May 31, 2001 - The Moon...
Comments: It is cloudy. I thought perhaps there would be no sky time tonight... But, as always, the sky proves me wrong!
"Fly not yet; 'tis just the hour
When pleasure, like the midnight flower
That scorns the eye of vulgar light,
Begins to bloom for sons of night
And maids who love the moon."
From between the clouds, shines the face of Selene... and you know I must go. And how very glad I am! If I am to sketch, I base that work on what the first feature is to arrest my eye upon initial observation. Tonight something not only arrested my vision, but locked it up... and threw away the key! Commanding that I do something I normally have an aversion to.... high magnification.
The rewards for the vertigo were rich! For before me lay rugose slopes... shadowed fissures... central peaks... mountain ranges... impenetrable impact craters... The ancient walls of a selenographic monument to time... Copernicus.
"Autumn's sweet... we call if Fall. I'll make it to the Moon if I have to crawl! And with the birds we'll share this lonely view..."
Comments: I've come to the conclusion that grass (like rust) never sleeps. It threatens to engulf my favorite observings areas... and that in itself is enough motivation to turn down the charms of the recliner for a seat on the lawn tractor. (Not my favorite chore, eh? It's boring... it's noisy... it's slow. Perhaps one of these days I'll research how to turbo-charge a Koehler engine...) But it needs to be done. Following the lines (how I hate that!), I slowly begin to notice that there are actually shadows out today! Shadows... that means... Sun! And yes, indeed... there it was! (Both of them.... bwahahahhahhaaaa! And smiling that secret smile that only a parent can possess, I ultimately "persuade" one of them into finishing for me.... ;)
So I whack the scope upon the fragrant field to enjoy a few moments alone with Sol.... The mighty sunspot has traveled its' way, leaving the surface somewhat boring after it's exciting appearance! No matter, there is a handful of sunspots to enjoy. (And enjoy them I do! At least until my "averted" vision says the back field is done... ;) And as is the way with the sky, it always choses to clear right before I am ready to retire. (Hey, I don't mind! The owl doesn't give a hoot how I'm dressed...) The Moon worked its' splendid narcotic effect upon me... and the time spent with pencil and paper transposing my walk from Plato through Archimedes was most soothing.
"You ease my wearied mind... for the less I seek, the more I find.... It's simple!"
And when I've slept enough, I take my morning cup of coffee with me out onto the deck... ("Gooooood Morning, Mr. Sky!") to find it is still relatively clear!! I've time for a walk... Mars appears exactly as it did yesterday. While conditions are not crystal clear, they are extremely steady, and I enjoy the time I spend contemplating our ruddy neighbor! And you know I could not resist letting the 'scope wander back to Saggitarius... I need it. Although it doesn't display that "diamond hard" quality that I've enjoyed in the past, I am quite content to take what it has to offer me... and enjoy my visits with it before it moves on again!
And what of Venus? It had been some time since I took a moment to look. So, I owed it a moment of my attention... It's is holding a good, solid 40% phase at the moment, and only its' "brightness" could possibly compete with magnificent Mars! What a pair...
"In the mourning, I can see the sights... No wonder I could never keep you satisfied. In the mourning I can see inside..."
Comments: I owe the weather man... He was correct. The clouds fell... the sky opened... and then there was Mars... So be bold, eh? Adventurous... Call 'em as you seem 'em, huh? Right or wrong? Take a chance? (It's what I do... now go... Do it!) You know what? The polar cap is still there. You can't miss it. It's above (or below... depending on which way I have the tube rolled.) a massive, saw-tooth shaped area of darkness. It's not as bold as it was days ago. But the delineation is just as distinct. Away from the wedge below the cap resides more
"seas of darkness"... one roughly pentagram shaped (when it stabled enough to begin to see detail). And there are lighter areas... cut through by soft, grey fields. Detail moves in and out as our living atmosphere breathes across the face of the red planet...
Am I right? Am I wrong? (I am having a most difficult time leaving the dob under wraps to double check my observations! There is just too much dew...) The 4.5 with the 10mm and barlow capture it well. I know what I see.... It is Mars.
"And it's early in the morning... Early in the morning... Early in the morning... So early in the morning. And I ain't got nothing but... I ain't got nothing but... I ain't got nothing but the blues!"
Comments: And a bit of Sun peeked through again today! The continual waves of moving cloud fronts gave me a break just long enough to see that the remarkable giant sunspot has traveled to the limb. Uniquely enough, when they are positioned in such a manner, they appear to be "depressed"... and thanks to the limb darkening effect, all those great "stress" lines show through! Give it a wave goodbye, for it will be gone tomorrow...
Luckily enough, the Moon also decided to make an appearance! (and of course, i indulged myself by idly ticking away the time to quality dark by sketching! ;) Since I seem so fascinated with the Apollo sites, then why not go there? Mare Serenatatis is mostly a vacant area (that's why!)... a vast sea of greys, with a a few gentle waves of rilles... (and one really deep. tiny crater, ok?...Bessel!) The Caucasus and Appenine Mountains are quite a different story! Stark relief... these rugged peaks look most formidible... even from such a distance! The shadows have begun to highlight the emerging Alpine Valley, and gave just enough contrast to neighboring craters to give it just a bit of love interest. In reality, probably a very boring sketch... (pssst! i really had to resist the most insane urge to put a tiny flag you-know-where! ;)
Now we've proper dark... and since the book and pencil is still residing on top my case (and i've had enough coffee to fuel a 747 to thailand), guess I'll just try my hand at the M5! And how about a bit of double vision this time? (two...two...two scopes in one!) Let's make this sketch a bit different, eh? One looks through the 4.5 at 17mm... and the other with the 12.5 and the same eyepiece. (oh, you're gonna' like this!) The difference is undeniable.... Aperature rules!! Scratch that... clouds rule. And I don't think they're going to let me forget that! Sneaking up behind me while I've my back turned... Fine then... have at it! I'm off to nap. Then's it's MY turn to sneak up behind YOU!
