, too!
On now to Kaus Meridionalis... and fade south to NGC6624. This globular cluster appears as a bright ball of light. Virtually unresolvable, to the mind's eye it simulates a large planetary.... and speaking of which, let's go anchor again! Now hop to the northwest... and hold your breath! Because this one is tiny!! NGC6565 is a planetary nebula. It took a great deal of concentration and map work to find, because it appears as nothing more than an "out of focus" star. (But it is a confirmed one!! ;)
Let's go back to the "dome", and Kaus Borealis to anchor again. Shifting east brings up NGC6638. It is a very "textured" globular cluster, and magnification brings several bright members forward to direct vision. Splendid! Now, due north for NGC6642. This is a nice, bright globular cluster which shows the beginnings of resolution even under lower power. This most beautiful feature of the NGC6642 is its' proximity of the M22. Excellent choice! Moving west along the ecliptic plane brings up NGC6629. This planetary nebula makes its' home very close to the M28. Reminiscent of "the Ring", it shows its' form quite well, with an "Are you? Or are you not?" teasing glimpse of a central star. (It is one of those that I simply cannot confirm... even though my mind says it is there!!)
Let's cruise the M8 again, ok? And run a southeast line to find NGC6544. This is an unusual irregularly shaped globular... the best part? It sits in a "rich" field of stars! Now for NGC6553. Also a globular, but one that is NOT giving up any detail. Just a ball of light, but one that also has a double star joining it! Now, back to the finder and pick up the M20... (hey, Trifid! nice to see you again, buddy!) and head north. The NGC6537 is classed as a planetary nebula. I also had quite a time finding this one, because it just looks like a hairy star! Keep moving toward the Saggitarius Star Cloud, and the NGC6567 comes next. This one is very recognizable as a planetary nebula, but there is not even the slightest "hint" of a central star!
OK... bottom's up!! Let's go to the base of Saggitarius for the next study. The M75 sits near the border of Capricorn. It is a bright, yet "soft" globular cluster. It's texture reminds me more of powder more than sand... and magnification only brings that forward! Now for M54... This is a great globular. Extrememly textured, almost "prickly" in appearance. this one does benefit from higher power. How about the M70 next? Very bright, this globular is very happy to share its' brighter members with averted vision! Then the M55... also a globular cluster, it has a very "soft" look to it. One that says "Go ahead... try all you want, but I'm not resolving!!" Stubborn cuss... ;)
Now let's go back to the M17, and smile! (Saggitarius is great, isn't he?) Say howdy to the M18... all twelve of them! And the M24... sweet! Sitting a a well resolved field, this open cluster is a patch of fuzz! Of course, the M21 is in the field with the M20, but it is trick because it resolves so well. And the M23?? Too many to count!! (I just love it when you're being "bright" like that!!) Now, let's grab a cup of coffee and take a short break... because I'm ready to fly with the "Eagle"! Up with you now! Break is over... let's rock! Aquila... I'm ready! We all know Altair... now get to know Altair's companion... Tarazed. Because here is where you will find the B142 and B143, the "Double Dark Nebula". This is one impressive sight! To look into the dob is to see more stars than you would have ever dreamed possible. The sky is simply awash with them... and that is why I have some difficulty with asterisms. But when you view the B142 and B143, it is startling! These are ovals of deep blackness... that simply blot out the star field that surrounds them!! Absolutely astounding...
Go west now... for NGC6803. This is one tiny, tiny planetary! Power up... and tell me if you see a central! I want to believe I could... but a wink in the dark is so... so... indecisive! Ah, how it makes me wish I could hold it direct! South of here is another... NGC6804. The nebular structure itself is not as bright as the last, but I know I can see a central with averted vision here! Spectacular!
Now for that "Fox"...
Hey there, Vulpecula... I've come for you! (Yeah, yeah... you know I'm temporary lost in the M27! I JUST CAN'T HELP IT! ;) But the "Dumbbell" is my anchor here, and let's go west. NGC6823 is a open cluster. It contains a couple of dozen even magnitude stars, but it's stand out feature is the fact that it is part of emission nebula, NGC6820. Like the Plieades, the "smear" of light around the stars is very rewarding to view. Ready for a real "fox hunt"? How about NGC6940? I finally found it, and was quite pleased to see that it was fairly bright, with way too many stars to count! Very nice! East of here is NGC6802... a highly unusual open cluster!! Shaped like a "rod", its' north/south orientation delivers wonderful resolution, revealing countless stars! Go to it... it's grrrrreat!! Slightly north of the central star in the constellation of Vulpecula is the NGC6800. This is a decent open cluster, and home to a couple of dozen soft, small stars. I know there's more here... but I am quite happy with what I have found!! So... can I go play now?? ;)
Pegasus is quite well met at the moment, and I've still some time before Moonrise... and you know me! Damn skippy... I WANT that comet!
