Observing Reports ~ March 2001

Observing Reports ~ March 2001

March 31, 2001 - (8:00 a.m.) The Sun! (9:00 -10:30 p.m.) The Moon...

Comments: Got a very lucky break between the clouds this morning, and grabbed the opportunity to view the latest "buzz" in solar activity... sunspot AR9393! This picture is from Space Weather, (my own won't be back from the developers for days yet!) and gives a fairly accurate rendition of what you can see through the scope! (if you don't have a solar filter, i urge you to get one... you'll never regret it!) The detail that you see is absolutely incredible!! (and how very pleased i am that one of my friends has had the opportunity to view the aurora borealis! YEAH! way to go, barbour!)

Now... how about the Moon? Cloudy skies eventually give way to hazy skies, and very stable seeing conditions. There was a target I had in mind tonight... and I was not disappointed! Like a deep gash on the face of the Moon, the Alpine Valley lay at the very edge of the terminator. Once the Sun has passed beyond its' domain, all that remains is dark, impenetrable scar tissue...

Mt. Hadley, and the Apollo 15 landing site is quite an outstanding feature. Well lit, the Apennine Mountain Range displays fantastic height and dimension with high magnification. Ariadaeus and Hyginus rilles are an added attraction, while crater Hipparchus is pleased to display its' orafice-like inner crater to shadow play. The Southern Highlands are alway a delight, with all of its' impact craters leaving one to wonder and contemplate the mysteries of the Moon...

"Look in my heart, look in my soul... I get stupified!"  

March 30, 2001 - (4:50 a.m.) Meteors!

Comments: The moment I stepped out on the deck this morning, my first thought is "What the $%^&! star is THAT?". Before I could even drop my coffee cup, I realized I had just gotten treated to a great bolide, and stood laughing as I watched the sparkling trail disintegrate across the sky!

The rest of the view was hazy, (only the zenith remained relatively clear) so it was my pleasure to "breakfast" on the morning show! Five more terrific streaks followed over the next half hour or so, loosely radiating from Lyra. The ground fog is creeping in as the sun rises, but I'll take meteors over oatmeal any day!

And a good thing I got up early, because the clouds have returned to my little corner of the world!  

March 29, 2001 - Cloudy day... just enough hazy sunshine to cast the faintest of shadows to allow a teasing glimpse of the latest intense sunspot activity. No discernable detail, but I could see well enough through the cloud cover to wish it were clear!  

March 28, 2001 - (5:15 a.m.) Saggitarius... (8:30 p.m.) at the "Star Party"... The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn.

Comments: This morning I just felt like embracing Saggitarius... no rules, no numbers, no game plans. The sweep of stars, clusters and nebulae that dominate this constellation touch me like no other... When I need solace and inspiration, it is there for me... What more can I say?

Although the clouds blocked out most of the sky, we enjoyed moderate success in "tuning in" the others to the Moon, Jupiter (all four moons in a nice, neat line that anyone could understand!) and the fabulous rings of Saturn. My sincere thanks go to Mr. Dan Everly for sharing a delightful evening with me at "The Mt. Gilead Star Party"... I look forward to joining you at the Warren Rupp Observatory in the near future!!

"Here you come to take me away! You're all that I needed... I don't breathe another..."  

March 27, 2001 - (4:00 - 5:30 a.m.) M6, M7, M8, M21, M23, M25, M11 and Mars. (8:00 - 10:00 p.m.) the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, M101, M109, M108, M81, M82, M51, M94, M3, M64, M65, M66, M95, M96, M105, NGC3389, NGC3384.

Comments: "Open Hunting Season" this morning! Clouds still block and north and west... but the south is MINE! Time to practice on the open clusters... The M6 and M7 in Scorpius are not the most outstanding of targets, but the 32mm makes these open clusters a fine sight! The M8 is part of the "Lagoon Nebula", as the M21 is part of the "Trifid"... (and you know I can't go into Saggitarius without looking! ;-) The M23 is delightfully dense, and although the M25 appears sparse in the 32mm, the 17mm brings out a tiny triple, and one of the brighter magnitude stars is haunted by two small companions of its' own!