(Pssssst! Guess what? The clouds won... )
"Fly me away to the dark side of the Moon! And meet me on the other side..."
Comments: What can I say besides.... oh yeah! I had been quite craving something... and if I can't have everything I want, then a big bowlful of globular clusters shall do me just fine! (I still look up! and think...)
And thought how wonderful it was to see the SUN! All day it had rained, replete with thunder and lightning... followed by two nice hail storms! (and here in Ohio, if you value your carcass, you WILL go look to make sure your ride to Oz isn't coming up the driveway!) But I digress... Our current huge sunspot is still lurking about! The dispersion field has widened somewhat, but the very "blackness" of this tremendous scab on the solar surface is simply fascinating! (Yo, you two... its' rapidly rotating toward the limb... best catch it!) I would not hesitate for a moment to say that a spot this size is quite capable of swallowing Jupiter whole! And as the Sun began to slide down the western horizon, the Moon took precedence. (and with it, the coloring book and crayons!) Tonight my attention was riveted on Theophilus... and as the sky darkened, the detail was astonishing! Great terraced walls arose... central peaks in the study crater, and those about it snapped into view. Mountain ranges... soft rilles... deep impact craters... Once I start drawing, I have a hard time knowing where to leave off! Mare Nectaris stretches ahead of the horizon begging for exploration... But what's this? OK then! I know when to quit. (When I've come upon the Apollo 11 site! THAT's when!!) Time to set aside the toys... and simply dream awhile!
Now for the hunt... M81 and M82! Familiar territory? Yes. Moonwashed? Yes. Fun? Oh, heck yes! This pair cuts through everything... and I intend to chase them until I can no longer see them... and it won't be long either!
So... let's go globular, eh? From the great (M13) to the small (M80) these clusters come in such a wide range of apparent size! And what of concentration you ask? Then compare the M10 to the M4... both a relatively the same size, but the M4 lacks the packed "core" are that is apparent in the M10. Now how about resolution? Compare the M5 to the M3! They both differ strongly in structure, but both share the same "stand out" quality of individual stars. It is a fascinating study... I could stand here all night bouncing back and forth between all of them!! What a collection of stellar playthings!
"Toys... toys... toys.... In the attic!"
By now, Mars has risen a respectable distance into the sky... and I am quite ready to take a peek! But it moves.... it swims... it dances... It is being most frustratingly evasive!!! All right then, patience. ( A virtue, nu? ) A glimpse of the dark here... a plain there... Perhaps persistance would pay here... give it time to rise a bit higher? So here I am.... sipping coffee... delighted to be on holiday tomorrow... and waiting on a mystery to reveal itself....
"Runnin' down a dream... working on a mystery!"
I'll be back....
Egad! Clouds... but that crazy Mars is still shining through! Let's go look, eh? OK... it's red, it's round... it's obviously Mars. But I don't think I'll write home to Ma about it just yet! Perhaps later? No problem! A clear stretch of sky... And what of Mars? (HA!) Shimmering.... Elusive.... Bright... Evasive.... (so, you're not going to show me what you look like tonight, eh? fine! be that way... ;) For tonight, I am quite delighted just to have been out under the stars! Too many days of clouds...
"I'm getting edgy all of the time. There's someone around me, just a step behind. It's kinda scary... the shape I'm in. The walls are shaking... they're closing in! Too fast, or a bit slow. I'm paranoid of people, and it's beginning to show. There's one guy that I can't shake... over my shoulder is a big mistake. Sitting on the bed, or lying wide awake... There's demons in my head... and it's more than I can take! I think I'm on a roll... but I think it's kinda' weak. Saying all I know is... I've gotta' get away from me!"
"Help me! I've broke apart my insides... Help me! I've got no soul to sell... Help me! The only thing that works for me... Help me get away from myself."
Comments: Dodged raindrops (and hail!) all day, to be treated to a momentary reprieve... The Sun was simply spectacular!! There is an enormous sunspot with a great dispersion field that was quite exciting to see! Check it out... spaceweather.com And it was just damn good to see the sun, too! I'm quite tired of all the rain!!
After having torn around the countryside for awhile, absolutely exceeding the speed limit... (and getting treated to a rather unexpected cold bath...) I lucked out and got a few minutes alone with the Moon.
The area of Mare Crisium was outstanding tonight. The clouds keep moving over the face, but gave me enough of a "window" to do a bit of sketching. (Blasted things came back before I finished all the detail, though!) Ah, well. A tiny dose of the sky is better than no dose at all! Right? ;)
"I took some time to stand on my own two feet, now. But I'm weak... Because I stand alone!"
"To sleep! Perchance to dream..."
Comments: Started the evening off with the "hunt" for Comet Schaumasse... Sitting roughly above Pollux, my smudgie "little friend" didn't present much of a problem tonight! Grandoise? No... But the chase has left me quite familar with it, and I really do enjoy picking the little "oddball" out of a field of faint stars! (So, I asked it if it wouldn't mind sitting still for a moment while I drew its' picture, and it was most happy to comply!) Now, off to Virgo! And time to admire again the
M84/86 area galaxy field.... Simply beautiful. I can see that Spica is rapidly cruising toward an area where I shall soon lose sight of the M104, so tonight I spend a bit of time with that old friend. This is in every sense a very "dimensional" galaxy... the scar of the central dust lane only serves to enhance the "living" quality of the concentrated and somehow "penetrable" core region. One gets a sense that you should be able to "see through" the core to grasp something on the otherside.... The elongated structure bleeds gently into the background of space, making the high surface brightness and sharp contrast areas of the "Sombrero Galaxy" one of the most peaceful and delightful of the Messier objects to explore...