Oh my... oh my... I'm not joking around now. LINEAR goes far beyond what glimpse I had of it yesterday. It is an easy catch in the finderscope in the dark, and the eyepiece view simply blows me away. If I didn't know better, I would swear that I was looking at the M13 out of focus!!! But hey... this IS in focus!! And the cometary core is very bright... Oh MY! (Hey... I will get you ALL to come look at this, even if I have to personally drag you into the yard kicking and screaming!!!)
Brightening "fans" of light within the coma are more than just a suggestion of jet activity. This is a reality!! I had to fetch the 4.5 at this point, because I need to know that every scope can see what I can see... and they will! This is unreal... not since Hale-Bopp have I seen one so fine!!! The tail is a thin, straight line that extends to field of view beyond the comet proper! Get thee out there... and LOOK!! If the sight of LINEAR doesn't get you going... then there's no hope. Find it!! Find it!!! It is so very beautiful....
(I went inside reluctantly... to print a map of the position of Uranus and Neptune. I made a pot of coffee and at a sandwich. I delighted in my mail, and the words of those I hold close. Then I got my heart broken... One of my co-workers came up on instant messenger. A young man died tonight in a tragic car accident. He once worked for me.. and he had been to my backyard several times to look through the telescope and swim. His name was Scott Truitt... and he was a handsome 16 year old boy. I hugged him just days ago... and wished him success at his new job. And now Scott is dead. Map in hand, I returned to the backyard... to fall to the wet grass beside my telescopes. I have no idea how long I sat there and cried... til' the tears would come no more. The Moon rose softly in the east... and still I cried. What god could take the life of a beautiful child? There is none... and I don't want an opinion. There is only here and now. So if I tell you "I love you"... if I feel a need to talk with you... if I want nothing more than to kiss you and hug you... then let me, please... Please...)
The warm embrace of the night holds me... and the gentle fingers of the wind dry my tears and brush the hair away from my face. Weep no more, astronomer... we are here for you... as we always have been... and will always be. Look up, astronomer. Look up! And think...
So I return the telescope... for it is all that I have. And it sweeps me away on the arms of the stars...
These are my friends... the M13 and the M57. The M51 eases my soul. The M15 is here too... and the "Coathanger". Cassiopeia rocks me... and the Peresus Double Cluster is home. And If Algol smiles at me from the east? Then I will smile back... Am I cold? Yes. As cold as the stars...
Capricorn is in the south field waiting on me... inviting me to dance with the planets. And I answer that call. Uranus and Neptune lie in either corner of this constellation... and it has been a great deal of time since I saw them last. These are not remarkable targets... Simply orbs of gently colored light, easily recognizable as planets and not stars... but part of my quest for tonight. I toss around seeking some DSOs here, but my eyes ache... and I would seek the Moon.
And there is a deep peace here. I will tell you that. Copernicus... the Carpathian Mountains, Sinus Iridum, Plato, Archimedes, the Apennines, the Straight Wall, Clavius... And so I spend my time until the rise of the morning planets. Below the Plieades, Venus and Saturn team up! This is wonderful in the dob with the 32mm... because they both easiy fit into the same field of view!! But I tend to crave a bit of resolution, so I bump to a 17mm and the barlow. The line of Cassisni is pencil slim, but there... as are two attendant moons. Most excellent!! Now back off to just the 26mm for Jupiter. It's still jumping a bit in the haze, but the equatorial bands and the pairing of the moons to either side are quite worth the look!! No sign of Mercury just yet... but hey. Six out of eight ain't bad!!
"Close your eyes... and I'll kiss you. And with the birds will share... With the birds we'll share this lonely view..."
Comments: Exceptional dark, clear night... I had every intention of napping, and spending the evening in contemplation of some challenge/study areas that I've been into. But, as things sometimes happen, I found myself a bit distracted. And I'd not trade one second of it... So I swim. It is a peaceful practice... and I like my solitude. It gives me great pleasure... watching the stars appear.
