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Road Trip ~ 2001

Road Trip ~ 2001

And so it has come for time for me to fly...

Amazingly enough, I did take the time to throw some clothes into a suitcase... and dust off the 'scope... and I headed out on the road! New experiences awaited me... new people... and old friends! ;) What a wonderful journey! I am once again in the "backyard"... and it is my chance to report on where I have been and what I have seen while enjoying "Astronomy Ala Carte", so please read on... and enjoy! (for every time i looked up... i still think.)

I did miss you, compadre... always.

"Sometimes I feel the fear. Of uncertainty... stinging clear. And I can't help but ask myself how much... I let the fear. Take the wheel and steer! It's driven me before. And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal. But lately, I'm beginning to find... that I should be the one behind the wheel!

Whatever tomorrow brings I'll be there... with open arms and open eyes!

So if I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive, will I chose the water over wine? And hold my own... and drive? 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.

So whatever tomorrow brings... I'll be there! With open arms and open eyes... Will I choose the water over wine? Or get behind the wheel and drive? So whatever tomorrow brings... I'll be there! With open arms and open eyes..."

 


June 25/26, 2001 - on the Pier near Oak Harbor...

Comments: What a scenic place Lake Erie is... Over the past two weeks I have seen a great deal of the country... from mountains to plains... from the ocean to the lakes. It has been an experience. One that has taught me a great deal... about things that are inside myself, as well as sharing with other people.

So how did I start the day? By going to the "Roller Coaster Capitol of the World" ~ Cedar Point! (and riding them all three times, eh? ;) It would seem that one thing that some astronomer's share in common is the need to walk on "the edge"... for I am not the only one who enjoys motorcycles and fast cars! And the "Millenium Force" is the highest, fastest, longest, etc. coaster in the world! It will peel your eyes back... and make you beg for mercy! (shyeah... rite! that's why i ran back around in line three times, huh? ;)

I will admit that the "Magnum" quite scared me a bit of heights... but again, well... I just LIKE going FAST, ok? (I drew the line at bungee jumping....) When at last my youngest son and I closed the Park down... it was time for my own "thing". I had access to a private pier, and after a very long, hot shower... four tylenol and half a pot of coffee, I was ready to go look at the stars...  

And so it is time for me to be introspective...

The pier is long, wide and stable... and I sit on the side watching the crescent Moon set. The gentle licking sounds of the water caressing the pilings is soothing... and beneath my bare feet, the black water swirls. Part of me longs very much to just slip off the side... to go into those shadows and stay. I can feel my thoughts pull at my throat. And when I raise my eyes again from the black water... it is to see a meteor scratch the face of the sky.

It calls me back...

Before me lay the northern sky... a vista to which I am most unaccoustomed! Behind me is the red eye of Mars... urging me to explore. This is NOT what I am used to seeing! And I feel lost...

Mariners are a most "night friendly" lot... for they make their markers in muted lights of red and green. They guide themselves by the stars. And so shall I... because I know the constellation of Cassiopeia. These are the most beautiful of open clusters in all the sky! And when I open the scope and go to the eyepiece... all is forgotten.

And once again I am alone with the stars...

The M103 delights me. Three stars snap into easy focus, with a great orange one laughing back into my vision. (Call me out to play, eh? Then let's go! ;) The NGC663 is next.... beautiful, rich open cluster! Like diamond dust on black velvet... And its' companions, the NGCs 654 and 659 might be small, but they, too are quite fine.

NGC457 is much more open about itself... resolving quite well for the smaller scope. The NGC637 is a tasty wedge of graininess... highlighted by resolution at the corners. Now for my favorite... the NGC7789. This one is superb! To the smaller scope, it appears "galaxy-like" A very large field of stars that tease and tease... a what a fine game it is, too! A bit of magnification helps... but this is a very coy object when you have a limited view! On to the M52... an open that resembles a globular. Several stars jump out of the cluster to say hello.... but for the most part, it isn't sharing with just anyone!

The hour has grown quite late... I did not bring a timepiece, for it doesn't matter. And when I take a look at my surroundings.... Oh my STARZ! That's Pegasus!! (Sneaking up on me again, eh? ;) What a smile it gives me... for it has been a VERY long time since I've seen it! (Do I remember? Of course I do!) Enif....oh yeah. Enif.... and a bit of a "hunt", but I remember the M15!!! What a treat to find you here with me!

Of course, I am excited now.... thinking of the splendid Andromeda Galaxy that is just below my "reach".... dreaming of the "Double Cluster"... and how long it has been since I wrestled with my demon, Algol! (Come now, it hasn't been more than a few hours since you wrestled with your own demon, astronomer.... let it go. ;*)

Reluctantly I cap the scope back up, and tuck my favorite eyepieces back into my pocket. I feel a pang... a wistfulness.... Perhaps it is this place that brings forth my melancholy...