Corvus! (Holy Mother of Pearl, Mr. Wizard!! You were right... There are two "fall lines" simply studded with galaxies! One lays to the west of the constellation proper, and the other? Hook on Spica, shift slightly west and let it fall.... WOW! Right down to Hydra!! I was impressed! Now, impress me two more times, eh? ;) The Milky Way has turned into a silver rainbow that arcs gently across the sky... and how I long to simply drift along in that incredible sea of stars!! (Why fight it, eh?) I came here seeking inner peace...
"Give me the beat, boys... and free my soul. I want to get lost in your rock and roll! And drift away..."
And so I've found it... And I pass back and forth over that incredible river of light, delighting in the sights... reveling in the concentration of stars... and awestruck at the colors, shapes and sizes of them all! (Feet back on the ground now, astronomer... time to bring your head back down from the clouds and tell about what you see!)
"But, I don't want to come back down from this cloud! It's taken me all this time to find out what I need..."
After the faint and concentrated light, the intense and bright field of Lyra is almost a shock to the eye! (Go on... shock me!) So I grab the "Ring" from the sky. What a contrast to the smaller scope! The 4.5 shows the structure "cleanly"... a definate donut. But the 12.5 makes it wispy.. somehow "fuller"! Of course, the dark center plays a major role, but aperature brings out filaments and depth... and turns it into something extraordinary!! Very well, then... how about the "Double Double"? Cakewalk... (my dog could split it, eh?) And how about a pass over that concentrated ball of stars, the M56? Very good! A great many of the stars around the "lunatic fringe" of this globular are easily resolvable tonight!
Now let's fly to Cygnus... (Are you ready for this? I actually took out my old binoculars and sneeked a peek at the North American Nebula! Very pretty... makes me want to re-visit the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico!! ;) Now for the "Veil"... This is also a sweep. Portions of contrast become visible with the 32mm, and this sight simply makes my night! And now for the good stuff... the NGC6940. This open cluster will "WOW!" you... It's stars are highly resolvable with averted and direct vision. This "island of stars" simply sparkles!! (Go find it! You WILL be impressed... ;) How about the M29 before we move on? It's a very attractive cluster, and seven of the brighter stars within it "bear" a distinct resemblance to Ursa Major!!
Incredibly enough, Cassiopeia sits right well... rocking in her chair just above the roof of the house! (So let's rock, eh?) Easy pickin's.... The M103, the NGC663, NGC457, NGC637, the M52 are old friends of mine. (And how I delight when they've come to visit!!) For me, tonight, the best in the lot was the NGC7789... Almost "square", this fantastic field of light resolves so well that it leaves me with my jaw droppin'... and my eyes poppin'!! Framed by a field of three "Hyades like" doubles, (and a sweet, true double to the northeast!) it is a handful of stellar dust... and a true object of beauty!
For now.... more awaits!!! (You got it... I don't have to work tomorrow and THE SKY IS STILL CLEAR!!!) I've fiddled around with my report, and had some coffee and a sandwich... and will probably drop happily somewhere in the field in a couple of hours!! See you when the Sun shines, eh?
And out I go... again! Time to wheel the dobby past the great pine, the sattelite dish and the pool... into the backyard proper... for an unobstructed view of the south and east! (Laughing, I look back at all the tracks the "Grasshopper" has impressed on my home turf... talk about "crop circles"! I tend to be easily amused, huh? ;)
Now, I'm ready to sieze the south! And so I start with Scorpius... The area around Antares is so very beautiful in the extended sight of the 32mm, that I am inspired to retrieve my crayons and sketch again... for the M4 and the NGC6144 are far too lovely and well resolved not to at least make an effort! (Starfield, you say? LOL! Might as well through pepper upon the paper, because there are far too many to accurately convey!) Sketch finished, I am ready move on to a different challenge. So I dip toward Ophichus to capture the "Butterfly"... the M6. Filled with stars both great and small, this open cluster's treasure is the bright stars that overlay the field, and form the asterism that gives the M6 it's name. Quite nice! Now how about we pass over Ophichus, huh? M9... yep. M19... yep, again. Now back up about a third of the way and fade east... All right! Barnard 72!! The "Snake Nebula" is terrific. It is not what one expects from a nebula, because it is dark!! Nothing more than a gentle curving S of blackness set against a intense field of stars... but none-the-less fascinating!!
Now Mars is calling.... and the darn thing is HUGE! We are seriously talking about the apparent size of Jupiter here!! It's effect against the dark sky is startling... (I can feel my left retina shrink just remembering it!) Detail? Oh heck, yeah!! Knowledge of that detail? HA! (But I am a creature who loves learning, and when my plate is a bit less "full", you can bet I'll remedy THAT!) One polar cap does stand out quite well... along with one very dark region... But the whole planet looks positively "bruised" with maria! Quite a sight...
Now for my favorite walk, eh? Saggitarius!
"So I walk up on high... and I step to the edge... to see my world below. And I laugh to myself... while the tears roll down. Because it's the world I know..."