Tonight I chose to use the 4.5. Don't ask me why... for it was a beautiful night. I just simply felt like it! Scorpius, Mars and Saggitarius were absoutely brilliant... and they called to me to come view my favorite things. Now let's cap up, and catch some man-made fascination!!
When the time drew near for the Irriduim sattelites to pass, I lay down in my favorite chair... and opened a Corona and toasted the night sky! IR61 and 51 were right on time... within four minutes of each other. But the IR19 came along five minutes later, traversing the entire sky!! (Not just a little, bright arc...) As I watched it fade away, a rouge meteor passed through Bootes. Then another! I was lost...
And so I slept beneath the majesty of the Milky Way...
At some point in time I managed to find the sofa, and I awoke at four... worried about having left my scope out, of course! (sure... uh huh... yeah, right...) But all was well... and since I was already set up... ;)
The sky greeted me once again with open arms, and allowed me to share LINEAR ar/2001. What a beauty! I'm guessing at roughly fourth magnitude, the nucleas was very distinct... surrounded by a soft "fan" of a cometary tail. Averted vision gave great suggestion that the "tail" continued for some distance, but the Moon was more than happy to waste what I have so longed for.. No matter. For I have had a taste of it... and I crave more!!
The planets did indeed provide a lovely setting in the the sunrise glow... Venus, Saturn and Jupiter. Mercury was supposed to be a part of this, but I don't see it just yet. It will be along... and I'll be waiting.
"I'm going back in time... and it's a sweet dream. It was a quiet night... and I will be alright. If I can go on sleeping..."
Comments: Took a nap during the early evening hours last night, hoping to spend some quality time with the night studying... What a fool! When I went out, it was to perfectly pefect partly cloudy skies... Last night the "night" chose what I would be allowed to look at... not me!
So what am I complaining about? Hey! Nothing!! You will never have to twist my arm to get me to enjoy the M51.. or to power up on the M81 and M82! It was not exactly torture to stand in the west side yard in the little grove of fruit trees to visit with my favorite galaxies. (I heard Sir Isaac Newton laugh from the otherside, though... when he decided to drop an apple from one of the trees behind my back! Talk about jumpy... Guess I'd do well to move the dob out of harms way, huh?) So out to the south field we go! The cloud band has obscured the east, west and zenith at the moment, but boy howdy... there is nothing wrong with the view to the south! I cannot believe how very BRIGHT Scorpius and Saggitarius look! So shut my mouth and get on with it before the clouds catch up! Ready? Then let's rock...
The M4 is always splendid. I have a bit of a soft spot for it, because it was one of the first globulars I found when I was a newbie... and I still don't tire of it! The dob begins to resolve individual stars within the cluster, but the best part is using the 32mm on this one. The extended view brings Antares and the NGC6144 into the picture. Magnification is sweet... but sometimes I just like to stand back and look at things from a distance. (And now I'm going to have to really put some distance here... like twenty miles! Time for work... bleck! I'll finish up later. After I go hug the computer at the library... ;)
Alrighty then... the work day is done! Back at 'cha...
And distance is beauty when viewing open clusters. The M6 and M7 in Scorpius are at their best with low magnification. Both are filled with brilliant, varying magnitudes... and I've been told that the M6 is also referred to as the "Butterfly" cluster. There is a pattern, of sorts, to the brighter stars... In my mind's eye, I see it as resembling the constellation of Orion! Regardless, both are excellent opens.
Now for Mars... The faint curl of Serpentis Mare and the expanse of Arabia, are all that I can see... but perhaps I need to be more patient. (Hold on a sec... Irridium FLASH!! Right on time! too cool... ;) And still I look for detail, but there is none. Storms? Perhaps... Dust clouds? A strong possibility. Why should we be the only ones, eh? I've often felt like I belong on Venus... So before the reality of the clouds here tonight cover the view... let's "keep on rollin'...rollin'... rollin'... The trajectory has changed just a bit between Mars and the M19, but they still lie about one field of view apart. (come on, now... why fight it? what a splendid union this would make!) The "lunatic fringe" is still along for the ride... and after having been so often in this part of the sky, it is not hard to find globulars NGC6284 and NGC6293. Even the M62 comes a bit easier with practice. I like globular clusters! They are all so different from one another... yet so alike! (Metaphorically speaking, of course... ;)
Now for the one and only in my life... Saggitarius!! (I've been hanging around there for a long time.. and you know what? I still love it!) For those of you who know me well, you know when I do a study of a constellation I have certain rules of my own that I abide by. And I have reached the "Rule of Three"!! Shall I tell now? Nope. This one is MINE! (Besides... I want to finish in Aquila and Vulpecula. You'll like them better...)
