November 30, 2001 - The clouds and misty rain still rule. No chance at all, is there? I guess Saturn and the Moon waltzed on...
and it feels so hollow inside.
"It must be your skin that I'm sinking in. Must be for real, 'cause now I can feel. And I didn't mind, it's not my kind It's not my time to wonder why . Everything gone white and everything's grey... Now you're here, now you're away. I don't want this, remember that.
I'll never forget where you're at.
Don't let the days go by...
I'm never alone, I'm alone all the time... Are you at one, or do you lie? We live in a wheel where everyone steals. And when we rise, it's like strawberry fields. I treated you bad, you bruise my face, Couldn't love you more, you got a beautiful taste,
Don't let the days go by
Could have been easier on you ...
I couldn't change, though I wanted to.
Should have been easier by three,
Our old friend fear and you and me.
Don't let the days go by...
Don't let the days go by...
Bad moon, gone again.
Bad moon, gone again.
And it falls around me...
I needed you more, you wanted us less. Could not kiss, just regress. It might just be clear, simple and plain... Well, that's just fine, that's just one of my names.
Don't let the days go by.
Could've been easier on you, you, you
November 28/29, 2001- The sky has wept almost continuously for the last 48 hours. Still very warm for this time of year... and I'd much rather it be cold and clear.
Chances of catching the Moon/Saturn occultation tomorrow are looking pretty dim...
"We live in a wheel, where everyone steals. But when we rise, it's like strawberry fields.
Don't let the days go by..
I could have been easier on you. I couldn't change though I wanted to...
November 27, 2001 - The Moon and Jupiter...
Comments: I had truly figured this night to be lost to clouds. Every time I checked the sky, the Moon was nothing more than a glowing white pearl seen beneath a milky sea. But, the weather is still unseasonably warm... and just to be outside at night in a light jacket feels pleasant.
I set the 4.5 outside and centered up on Selene... and at first glimpse, I darn near just capped it up and set it back. It was nothing but fur. But the radio sounds mighty good, and Ranger and H are having a fine time playing. It's not going to hurt anything to stand here and just look for awhile, is it?
And as I watched, the clouds began to thin... and very gently some of the surface features began to appear. At first it was nothing more than the contrast of the maria... then bright Keplar. Soon the quiet cove of Sinus Iridum began to show itself, then the massive area of Shickard. I almost looked up, just to see if there was a sucker hole coming, but I didn't want to break the spell. Slowly, but surely, Schiller took form... and the shallow structures of J. Herschel and Pythagoras.
(Of course, H managed to scare the heck out of me by fetching a corn shock... complete with dried ears of corn... and whacking me on the chest with it. I cannot stay angry at this beautiful creature, because his sense of humor is so impeccable. So I chased him round the yard a bit... just playing. If you call him "Sneaky Thief", he will run like a rabbit... and what a laugh that is to see almost a hundred pounds of black shepherd run with his front feet between his hind legs!)
And when we had romped for awhile, I returned to the Moon... just enjoying nuit.
"And mid-time of night; And stars in the orbits,
Shone pale, thro' the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
'Mid planets her slaves, Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves
I gazed awhile...
On her cold smile."
(And I swear I heard Ranger laughing from his rug on the deck, while H methodically removed every kernel of dried corn from the cobs. ;)
Before we went in for the night, Jupiter made it's presence known. And I had to at least look... you know that. Only a occassional wink of two moons cut through the sky gloom, but the contrast of the equatorial belts was splendid! Not detailed, mind you... but the filtering quality of the clouds made the differences in brightness so very apparent.
There was no "cutting edge" clarity to this view... but how pleasing it is... how "right" it feels... just to be out here in the night.
Where I belong...
"I'm never alone. I'm alone all the time. Are you one? Or do you lie?"
November 26, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, M44, M67, NGC2903, M95, M96, M105, M65, M66, M81, M82, M51, and the M3...
Comments: Still not quite out of the habit of waking up early... but it's a fine morning. And I would take a walk.
Chose the dob this morning. I was just in one of those moods where I didn't mind hanging off the ladder for a bit, and it was worth my while. The planets, I checked on... but didn't really make a study of. It looked unusual to see Saturn tilited the other way. The Cassini is still a nice, fine line through the rings... and the moons have orbited about a quarter turn since last I looked. Jupiter seems beyond bright... almost painful to the eye. It is hugging the galieans close to it this morning, with only three visible. I simply cannot "unsee" the dimensional quality... and two were toward Earth, while one has begun its' journey behind Jove.
On my way to a galaxy hop, I stopped by to say "hello" to the M44 and M67. They are just the type of place you can't quite pass over... even if you don't take the time to study them thoroughly. I look at them because I must... and I know you probably don't understand that... but if I need to explain, then I know you wouldn't.
Leo is making a fine show of itself right now... still spitting meteors and lodged in a perfect position near the zenith. It's been a very long time since I shot for spiral galaxy NGC2903... and it took me several minutes to find it. But it was worth the hunt... This one shows exquisite structure. Bright core, graceful arms and just enough hints of knots and clusters to make it a very interesting galaxy. I've often wondered why people don't view it more... for they tend to favor some of the smaller galaxies in the area. No matter. Their loss...
So let's go look at the smaller ones, eh? Tickle the belly of the Lion? M95 and M96 are such a pair... The M95 has a great, bright core.. but wispy arms... while the M96 is a silver beauty... alone in the field and possess of a intense core area. Near by is the M105... but not alone. It's elliptical shape gives up no structure... only a gradual brightening toward the core... but the beauty of this galaxy is the two faint scratches that attend it. I don't really feel like powering up this morning... (save it for later, ok?) nor do I remember the other two galaxies designations at the moment. But it is a nice sight.
The M65 and M66 are next. M65 is also a lovely spiral... but for me, the "kicker" is the M66, shooting out that "jet stream" as it moseys across the cosmos. They are both delightful, bright galaxies... achieveable in even small scopes. And I remember how very excitied I was when I first found them with the 4.5. One of those odd triumphs that only Ranger and I shared.... And he is still here with me, this old dog. H is not far away, dragged around what city folk would probably quite rightly call a small tree... but Ranger sits here by the scope. With his crinkly ears and patient temperment...
So what else to chose from? The sky rocks with clarity... stars down below Puppis that signal I could drop down even lower if I wished. Spica well up in the east, telling me that the Virgo fields will soon be on the way. Procyon whispering a song that reminds me of the Hubble Variable... and the Cone. Do I want exotic? Nah. I want my old friends...
The M81 and M82. When I take that final "dirt nap", I have a feeling that this pair will be the last in my eyes. There are far more splendid galaxies out there, but I just have a fondness for these. What was it Ottoman said? "A champagne taste on a beer budget?" LOL! How about a champagne budget that prefers the taste of beer? Sure. We've all seen these galaxies... over and over again. But I never tire of the super-structure of the M81... with it's deep, bright nucleas and soft spiral arms. I've never quite lost my taste for the edge-on oddity of the M82... filled with more lumps than grandma's mashed potatoes. To me, they are beautiful....
So, I take a shot at the "Whirlpool" galaxy. How long has it been since I looked at you last? Months? It is fantastic. Out of all the galaxies I've seen, this one contains by far the most detail. The spiral arms are so definate... the core so bright and perfect. The knots of clusters and nebula so very visible... and the little spin-off companion, still clinging on to the end. Like the last curl of a party favor... still waiting to make it on it's own.
About now I had considered going back in. The dawn will be along soon enough, and I've a day to start. I stop to speak to Cor Caroli... because I appreciate some doubles for their beauty, not their difficulty. And as I regard Cor Caroli and Arcturus, a spark lights up in my mind.... globular cluster! Maps? Huh uh, baby... Either you remember, or you don't. (and i'll not hunt you anymore.) But I'll make a pass... because hope dies hard. And there it is...
M3! Now this has truly been a long time. What a terrific globular cluster you are! Wow... I don't remember you being so large, eh? And just check out the resolution around the edges!! I have to resist the temptation to go fetch more magnification... for this is only a morning walk, not a study! But, boy howdy... does it ever make my day just to see it again!
Now let's see... wasn't there one just below Arcturus? ;)
"I don't want this... remember that. I can never forget where you're at...
Don't let the days go by... Glycerine."
November 24 & 25, 2001 - Clouds, wind and rain...
"Everything's white.... now everything's grey. Now you're here... Now you're away."
November 23, 2001 - Mars, the Moon, Saturn, the Plieades, Jupiter and the M42...
Comments: Flying solo... in a less than perfect sky. (hey... that's all right by me. i've got a lot to learn, and the rest of my life to do it.)
Mars is first, and it's color changes from earlier in the year are rather astonishing. Gone is that soft, orange/yellow look it carried... for now it looks almost pink. Forgive my somewhat grisly analogy, for it reminds me of blood washed over stainless steel. That kind of pink... not your goody-goody soft color. The vast maria are still visible, but not in the "head on", detailed way that they were earlier this year. It looks more finite now. Like a stained ball bearing, reflecting a red light... hard-edged... cold... and distant.
The Moon offers in only the way that the Moon can. "Here I am. Love me, or leave me." I don't think it really matters much to Selene. You can visit any time she's there... and she will give you all. Walk away? No problem. The next time you come back around, you will find her changed... but still just as willing.
Plato was perfection last night. Right off the terminator, and easy on eye. The mountain ranges that encircle it sharp and defined... pushing gently into the deep grey sands that are the substance of this crater. And inside? Sparkle and fade...
The "Straight Wall" made a fine appearance, too. The sense of sunlight reflecting off that long ridge is a very compelling picture... with its' shadow washing back from the angle of the light.
Archimedes was no less beautiful, for I like the unusual boundaries of this one... But for me, Eratosthsenes was by far the best. It's depths appear almost "conical". All the way down the interior slopes are rugged rock walls... ending in a lipped crater at the bottom... and yet dissected by a wall of its' own. The mountains that surround it cannot compete with the height of the crater walls. I guess depth perception is what makes it so very beautiful...
Saturn comes next. And I knew by the sky quality that there would be no revelations tongiht. But that does not make Saturn any less. The argon-like mystery of the rings continues to delight me... the Cassini a wide dark groove cut through the ephemeral "stuff" that comprises it. No... there was nothing to be seen beyond it, for the view is softened by our own atmosphere. But to see those tiny orbs of far away satellites orbiting on about their business is quite thrill enough! To think about how far the light had to travel to show this shadow against a gossamer substance is fine by me! The effect is amazing... It looks like you could reach out, and hold it in your hand.
The Plieades are next... and no new "discoveries" are made. My aim is simplistic... to learn. The encompassing nebula around the stars make it every bit as beautiful as a picture. One that we've seen many, many times before... but does it not still please you?
Jupiter has risen quite well enough, and I am ready for a look. Nothing fascinating tonight on the surface? Hah! To "watch" Jupiter is fascination in itself!! The changes are slow, and minute... but so THERE! And speaking of there... I did something a bit unusual. I pushed the planet itself away, and focused solely on the galieans. And what a collection they were! Gathered together... and absolutely spell-binding. Perception? Oh, how do I explain?? It is not hard to see that each one is a different size... nor is it difficult to see that they are different distances from each other! This handful of other little worlds, hanging together to one side of the giant...