Maybe I should go read some Poe by candlelight....

"Some things will never change. They keep on looking backward, half unconscious from the pain. It may seem a little strange.... but in the black water swirling, there are some things that will never change."  


June 24, 2001 - The Moon, Mars, M62, M19, M9, tracing the Ophiuchus Globulars (NGCs 6356, 6342, 6325, 6355, 6316, 6304) and NGC6940...

Comments: Very dark, clear skies tonight... but I feel a bit melancholy, though. I can't really explain it. So, I guess it just not important, huh?

The Moon was great tonight. Nestled on the paws of the "Lion", it resembled a cosmic plaything... seized upon by the mighty Leo! I don't ordinarily use the 12.5 on the Moon, (hey... the 4.5 is packed and ready to head lakeside!) but it really did a spectacular job. Mares Crisium and Fecunditatis were the "hot spots".... with their tiny dark craters and caressing rilles. The earthshine tonight was simply unreal... so I dropped back to a 3mm, 2"... and bumped the lighted section of the Moon just out of the field of view. Simply awesome! The "darkside" resembled the Moon in eclipse!! All the major features were readily apparent... and it was quite worth a look!

Pick up the power now, and head to Mars. One of the polar regions was exceptionally prominent at my viewing time... truncated by a dark region. Little else was visible, (perhaps Otto's Mak has spoiled me, eh? ;) so we may be looking at a storm... or maybe just a featureless region. (Yes, Mr. Wizard.... it is quite "yellow". It's getting darn close to the natural color of Saturn, isn't it?) Backing off the magnification finds it sitting in a pretty triangle of stars in Ophiuchus... Now let's go explore!!

So... how's come nobody's mentioned just how close Mars is to the M62?! It was great fun when it made a "pass" at the M8... and now it's walking through globular country in Ophiuchus! (Really... you know you should learn to "play around" a bit! You would be surprised at how many DSOs are nearby! Astronomy + Fun... a great equation! ;) The M19 and M9 globulars are right in the neighborhood too! A bit of "moonshine" won't hurt you...

And so I find myself lost in Ophiuchus tonight... I retrieved a book from the car and did a bit of starhopping. The globulars here are small, but extremely entertaining! Compact and concentrated... these little "gems" are worth the time to hunt down! There were a great many more in the area, but I was feeling kinda' easy tonight... and just kept to the ones that didn't present an extreme challenge. I've one more target in mind... so let's go!

Yep. There it is. NGC6940... (You are right, Tom. It IS in the constellation of Vulpecula!) This is one sweet open cluster. Very rich... (reminiscient of the M67 and the NGC opens in Cassiopeia) So, if you have time... even a moderately sized scope should turn this open into a jewel box!! Go look, eh? I guarantee you'll like what you see! ;)

"Let's take a blast to the Moon, baby! I sit around wishing you well..."  


June 23, 2001 - The Saggitarius Region...

Comments: Close to 900 miles and less than twelve hours later, I once again find myself in the backyard.

Seeking... Wanting... Needing...

Perhaps only the peace that the sky can give me.

My joyful reunion with my old german shepherd, (hey... three minutes later, he'd forgotten i'd even left! go figure...) a delighful dip in the pool to relax the muscles and refresh the body, time with the battered old accoustic (still in tune!) to soothe my jangled nerves, and a quick peek at the e.mail...

Now I need the stars...

Saggitarius awaits me. And it is there that I want to go. It has dug a little hole inside my secret heart... I can feel myself letting go. Time to reflect upon all the wonderful things I've seen and done over the last few days... time to plan for the morrow. It gives me balance. For even if thoughts of things must remain inside my head forever... then there it shall be.

As timeless as the M20... as graceful as the M17... as exciting as the M8...

And as mysterious as the M27...

"Candles raise my desire. Why am I so far away? No more meaning to my life... no more reason to stay. Demons dreamin'... Breathe in... breathe in! I'm coming back again..."


  June 21/22, 2001 - Asheville, North Carolina... and the Asheville Astronomy Club...

What a magnificent place this is! Nestled in the craggy region of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville quite suprised me with it's metropolitan atmosphere! Filled with universities, libraries, theatres, exlusive restaurants, and some of the very finest people I've met on my travels... I think I probably could have stayed there forever. The mountains work a charm of their own... wreathed in cloud, and seemingly far away from the stressed-out world we live in. Their catch phrase is "Altitude Affects Attitude"... and I can believe it!

