Observing Reports ~ October 2001

October 31, 2001 - The Moon... (and Mars and spectral stars...)

Comments: Trick or Treat Night, here... and time for my annual pilgrimage into unreality. Costume on, bushel basket filled with every conceivable type of candy, pumpkins lighted... and 4.5 on the lawn. Un"reality" check? If you visit "the astronomer" on any given clear night, I will drag you to the eyepiece and make you look...

Because the village is so small, I only get perhaps twenty children... of which a good 80% are visitors! (Can you imagine a six foot tall "Killer Bee" inviting you to look at the Moon?! ;) The 4.5 is an excellent scope for this purpose, because I can roll the optical tube down, and even the smallest of hobgoblins get a chance...

And what a wonderful time we ALL had! You and I... we don't really like to look at the full Moon because it lacks detail. But these kids, they thought it was the greatest! They laughed, they yelled, they swatted each other with their candy bags, they fell to the ground with mock astonishment. But they stood in line, some of them over and over again... and left with something far more than a double handful of candy!

The best was a group of Russian children... (now, don't ask me how they ended up in this remote corner of the earth!) learning to celebrate some of our American customs. They spoke English far better than I speak Russian. And the more excited they got looking through the telescope, the more they reverted to their native language! (Thankfully their American father and Russian mother were just as fast at interpretation...) These... these were some little prodigies! They were all OVER the telescope... with the questions and answers flying so fast it made me dizzy! They didn't want to leave. And you know what? I didn't want them to, either!

Later on, after all of the festivities were done, I returned to the backyard to have a look at some stars through the spectral grating. And what do I see standing in a puddle of light beneath a distant streetlamp? Oh, you know it. Three of the older Russian children whose curiousity has brought them back. So, I made the acre walk... and assured their parents they were no trouble, and they were quite welcome here in the backyard with me. I can barely pronounce their names, let alone spell them... But who needs langauge? And so we journeyed to Mars... and studied the stars! We played with the spectral gratings, and looked at the Moon through the colored filters. They sang songs for me that I did not understand, but I loved it anyway! And they LIKE my rock and roll!! All too soon I am once again alone.

But, I feel like I'm the one who got the treat...

"And you give yourself away. And you give... and you give... and you give yourself away...

With or without you. I can't live... With or without you..."

 

October 30, 2001 - The Moon and Jupiter...

Comments: Had an opportunity to do some filming before going into work. Close to full, the incredibly bright lunar surface still offers up an amazing amount of detail around Grimaldi... and what I think is Russell and Briggs. (The Moon map I possess is severely over-exposed in that area... and I don't really have time to research it just yet... but I will!)

When I got back home from work, I was really hoping to catch Venus and Mercury backing away from one another... but not such luck. Low lying clouds obliterated 2/3 of the sky. But, hey! Jupiter is there, right? Darn right. And, as always, I am transfixed by the dimensional quality of the galieans. To one side, what would appear to a "flat field" as a pairing, is definately two orbs that vary in distance as seen from our viewpoint. I still find it fascinating to see that all of the moons of Jupiter are on the "earth-ward" side of the planet. A bit dry? Yeah...

What can I say?

"It's been awhile, since I've gone and mucked things up... Just like I always do. And it's been awhile... But all that sh*t seems to disappear when I'm with you..."

 

October 29, 2001 - Studies... Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn... The Moon...

Comments: The excellent clear skies held on through morning. Spent a bit of time with the dob exploring through some of the winter constellations to start a new "Extreme" series for later. Stopped by the M41 just to drool on that little red star on the edge of the field. Returned to the Trapezium area where I can still easily see six stars. Sky quality is poor for the dimmer galaxies, and planetary nebula. No matter. Another time.

While waiting on Mercury and Venus to rise, I visited with Saturn. Very clear definition on the shadow of the rings on the planet body. Using the yellow filter brought the Cassini out in excellent form... and it seems like I can make out brightenings on the planet surface. Odd. I shall have to check into this. Looks like a much lighter "belt-like" region both above and below the ring shadow. All five visible moons were present.

Took a shot on Jupiter, too. Very clean, with six belt variations. I am assuming that the striations I am seeing on the rest of the surface are cloud patterns. If I had a bit more time, I would experiment with filters to see what I came up with, but I've got other stuff to look at.

Like Venus and Mercury making a close and delightful pair on the horizon....

 

October 28, 2001 - Venus and Mercury... The Moon and Stars...

Comments: Sky cleared just before dawn. Too late to do telescopic observations, but not too late to enjoy Venus and Mercury closing in on one another. A nice sight...

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Clear sky continued into the evening hours, allowing me some time to work on filming the Moon. Crater Gassendi make an excellent presentation last night, as did Anaximenes and Philolaus at the northern pole, and Hainzel, Palus Epedemarium, and Schiller in the southern half.

Experimented with star spectra, and thoroughly enjoyed the results. Unfortunately the stars I looked at last night are a bit dim to film using my current medium, but that doesn't really matter. Poked around at some of my favorite doubles. Compared spectra in stars that I knew have very differing light qualities. One star in particular, Mu Cephii, I believe, I just looked at because I wanted to. Between Lyra, Formalhaut, and Capella, there is a definate difference. Interesting...

 

October 25, 2001 - it's so cold. the wind is relentless and the sky is grey. there is no sun. i cannot even tell you where it is at in the sky. there is no moon. not even a bright spot against the clouds. i remember this time of year. i remember "windy".

i remember the sky weeping...

and i would give every single thing that i own, everything that i am, and everything that i've ever dreamed of being...

to have you back again.

"I can't live... With or without you."

 

October 25, 2001 - Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn... The Sun...

Comments: I really wasn't going to hunt this morning. The 4.5 is packed away in the car, ready to inspire a new group of kids. I've got all manner of things to do this morning. I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm depressed. And then I see Mercury through the window...

And I'm gone.

You simply cannot miss Mercury right now. Even though it as about four times less as bright as Venus to the naked eye, it is a very apparent "star" on the ecliptic show. It's very windy this morning... and it makes the dob hoot like a lonesome owl. But if I use the 32mm eyepiece, I can steady the tube enough with my hand to get a shot on it.

Appearing roughly at a 50% phase, (it's hard to judge because the wind makes the image shudder..) the lovely orange/white Mercury is twice as bright as the last time I saw it! I think morning apparitions are the best and most luminous. It sits just a few degrees away from the blazing green/white of Venus... who's magnitude is so overpowering in the 12.5, that it is almost like looking into a tiny Sun! Almost...

The image of Jupiter vibrates like crazy! I honestly think that during the wind is the only time I appreciate an equatorial mount. At least then I can tighten down those well worn gears and hold it steady! Sheesh..... From what I can pick out, one of the galieans is way to the outside, about flush with the planet body. And it sure looks to me like two more are touching Jupiter itself. Once again, it's hard to keep the picture steady... so I really can't confirm that. Saturn only shows one moon this morning also... for precisely the same reasons. But the shadow play of the rings still remains in evidence, even though the crazy thing won't sit still!

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And, for once, if I asked the Sun to put on a show for me, this time it surely does! It is soooo windy that I am in constant fear that the snug fitting solar filter might just pop off! (hey, i can replace the filter... but i can't replace my eyes or those of my young friends.) So, to assuage my tattered nerves, we secure it with a bit of duct tape and have at it!

"Ooooooh...." and "Aaaaaaaaahhh..." and "I see them! I see them!" are catch phrases for the day. Because Sol is loaded with power punch spots. There are at least a dozen areas of major engagement... (and for my own interest in study, the one, hot dark one on the incoming side sits in a great depression area, surrounded by faculae. it appears so curious to me that I revisit it when I return to the backyard. wanna' know why? because i can't draw hard-edge focus on it! it looks like it sitting underwater... very curious.) and the image is met with admiration by my young companions.

So, I challenge them to use their imaginations! And we have everything from fish to snakes, Goldeens to Charmanders, yo-yo's to jumpropes... but in the end, we all agree that the large area heading to the outgoing side appears as a yin-yan, done in black and tiny spots... and the central most spot is a great Chinese dragon! And the one on the incoming edge?

A scab...

"And you, my friend. I will defend. And if things change?

Well, I'll love you anyway."