Now... do you suppose I remember where the M11 is at? Hmmmm... could be! (Oh, look! The M27! Now who do you suppose left THAT there? Oooops! And that darn M17 seemed to get in the way, too... ;-) Now, there it is! This year's first look at the M11, "Wild Duck" cluster. Its' dense little "flying V" in the sky was worth the trip into the cold. At the point of the "V", the lead star in the group was easily resolved, along with several others along the wedge. What can I say, besides this open cluster is absolutely AWESOME!!

Now for a fast pass over Mars, (because those clouds are threatening again!) who is still reluctant to yield up any wealth of detail at the moment! What a terrific way to relax and enjoy my time away from work! Maybe later? Nah... I'll just jinx myself! (kitty, kitty?)

Meow! Lucked out! Started with the slim crescent Moon, that yielded up a positively outstanding view of Mare Crisium. The terminator was right on the edge of the wall, offering outstanding shadow play! Next came Saturn, and a nod at its' sattelites, then on to Jupiter (who is even farther into a starfield) with all moons present and accounted for... (the "siamese twins" switched sides tonight!) And, as much as I hated to, I had to turn my back on that part of the sky, to pursue another.

Ursa Major came first... with the M101. Very diffuse, it appeared more readily with lower power, as was the case with the M109. Almost "nebula like" there is only a hint of the brighter galactic core. The M81 gave greater satisfaction with the 17mm, with hints of clusters at the edges, and two distinct ends of the spiral arms. The M82's elongated shape was a pleasant change of pace, but really didn't have a great amount of definition.

The M51 was next... and you know what that one looks like! (yeah... WOW!) So let's pass on its' detail and head for the M94. At a lower power, it could be mistaken for a small globular, but take a whack at it with a 10mm and you will see a definate concentration of stars that faintly resemble a smile!

Now for a pass over the M3... staring with resolvable stars at the outer edge, it draws the eye inward toward the nucleas, where it becomes so dense that it becomes impossible to pick apart! And another hop brings us to the M64. This "egg shaped" galaxy also resembles an elongated globular cluster, and took the 10mm to just barely reveal the dark dust lane.

Leo is next... and back to the 32mm. I enjoy seeing the pair off of the M65 and M66 in the same field of view. But, I must admit, when bumping up to 17mm, the tiny "thread" of light coming from the southern edge of the M66 is quite exciting! The M95 and M96 are a delightful spiral pair, quite similar to one another... wispy at the edges and concentrated toward the center. Now, for the "Trio", the M105, NGC3384 and NGC3389. (Hairballs, anyone?!) The M105 looks like a fuzzy globular... one that defies resolution. The 3384 is somewhat more elongated, and shows a hint of brightness at the center, and the 3389? Just a basic scratch of light...

Virgo is hanging out in the branches of the owl's domain at the moment, so I guess we'll just sacrafice a virgin another night! ;-)

"Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies..."  

March 26, 2001 - (3:00 - 5:45 a.m.) M4, M80, M19, M62, M10, M12, M13, M92, M57, M54, M55, M22, M28, M20, M8, M17, M27, and Mars. (8:30 - 11:30 p.m.) Jupiter, Saturn,M45, M36, M37, M38, M42, M41, M81, M82, and M51.

Comments: Near zero temperatures make for excellent early morning skies! (And crunching through snow drifts make for cold feet... brrrrrrr!) Started with the great globulars in Scorpio and Ophiuchus first. I love to compare how very much they all differ from one another... and how they all pale in comparison to the M13! I never tire of them... some are small and compact, (M80, M28, M54, M92) others are loose and well defined, (M80, M12, M19) some are concentrated at the center, (M10, M62, M28, M92) but for sheer "candle power"... none can compare to the M13! Now, a quick peek and "The Ring" to keep my skills sharp, and in to warm up!

I returned about an hour or so later to take in the great nebulae of Saggitarius before the dawn chased me out... the Swan, (looking all for the world like a glow-in-the-dark Nike Swoosh in the sky!) the Trifid, (with its' high and low areas of concentration), the Lagoon, (with it's safe harbor for its' bright central stars) and (for the first time THIS year....) the Dumbbell! (Perhaps we share something in common? I delight in this bright little planetary!). Dawn is coming... and I've lost my chance at the "Wild Ducks"... but Mars doesn't suffer from the lightening skies. Still no hint of the polar ice caps, but the dark maria make it look like a dirty red marble in the sky! With luck, the clear skies will hold for later...

