June 30, 2001 - raining here....
Comments: Chasing between the clouds tonight! Only the most brief shot at the Moon... Copernicus (that fantastic crater!) is divided by the terminator, and how I wish the clouds would stay away so I could study it!
The leading edge of the "Straight Wall" was also quite visible with the 4.5... but the view was all too quick!
"Drinkin' way... smokin' away... anything to stop the noise. Inside my head, loveless instead... until I think I'm about to go. Why bleed for the wicked, if the wicked won't bleed for me? Gotta' stand up... fight myself up. That's the way it's gonna' be..."
Comments: WOW! In a terrific mood tonight! (wonder why? ;)
The Moon was simply crisp tonight... the features razor sharp... bright enough to both cut and delight the eye! I did reassemble the 4.5 again, and by tomorrow, Selene will be impossible to view in the dob. But, I have tonight... The view using the 32mm, 2" is incredible. It fills the entire eyepiece... a lunar panorama! And it is in my nature to want to take it all in...
"Let's take a blast to the Moon, baby. I sit around wishing you well.... And how I'm craving you! Every time that I'm near you... I always want to swallow you down. And I can't get you out of my head! It never goes away..."
I know it's going to cause me pain... (what in life does not, eh?) and it will take some time for my sight to recover. But, I would rather spend one moment in glory... than a lifetime in the shadows, just wondering what it was like. And so I look upon the Moon... both burned and blinded by its' beauty! Until I can take it no more...
Using the 9mm robs the surface of light, but brings detail into more comfort. Probing the depths of Albategnius Crater... its' interior mountain ranges fascinate me so... Sometimes three or four snap into total clarity, like a tiny string of pearls set on a pewter wedge of shadow. I am captivated by the depth of Werner and Aliacensis... the light has yet to reach the bottom. After a bit of study, I head back to Albategnius again, and split the distance between there and Theophilus to get a good idea of where Apollo 16 touched. Then to Tranquilitatis to capture Sabine and Ritter... following the curve around to the site of Apollo 14. (Of course I'm being repititious... shoot me! For only three days of the lunar cycle are these areas so clearly defined as they are now!)
Oh, very well... I shall move on. Archimedes is easy enough. I love its' "broken" appearance. So I stop to study a bit. (Then find myself wandering toward the Montes Apenninus... and Apollo 15!) ;-P
Mons Piton is spectacular!! Standing up so tall, and casting such a long shadow across the bulging rilles! (Well now... it appears the poet in me has fled, and the scientist in my head wants to know "just how tall is it?"). Now for the "scar" of the Alpine Valley - well defined under tonight's lighting conditions. And on to Plato... indeed a restful place after the Southern Highlands! Now, let's go look at Mars, shall we? Hmmm... very little detail! The polar cap is evident, but far from bright. There is a soft, dark area cutting across the middle. My map (found it!) indicate this to be Solis Lacus, and Tihonius Lacus... I think they call it that because it "lacus" in detail! I know from looking about the field that the Moon is going to occult and graze several minor stars in Virgo... but I've time to play! So let's see what we can find to do....
How about Arcturus? Holy $hit... I've NEVER seen ANYTHING like this before! I know it's an atmospheric phenomena... but it looks like a starburst! A warp tunnel.. a worm hole! Straight up science fiction!!! Shards of colored light burst forth around Arcturus... spears of rainbows! (So, can you tell it excited me just a bit?! ;) And I hop off to Vega... but the phenomena doesn't happen here. I guess you just have to have the right star, and the right set of circumstances for something truly remarkable to happen!
And so I split some doubles... Epsilon Lyrae, Ras Algethi, Cor Caroli, Albeiro... killing time waiting on the occultation. And I put the Moon back into the field, and edge it away. Just out of sight, that way I can enjoy a couple of Coronas and keep an eye on those stars!!! It is a happy time... the beer tastes quite good, and I like watching the Moon slip closer to the stars! Even though the hour has grown quite late, it is a pleasant place to be... I don't mind listening to "Godsmack" and enjoying the night! And I watch until they disappear...
"Let's take a trip to the stars, far away! Where were you when I was down? Staring into the dead.... My pain is caused by my pleasure. My soulmate lives in your body. And I can't get you out of my head! It never goes away..."
Comments: Tonight I chose only the Moon. It has been a great deal of time since I sought to study it well... and it turned out to be very rewarding.
Once again, I used the 12.5. (I guess I've just missed my big ol' scope... I like the way it smells, like new wood... and I like looking into the end, to see that perfectly clean mirror reflecting the heavens back at me!) Sure. It's risking blindness. I know that. But let's drop back to the 1.25 eyepieces, and filter it down, ok? Because it gives outstanding magnification...
My attention was drawn toward Mare Serenitatis, and the mountain ranges that looked like a gateway opening onto its' smooth surface. Mons Hadley, and Montes Caucasus were crisp, and well-defined. The opening had several individual mountains... served well by the shadow play. It appeared as an "open invitation" to come explore! So, explore I did. Across the "serene sea", past the dark orafice of Bessell... eyes caressing the Serpentine Ridge. Promontorium Archerusia points the way toward the Apollo 17 landing site... where to rugged terrain looks so inhospitable! I stop to magnify on Posidonius... enjoying it's stepped terrain.
Southward now, where the Rima's Hyginus and Ariadaeus appear as ancient scars on the face on La Luna. Albategnius and Hipparchus Craters are absolutely superb! (I truly have sold my big scope short on the kind of view it's capable of offering! Shame on me... ;) Craters Halley and Horrocks look so very deep! And to the east, I see the pock-marked surface that is the Apollo 16 landing site. Magnificent....
Now for Mare Tranquillitatis... the rilles are almost as frozen swells, locked forever in time. There is a jetty upon the "tranquil sea"... and it marks the Apollo 14 site. How very brave these men were! To have journeyed on theory and hypothesis... and how lucky! Is there any one of us who would not wish to stand upon the surface of the Moon? Just to look out and the vastness of space, unencumbered by our atmosphere?!
Ah! What a glorious view that would be...
"Meet me in outer space. I will hold you close if you're afraid of heights. I need you to see this place. It might be the only way that I can show you how it feels to be inside me. We could watch the Earth come up..."
Comments: Using the big scope on the Moon, again. I've found that I really do appreciate the view! Hipparchus and Albategnius Craters were positively OUTSTANDING! I loved the shadow play on the interior components.... and the "stepped" edges of the craters. The Hyginus Rille was also exceptional last night. It was just one of those times when I could have brooded over Selene for hours. (Not motivated enought to sketch, mind you... for I am quite tired from all the crazy things I've done the past two weeks! ;) I really didn't want to leave the serenity of the lunar surface... for I was just having the best time exploring all the detail!
Like the Southern Highlands!
I knew I would not do the sky justice if I didn't go look at Mars... and it was worth the journey! One polar cap is still outrageously bright... underlined by some great dark areas that appear to me to be the edge of Cimmerium and Syritis Major. (You will forgive me, of course, if I am wrong? For somewhere during my travels... I seemed to have misplaced my Mars map. :*) It was just satisfying to look at... because the sky was quite steady!
About 3:30 I went out to watch the Bootid Meteor Shower... (yeah... you know it. here comes the clouds!) I caught a handful of these delightfully slow moving meteors. And I do mean slow! Compared to some I've seen, these almost trundled across the sky! They sported grey tails... and I loved every second of it! Unfortunately, I also shared the view with plenty of lightning to the southeast... grrrrrrrrrrrr! And, in approximately an hour and a half, the sky was gone. But, I did get a chance to see a few... and that was extrodinary
for my run of luck with meteor showers! "What tho' in worlds which sightless cycles run, Linked to a little system, and one sun -- Where all my love is folly and the crowd Still think my terrors but the thunder cloud, The storm, the earthquake, and the ocean-wrath- (Ah! will they cross me in my angrier path?) What tho' in worlds which own a single sun The sands of Time grow dimmer as they run, Yet thine is my resplendency, so given To bear my secrets thro' the upper Heaven. Leave tenantless thy crystal home, and fly, With all thy train, athwart the moony sky-- Apart-- like fire-flies in Sicilian night, And wing to other worlds another light! Divulge the secrets of thy embassy To the proud orbs that twinkle-- and so be To ev'ry heart a barrier and a ban Lest the stars toter in the guilt of man!"
And so it was a beautiful night. The Moon and Mars... and shooting stars! You can leave me here on the redwood chair... dreaming my dreams. Fantasy and imagination running wild... I love the night.
"Won't you come with me, to a place in a little town? The only way to get there is to go straight down... And you... wait for tomorrow."
Amazingly enough, I did take the time to throw some clothes into a suitcase... and dust off the 'scope... and I headed out on the road! New experiences awaited me... new people... and old friends! ;) What a wonderful journey! I am once again in the "backyard"... and it is my chance to report on where I have been and what I have seen while enjoying "Astronomy Ala Carte", so please read on... and enjoy! (for every time i looked up... i still think.)
I did miss you, compadre... always.
Comments: What a scenic place Lake Erie is... Over the past two weeks I have seen a great deal of the country... from mountains to plains... from the ocean to the lakes. It has been an experience. One that has taught me a great deal... about things that are inside myself, as well as sharing with other people.