And walk up on high I did. Starting with the M27, (go figure, huh?) I cannot help but "fall" for this constellation... every single time I see it! Over the M17, I sail with the "Swan". Bedazzled by the sheer beauty of the M20, and the "cracks" of darkness that give rise to the name "Trifid". Hopelessly, helplessly lost forever in the M8... I could drown in the glory of the "Lagoon"! Over and over the clusters I pass... drinking in the starlight, and quite intoxicated with their magnificence! But, there are things I miss so very much... so I bring myself down from the "high". Tonight I want to fly with the "Eagle"...
The M16 and its' attendant, the NGC6611 bring me to my knees. Hubble vision? No... you know that. But the very fact that there is enough sky clarity to allow me to see that the NCG6611 in encased in a nebula, makes me feel most humble indeed. And I wish to swallow up what it offers me tonight. Contained within the field are bright double and triple configurations... over-shadowing a field of lesser stars. And about them swim tendrils of nebulosity... Truly awe inspiring... And how the constellations have moved across the sky! Hard to believe, but from where I once took my early morning walks with Saggitarius, the constellations of Capricornus and Aquarius are now well met in the sky! Shall we explore for a bit before the sun rises? You know it! Capricornus.... Zeta.... Theta... Nu Aquarii... Well, hello there!! What a distinct pleasure to see you again, old friend! And boy, you're even more "blue" than I have been lately! (But no more, eh? ThanX...) The NGC7009 is one I chalk up to another old friend, who "turned me on" to it about a year ago. The Saturn Nebulry fact that there is enough sky clarity to allow me to see that the NCG6611 in encased in a nebula, makes me feel most humble indeed. And I wish to swallow up what it offers me tonight. Contained within the field are bright double and triple configurations... over-shadowing a field of lesser stars. And about them swim tendrils of nebulosity... Truly awe inspiring...
And how the constellations have moved across the sky! Hard to believe, but from where I once took my early morning walks with Saggitarius, the constellations of Capricornus and Aquarius are now well met in the sky! Shall we explore for a bit before the sun rises? You know it! Capricornus.... Zeta.... Theta... Nu Aquarii... Well, hello there!! What a distinct pleasure to see you again, old friend! And boy, you're even more "blue" than I have been lately! (But no more, eh? ThanX...) The NGC7009 is one I chalk up to another old friend, who "turned me on" to it about a year ago. The Saturn Nebul3F Started sketches of the M84 and M86, but when I pushed the 84 to the edge of the eyepiece field with the 32mm.... nine galaxies kept getting in the way! NINE!! I simply cannot believe it... Now please, don't believe for one minute that you can just walk up to the eyepiece and count them, because on three show that way... but as I relax my eyes, and absorb myself in sketching, the darn things keep jumping up in my peripheral vision! I was simply fascinated... look at one, poof, gone.... but another takes it's place! (Hey, I know what I'm seeing, ok? And I understand the mechanics of how it is achieved... but that doesn't make it any less FUN!! tickle, tickle! ;) So I laid out the basics laid out for sketch.... (excellent too!) and included our "mystery dates" and I will finish and scan it in soon...
Now... I'm simply ready to run around loose in the "Playground" like a lunatic! (shyeah, rite... the one in the shadows who quites makes notes of it's playmates... ;) Sorry I can't be more specific at this point... but I did run the Virgo Challenge, and I'll come get you, and take you with me later!!
"I don't believe there's anybody who feels the way I do... about you now. But maybe... you're gonna' be the one to save me! And after all... you're my wonderwall."
Comments: "Breaking the law.... breaking the law..." I knew it would be clear if I had to work, so I got up early! (Fooled 'ya, Mr. Sky!) Started my session with target practice on the M81 & 82, then moved on to the M108, and the M97. The "Owl Nebula" was particularly impressive tonight. This one requires clear dark sky, and when I have it, the dark indications of the "eyes" stand out quite well! Although magnification does not necessarily improve the nebula itself, it will help to reveal a central star! Now for a brush over the M109 to keep my skill at aiming the 12.5 sharp. ( Completed my stage 2 look into Ursa Major...)
Now for a walk past the Virgo playground... (be back with the crayons, coloring book and sidewalk chalk tonight! ;) I could find myself almost as drawn into this one as I do when I visit Saggitarius. But for some reason, I "feel" differently when I view the two! When in the Coma/Virgo field, I am decidedly... well.... playful! Get me in the M84/86 field and I want to start smiling! Get me between the M87 and M88... and all I want to do is hop from one galaxy to the next! (and, brother! there are a "chain" of them there!!! From the north to the south... and tea totally to the east!! Let me finish with Ursa Major, and we'll study while the Moon is dark, eh?)
And I played hopscotch from Cor Caroli down to Vega... time was limited, so in essence, a bit of practice as what I achieved. I love the great globulars and huge galaxies... but take a certain pleasure in finding the tough little ones, like the M53 and M64... (hey, the M94 is so tiny, you'd be hard put to believe it's a galaxy!!! But, no more tiny than some I've had my eye on... ;) The M13 and the M98 are this way... a pair that shares the same "space"... One is the most magnificent object in the sky, and the other? Well, the M98 looks like it's quite happy in the shadow... Ended the session with the intriguing M57... the dob does marvelous things with planetaries. It gives an outstanding view looking directly at it, but avert your vision... and WOW! It simply comes "alive"! The "Ring" simply floats in the eyepiece... remarkable 3-D effect! As much as I hate to, duty calls. I can see Mars clearing the treetops in the distant woods, and Scorpio is beautifully bright, but I am committed...
"I'm taking what they're giving... because I'm working for a living!"
"You're like thunder... and lightning! The way you move me is frightning..."
Comments: Had an opportunity to view the Sun today from between the clouds. Nothing really exciting going on there at the moment. There are three major spots that I've been sketching every few days... I can't help but wonder if the AR9393 will come 'round again!