 

October 24, 2001 - The Moon and Stars...

Comments: Really strange Ohio weather... (Listen to me! Sure, to the average person the weather seems strange, but knowing my own observing notes as I do, thunderstorms and wild temperature variations are NOT uncommon for this time of the year. And anytime two drastically different fronts meet over the plains area, tornadoes are a possibility. Been there... done that.) I guess the odd part is that the sky goes from totally cloudy to totally clear in about three minutes... and that's long enough to set up the little scope!

And point it at the Moon...

Wonderful study last night. Between the gusts of wind, the shuddering would stop and the clarity would become darn near perfect. And most definately good enough to drop the magnification hammer on it! I walked through the Highlands as I always do... in sheer admiration. This rugged terrain that belongs to Craters Alphonsus, Arzachel, Purbach, Walter, Ptolmaeus, Albategnius, Hipparchus, Werner and Alicensis are rich in detail. (and when the "ottoman" suggests i return to Ptolmaeus, i comply. it is very beautiful.)

To me, the show stealer was Archimedes... for it looks like two hands cupped together to scrape up a section of the Moon. And the Appennine Mountain range!! Where a soft little mare marks the point that Apollo 15 landed. What stark relief they produce! The shadow play gives such a wonderful dimension on height.

So, if I were to identify a new crater tonight... where would I say that my eyes were drawn to? Piazzi Smyth. Hands down. The rilles that run from Mount Pico (still 8,000 feet) toward Archimedes are absolutely at their best tonight. And smack dab in the middle of one sits Piazzi Smyth. Just another dark little hole on the Moon... (do i hear alice-in-chains playing here? "down in a hole... feeling so small... down in a hole.... losing my soul. i'd like to fly! but my wings are bent.. so that i...") Beautiful little crater.

Now, let's go check out some stars with the spectral grating!

Vega... WOW! Sing me the blues!! The spectral lines that come forth from this star run well into blue/violet. But does it change from star to star? I see Altair peeking from a clear spot... let's try it! Oh my... White! At either end of the spectral line, we run from blue, to white, to red... Oh, yessir... there IS a difference! OK.... what else? Mars! Come here... Yeah, baby! Again, a gambit of colors, but what stands out is orange and green. A pure science study? Ah, heck no. This is purely FUN! Ever since I saw "the light" in Antares, I haven't been able to let my mind rest entirely. It has become a need to know.... to see.

To be able to capture those spectral lines again...

"Feeling fine. I walk down the line. I see a trace... A cold trickle of warm sunshine."

 

October 23, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter and Venus...

Comments: Still drifting amongst the clouds. But a brief shine is all it takes to call me out to play. Saturn lacks appeal, for only the largest of its' moons are visible this morning. And Venus is always its' venusian self...

Jupiter was a bit better. Three of the galieans are in view. Two are very notably on the earthward side of the gas giant, while one lingers behind. And the other? Hiding I presume. Although the stong wind causes the scope to "shudder"from time to time, the equatorial belts are in sharp contrast this morning.

Still no sign of Mercury rising...

"And every day there's something hits me, oh so cold. I'm finally sitting by myself.

No excuses that I know..."

 

October 22, 2001 - The Moon and the M31...

Comments: Selene performed a most provocative dance in and out between the clouds last night... Only showing herself for moments at a time. There was no way, I thought, that I would have a chance to view. But, as usual...

I am wrong about everything.

Just before it ducked away west for the night, the sky cleared, and I sought the peace and comfort that only it can give me. And tonight it was Posidonius... The ancient stepped walls and deep surrounding craters held me fascinated. The shadows kept me company as they revealed the height of crater's edge. There are no songs to sing that can match the serenity of the lunar surface. No words to describe the awesome beauty of the Serpentine Ridge. Just take me there...

And leave me alone.

But, still I need. For I am only human. I want something to breathe life back into me. Even if it's only for a moment.

The stellar splendor of the Andromeda Galaxy folds itself around my eyes, giving cold comfort. There is no wish tonight to hop about my own galaxy in search of beauty... for a million suns are waiting for me in this distant place. And it moves me... From my eyes, to my fingertips... To transpire itself upon the sketch book I hold in my hands.

Freezing a moment in time...

"I'm trained in blue. And happy for you. You think it's funny, but I'm drowning in it, too..."

 

October 21, 2001 - And the beautiful morning turned to clouds...

and the clouds turned to rain.

"It's OK. I've had a bad day. My hands are bruised from breaking rocks all day..."

 

October 20/21, 2001 - The Orionid Meteor Shower...









Comments: Slept until I could stand it no more... and was overjoyed to wake up to clear sky! By 10:30 the radio was on, the coffee was brewed, the cushion was in the redwood lounger, and "the astronomer" was happily ensconced therein... Let the show begin!
"I'm on the outside. I'm lookin' in..."

Within minutes, the first silvery streak of light came out of the Pleiades, like one of the "Seven Sisters" had decided to take off on her own...
"So if I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive... Will I chose the water over wine? Or hold my own and drive? What ever tomorrow brings, I'll be there! With open eyes and open mind..."
And how pleasant it is outside tonight! The temperature is near sixty, and the rock and roll makes pleasant company with the stars.

More meteors passed through Pegasus, as I watched the constellation turn on it's inexorable path across the sky. When one appeared to pass through the Andromeda Galaxy!
"Staring straight up into the sky. Oh my, my. The solar systems that fit in your eye... Microcosm."
How fantastic these celestial fireworks are... and how magnificent it is to behold them cross a distant galaxy! So peaceful...

The minutes pass quietly. Saturn shines like a beacon before me... trying its' best to call out the scope! But not tonight. A soft twinkle of a face-on meteor graces Taurus, and within moments, produces a short arc, like a soft silver tear on it's face.
"This is how you remind me... Of who I really am."
And I look to the south. A long, twisting train and a flash of a fiery end carries another through Aquarius. How quickly Formalhaut has moved to take the place of Mars! Ah, this dance of time...

Above me now, Pegasus has climbed past the zenith, and Cassiopeia holds more stars than I can even dream as possible. How I would love to sit on her lap in that cosmic rocking chair, and let her sing me the songs of the stars! While the gentle arm of our galaxy slowly comes round...
"To cradle the baby of space... And leave you here by yourself, chained to fate. I alone love you. I alone tempt you. I alone love you. Fear is not the end of this...."
A tiny thin line of white chases through Auriga, followed minutes later by two more fast curves of light... And the time moves as within a dream. The "Double Cluster" is a glowing ghost set against the black backdrop of night. And I let my guard down a bit, just enjoying the stars. Jupiter shines like a tiny moon, urging the sky toward glory. Capella is a yellow diamond, flashing its' spectra toward my willing eyes... And another flash! White hot, with only the most slender of trails, a meteor emerges from Auriga, to flash past Algol...
"I couldn't have loved you more... You've got a beautiful taste. Don't let the days go by... Glycerine. I can never forget where you're at..."


The sky is quiet once again. I watch Orion rise from the east... Emerging bow first from the trees, to stand tall within hours to the south. Betelguese pulses red and it sits in the haze of the horizon, and two or three more short arc meteors eminate from the "Hunter" as it begins to right itself in the sky.
"Space may be the final frontier, but it's made in a Hollywood basement. And Cobain can you hear the sphere? Singing songs of specialization. And Alderan's not far away..."

(Yeah, and here I go dreamin' again. There are times when I think perhaps only a lobotomy could cure this thing in my head!)

By this time I had observed at least fifteen notable meteors, and it was quite time for me to duck back in for a bite to eat, and check the time. (Still a creature of duty...) Twelve minutes later I was back out there, holding my filet mignon slices and garlic mashed potatoes up as an offering to the gods of the night. (hey! let 'em get their own, ok? i work hard for this stuff! ;) Ah, the finer art of astronomy... not willing to give up any sky time for necessities! Like food... (i can eat and look up, can't you? ) Besides, I've only a little more than an hour before I have to leave. As much as I hate to...
"It's been awhile... Since I could hold my head up high. And, It's been awhile... Since I first saw you. And everything I can't remember... As mucked up as it all may seem. The consequences that were rendered... Guess I mucked things up again."