So how did I start the day? By going to the "Roller Coaster Capitol of the World" ~ Cedar Point! (and riding them all three times, eh? ;) It would seem that one thing that some astronomer's share in common is the need to walk on "the edge"... for I am not the only one who enjoys motorcycles and fast cars! And the "Millenium Force" is the highest, fastest, longest, etc. coaster in the world! It will peel your eyes back... and make you beg for mercy! (shyeah... rite! that's why i ran back around in line three times, huh? ;) I will admit that the "Magnum" quite scared me a bit of heights... but again, well... I just LIKE going FAST, ok? (I drew the line at bungee jumping....)
When at last my youngest son and I closed the Park down... it was time for my own "thing". I had access to a private pier, and after a very long, hot shower... four tylenol and half a pot of coffee, I was ready to go look at the stars...
And so it is time for me to be introspective...
The pier is long, wide and stable... and I sit on the side watching the crescent Moon set. The gentle licking sounds of the water caressing the pilings is soothing... and beneath my bare feet, the black water swirls. Part of me longs very much to just slip off the side... to go into those shadows and stay. I can feel my thoughts pull at my throat. And when I raise my eyes again from the black water... it is to see a meteor scratch the face of the sky.
It calls me back...
Before me lay the northern sky... a vista to which I am most unaccoustomed! Behind me is the red eye of Mars... urging me to explore. This is NOT what I am used to seeing! And I feel lost... Mariners are a most "night friendly" lot... for they make their markers in muted lights of red and green. They guide themselves by the stars. And so shall I... because I know the constellation of Cassiopeia. These are the most beautiful of open clusters in all the sky! And when I open the scope and go to the eyepiece... all is forgotten. And once again I am alone with the stars...
The M103 delights me. Three stars snap into easy focus, with a great orange one laughing back into my vision. (Call me out to play, eh? Then let's go! ;) The NGC663 is next.... beautiful, rich open cluster! Like diamond dust on black velvet... And its' companions, the NGCs 654 and 659 might be small, but they, too are quite fine. NGC457 is much more open about itself... resolving quite well for the smaller scope. The NGC637 is a tasty wedge of graininess... highlighted by resolution at the corners. Now for my favorite... the NGC7789. This one is superb! To the smaller scope, it appears "galaxy-like" A very large field of stars that tease and tease... a what a fine game it is, too! A bit of magnification helps... but this is a very coy object when you have a limited view! On to the M52... an open that resembles a globular. Several stars jump out of the cluster to say hello.... but for the most part, it isn't sharing with just anyone!
The hour has grown quite late... I did not bring a timepiece, for it doesn't matter. And when I take a look at my surroundings.... Oh my STARZ! That's Pegasus!! (Sneaking up on me again, eh? ;) What a smile it gives me... for it has been a VERY long time since I've seen it! (Do I remember? Of course I do!) Enif....oh yeah. Enif.... and a bit of a "hunt", but I remember the M15!!! What a treat to find you here with me! Of course, I am excited now.... thinking of the splendid Andromeda Galaxy that is just below my "reach".... dreaming of the "Double Cluster"... and how long it has been since I wrestled with my demon, Algol! (Come now, it hasn't been more than a few hours since you wrestled with your own demon, astronomer.... let it go. ;*)
Reluctantly I cap the scope back up, and tuck my favorite eyepieces back into my pocket. I feel a pang... a wistfulness.... Perhaps it is this place that brings forth my melancholy... Maybe I should go read some Poe by candlelight....
"Some things will never change. They keep on looking backward, half unconscious from the pain. It may seem a little strange.... but in the black water swirling, there are some things that will never change."
Comments: Very dark, clear skies tonight... but I feel a bit melancholy, though. I can't really explain it. So, I guess it just not important, huh?
The Moon was great tonight. Nestled on the paws of the "Lion", it resembled a cosmic plaything... seized upon by the mighty Leo! I don't ordinarily use the 12.5 on the Moon, (hey... the 4.5 is packed and ready to head lakeside!) but it really did a spectacular job. Mares Crisium and Fecunditatis were the "hot spots".... with their tiny dark craters and caressing rilles. The earthshine tonight was simply unreal... so I dropped back to a 3mm, 2"... and bumped the lighted section of the Moon just out of the field of view. Simply awesome! The "darkside" resembled the Moon in eclipse!! All the major features were readily apparent... and it was quite worth a look! Pick up the power now, and head to Mars. One of the polar regions was exceptionally prominent at my viewing time... truncated by a dark region. Little else was visible, (perhaps Otto's Mak has spoiled me, eh? ;) so we may be looking at a storm... or maybe just a featureless region. (Yes, Mr. Wizard.... it is quite "yellow". It's getting darn close to the natural color of Saturn, isn't it?) Backing off the magnification finds it sitting in a pretty triangle of stars in Ophiuchus... Now let's go explore!!
So... how's come nobody's mentioned just how close Mars is to the M62?! It was great fun when it made a "pass" at the M8... and now it's walking through globular country in Ophiuchus! (Really... you know you should learn to "play around" a bit! You would be surprised at how many DSOs are nearby! Astronomy + Fun... a great equation! ;) The M19 and M9 globulars are right in the neighborhood too! A bit of "moonshine" won't hurt you...
And so I find myself lost in Ophiuchus tonight... I retrieved a book from the car and did a bit of starhopping. The globulars here are small, but extremely entertaining! Compact and concentrated... these little "gems" are worth the time to hunt down! There were a great many more in the area, but I was feeling kinda' easy tonight... and just kept to the ones that didn't present an extreme challenge. I've one more target in mind... so let's go!
Yep. There it is. NGC6940... (You are right, Tom. It IS in the constellation of Vulpecula!) This is one sweet open cluster. Very rich... (reminiscient of the M67 and the NGC opens in Cassiopeia) So, if you have time... even a moderately sized scope should turn this open into a jewel box!! Go look, eh? I guarantee you'll like what you see! ;)
"Let's take a blast to the Moon, baby! I sit around wishing you well..."
Comments: Close to 900 miles and less than twelve hours later, I once again find myself in the backyard. Seeking... Wanting... Needing... Perhaps only the peace that the sky can give me. My joyful reunion with my old german shepherd, (hey... three minutes later, he'd forgotten i'd even left! go figure...) a delighful dip in the pool to relax the muscles and refresh the body, time with the battered old accoustic (still in tune!) to soothe my jangled nerves, and a quick peek at the e.mail...
Now I need the stars...
Saggitarius awaits me. And it is there that I want to go. It has dug a little hole inside my secret heart... I can feel myself letting go. Time to reflect upon all the wonderful things I've seen and done over the last few days... time to plan for the morrow. It gives me balance. For even if thoughts of things must remain inside my head forever... then there it shall be. As timeless as the M20... as graceful as the M17... as exciting as the M8... And as mysterious as the M27...
"Candles raise my desire. Why am I so far away? No more meaning to my life... no more reason to stay. Demons dreamin'... Breathe in... breathe in! I'm coming back again..."
What a magnificent place this is! Nestled in the craggy region of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville quite suprised me with it's metropolitan atmosphere! Filled with universities, libraries, theatres, exlusive restaurants, and some of the very finest people I've met on my travels... I think I probably could have stayed there forever. The mountains work a charm of their own... wreathed in cloud, and seemingly far away from the stressed-out world we live in. Their catch phrase is "Altitude Affects Attitude"... and I can believe it!
Through e.mail correspondence, I had met a fine gentleman named John Chapell, and we made arrangements to meet for lunch with another member of the Asheville Astronomy Club... (hey, Tom! ;) to get to know each other. It was a tremendous opportunity for me... for I long for a bit of reassurance from time to time... just needing to know that I'm not the only one "lost in space"! The time flew by all too quickly, (for I could not get enough of these fascinating people!) And the prospect of rain (reality check... it WAS raining.) dimmed the chances of a star party at the club's Mt. Pisgah observing site. Not to worry though... because this was a man with a plan! (and what a great one it was, too! :)
So, I cruised the afternoon hours exploring the town and surrounds... (sorry. i'm not one to brood in a room somewhere! for the last week has found me climbing hills in kentucky to explore confederate battlefields and cemetaries... exploring the historic sites of new bern... taking in a bit of the shore... and finding out-of-the-way places to dine! ;) The Blue Ridge Parkway was incredible... the scenery was simply amazing! Mountains and valleys.... nature and towns.... and dizzying heights!! (I do believe Mt. Mitchell is one of the highest peaks in the states..) The Biltmore Estate has its' home here... and I can rightly see why. Mysterious places... like Black Mountain! The view is outstanding!
Finally the evening arrived... and I was taken to one of the most fascinating dinner engagements I've ever experienced! (Tex, your hospitality shall go down in legend...) Our host, Tom took us into his observatory, where it was my great pleasure to view his telescopes, and listen to what this "backyard" likes to do... photography! (Both John and Tom managed to catch images on our latest near earth asteroid... no easy feat considering how fast it was moving! Then "sewed" the images together electronically to produce a "quick time" movie that was simply spectacular! Excellent work, guys...)