And I have come to see the M42. You know this. All of my words are so well used, that I am at a loss to describe. But do I need to? The tenuous rifts... ribbons of "star stuff"... vapor in a vacuum...
In a purist sense, it is a religious experience.
And what I have come to see? It is there...
"It must be your skin... I'm sinking in. It must be for real... because now I can feel. And I didn't mind.... if it's not my time. It's not my kind...
To wonder why."
November 22, 2001 - Morning Walk... the Moon, Comet LINEAR WM1, and the Cassiopeian clusters...
Comments: Some things I do, I do because I find them aesthetically pleasing... Such as a good cup of coffee, watching my breath in the cold air, examining frost crystals on lighted windows... and visiting the cosmos in the mornings.
No particular targets in mind. No game plan. Just the 4.5 and I.... and some time to kill before work. Some folks read the morning paper... I look at the M42. Others might like to watch the news... I like watching the M65 and M66. Some might like a big breakfast... I'm hungry for the stars of the M44 and M67. Sure, I like watching cartoons! But not when the M81 and M82 are right there...
Yeah. I'm strange. I'll admit it.
And what does the night bring? Championship "sucker holes"... Great open spaces between the clouds where for fifteen to twenty minutes I would have a clear shot on an area, just to watch the "curtain" be slowly drawn over it. That's fine by me... I was born a sucker just a minute ago.
The Moon was the first target to have the veil lifted, and it was splendid. Hipparchus crater sits right in the spotlight... and its' interior crater chains and soft depressions sit well in the present lighting, with craters Halley and Horrocks making lively counterpoints as "wells" of shadow. As a curiousity, just above it is a bright "X" hanging out on the dark side of the terminator... the "bridge" of the crater rim on Purbach or Walter, no doubt... but it is one of those unusual appartions I recall seeing in the past. Very nice...
I find myself drawn to Stofler, (geez... wonder why?!) But walked the magnification way back just to look at the area as a whole. It is really a huge area, and the massive system of overlapping craters is a nice place to study. With a different angle on the light, it makes the other side appear... and those sheer faces of lunar landscaping are fantastic!
In the north, the deep scar of the Alpine Valley sets the stage. So much different is this area... the opposition of the two poles always makes me curious. W. Bond, Barrow, and Meton surely possess the same "make up" as Stofler... yet these "soft" looking craters are so different! They looks as if some cosmic wind has caused a dust storm... and the sands of the Moon have shifted, gradually filling in what may have been sharper craters once upon a time. Are they drifts? Or were they formed differently? No matter, for the earth bound wind has revealed an area of the sky I've been waiting for...
Hello, Comet. The light and the atmosphere has definately "put the hurt" on you this time, hasn't it? Tonight you look like a flying globular cluster... making your way across the galaxy, and heading toward worlds unknown. After a few moments, the "fan" becomes a bit more obvious... but so do the clouds. Later, yon Comet...
And I end the evening by brushing over the fields of Cassiopeia. Enjoying the gatherings of the stars...
And the calm of the night.
"And your wise men don't know how it feels to be....
Thick as a brick."
November 21, 2001 - NGC752, Comet LINEAR WM1, Saturn, M31, M32, M110, the Moon, and Asteroid Vesta...
Comments: OK! This is more like it... clear sky! But lots of moonlight... trashing up the view. Right? Wrong!
It had been several days since I'd last tracked WM1, and I was just stubborn enough that I refused to fetch a map. After all, it is a challenge... First hit. No way. Next try. No better. Next go... Hey, now! What's this? Easily distracted, I ended up spending a great deal of time contemplating open cluster NGC752 in the 4.5. A real beauty... but not LINEAR. So, I locked the scope down, stood back and just looked at the sky. (Drawing those mental lines again... ;) There is where it started... this is where I saw it last. The M31 is right there (and naked eye... even with the moonlight!) and there is the Plieades... My trajectory line has it running right about... there. Bingo.
Comet LINEAR WM1 has gone through some magnificent changes since I've seen it last. Sitting in a field with a tiny chain, and a "box" of stars, the latest "snowball in space" has brightened at least a full magnitude. The nucleas of the comet is exceptionally bright... and the "fan" is very pronounced... very! It is also encased is a soft glow of "comet stuff" and the beginnings of a tail are visible... even under a light corrupted sky with an aperature limited telescope!
So, if it's doing this to LINEAR, what's it going to show on Saturn? And I turned the 4.5 that way... Oh my, STARZ! Iaepetus! Hey... I was going to leave the dob alone tonight... honest. Until I saw THAT! Three minutes later I set 12.5 inches of mirror onto Saturn... and it blew my mind. With the 17mm and the barlow, the Cassini walked away... and right inside of it, a brighter "ring" than I'd ever seen before. Cloud features on the surface of Saturn stood right out unfiltered. The "back shadow" was incredibly deep. And the rings... oh m'gosh... I never realized just what the dob could do until now. What can I say besides I was transfixed? I probably looked at Saturn for over an hour... watching the little orbs of the inner moons, and just mesmerized by this perfect planet.
When I brought myself a bit more "down to earth", I started becoming curious. What about galaxies? Normally I don't even shoot for them during "lunacy" because there is no real point. Hah! The M31 was wonderful! The M32, cool... but not really detailed as usual. Think the 4.5 will grasp the M110? I still don't believe it... but it did! 8-D
So, here I stand... slack-jawed and half drunk on Saturn... with Selene racing away to the west! Let's turn that way, shall we? Darn right...
Once again, amazing clarity. (what gives?!) Just the tiniest hint of an atmospheric waiver. Posidonus looks good, a bit overlighted, but good. Atlas and Hercules much the same way. And then I dropped the magnification on Aristoteles... WOW! I don't think I've ever paid that much attention to that particular crater! And there's all kinds of mounded little details, and interior craters that I've never caught before!! (you see? how can anyone ever get bored with astonomy? it changes every single night!!) I homed in on the Apollo 14 and 17 landing sites and enjoyed... And where did I end up? Climbing Mons Hadley... because it was there.
Before capping up for the night, I returned to Taurus to keep track of Vesta. Once again, I followed my basic trajectory lines... but unlike LINEAR, tonight I can only make a mark on my map and check back.
The darn thing keeps moving on me....
"Spin me down the long ages... And let them sing me a song."
November 21, 2001 - the Puppis field studies, the ISS, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus...
Comments: As holds true for my weather patterns, the lower the temperature goes, the clearer the sky. And when is it coldest? Darn right. Just before dawn! (or is that the darkest? ;)
The Puppis Star Fields are an exceptional challenge that took me many weeks of study to complete... and even then I haven't captured all that can be seen! But, let's take a deep breath and head out... Shall we?
Starting in the area of the M46 and M47, a great place to hunt out is NGC2423, a soft collection of stars that resembles a fishook.
Now, dropping south of the M47, we head on to tiny planetary nebula, NGC2440, who appears as nothing more than a slightly elongated "soft star". Then continue southwest for open cluster, NGC2421, a small open cluster that reminds me of an exquisitely tiny Brocchi's Cluster!
Ready for some more? Then let's do it!! Go for the M93 next, because a move southeast will find the NGC2482 a pretty, looping open cluster.
Time to start nudging the scope to the southeast this time, to capture NGC2467, a gentle open cluster also accompanied by a faint nebula. Continue on the same trajectory for open cluster, NGC2453, a small "patch" of faint stars.
Think we can possibly sink any lower? Darn right we can! When Puppis stands straight up on the southern horizon, a clear sky provides a "peek" into those much sought after open clusters that can't be found at any other time! (told you this was a challenge!! ;)
This time we are going to push the dob from east to west, dropping the field south on each successive pass. Starting southwest of Rho, we find the NGC2489, faint, but well resolved, this cluster is a double handful of diamond dust. Now, bump the field, and let's rock again!
Hang on, though. Because I'd know that "light" anywhere! It's the ISS!! (hey... i just like watching it, ok?) Just sailing serenely across the sky... Not a care in the world! OK... back to business.
Next pass brings up NGC2489, a rich field of stars, that seems to concentrate. (yes, i see it... next pass, ok?) Return again, and let's capture NGC2533, a very faint field of stars that are basically the same magnitude.. And over brings us to NGC2439, who is much brighter, and also has a much larger star in the field..
Get "down" now... for the NGC2571, once again, a "looping" field of faint stars with a couple of brighter members.. And let's go just a bit lower this time for NGC2567, a delightful group of stars that remind me of a greek letter!
Hey! Check it out!! Here comes the ISS... again! Too cool... (well, cold actually!) Dang... too bad I didn't know it was coming round twice... or I would have timed it!
Wanna' peek at the planets before we go for the day? Saturn is tipping far west now... with its' larger moon leading the way, and the tiny troopers hanging on to the opposite side of the rings. Jupiter is so bright it almost hurts the eyes after faint studies... and at least three of the moons are headed our way! (i love that... it's like looking into one of those viewmaster 3-d things... just... fun!) And it's encompassing part of the great star fields of Gemini. And believe it or not, Venus is still holding on by a thread... just above those distant tree tops!
And that's it for us at this latitude! (of course, we could just drink a corona, and change our latitude, huh? ;) But then again... if we could just get the dob up on a hill somewhere... That would rock!
Nah. It would roll. ;)
"Spin me back down the years and the days of my youth..."
November 20, 2001 - poking around in Puppis... the Sun...
Comments: Guilty as charged. Crime? I chased the holes in the clouds this morning. All I have to do is look out the window, and if I see stars... Well, I just have to go. And I need the dark sky, and clear lower southern skyline to finish a study. (And I've only got one more to "re-hit" and Puppis is complete! For now... ;)
Had an opportunity to study the Sun for awhile today, and there is one magnificent spot right about in the middle that you have GOT to see!
And just what is so special about it? Although the SOHO photograph isn't exceptionally clear, telescopically this giant sunspot rocks! It is comprised of six minor and major spots. OK... so what, you say? What is unusual about it is that the dispersion field is all in one piece! I guess you just have to watch these things to understand, but for the most part, the dispersion fields correspond with the spots themselves. They might merge, but major spots do not ordinarily share the same field! I am not a solar expert... but something's up. It would be interesting (if i'm home before the darn thing sets...) to see if the spots themselves change tomorrow. Just one of those curiousity things...
And despite the mostly sunny day, the clouds came back. Figures, doesn't it? Now I'm going to need a map to find LINEAR and Vesta, again! It will probably wait until the Moon is full before it clears off anyhow...
But for now, I have the morning!
"And the love that I feel is so far away. I'm a bad dream that I just had today..."
November 18/19, 2001 - Ah, and don't you know? The clouds are so thick you can only occassionally see a star. I tried chasing a few holes, but no sooner than I would set down on one, than it would disappear. How I long to see the Moon and planets! To chase a comet and track an asteroid... To fly high above the clouds... And dance amongst the stars. No matter. The night will come again.
I know it will.
"I really don't mind if I sit this one out. My words just a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel... But I can't make you think. And your wise men don't know how it feels...
To be thick as a brick."
November 17/18, 2001 - The Leonid Meteor Shower...