I had basically given up hope on observing tonight. Although the scopes were ready, the sky was not! Seeing how the weather was simply delightful out tonight, I though I'd just practice here on the deck for a bit before I put them away. And wouldn't you know it?!! Charmed the clouds away once again! (Neil Young! The sky likes Neil Young!!)
I carried the 4.5 around to the side yard to pick up on Jupiter. It had settled quite low by that time, and only one Moon cut through the horizon haze. While contemplating the sky from this somewhat "foriegn" position, I could help but notice that I could still see all of the constellation of Gemini from here! So you know what I had to do...
The M35! And what's more, Auigura had dipped below the obstructing leaf cover, (which I bless their return, because they help cut down on even more stray light!) and Capella commanded me to seek out the M36, M37 and M38 before they slip away for now...
By the time I returned to my favorite area, the sky had cleared entirely, and the constellations were diamond bright! But which to chose from tonight? Time to uncover the 12.5. Ursa Major is positevly prime...
Starting with the most pleasing of practice galaxies, the M81, M82 and attendants were a delightful starting place! Now on to Mizar and Alcore to pick up the M101.... It is very diffuse, and suffers from magnification, not exactly the most attractive of galaxies. So I move on to Phecda for the M109... this one is also diffuse, and almost nebula-like in the eyepiece, with its' structure difficult to pick out. Time to just "cruise" through all the dim fuzzies, and just enjoy for awhile... but it is time to be somewhat descriptive! All right then, how about Merak and the M108? Yes! This is much more like it! Seen edge on, M108 doesn't have that bulging central core that we normally associate with this type of structure... but it does have a wonderful "speckled" looking appearance! With fairly modest magnification (17mm), four bright areas come to view... along with hint of dark dust lane! Now, I'm ready for something a bit more attractive... the M51!
The "Whirlpool" Galaxy is absolutely stunning... this is one truly worthy of sketching! It consumes the whole field of view with its' graceful spiral arms and tightly coiled companion. The central core shines with the light of a million suns... and along the arms, knots of stars tease... and speak of giant globulars and opens visible from across the light years of space! I can only hope to do it "some" justice in my sketch... When I look up for a moment to relax, I notice the stars of Ursa Major and begun to "glitter"... and a quick look around me shows the clouds have crept in again on silent feet... closing in on all sides, and bringing a swift end to tonight's session. No matter. It was a lovely gift I had been given... and I thoroughly enjoyed it!!
"Blue, blue windows behind the stars.... Yellow moon is on the rise. Clouds are drifting across the skies.... Throwing shadows on our eyes! And leave us.... Helpless, helpless helpless..."
Comments: Varying the report style again! I have a whole pile of photocopied maps covered with circles and excited writing... (scares me a bit when I look at it the next day!) So pour a cup of coffee, and off we go!
The sky was that beautiful heart-breaking shade of blue all day... (and you know what I'm talking about!) that deep, rich shade that says..."you can't wait until it gets dark!" And as soon as the sun set, I was out there! Starting with Jupiter, of course, and all four galiean moons still visible... the three to one side shows two coming at us, one about to slip behind Jove, and the one on the other side of the planet also appears to be forward. Outstanding... I never tire of watching their dance! So, it's time to set up both scopes in my favorite observing spot, move the umbrella to ward off the "Sutton Light Bank", and do a bit of target practice while I wait on the sky to get truly dark!
The M44 has become a favorite "haunt"... (i blame it all on YOU, dc! ;) Like the M41 before it, I get a charge out of seeing just how many stars that I can pick out that aren't on a conventional map! (and trust me... there are many, many more than what is listed!) Now, on to drool on the perfection of the M67 for a bit. This glittering cloud of stars is truly one of the finest of the Messier objects... resolvable stars are encrusted over a field of grainy light... making it quite exciting! (I can still see Auriga through the maple tree... but to view it would mean coming out of the shadows. I think it makes the "neighbors" a bit nervous to see me towing the dob down the street! But, it's ok... I have a license to drive!)
On to the M3... This is also a remarkable target. Set in its' own "love triangle" of stars, the outer edges resolve quite well, and the inner "core" brightness tantalizes with the thought of the extreme concentration of stars it must take to make it shine so! How about a bit of comparison? Slide on down to the M5... This one rocks! Now we're getting real resolution. Individual stars pop out all around the edges, and within the interior of the globular itself, several bright stars come forward! As you view, you notice that it is a bit irregularly shaped, simply because tiny clusters of stars begin to show through... one area to the southeast is especially dense. Magnificent!
By now I can see that Leo has come "out of the blue, and into the black"... so off we go! Let's tickle the belly of the Lion first, shall we? The M96 is a classic spiral... its' intense core is much sharper and brighter than the wispy looking wreath of its' arms! Much more impressive than it's companion, the M95. The M95's galactic structure requires a bit more patience to see the structure! Now for the M105, and it's partners, the NGC3384 and NGC3389. These are truly "fur balls"... quite identifable as galactic in nature, but not very exciting. And speakiing of faint "fuzzies", a hop to the north picks up two more... tiny smears of light listed as NGC3367 and NGC3377, and a nudge to the west picks off NGC3338. Ready to search for fleas in the Lion's mane? The head on to Algieba.... Due east picks off structureless pair, NGC3226 and NGC3227. And speaking of structureless, go back to Algieba, and hop north... another trio of very faint patches of light isted as NGC3193, NGC3190, and NGC3185. Enough of the shapeless ones... on to Chort!