We talked of the Asheville Astronomy Club, and their observing site. Star parties... theories... DSO... you name it! (and Corona with a twist of lime... aaaaah! a man after me own heart... ;) The lively conversation continued through a wonderful dinner... then onto the deck for expresso... the back again to the table! There four heads bent over books, charts and programs... it just doesn't get any better than this, folks!!! I could have listened to these extraordinary gentlemen all night... and well into next week! Needless to say... I had the time of my life, John Chapell. Thank you.
"Meet me in outer space. We could spend the night; watch the Earth come up. I've grown tired of that place; won't you come with me? We could start again. How do you do it? Make me feel like I do... How do you do it? It's better than I ever knew. You are stellar!"
Comments: Chapel Hill is a lovely town, consumed by interesting architecture, the University of North Carolina, and the Morehead Planetarium...
Touristy? YEAH! :-D (and i'm just the tourist to suck it all in, baby!) The building that houses the planetarium is nearly a century old, made in the opulent style, charm and grace that only the older buildings seem to posess. Surrounded by well-tended gardens and a center pavilion lodging an enormous sundial, the walkways are innundated with chattering children... all eager to take a journey into outer space!
Fortunately, the young'uns would rather congregate in the gift shop (hey... i bought a coffee mug and postcards, ok? ;) rather than explore the exhibits, so once again I find a bit of solitude.
I enjoy archival things... give me a wall of old photographs, or glass-encased antiques, and I'm a happy camper! But, I do keep my eye on the many domed anniversary clocks... as anxious as a five-year old... ready to "see the show"!! Through the leather-covered double doors, reminescient of a by-gone era's theatre days... to enter the high domed room. Take a seat! Anywhere in the arena shall do... because the show is "above my head"! (literally too, huh? ;) In the center stands the huge Zeiss Star Projector... looking like a "bad dream" metal insect, crouching... posessed of a multitude of crystalline eyes... (it frightens small children... therefore... I LIKE it!! }:-)
What can I say about the program except for "totally f*#^$%&^% AWESOME"!!! The Zeiss is capable of projecting 8,900 stars onto the dome! (and was once used to train NASA astronauts on starfield orientation!) Incredible... It's as beautiful as any night sky I've ever dreamed of... Totally without clouds... Totally without light pollution... Totally... f(*$#&^#&^! AWESOME!! (seriously? i could have reclined there all day... in the cool dark... picking off constellations... and dreaming... ;)
There were three programs offered that day, and I simply could NOT leave until I had seen all three! Through the eyes of the Planetarium, I viewed our Solar System in detail... walked upon the Sun and the Moon... and experienced a Super Nova!! (I encourage anyone who might read these reports to find a planetarium... and spend some time there!! You will not regret it...)
Now, more road trippin'...
I dig the rock and roll, and especially the FAST driving! (I'll say one thing for these southern boys... they sure do know how to dance! ;) Just a few short hours later finds me at the western edge of the state of North Carolina... almost 800 miles in one day! I view the stars from the swimming pool of the hotel... and look forward to meeting more new friends and new experiences!!
"So if I waiver my chance... to be one of the hive... Will I chose the water over wine? Or hold the wheel and drive? Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there! With open arms and open mind..."
Comments: One of the things I noticed the most was the way the cloud patterns changed. Am I talking drastic? Of course! For this looks nothing like the backyard in Ohio!! There is just something "different" about the way they mount, and a difference in the color of the sky itself... And, of course, an additonal thousand miles makes one heck of a change in the position of the stars!!! :-D
And so I observe...
The first night (or shall I say early morning!) brings up spectacular view of globular clusters M54 and M55... The M54 is still quite small, but it is a very pleasant sight! The M55 is considerably larger, (and looks one heck of a lot less like a planetary that the aforementioned) and shows the fact that it has a "loose" structure to the 4.5. Averted vision brings out just "hints" of resolution... And now for two constellations I've not explored in a great deal of time! Capricornus and Aquarius... (and yes... i needed the "steenking maps" to find these things, ok? :) First up, the "Saturn Nebula"... a very nice "egg" shaped in the 4.5... and a most pleasing catch! Now for the M72... very dim, it reminds me a great deal of the M4 in the small scope. No great views, but I'm delighted to have found it! How about the M73? (Mr. Messier, I am ashamed of you... even I don't drink when 'scopin'!) I'm not to sure what Charles saw when viewing this, but I see a collection of four stars... (oooooooh)
Now on to the M30... It's a small globular, and it tries really hard, ok? (I can relate to that...) In the 4.5, it gives just a "teasing hint" of resolution... It looks as though it might have an occasional "bright" idea going on in its' field of grey matter! And now for a prize... the Helix Nebula!!! It gave me a bit of a hunt... but now we're talking! It doesn't really appear to be a spectacular object for the small scope... just a round patch of light in the sky... But, hey... I know this light! And it is most unmistakeably a planetary nebula!
Night two brings on guests... and that is fine, for I too, am a guest. Stars and guitars... A "tour" of the objects most easily understood, such as Mars, the M81 and M82 galaxies, the M3 and M4 globular clusters, the M57, Cor Caroli and Albeiro...
Try as I might to capture the Omega Centaurii Cluster... the tenth putting green is the only place I have a clear shot at Centarus! A word of warning from my host about nesting cottonmouths... (and after having stepped on a tree frog in my bare feet trying to "make a date with Mars" ... ;) plus the fact that the automatic sprinklers on the golf course went off randomly... put something of a damper on my quest! No matter, for I am thoroughly enjoying myself... and all the "different" conversations taking place! It's a pleasant way to spend part of the evening, but I've plans, eh? And should I never need to sleep, perhaps I can fit everything in! ;)
"And I feel... all this pain. Stuffed it down... it's back again. And I lie... here in bed. All alone... I can't mend. But I feel... tomorrow will be OK..."
Comments: A chance to actually visit with one of my e.mail compadres! (You ARE real! Too cool...) Eastern Kentucky University is a lovely place... very peaceful... very restful... A place where old a new architecture blend flawlessly... a place where fresh young minds abound. You would quite like the "Kentucky Backyard"... the "Ottoman" exudes a warmth... a mixture of kindness and intelligence that make him a very special gentleman! (And one who knows his way around the sky!)
An impromptu "Star Party" emerged following conversation with my newfound friends... what a dream come true! A chance to view through a 6" Mak... (and a "homemade" 'scope made by Rico(?)... an ingenious design of PVC pipe, a plastic bucket, a bit of wood and some lenses! Duecedly clever... and highly effective!!) As a matter of a fact, they even had an excellent spot arranged for us to go to! (imagine that, huh? ;)
And so we "sat up shop" near the Hummel Planetarium... and Otto and I "tag teamed" the great objects from the sky to share with our intelligent young companions! Mars, the M57, M3, M5, M4, M8, M27, Epsilon Lyrae, (pssst! There was about a much room between them as was between cars on the bloody freeway! And I do believe we were moving about as fast! Sheesh! ;) the M20, M17, globulars and opens in Saggitarius... and Otto's charmed find... "The Herschel Cluster"!
It was truly a pleasure to look through Otto's scope... now I have a much better sense of what another sees... (and, of course, poor Otto had to deal with my rather unorthodox methods and strange behavior!) So, in essence... a certain "understanding" has come about. I now can view the sky from a "different viewpoint"... no longer just a "theory" on how it "should" look. (By the way, Mr. Wizard... Mars is simply spectacular in Otto's scope! The Mak picks up every bit as much detail as the dob, but with half as much aperature! Very impressive.... ;)
(And so I wish to thank you, Otto... for providing me with the opportunity to visit with you and your friends, and to stay on the most lovely campus of Eastern Kentucky University! I am most grateful for the time that we spent together, and I shall remember you always...)
"What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me? Lend me your ear, and I'll sing you a song. And I'll try not to sing out of key... Mmmmmmmm.. I get by with a little help from my friends.... Mmmmmmm... Gonna' try with a little help from my friends..."
Comments: Too beautiful of a night to not use it! (I've finally swiped some of the dust off the 4.5, packed my favorite books, threw some clothes in a bag... now I'm ready to rock!) And, you know... I couldn't go to bed early like I'd planned, because if I made the mistake of looking outside and I see stars... I'm gone!
The 12.5 it is tonight... just time enough to speak to favorite old friends, lest skies turn cloudy. (Or I take a wrong turn! Or get killed... Or never come home... You know... live EVERY day like it's the last!!! Because it just may be...) Enough of my morose attitude, for I simply stand for some time, just looking at this beautiful black canvas... etched with silver stars.
"And you... bring me to my knees, again. All the times, when I could beg you please... for me."
I reach for the "Ring" always... the merry-go-round of life demands no less of me. And, as always, the beautiful bright field of stars so near the solitary planetary takes my breath away. (What a great place!) The M57 floats in the DOB... like an ethereal life preserver... holding on to a dying star in a deep, black sea. (Go now... you promised yourself you wouldn't drift!) Now up to Hercules for the M13! (Has what I have seen in the 31" taken away my joy for the globular in other scopes? NO!!!) It doesn't make any difference to me what 'scope i use.. This is one magnificent object... no matter what! The 32mm televue was the only eyepiece I didn't pack away... and I'm glad I didn't! Not always do I seek perfect resolution... For some of the finest things in life to me are less than perfect. (Just like me, eh?)