And you know the law... (Murphy's, that is!) But, I did enjoy some success by exercising patience and shooting between periods of cloudiness and clarity. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch Io as it came out of transit. By 8:40 it had cleared the edge of the planet enough to be easily distinguished, and 8:50 had it clearly seperated from Jupiter. (On a amusing note, two of the other moons were playing "siamese twins" tonight!) Saturn was it's usual awe-inspiring self, with two of its' major moons grandstanding, while the trio teases at resolution! And in the clear is the M45, "Plieades". I wish I could accurately portray just how many tiny doubles and triples are hidden within this often over-looked area. (Hey... it's passe' to me too, at times... but at least it is in the clear!)

The clouds continue to roll to the east, revealing Arigura, and M36, M37 and M38. (And I best hurry, because the clouds are coming back!) The M36 is a dainty cluster, whose core area almost resembles a shuttlecock made of stars... (badmitton, anyone?) but the M37 and M38 dense fields of resolvable stars is a satifying area to visit. Now, the clouds are back...

A bit later the sky cleared again, giving me the opportunity to salivate over the M42 in the 17mm. Photographs do not do justice to the ethereal beauty of the Orion Nebula. (Someday I would love to see it spectroscopically with my own eyes!) I continue to marvel and the handful of young stars caught in the web of the nebula! (And before I get caught out by yet more clouds...) Off to the M41! I deliberately left in the 17mm because I find it quite pleasant to be able to split off the tiny red double that resides towards the edge... (and once again, the curtain is drawn!) Patience and Perserverence, right? Cool... I can do that. But I want to PRACTICE!

When yet another "hole" appeared, I took to the skies of the north, and shoot for the M81 and M82. I had to drop back to the 25mm to keep the entire galaxy in the field of view, but it paints a most satisfying picture. The M82 is a lovely soft spiral with an intense core, and its' companion, the M81 is such a contrast with its' elongated structure! Now for the M51. (ok, at the risk of being laughed out of the scientific world, the M51 resembles a "party favor"... one of those that you blow into and it unfurls? LOL!) It's coiled structure is supported by its' own dark areas, and nothing is more fascinating than the vision of star clusters residing in another galaxy!

(I was hoping to chase Eleonora through Leo once again, but the clouds are back... sigh. Time to go take a nap and look back in before the dawn!)

"Why follow me to higher ground? Lost as you think I am..."  

March 24-25, 2001 - M44, M67, M66, M65, M81, M82, M51, M53, M64, and M3.

Comments: (11:00 - 12:30 a.m.) I was delighted to have enough sky (before I go to work) to at least catch a few of the M objects in honor of the Messier Marathon weekend! (viewing conditions were not that great, but hey! I take what I can get!! ;-)

The M44 and M67 are ducking down in the west, but still offer and excellent view in the 4.5. Leo is in the prime viewing area for me at the moment, but only the M65 and M66 were worth any scrutiny tonight! Although the area of Ursa Major appeared to be more in the clear, the M51 is somewhat of a disappointment in a smaller scope, but the M81 and M82 are always a treat! The M53 and M64 are nothing more than cosmic dust balls with a limited view... but, oh my! The star concentrated area of the globular, M3 makes the journey into the cold well worth it!

(Best of luck to all my friends who are marathoning tonight! May the coffee be hot, the skies be clear, and the force be with you!)

"Tonight's the night... gonna' be alright... 'cause I love 'ya. And ain't nobody gonna' stop us now!"  

March 22, 2001 - The Sun, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, The Plieades, Orion, Sirius, Canis Major, Puppis, Arigura, and Eleonora.

Comments: SPECTACULAR sunspot activity today! Most of it was centered in the north/northwest quadrant of the solar surface... a double handful of dark, black spots (looking all for the world like oil slicks that had just been emulsified, and were breaking apart!). The "distress" lines were also very evident today (so! it is not my imagination!! ;-) The showstopper was the huge, black spot at the north pole of Sol... it looked like the "navel" on a navel orange!

Tonight, as I watched Venus slip into the horizon, it made me aware of how quickly friends can slip away... and how much we need to cherish the time we have together! So, as the twilight still dusts the horizon, and the dome of the sky has deepened to indigo... let us speak no more of numbers. No "targets" for now... Turn the stereo on, and pour some coffee. It's time for the higher powers...