Comments: What a great night! When I stepped out the door just before 11:00, I was greeted with such clear, dark sky that I had a very hard time leaving the telescopes parked. (you will never know just how difficult that is for me...) But, tonight is supposed to be one of the best meteor showers in 35 years, and you can't catch a meteor if you're lookin' in the eyepiece! So, the lawn chair it is. You never have to force me to just sit and admire the beauty of the M31, the Double Cluster, the M36, 37 and 38... or even just Saturn and Jupiter from the ground! It's my pleasure...
At first the fall rate was slow... Between 10:45 p.m. and 1:15 a.m., I only saw 50 meteors. But what great meteors! Very slow and bright, they zipped across the sky, leaving long lasting trains for me to drool over. After two and a half hours, I was getting pretty cold and damp... and figured throwing my blanket in the dryer and fixing a cup of coffee would be a fine thing. Then back out I went...
By 3:00 a.m., the count had increased dramatically. I was up to 170! In just 90 minutes, the fall rate (for as much of the sky as I could watch! ;) had increased to 80 per hour. And I really thought at this point that I would stop for a bit... maybe put on some dry clothes and have a bite to eat? Huh uh. I had no sooner thrown a frozen dinner in the microwave before I started seeing the crazy things through the window! (and no... i didn't "count" those! ;) Five minutes later, the cardboard carton and I were outside...
500... 600... Holy crow! By 4:00 or so, counting had become a full time ordeal! I was having a hard time keeping track of the count by the hour, so when I reached an even number, I tried something different. I set the stopwatch, and counted to 50. Seven minutes! Seven, by-gosh minutes!! 50 more... seven minutes... 50 more... seven minutes!! I did this like five or six times, and each successive time it was within seconds of each other.
Then all hell broke loose...
They started coming out of the sky faster than I could time them and still count!!! They would shoot one right after the other... on the same trajectory! Three and four at a time! At times six to eight of them would fly away from the radiant at once... In different directions! And over, and over, and over again!! I was laughing, and counting... and yelling... and counting! I was having the time of me life! Some were fast and silver... others were bright green with orange sparkling tails... some look like they literally exploded... others left trails that shimmered on and on... lasting 20 to 30 seconds after the intial fire!
At just a bit past 5:00, I had reached 1,000. And I told myself I would stop at 1.000. Shyeah... Right!! (work will wait, eh? ;) And still they kept coming... 1,100... 1,200... At just a few minutes before 6:00 a.m., I stopped. The count had reached 1,300... and I am EXHILARATED!!! Just try and call me down from the ozone!! 8-D
(but you do know i take my responsibilities seriously... and it is with deepest gratitude for my company's support of my hobby that i must go...)
And yes... It was incredibly hard to drive into work safely (but i mangaged... ;) while gawking at the meteors that still continued to fall across the face of the dawn!
Hehehheheh... I didn't "count" those either. ;)
"Carve it upon my stone...
The body lies. But still I roam..."
November 16, 2001 - NGC869 and NGC884, M34, Algol, Comet LINEAR WM1...
Comments: Very, very warm today (mid 70s) which left the sky slightly "furry" at nightfall. By the time that Perseus had risen well enough to hunt for the comet, fog has begun to steal in around the edges.
Overhead remained quite clear, though. But, I'll not take chances with the big scope's mirror. But the 4.5 wouldn't mind a run! So I had a look at the "Double Cluster" and the M34. I stood for a very long time admiring Algol telescopically. On the downshift right now, it just seems so unusual to see this star so dim! But that is in the nature of this variable, of course. And its' rapid changes are what make it so very interesting.
Comet LINEAR WM1 was a snap tonight. Even with the the far from perfect sky conditions, the little glowing snow ball was only half a finder field away from Algol. It's apparent diameter has greatly increased over the last few weeks... from about the size of the M15... to definately as large as the M13! Now it will only gain in magnitude as it continues it's upward climb... and I hope it reaches naked eye visibility! It's already sporting a decent nucleas and a "fan" spread that will eventually turn into a trail. It will be fun to see how long I can keep tabs on this one!
By this time, the fog had quite robbed ground vision. The tube of the little scope is covered with condensation, and the finder is getting hazy. Time to just put the things away for now...
Cuz' I feel like a beer.
"And I'll take my time anywhere. Free to speak my mind. And I'll redefine anywhere...
As anywhere I roam."
November 15, 2001 - the Canis Major field...
Comments: No short supply of clouds last night... the warmer weather saw to that! But, as always, when the temperature drops here in Ohio, the sky becomes beautifully clear!
I sort of have a tendency to wake up around 4:00 a.m., and as soon as I had a look outside, the dob was out, uncovered and cooling down... and the coffee was on! It was like stepping out of a dream, and into an astronomy fantasy. A great green meteor sparkled away from Leo through Monoceros... Orion is tipped ever-so-slightly toward the west... Leo holds court to the east... Gemini and Jupiter blaze just past the zenith... the "coffee scoop" of Ursa Major stands straight up on the north/eastern frontier... Taurus and Saturn smile to the west... the M44 appears right before my eyes... and Sirius? Oh... this is what I WANT!
Will it be business... or pleasure this morning? (Do you know how hard that call is for me to make?) But I understand what I need to do. I understand the sky quality I must have to do certain studies.
And "I'm taking care of business..."
Canis Major ~
By locating Beta, this galaxy drop is fairly simple by continuing on a basic southern trajectory (working the "fall line" one fov at a time from west to east...). Use mid-range magnification as you move between Beta and Theta, then power up as you locate each one!
The NGC2207 and IC2163 is an interesting double spiral galaxy complex. While the results shown in the dob are far from a Hubble picture, it is possible to make out two brightened galactic cores whose outer regions overlap! A most curious region to explore... and well worth the hunt!
The NGC2223 is next along the line, and is also a spiral galaxy. There is a subtle hint of a core region, but for the most part, this galaxy is evenly distributed, with just the faintest indications of spiral structure at the outer edges.
Continuing south will find the NGC2217 a somewhat brighter spiral galaxy, that appears under higher magnification to have a halo surrounding it!
Now for a jump back to Sirius (but don't look at it!) and drop south below the M41. The last of the galaxy hunt in Canis Major is tiny spiral, NGC2280. Set in a delightfully rich field of stars, this shy oval of galactic "stuff" reveals only the faintest hint of an arm during excellent seeing conditions.
And when I finish with this morning's studies, I stand with my cup of coffee in hand... my thoughts far away. There is still a bit of time before dawn, and many things I could look at. But I could only think of one. So when I return, it is to my favorite lawn chair. H and Ranger are playing round the scopes, while above the meteors play with the sky. And me? Well... I think I'll just sit here for awhile.
Looking up and thinking...
"And my ties are severed clean. The less I have, the more I gain. Off the beaten path I reign...
Rover... wanderer... nomad... vagabond...
Call me what you will."
November 13, 2001 - Brocchi's Cluster, Albeiro, The Cassiopeian Clusters, M34, the Perseus "Double Cluster", Comet LINEAR WM1, Almach, some stuff, M36, M37, M38, the Pleiades, chasing Vesta...
Comments: OK, so tonight didn't rock the house... What can I say besides there was a thin layer of cloud that was happy to be out with me?! Even the most average of things now contain a degree of difficulty, and the faint stuff? (what's that cutsie phrase) "Fahgeddaboudit!".
So, the 4.5 and I just took it easy. Listenin' to the radio, observing several bright meteors, and just seeing what we could pull from the sky. The south? No way. West? Partially obscured, but hey! Brocchi's Cluster looks just fine! And so does Albeiro! (good thing, too. because only the major stars of cygnus cut through the haze!)
How about north? Casseiopia is a fairly willing player. No, the open clusters really lacked something... (besides aperature!) The sky just made them "flat" somehow. At least the area around Perseus wasn't too bad off, because the open M34 was decent, and the "Double Cluster" was worth a look.
Comet LINEAR WM1? I had one HECK of a time finding it last night! I would keep going back and back to the area that I knew it should be in... but couldn't see it! (patience... patience!) After what felt like the twenty-seventh pass, I finally picked up a round contrast change in a rather empty field.... locked it down, and sighted up the tube along the trajectory path. Visually this is in the right place. Mentally? Hehehhehhee. You gotta' be nutz to chase a comet in the first place!
Then, just out of curiousity, mind you... I took a look at Almach. Hey! Say... do you think maybe? I've got a bit to go before Taurus is up in the clean sky... Wanna' give it a go? So, I fetched my chart and looked for any of those big dots with the line through them that I could actually "see". ;)
Eta - Yellow/red primary, B star to the north, and a tiny blue one well away to the south.
Zeta - Tough! Don't know if this is accurate of not... A star blue/white, B is yellow and to the south, but sometimes I see something pulling out toward the west!
Omicron - A is blue/white, B appears to the north, also white, but sometimes appears red.
Theta - A is white, yellow orange B to the north/northwest... this star also "pulls" to the west. Don't exactly know what it is about this star, but man! It is very pretty! There is just something about it... my eyes like the way it shines!!
(High tech, huh? LOL! At least it had the virtue of keeping me amused until Taurus came up!)
A pass over Auriga's easiest open clusters, a stroke for the Plieades, and spot check on Vesta. At least one bright point of light is easier to find than a furball!
"And the Earth becomes my throne. I adapt to the unknown. Under the wandering stars I've grown. By myself, but not alone...
I ask no one."
November 12, 2001 - NGC6543 and NGC6552, M92, M13, NGC7510, NGC6939 and NGC6946, M15, the Cassiopeian Clusters, Comet LINEAR WM1, M36, M37, M38, the Pleiades, Asteroid Vesta, M1, M79, NGC1964, R Leporis, Alnitak, NGC2024, Rigel, M42, NGC1977, (Comet LINEAR revisited...), M41, NGC2362, M47, M46, M93, M44, M67, M65, M66, NGC3628, Mizar, M81, M82, Saturn, and Jupiter...
Comments: Skywalkin' time... Thrown right back into the middle of man-made stress and I'm ready to walk away from it. And what better place to walk away than to all of those beautiful stars....
As always, I capture first what will twist away from me the fastest. And that means I'd best start with the "Cat's Eye" Nebula (NGC6543), before that feline climbs into the tree! The pretty green disc of this planetary likes magnification... (even if I don't!) Set down the 9mm into the barlow, and it turns into a great fuzzy ball with an equally fuzzy central star. Walk the whole thing back to 17mm and a very faint "scratch" of light that appears with it is galaxy NGC6552. Nice pairing...
Shoot due south now, over to the rapidly setting Hercules for the M92. A splendid little ball of stars who's resolution begins around the edges. Wanna' try M13? This will definately be the last look for the "Great Hercules Cluster" for this year. The dob still tries its' best at resolution, but the sky position doesn't sit well with magnification. (hey, it's still the most incredible globular in the sky!) But, despite having a "strike" against it, the stars still come out to play in a way that only aperature can provide.
Back north again to Cephus, and the NGC7510, sporting its' daring chains and bright stars. Very pretty open cluster. Want to fetch another duo? Then let's go check out another of my favorites, the NGC6939 and the NGC6946. Tonight I kept the magnification on them to moderate, because what I really wanted to do is just look at them together. Just a delightful team of a spiral galaxy and an open cluster. A cosmic "odd couple"....