Mars calls, but tonight I chose Antares instead. I like the way the atmosphere makes the colors roll about it... A distant read giant, clothed in irridesence. And I bump the sope, scooting the antithesis of Mars to the edge of the filed of view, and drink in the M4. No need for eyepiece trickery here... simple averted vision brings this globulars components to my hungry eye. Sure... it doesn't stant out from the crowd like the M13.. but beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, is it not? And tagging along, it's tiny attendant globular seems quite content just be be "hanging out" with one of the big guys!
Hi Mars! Bye Mars... (this "low" power doesnt' do you much justice, does it?) Just a glimpse... enough to see you really are a planet. A wink of detail. A splash of shine... and on you go again.
So, now I go to Saggitarius... just to touch it. For don't we all have needs? Just let me look at the "Trifid", swim in the "Lagoon", work out with the "Dumbbell" and fly with the "Swan"... for these things have a soothing quality to my soul... A place where no thing or no one else can touch. Perhaps some day... ah. Tis' not important, eh?
"All these times... that I've cried. My intentions... full of pride. But I leave my burdens at the door. Because I'm on the outside... I'm lookin' in..."
Comments: There is no wild, hair-pin turn, dirt road, bonsai up the side of the mountain to arrive at Perkins Observatory. It resides along the interstate... once a part of Ohio State University, but now "belonging" to Ohio Weslyan, it has been swallowed by the capital city of Columbus. It hides within a grove of pines trees, surrounding by manicured lawns and gardens. It is a magnificent structure. Formed from granite and concrete... a tribute to astronomy. Its' interior speaks of the old world classroom... hardwood floors and blackboards... ancient radiators bespeaking the cold reality of changing seasons. In the anteroom, graceful double staircases curve their way toward the dome... with their treadworn steps and filagreed iron bannisters. A lecture hall is off to one side... built with accoustic wisdom, for the "talks" held there reach all parts of the room without the modern aid of amplification. Across from that is a wonderful library... a true anachronism. Tall windowed majesty... the walls lined with the leather bound volumes, that rainy day hands would have eagerly sought... to curl up in the leather arms chairs and contemplate. But, through the center runs the reality of today... a double banked row of computers set upon the wooden tables where students once spread their archaic paperwork.
Behind the staircases lay the classrooms... now dedicated to exhibits. They contain astronomy antiquities... and how fine they are too!!! Brass telescopes... sextants... copies of the very first editions of Sky and Telescope magazine! Each room takes you on a different journey... through beautiful pictures of our own cosmos, to examples of modern rocketry. There is one very special room here... perhaps it was only so for me... The old professor's office was left intact. The marks upon the oak floor bearing mute testimony to the man whose swivel chair made countless journeys between his desk and window... to look out upon his beloved gardens. Here in this room, history walks and talks. At one time, Perkins Observatory was home to the largest radio telescope in the world. Real research was done here... like the movie "Contact" there was once a signal. A signal so strong, that the student monitoring the equipment at the time wrote "WOW!" in red ink upon the margin of the printout. And I am allowed to put these papers in my hands... to run my fingers across the numbers... to feel the indentation in the paper left when this bit of history was made!!! And as I leave the room... I touch the old professor's sweater and hat... left hanging, as if he had only stepped out moments ago... Bittersweet nostalgia? No... only a need to reach out across space and time. To connect with what once was....
Down another curving staircase now... into the basement, where so often history has been relagated. Tis' fine by me... for I LIKE the cool musty smell of hidden treasure and venerable knowledge!! And so I walk the gallery... to follow its' timeline to the glory days of this magnificent place. Sepia toned photographs... (is there anyone among us who does not love these things so?!) showing the construction of the Observatory... and the loving installation of a magnificent 69" mirror! How glorious it would have been to look upon the cosmos with this!!! But in interest of preservation, it has gone to the Lowell Observatory... and rightly so. For the modernization of this area has taken away the very sky for which this monumental mirror was designed. But once again... it's ok. Because here on the walls, the faces of the men who constructed this place are frozen forever... their excitement etched for all time on their faces! And left for those who care enough to look...
Time now, for the public program... a basic "lesson" in astronomy. And how very entertaining it was too!! Bob was a wonderful speaker... and though he told me nothing new... I took the most immense pleasure in watching the faces of those about me! In a manner much like George Carlin, his energy and enthusiasm overflowed... and how exciting it was to see the smiles and hear the laughter of those around the room as they made "connection" with astronomy! (I saw the face of the young man with the long hair in the back "light up" when you talked about space... and the giggles of the bored children when you grabbed their attention with your stories!!!) Bravo, my friend!!! Bravo....
Time now... to move into the dome proper. The last vestiges of the eradicable stonework, which once held a truly remarkable telescope. Upon the pier now stands a 32" cassegrain... donated to the Observatory by a private individual for whom cataracts claimed his vision of the stars. Tiny red lights adorn the staircases... for there are those who shall never be able "to see in the dark"! And what does this impressive telescope see? Double stars... planets... a cluster or two... For it is sad fact that this huge scope can barely reach for "The Ring"! Why? Light pollution... Shopping centers, auto malls, enclosed communities, condominiums, and the highway itself has claimed the once dark sky of the Perkins Observatory. Where once stood a true research facility... "The Big Ear", as it was known... is a golf
course. What once was... is gone.
But it has left an echo.
So I retreat to the garden, and the well-manicured lawn to visit with the Columbus Astronomical Society Members. They have brought their personal telescopes.... each as unique as the individual who owns them. I am given free reign with an 8" Maksukatov Cassegrain... my hands guided to the unfamilar design. My host is pleased to let me "drive"... for I know the roads. And buried deep within a conversation about spectroscopy... we take the time in silence to watch the International Space Station flying bravely overhead. A delicious mixture of old... and new! I listen to the history of Perkins, and the Society itself... while finding objects for curious passersby to view. I speak out when I observe the flash of a meteor... and I am dragged by the hand, running and laughing back to the basement!
There was a room that I did not explore... but now am invited to! This one still contains active monitoring equipment... and my host presented to my amazed eye, the very meteor I had just observed recorded electronically!! Fascinating!!
I pass by the library once again... and stop to visit with one of the older members. Just a moment to sit in the leather arm chairs, and pass the time of night. For like the books that surround us, this person has a story to tell...
And I would take the time to hear it.
Time for the journey back... each mile and each minute bringing back the dark sky I so love. When I return, I chose to take the dob out into the backyard... to walk upon the fields with Saggitarius. As gentle wisps of clouds stroll overhead, I find myself in the embrace of the warm water... taking "time"... time to contemplate all I have seen and heard tonight...
"From childhood's hour I have not been-- as others were. I have not seen-- as others saw. I could not bring-- my passions from a common spring. From the same source, I have not taken. My sorrow--I could not awaken. My heart to joy at the same tone! For all I lov'd... I lov'd alone."
For this has been a private experience... a chance to reflect not so much upon the practice of astronomy... as to be touched by the history of it.
"Come... as you are. As you were. As I want you to be.... As I am... as you are... As an old memoria.... Memoria...."
Comments: How to explain the experience of visiting a true observatory leaves me at a bit of a loss for words... So let me begin at the beginning, and perhaps in that fashion the right words will come...
To get to Rupp Observatory means driving up the side of a mountain... (and you know me, I'd drive to the ends of the Earth if it meant the kind of opportunity I had tonight!) and at the top of this mountain sits a dome... and inside this dome is a telescope... and what a magnificent beastie it is!!
Climbing to the apex of the dome, the open-truss design of the Rupp telescope is towering! (I feel so small beside it...) The counterbalance is enormous... the size of a refrigerator! The supporting arms anchored into the concrete floor are perhaps three feet in diameter... and at the heart of it all... an optically perfect 31" mirror. (And what a mirror! Just being allowed to look at it is every amateur astronomer's dream! ;)
We turn off the lights now... it is like being inside a submarine... lit only by the soft glow of red light and the gentle eyes of computer screens. I stand awe-struck as the slot of the dome trundles its' way open slowly... and a slice of the heavens is revealed!
No computer guides this wonderful scope to its' destination... for it would despoil it. Only the human hand may take it upon its' journey... (and it is not "light" work!!) How solid it is!! How real!! (How heavy, eh?) Imagine yourself pulling, pushing, and directing something that makes you exert every ounce of energy... It was a pleasure, I tell you! Because some how... it made you feel more "worthy" of the experience.
Onto the manlift now... to travel eighteen feet into the air (top of the world, ma!!) to look into the two inch eyepiece... and capture Mars. (I was told that many people balk at the height... to be honest, I didn't notice!! I hung over the side of the cage with as much comfort as I do on the step ladder in my own backyard!)
Now shall I tell? Oh yes... It surpassed anything I believed it to be. Mars is perfect. What I see in the 12.5 is like comparing a dime to a dinner plate to a 31!! There is no struggle to see feature... for it is laid out before me, as beautiful as any picture I have seen. The words on the maps mean something now... Cimmerium Mare. Eridania. Aeolis. Zephyria. Elysium. Cebrenia. Amenthes. Utopia...
And it is Utopia... I do not wish to leave!!! (After having been assured that I wasn't being a "scope hog"...) I simply clung there... in open-mouthed wonder! It was my first experience with clock-drive, so you can understand what a treat it was to have this behemoth telescope continually readjust itself so i could salivate over Mars!