Saturn has just become something incredible. It is nestled in its' ring system like a pinball in the high score cup. The limb darkening and ring/shadow play make it a dizzying orb... and the moons! Oh, the moons have leapt into view!! And, like Jupiter, give that wonderful 3D effect in their placements. The rings resemble a record album with a ball in its' center... the divisions looks like the "spaces" between the songs...

Jupiter is so bright it burns the eye. The tiny globes of the jovian moons are dancing joyously to either side. And what intense surface detail! There is no equatorial banding... the whole planet is banded in subtle shades of greys and whites!

Time to visit with the "Seven Sisters"... and all their little children! Buried deep within it lies the tiniest of red/blue doubles... and a triple star system, resembling a "tiny Triangulum", locked deep within the pale blue nebulae.

Orion! How proud you stand on the western horizon... and how indescribable are the depths of your stars! That awe-inpiring nebula... far too large to be captured in it's entirety!! At the center lies the void of the Trapezium, with its' four stars burning in crisp points... and along the side burn more powerful suns. The nebula in itself appears as frozen smoke... like silver hair suspended in the dark waters of the sky! And buried within its' living filaments new stars reveal themselves... pinpoints of light as seen through the veil of a morning fog.

Sirius! How long has it been since I looked at YOU? You literally "pulse" with light! The airy disc seems to jump from the eyepiece... with the shards of light so crisp they stab at the mesmerized eye. And below you lay a cluster.. so very filled with stars! With it's tiny red "heart" beating in the middle... stray out to the edges where a miniscule red double teases the south/eastern stellar action.

And Puppis! What a joy your clusters are! They look like FIREWORKS! Glittering... filled with stars brought into resolution! And over-laid with brighter ones that form its' familiar patterns. And behind us lay Arigura... filled with it's living jewels. Strewn across the black velvet of the sky like diamond dust!

How very profound the night can be if only you let it... I return once again to my wide field view to wave goodbye to Eleonora. I hope to catch you again, my friend. I hope to catch you again...

"I don't want to come back down from this cloud! It's taken me all this time to find out what I need..."  

March 21, 2001 - (7:30) Jupiter and Saturn, (10:15-11:00 p.m.) M81, M82, M51, M65, M66, M95, M96, "The Leo Trio" (M105, NGC3384, NGC3389), Asteroid Eleonora (!) near dim cluster of galaxies, The Virgo Cluster.

Comments: Hey... I was lucky just to see that! (there's no moon at the moment... so you know that means clouds! ;-) All four moons were present, at the time, for Jupiter (along with a "guest star"), and one for Saturn. The rest of the sky (with the exception of Sirius, Capella and Betelguese) is gone... maybe later, huh? HA! (I love how the sky can catch me so unaware! As I passed by an eastern window on my way to bed, what should I see, but Arcturus and Spica!! Now, let's throw a coat over those pyjamas and slide on some slippers, 'cause it only takes me three minutes to set up... ;-) YAHOO! I was hoping for a shot tonight, and so I have it! I started with the easiest and brightest of galaxies to help bring my eyes up to par... then off to LEO!

With practice, the M65 and M66 are a cake walk, as is the M95 and M96. And just a "bump" away is the "Leo Trio", with it's bright headliner, the M105!

Now, as grand as this field is, I've got a confimation to make... and time's awastin'! A scoot to the hindquarters of Leo brings into view a dim galaxy cluster I've been studying... and for good reason! Tonight I can confirm Asteroid Eleonora! (Hey, the galactic cluster is great... and I've all spring to research it, ok? But, for now...) It had been a long time since I chased an asteroid, and now she's mine! And below it is the open arms of Virgo... and you know I cannot resist!!! Starting with the 4.5, I found the Virgo Cluster. It's very dim, but very do-able. By going off and on the field and looking for the smudgies, it is possible to see in a smaller scope. Now, for the Great White! Intense resolution? No... but what I see in the small scope is areas of contrast change. What I see in the big scope is ovals, circles, and pencil-thin galaxies!! The spring galaxy hunt is on!!!! ;-)  

March 19, 2001 - The Moon, Mars, M4, M80, M19, M62, M6, M7, M22, M28, M8, M20, M21, M23, M25, M54, M55, M13 and M92.