The M65 and M66 are always outstanding... I love the thread of light that extrudes from the M66's southern tip. (It reminds me of all those great horror movies where ectoplasm comes from the fingertips of a medium...) A hop to the east brings up NGC3593, its' edges are quite diffuse, but it possess a sweet, elongated core! Back over now to catch the NGC3628.... located between two stars to the north and south, it is a slightly grainy appearing, pencil slim edge-on. I like it!
Now back to Chort, and dip south for another faint one, the NGC3596... cool, but just another patch of contrast. Head north between Chort and Zosma for another pair, The NGC3608 and NGC3607... very faint, they appear much like tiny globulars. OK, ready to shoot from the hip? Let's go...
Once upon a time I chased asteroid Eleanora through this field of faint galaxies.. and I felt a need to revisit (and attempt to name them) before Leo moves out of reach. This cluster of galaxies includes NGC3653, 3681,3684,3686, and 3691. They are nothing spectacular... once again, just smears on the sky... but I have a penchant for galaxy hunting! And speaking of which, isn't that Virgo???? ;)
Tonight I sacrafice the Virgin to the Lion... the time frame I'm operating in simply will not allow for lingering over long with the maps! For one of my friends, I start the search with the 4.5. You are not going to have a problem in the field... M99, M100, M85, and M88 show quite nicely in smaller apearture! But I want the dob.... ;*) I sweep the field in play, now!! I LIKE hopping from one galaxy to the next... I will say, however, that my attention span froze on the M86 and M87. This pair is incredible with aperature... their circular shapes and bright, dense cores remind me of owl's eyes... and dreaming... (WHOA! there i go again... ozoning! ;) Time to hustle a bit before moonrise....
On to Ursa Major and the M51... best galaxy in the sky, that one! And off to target the M81 and M82, because I've a bit of study going on there too! In the area are more faint galaxies... The NGC3077, NGC976, and super faint IC2574. These are unusual galaxies... one's I've not throughly studied yet. (but i will rabbit... you know i will!) I hit upon them tonight simply to keep my skills sharp... When time (and Moon!) permits, there are many, many galaxies in the "Dipper" to explore... and it is most certainly reaching its' prime! Hanging over the head of Polaris, indeed!
Time to sit a spell... the redwood chair looks most inviting! And so I surrender myself to it, to drink in the dome of stars above me.... to watch a meteor flash from the Coma Bernices and disappear at Cor Caroli... just sit here... and await "l'ascension de la lune". And it does rise... and so do I! Even though I tire, I need to see it. Mare Crisium lay at the terminator... so smooth and beautiful. Langrenus crater is no longer shallow, for its' central peak is highlighted by the shadows... All along the pock-marked edge, the craters dance and play! Time to give the sky back to my sister, Selene...
"Hey hey, my my... rock and roll will never die. There's more to the picture.... than meets the eye! Hey hey, my my.... Out of the blue, and into the black.... You pay for this, but they give you that. And once you're gone? You can't come back... When you're out of the blue and into the black..."
Comments: Had an opportunity to view the Sun today! It has changed quite a bit since the last I saw it. Currently there are only three major sunspot groups, but we'll keep an eye on them!
I was quite pleased to have a last visit with Saturn tonight... I had to take to the "field" with the 4.5 to get it, and it showed nothing more than its' oblique shape, but it made me happy nonetheless! Jupiter was next, and its' three main belts still show, along with all four galiean moons... two flung out behind, and two coming straight at us!
It's dark... it's clear... break out the 12.5!! Next to ponder the stars... Castor is easy, and Dubhe presents more of a challenge tonight. In the eyepiece, there is a lesser star to the three o'clock position... by putting this star in the center of the field of view with the 17mm, Dubhe now resides at 11 o'clock. Adjusting the focus on the lesser star until it is a pinpoint, I hold it with direct vision for several minutes... then when I look at Dubhe directly, its' tiny blue companion "jumps" out from the glare.... only to be lost again. By repeating the process, I get the same results! Enough for now! On to Iota Cancri, simply because I like its' colors and it's in the field I'm after!
The M44 is next... and the dob turns it into something extraordinary! Want to try a challenge? Next time you look in the eyepiece, locate the red, yellow and blue triple that points down... below it are two well spaced bright stars... the bottom of the triple is blue, and there are three more teeny tiny blue stars that move in a diagonal line from the blue "point" star, to the center of the brighter pair! Cool, huh? OK... enough of that! M67, where are you? Ah yes... right there! I am quite fond of this cluster. It contains so many unresolvable stars that it looks galaxy-like! And speaking of galaxies... best hurry! Time grows short....
Zip off now the the M81 and M82. Yes, they are target practice, but awsome target practice! Now for a longer look at the M51. I delight in its' coiled appearance and tiny companion! Now for a whisk off to the M65 and M66... time is growing short for Leo too, isn't it? Thought about Virgo for a brief moment, but it looks awfully light to the east... best fly!
Howdy, Cor Caroli! Hope you don't mind if I just whisk over the M3, ok? And breeze by Arcturus after the M5. This is an unusual globular. Its' core is stretched and pulled in different directions! Many of the stars are quite resolvable, but it's inner shape doesn't seem to make sense!
There's a forest fire in the trees! Moon rise... So, I stand and watch! In less than five minutes the Moon climbs from the distant trees and into the sky... The speed with which it rises is simply fascinating! And since it looks so orange, well, how about if we do something I don't ordinarily do? Sit down on the job with the dob! It's not often that I can view something horizontally with the 12.5, and it's fun for a change! With the 32mm, 2", I can actually hold my gaze 4 or more inches away from the eyepiece and view quite comfortably! Tonight's great crater? Langrenus! It looks so shallow and so different viewed from this lighting angle! Tonight's Moon Coolie? Go to Mare Crisium and hop over the terminator... see that? It looks like two tiny antennae sticking up in the dark! Gotta' love that view!!