Stepping back south now to Enif, and on to the M15. I like this golden ball of stars. The core of this one is "stellar" in itself. Absolutely unresolvable, but not so the outer edges. Pretty beastie, it is. And I always enjoy looking at it.
Push back north, and rock with Cassiopeia and all of those great open clusters. Sure, I "do" this constellation often... I don't understand quite why, other than the fact that I genuinely like the starfields of this area. Yes, I know I just walked past "Stephan's Quintet", and breezed over the "Andromeda Family"... but there is going to be a whole, fascinating night of stargazing to go! Right now I just want the "comfort food" that an old, familiar friend like Cassiopeia can give me.
Before I go in to warm up and nap for awhile, I take a shot at the latest Comet LINEAR. I suppose my methods are considered unorthodox, but I use line of sight to keep tabs on a moving target. For this I chose the 4.5... Why? Simply because there is a familiarity to this scope that I admire greatly... but mostly because I know if I can track it with the little scope, anybody can! Within minutes of making that mental line between Capella and Algol, I have it in the eyepiece of the 25mm. It has moved well over a full field of view than its' position last night at approximately the same time! The eyepiece shows a bright star at 10:00 and the WM1 at 4:00... But which bright star? So, I sight up the tube, and into the finder. It is Nu Perseii. (And so what did I do, but challenge you to find it by using Nu as a guidestar! Just remember... it never stops moving. ;)
The cold is seeping into me now... and the day started very early. A touch of frost has formed on the tube of the little scope. What say we go build a fire, have a bite to eat, take a nap, and return later when the sky has changed?
It works for me...
When we return a few hours later, the sky has changed dramatically. Perseus stand directly at the zenith... and as much as I'd like to re-confirm LINEAR's position to Ottoman, this IS a blind spot for both telescopes. No matter what way I configure them, there is just one point overhead I can't hit! Either the tripod leg on the 4.5, or the rockerbox on the 12.5 will just not allow it! Hey... no problem. I know where the crazy thing is at... and just an hour or two from now will be just fine.
Auriga sits fine, though... and the M36, M37 and M38 are easy pickin's! I've come to appreciate open clusters much more over the years. At first "galaxy quest" was my sole intent for the dob, but after having seen just how very many stars it can resolve, open clusters become true jewel boxes... and all the colors, chains, and doubles contained within each a never-ending source of fascination.
As the Pleiades should well be! Here is another place we've visited over and over again... but I simply do not tire of peering into its' depths. So many little mysteries, like Merope, and Alcyon. Just a peaceful place to go when you've got the "blues"...
Asteroid Vesta is next... Another one of those "not for everybody" type of studies, but I like it. It's cruising along the southern flank of Taurus, heading west... (hey! straight up! ;) and last night found it in the general vacinity of Rho. Just a little dot... a bit brighter than the field stars. Space truckin'....
If you feel cataclysmic, the let's check out the M1! A shimmering cloud in the 4.5, and one bad supernova remnant in the dob. Relaxation is the key to pulling some structure out of the M1. No. It's never going to look like a Hubble pic... but to see brightenings and hints of filaments from a ground-based backyard scope rocks!
Orion is standing up now, and one of the fields of the area that I've been studying is prime... Let's go get it! Lepus... (that "wascally wabbit") has been an ongoing process. One of the finest pieces of work in this area is globular cluster, M79. It is not the most brilliant of small globulars that I have seen, but at 17mm the outer stars begin to resolve, making it quite pretty.
Another faint fuzzy to be found in Lepus is spiral galaxy, NGC1964. Again, not the most awe inspiring one I've ever traveled to, but with patience and steady sky, some brightenings around the outer edge of the central structure begin to show... making it worth the hunt!
R Leporis... Hind's "Crimson Star". This one is an almighty pain, because it is not really visible to the naked eye! And I am probably throwing my reputation totally away on this one... (like I care!) but if I've got the right one, it sits below Rigel. Very deep red, like Mu Cephii. Nice...
Warm up time, again!
When we return it is time to study yet again in Orion. And the start-up is Alnitak. It is indeed a triple star. Its' companions lay at roughly right angles to one other, one in dusty blue, the other in yellowish/red. But more so than the positions of these stars, I have come here to relax, not stress over position! I have come to see the "Flame Nebula", NGC2024. There is no dark areas in evidence tonight, just a soft fan of nebula stuff.... (and a wisp where the "horsehead" belongs... but no notch! odd... the sky "looks" right for it. ah, well... another time.) And a hop down to Rigel, which is also a double, who's small blue companion sheers away easy enough.
Ready to "do" the M42? Let's go! Breathtaking, as always... The embedded stars always impress me very much. (And there is still only six!) Part of this bigger picture is nebula NGC1977. Another patch of star birth, and very beautiful in its' own right!
Now, I'm back off to find LINEAR. I am positive the field star is Nu! This time instead of hitting on my line of sight, I start with Nu. Hah! Guess what? That isn't it! But I'm not far off, dude.... All it took was a patient sweep around Nu with the 25mm and the 4.5 to pick it back up again! And how it's moved in just six, or so, hours! Instead of being "paired" with whatever the heck star that was, it has moved beyond it, and now sits directly atop another! What can I say? A comet chase is not for everyone. What I see at 7:00 p.m. is NOT what you're going to see at 10:00 p.m., and real time for someone 3,000 miles away is going to be entirely different, too! You've got to be patient and persistent... and sweep that field! Because if the 4.5 can pick up that "moving globular cluster", and the dyslexic "astronomer" can keep track of it... I KNOW you can! ;)
Now... let's go warm up. Again!
Alrighty, then. Feeling in the fingers has returned! Let's rock Canis Major! Slap me Sirius.... (what a magnificent spectral! you really should look...) and down to the M41. Sure, a repeat target, but a very rich one! Fantastic in the dob...
NGC2362 is next. My book says the big honking central star is Tau CMa. Cool. We like information, but what I really like is the dozen or so little stars that play "Ring Round Rosie"! (and that's NO joke... ;)
There's plenty more here in Canis Major, but I'm still working on finding these things with ease... which basically means "fast", because tonight is going to seem warm compared to what it will be like just weeks from now!
Puppis... you're on, kid. And here again, we have a field that would make Ophiuchus proud! (and some other stuff, too...) M47 is an easy resolution cluster... wide open and very pretty. (space coolie? check out the dim little double in the middle... ;). M46 is a delicious cloud of stars! Very irregular in shape, with points, and peaks.... bright stars around the edges, and one really noticable member set in a notch on the south side. M93? Wow. This one is a keeper. A very rich swath of resolved and unresolved stars... A half dozen or so, of much higher magnitude... Chains pushing away, a soft splay of pinpoints at one end. (ok, one flight of fancy... it looks like a "tornado" of stars!)
Day is done, come the Sun? Uh uh... We've got plenty of time yet, and the M44 is naked eye! Let's go explore...
Ah, how well I remember it! And how good it is to see it , too! What a wide collection of magnitudes and colors.... I shall look forward to seeing it over and over again in the future! As I do the M67... This "star cloud" as always been one of my very favorites... and you know what? It still is!
And I can't walk alway and just leave Leo sitting there! It's elevation is great! So you know I just have to go catch the "Leo Trio", because it has been so very long since I've looked at the M65, M66 and NGC3628! It was really good just to see them again...
Getting cold now, but I'm not ready to cap it up for the night. Cor mentioned something about Mizar, so I go check it out. Easy, cheesy... the B star is about 80 degrees away from Al... Cor! (hehehehe, but that wasn't the point, was it? since you piqued my curiousity, i had to check my facts... spectoscopy. fascinating, isn't it? ;)
And so I journey on to the M81 and M82 before I stow the gear. These are old, old friends of mine... and I love them still.
(man! you cannot believe the amount of meteors i've seen tonight! i lost track a long time ago! nice ones, too!! very bright, with persistent trails that take their time fading. i LIKE!)
And the night would not be complete until I have looked at the giants. Not seeking to walk them out of the sky... just to say hello.
(Now, I want you to picture yourself peering through the 17mm in the dob, checking out the moons of Saturn. Out of no where comes to most horrific SCREAM! Already a bit edgy with concentration, you jump totally away from the socpe, expecting a banshee to be nipping at your heels! instead, here comes H... strolling out of the shadows and carrying something. oh no. not another doormat! i already have two that i've no idea where they came from! what the hey??? oh my starz. it's an oppossum! and fainted dead away... when he gets done shaking the devil out of it, i take it away. ugly critters, they are. like cross between a giant rat and an alligator. and when they are like this? welllllll... hehheheh... it's a good half hour before they "come to"! and i was thinking some mighty evil thoughts about payback for the smoke screen the other night... let's just say a certain "possum" probably got the ride of his life! bwahahhahahahhahaaa.... ;)
Back to Jupiter, because the soft orange smile of Selene signals daybreak. Nothing extraordinary, just that I like seeing all of the moons on our side!
Venus is just barely scraping the treetops, and I'm cold. No sign of Mercury, but the meteors still play away! Damn fine night. It was fun, wasn't it?
(Now let's get the heck outta' here before we get caught and that beast wakes up! ;)
"But I'll take my time anywhere. Free to speak my mind anywhere. And I'll redefine anywhere. Anywhere I roam...
Where I lay my head is home."
November 11, 2001 - Mars, Neptune, Uranus, M2, the "Helix" nebula, M11, M27, the Perseus "Double Cluster", M31, M32, M110, and Saturn... Comet LINEAR WM1 and Asteroid Vesta...
Comments: Well, well! What do we have here tonight? One of my trick-or-treaters has returned! Come on, Brandon! Let's rock...
OK... first rule. You hang with me, you get a lesson! Take this basketball, ok? And pretend it's the Sun! Now, see this? Yeah, it's cool! It's a scale model of the planets! And see how the compare to the Sun?! Now, let's pretend we magically shrank the Sun down to the size of this marble... Ready? Now, I'll hold the Sun, and you take this string... That is how far away Mercury is! And Venus... and Earth... and Mars! Stop! Now let's go look...
And Mars itself looks like a bruised pink marble to me... but my young friend thought it was the coolest!
Ready for more? Then take this string... that how far away Saturn is... and Jupiter... and Uranus... and Neptune... Stop! Let's go look...
Pretty neat, huh? Not much more than colored "dots" in the eyepiece, but see how differently they shine compared to the stars? Yeah! Reflected light! You're catching on!! :-D Now take this string... and run!! (LOL! i love it when they do pluto!! it really gives them scale, if you know what i mean!)
And when we get done talking, it's time to go view some of the very different things you can see with a telescope! Like globular and open clusters... nebula and galaxies! The objects we looked at were "old hat" (never! ;) to me, but it is certainly a pleasure to show them to someone who has never seen them before! To be able to stand on the ground... and say "Look. See that big square of stars? OK... now, see that one that looks like it's a tail on a kite? Good... the next dim one? Great! Now that bright one... and the dim one next to that... and that big smudgie? Yeah? Now... look at this!!!!" It was fun, I tell you.