Comments: (4:45 a.m.) The Moon was great this morning, shedding a deep ivory light, with the best area being the Sinus Iridum... its' curved wall sporting shadow play. But speaking of play... that IS what I came out to do! And this morning Scorpius and Saggitarius steal the show... All of those great globulars, and "rich" opens! And I was quite delighted to see that (even though the Moon was present) the nebulae of Saggitarius were still highly visible! I couldn't even stay away from Hercules when I could see such detail in the southern globulars, and the M13 and M92 were not a disappointment! (now, now... i had to stop looking at the rest of the sky, or i WOULD be lost until dawn!) Just needed a bit of comparison to the M62 in Ophiuchus... And Mars! (oh my goodness... it's high time you showed your face!) While the polar ice caps are still not evident, there is some terrific mottling of the dark maria on the ruddy globe! For now, (the astronomer really must bow my head in search of some rest...) I remain entirely sated. At least until later... ;-) Evening... (and how glad i am that i took the opportunity! warmer weather has brought back the clouds...)  

March 18, 2001 - The Moon, Mars, M3, M4, M13 and Albireo... The Sun... Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, The Plieades, The Hyades, M1, M36, M37, M38, M42, Trapezium, Flame Nebula, Horsehead Nebula, Rosette Nebula, NGC2244, M35, NGC 2158, Clownface Nebula, M50, NGC2264, NGC2261, M41, M46, M47, M93, NGC 2477, M44, M67, M81 & M82, M101, M97, M51, M94, M3, M53, M64, M65 & M66, The Leo "Trio"... first glimpse of Virgo...

Comments: (4:30 a.m.) Aaahhh... the sky has returned! Although the ivory Moon quite trashes my chance at exploring Saggitarius this morning, (which was quite lovely in itself, with Copernicus resting well to the "light" side of the terminator!) it was still quite easy to pick off the larger, brighter globulars. Mars (still defying detail!) and Antares make a beautiful showing that was quite worth getting up for! And good old Albireo... a summer "treat" (like ice cream!) while there is still snow on the ground. The show stopper for this morning was an absolute proliferation of meteors!! The radiant was loosely around Lyra, so I just capped up the scope, wrapped my paws around a cup of coffee and enjoyed! There were so many bright streaks here and there (how unexpected!) that I virtually lost count (and how "unscientific" of me, too... ;-) just enjoying the show! (And what a pleasure it was... just to see Virgo, Coma Bernices, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Scorpius and Saggitarius again!) Even Cassiopeia has climbed back over the roof of the house... Let's hope the skies hold for later!

(3:00 p.m.) Solar observance for today: A decent sized grouping of dark and diffuse sunspot activity in the southeastern area. (just good to see the sun! i would have looked even if it didn't have any spots on it...) I like how they appear as "floating patches"! If I were to say how they looked, it would be a great deal like the constellations Corona Borealis and Cassiopeia... Now, wish me luck for later!

(7:15 - 10:30 p.m.) Oh, YEAH! What a night... absolutely pristine sky. Began with Venus, the heart-breakingly slim crescent (who is not going to be with us much longer!) and on to Saturn... with both major moons visible (and the little triplets!). Then took a break, waiting on the appearance of the "Red Spot" on Jupiter. Using enough magnification to make me want to throw up, I watched it for awhile, but was game to hunt tonight! Ready for the Plieades? The Merope Nebula was delightfully evident. Just enjoyed looking at it for a while, because it will soon disappear too!

Now, off to the Hyades (just because they're there...) and the M1 (crab legs, anyone?) Now, time to step "next door" to Arigura, and have a look at those great clusters, M36, M37 and M38! And for a test of the skies... Orion. Starting with the M42, (just killer in the dob!) and the Trapezium area... (stands right out!) I tried to confirm an area I saw a few days ago, but was ready to rock and roll tonight! Forget it for now... the Horsehead Nebula was quite evident, with its' much brighter companion, The Flame. And you know if I can see this, then it's on to the Rosette, and cluster NGC2244.