But not tonight, eh? For the clouds sit quite squarely on my study area! Brats... But M57 feels up to my company tonight. So I shall have a peek at the "Ring"! (It baffles me that the sky is so clear here... but not one constellation away! Ah well... I study too much sometimes. And think too much always...)
Cygus... How about that! You're sitting in the clear... so let's go have some fun! I'm gonna' tickle your belly and have a look at the M29! Once again, an outstanding open... I don't know if anyone has hooked it with an asterism or not, but the outstanding stars somewhat resemble Ursa Major! And speaking of asterisms, let's do Collinder 399... It's called the "Coathanger". OK, they're right... it does look like a coathanger. At least the brighter stars do! With one really exceptional red one playing Captain Hook... (I'm sorry, but perhaps I lack imagination. Because if I didn't know that this was an asterism, I probably wouldn't have picked up on it. But I'll work on it, all right? ;)
Now for NGC6940... just because I want to!
Trying again for that crazy comet this morning... and I know PRECISELY where it is located! And also quite precisely where the clouds are located, too... *(&^^%&$!
Ah well... I still enjoy the morning. Venus is always great because it is so bright... And, of course the rings of Saturn will fascinate me for all eternity! As do the galiean Moons... and the striated form of Jupiter. Mercury is supposed to join in the foray of the morning skies... but no sign of it just yet...
Hey! What do you think of a weekend project?? Let's see if we can do Mars, Neptune, Uranus, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in one night... Now THAT is my idea of a good time!!! :-D
"And you... wait for tomorrow."
Comments: And I though last night was great... tonight was even better! By full sky dark the Milky Way was simply amazing... The "North American Nebula" and the M13 were naked eye objects! Clear right down to the horizon... and I kid you not! The leading edges of Corona Australis were quite a sight between the extraordinary bright Scorpius and Saggitarius! What a night for study!!! Starting with the "Whirlpool" galaxy, I simply lost myself for some time. It won't be long before the maple tree swallows it up, and I know I'll miss it when it's gone. Being able to see such structure is a privilege...
Now for the M57... outstanding. I have a hard time determining whether I enjoy it most for the way it looks, or for the fact that I know what caused it! Either way... it's grrrrrreat! And since the sky is really going to support nebulae hunting tonight... let's do it!! The "Blinking Planetary" in Cygnus is always amusing! Sure... it's tiny, and it is a trick of averted vision... but it is cool! So let's go get the "Veil"... The southern portion that wraps around the anchor star is visible!!! What a treat... I just love it when the sky cooperates with whim! On now to NGC6940... (ok, YOU might think it's boring, but I LIKE IT!) I figured I was in the neighborhood, so what the heck?!
I had been keeping an eye on my watch, because I have been forgetting to tell that I've been keeping a eye on the Irriduim satellites... There is just something cool about looking up to see it blaze a short arc across the sky and saying, "Yep! Right on time..."
The M27 is always a pleasure, but the deep contrast tonight made the M16 a very worthy stop. Usually it's rather faded, and tonight was no real exception... but I just felt like taking the time to look at it (and wish I had the Hubble! ;). I took a very brief pass at Mars... Serpentis Mare and the plains of Arabia.
Now for some study....and Saggitarius presents itsef exceptionally well tonight for what I had in mind. I had figured I wouldn't be able to see these objects until it "tilted up" on its' downward journey to the west. But, boy.... can I ever be wrong about things at times! (I'm learning though... ;) We've been back in Aquila and Vulpecula again...
Up early to catch the planets. I have been baffled as to how Jupiter is going to catch "up" with Venus and Saturn by the end of this week... when you can't even see it! (At least until you're ready to get in the morning shower...) Lo and behold... a bright point of light shows on the sunrise through the window! And it takes me about two minutes to put those clothes right back on and fetch the scope from the garage!! Jupiter IS back! Belts and all.... and tugging along all four of those little moons with it! What a way to start the day!!! Aaaaaaaaaaah..... ;)
"It's noon, and it's another wonderful day. I know you'll hate me... but I'll ask anyway. Won't you come with me? To a place in a little town? The only way to get there is to go straight down...."