"I ain't missing you at all... since you've been gone away..."
(yeah, right... ;)
"And I wonder... still I wonder... Who'll stop the rain?"
Comments: Made a soft study of the planet Mars this morning. I know from having viewed it in the past, that it requires patience... a great deal of it, actually, to catch surface detail with the 4.5. So, what can I say? Something about being bathed in the silver Moon light, and touched by warm morning breezes has turned me into a most patient person...
Using the red, green and blue filters, along with a variety of magnifications, I watch the "Red Planet" calmly, waiting for that one spectacularly clear moment to reveal a polar cap.... but not this morning. The maria are still quite lovely, however. Using the 26mm, coupled with the barlow and the blue filter, gives the most pleasing views. Sure, it robs Mars of its' natural coloration, but adds some nice contrast to the scene.
I look forward to that one moment of clarity...
"I think I've missed the train to Mars... and I'm out back. Counting stars...
Comments: It was quite lovely just watching the Moon rise tonight... Our unique atmospheric conditions, at the moment, gave it that outstanding bloated, orange appearance similar to the "Harvest Moon". For the most part, clouds rule, but a quick glance through the telescope showed Grimaldi well past the terminator, and that in a matter of hours, the Moon would truly be "full". Since it is a great deal like looking at something under muddy water, it is pointless to continue...
So I shall just sit back here.... and open another Killian's Irish Red... and toast the sky! Cheers!
"Some things will never change. They keep on looking backward, half unconscious from the pain. It may seem a little strange. But, in the back water swirling... there are some things that will never change!"
Comments: Yet another most cloudy night. (Scratch the plans for Rupp Observatory... again! Sometimes I get then feeling that I just wasn't destined to hang out there... but I'm not a quitter. I'll have a go at the sky with that 31" scope... even "if I have to crawl!" ;)
Over the evening, the clouds part and cover again and again, revealing fascinating views of the Moon. Filtered down, don't sell the "full-figured" body of Selene short for beauty. The infamous Tycho has taken on a whole new dimension, with those great rays that spatter a third of the way across the surface. (Makes you wonder how the Moon ever survived that type of impact!) Craters Aristarchus, Copernicus and Keplar take on new dimension in the eyepiece. And what of Grimaldi, you ask? Initially, only the very edge of Grimadi's crater could be seen, but it was my pleasure to "peek" back in as the hours passed, and watch the terminator move to reveal it! (I always get a kick out of watching this one unveil itself... someone took a "bite" out of the Moon!) As I view, the clouds pass over the surface, (effectively rendering my last chance of observing ANY aquarid meteors as pointless...) a distant dog barks, and I cannot help but smile to myself... for it reminds me so poignantly of all those terrific black and white horror movies that I so loved as a child...
"Owwwwooooooowhoooo! Werewolves of London..."
Comments: Ah, the long stretch of clear days has come to the end... This morning sky was nothing more than a soft "wash" of light, with Arcturus and the Summer Triangle shining gently through. The 90+ degree days drop drastically as the night falls... to the tune of 40 degrees! Small wonder the clouds pass so quickly overhead... But still, the magnificent Moon shines through from time to time.
Tonight's point of study was Craters Hansteen and Billy... This magnificent pair were remarkably alike and yet totally different at the same time. Both lay on the terminator, and when the atmosphere stills, Hansteen has areas of bright contrast within it's surface. The curvature and the lighting make it look like a great "blister" on the surface. Yet, next to it, Crater Billy is as dark and smooth as polished ebony! 'Round them dance smaller craters, upheavals and areas of sharp contrast. What a delightful place to visit! (But I wouldn't want to live there... ;) Hansteen and Billy Nasa Lunar Orbiter Photograph
"Let's take a blast to the Moon, baby! I sit around wishing you well..."
Comments: This has been one of the most incredibly long stretches of clear weather that I can remember in a long time! The dust still hangs over the horizon lines... turning all that lie within it a hazy orange. All but the Moon! And when the "seeing" is clear and steady, the clarity is remarkable. Let's go "high above the moonbeams"...
Point of study tonight appears to be (ammended! "caw caw", dc... "caw caw"... ;) the Crater Gassendi... Situated on the border of Mare Humorum, (squawk!) the high terraced walls, central mountain-top, numerous inner craters and impact crater on the "body" of Gassendi ( yum, yum... ;) itself is captivating. I held the pencil above the void of paper for what seemed like an eternity before I could even begin to sketch... and even then, I feel like I did not do it justice.
I simply find myself lost in though tonight... Once I had finished my sketch, it was time to just relax and explore. (on familiar "ground" this time!) The Apollo 12 and 14 landing sites have come from the shadows, and so I walk upon Hadley Rille with the crew of Apollo 15... bask in the sunlight of the Taurus-Littrow Valley with the 17, and go toward the calm of the Mare Tranquilitatis, and stand with the first to touch the "magnificent desolation" of the lunar surface... Apollo 11. Northward I climb, toward the Sinus Iridum... where its' walls curve gracefully around... like open arms longing for an embrace...
"Hazing clouds reign 'round my head.... Why are my thoughts so far away? Find my shape by the moonlight? One more reason to stay. Demons... dreamin'.... breathe in... breathe in! I'm coming back again..."
Comments: Simply felt like a quite walk this morning... The weather still remains warm and beautiful, and what better way to enjoy a few moments of contentment than to look upon that which has no equal...