Now we're into the "Twin's" territory and the M35. (For those of you who disdain my lack of numbers in my observations, I say... "Let's rock and roll!" Challenge is for the aperature impaired... ;-) OK, you've seen the M35, but have you seen the NGC2158? It's a very "globular" like cluster right in the same area! How about NGC2264? Hmmmmmm? (thanks for the tip, NK!) Guess what? The "cone" of the "Cone Nebula" is dark!! OK, let's do the M50... got it! And now for one that I've three times confirmed to myself (and another) the NGC2261... the Hubble variable nebula. It looks like a disjointed member of the Plieades... only even more blue! It's central star lacks in "airy disc" qualities... and is small and razor sharp! Absolutely excellent target... Now for the M41, to enjoy its' central red star, and off to Puppis!

(Trying to relax now, ok?) The M46 is a star "rich" cluster, next to it's "bright" playmate, the M93. And, although I've seen it before... (it's time to name it!) The NGC2477 is a field of stars! Now it really is time to relax and enjoy... the M44 was a delightful naked-eye object, and a gem in the eyepiece, as was the M67.

Turn the "Great White" around... and into Ursa Major. Mizar and Alcore... (can't resist!) then on to the M81 and M82, to sharpen the skills. Delighted in the M97, "Owl Nebula" with its' bright central star. The picked off another galaxy and on to the M51... with all of its' grandeur in a larger scope! Now... Jupiter's moon reappearances draw near... a fast shot through the jewels of Canes Venatici, and on to Leo. The M65 and M66 are target practice... as is the "Leo Trio" for now... (a greatly overrated experience) and time for a first look! Virgo has extended its' arms... I'm ready to explore those galaxies!

But... for now, it's time to return to Jupiter. The moons are about to make their reappearance, (just as scheduled) and it's Miller time.... ;-)

Great fun! Come and join me....  

March 15-17, 2001 - Plenty of rain, clouds and snow... (beginning to feel like the precipitation capital of the world!)  

March 14, 2001 - The Sun, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Cassiopeian Clusters, Perseus Double, Taurus Region, Ariguran Clusters, Orion Nebulae, Puppis Clusters, Ursa Major Galaxies, Gemini, Cancer Clusters, Monoceros Clusters, Canes Venatici, Leo Galaxies...

Comments: (4:45 p.m.) Started what looks to be a great evening with solar observance. There is still a "distressed" looking area around the southern pole, and a great grouping of sunspots near the middle! (sssssssh... it looks all for the world like the "Eiffel Tower"!) Come on skies... hold for me!

(7:15 p.m.) And indeed they did... (kitty?) Break out the dob! Starting with the fast disappearing Venus, then on to the even faster disappearing Cassiopeian clusters, M52, NGC663. and NGC457...(how lovely they are!) then quickly off to Perseus to catch the "double cluster", and touch the face of my demon... Algol.

Then a hop to the planets! Saturn sported no less than five moons tonight... with my three small friends winking at me from around the edge of the ruin rings! Then on up to Jupiter, where all four moons were visible...(wow! two of them were actually "kissing"! i had to do a "double take"... pardon the pun, because they were soooo close together!) Now for a pass over the Plieades and Hyades... then to the M1... (it looks absolutely alive in the dob!) Let's head for Arigura now... can't miss those great clusters! (how can you? two of them are naked-eye! ;-)

Now for Orion... I wish I could adequately describe to you what the M42 looks like in a 12.5... it's filled with swirls, and whorls, and filaments... the Trapezium springs to life! The Flame Nebula was outstanding, but the Horsehead and Rosette? Not tonight, my friend.

Now, who let the dogs out? The M41 looks great, I never cease to marvel at the one red star at the center... and Puppis? The M46 and M93 literally are a swarm of stars.... Now, let's go take a "dip" and hunt some galaxies... The M81 & M82 are stand outs... and the M101 and M108 are just barely visible... (as is the great "owl" nebula!) And as long as we are "perched" precariously on the step ladder, let's take in the M35, the M44 and the M67... (i'm drooling, ok?) then a sweep through Monoceros. What a delight! All of these bright star chains overlaying a denser field of faded stars... (can we live here?)

Canes Venatici is calling... the M51. (what a tease!! it's little spin-off is great, but when you avert your vision, the spiral arms are quite clear as are those haunting visions of bright clusters in another galaxy!) Now hop to Cor Caroli... (yep. still a double!) and the M94. It's cool... compact, but cool. Now how about the M3? Yeah!! That's more like it!!! Gives a whole new meaning to the word, globular! Leo is ready... let's give it a go! This region is so different from the others... there is "void" where there once was a joyous profusion!