(Of course, you know I've been into a bit more than just this!! But right now I have a hot date with a computer at the library... ;) Read on, McDuff... and I'll be back later!! --t
A rogue high-pressure system pushed away the summer storm clouds and left outstanding viewing conditions! Bright summer targets make for excellent observations with the 4.5... Starting in Lyra, take the time to split Epsilon Lyrae and head for the M57. The "Ring" nebula is small, but very well defined. Averted vision brings the dark center out clearly, and you will find that this planetary lives up to its' name! Then drop east to Cygnus and catch one of the finest double stars for the small scope, Albireo. This orange/blue pairing of bright stars will become a summer favorite!
The southern constellations of Scorpius, Ophiuchus and Saggitarius are an open "jewel box" of deep sky objects. Starting with Antares, the M4 globular cluster is an easy "hop" away to the southwest. Relatively faint, it has terrific grainy texture in the 26mm, and begins to resolve with a 17mm!
Mars will be your guide through the globular country of Ophiuchus for the next few days. Using the 26mm, put the "Red Planet" in the center of the field of view, and allow it to drift toward the 10 o'clock position... as it moves out of sight, the M19 moves in from 4 o'clock! This is a very bright globular, and is well met in any range of magnification. As Mars moves each night, it is well worth your time to simply "sweep" the field around it. The M62 is easily attainable by hopping south... and going north/northeast will find you on one of the most spectacular of the Opiuchus globulars, M9! Its' outer regions resolve very well upon magnification, and the "flattened" core region is most impressive...
Mars will amaze you during moments of atmospheric stability... so be sure to have patience with it! Many of the larger features are readily apparent, such as the soft indications of the polar regions, the bright expanse of Arabia, and the dark contrast of Meridiani Sinus. (By observing at approximately the same time each night, the best of the surface markings will come into view naturally, and Syrtis Major is fantastic!) Now for Saggitarius... simply the best! Using the "teapot" asterism as a reference, the Messier objects are an easy catch. Starting with the "spout", simply drift along the "steam" of the Milky Way where you will encounter the M8. The "Lagoon" nebula is superb at any magnification! It's bright open cluster surrounded by an equally bright nebula is one of the finest of deep sky objects. Continuing on in a northerly trajectory, the M20 comes next... The "Trifid" nebula is an easily definable "ball of light". Dark, clear sky results in being able to see the dark dust lanes that divide this nebula, and give rise to its' name... but even less than perfect sky conditions still reveal this great Messier!
By going back to the dome of the "teapot", the point star is Kaus Borealis, and a great place to start a star hop. A bump to the north picks up globular cluster M28. Grainy and diffuse, it bears a strong resemblance to the M4 with the 4.5. Now hop to the east and pick up the wonderful globular cluster M22. This one resolves very well! Keep moving north, and you will catch the open cluster M25... very "rich" in stars, and marvelous in the eyepiece! Continue on and you will find the M17, "Swan" nebula... This is an excellent small scope target. Possessing distinctly different areas of brightness contained in the same diffuse nebula, the "check mark" configuration is truly a pleasure to behold! Of course, you cannot leave without visiting the M27. With a bit of practice, the "Dumbbell" nebula becomes easy to find. It is an excellent bright planetary... and a great place to visit on a warm summer night!
So... let's uncover the dob!! (I really try to behave myself, ok? But... but... I can't help it! ;) Let's rock! (and roll with zig zag of the southern body of Ophiuchus!) I could see hints of what was around Mars with the 4.5, and now I can confirm it! NGCs 6284 and 6293 are playing around with Mars! Sweet... very sweet! I like it when the sky does something I don't expect... ;)
And you know I couldn't be content to view the M57 and M27 in the 4.5 alone! Excellent resolution on the M57 tonight. The interior was very definitive, as was an outrigger star buried in the "Ring" itself. I like it!! And the M27 continues to fascinate me... I have found answers to my questions, but that doesn't stop me from loving this one! It only makes it all the more fascinating... So, "pardon me" if I feel the need to travel outside the local group... because the M51 has my name on it! And damn... that is one FINE galaxy! I don't think I'll ever tire of it...
So I fly with the "Eagle"... and regard the "Fox". It's not always easy walking along a new path, but some where in the future, perhaps there is a light shining. And I know its' name...