Luck still seems to be on my side, (well, that and the fact that the radiant is now pretty much where it's supposed to be, huh?) and during the next hour I spotted ten more meteors, bringing the count for a little less than four hours to twenty-five. I really don't consider that too bad! Actually, I had a rather nice time... but now I must go.

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Of course, I walked all the way into work from the farthest corner of the parking lot looking up! God help anyone who saw me... (hey, they know i'm crazy! ;) and spent the next couple of hours immersed in data. Something about being buried beneath a ton of numbers brings you back to reality in a hurry. But you know what? It's still dark during break time! Now let's head out back...

And find a nitch where almost all of the exterior lights are blocked... and kick back in the corner with a cup of coffee, and smile up at Orion! At approximately 5:30 there was a flurry of activity!! One right after another, the meteors blazed away from Orion, making me laugh and yell out loud! You can see now why I prefer to be alone on break... sometimes my behavior frightens others. (Good! ;) But I wasn't alone.

I had the children of Comet Halley to keep me company...


"And every day there's something hits me, oh so cold. I'm finally sitting by myself...

No excuses that I know."

 

October 20, 2001 - M35, M50, M47, M46, M93 and Jupiter... the Sun...

Comments: Yessss! And the sky cleared before I had to go to work, so I got some morning study time!

Part of what I was after this morning was re-visiting some targets that I had seen earlier in the week with the 4.5, only this time do it dobby style!

The M35 was one of these... It is a very beautiful, and populous cluster with aperature. The M35 consists of what is probably a couple of hundred small stars, for the most part blue. But, after a few moments, you notice the brighter stars in the group are yellow and orange. Very nice... averted vision makes this one!

The M50, was one I did not catch the other day, but decided to visit. Once again, superb color contrast. Blues form a "Y" shape, but to the south, a red one makes a highly unusual playmate! There is a sense that there are more, and more stars here that need resolved, and I plan on revisiting in the future!

Now, I feel like Puppis. The M47, is very crisp and well resolved. Wide open spaces for the blues, but the real kicker in this one is a tiny double at the center that the 4.5 couldn't detect! M46 is just great... A cloud of tiny blue points that curl round and round... (heheheh... it sort of reminds me of one of those "troll dolls" with the wild hair! definately need more coffee here... especially when i start seeing stuff in the stars! ;) Toward the south, the star field forms a circlet, enveloping one outstanding member.

M93 is next... YES! Smaller than the M46, and M47, the M93's charm is the various magnitudes of stars in the gathering. Some of the brighter members cut away from the pack to the west, while roughly northeast to southwest, the "band" plays on... as a swath sparkling pinpoints of light. Chains break away here and there... This one truly reminds me of fireworks in the eyepiece!

I bopped around and generally am reacquainting myself with the area. There were a couple of things I wanted to check out... and working at finding new ones. It is an on-going process, this learning of the sky... For each season means I must find stuff all over again! (you can just tell how crushed i am... :)

Last stop for this morning was Jupiter. And the Galieans are BACK! Two are tossed well and away to the southwest side, while in the northeast, a tight little pairing dances close to the body of the planet.

Love them little moons....

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I simply don't believe this. Sunspot 9661 has coalesced. This is absolutely unprecendented.

Many times I've watch a sunspot basically "dissolve", but never have I watched one so very black segment itself and be drawn back together. That has got to be one of the most unique things I've witnessed in my solar traverse.

But, hey Skippy... this isn't all. There are more than a half dozen highly conspicuous and very interesting areas visible also. From chains to groups... dispersion field to depression, this is one very volatile astronomical target to observe!!

(Now, wish me the best... For I must go get some rest before heading back into work. With a bit of luck I may have a chance to view a portion of the Orionid Meteor shower!)

Because I'm wishing the best to you...

"Laying low. Wanna' take it slow. There's no more hiding from the skies and truth I know..."

 

October 19, 2001 - And along came the clouds...

"It's alright. There comes a time. When I've got no patience, but search for peace of mind..."

 

October 18, 2001 - The Sun... Andromeda, Triangulum, and Cassiopeia...

Comments: An excellent, sunny Fall day means that I've got to take at least a few moments and check out those radical sunspots. I am still very impressed by the way in which the largest has seperated in three... and I find it quite unusual. It is not a common occurrance for me to be able to follow a large spot through that kind of major change...

And as I write this report after the fact, I've received notice that this particular spot has erupted! Too cool... So be aware that if you are a frequent viewer of Sol, you will often see changes in advance of the event, which makes "Sun Gazing" even more interesting!

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And my luck holds through into the evening. Time for me to go look around in some of the constellations which I pointedly ignored last night. The weather is a bit more warm, (or else I've become a bit more used to the idea... ;) and after having done some "armchair galaxy hunting" with an on-line friend, I am quite ready to go! You suggested Andromeda... and I comply.

The M31 is just so massive in the dob. Even at 32mm, the darn thing bleeds way outside the field of view.... So, I uncap the 4.5, use the 25mm, and take it as a whole. It make me smile to see it this way, because I remember it was the first galaxy I ever found!! (And running to the phone to call Tom Andrews... excited as all get-out... wanting to know if this was what I was seeing... hehehhehe... bless you, Tom. for your patience... come a long, long way over the years, haven't i?) And when I have strolled down memory lane long enough, it was time to unleash the dobby on it.

Section at a time, the M31 is spectacular. From the impenentrable core area, through the defining dust lanes, and the magnificent mystery of the NGC206.... It is one galaxy that delivers to all telescopes. When I look at it, I always have a sense that I should be able to resolve, but I guess that is a question I shall have to leave up to the observatory scope. My curiousity has been awakened....

You know, the M110 is quite a worthy galaxy on its' own. Take the M31 out of the picture (yeah, right... the light bleeds over even from the outside!) and you have a great study here. It has a bright core region that fades away nicely and evenly into its' galactic body. I have a feeling that it would be quite something on its' own. Like the M32... a haloed ball of brightness. The are great as companions go... but I can't help but wonder what they could do on their own!

And I hop by Almach. Same results, eh? Let's try the 17mm. Yep. Same results. They ARE seperate entities... but their spectral selves cause them to "bleed" together. I guess you would call that "pinched at the waist". They touch, yet are two... Quite interesting! Did you know the definition of Almach is "earth kid"? Or in Arabic, Almaak means a weasel-like mammal? Hey... I LIKE weasels!! Eagles may soar, my friend... but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.... ;)

How about NGC752 now? Chains and knots... doubles and triples... very colorful! Sweet....

Or the NGCs 185 and 147? Same field eliptical galaxies that remind me so very much of twin comets! Cool little customers, they are... nice subtle core, surrounded by galaxy stuff.

Wanna' go for Triangulum tonight? You got it...

The M33 embodies the word "diffuse". Every bit as large as the Andromeda, the "Ghost Galaxy" still fascinates me. At best, the dob can pick up some areas of brightness, giving a hint at what probably is distant opens, globulars and nebula... Once such area is designated as the NGC604... A bright patch, reminding me of the same type of area in Andromeda, but far less pronounced. Unusual beastie, the M33.

Ready to hop to Cassiopeia? Then let's do it! (We've got a bit of cloud edging along the southern horizon... feel like a race? ;)

M105 sings the beautiful blues... A loose collection of stars, it comes in doubles and triples, with an orange giant in the midst. Better than the loose form of the NGC663... The NGC654 shows a much tighter structure... appearing as a stellar flock shepherded by a lone, bright star.

The NGC659 is just slightly concentrated... and at first glance, my thoughts were "Seahorse"! For it's curves somehow remind me of those unusual creatures who wrap the tails around to hold tight against the current... The NGC457 is a bit brighter. Somewhat clumpy looking, congealing itself into a vague "Y" formation.

Oooh! Let's play billiards! For the NGC436 reminds me of that sport. One collection of stars forms a tight triangle, that points toward a "cue ball" of a seperate star. (nine ball... corner pocket... whack! ;) The NGC657 reminds me of a tiny Cygus... for the stars produce a haze very similar to what the Milky Way does...

NGC225? Wide open, doubles city! (Cor, Jeff, Otto and Francesco would have a field day here!) But, I can rest for long... clouds are coming.