The M65 and M66 are sweet, but the "lion" begs me to hunt! (and hunt i did!) The "Leo Trio"... what can I say besides it looked like the cat coughed up a couple of little "hair balls"! ;-)  

March 13, 2001 - Gathering rain... (good thing too, the astronomer is starting to slip gears! ;-)  

March 12, 2001 - The Moon and Mars

Comments: (4:45 a.m.) It's fascinating to see just how much the terminator on the Moon has moved in just a matter of hours! (Although Mare Serenitatis is still incredible...) The view of Mars remains indistinct, and here come the clouds! Ah well... I'm counting myself quite lucky to have enjoyed as much "air time" as I have! ;-) (and a good thing i did, too! "monsoon season" has returned.... bleck!)  

March 11, 2001 - The Moon, Sun, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Ariguran Clusters, Puppis Clusters, M41, M42, M1, M35, M44, M67, M81, M82, M94, M51, M65, M66 and rogue meteors!

Comments: (12:00 a.m.) Chasing the Moon between clouds... a very frustrating experience! (hey... it's warmer! i had to go out!) Not exactly what you would call a "clear view" but enough to see that the highlighted feature for tonight was Langrenus Crater!

(3:00-4:00 p.m.) Sun looks great! Lots of spot activity at the limbs... although my solar filter is not the greatest, you can see what looks like "cracks" on the solar surface, and the grouping of sunspots and "cracks" on the southeastern limbs actually make the edge of the sphere look "depressed"! (i imagine it's a trick of the atmosphere or something, but the sun looks flattened at that edge!).

(7:15-9:30 p.m.) Glory be! The skies actually held... Started with fast-moving Venus (who has shrunk appreciably since the last i viewed!) then on to Saturn with two moons easily picked off with the smaller scope. Tonight it was time for the heavy artillery... (let's wheel out the dob!) and a chance at Io's eclipse. No problem! 17mm plossl combined with the barlow and blue filter afforded an excellent view!! (but you know the astronomer, didn't take long before i got bored and started "surfing"!) Using the 32mm, 2" coupled with the dob, I had to drink in that dark night sky... so, rather than bore you with numbers and details, let's just say that I visited all my old "haunts" with a passion that only aperature can provide! I used both telescopes on the same targets to compare. Hey... there is no comparison.

What looks like grainy background texture in the 4.5, resolves into fields of stars with the 12.5. The M42 goes from "just a terrific nebula", to a "fantastic nebula"!... one filled with filaments and density. The M81 & 82 go from "cat's eyes smudgies" to structured galaxies!! What can I say? I'm hooked!!! Ended the session by focusing on Jupiter to watch as Io came back into view... and was delighted to have witnessed over the course of my observing time, five rogue meteors radiating from roughly the Gemini area! What a night!!

(and just for the curious out there... my "mascot" put a little payback on a certain feline! LOL!! What a "hoot"!) 8>

(10:00-10:45 p.m.) What can I say? (ooops! someone forgot to put away the little scope! ;-) The Moon is up... sporting terrific craters along the terminator line, but tonight's arresting feature was Mare Serenitatis. (pssst... it looks almost like a "blister"... it's that smooth!) and Crater Bessel. It's really amazing how much different the lunar surface looks during each phase.

Now.... let's catch some zzzzzzzz's.... Mars might be around later!  

March 10, 2001- The Moon and Mars

Comments: (6:00 a.m.) Double vision??? Mars and Antares make quite a pair in the morning sky! The both look almost exactly the same shade of red! Not quite as spectacular as last year's dance with Mars and Spica ( that was grrreat! looked like alberio to the naked eye!!)... but enough to make getting outside early worth the trip! Using the 10mm, you could make out some mottled detail on the surface. And a quick sweep to the M4 shows it as only a cosmic "dust ball" thanks to extra light. Now on to the Moon! (hey... i don't mind going blind in one eye...) Just a quick sweep... yep! It's full! By 7:00 a.m., the "double vision" had returned... the atmosphere magnified the terrific rising Sun to the east and the mysterious Moon to the west! Fantastic sight to see them both at the same time!! Maybe I'll get a chance at more later...  