And it's not Coment LINEAR! (Daggone... am I EVER going to catch this wiley one?) Maybe if I could just get the Moon out of the way... grrrrr!! Venus and Saturn still perform a lovely dance together in the morning. I'm most anxious to see Jupiter again, too! But, I must remember patience...
"Bright are the stars that shine! Dark is the sky... I know this love of mine, will never die..."
"A decade ago, I never thought that I would be, at forty-three, on the verge of spontaneous combustion... woe is me. I need you to hear. I need you to see. That I still want you, and exploding seems like a definate possibility to me. And I'm thinking so much differently... So, pardon me while I burst into flame. I've had enough of this world, and people's mindless games. Pardon me. While I burst, and rise above the flame... Pardon me. Pardon me. I can never be the same..."
Comments: What can I say? A touch from Saggitarius is all I'll ever need! Even if it's just for a few moments, I'll take what I can get... (still looking up! and thinking... ;)
"Pardon me. Pardon me. But, I can never be the same..."
Comments: The Moon is full! So how about if we just play around in the backyard tonight? Ready?? Then let's do it dobby style...
Of course, you know I had to look at the Moon... and you know that it hurts the eye! So let's play with it... Did you know that if you get the Moon onto the primary that you can bounce the light off of distant objects? ("sutton light bank"... that THAT! Har... i think i heard your dog scream... ;) If you look into the end of the scope while the Moon is on the primary it is magnified? And the further you step away, the larger it becomes? If you center the Moon on the field of view, you can see its' image on the secondary (like a tiny elliptical television set!) reflected back again on the primary?! (oh, of course i understand physics! i'm just having fun, ok? ;) If you hold a piece of paper to the eyepiece, you can project the image on it too! Right before it bursts into flame...
All right, all right. I'll be serious now. But only for YOU, ok? Now grab the barlow and the 9mm and let's go have a look at Mars... VERY steady seeing tonight!! Nice, soft indications of the polar regions... Nilliacus Lacus and Ismenius Lacus are a delicious caramal swirl, highlighting the bright Cydonia. The dark bruise of Meridiani Sinus stands right out... and Chryse is hanging out on the edge!
From the southern field, I can still see Virgo quite well... and already I miss the galaxy fields! But tonight I had a plan in mind... and the sky is dark now! (Ready to do it???) Porrima... a "touching" double. Gotcha'! Now let's get our head out of the west and look up! (cuz' i still think...) Ras Algethi... Ooooooh... you're tight! But I can make out a seperation between the red and green stars. (The M13 is still there, and still cool! Even moon-washed...) How about Cor Caroli? Excellent split! Colors are faded, but still very perceptible. Let's go south... Graffias... clean split. Nice yellow and blue components. (ok... notes stink here. i wrote over the top of writing.) Al Niyat? I'm showing the notes read a good, easy double of very unequal size. Nu Scorpii? A very intense coupling... and it looks like fun from here! Into Sagittarius... the point star on the spout is Al Nasl... my star hop anchor to double H5003. Good split, with citrusy looking orange/yellow components!
Now, let's go hide in the shadows... because east is where I want to be! Epsilon Lyrae... cakewalk! The dog could split it with one paw tied behind his back! Ah.... Albireo! Now THAT is one GREAT double star!!! (if you can't see the colors in this one... then i'm sorry you're blind!) How about 61 Cygni? Nice distance between components... a double dip of orange sherbert. Gamma Delphini? A good split here... they are close in size, and are a faded yellow/blue pair. Let's do Struve 2725... this pair is much closer to one another, and much smaller than the last! Double whites... Cassiopeia... how about you? Eta Cassiopeiae comes easy... a nice phat yellow primary shadowed by a red. Iota Cassiopeia... (ok, a triple!) The primary looks "hunchbacked" because two touch... but there is one little 'un off to the side! (notes here say... Rho Cassiopeia? A double?) Best try that one again...
Ready for some hard rock? Then let's head northwest... Struve 1702. Notes say a good split, and the the components look almost identical. Now for Mizar... oooooooooh! You're tight and bright too! Very good... (now, i don't need the notes here, because i remember VERY well what happened!) Ready for Dubhe? Oh, yeah... You take a bit of coaxing, but you are most definately a double star! Creamy white primary, overpowering... almost! All it takes is some averted vision... and hello! There's the little blue fellow!! Now for the one I find the most difficult.... Polaris. Once again, like Dubhe, the primary is dominating... (hey, ask me if i care? ;) but when you exercise patience, you will catch a moment of clarity! And if you don't laugh out loud when the secondary reveals itself, the you need a lesson in fun! The best part about Polaris is... you don't have to chase it!!!