We ended at a somewhat watery view of Saturn... and I still laugh, because he went round and looked into the end of the dob! He kept saying... "It's a trick. I know it's a trick! How did you get that picture in there?!" So, I set the dob off-axis and offered it up... No trick, Junior. Just a treat!
And when we had said our goodbyes, it was time for "the astronomer" to do MY thing!! (and I was itching to do so... but polite is in my way.)
Comet LINEAR WM1.... Hey! I've been following this puppy for over a week now. It started off (for me) at the edge of Auriga... and has now made it to central Perseus! Why haven't I said anything yet? First off, the rule of three. And next? I want to be sure you can find it, too! Last night it made a very good appearance in the 4.5... VERY good! By running an imaginary line between Algol and Capella, all I had to do last night was hit straight in the center of the "chain" of Perseus, and there it was! The little scope's intial reaction is that of a globular cluster... but even with restricted aperature, definate signs of fanning and indications of the beginning of a tail came right out at moderate (25mm) magnification!! The dob shows a clean central brightening toward the core, and the "fan" or "halo" of the comet most cleanly. The "tail" is still just a subtle hint... So, go! Keep tabs on it... It's trajectory has it running south of Algol over the next few days!
And I know you're not into moving targets... but I get a charge out of them! Another good one right now is Asteroid Vesta... Running right along the southern frontier of Taurus, it's one of the sky coolies that moves from night to night!
Fun stuff... ;)
"And with dust in throat I crave...
Only knowledge will I save. To the game I stay a slave.
Call me what you will."
November 10, 2001 - The Moon, Venus and Mercury... the Sun... M11, M27, M71, NGC6940, the Perseus "Double Cluster", M31, M32, M110, chasing LINEAR WM1...
Comments: Hmmmm. Don't know quite what's up this morning. The sky "looks" clear, but no crisp definition on the Moon photographically. Oh, what the heck. Maybe Selene is getting "Camera Shy" on me!
But... there's nothing wrong with what I see at the eyepiece! Stretched out Schiller is in the limelight... and I don't know why, but I always dig looking at the curve of the Sinus Iridum! Pythagorus looks pretty sweet, too... and so does Euclides!
Surpise of the morning? I can still see Mercury. Just barely, mind you! It's lost so much magnitude that I can only see it unaided when it first came up out of the trees! What a fine chase this has been....
The major sunspot that I've been following has now reached the center... It has continued to disperse and move, and looks like a dot-to-dot "hockey stick" on the surface! The other two major spots are heading for the edge...
Ready to rock and roll, again?
Even though the sky was simply beautiful, my sense of what I have to do, and what I would like to do is still pretty acute. And my time is short...
But still enough to visit with the "Wild Ducks", marvel over the "Dumbbell", contemplate the M71, take peace in the NGC6940, revel in the concentration of stars that is the "Perseus Double Cluster", and stand in awe of the might galactic trio of Andromeda.
And perhaps a bit of time to chase the latest comet through Perseus... ;)
"And the sky become my life. I am stripped of all but pride. And in it I do confide... And it keeps me satisfied.
Because it gives me all I need."
November 9, 2001 - The Morning Planets and the Moon... The Sun... Rockin' the Night...
Comments: Absolutely awesome morning for clarity! The winter stars were so bright when I first stepped out, I was afraid I'd lose focus on what I came after! (it's kinda' tough to concentrate on the planets and the moon when orion is standing on the southwest horizon saying, "come on... come on! what are you waiting for?!")
But, stick with the plan I did, and started by observing Saturn and Jupiter. Saturn's major moon is flung out straight away from the ring system, and the next brightest dances directly opposite. The "little troopers" are hanging out on the fringe... two at the bottom (or is that top?) and one just rounding the curve to the otherside. The surface brightenings weren't noticable this morning, but there was great, deep shadow play of the planet on the rings!
Jupiter's equatorial belts were crisp and clean, but the surface striations were less in evidence. (hey, i feel like i have to wear sunglasses to look at the thing! ;) The galieans are still shuttling along, with three to one side, and one to the other. The 3-D effect was quite evident! I dig catching distance...
And Selene? Outstanding!!! The clarity rocked! Copernicus Crater was in prime focus this morning... the stepped walls, the interior details, the "peppered" looking terrain, and the well defined mountains made it pure pleasure! And to the south? (hehehheheheh...) I hereby dub one of the surface featuress from this day forward as "Dead Cat Crater"! Yeah, yeah... I know it was a soft escarpment... but under that particular shadow play, it looked all for the world like a road-kill cat!
(ISS break... You know, I always have the time to stop and watch the International Space Station fly-by. There is nothing like watching that that magnificently bright point of light just sail serenly across the sky!)
And how pleased I am to see Venus and Mercury still making the most of the morning!
And enjoying Sol today, too! The massive sunspot group has now nearly reached the central meridian... and I still remain fascinated by it! Continuing observations mean that it is possible to witness minute changes in the dispersion fields, and what a field! The other nasty looking one has rotated away... and the entire solar surface looks like it has the pox from so many minor spots!
Napped away the twilight time... and stepped out to a beautifully clear, dark evening. What's your pleasure tonight? Well, knowing how the sky can sometimes change for weeks, and then leave us stranded with the Moon, might I suggest a favorite galaxy hop? Oh, yeah... Let's rock!
Stephan's Quints are first. They really aren't incredbly hard to find if you know where to look. Just head to Beta... then like following "Arc to Arcturus", head to Eta. Then keep curving round about 4 degrees north, a touch west, and viola! The NGC7331 pops into view. Shuffle it to the edge, drop in some magnification.... and wait! As soon as the eyes have gotten over looking at bright stars... they'll come to you. Like tiny, faded grains of rice off to the side of the larger galaxy. Splendid little group. Not big on resolution, by any means... but great fun to hunt down!
And when you've had your fill, let's trip off to the Perseus Cluster! (and as much as I adore Algol, you don't dare toast the dark eyes by looking at it just yet!) Now, nudge away a bit... and there you go! NGC1275 is the first to appear, and its' companion fades into view quickly. Just enjoy looking at these two, the same as you would the M84 and M86... and watch the other little dust balls slide into the edge of vision! Ayup. They're faint... and you've seen what happens when you look directly at them, huh? LOL! It's ok... just relax now... How many tonight? Let go... There's no hurry. Seven, huh? Little beauties, aren't they?
OK! Now we can go look at Algol! (my absolute favorite variable, because it changes so fast! and a spectral beauty, besides.. ;) How abou the M34 while we're set toward Perseus? This bright collection of doubles with varying magnitudes isn't exactly "stellar"... but it is cool! Not like the "Double Cluster", huh? I don't see how anyone could tire of looking at it! Hundred and hundreds of stars, swept into two neat piles left for the cosmic maid. The NGC884 and NGC869 clean house!
Oh! I've got it!! Let's go have a look at the M76! The "Little Dumbbell" is sweet... but it looks like a little soft green dog bone to me! (com'ere H! got something for you to look at... :) Nah? Never mind then! You go play, and Ranger and I'll head for the NGC1245... an open cluster that resembles a soft quarter-note in the music of the night. And the NGC1528... "spearheading" it's way across the cosmos! Nice little open clusters...
Ready for Andromeda now? Then let's shift the dobby round and see what we can do! Feast our eyes on the M31 is what! Don't we wish that all galaxies were that large and easy to find? No? (hehehhehe... a hunter after me own heart, you are!) Well, can they at least be as bright as the M32? Still no? OK... then how about as trick as the M110? Hey! Happy medium at last... And you know I'm heading for the rest of the group... the NGC185 and NGC147... but they've got a new player, mon ami. Nudge the scope east and there is one more little spiral right here... And its' name is the NGC278! Too cool... ;)
Let's pass over Auriga and the Plieades tonight, and do some field work in Taurus. It's "been awhile" since I've picked at this one, and it requires the map and a bit of starhopping, but the results are worth the effort.
The NGC1647 is a nice, little open cluster. Two bright field stars accompany it on its' celestial journey, and a long chain runs through the middle. The NGC1746 looks entirely different. It contains a blue fleld star, and the brighter members form a asterism that I can only say looks like a "teddy bear"! (sheesh... ;)
Took a shot at the NGC1499, "California Nebula"... this one reminds me a great deal of the "Veil". No great definition. What I see is basically two bright stars with just a soft wisp of nebula! But, I'll try again when it reaches a more prime position. The IC405 is much more pleasing! "The Flaming Star" is very bright in the field, and has a nice, soft halo about it.
Ready for Gemini? It's got good altitude now, let's see what we can find! The NGC2392, "Clown Face" or "Eskimo" nebula is sweet. About four times the diameter of the star just north of it, this little, green character likes magnification, and a central star will reveal itself! And on to the "peppery" appearance of the M35... and try not to look at Jupiter... because it will surely blind!
Orion is well up and away now... study for a bit? Cool... then pour me a cup of coffee and let's have at it.
Before we leave Orion, let's check out Alnitak and the "Flame" nebula. Sweet... (i'd love to do the "horsehead" but i know it just won't work until orion stands due south... i've tried many times over the years!) And Alnilam... and the reflection nebula NGC1990. It simply makes this great star appear "furry". And you know I "did" the M42 and the Trapezium... It's a matter of form! And since Sirius is well clear, the M41 is next... because I like the tiny red "heart" beating at the edge of all those magnificent stars.
Now, this will probably seem a bit disjointed, but I did spend some time observing doubles last night... just listed them on a seperate page in my notes. (And I know you couldn't care less what I see... and you know I don't give a flying fish head if I'm right or wrong. Double stars are a way of sharpening visual acuity, and I want to see how these contact lenses react.)
Bacon Fettucine - same results.
Gamma Delphini - close in magnitude, yellow A star, B is blue and to the west.
Gamma Arietis (Mesarthim) - sweet! white eyes... oriented north/south.
Lambda Arietis - Blue B star, very faint, breaks away to the northeast.
Eta Cassiopeia - A star yellow, B star red. Tiny. B star to the northwest.
Iota Cassiopeia - (ow! weird notes...) verbatim - 1 s/w, 1 way out to east, all white, tiny companions.
Struve 163 - Orange A star, B star is da*n small and breaks to the north/east.
Castor - 2 whites, smaller of pair is to the east. tiny orange companion to the south.
Sigma Orionis - A star is odd looking.. won't come clean. B star is red to the east, C star is blue and to the northeast.
And the notes wouldn't quite be complete without adding the fact that the sporadic meteor rate is going off the scale! Seemed like every time I looked up, one was running across the face of Nuit! Silver tears, eh?
"So put me on a highway. And show me a sign. And take it... To the limit...
One more time..."
November 8, 2001 - Venus, Mercury and the Moon...
Comments: Incredibly enough, the clouds pushed away for the morning... leaving me with outstandingly steady skies. Took a fast peek a Jupiter, smiling at the way the double pair a galieans have moved perceptibly in just hours.
Selene was a heartbreaker this morning! She might be a tease, but brother! When she feels like giving it up to you... you will never forget it. There was such a hard time chosing... Clavius, with its' outstanding series of inner craters... Archimedes, with its' strange "keyhole" appearance and nearby mountains... Or... Or what?! When you see the "Straight Wall" you stop!