March 8, 2001 - More snow.... ;-P  

March 7, 2001 - Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon!

Comments: Oh yeah, baby... the sky is back! Venus is still a delightful crescent and terrific when filtered down. On to Saturn, with two of the larger moons easily visible, and my little trio? Just absolutely "teasing" on resolution!! (wink...here we are. wink... now we're not...)

Jupiter was next, and all four moons were crowded to one side. The most spectacular part about this was their configuration reminded me so much of the Hyades! Pairs and angles... I swished over the Ariguran clusters, the M42, and the M41. (We all know that the Moon takes the joy right out of deep sky...) Now, off to the Moon! (and into my case for a filter...wow!) Just had a great time exploring... the Southern Highlands look like "bites" taken out of the edge... the best for tonight was Clavius Crater!  

March 5-6, 2001 - Snow.... bleck! ;-P  

March 4, 2001- Jupiter and the Moon

Comments: Yep. Still cloudy... I could only see two things... Jupiter and the Moon! (sssssh! even though you couldn't see moons in jupiter, the equatorial banding is still present!) The Moon had huge halos around it, but you could see that tonight's "hot spot" is Copernicus Crater! (occasionally procyon, betelgeuse and sirius drifted into view... and any excuse is a good excuse to go out... and look up! ;-)  

March 3, 2001 - Venus, Jupiter and the Moon

Comments: Never say never! Sure... it's cloudy. But you can see that Venus is phasic, there's one moon visible in Jupiter, and Tycho crater is the "hot spot" for tonight! ;-)  

March 2, 2001 - Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon

Comments: Misty looking sky tonight... with a big halo around the moon! Suprisingly... even though you could only see the brighter stars of the constellations... two moons were visible in Saturn... and three for Jupiter, with one about to occult/tranist. The moon tonight was WOW! Very, very steady... the Alpine Valley just smacked you in the eye! And Aristotle and Eudoxus craters were perfect!! The Apennine Mts. were incredible!! Hipparchus crater has another crater inside of it that looks like an orafice to another dimension... it's soooo dark! The shadows from the mountains were just intriguing!!! There were hundreds of other craters I can't name... but who cares?

Anyone who sells the Moon short as an observing target just hasn't looked!!! ;-P It's grrrrrrreat!!! A rogue meteor splashed through Arigura... so I just curled up on the park bench and looked up! and smiled....  

March 1, 2001 - (4:50 - 6:30 a.m.) M104, M4, M13, M57, M28, M22, M8, M20, M23, M17, M27, Mars and Mercury! (6:30 - 7:20 p.m.) Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon

Comments: OUTSTANDING morning skies!! Began with the M104, Sombrero Galaxy... (yes, you CAN see it with a 4.5... it's an elongated smudgie west of Spica!) then got the living (&^*%! scared out of me by a yard varmit! I took it as a sign to move on... so I did.

Grabbed the two globulars as target practice... and homed in on the "Ring" nebula. I could see that Saggitarius was well up over the horizon... so daring any more animals to come join me, I packed the scope out into the field for a look. I loosely sighted on Kaus Borealis... and knew I'd come home when I looked in the eyepiece and M28 was there! From there on, instinct took over... and I ran over all my old favorites... just like they had never left! (I would have stayed there until dawn... but I DID come to look at Mars and Mercury!!) So, I took a brief shot at the planets... minus the usual cloud band this morning! (Who can concentrate on Mercury when Saggitarius is up???) Terrific morning... glad I didn't sleep in! ;-)

After sunset... skies remain clear so YOU KNOW I had to catch the "neighbors"! Venus is still outstanding... (even your moon filter helps tone down the glare to reveal its' slender crescent!) Two moons were visible for Saturn, even though the Moon was practically on top of it! And right "next door" was Jupiter... with all four moons still showing with two on each side... (how quickly they move! ) Grandstanding the sky at the moment is the brilliant "La Luna"... with the terminator just kissing on Hadley Rille, the landing spot for Apollo 15! (Quite the history lesson there, huh?) Most impressive were the peaks in the Apennine Mountain Range... perceived as bright points of light... well on the "dark side" of the terminator! (Maybe later we'll go out for a bit more, eh?)