"Pardon me, while I burst into flame. I've had enough of this world, and its' peoples mindless games. Pardon me. While I burst... and rise above the flame. Pardon me. Pardon me. I'll never be the same..."
During the 45 minute ride home, the skies once again gave way to the storm clouds... with great bolts of lightning giving a performance to the west... counterpointed by sheet lightning to the north. There was plenty of time to indulge in my own pyrotechnical fantasies, however. (Hey... I LIKE playing with fire, too! ;) Extreme rural living does have certain advantages... like being able to enjoy illegal activities! (It is quite possible to "get the heck out of Dodge" 'round these parts, because the law isn't too sure of exactly WHERE Dodge is! ;)
Eventually the rain came... and took away what ever chances I might of had for the night sky. As exciting as rockets and artillery shells might be, I would have traded it all for a quiet evening with Saggitarius...
"I make plans to go out at night. I wait 'til two... then I turn out the light. This rejection... it's got me so low! Keep it up... and I just might tell you so."
There sat the magnificent Moon, carrying the red light of Mars along with it! So I sat upon the steps... listening to the sounds of the night. Watching the fireflies light up the trees like living Christmas lights... and streaking across the yard like tiny meteors. I felt the sky weep silently against my skin... Tonight I may only touch the surface of the Moon with my distant fingertips, and talk to Mars across the distance...
"Late at night, you knock on my door. You're back again, and looking for more! Well, I know, I should say no... but it's kinda' hard when you're ready to go! I may be dumb, but I'm not a dweeb. I'm just a sucker, with no self-esteem..."
Comments: A beautiful day/night for observing! A high pressure system has washed away the humidity, and made for delightfully clear sky!! Set sail first with the Sun... at the moment it is relatively devoid of activity. Seven small sunspots were readily apparent, with three of them holding a nice, tight triangular grouping on the western limb. The eastern limb, however showed some great granulation and stress lines... quite worth having taken the time to look!
And of course, the ever-lovin' Moon... (Have we any choice in the matter?) Oh, why not?! Let's power up! and filter down... and go see what we can see tonight! Tycho simply smacks the eye with its' great system of rays... they are at their best during this time, and are always fascinating! But I am drawn toward Aristarchus... (hey! i like this crater, ok? ;) then on to Keplar. Both bright, and beautiful, they give outstanding detail. But I want new adventure... so let's try something different tonight.
The word is Wargentin. (Behold the power of cheese, eh? ;) This lava filled crater is wonderfully smooth and domed... Because it rests near the terminator tonight, it is well-lit and quite entertaining! Nicknamed "The Big Cheese" for its' satiny texture, it will delight the eye! So... go look! A fast pass over Hansteen and Billy (nice and dark... you would like these too!) and I'm ready to seize Antares! The unusual phenomena does not occur tonight... but it does paint a lovely sky portrait with the Moon and Mars so very close. And how about Mars? Erythraeum Mare and the Aurorae Sinus still make a nice contrast on the surface. The polar areas are a bit vague... but I still enjoy regarding the "Red Planet" so easily within reach!
Thanks to a tip from "The North Carolina Backyard", I get the chance at 11:26 and 11:29 to view two irridium flares. Spectacular stuff... I encourage everyone to use Heavens Above to predict satellite, ISS, and Hubble passes. And I certainly appreciate my friend keeping a eye on my back while I'm still blinded by Antares... (Thanks, John! :-)
A day off means I'm free to roam the morning skies, and so I do! (I am quite keen to get my first glimpse of LINEAR ar2001... but I still haven't found the silly thing yet!) No matter! There's plenty of other great stuff to look at with the Moon gone... Like globular clusters M15 and M2... and the awesome "Andromeda Galaxy", M31!! Let's not forget her little playmates, ok? Because the M32 and M110 were quite "there" also! The sky was a bit bright to try for Triangulum (M33) or the Cygus planetaries... but the M57 is quite achieveable! Always a pleasure to look at... and Lyra's little globular, M56 too!