Yeah, yeah... to be sure the surrounding craters rock the house! Tiny Thebit winks that central peak at you... and Deslandres and Hell might capture your attention... But to see that beautiful wall sitting in the highlights will take you away...
Venus and Mercury and still holding on to the morning. (and i'm still filming 'em, too!) I have had unprecented luck at following this pair! And you know what?
That kind of thing might only happen once in a lifetime...
The sky turned grey... and the rain returned. But I'm not crabbing about it. I've had several of the finest observing days I've had in some time.
You know I'll wait. I always do...
"And when you're lookin' for your freedom... And nobody seems to care. And you can't find the door.... Can't find it anywhere. When there's nothing to believe in...
Still I keep coming back... And running back... And coming back... For more."
November 7, 2001 - The Sun... NGC6939 and NGC6940, M30, NGC6907, NGC7392, NGC7184, NGC7218, NGC7172, Stephan's Quintet, NGC7814, the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, M33, the Cassiopean clusters, the Aurigan opens, The Hyades, The Plieades, M1, M42, the Trapezium, Saturn, Jupiter, and the Moon...
Comments: A cloudy morning stole away my beautiful Moon and planets... No matter.
By afternoon the sky had cleared, and it was time to check out the Sun! What can I say about the big, naughty sunspot besides, Wow! Fully rotated toward a flatter field, the central spots and dispersion areas are crystal clear. Amazing how the magnetism pulls these cool scabs on the solar surface apart! To view on under high magnification is like placing drops of black oil on a orange plate... and sprinkling pepper round them!
Toward the other edge, (and rounding the bend) the other major spot shows that great "depressed" look, I find that fascinating! I wonder if perhaps the concentration of a magentic field warps the atmosphere... and gives it that effect? Regardless, it is a cool phenomena to watch!
There are approximately a dozen other areas that are active... but none like the one that caused the aurora! To think... all that pent-up magnetic energy releasing itself in a massive burst... and so very far away from the source, oxygen and nitrogen getting all excited... Amazing... I still quiver when I think about it!
And nuit is beautiful. Inky black skies... stars and constellations I am not familiar with along the southern horizon. The stars along the Milky Way are singing a siren song... the dark dust lanes unfathomable.
Let's rock some galaxies!
My first choice is the NGC6939 and NGC6946. So subtle when pushed into the same field... What a sight it is to see a gentle spiral galaxy so close to a pretty open cluster! When relaxed, the hint of a spiral arm folds softly around. I stand a look for a long as I like, because we've hours of dark yet. Very nice...
As I rested for a moment, I stood regardlng Capricornius... and the planets I'm NOT going to look at tonight! A swift meteor flies through Pegasus... and we're off and running!
M30 is like a small, exploding ball of stars! These are tiny whites, all roughly the same magnitude... and fantastic to see begin to resolve! NGC6907 is my next target.. and after I locate the smudgie, and let go, it turns into a soft S... Nice!
Walking east now, I head for the NGC7392. The seemingly brighter oval of this elliptical galaxy displays a tendril of light after your eyes settle into it! And the NGC7184 is fast becoming a favorite of mine... It's core reminds me of a child's top... spinning faster and faster... splaying that galactic form with the distant light of a million suns! Silver and beautiful.. I like this one, too!
The NGC7218 is an odd little galaxy. Not odd in form, just highly unusual in the core area. As you really take a good look at this one, the center is "lumpy" looking. Very strange! Almost like it has more than one inside it. (the "sybil" of the galactic world.. ;) NGC7172 is entirely different. Because I like "edge-on" galaxies, too! Relaxation brings out a central dustlane... and while your "inner eye" is taking it in... you see two more scratches of light in the field! How fine...
So, I stop for a bit. Pour myself a cup of coffee from the thermos, sit here on the steps of the ladder, and regard the beauty of the night. All those magnificent mysteries to solve! The radio plays the rock and roll I sing, and the dogs have certainly played round my observing area! One brings me sticks, the other brings me logs from the woodshed! There's five gallon buckets, rocks, balls, and something that vaguely looks like a tumbleweed in the dark. (hey. as long as it ain't movin'... i'm cool.) H slips in and out of the shadows like a fantasy! The only thing you can see on this huge beast in the dark is his white teeth! Ranger has long done this dance with me... and he's got the ticket! He knows by what I have with me that we're going to be out for a while... so he just sits here by me. Waiting his turn at the eyepiece... ;)
Stephan's Quintet is what I'm after next, and it's in prime position. The soft globe of the NGC7320 is the first thing you see. Another relaxing sort of galaxy place... Because when you do, the tiny, faint eggs of the other four galaxies come to join it! And when I have drank my fill, I head for the NGC7814. This is a very rewarded "edge-on" galaxy. When it comes into its' own, the dark dust lane is breath-taking! Ah, and it's cradled by chains of stars... What a way to go...
And what of the Perseus Complex? Look into my eyes.... ;) How very much this reminds me of "Playing the Field"! The arrangement is different, but the concept is the same. The attendant galaxies are small. No doubt about that! But how exciting it is to see these faint universes appear before your eyes!!
So, I'm off to hunt the "Flying Dutchman"... The huge, diffuse cloud of the M33. I pick up the contrast change immediately, and settle in easy at the eyepiece. How on earth this one ever got dubbed the "Pinwheel" is beyond my imagination! The only form I can put on the M33 is that it is most definately a spiral. But so very little of the form shows! Only a slight thinning out of the galactic light in some areas gives clue. Ah, well. I am quite pleased to see it again!
Off now to Cassiopeia... to explore the much brighter open clusters! From the treble clef looking NGC659, the Y of the NGC457, the glowing cross of the NGC657, the duplicity of the NGC225, the NGC129 with enough chains to make Houdini proud, the intense cloud of the NGC779, and the bowl of stars that is the M52... This is a wonderful area for open exploration!!
Practice time again on Auriga. M36, M37 and M38 are easy naked eye targets... and I hop across the ones I just viewed recently.
The huge, open area that is the Hyades is a rather different kind of area for me. It is not exactly "flowing over with stars"... I just kinda' like the mathmatical structure of it.
The Pleiades were a study tonight. Sort of one of those, "don't sell me short" places we tend to hop over. Merope is one of the most beautiful of the stars, lovingly surrounded by NGC2435, "Temple's Nebula". Very, very pretty to look at! Perhaps one of the most facinating members of the "Seven Sisters" is Alcyone. It is a challenge. Within the reflection nebula classified as "van den Bergh 23", this beauty is a quadruple star. One of it's tightest components is the small red star that sits to the north (if I remember how to do this!). Another member that is also a challenger is Atlas 27. And WOW! That puppy is tight! Another case of a red star accompanying a blue one... and north (?) is where you find it! There are two more apparent doubles, one just north of it, and one directly south. Very nice area... Give it your attention some time!
(ah, ah, ah... no, H! i hear the coyotes, too... and you might be bigger but there's lots more of them! oh my, you should have heard them yipping and yapping away when the aurora was peaking!!)
Time for the M1. Shimmering... shimmering... The 4.5 perceives the M1 as a glowing cloud, the dob brings out filaments. Grey/green ribbons surrounding that tiny, spinning, invisible neutron star. Perhaps that is why the M1 glistens so? Pulsars.... Equally fascinating!
We've time for Orion yet.... Want to? The M42 is the most impressive nebula of all. The structure that aperature brings to this one sits me right down. Have you ever seen a bit of seaweed being pulled by the tide beneath clear water? That is what it reminds me of. Like beautiful long hair underwater, embedded with stars, and freeze-framed for me to marvel over. It reminds me of swimming... and although that magnificent mirror sports its' winter dust cover, I remember... :) Let's split the Trap! Still six... It is all I can do. Perhaps one of these days I shall see the others... Just another one of those "the astronomer" fantasies. But I betcha' the 32 will!
Sit down with me here for a bit. Let's watch the Moon rise. Pour us a cup, and toast the night? Soft clouds are stealing in around the edges, but the sky is far from gone. Ready now? Let's go...
Off to Saturn, where I am still spellbound by the bright spots of the surface. I just love how this planet looks... like a ball set inside a record album... like a ball set inside a record album... like a ball set inside a record album... WHACK! (thank you... i got stuck with that phrase, eh?) But that IS how it looks! And you know it, too! ;) And Jupiter? The belts are cleanly defined, and the galieans swing around in pairs to either side. Check out Selene? Great! Ptolmaeus looks good... but you know what? Those blasted clouds keep furring up the view!
Hey... It was grand, wasn't it?
"Well, you can spend all your time making money. And you can spend all your love making time...
If it all fell to pieces tomorrow, would you still be mine?"
November 6, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, Venus and Mercury, the ISS... Then just stargazin'...
Comments: After last night's dazzling display of aurora, topped off by this morning's beautiful views of Saturn and Jupiter... I thought I was on overload! Then I looked at the Moon... and I knew I was.
Very, very crisp clean lines... a Kodak moment? Heck, why not? I've got it for three more days yet! And so I walked upon the lunar surface with camera in hand... drooling over the magnificent landscape. (and wouldn't you know it... i forgot the dang map again!) Thanks to some brilliant research by my friend, Cor, he identified the crater I found so fascinating as Stofler. And what is so great about Stofler, you might ask? Well, there is one HUGE wall that throws such a tall shadow that it is almost incomprehensible! (i gotta' get this pic in "camera shy" soon... ;)
Before I became totally lost in the sauce, I took a couple of frames of Venus and Mercury still on the rise! The seperation is becoming more pronounced for each day that passes... and it won't be long until this pair says a final goodbye.
I had known from looking at the Heavens Above website that I was due for an ISS pass this morning... and their predictions were spot on! Two minutes of film left... Wanna' try? ;) You can see the crazy thing glide past Sirius... just a pretty as you please! (silly, huh?)
So, here I stand. Sky dark. At least four hours of clear sky between myself and the moonlight. Two telescopes, opposite of each other, yet the same... (like these two dogs... opposite, but the same.) The aurora is a soft, pinkish dome of light who's apex extends no higher than Polaris. (and in a matter of two hours, it fades completely away...)
As if by rote, I head for the south to capture those three planets. And I view them, not quite understanding why I do...
"Welcome, my son. Welcome... to the machine. Where have you been? That's all right. We know where you've been.
What did you dream? We told you what to dream."
And when I had finished my observations, I looked up. Into the river of light that is the Milky Way....
"Come sail away... Come sail away... Come and sail away on me..."
The radio plays the songs I sing. I am ready for some stargazin'....
Have you ever just let go? Just roamed freely about on the galactic plane? No plans, no purpose... just a magnificent universe above you, and the means to explore it? Ah, it is a simple pleasure... and tonight it pleases me.
I laugh to myself when I stumble across the M11. I smile when I recognize the M27. The M71, Brocchi's Cluster, the "Blinking Planetary", Albeiro, Epsilon Lyrae, the "Ring", the "Hedgehog", NGC6940... and so many, many more!! From the incredibly bright stars of Lyra, to the concentration of Cygus... How wonderful they all are!