The hours passed far too quickly... best move on to another target, eh? So down we go from our perch upon the stars... feet once again on solid ground. Time to move the dome! (And you cannot imagine the sense of vertigo it gives you to watch it rotate! My host had a fine time laughing at me, because I actually staggered when it moved!) Now what to chose??! There's an entire night sky FULL of favorites! What shall it be? Then let's pick the grandest of them all...
And we whisked our way back up toward the sky! Using a telrad... and a finderscope as large as most amateur scopes... the final adjustments were made. I could see the silhouette of my companion overlaid against the night sky... peering into the eyepiece. And when I heard his sharp intake of breath... I knew something very special was about to happen. My heart began to race! And then it was my turn...
No words. No pictures. No sketches could EVER begin to adequately convey the true beauty of the M13... Perfect resolution. No star was unrevealed. (My chest throbs even now with the re-telling!) Heart-breakingly beautiful... every single star of the Hercules Cluster was spread out before my eager eyes! I can feel my hands shake as I adjust the focus... my knees are so weak, it's a wonder I can still stand! This vision... this vision will go with me for the rest of my life! Thousands of points of diamond hard light... splayed like frozen fireworks in the eyepiece!! No averted vision... for the scope will reveal down to magitude 24. (Oh.. come to me words!! How can I tell how very inspiring it is?) There is an X.... etched in stars... laid over a field of stars... like a soft, sweet kiss from heaven. And at the heart of it all... there is only one star.
When we come down to the ground again, I must step outside. For I am weak, and shaking with the experience of what it has been my privelege to see. I lay upon my back... to look up! And think...
(for i shall always do so... and if i could take it from my eyes, and put it into my hands... i would give it to you...)
When I have calmed down... and rational thinking has returned, we fly back up to the eyepiece once again... to go through the fantastic toy box! Because each eyepiece gives the M13 a different "look"! For once in my life, I had no desire to "hop" around the sky...
My host gave me a very special gift... we turned the dome toward Saggitarius. And I was left alone... my hands guided the scope. Stand or fall? Fly.... FLY!! I know these skies... and they were given to me... in all their glory! And if I should die tomorrow... I shall die happy. For I have seen into the "heart" of our galaxy...
Once again, I must walk away and regain my composure. This has gone beyond the wanderings of my imagination...
It has touched my soul.
When I am able to stand firmly... we return to Mars! A fitting end... a fond farewell. The polar ice caps.. Hellas Basin, Iapgia, Libya, Syrtis Major, Thoth, Isidis Regio, Nilosyrtis, Umbra... take your choice! Here I stand... and you give to me, Mars... far more than I feel I deserve.
(I want to Thank You, Dan Everly... for having a open mind, and an open heart! You have given me something beyond measure... and I am most grateful. What I have seen here tonight will be with me forever...)
"When dreaming I'm guided through another world. Time and time again. At sunrise I fight to stay asleep... 'Cause I don't want to leave the comfort of this place... 'Cause there's a hunger, a longing to escape From the life I live when I'm awake... So let's go there! Let's make our escape... Come on let's go there... Let's ask can we stay! Can you take me higher? To the place where blind men see? Can you take me higher? To the place with golden streets... Although I would like our world to change, It helps me to appreciate Those nights and those dreams. But, my friend, I'd sacrafice all those nights If I could make the Earth and my dreams the same. The only difference is To let love replace all our hate. So lets go there! Let's make our escape... Come on let's go there... Let's ask can we stay? Up high I feel like I'm alive for the very first time! Up high I feel like I'm strong enough to take these Dreams and make them mine."
Comments: The Sun... Oh my starz! There are 46 seperate sunspots today... and three areas that show the intensely "stressed" look! Most of the spots are no bigger than the shadow of Mercury... many are smaller. But the sheer NUMBER of them is remarkable!
(Off to rest now... my "amante de la nuit"... to wait for when the darkness comes...)
Confused yet? I'm not! I owed the 4.5 some practice time and tonight was THE night! (Maps? We doan need no steenking maps!) I've ignored the little scope far too long in favor of the dob... and since it's going to be my companion for the next week, best blow some of the dust off of it and re-learn!!
Sure... there's condensation spots on the primary... dust in the tube... an odd wing nut that holds the tripod together... the equatorial mount has seen better days... but... the finderscope is dead on... the collimation is perfect! Let's see what we can do!!
Starting with Mars, the 10mm gives a satsifactory peek at detail. Cimmerium Mare curves gracefully across the meridian, but we're still relatively devoid of features... so let's move on and check back as the night progresses!
Now for practice. M3... you're first! It took me a few moments to locate it, because the difference between an equatorial and dobsonian mount is huge! (So why struggle, eh? I refuse to "fight" with my equipment! So, from this point on... no polar alignment... no setting circles!) Freedom. Freedom is what this is all about!! So, I turn the scope where it is the most comfortable for me to use, and like the frets on my guitar, or the keyboard beneath my fingers... I just let go. And it all comes back to me...
The M3 is bright in the 4.5... unmistakeable. It offers some resolution, and a wonderful core! And the M5? Even... would be a good way of describing it. An even field of even stars, and "even" a hint of resolution! Now, for a turn of the scope, and a bit of free stargazing. A brush over the ghostly form of the M51... and a visit with Cor Caroli!
Off to another part of the yard now... so Ursa Major sits clear of all obstuction. Already I long for the dob! But you know what? Even without the resolving qualities of aperature, the M81 and M82 are still beautiful... Like glowing "cat's eyes" in the eyepiece, I am still humbled by this galactic pair. The difference is structure is very apparent, and although one may not be as "bright" as the other, they seem to be very happy sharing the sky together! I contemplate them "together"... very content with low magnification. Just happy to allowed to watch...
(The owl pulls me back to reality. He is in the great pine not more than thirty yards away. It surprises me a bit, because I've rock and roll playing quietly on the radio. I guess his music appreciation is greatly varied, because he's trilling right along to Staind!!)
Come now... Practice... to go! The M13 is another "memory" target... and it is stunning! No matter what telescope you use, the fantastic Hercules Cluster is one of the most awesome sights in the sky! Packed with power... loaded with resolvable stars!! The M13 rules!
Now for a dip down to Lyra... where I once again allow myself to simply enjoy the bright starfields for awhile. When I've finished "touring" the area, I focus on the M57, and contemplate "The Ring". I have seen times when the 4.5 view of the M57 made it "tight"... a perfect circle, with a perfect center. Tonight "The Ring" appears a bit more diffuse... "softened" if you will. Averted vision brings out the dark center, and as a whole, even with direct vision, it is a pleasing sight!
Back to Mars now... and it is exciting to see how the features have rotated in just a short time! Time to take a break for a bit... let the constellations move in their inexorable path!
When I return, Mars sits due south. Flanked on either side by the beautiful Scorpius and Saggitarius... the arch of the Milky Way is flowing straight overhead, like a silky, silver rainbow! Thoth has now come into view... and I KNOW what follows!!
Off now... Practice... to go! The M4 is a faded glory in the 4.5, but it does not disappoint me! For tonight I remember just how excited I was the very first time I found it! So I dance to the east for the M19 and M62... and rejoice in their re-discovery! (The M62 has a great core...even in the little scope!)
Now for a bit of "duck hunting"! The M11 is very pleasant to the small scope... a tiny "boomerang" of twinkling stars with a great one on point! And as I drift south along the "river", the M27 rivets my attention. Here is where I am at a loss for words. There is a "quality" about this planetary that I don't entirely understand... and the 4.5 does NOT diminuish it one iota! I watched in fascination for the longest time... both direct and averted. What a magnificent mystery!!
On to Saggitarius... It would belabor my report to go on and on about the riches that lay there. Sure, I would need a map to "identify" each treasure with numbers... but that does not mean that I don't know where they are! Saggitarius is a part of my heart and mind forever... You could take away my sight tomorrow, and in my memory I could tell you the beauty of the M8... the qualities of the M20 and M21... the cloud of stars the M23 holds... the graceful slash of the M17, Omega Nebula... and get a "handle" on the great globulars M22, M28, M54 and M55. It has become "part" of what is me...
Enough reflection! Time to fly upon the wings of Cygnus! (I thought about getting the map and hunting up the "blinking planetary", but not tonight, eh?) Time to revel in the riches of the Milky Way!! And follow the "road" to Cassiopeia... Once again, I cannot recite the numbers without consulation... but it doesn't stop me from hopping onto the Queen's lap and letting her ROCK me!! Even the 4.5 excels at the lovely open clusters of this contellation... and how magnificent they are too!
Now for Mars... Ah HAH! Would that just happen to be Syrtis Major? ;) You know it! What other feature could cut through like that!! The "saw tooth" shape is so dark, that it's readily apparent, even with the 25mm lens!
The Moon came up some time ago... and I've ignored it long enough. It wasn't hindering the rest of the sky... just hanging out patiently in the east, waiting on it's turn. Plato... is the word for tonight. On the terminator, what appears featureless and vacant in direct light, takes on monumental change with the advent of shadow! Interior features spring up... walls take on character... and a deep shadow graces the floor. Don't ever pass on the Moon... not even Mars is so willing to share itself as Selene...