NGC7789... Oh YEAH! (hey, you know it's another favorite... ;) Terrific in either scope. It looks almost galactic to the 4.5... and totally INTENSE to the 12.5! I want to be drifty here... Just let my eyes wander all over it, stroking the stars. Enjoying patches of nothingness... Touching the blues... Smiling at the yellows. This is probably the best of Cassiopeia's clusters.

But let's not forget the M52, ok? It is a tight ball of doubles, almost resembling a loose globlular cluster. I can see very well why Mr. Messier would wish to investigate this one to see if it was a comet! And it makes me appreciate that ancient's devotion all the more... What a strange life he must have led! At least in this day and age, we are capable of easy communication with others who enjoy this strange hobby... Just think of the great dark sky he must of had!! I cannot help but wonder if he often felt lonely.

Nah....

"I know you. You know me... One thing I can tell you is you've got to be free!

Come together. Right now. Over me.

Come together.... Come together.... Come together... Come together..."

 

October 17/18, 2001 - Skywalkin'...

Comments: Very cold and very clear. It has been a long time, my friend, since I had a chance to do what I love to do best. Skywalk...

I go first to Brocchi's Cluster, because as Cygnus turns against the night, it will soon move away. It is not the most special of sights, but I still enjoy it! Then move on up the Milky Way for the M71 and its' unusual form. Then across for one of my favorites, the NGC6940.

Stop it. Now. I am being mechanical... I am turning this fantasy of a night into a series of numbers and nothingness. Above all, I prize my freedom and my individuality. I don't wish to be a scopist... I don't want a plan. What I want is a map and a current location of something I haven't looked at in a very long time...

Guess who's still in town, eh? Comet LINEAR. (Yeah, I looked at "Bacon Fettucine"... can't resist!) But this is what I'm after. Good old LINEAR is just barely hanging on. It took extreme averted vision in the 4.5 to make it out, and although I could hold it direct in the 12.5, it is one faded son-of-a-gun. Heading out into space, it is. And how I wish I could hitch a ride...

But not to the same old stuff. The dob eats light, and tonight, I'm hungry...

Let's snack on Cephus. NGC7510 is a great appetizer... Wonderful field of stars, and a bright little asterism that reminds me of a bottle of Coca-Cola, being poured out for my cosmic enjoyment. Perhaps these tiny stars that come out to play are like effervescence... let it tickle my eyes! And still I want... I want the NGC6946 is what! What a satisfying nucleas it has, with the gentle curve of a spiral arm.. And when I walk back from it a bit, the NGC6939 plays into view. So wonderful.... I just stare and stare at these two. This soft spiral galaxy with a companion open... and it's own tiny "southern cross" buried within.

Lacerta, what have you for me, tonight? The NGC7209... rich in stars, yet vague in asterisms. And it takes a bit of a hunt, but I find the NGC7243. Ah, now this is more like it! Colorful bright stars, and doubles laid over a field of pinpoint lights. Resolvable to the max, and a real piece of eye candy!

And I am cold...

I cover the 4.5 back up, lay the dob down horizontal and cap the optics. My over-grown, black companion here is up to all kinds of shenanigans to get my attention. There are sticks everywhere round my feet... and he is like liquid silk in the shadows. (This one can hide even better than I!) He doesn't understand what I'm doing the way the old one does... for he has been my observing partner from the beginning. But he is a well-mannered 80+ pounds of black energy, who doesn't mind heading in for a warm up! Know what? Old Ranger is still pretty spry for his years, because he beat us both to the door!! ;)

********************************

All righty, then... A couple cookies to go round, a cup of coffee to warm the innards, and let's go to the south field...

Hey, Capricorn.... What's up? I see Mars is still trying to catch up with you, eh? LOL! Not going to happen. I do believe that Saggitarius still has a hold on it...

A reference to the notes, a spot on the sky, and we're off to the NGC6907. Nice "S" shape tonight, that fades away toward one end. A very gentle sort of galaxy, but I am always pleased to see it. Some roaming around, and viola! The M30... Woooo! Positively "stellar"! It looks like a tiny explosion of stars!!

Dawdling around a bit, then to the "Helix" nebula. Howdy. Nice to see you. Another time, ok? This is what I'm after.... The NGC7184. Oh my. It looks like a tiny, silver Saturn that has spun faster and faster... to the point where it is flying apart and blurring with revolution. Very, very nice. I think I'll drool here for awhile.

When we've had our fill, let's go get the NGC7727, ok? Yeah, it's pretty much just a ball of light with the very faintest trace of an arm, but I like challenges. Wanna' try for the NGC7392? All right! It is a tight, bright oval in the eyepiece, but it has one finger of light that extrudes like a beckoning finger... Come hither, and enjoy me.

Now, let's hop off toward the NGC7218. Hello, Lumpy! ("It's lump, it's lump, it's lump... it's in my head..." Ooops, drifting again, aren't I? Sorry!) The thing still looks like a cluster of grapes for a core region... What a "knotty" little character it is! How about NGC7314? Well, roll the dice (cuz' the number 5 just came up!) and turn this spiral the other way! Beautiful... beautiful... Bright and tasty.

I'm starting to shiver a bit again... and thinking of moving back to some relative shelter. That is, until a rouge meteor flashes by! (Hey, sky... if you're giving, I'm taking.... Let's rock!) On to the NGC7172. A great edge-on that winks its' dark dust lane at the eye. And it has two other companions here... just scratches of light. And, oh how they remind me of the ones in the mighty Leo!

(Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr.... Do something to warm me up a bit! I don't want to lose my night eyes...)

Oh, I can think of something alright. Let's pull the dobby (and dammet... quit trying to bite the wheels! ;) back up to a shady spot. We've got some real toys to play with now.

Stephan's Quintet... Oh, now I really am drooling here. (Funny, that... are you cold now? I'm not!) I remember the big one's designation is the NGC7320, but not the other ones at the moment. And you know what? I don't want to spoil the magic of the moment by looking through my notes either. (Or our eyes!)

Ready for more, yet? How about NGC7479? This is one very graceful spiral galaxy... A soft, well formed body that delights the eye as well as the spirit. But I want you to see something else...

The NGC7814. Now THAT is a galaxy. (How I would love to see your face when you look at this one...) Breathtaking core region that seems to bulge with a life of it's own... a feature unique to certain edge-on galaxies. But the dark dust lane... oh my. It gives it character, does it not? Alive is how it looks... Who needs Andromeda? We've got this one! ;)

Exciting stuff, yes? Oh, don't go yet... I've something more for you. Let's skip Cassiopeia tonight, pass over the "Double Cluster", smile at Algol, and let me hold you here...

This is the Perseus Galaxy Cluster. At the center two spirals stare back at us like ethereal eyes... and I want you to look deep into them and watch what happens. Don't move your gaze now... Just relax.... Look at all of them! (I heard you catch your breath... or was that me? Doesn't matter, for this, this is what it is all about to me...) Frozen in place at this moment in time, the tiny galaxies swarm all around.

"And I stare into the sky until...
My eyes are filled with stars.
Then I...
Still stand and stare into the sky."

There is no finer moment than one like this...

When I feel I can move on, it is toward Saturn. Time to bring myself back to my own solar system, I guess. (But, I don't want to!) I powered up on the mighty one, and thought I would go blind! 8-) Have mercy... You make take the planets. The dob does not excel at them. Walking back to the 17mm is far prefereable. The Cassini is as sharp as a mechanical pencil line... the shadow of the planet on the rings is deep and well defined... the shadow of the rings on the planet is a perfect terminus. The moons are spectacular and in well defined positions... but this is all it will do. "Quothe the Raven... Nevermore."

So, since we're blind, let's go check out Capella! Yeow! (and I though Saturn was cooking!) Capella is painful to the eye after having spent so much time "in the dark". Spectra to the max on this one... but there was a little bit of something red to check out, tiny and perfect. Well away, but impressive to me. Ah well, I am easily amused.

And I really am cold...

One more, for me please? I need for you to see this, then we'll go throw some logs on the fire and rest while the constellations shift...

Kemble's Cascade...

A picture paints a thousand words, and this is what the 12.5 sees...


photo by Walter MacDonald


It is glorious... And now I shall race you to the fire!