"So close... no matter how far. Couldn't be much more from the heart! Forever... trust in who we are. And nothing else matters..."
Come now... let's fetch the ladder and sweep through Lacerta, Cepheus and Cassiopeia!! From the dimmer starfields to the sublime concentration... I recognize the things I see as studies from the past! They are as familiar to me as my guitar strings... But I tire of neither! To view with a dobsonian mount is so free. Just the slightest touch of the hand takes you anywhere you want to go. Stop touching it, and there it stays! I love this scope...
Ah, I hear "Tantric" playing in the background!
"Is there something that you're trying to say? Don't hold back now... Been a long time since I've felt this way."
Cassiopeia is so rich! The entire area looks like an immense open cluster... But trust me, when you walk upon one... you will know it! So peaceful and serene, this stellar landscape. Who could be stressed out when your eyes are filled with stars!
With each successive pass I dip a bit lower and lower each time... and when the Perseus "Double Cluster" blazes into view, it is time for me to step down and rest a bit. Look at how the sky has changed in just two hours!! How quickly the constellations move across the sky... In my eyes at one moment. In yours the next!
And, of course I look at the Andromeda Galaxy Complex... What was it the "Ottoman" said? Alpha to Omega...
"It's driven me before, and it seems to be the way, that everyone else gets around. But lately I'm beginning to find that when I drive myself my light is found.
What ever tomorrow brings... I'll be there! With open arms and open eyes..."
But I'm afraid it shall have to be Omega, M110 first, for the M1 needs to rise a bit more! ;)
Feet back on the ground again, eh? Tis' not good for me to lose myself for too long.
"I don't want to come back down from this cloud! It's taken me all this time to find out what I need..."
Now, let's go get reacquainted with Auriga. I've been poking around in it every chance I get!
The M36 is a brilliant little cluster comprised of so many doubles, that you would have a field day here! Sure, I'm aware they are probably "apparent"... but they're quite nice anyway. As is the M37! A literal "burst" of stars!! Loops, chains and lines... Spectacular! The M38? Ah, now... in a flight of fancy it looks like an "angel of the stars". Beautiful.
Southeast of the M38 is the NGC1907. As open clusters go, it is fairly small and dim. With the 32mm, both can be pushed in the field. Add a bit of magnification and it resolves superbly. Continuing on the same basic "line"... is the NGC1931. It is a bright nebula, encasing the stars that spawn it.
From the M36, a sweep to the south brings on open cluster NGC1893. Nothing intense, mind you. But it is a decent, double handful of various magnitude stars. Heading up to Capella... and keeping the Pleiades as a reference point... About one fifth (hey, i wouldn't mind a shot!) of the way between is the open cluster, NGC1664. Yes. It is nothing more than a dimmish little star cloud. But I like it anyway!
A step back now.... A look a Saturn. A play with spectra. A run through the Pleiades and Hyades. And what I've waited all evening to see. The M1.
Hey, Alpha. Still love you...
"So put me on a highway. And show me a sign. And take it... To the limit.
One more time..."
November 5, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, Venus and Mercury... The Sun... Mars, Neptune and Uranus, M56, M57, M27, M92, NGC6543, NGC6552, M15, Stephan's Quintet, M31, M32, M110, The Perseus Galaxy Cluster, The Perseus "Double Cluster" (NGCs 884 & 869), The Plieades and Saturn... spectral studies... the AURORA!!
Comments: What a great display Saturn is making this morning! Through the dob, the Cassini is a mechanical pencil line, and the moons branch off in a vague "Y" formation around the rings. Am I disappointed? Oh, heck no! How many people in the world have the pleasure of this view?! Surface brightenings and shadow play make the picture complete. Saturn is in fine form now... and deserves all the attention it can get!
Jupiter's galieans stole the show this morning. Instead of homing in on surface detail, I found myself swept away watching one of the tiny moons come out of transit/occultation. When I first spotted it, it was absolutely touching the body of the planet.. and an hour or so later had spaced itself away! Isn't it great to watch motion?
And, holy crow! Yes, I did look at the Moon last night (although I didn't report it...) and filmed it, too. But what a difference a few hours make on Selene! Very rich detail on the mountain ranges around Posidonus. (and blast it! i didn't take out the map!) But I think I'm looking at Theophilus. Nice details all around. I hope the film turns out as well!
And speaking of filming... Here come Venus and Mercury! (you know, it just hit me. i've seen seven planets in less than 24 hours! hey... not bad for an old kid! ;) Still holding tight together before the sunrise, they are simply so bright as to be impossible to miss! (even people who have no real knowledge of the sky have asked me over the last couple of days what the two "bright stars" are in the morning!) Wonderful...
My coffee and I salute you!
Made an attempt today at capturing absorption lines in solar spectra. Funny thing, that. I can see them quite clearly with my eyes... and I can catch them on film as a whole... but not one frame at a time! Ah. well... I shall keep practicing! Because the Moon photos got better.
And I did take the time just to observe Sol! Two gargantuan sunspots at either end of the equator... one of which released a CME and left my latitude on auroral alert! ( i hope!) There is still one nice dark one with a dispersion field heading toward the edge, and several groups of minor spots.
Still love my Sun! ;)
Began the evening by rounding up the planets. Mars visiting in Capricornus makes finding the trio a cinch! Although none of the three are particularly impressive, (hey, i though the little star pretending to be diemos was great! ;) they really do make a wonderful opportunity to see color differences between planetary bodies. How wonderful to have compared the dusty white/orange of Mercury, the blazing electric green/white of Venus, the soft, creamy yellow of Saturn, the multi-hued greys and browns of Jupiter, the definate pink of Mars, the cool, purply/blue of Neptune, and the cyan/green of Uranus in less than 24 hours! Let's do it again... ;)
Off now, to visit with that splendid little hedgehog, the M56. Very compact, this one reveals little of its' true nature, save for several bright stars that come forward round the edges. Flattened slightly toward the northwestern frontier, one lone star breaks away... making this one worthy globular! Homed in on the "Ring" while in the area... a perfect circle of light tonight. The central area is devoid of the misty appearance caught in the observatory scope Saturday. I averted and waited patiently, but... "I think I saw", is not the same as "I saw". Tis' enough of the "Ring" for this season!
And speaking of season... best go visit the M27 again, huh? (Look, Ma! No "Go To"!.... sheesh! It still makes me grin... ;) Tried the diffraction grating on it, in hopes of revealing some of the spectral mystery I KNOW it holds. No such luck. It simply isn't bright enough. (hey, neither am i... but at least i know what makes it so!) Still, it was nice to see it, shimmering like a live thing, once more.
Thanks to an unplanned and most unwelcome obstruction, the dobby and I took the the field. (thank the starz it hasn't been plowed yet!) in search of some targets we'd been working on! M92 is one of these... A great tight ball of stars that resolves very well around the edges. A soft chain trail away to end in a tiny red double. The edges pull away as if the globular itself was spinning... throwing of sparks into space. Very nice...
So, wanna' know what I've been into? The NGC6543! The "Cat's Eye" nebula is a superb target for the dob. This is one of the most green planetaries I have ever encountered! Dropping the 9mm down on it picks out a central star!! Oh, yeah! I like this!! Walk it back to 17mm, and say "Hey!" to the very faint galaxy, NGC6552. The "Cat's Eye" is a pretty little beastie... and well worth the haul into the farmer's field!!
Back to a bit of relative shelter, now... and making a run for Enif and the golden ball of stars that IS the M15. This one is kind of special, because under the dob's scrutiny (yes... i magnify!) it turns into what I can only descibed as a "gone to seed" dandelion. The stars "puff" away from the nucleas in a splendid display of resolution!
Stephan's Quintet is next... (gosh how I love galaxy nights!!!) The largest member of the group comes straight-forward, like a pushy salesman. Then just avert the vision and be patient... and the other four little galaxies come out to play!!!
And as long as we're doing galaxies.... bwhahahhahahahha! ;)
Trying comparison studies between the 4.5 and the 12.5 on Andromeda Complex. I'm sorry.... Not even with the 2", 32mm in the dob can I fit them in the same field! If I push pretty little M32 out to the edge, M110 appears. And the M31's massive structure bleeds well outside the field of view! I would stay and extoll the virtues of the trio... but it is a run I have made many, many times before. And I want that special one...
Oh, you got it alright! Say "Hello, Algol!" and head toward the Perseus Galaxy Cluster!! Like tiny, glowing eyes... the major two galaxies come first. And this is one odd case of direct equals diversion!! It was a trick I learned with Practice and Persistence.... Look directly at the two most prominent galaxies.... but let your eyes "see" the field. Rock ON!!!! Seven tonight... ;)
Now, let's head back to what two scopes can do! The Perseus "Double Cluster"... With the trusty, old 25mm sma, the 4.5 shows a delightfully gathering of stars, set in a stellar field. The 32mm in the dob walks it out of the sky!! Do not ever sell the "Double Cluster" short on beauty! For what you see in the smaller scope as grainy texture, or a hazy field... is hundreds and hundreds of stars!!
More comparison? 4.5 vs 12.5 vs 32... Ready... set... Plieades! The 4.5 reveals the nebulosity around the central stars and a handful more. The 12.5? (I like what I'm seeing here!) Dead in the center of the structure is a triangular formation of tiny stars... bump it to the side a bit, and the 12.5 rivals the 32 on picking off the tiny red one! I am quite pleased with the dob. Until I "do" Saturn... OK... the 32" has got me beat there! (heck, apparently little maks have me beat... ;) I can see the Cassini, no doubt. I can make out the moons positions with ease. I even can say that shadows are excellent... But I bow my head to excellence in design and sheer aperature.
Now, let's do some study.
Algol! (you have made all of my little lights light up and the switches come on from the first moment i saw you!) What kind of spectra do you possess? Oh my starz. Full band!! Every color is represented. Every color! (I defy you to hold that grating againt Algol and tell me you don't see it!) So, is it lying to me? Then let's check out the lowly Formalhaut and see what it has to say... Ah, hah! I was right!! Formalhaut runs into yellow/orange end of the scale, displaying great red toward the end... the violet/blue band is "pinched off", and the green is far less apparent. You see, there IS a difference!
And on the horizon, the orange "cheese" of the Moon is rising... flat side first. Off to the shower, with me. Work out is over.
I do not know what compelled me to go back outside. (last i heard, it is not a good idea to go out into 30 degree weather from a hot shower with drippin hair!) But go back out I did. And within seconds of stepping out on the deck, I noticed the entire northern quadrant of the sky was wrong.
It was like an ampitheatre of green/blue light... arched to the zenith. Mouth open, I stared at the curves of light... and kept telling myself it was a trick of the moonlight... inside knowing it wasn't. Then the "pillars" or "beams", if you please, began to shimmer into view.
Holy Shit! The AURORA!!! 8-D
I can tell you that I was absolutely stupiefied. I even ran and got people I normally wouldn't even talk too, to come look! (and he got bored quickly, thank god.) Huge crimson clouds materialized... totally obscuring the lesser stars!! Greens ran up and down the white pillars like the electric charge through a tesla coil!! The pillars keep materializing here and there... alternating with ripples of pure colored light... and clouds of red that were startling!!!!