And Mars? Oh, you know I've got to look one more time!!! Yep! Syrtis Major!!! (this is just too cool, ya' know it? ;)
"Come lay beside me... under wicked skies! Black of day, and dark of night... We'll live this paradise. The door cracks open, and there's no Sun shining through. If you can understand me... I can understand you. Or are you unforgiven, too? What I've felt... and what I've known... so sick and tired of being alone. Could you be there? Because I'm the one who waits for you... Or are you unforgiven, too?"
Comments: At 4:30 a.m the skies had cleared enough for me to visit with my night time companions. So, armed with a cup of coffee and the 4.5, and went to go have breakfast with the sky!
Mars has dipped into the western horizon at this time. It wriggled... it jiggled... it giggled... it laughed... it teased... it did everything but hold still!! I could see surface markings, but never long enough to identify them! Displeased? Oh, heck no! For at least I can say that I did get to look at Mars just hours before its' opposition... and perhaps tonight it will come out to play!
The Moon was next, and it's view was perfectly steady. Copernicus was excellent this morning, and Plato is beginning to show some definition, but I found the most arresting feature to be the Appenine Mountains... In stark relief, they cut across the lunar surface... resplendent in shadow detail and highlight. A truly magnificent feature!
Then along came Venus. And it is grand! Nearing 50% phase, and quite mocking the Moon once again, our solar system "neighbor" displayed its' natural self to be as hard to look at as Mars! (Oh, we really should get these two together! What fun that would be!)
"The door cracks open... but there's no sun shining through. If you can understand me... I can understand you! Or are you unforgiven too?"
Comments: Hot today... really hot. 92 and humid. Occasionally the Sun would peek through the clouds, and you know I had to...
The solar surface is riddled with sunspots at the moment! I counted 42 of the dark little devils... simply because I didn't know where to begin!! As with all observations, the longer you look, the more you see... and the area around the southern pole is showing depression and stress lines. Perhaps gearing up toward another CME?
After sunset came a balmy night... time for a swim, eh? Nestled in the clearing of a grove of ornamental trees, the pool was the place to be. And swimming at night is a favorite of mine... It was every bit of eleven o'clock... time for most sane people to have retired for the evening... but who said I was sane? ;) And as I swam, the night sky came out in all its' glory. The bright stars of Ursa Major... the open arms of Virgo... the punctuation of Scorpius... the delicate configuration of Lyra... the tracery of Hercules... the circlet of Corona Borealis... the "Swan" flying along the horizon...and the beacon of Mars... Just watching the satellites scurry around the sky, and the planes flying toward their exotic locales... You know I am drawn. But, here in the water I am free. As weightless as space... as graceful as the stars above me. And so I remain. Until the soft clouds fold around the scene and bid me goodnight.
"Feeling fine.... I walk down the line. From the rain... a cold trickle. Then warm sunshine... And you, my friend. I will defend! And if things change? Well, I'll love you anyway! And everyday there's something hits me oh-so cold... I'm finally sitting by myself... No excuses that I know..."
Comments: The clouds are back again. I guess I can't complain. I've had two great days of viewing... what more can I ask for? (Slower growing grass wouldn't be out of the question, would it?) So, as I attended to some of my outdoor chores, I noticed we were getting a slice of sunshine!! Let's take a break, ok?
Wow! The Sun looks as if it has been buckshot!! It was so peppered with spots, I had a difficult time deciding which to concentrate on! And they were all so varied!!! From dark to diffuse... dispersion fields to pinpoint... they were simply everywhere!! Thirty-three of them.... to be precise!
And darkness still brought clouds... so I thought to "tune up" the Spring Challenge... and when I'd had enough, wouldn't you know it? Mars was out! (Sure. It would have been simpler to just say it was totally cloudy, but how could I pass up Mars?) So I set the 4.5 out for a look see...
The soft haze that eradicated the less stars brought wonderful stability to planetary views. Using the 9mm and the barlow brought Mars up close and personal! It looks like a scoop of caramel swirl ice cream... with the soft curves of Cimmerium and Tyrrenum curling across the surface. A bite of Utopia... for the eye!
"It's okay. Had a bad day? My hands are bruised from breaking rocks all day. I'm trained in blue... but I'm happy for you! Look at me funny... and you'll see I'm laughing too! Cuz' everyday there's something hits me oh-so cold. I'm finally sitting by myself. No excuses that I know..."
Comments: (Who... me? Take advantage of the sky? Never! ;) Duty calls tonight, but I've learned my way around that! Solution: Go to bed amazingly early... like mid-afternoon, so I've time to chase the stars! A bit of trickery? You bet! Tonight there was a "Plan"... a real "Plan" mind you... one with every intent and purpose of focusing on a single constellation! And tonight, it was Ophiuchus...
In the southern region, we begin at Sabik, and drop the field to the southeast to capture the NGC6356 globular. This one resolves well, and contains a bright "football" shaped core area, and a delightful chain of stars to one side! Now, hop again to the southwest to net the M9... This is one TERRIFIC globular! Containing handfuls of yellow and blue components, the very stars about the area seem "drawn" into it! There are several chains of bright stars... with enough doubles, triples and quartets to please any eye! Very bright, the cluster full of varying magnitudes and sizes is an exceptional target! Hop south, and fade east to gather in the NGC6342. Nestled in a "box" of four bright stars, this globular is small, and has a triangular core region. The outer edges resolve quite well, and contain many doubles and triples! Continuing on our southeast trajectory, just below the ecliptic is the NGC6401. A globular of loose structure, it has a strange core... it looks like a slash of light! Surrounded by doubles, it was a difficult "hunt", but very worthy.
Hop west now, and just above Omicron we find the NGC6325. Tis' a dim fellow, containing no real nucleas, but it does resolve well... and is home to several decent triples. Take a hop north west, and directly on the ecliptic plane is the NGC6287. Very loose in structure, this globular appears as a series of overlapping doubles, with a hazy, grainy central region. Let the scope fall due south now, and capture the NGC6284. An unusual globular, this one. It central region is quite dense, but instead of being "haloed" by stars, this one looks like a "pinwheel" formation! It is very worth a look, just because of its' strange structure! Keep drifting south... and you will find the M19. Very blue in color, it has the strange appearance of being "flattened" or "squeezed" together, if you will. It's grainy right to the core, and brighter than most, containing "filament-like" chains of stars, and a nice yellow triple! A worthy Messier.... Now let's dance to the east, and call on the NGC6293 to be our partner. This one has an irregular central region, with many bright resolvable stars at the edges... those high wattage doubles! (Swing your partner, round and round...)
"So I just keep on looking to the east... Ohohoh... yeah, yeah... China Grove!" (couldn't resist, eh? ;)
And in the east we find the NGC6355... this one is a "soft core" star! Yep... it's loose. There are many bright central stars, but its' feature is a collection of doubles.
So, let's hustle west to Theta (a decent orange double, by the way... easy split... components are the same size! :) and dip south for the NGC6316... and back up to Theta... and back south... and up... and down... (Oh my! This one IS a bit of a challenge!) When at last the NGC6316 was (ahem!) identified, I had a hard time believing this was classed as a globular! To me it appeared as a pin-point of concentration... an overlapping of stars in a field that only slightly gathered toward the center. And south of it... the NGC6304. Whose general appearance is that of a lost nucleas, sitting in a field of stars waiting on company! Let's go for one a bit more exciting, ok? Sweep the scope southwest, (or go the the M19, and drop due south, if you prefer...) and collect the M62. Ahhhh... this is more like it! The M62 is a "true" globular. A nice, dense core... totally unresolvable, surrounded by stars that can... fielded by the grainy ones that make you want an even LARGER scope! This absolutely "stellar" Messier object resembles a "gone to seed" dandelion... comprised of stars! (Yeah, baby!)
Now... I feel like being "difficult" just one more time before I go have some fun. Let's track down the NGC6440. This globular borders on Saggitarius, and is best found by knowing where the M23 and M9 are... then making a shallow triangle with the NGC6440 as the southern-most point. It's tight... it's compact! Only the edges show definintion... but this one is... very, very globular! (and we like 'em well defined! ;)
So fly me away to Mars!! (Because all work and no play would make "the astronomer" a very dull person, indeed...) What's this, then? It would seem that the key player of the night skyshow has a co-"star"! Apparently, we be drifting into a field.. (Psssst! The M8 is still there! No one's going to rise to the bait, huh? I mentioned that for very a obvious reason!
Retrograde motion stopped some time ago... and we're heading right back toward Scorpius, where I first saw it months ago! It made me laugh then... because I couldn't figure out why there were two Antares... until I looked at it! ;) Anyway... Mars is fairly featureless tonight. It would appear that Syrtis Major has rotated away. It is possible that it is on the limb, but my guess is that it is probably the Libya area, bordered by the Tyrrhenhum Mare, that I'm viewing... simply because it lacks the rich contrast of Syrtis. And I assume the other darkened area to be Thoth. (I thoth I thaw a puddy tat! Co'mere Msr. puddy tat... I won't hurt you. Much... ;)
And seeing as how I still have a bit of play time left before work, I asked Saggitarius for the next dance... for I know that tune in my heart, and all the steps in my memory. It makes for a very pleasant playmate!! (Hurry back now, hear?)