********************************

A couple of hours is enough. Sleep when I'm dead, thanks. The sky is still glorious, and there are things I want to see.

Jupiter first, ok? OUCH! Very overpowering in the dob... Might as well be looking at the Moon! And speaking of moons, where the heck are they? OK... the little yellow one is way to the outside, and there's an odd looking patch that says one might be transiting... no shadow hole though. Guess the others must be behind! (Hey, the star field is soooo rich in the dob, it looks like Jupiter has 20 moons! Except for just a slight black halo around the planet, there are everywhere...) Belts? Six... cakewalk. Variations all over the surface when I drop blue filter on it.

But I woke up early to study some things... and to see others I so wanted to Monday morning...

Like the M42. Way, way beyond what the 4.5 can see. It looks like grey/green smoke has been blown into a shaft sunlight and frozen. The filaments go beyond imagination... beyond photographs... For only the eye can perceive the spectral, and only the brain can achieve dimension. And you know what I've come to study, don't you? Yes, of course you do. Six...

And there is something else I have craved to see... and it is there. The "Horsehead" nebula. Does it look like the photos? Nope. It's tiny. So what does it look like? Reminiscent of the veil... a thin sheath of light, with a tiny notch. Not far away, the "Flame" is much more spectacular... but this one is an astronomical prize. A soft kiss on the cheek...

I stopped to scan the skies for Project Starshine. It is a tiny thing, just another sattelite in the sky. (They come and go, eh?) But I was pleased to have caught it... Along with three great meteors!! Ah... the offspring of Comet Halley. I look forward to you.

Back to studies now..

The "Rosette" is a bit more visible, some nebular wisps that surround the star cluster which spawns it. A drift of light, a bit of knowlege shared... It makes me feel good to see it again.

As does the M41, with its' tiny red heart beating at the edge of the stellar collection, the M44 in glorious profusion, the M81 and M82 as seperate entities in the 17mm... and one very dear old friend.

Whooooooooo.... ;)

"Here come old flattop, he come groovin' up slowly. He got ju ju eyeball, he one holy roller. He got hair down to his knee. Got to be a joker, he just do what he please...

He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football. He got monkeyfinger, he shoot coca-cola. He say, "I know you. You know me.

One thing I can tell you is you've got to be free...:

Come together. Right now. Over me..."

 

October 17, 2001 - Saturn and Jupiter... The Sun...

Comments: Got to sneak a quick peek between the morning clouds at the giants...

Saturn is so clear this morning, it almost breaks my heart to just use the 4.5 on it! The largest of the Moons is still to the northern edge of the rings, and that "wink" is quite a reality. The troopers are still scurrying along the system edge... and I can't wait to put some "muscle" into the view!

Jupiter's pairs have quite split up. Three are well "spaced-out" in the northeastern frontier and the fourth, Callisto, I belive, is either in hiding... or masquerading as a star in the very rich field which Jove now occupies! (Stars everywhere... ;)

Hey! The weather is improving... maybe, just maybe a skywalk is in my near future.

******************************************************

And that clearing weather held through the day, and left the Sun quite visible after work! And, you know me... I'm on it.

At very least, there are two dozen sunspots forming various asterisms on the solar surface... one of the largest of the small groups appears as a backward "C" just about the center of the disc. But, the show-stealer is, of course, the two mighty ones.

For what it's worth, the "saw-toothed" shape has now broken up into three seperate components. They all stay rather near one another... reminding me of oil on top of water. It looks like it would very little interaction to get them to coalesce again. But, seperate they are. And seperate they shall stay.


Mt. Wilson Observatory ~ Current Sketch Info


Interesting creature, our nearest star. I thought quite a bit about the solar filter as I was taking it out of the case. I had just replied to a question about solar filters as a topic on the AstroTalk board. I have no problem with solar filter film being used.... for I, too, had beginnings. Here beneath the filter itself lies eclipse viewers, spare welder's glass, and a sample of Tuthill's film. To me they are archaic.... but like, many things, I hang on to them out of love. And when I have finished my observations, I wrap the glass cell filter tenderly with plastic and bubble wrap, remembering how I saved to get it, and how much pleasure it has given me over the years... and tuck it away. It is one of my things.


"Come together. Right now. Over me!"

 

October 16, 2001 - OK... so it's another cold, rainy night. What say we just chuck a couple of logs in the woodstove, open a couple of beers and have a laugh?

I'll tickle yours if you tickle mine... ;)

"He a rollercoaster, he got early warning. He got muddy water... he one mojo filter. He say "One and one and one is three!" Got to be good lookin' cause he's so hard to please..."

 

October 15, 2001 - Morning Walk...

Comments: Woke up around 4:00, and I didn't even have to put my glasses on to see the stars shining through the window. (and it sure didn't take very long for me to find some manner of clothing and start the coffee, either. ;)

My brew hadn't even neared completion before I was already outside.... Holy Mother of Pearl! The stars are really walking and talking this morning!! Jupiter looks as if it could fall from the sky, and the glittering path of the Winter Milky Way stretched from the northwest to the southeast in all its' glory. WOW! But things are dripping here... I mean "really" dripping. (as much as I ache to take the dob out, it would hurt me ten times more to have a wet leaf, or stray rain drop touch that mirror...) But, like myself, the 4.5 doesn't mind getting its' feet wet, or taking a cold morning walk! So, out you go to stablize while I fetch that cup of coffee... ;)

Cassiopeia and Perseus look incredible... there are so many stars visible that my first inclination is to go there! But, I know this is going to be my prime area for the next several weeks, so I'll just be content to know that the "Double Cluster" is easily visible unaided. Where to? As I look up (and still think, dammit! even though i try not to.) a fantastic meteor blazes away from the bow of Orion and through Taurus, leaving a spledid twisting train of light that sparkles and fades... Decision made.

The Pleiades, or M45 is always a cool, blue treasure. The 4.5 reveals a great deal of the interior stars, but the showpiece is the Merope Nebula. It looks like it has been smeared around the star itself. And the color teases the eye. And the Hyades? Of course, for I like the precision look of them. Hmmmmm... what else?

Aldeberan.... El Nath.... Zeta Tauri... Oh, you know this, eh? Then let's go check out the M1! It is small, but very distinct in the 4.5, and as I observe it, I cannot help but think of spinning neutron stars, and radio waves, and pulsars... Fantastic little beast.... Wouldn't it have been something to have been around a thousand years ago to have watched it go nova? Oh, yeah...

Now, the M42 seems to think I'm ignoring it, so let's go have a look, shall we? Oh my... The four Trapezium stars snap directly into sharp focus, and it's getting really hard to ignore the dob barking in the garage! The Orion Nebula is like a frozen fantasy of grey/green smoke... and even the little scope reveals three stars embedded within. Just magnificent.... (spectra...i need to know spectra...) The M43 is also very clean this morning, being pushed away from its' grandoise companion by a lone star. What a fine place this is...

Shall we hop up toward the belt? (Howdy, Sigma Orionis... yeah, yeah... three now, but i'll be back for you, too! Oh, and how "patriotic" of you to display such nice colors! ;) Check out Alnitak? ("hey, hey, hey... come out and play!") It, "two" will have its' day, but right now I am just happy to see the wisp of nebula that will reveal one of the most elusive objects in the sky in the weeks to come...

Enough now, let's go check out Saturn and Jupiter before they put my eyes out.

Saturn is its' usual mysterious self this morning. Even empowered the 4.5 will do little more than just reveal the presence of the Cassini. (I think the barlow and the good eyepiece will fare much better with the larger scope on this one!) But what it does do rather well is pick the little saturnian satellites right out of the sky! And they have shifted considerably since the last I saw them. The largest of the moons has gone from one edge of the ring system to the other, and I picked up a consistant "wink" just below it that I am sure is another. The little players orbiting around the very edge of the rings are substantial. No "maybe" about it!

And Jupiter? Hey! Swing your partner, eh? I got such a laugh when I set the scope down on it, because not only is the one pairing holding, but it's now become two! (What is this? Duo-destiny time in my life? Ha!) One either side of the MIghty Jove, the galieans have taken each other by the hand in the magnificent waltz that belongs to Jupiter alone. And the equatorial belts? Just as clean and pretty as you please. Not even a hint of "overexposure" this morning. Maybe I've just gone round the bend... Or maybe, maybe the phenomena has? Curiouser and curiouser, Alice...