(About then the phone began ringing... Why on earth people think I might know what's going on in the sky is beyond me! ;)
After about six calls, I got a bit pissed (sorry!) and pulled the plug. Grabbed a blanket and back out I went!! I truly have no words to describe. I have seen the aurora before... but NEVER like this!! It went on for over an hour... until a smoke screen came up. I thought I'd stop, and went in to warm up. But, you know what? No! Some things are too wonderful to let go of that easily!!
So, I grabbed my car keys and my blanket and headed out into the countryside. Undualating... pulsing, ethereal, electric, astral.... absolutely flippin' incredible is what it was! For over the next hour, the huge red clouds continued to appear... alternating with green. Each time I thought the show was over, another pillar would materialize and prove me wrong! Dumbfounded that the display would dominate over the moonlight, I stood in open-mouthed wonder on a lonely county road... until the very last of the lights shimmered away.
How I wish you were here...
"You see, I've always been a dreamer.... Spent my life looking round. And it's so hard to change... I can't seem to settle down.
But the dreams I've seen lately...
Keep on turnin' out, and burnin' out, and turnin' out the same..."
November 4, 2001 - The Moon, Venus and Mercury... Mars, Neptune, Uranus, M2, The Saturn Nebula, The Helix Nebula, M11, NGC6940, Beta Delphini, Gamma Andromeda, Mu Cephii, M31, M32, M110, and the Cassiopeian Clusters...
Comments: After a couple of hours sleep, I just had to get up and watch Venus and Mercury rise together. It is absolutely unprecedently that I've been allowed to study them for so long. While waiting on them to rise, I decided I'd visit for a while on the Moon...
Excellent details around Le Monnier this morning! The Apollo 17 landing area was so clear it looked as if you could step right into the picture and stroll along the dunes and explore the mountains! ( i wish...) Atlas and Hercules were also very prominent this morning, and crater Posidonius is going to be delightful in the near future.
How breathtaking it is to watch the rise of the inner planets! They rather sneak up on you... And then ascend into the sunrise with such a dizzying speed! I have very much enjoyed the morning hunt... and I will continue to it comes around no more. I suppose I should go rest.
Even we vampires sleep...
You know, I like this early dark stuff! It means I have more time to prowl.... ;)
I was astounded to see Saggitarius again! My first thought was to go get it... but I promised myself to leave it be until it came round again on its' own. For one so wonderful, I can wait...
And Mars sits due south, singing its' dusty red song? Wanna' go look? OK by me... Yep. Small, red and vague... just like you knew it would be! So how about something small, blue and vague? Howdy, Neptune! Not bad... Now let's shoot for something small, vague and green! Uranus is a visually pleasing color.
We've a bit of time before dark, and since we're in the area, let's take on the M2. What a fantastic ball of stars! Splendid resolution toward the outer edges with a concentrated core. I like... ;) And as long as we're in the neighborhood, a check on the Saturn Nebula? Not exactly in fine form, tonight, is it? Just a barely elongated smudgie in the sky. How about Helix? Much the same story... Just two graceful curves of nebulosity, but not a grand as I've seen it before.
And something I like very much is about to "duck" away for the season... the M11! Much better. This is definately and open cluster kind of night! A fan of stellar gemstones, open to display its' beauty. And the NGC6940... a cloud of shimmering points of light that take me away!
And I seek the stars. Enjoy the beauty and duplicity of each. Magnificent. Even the camera can split the doubles! (But the results are tiny...) And it makes me happy just to be allowed to look!
Andromeda next? Sure. Always a galactic treat... as are the companions. What a difference over binoculars! Hard edge definition is tough tonight... The core on the M31 is a brilliant gold, and the dust lanes just barely focus. M32 lacks definition, and the M110 shows only its' structure.
Shall we return to "open" hunting season? Works for me... because the eastern skyline is brightening up rather quickly! So, let's venture into Cassiopeia. As usual, I feel no need for a map, and I shall not be redundant by citing the designations. All I can do is smile... For you cannot swing a dead cat around Cassiopeia and not hit an open cluster!!
Still lookin' up...
"All alone at the end of the evening... When the bright lights have faded to blue. I was thinking about someone who might of loved me. But I never knew..."
November 3, 2001 - Jupiter, Saturn, stellar spectra, Venus and Mercury... The Sun... M13, M31, M32, M110 Complex, The Perseus Double Cluster, M27, M57, Saturn, The Plieades and Spectral Studies, Jupiter...
Comments: Kinda' sleepless at the moment... still excited about some things, so I figured I might as well go out this morning and check out the sky.
Jupiter looked decent this morning. The scope hadn't really stabilized yet, but three galieans jumped right into view... with one almost touching the edge of the planet. Saturn was far less spectacular, thanks to the close proximity of the Moon. As I stood there smiling up at the pair, I thought of Alistair and Cor... and wish them the very best of luck at catching tonight's occultation!
I'm not going to tell you how I did it... because you'd cringe if you knew! But I managed during the night last night and the wee hours of the morning to capture the spectral lines around Vega, Capella, Deneb, Altair, Betelguese, Rigel, Sirius and Regulus. It should be interesting to monitor my results.
And still chasing Venus and Mercury... Pacing the yard before dawn... wondering what had become of them! Excersing my P's and trying not to think about being cold. And I didn't have to think on it long! The pair came racing up out of the trees... bright and beautiful as ever!! Trust me. One look at the inner planets, and the last thing I was thinking about was being cold!
Still smilin'... ;)
A perfect sunny day means I've got to go look at the Sun! A what a treat it is at the moment. The spot that I noticed last week has just rounded the bend and is now out of view, but the triple beast and the following dark spot and dispersion field are still holding steady... and incredibly interesting to look at! On the incoming edge, another monster is coming onto the playing field... and displaying that "depressed" look surrounded by lines and granulation.
This one looks like it might be a player!
Time was short before the rise of the Moon to do much deep sky study... but then, hustle is sometimes the name of the game, is it not?
While waiting my turn, took the opportunity to run through some targets in a way that I normally do not.... through binoculars! Oddly enough, it was a treat all in its' own. To be sure, the M13 is NOT the same globular cluster... but it doesn't lose any appeal! The Andromeda Galaxy is splendid... no matter how it is viewed!! Knowing the locations of the M32 and M110 was crucial to finding it in binos. The M32 appears as nothing more than an "out of focus" star, and the M110 as a scratch of light... but for once in my life, I saw them all in the same field of view! Excellent...
The star-rich fields of Perseus and the Double Cluster came next through the binoculars, and I must say that I also appreciated that view. The 32mm and the scope does tremendous things for resolution, but it certainly is a a bit of fun to catch a familiar target in a different form. (Thanks, Dan.. I owe you one!)
Had an opportunity to see some CCD astromony and imaging. The equipment itself was quite impressive, but this is not the same game as observational astronomy. I shall truly keep my comments to myself on this... but I will say that "seeing" the M27 on screen as a "go to" target... (oh puh leeze...) was also a different experience.
The M57 was up in the observatory scope, and I was chomping at the bit waiting my turn! (Never again will I underestimate my trusty dob, eh?) This one required patience... it wasn't just "there" as you might guess. But, I am here to tell you, gentlemen... the central star DOES exsist!
Took a pass on the Moon show... time for me to become acquainted with some of the members. I had a fantastic time talking to these fellows... one in particular (Hi, Kurt!) shares the same "enthusiasm" toward astronomy, and ended up staying with us for awhile.
And Saturn? Oh YEAH, baby! Clean, clean... clean and perfect!!! Cassini Division is a wide, wide groove through the rings... the crepe ring is easily distinguishable... the Encke gap IS a reality! The moons were perfect orbs... it felt like you could reach out and touch them! The shadow play was perfect and much more pronounced than the dob shows. At one point in time, "spoking" was observed in the rings! And, to my great pleasure, the brightenings on the surface of Saturn itself was revealed in perfect clarity! (Way to go, Dobby! You saw it, and now it's verified!!)
Off to view the Plieades now... (and to get my companions to "see" the little red star!) Even though the Moon was in close proximity, the scope walks the nebulosity right out. Now, time to look at those hot, blue stars in a different "light"! Spectrally, the band shows tremendous amounts of blue/violet light at one end... the phase passes toward a decent green band, a hint at yellow/orange and straight into red. Now, let's see a difference while this is implanted on memory. Scope set on Aldeberan, and off we go! The blue/violet band still show, but is no longer prominent... and you know it! It runs great into the orange/red shift of the spectrum. But you want to know what? The green was pinched off! Almost non-exsistent!! Fantastic study... It really deserves much more attention.
Down to two, now. (Adios, Amigo...) We wait on Jupiter to get some good elevation. When at last it has achieved a height worthy of a look, off we go! The cloud detail was enlightening. What I perceive through the dob as striations on the surface are pointedy cloud formations. The equatorial bands themselves become an island universe as I stand transfixed at the eyepiece. Festoons are not a hint... they are fact. Patient observation reveals the fast rotation of the body of Jove... and I about fell off when I picked up a great dark oval rotating into view! Could it be?? I called my mentor to the eyepiece to confirm it, my lack of experience with this kind of view requires it. And oh, yes... The Great Red Spot rocks!! By pushing the scope slightly off, it was my intense pleasure to see the galieans not only dancing... but as real, live little globes! I like it...
Enough for tonight. Orion is still a bit too low for optimal viewing.
But, I'll be back... ;)
"I don't mind you hanging out. Or talking in your sleep... It doesn't matter where you've been. As long as it was deep!
I don't mind you coming here! Or wasting all your time...
I guess you're just what I needed! I need someone to please..."
November 1, 2001 - Mercury and Venus, Jupiter and the Sun...
Comments: What a wonderful day! Still smilin'...
Started off the morning by watching Mercury and Venus trade places in the sky. I was rather shocked, actually... because I wasn't expecting THAT! (but, hey... i like it!) Morning apparitions of Mercury are by far the best. Even though it really doesn't get any higher than a certain amount of degrees above the horizon, the opportunity to catch it before the Sun breaks seems to be much easier than catching it after it sets. It will be interesting to watch over the next few days, (weather permitting) as they both race back toward the horizon.
Took a shot on Jupiter while I was in the neighborhood... and was delighted to see that the galieans have held pretty much the same positions... just on different sides! (just think... i could have saved myself the trouble by just rotating the tube to the otherside the morning before... ;) That magnificent 3-D quality still exists, and I can hardly wait for an opportunity to watch a shadow transit again!
And the SUN! Wow! Do you know how good it is to see you again?! I was so excited I didn't even know where to begin! Spectra? Or telescope? How about both!!
Yes, I did take a bit of a chance filming solar spectra... But the results far outweighed the risk. I was very impressed with detail the camera could pick up in the spectral lines, and I will be sure to connect those results with "Coloring In the Lines".
But the show stealer was the sunspot activity! I would put money on it that the triple spot on the picture below is the very same one I was following a little over a week ago. Even if it isn't... it is still one VERY impressive area! And there are still three other major areas of activity, besides! What a great day...
Who cares if it got cloudy later?
"Cuz' when you're standing oh, so near... I kinda' lose my mind, yeah...
I guess you're just what I needed!"