Since the Moon has decided to hang out with me for the moment, might as well "sit a spell" with this one too! (I really do enjoy the quality of light during this phase... it makes it so... so different!) Atlas and Hercules... the "men of legends"... are very well defined by the shadows... (and i do like hanging out in the shadows!) As is another favorite "gentleman" of mine... Aristotle! A delightful adventure into the night...
"It's alright. There comes a time... When you've got no patience, but search for peace of mind. Laying low... Want to take it slow? There's no more hiding from the sky... and the truth I know. Everyday there's something hits me oh-so-cold... I'm finally sitting by myself. No excuses that I know..."
Comments: How wonderful it was to see the Sun again today! I am always pleased to visit with it. Although the sunspot activity has not changed greatly since yesterday... it is so GOOD to see it! (Good enough to pull the old redwood lounger out into my favorite site, to nap... and soak up a bit of radiation!!)
The sky remained perfectly clear all day... and by the time the sun has set, I am anxious to be observing again! Tonight I need a bit of play time, and what better place to do so that in the Coma/Virgo galaxy field!! Hey... I know it's not "scientific". But it delights me so! Stopping to examine this one... racing past another one... having a bit of a game with one that interests me... passing over the ones that don't! Time to simply laugh... and let the dob and my imagination wander free!! (But not as "silly" as you might think, eh? For I've been below Spica again... and took a walk through to Corvus! :) A sense of sobriety returns when I reflect on the M104. It is magnificent. There is a certain "living" quality to the "Sombrero". Like a holograph... it feels like I can reach into it with my eyes. Ephemeral... Ethereal... The dark dust lane can only truncate the transparent quality of this amazing galaxy... As always, it leaves me "stupified"!
Time to "pour faire aimer dans la nuit"...
The M3 and M5 are merely a pass over. (Yes... I am a creature of habit. But one who takes great satisfaction from Practice! ;) Tonight we shall study the M10. Like a halo, resolvable stars are held captive by the bright core. Instinctively, we assume the word "core" to mean "central"... but that is not the case with the M10! Some where in its' cosmic formation, it would seem that the embryo slipped a bit to the southwest side! The M12 is also right in this area... and it is lovely! A globe of thousands of tiny points of light... with just a few "show-offs" in the crowd! Spectacular! Now for more target practice... the M4 and the M80. (The M80 is a bit of a challenge, eh? It's so tiny!) Now... let's get things out in the "open", shall we? And take a look at the M7. Much like the M44, the M7 contains a great many dim stars that are beyond the reach of the smaller scope... and it seems to hint at more? (What do you think.. maybe a 16" next time? ;) The M6 is fairly sparse... but it does have a very colorful orange star within it! It's beauty is that it is an asterism... for it is known as the "Butterfly Cluster"!
(WOW! Did you SEE that??!! A terrific meteor just slashed through the sky... from Lyra to Corvus!! Moving slow... and sporting a VERY long lasting trail! TOO COOL!)
Impresive... now I'm having a hard time not scanning for another one! But, its time for more Practice... the M13. (What can you say but, "totally awesome!" No other globular does it like this one! Ready for the M92? It's a very "concentrated" globular... small, yes! But packed with power... possessing a unresolvable nucleas that delights the eye! Now for the M51... Ahhhhhh... What can I say?
On to Cor Caroli... and a hop up to capture the miniscule M94. A bit of magnification helps with this one... although not much! It will serve to show you that there is a slight semi-circular brightning contained within it... like a teasing smile! Now on to the M53... a nice, dense globular. It does really resolve very well, but it does have a thick interior... a true globular. Now for the M64. Like a "tear drop" on the face of the night... it bears scars of its' own. For it's dark dust lane gives rise to the name "Blackeye Galaxy"! (And, you know... I'd hate to see its' opponent!!)
Now for Lyra... The M57 is outstanding. The delicate "ring" sets well in a rich field of stars... some of which are embedded in the planetary itself. Heartbreakingly beautiful, magnification serves it well... It is truly like a frozen "smoke" ring... formed by a cataclysm... left for us to gaze upon in awe! And the M56... eh. It's ok... It does resolve a bit. Not much bigger than a star, this tiny dense cluster is just another point on the map. (Much like the village in which I live!) Blink... and it's gone!
Let's go "deep" just one more time, ok? (I need it so!) And head for the "wing tip" of Cygnus. I stumbled upon this one, quite by accident... and I've been taken with it ever since. The NGC6940... Go look. It somehow resembles the M67 to me... and I am very fond of THAT open cluster too! Take the time.... This cloud of beautiful stars waits for you....
Now, Mars calls... and I can see the beginnings of moonrise. Let's study a bit, ok? Syrtis Major is a dark wedge on the suface... one that take very little time to pick up on! As I watch through the ebb and flow of our own atmosphere... Hellas Basin becomes prominent. No, it does not masquerade as a polar cap... for the light shine is different! And time reveals the marbled structure of other surface features... It makes me happy... just to stand here and watch it! For of all the times I have chased Mars... it's never been this BIG!
Sweet la Lune sings a siren song.... shall I answer? (Only if it likes rock and roll, eh?) Well, hey... it is a rock!! Now let's roll it over and see what is prominent tonight!!! (ssssssh.. we've company. quiet now.... aw! it's ok...only a 'possum! wanna' have some fun? watch this... ssssst! ranger... sic 'em!!! LOL! passed flat, dead out, didn't it?! you know, it will be at least a half hour before it wakes up.... we could always put it in the neighbor's pick-up truck! ;) No? Ok.. then.... back to the Moon. The terminator cuts Crisium directly in half tonight, severing the curved quality it possesed last night. Cleomides must have very high walls indeed, because it is filled with shadow!! Ah... it was an excellent night! But I tire...
Come now... let's go to bed.
"Never cared for what they say... Never cared for games they play... Never cared for what they know... But, I know. So close, no matter how far.... Couldn't be much more from the heart! Forever... trust in who we are. And nothing else matters..."
Comments: The (gasp!) Sun actually made an appearance today!! It was almost frightening to see it again... because it had been so very long! (And, of course you know, I had to go look... ;)
The surface is teeming with sunsport activity... there are at least a dozen areas of varying size! They are strewn across the solar surface like a handful of a child's jacks... (and when you're seeking threesies and foursies, go to the northwest quadrant!) making the view most intriguing. Some have the soft "dispersion field" about them, and the one toward northern limb shows bright "distress" lines! What a pleasure...
The clouds passed back and forth all day, but by sunset I could tell that I was going to have clear sky (and a race against the Moon) tonight! Forget the 4.5 for now... I'm beyond ready to use the dob again! And pacing the yard... waiting for dark.
As soon as my "marker" stars appeared in Leo, the galaxy hunt began. Gemini has quite gone from my favorite area, and the "Lion" is chasing behind! So first off, the NGC2903. This is a delicious spiral galaxy... the sweep of its' arms is outstanding, and studded with knots of stars! (It reminds me very much of another galaxy I have in mind for tonight!) Onward... the field about the M105, NGC3384, NGC3389, M96 and M95 is less impressive, but I am delighted to have the opportunity to see it! Now for the M65 and M66... bright and tiny, they beg for a bit more magnification! So, I complied... The increase in power helped to highlight the dark areas in the M66, and just a "bump" brought the NGC3628! Slim and dim, describes it well...
(Racing against the Moon, astronomer... hop to it!)
Now for Virgo... I would have loved to practice the "fall" lines once again, but the constellation has moved so quickly to another position! (Ah well, a bit of change does us all good, doesn't it? ;) I rejoice to see the "Field of Dreams" once again! Having returned to the 32mm - 2", the area of the M86, M84, M100 and its' NGC companions is very fulfilling. I can feel myself wanting to stay there for far too long, bouncing my gaze from galaxy to galaxy, reveling in their "now here... now gone" game! (Ah, but even I sometimes surrender myself to "discipline"... and there are more I wish to see!) Let's hop over to the M85 now, take in its' bright elliptical shape, and head for the pairing of NGC4302 and NGC4298. Like a "bat and ball" this pair of galaxies is a study in differences. The 4298 is a globe of soft light, with no real definition, but the 4302 is an excellent streak of light, cut through with a dark dust lane! (Keep going... time is short!) Now for the M61, also a fine spiral, but a pass over for the NGC4216. Oh yeah! A bright, long streak of stellar light... and one VERY fine edge-on!! Still husting a bit, I head for the M98... gave it a pass over and on toward the NGC4178. Fantastic! A great edge-on presentation.. the core is the best part of this one... "like a streak of light", (having a hard time NOT reciting the "Spiderman Theme" here!) it cuts through its' mid-section, making it one of the finer galaxies of Virgo!
(Rock on, now...)
No Moon yet. Mars has well risen, and I know its' "amant brilliant" is not far behind! Expediency has become the password for the night... and though I long to capture the fields through Corvus and the great stuff overhead, I shall adhere to "The Plan", eh?