You do realize that just a short hop from Jupiter is Wasat, don't you? And a short hop from there is the NGC2392? Then I'll race you to it! The "Clown Face" nebula is quite a bit brighter than I remember it. There's a right decent star just to the north of it that is about half the apparent diamenter of this greenish sky gem. There is no dark distinctions or central star visible with this limited aperature, but even restricted there is just something about planetaries that tickle my eye! Of course, before we head out again, it might not be a bad idea to check out a couple of side by side egg whites, and wonder if the little orange is considered part of the meal, eh? Oh, what the hey... let's just "pepper" the whole thing with the wide open M35!

So, wanna' look at Sirius? Yooooooo! Blue is the most prominent color flash today. Funny that, usually I pick up more white. No matter, we be dropping south for the M41 any how. It is a very bright open cluster with many more stars teasing at the edge of the 4.5 capabilities. Sweet... It looks like a "pinwheel" of stars.

OK... a little more Sirius here. Shake it on over toward the east, and WHOA! Outstanding... the M46 is really great! LIttle tiny points of blue everywhere with one very prominent member... and even one or two reds thrown in for contrast! Now jiggle it up and to the right just a bit.... yeah! You got it! The M47. It's not even anywhere close to the stellar population of the last, but there is one nice little double right there in the middle! Drop to Wezen now... and slide east toward Xi Puppis. Oh yeah... this is worth looking up! The M93 will rival the best of the open cluster. Tremendous variations of magnitudes, all locked together in one place. I can't wait to set the big scope on this one again, because the more I avert my vision, the more stars come out to play! Awesome...

Sure, I'm cold. But do you know how long it's been since I really got to play with the sky? Leo has risen completely over the eastern horizon by now, and you know what? M44 is right there. And I still dig playing with it.... It is etched in my memory forever how many stars can be brought out in this one. And what does the little scope see? The bright ones. But the memory persists, (watches melting everywhere...) and I know that grainy background texture for what it is. "Make it a mystery..." (i should have stayed that way. i even miss the song.) And the M67? Terrific! I just can't get over how much in looks like the NGC6940! Except for, well... maybe that bright star that hangs out with it.

Nah, I'm still not ready to hang it up yet. Let's go take a spin through Auriga and visit with the M36, M37 and M38. Easy enough. The M65 and M66 are still too low, but the M81 and M82 complies! Then I just capped things up and held a cup of coffee and watched the meteors play while Venus rises. (Do you realize you could scare the socks off of an innocent by making up a ghost story while that planet races up the sky? LOL! Marfa Mystery Lights, indeed.... come watch Venus play in the tree branches of the distant woods! ;) And when she's cleared, I open the scope back up to have a look see. And it is throwing off some terrific green today! (Doesn't gas contain spectra? Hehehehehhe.... ;)

Think it's over yet? No way! (I'm not letting you off that easy...) I thought the Moon was gone, too. But here it is, smiling it's tiny orange smile... and sporting some of the best "earthshine" I've seen in a a very long while. Beautiful, beautiful morning...

Now let's go make some pancakes.

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Somewhere in the middle of writing this report and trying to deal with a new german shepherd (yeah, two, ok? this is an all black young 'un that belonged to my son, and now has taken up residence with a lonely old astronomer with an equally old dog. wow! talk about a young firebrand... i can see the days ahead are going to be very interesting! ;) and making myself and these animals some lunch (easy enough... tv dinners for three.) I managed to get a look at the Sun.

What can I say besides where have I been?! There are two kick asteroid spots that are just outrageous! Here... let me show you.


photo: spaceweather.com


The photos never quite do them justice, though. There are two dozen easily discernable sunspots, and lots of stress lines and shadows at the edge. But these two are... WOW! The leading one looks like a sunny-side up egg done in black, and the following one is saw-tooth shaped, and surrounded by a fantastic disperison field. You would just have to see how incredibly black they are in real-time to understand just how impressive this phenomena can be!

Now, cross you fingers for me and hope for a bit of sky tonight. For the forecast is rain again for the next three days... sigh.

Ah, well... I have my dreams I guess.

"So I walk up on high... and I step to the edge, to see my world below. And I laugh to myself... while the tears roll down. Because it's the world I know...

It's the world I know..."

 

October 14, 2001 - Are you kidding? Still socked in by the clouds, wind and rain...

A tantalizing glimpse of blue sky that departs by the end of sunset, and turns into the cold rain of night. A very good time to toughen up the old fingers on the accoustic and catch up on some reading...

And sleep.

"Are we listening? To hymns of offering? Have we eyes to see? That love is gathering... Now all the words that I've been reading, have started the act of bleeding into one..."

 

October 13, 2001 - So, the rain date for the Star Party is today... Tell them to quit planning the rain that way, will you?

Some friends and I set out for the Armstrong Air and Space Museum today, and it was a pleasant visit, despite the weather. (How glad I was to see that Commander Armstrong's original spacesuit has been returned! After all the weird stuff that has been going on in the world, it probably will be safest here in nowhere Ohio...)

And the windy, grey day turned into a equally windy grey night. How strange our weather can be at times! Just days ago it was cold enough to freeze, yet tonight, like last night is warm enough to be out in shirt sleeves. A good night to take a bit of a long walk out of my dark corner of the village... and visit the bonfire of my neighbors. Indulge in as much beer as I can carry with me and still walk home.

Where the relentless wind trys to rip the dying leaves from the trees, and the clouds still hold court in the sky.

"Has our conscious shown? Has the sweet breeze blown? Has all kindness gone? Hope, still lingers on....

I drink myself of new found pity. Sit alone in the same old city. And I don't know why..."

 

October 12, 2001 - And, of course, scheduled observatory time means the sky is going to be beyond cloudy. Except for the holes...

I don't chase them. For I am content to sit here on the steps of the deck with my old dog, and my old guitar and make music... Watching the stars wink in and out, and harmonizing til' my fingers can no longer hold down the strings.

"So, I walk up on high and I step to the edge... To see my world below. And I laugh to myself... While the tears roll down. Because it's the world I know.

It's the world I know..."

 

October 11, 2001 - Yep. You got it. Rain..... (sigh.) I've been looking round for that old alley cat of mine, but it seems the coyotes must have got him. Things just aren't the same now. I'll miss him every day.

Guess I'll do something mindless... like re-work Camera Shy. And wrestle this old german shepherd for the electric blanket.

And watch the raindrops race down the face of the window...

"Never cared for what they say. Never cared for games they play. Never cared for what they know. But I know...

So close... No matter how far. Couldn't be much more from the heart. Forever trusting who we are.

And nothing else matters..."

 

October 10, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, The Moon and the M0...

Comments: The 4.5 and I are up before dawn again... What can I say? Besides "Good Morning" to the neighbors...

Great galloping moons! Saturn is really "doing its' thing" right now... The largest of them hangs out on the edge of the ring system to the east, while the little troopers do an intricate dance to the south! The atmospheric clarity doesn't cut it this morning, but it sure helps to magnify Saturn's sattelites!

How about Jupiter? Three moons visible on the southwestern frontier... and boy! Was Ottoman ever right!! One of them is definately yellow! (Funny how when you look at things a bit differently, you notice things you never did before!) And speaking of noticing things... There is something odd going on in the equatorial belts. There just seems to be too much reflection...

And the Moon? Plato was the hot spot this morning!

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Tonight all I get is the M0! Ah, well... Might as well just get some work done, huh? Maybe sleep for the next six days or so... ;)

And dream...

"Trust I seek. And I find in you... Every day for us, something new! Open mind, for a different view.

And nothing else matters..."

 

October 9, 2001 - The Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus... Rockin' the Night...

Comments: Ah, now you know I love getting up early to look at those planets! There is nothing sweeter than those pre-dawn hours... Cradling a cup of hot coffee between stiff old fingers, saying "howdy" to the neighbors, and just looking up in open-mouthed wonder at all those kick @$$ bright winter stars!