The M23 is a terrific bright collection of stars. Set in a field of not quite resolvable companions, perhaps a dozen or so stars compete for attention, but the "pair" to the east set well away from the crowd! The M25 is quite open, and willing to share what it has... a tiny triple configuration in the center! To either side of the threesome, lay a brighter star. Ones who drawn their own companions from the very sky...
And the rest? The rest is mine...
Comments: Jupiter is still hanging tough on the western horizon... the moons are paired off on either side, and very hard to detect tonight! (Thanks to a great atmospheric conditon in Ohio, caused by literally hundreds of tractors in the surrounding farmland kicking up dust as they turn the soil...)
But the Moon! Oh, the Moon sits quite in the clear... and tonight I feel a bit like Admiral Byrd. Let's explore the South Pole! (and speaking of birds... that crazy owl has just swooped low over me, and is now residing in the pine... calling his head off! HEY! you want to hear him??? then, go here and when the page pops up, click on the "territorial call"!) Unfortunately, my Moon map is terribly overexposed, and doesn't list the exact craters that I sketched tonight, but I was at the very "tip"!
It simply fascinates me the way the crater edges and mountain tops seem to "hang" in space... The view was absolutely rock-steady. After I finished my drawing, I continued my journey on the lunar surface. Craters Hipparchus and Albategnius were shadowed very well, and the Apennine Mountain Range showed in stark relief. Plato now looks as shallow as Archimedes, and everywhere along the smooth surface of the marias run rilles.
It was a wonderful journey, but I am about to expire from insect related blood loss! Time to light a mosquito coil, kick back on the redwood chair, practice guitar a bit... and look up! ;)
"While my guitar gently weeps..."
Comments: How delightful it is to step outside in the early morning and not freeze on the spot! (and even more so, because the sky is once again clear and dark...)
Mars rides on the crest of the Milky Way wave... that broad band of silver surf that arcs so magnificently across the dark sea of the sky! (poetic this morning, you ask? why certainly! my eyes have seen into the "heart" of the galaxy... a celestial "fix" to begin the day!)
Now! Let's broaden our horizons, and expand our imaginations!! For like the celestial portrait of "Whistler's Mother", Cassiopeia rests in her chair... reminding me that "it's been awhile" since I'd visited! NGC7789 was a pure disc of grainy light... averting my vision, a few individual stars come forward, but at best I can merely make out its' slightly irregular shape. I imagine that it is because it is not spectacularly placed at the moment, so up we climb toward the M52. Yes... this is more like it!! The field of stars here begin to resolve themselves... while other areas merely hint that there are a great deal many more! Along its' southwestern flank, the scene is dominated by a single star...
Time now, for another cup of coffee. The eastern skyline has begun to brighten... and work awaits.
"Morning has broken... like the first morning."
Comments: Jupiter still hangs bravely on the horizon, a lovely orange ball bi-sected by its' equatorial belts... and trailing along with it the galiean moons still dance, with one behind and three ahead...
When the clouds pass, the Moon is a lovely sight to behold. Tonight I climb the Apennine Mountains to gaze into the deep gash of the Alpine Valley... I turn my gaze toward the expanse of Mare Imbrium... and the calm containment of Plato. In the fields around where my earthly body stands, are the tractors... turning the winter earth up toward a new season. The breeze is warm and smells of rain... the owl trills his call from the pine. Time to cap the scope. Time to look up... and think! Time to sit on the bench... and enjoy the magnificent halo that encircles the Moon, and graces the sky...
"If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do... Is to save everyday, 'til eternity passes away. Just to spend them with you..."
Comments: The constellation of Scorpius is absolutely intense to the southern skyline! And Mars is rivaling it... Let's walk the path to the east this morning, shall we?
Starting off with a nod at Antares, it's time to pick up a bit of routine practice with the M4 and M80, then a run for the Ophiuchus border for the M19. It is relatively small, and not incredibly bright, and it just doesn't feel like showing off today! No matter, on to the M62. This is much better. It is allowing me some resolution! The M62 is a bit larger... with a terrific grainy appearance (that will warrant some study with the dob later in the year!) and a sweet, dense core that promises both mystery and delight hidden within...
Walk on to Mars. It's a pleasing sight, with or without surface detail! And so very, very close to the M8 too... wow! (At the back of my mind, I can't help but speculate if retrograde motion will eventually carry the red planet into the same field of view as the "Lagoon"...) Wouldn't that be magnificent?? To see a bright planet paired with such an interesting Messier object?? The possibilities for a "real" astrophotographer would be quite exciting!
Keep moving eastward... (oh, and how i love my morning walks with saggitarius! i could stay there forever...) The silence is broken by the noise of coyotes wrangling in the distant woods. My canine companion and I look at one another, and then to the treeline... I think all will be safe, because the sound carries for great distance in the still of approaching dawn. He shall stand guard for me while I lose myself in thought... Just west of Kaus Borealis is the M22. This one looks like a veritable "storm cloud" of stars, with its' own personal "tornado" pushing out from the south/western edge! And continuing on our loose trajectory toward the rising sun is the M28. Anything I can ask for, Saggitarius delivers! Although it's not large, even the 4.5 begins resolving stars like crazy with averted vision. The concentration is simply outstanding... with one bright member that holds up to direct sight! I take it that in every group of stars, there is one that far outshines the rest... eh, Saggitarius?
Silence reigns once again... and I don't mind. The quiet of the morning is MY time. Venus commands attention! Filtered naturally by the murk of the horizon, it appears wonderfully "larger than life" in the eyepiece... like a miniature moon rising above a distant planet only dreamed of in science fiction.
"Well, you run and you run to catch up with the Sun, but it's sinking... Racing around to come up behind you again!"