Next up... Ursa Major! On deck, and hitting with a .396 average for terrific galaxies, it steps up to the plate. M97... Strike One! (The "Owl" is in the great pine behind me tonight... telling me for all he's worth not to waste time!) The wind-up... the pitch... It's a hit! And a double at that... from the eastern side yard, the M81 and M82 are still quite achievable! So we've players at first and second now... (The pitcher glances over the shoulder at the brightning skyline... someone's trying to steal!!) The wind-up... the pitch... a hard fast ball straight up the line... WHACK! It's going... it's going... it's GONE!! A HOME RUN!! The M51 is simply amazing... All other spirals can only be relagated to comparison! The sweep of its' arms is sheerly majestic!! The knots and clusters buried within them give it a texture like none other. It unfurls itself quite willingly... for those who seek, need only ask! And holding on to it, the NGC5194 shares the sky... (The score? 3 to 1... but the game is not over yet, is it? ;)
Mars... your time has come. Let's see what you have for me tonight! (Oh, my... why did I take so long to turn the dob loose on this one?!) It is most definately time to switch eyepieces... (you would get a charge out of watching this process... the moment I take out the 32mm and start to switch over to the 1.25 format, the 4 lb. counterbalance takes over, and the scope sweeps itself up, up and away!!) Come back here now... time for some study! (Science, remember? Make a comprehensive sketch... and compare with surface feature maps...) Guess what? It's Syrtis Major... and Hellas Basin, underlined by Iapigia! Seated comfortably upon the step ladder, I'm in no rush now. The tracery of the other features have captivated me! Isidis Regio, boundaried by Thoth and Nilosyrtis... Am I right? Am I wrong? Do I really care? (well, yeah! kinda'... :) The view from the 12.5 on Mars is overwhelming... and it doesn't particularly excel at planetary! No wonder your sketches are so awesome, Mr. Wizard!! I would almost be tempted to seek a Mak for its' precision! (By the way? Has anyone seen the M8 lately? It doesn't seem to be where I left it last!)
Like the Phoenix, the Moon rises... It sings its' own special song, and I'm here to harmonize. I follow along with the craters and rays... (and oh yes, it does render the surrounding sky a deep, black velvet!! Fascinating...) Mare Crisium looks taut, almost shiny! And within lies three curious, small dark craters, like the fingerholes in a bowling ball! Cleomides, Geminus, Burkhardt and Masala look especially fine tonight... the shadow play does them justice!! Burkhardt has one VERY dark area that ROCKS!
Now, for some clusters before the sky becomes washed with light... old favorites (like pizza) that satisfy the "need to feed"! The M3, the M5 and the M13 are soul food... (No! Not clouds again! Sigh...) That does it... Scorpius is gone now!
Although I'm not much for doubles, I do enjoy the colorful ones! So, before the sky is covered for the night... Cor Caroli holds court in the west, delightfully counterpointed by it's twin, Albeiro to the east! Dubhe? (Just to see if I can...) Soft yellow, with a bright point of blue right next to it! Epsilon Lyrae? Eh... Yeah, it's cool. They touch one another... but there's nothing wrong with that! Gamma Delphini? Sweet... a bit more seperation here... yellow primary with a close, blue companion... (Ah Man! Now the west is gone! I've time for one more...) Ras Algethi... WOW! Much tighter! All it needs is a yellow one in the center and we'd have a cosmic traffic light overhead!!) I am quite content for now... the sky has given me a dose of lovin'! It pats me on the head, and tells me to put away my toys now... 'tis time for bed. And I shall carry it with me... in my heart and mind, until the dreams come for me at last.
"So close... no matter how far. Couldn't be much more from the heart! Forever... trust in who we are. And nothing else matters... Trust, I seek. And I find in you... Everyday for us, something new! Open wide for a different view! And nothing else matters... Never opened myself this way... Life is ours, we live it our way! And all these words, I don't just say. And nothing else matters..."
"All the times, I've felt like this won't end... was for you. And I taste what I could never have... it's from you."
"Lightning crashes... the angel opens her eyes. Pale blue colored eyes..."
Comments: Racing cloud cover hides the face of the Moon over and over, again. But tonight, I need to be in the backyard. I need to seek the solace of the night. And, when I am allowed, in need to talk with La Luna...
Tonight, she is heartbreakingly close to full. One of my favorites, Grimaldi Crater sets well beyond the terminator... so I take myself there. It is a quiet area of contemplation... very smooth and featureless... much like Plato. I am poignantly reminded of this crater's namesake. We have much in common, Grimaldi and I... The painted smile belying the tear that hides behind the eye... Tis' enough for now... The endless days of clouds have made me far too moody! Perhaps it's time to follow the sage advice of Ben Franklin... "Beer is proof that there is a God. And that He loves us, and wants us to be happy!" And so I drink a toast (or two, eh? ;) to the sky!
Perhaps one of these days I shall learn to love the clouds as well...
"Nights in white satin... Never reaching the end. Letters I've written... Never meaning to send. Beauty I've always missed... With these eyes before. Just what the truth is? I can't say anymore. Because I love you.... Yes, I love you.... Oh, how I'll love you...."
Comments: Ahhhhhhhh..... A bit of sky! I don't mind the Moon. Just shy of full, it presents a wonderful picture in the eyepiece! Keplar crater is absolutely striking, it is so bright... it piques my curiousity to know why it is so! Is there a different soil around this region? Was it formed differently? What makes it so? (Something fun to explore on a rainy day. And there plenty of them coming up.. again!) Sure, it's bright! Achingly so... But who could not look upon the barren vista and not be impressed by Tycho? As I've said, I don't mind the Moon...
And when I rise to start my day, Mars and Venus beckon from the windows. When something shows that well from the interior, you know is simply cannot go back to bed while I wait on my coffee...
Mars is still outstanding. Even in the restricted view of the 4.5, it is being bi-sected by a stretch of dark plane that I assume to be Schiaparelli... for the view looked much like this: The polar cap is still "soft"... but the light from Mars is hard, and the edges of the globe itself cut cleanly through the morning sky!
And what of the M8? I looked for it, only to find the familiar star pattern, and nothing else. The sky simply refuses to yield up my favorites this morning, but I shall not be angry. I am always delighted to "dance with the planets"!
And Venus... oooooh la la!! How can anyone miss this intense point of light in the east? It dominates the skyline!!! For sheer magnitude, it has Mars running for cover! Still holding a nice 40% phase... and grandstanding the dawn!
"Early in the morning... I rise into the street..."
"It's been awhile..."
Comments: Will this weather ever end? How I tire of the continual clouds! Even people who don't pay that much attention to the sky have noticed... passing cliched comments, and adding to the general depression. (Quite frankly, I am running out of rain songs!!)
But for the Patient, come rewards... As always, the sky clears before the end of night... and about 2:30 a.m., the clouds rolled back, revealing the bright globe of the Moon. (Thank heavens I crashed hard right after work! I laughingly wonder why? ;) My rest had done me credit, and I am ready...
No sketches tonight... just peaceful contemplation. The silver light of the Moon kept me company as I traveled to that distant world. The rugged Southern Highlands were captivating... the great peaks and valleys, a most disturbing area really, with all its' towering shadows and sharp features.. So I let myself seek out the counterpoint of the north. The shift in light has flattened Plato, making it an outlined disc, devoid of detail... a blank, loveless eye... forever looking back toward the Earth. The majesty of Copernicus has also succumbed to the encroaching light... robbing it of character... but the shift in perspective does credit to other things. The delicate circlet of the walls of the Sinus Iridum were in the highlight... although the terminator has moved beyond them. Like an alcove of serenity, its' sea lay frozen for all eternity. What a lovely area this is! So calm...
And what of Mars? (How can I look upon the sky and not visit that angry red light in the south?) Even though it still sits in a fine haze, causing the planet to gain and lose magnitude as I view, Mars sits remarkably steady in the eyepiece. The polar cap is small, but brightening again... underscored by a fantastic area of darkness that cuts through even with the least amount of magnification!! (Mr. Wizard, your sketches and reports do you great credit! It is perfect... I cannot do better myself! And so, since you have my back so well covered, I will breathe a sigh of relief that one of us has captured its' science fact so well! May I go play now? ;)
A brush over the M4 and the M8 tells me that I had best do any deep sky viewing as far away from the setting Moon as possible. So how about Casseopeia? The M103 shows fairly well.. Flanked by two bright stars, this small open cluster offers and modicum of resolution to the 4.5. (Just enough to make me want more!!) So while we're in the "neighborhood"... why not look up a couple? The NGC663 contains more than a dozen resolvable yellow stars, overlaying the background of many more. Significantly larger than the M103, it is a fine open cluster... and makes me wonder how Messier missed this one too! And speaking of that... how did he pass over the NGC457?? It is so.. so obvious! Spread out like wings, the double handful of varying stars is a bit of "eye candy"! Now for the tiny wedge of NGC637... This flattened triangle of a cluster contains three highly resolvable stars that highlight each "point".
One more, ok? Then we'll call it a night. So let's go for the grandest of the Casseopeian clusters... the NGC7789. (Now I REALLY wish I had brought out the dob!) The NGC7789 is a large field of grainy light, uniformly distributed from end to end, and flanked by several pairs of shy doubles. Using averted vision, pinpoints of light began to emerge from this "cloud" of stars... giving me that "deep sky" fix I so long for!
Satiated for the moment, I simply view the night. It is my l'amour... my companion... The clouds are beginning to whisper once again...
"You there... alone in the dark... shadows sinking into you. You're so afraid... of everything. Is there nothing left for you?"