First, though, the Moon... Still trying my hand at a bit of video photography. (hey, i was quite willing to trade this week's lunch money in order to play with that thing again! ;) I was totally captivated by Piton, Archimedes, Aristilus and Autolycus (and your little dog, Plato too!) this morning, and I'll leave the pic until pagebuilder says "too much"! Albategnius and Copernicus sure weren't anything to sneeze at either, and hopefully when I have time to look over the footage, I'll find that I managed to capture the Straight Wall as well as I can see it in the eyepiece!

Time to check out Saturn now. The 4.5 doesn't give that splendid image of the Cassini that the dobby does, but it will reveal the shadow play very well! And the march of the Moons around the rings...

Jupiter is excellent! Even at the medium power that 17mm delivers, the equatorial bands are very prominent, but not spectacular. What steals the show in the little scope is the dance of the Galieans! One set is still holding hands with one another, and waltzing around the gas giant. I find it a bit odd, because usually pairings don't last that long. My science head says it's not the same two, nor are they actually a pair, they just appear so. But the rotten little half of me that still believes in magic likes lookin' at 'em anyway... ;)

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So where do you want to set sail for tonight? The sky is fairly and dark. Turn on the radio and let's rock! The stars await us...

You know, if we walk out into the south field a bit, we can still pick up on the M9! Wanna' try? Good! Let's go... So round, so firm, so fully packed! The M9 isn't in the greatest of sky positions right now, but even just a bit of concentration is all it takes to start resolving some of the outer stars. Methinks this one has gone beyond its' prime...

Ah well, let's go try the M92. Yeah! This is more like it!! A very definate core comes out in this small globular, and it plays very well with averted vision. Flattened off to one side, where the stars break away, the tiny blue/white stars tease the eye. Very nice!

Ready for a smile? (you'll never know how much i need one...) Then let's drop in on the "Hedgehog". M56 is a treat. Very small and compact, one lone star shears away to the edge. On the opposite side, three stars resolve their way from the mass. The M56 has a very special charm, drifting along with our galaxy's arm round it. I find it quite lovely, actually. (i think it's a keeper! ;)

How about we try the NGC6823? OK... It's not a faint nebula kind of night. No problem. The couple of dozen members of this open cluster are very relaxing to look at, and overall it sends back a light source that reminds me of the Plieades. Yeah. I like it.

So what about the M29? Hey! It resolves VERY well! Just another open cluster in the sea, but it does have a "space coolie". When you look at this one with soft eyes, seven stars come forward and it looks like Ursa Major!

Now, give that bear a great big hug... because it's tired.


"Never opened myself this way. Life is ours... We live it our way. All these words I don't just say.

And nothing else matters..."

 

October 8, 2001 - M16, NGC6822, NGC6818, M13, M57, M27, Brocchi's Cluster and the M11...

Comments: The recent rains and the drastic drop in temperature has left the sky in fine shape. I set the scopes out before dusk to let them cool, and when I could see Mars from my office window, I knew it was time...

As soon as I stepped out the door, I was swept up in the beautiful river of light that is the Milky Way. Pick a star, you say. And judge what the sky is like by what you can see... How can I chose? For there are so many. And what do I want to look at then the best of two seasons is spread before me? Set sail with me... and let the night take us where it will.

The wind blows south...

The M16 is captivating. At first glance it would appear to be nothing more than "wings" of soft light, as if a celestial child had painted a rudimentary bird on the surface of the night. But I am in no hurry to leave this place. Relax now, with me.... and let our eyes take in the splendid stars that come in doubles and triples around this place. As your concentration is focused upon the stars themselves, something wonderful happens. The "Klingon Bird of Prey" takes its' shape at the edge of vision! But do not look directly at it... For if you do, it will disappear just as surely as if it possessed a Romulan Cloaking Device! Magnificient...

I look at the sky now, smiling at Mars. And as I let myself wander, I see a star. A star that I know will take me to a splendid Enigma... And how I long to visit there again! Come with me...

The NGC6822 is radical. As with the M16 before it, I have all the time in the world to look upon it. How can I described to you the cold silver, living light of a galaxy? Are there words to tell that the stars within it are like both coarse and fine diamond dust glittering beneath the surface? Can you see that if you nudge it away, that a lonely planetary waits nearby, singing its' cosmic "blues" for an eternity? It is timeless. Yet as ephemeral as time itself...

And the wind blows to the west...

The M13 is still beyond compare. I have looked at many globular clusters, but none will take your fancy like this one does. Resolvability is the nature of this beast, and it cries out for attention. Yet it always seems to hide. It talks to you in riddles... and the stars get in the way. How very triumphant it is! And how very "stellar"...

Do we reach for the "Ring"? It is perfect. An unending circle... guarding its' secret heart. It has a gem set within it, but is it the beginning? Or the end? Don't answer that... for I know. Let's leave it in peace for now, and let us sail on.

To the magificent mystery of the M27... How alive you look to my dead eyes! You seem to glow and move with a life of your own... But it is not the beginning. It is the end. And the spectra moves within the eye...

Brocchi's cluster is very visible without the scope, but I take it in. Sailing through the splendor of the Milky Way.... admiring all that I see. ("My God. It's full of stars...) It was not an intentional target. The scope just journeyed there on it's own accord. I want to be swept away...

And so I am. Drawn away from the stress of the day... The NGC6940 has a peaceful quality to it that I truly like. The unusual M71 holds me for a moment... but when I set eyes upon the M11, I ask you to stay with me for awhile. The bright, blue/white stars hold me...

And the "Wild Ducks" fly upon the wings of the night...

Take me with you.

"So close... No matter how far. Couldn't be much more from the heart. Forever, trust in who we are. And nothing else matters..."

 

October 7, 2001 - The Moon occults the Hyades... The Sun... Saggitarius...

Comments: And the clouds made EVERY effort to occult the whole darn thing!!!

Thanks to the continually moving clouds, most of tonight's occultation of the Hyades was blocked from view, but occassionally I would catch a teasing glimpse of the stars nearing the edge just south of Grimaldi. I lost the final star somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:50 a.m.

I'll leave this pic for now.... (work calls) and see if I can't find a better one later. Time for me to make those wheels go round and round....

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And what a pleasure it is to have a sunny day! And you know me, I have to look. The solar face seems like a barren place now that the great spots have rotated away... but it does not lack character. A quartet of spots has come into view, but they are rather ordinary looking ones. And I like ordinary! A bit of magnification of the largest of the group shows a dispersion field... Ah, the ever-changing face of Sol!

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And tonight I need...

Perhaps I'm lonely, perhaps I'm tired... But what I want is the Archer. Usually I would not speak of what I see here, preferring to keep it within my mind... But, maybe one day I shall want to look back at this moment, and remember...

And I get right to the "point", for twin globulars NGC6522 and NGC6528, tiny and perfect. The NGC6520 is superb tonight! Like the head of Medusa, the star chains swirl round this globular, reaching for the tiny red double at the edge. But this one has a dark side... Barnard 86. Bordered by a triple system, and led by a hot, red star, this well of darkness looks like a missing jigsaw puzzle piece in the field of stars. And through it's heart passes the most teasing glimpse of what could be interior stars.

Now for the NGC6569... It is a delightful small globular, and I'm really trying to use my imagination here. So, pardon me for being silly, but it looks like a sea monkey! The NGC6624 is much different. This globular appears cataclysmic... like it's being torn apart on the inside. I can understand it.

Let's go up, because I want the M22 now. Glorious intensity. I always feel like I must hold my breath when I look at this one... Or perhaps it just takes it away!! Nearby are tiny star balls named NGC6638 and NGC6642. They beg for resolution.

M28 complies. Absolutely brilliant! The deeply concentrated core holds onto the star chains the swirl round it! And the "Lagoon"! Ah, what peace and beauty are hidden within the M8... The NGC6553 holds its' own double star close in a cosmic embrace.

I seek the "Trifid"... and the wonderful light of nebulae. It's dark dust lane is pleasing, and it's companion open, the M21 makes it all the more interesting!

And I stand and smile for awhile. I love this place! I regard Mars as it backstrokes across the sky. Remembering a morning time when I thought I was seeing two Antares! And it makes me smile all the more...

Now, let's get "down" before the Moon comes up!