By moving the dob to another part of the yard, I can still catch the M27... but it appears a bit "wasted" with the current conditions. The M11 didn't suffer any, though! And the bright "boomerang" of stars is an excellent target! (And, of course, I continued to waste time by looking for LINEAR... Right now we're engaging in a game of "hide and seek". But I'm not through counting to 100 just yet! ;)
Ended the session by visiting with the "neighbors", Venus and Saturn. The 9mm brought the Cassini Division right out this morning!! What can I say? Clouds and rain are predicted for the next few days... How about if we spend the rest of the time before dawn looking for a comet?! ;)
"I know that I'm being used... That's OK because I like the abuse! Well, I know you're playing with me... Because I'm a just a sucker with no self-esteem..."
Comments: Charming the sky again... (and here I always thought sacrafice worked best!) It seems that a goblet of blackberry wine and a bit of practice with the accoustic (hey! neil young...) is all it takes to push the clouds away. So, I jump into the pool when my fingers can take no more... watching the very pleasing spectical of the Moon, Antares and Mars reflect upon the surface! (And when my head is clear... off we go!)
The Moon is intensely bright tonight. Even shy of full, it's casting long shadows in the backyard... almost enough to read by! So, I chose the 4.5 to be my companion tonight... because even filtered, that kind of light WILL cause pain in the dob! (And it was doing an admirable job right through my medium blue filter and the smaller scope! Sheesh! It looked like a blue laser beam coming from the eyepiece! And here I always wondered what "corrective surgery" might be like... ;)
No more digression.... Copernicus! That is one crater that simply rocks! If I hadn't sketched it before, I probably would have found myself doing so tonight... for Copernicus is a most inspiring lunar feature!! (But the light is killing me.) A need for restriction brings out the barlow and the 9mm. What a pleasure it is to explore the terraced walls and interior mountains! There is also another that contains a wealth of detail, and makes for an interesting study... Bullialdus. It is one I've not paid a great deal of attention to in the past, but tonight it is outstanding! Now... I really must stop with the Moon. Enough of the concentrated light! After some quiet time of just watching the stars and waiting for my eyes to readjust, I focused on Mars. Wow! Too cool... The blue filter and the barlow reveal some detail! The polar caps aren't really apparent, but a nice wedge of darkness certainly is! (make that two!) I tossed around for a few minutes on fetching the dob... but there's nothing wrong with this picture! The maps tell me this is Erythraeum Mare and Acidalium Mare... very nice!
Now... I've a plan. Let's see if I can carry it out! ;)
Absolutely! Information on the arrival of LINEAR (ar2001) will get me up early.... ANYTIME! And 4:00 a.m. it is. Unfortunately, the area of the sky where it is currently making its' appearance is cloudy... but I don't mind at all! There is plenty of things to look at this morning!!! :-D
Starting with the M15, I give this great little compact globular a quick hug and head on... (I think it will forgive me.) Aaaaaaaaahhhhh!! Oh, yeah! Hello, Andromeda! WOW! After weeks and weeks of chasing tiny galaxies, the M31 makes my jaw drop! (Sure, I know standing there in open-mouthed wonder is kinda' tacky... ask me if I care?!) It totally fills the 25mm eyepiece... and then some! If there were just one reason to get up early, this would be it! The M31 is splendid... and I do NOT regret missing a bit of sleep to catch it! Of course... the Perseus "Double Cluster" holds a certain charm of its' own too! It has also been a great deal of time since I looked at it, and I found it most pleasing! And Algol.... another favorite! This is a variable I enjoy watching, because even I can pick up on the fluctuations in magnitude!
Dawn is coming... and Venus makes the sky ache with it's brightness! Holding a nice, phat 50% at the moment... and sporting a great blue/green/white color that is such a contrast after viewing Mars! But... what's this???
Good Morning, Saturn!! How lovely to see you again! (And you're right on time for coffee, too!) And here I thought I was great to see the Andromeda Galaxy... (Sometimes we forget how very much we enjoy looking a certain things until they return again!) Magnification time.... Even relatively low on the eastern horizon, it takes the "power up" just fine!! Two moons show up very well... and the shadow play of the rings on the planet, and the planet on the rings are far more invigorating than the java! Excellent....
Now the sky is getting uncomfortably bright... and work is a reality! But I shall dance through the day! I think it might have something to do with a "celestial fix". Call me "Space Junkie"...
"Morning has broken... like the first morning. Like the first dewfall, on the first grass..."