The soft form of the M55 seems almost as needful as myself. But, it is in great celestial company... and it, too, will survive. The M70 is much brighter with a very compact with a stellar core. It is surrounded by apparent doubles... seeming to hold hands as they play "Ring Around The Rosie" with this globular playmate. The M54 is a sparkling ball of blue crystals. Larger stars seem to orbit round the perimeters... and there is a heartbreaking deep red star nearby. The M75 is very different. It is almost eye-like. The "field" is much less crowded here... and the chains form all around it, locking it away forever.

I cannot leave just yet.

The M17 is a nice as I've seen it in awhile. The brighter portion of the nebula resembles the number 2... and it's ghostly glow is beautiful. The stretched out open cluster M18 calls... and I really am trying to see an asterism here. Perhaps I can say that part of the star chains remind me of the figure 8. Now, time to delight in the swirls and whorls and colors the M23 gives! Lovely...

M24? I pleasure myself in its' stars. The unparalled beauty of the Saggitarius Star Cloud is soul satisfying. For, you see, the Archer moves me like no other. For everytime I look up...

I still think.

Godspeed you, Archer... Godspeed...


"But, I tell them there's no hurry. I'm just sittin' here doin' time...

Well, I'm just sittin' here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll. No longer riding on the merry-go-round. I just had to let it go.

I just had to let it go..."

 

October 5, 2001 - only the cold rain...

"Well, they shake their heads and look at me, as if I've lost my mind..."

 

October 4, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter and the rain...

Comments: Glad I looked this morning. It would appear that's all I'm going to get for awhile! Ah, well....

Saturn still sports its' halo of Moons, but you can see the are migrating around the perimeter. There was no sign of the Cassini this morning, but the shadow of the planet on the rings was most impressive!

Jupiter's moons were quite the highlight of the day... Because the pairing still holds as it swings round the otherside of the planet! All four were out to play, but I really get a kick out of seeing them so very close together.

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And the day gave way to rain... and the rain gave way to a rainy night.

So it goes...

"Ah, people asking questions... Lost in confusion. Well, I tell them there's no problems. Only solutions..."

 

October 3, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, Venus... M8, M22, M23, M20, M17, M11... the ISS... "Bacon Fettucine", the Moon, Mars, Neptune, Uranus, and the NGC6940...

Comments: I like my morning coffee with planets, and today was no exception. It's not what you would call "optimal" viewing conditions around here at the moment, but I don't mind. Saturn still shows its' moons quite clearly, and the shadow play of the planets and the rings. Jupiter wants to overexpose a bit, but the pairing of the galieans so very close to one another to the northeast makes up for that! And Venus? Still kicking! And what a pleasure it is to see it race before the sunrise... trying to catch up with the mighty Leo!

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Just a bit of time to graze around in Saggitarius before the Moon takes it out... A peek at my most favorite of things, like the serene M8, the power punch of the M22, the stellar cloud of the M23, ball of light M20, the "Nike Swoosh" of the M17, and a hop up to Scutum to fly with the "Wild Ducks" in the M11. Sure, there's lots more here... and the dob brings them out. But there will be time to say "goodbye" to Saggitarius under a darker sky... And if not? Well, perhaps I refuse to simply say "hasta la vista". I love it like no other... and I can wait.

Now check out the ISS!! What a majestic pass it makes tonight!! Sailing out of the southwest like the ship of hope, it seems to take forever to finish its' pass! Time enough to drag my youngest son outside to watch... time enough to loosen the stops on the 4.5 and chase it!!! WOW! (If you've not done this, then you're missing something! It's absolutely amazing to watch it grow impossibly bright, and then fade to a tiny orange dot!)

And since I have someone with younger, stronger eyes than mine... how about that "Bacon Fettuncine"? I only explained what it is that he should be looking for... nothing more. After two seconds he looked down at me from the ladder and says... "It's on top". Which led to a rather esoteric discussion on what color it was... to which I can only reply that color is in the eye of the beholder! (But I liked his description that it looked "really, really hot!") And it's nice to have another set of eyes to confirm all the random meteors that seem to be passing our way!!

By now the Moon looks like fire rising from the trees. Talk about inspirational! (Hey... I've got him now! ;) So we watch as the last of the tree tops tickle the bottom of Selene, enjoying the pace. I encourage him to point the dob in it's direction... and laugh at the observation that we are doing a "laser retinal scan" to look at it unfiltered!

And before he has time to get bored, I tease him into trying his hand at Mars... It takes a few minutes to get "the hang" of it, but the music is fine, the night is young, and I've all the time in the world! A bit of help is needed to get the scope onto Neptune and Uranus... and their less than spectacular appearance holds less appeal than talking to one's girl friend on the phone. So, I acquiesce. It was grand while it lasted.

As for me? Well... I think I'll spend a bit of time with the NGC6940 before I go.

"People say I'm lazy... Dreamin' my life away. Well, they give me all kinds of advice... trying to enlighten me. I tell them that I'm doing fine, watching shadows on the wall... Don't you miss the big time, eh? You're no longer on the ball...

Well, I'm just sittin' here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll. No longer riding on the merry-go-round. I just had to let it go..."

 

October 2, 2001 - The Sun and the Moon...

Comments: The sky looks like Chicago. I mean no offense to anyone, but there's a pall that hangs over the face of the sky here, that reminds me rather poignantly of the Windy City...

Above this muddy, pink haze the Sun still shines. And what a changed Sun it is, too! Without the grandiose spots, it seems almost naked. Almost...

There is still one nice area of activity, containing twenty or so Mercury-sized spots in a loose, oval configuration. And there are still at least that many more free-roaming spots scattered on the solar surface! Curiously, even though hard edge focus isn't in the picture, the incoming limb of the Sun shows a rather unusual look... (how to describe??) The grey areas of noticeable granulation seem to have bare places! Weird...

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The night sky wasn't improved over the day. But I will admit that the "Harvest Moon" is truly beautiful. A great, bloated orange Luna... sailing up into the sky! Robbing the night of stars...

Mars is there, and the occasional blue flash of Nunki shows that it has moved past the "Teapot" and is heading toward Capricorn. How I would love to see Saggitarius again! Sigh... But, only the most elementary of stars show through.

Shall I give it a go? (Hey... why not? The worst thing that could happen is that I'm wrong!) What I see is a bright, creamy white star in the eyepiece, cradled on the left by a rich chain of stars... it flashes, it rolls, it sends off spikes of rainbows... But, every now and then, the movement stops all too briefly, and I see a red star sitting on top of the white one. Right? Wrong? Nonsequitur! I can't even see the constellation... But, I'm having fun trying!

Hand me another beer, will ya'? Maybe if I look at it long enough, it will change again... ;)

"People say I'm crazy... Doing what I'm doing. Well, they give me all kinds of warnings... To save me from ruin. But, when I say that I'm OK, they look at me kind of strange. Surely, you're not happy now? You no longer play the game..."

 

October 1, 2001 - Saturn and Jupiter...The Moon and the lavender sky...

Comments: I love to sneak a peek at the planets in the morning! Why? Because I just do. No competitory nature... Just an old kid with a telescope, sippin' coffee, and getting off on the rings and shadows of Saturn... and dancing along with the galiean moons! (Pssssst! This morning they're all on OUR side! ;)

Harvest time here in Ohio... For those of you who don't live in a agriculturally based area, this means dust on a major scale. For at least a 150 mile radius around where I live, the tractors will run day and night to bring in the corn and soybeans that are the backbone of our local economy. No where will you drive that you do not see these massive machines in the field...

Result? A pall of dust that will hang in our local atmosphere for some time... providing glorious sunsets, unusual sunrises, orange moon... and lavender sky. (green clovers, blue diamonds, and purple horseshoes! always after me lucky charms... ;)

Unwilling to add any more dust to the surface of the 12.5's mirror, I stick solely with the 4.5. A review of the Moon shows it to be a full as its' going to get... with just a hint of craters around Grimaldi and Oenopides. I had a go at a double star that is not listed as a double star in the Cambridge Atlas... (que? ;) but just being able to see Mars and Nunki mixing it up in the south is challenge enough to the unaided eye!

There will be another time...

"Well, I'm just sittin' here, watching the wheels go round and round..."