Through e.mail correspondence, I had met a fine gentleman named John Chapell, and we made arrangements to meet for lunch with another member of the Asheville Astronomy Club... (hey, Tom! ;) to get to know each other. It was a tremendous opportunity for me... for I long for a bit of reassurance from time to time... just needing to know that I'm not the only one "lost in space"! The time flew by all too quickly, (for I could not get enough of these fascinating people!) And the prospect of rain (reality check... it WAS raining.) dimmed the chances of a star party at the club's Mt. Pisgah observing site. Not to worry though... because this was a man with a plan! (and what a great one it was, too! :)

So, I cruised the afternoon hours exploring the town and surrounds... (sorry. i'm not one to brood in a room somewhere! for the last week has found me climbing hills in Kentucky to explore confederate battlefields and cemetaries... exploring the historic sites of new bern... taking in a bit of the shore... and finding out-of-the-way places to dine! ;) The Blue Ridge Parkway was incredible... the scenery was simply amazing! Mountains and valleys.... nature and towns.... and dizzying heights!! (I do believe Mt. Mitchell is one of the highest peaks in the states..) The Biltmore Estate has its' home here... and I can rightly see why. Mysterious places... like Black Mountain! The view is outstanding!

Finally the evening arrived... and I was taken to one of the most fascinating dinner engagements I've ever experienced! (Tex, your hospitality shall go down in legend...) And even more suprises awaited... (To meet another old e.mail friend from Nebo! What a great (k)night... ;) Our host, Tom took us into his observatory, where it was my great pleasure to view his telescopes, and listen to what this "backyard" likes to do... photography! (Both John and Tom managed to catch images on our latest near earth asteroid... no easy feat considering how fast it was moving! Then "sewed" the images together electronically to produce a "quick time" movie that was simply spectacular! Excellent work, guys...)

We talked of the Asheville Astronomy Club, and their observing site. Star parties... theories... DSO... you name it! (and Corona with a twist of lime... aaaaah! a man after me own heart... ;) The lively conversation continued through a wonderful dinner... then onto the deck for expresso... the back again to the table! There four heads bent over books, charts and programs... it just doesn't get any better than this, folks!!! I could have listened to these extraordinary gentlemen all night... and well into next week!

Needless to say... I had the time of my life, John Chapell. Thank you.

"Meet me in outer space. We could spend the night; watch the Earth come up. I've grown tired of that place; won't you come with me? We could start again. How do you do it? Make me feel like I do... How do you do it? It's better than I ever knew. You are stellar!"  

June 21, 2001 - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and The Morehead Planetarium...

Comments: Chapel Hill is a lovely town, consumed by interesting architecture, the University of North Carolina, and the Morehead Planetarium... Touristy? YEAH! :-D (and i'm just the tourist to suck it all in, baby!)

The building that houses the planetarium is nearly a century old, made in the opulent style, charm and grace that only the older buildings seem to posess. Surrounded by well-tended gardens and a center pavilion lodging an enormous sundial, the walkways are innundated with chattering children... all eager to take a journey into outer space!

Fortunately, the young'uns would rather congregate in the gift shop (hey... i bought a coffee mug and postcards, ok? ;) rather than explore the exhibits, so once again I find a bit of solitude.

I enjoy archival things... give me a wall of old photographs, or glass-encased antiques, and I'm a happy camper! But, I do keep my eye on the many domed anniversary clocks... as anxious as a five-year old... ready to "see the show"!!

Through the leather-covered double doors, reminescient of a by-gone era's theatre days... to enter the high domed room. Take a seat! Anywhere in the arena shall do... because the show is "above my head"! (literally too, huh? ;) In the center stands the huge Zeiss Star Projector... looking like a "bad dream" metal insect, crouching... posessed of a multitude of crystalline eyes... (it frightens small children... therefore... I LIKE it!! }:-)

What can I say about the program except for "totally f*#^$%&^% AWESOME"!!! The Zeiss is capable of projecting 8,900 stars onto the dome! (and was once used to train NASA astronauts on starfield orientation!) Incredible... It's as beautiful as any night sky I've ever dreamed of... Totally without clouds... Totally without light pollution... Totally... f(*$#&^#&^! AWESOME!! (seriously? i could have reclined there all day... in the cool dark... picking off constellations... and dreaming... ;)

There were three programs offered that day, and I simply could NOT leave until I had seen all three! Through the eyes of the Planetarium, I viewed our Solar System in detail... walked upon the Sun and the Moon... and experienced a Super Nova!! (I encourage anyone who might read these reports to find a planetarium... and spend some time there!! You will not regret it...) Now, more road trippin'...

I dig the rock and roll, and especially the FAST driving! (I'll say one thing for these southern boys... they sure do know how to dance! ;) Just a few short hours later finds me at the western edge of the state of North Carolina... almost 800 miles in one day! I view the stars from the swimming pool of the hotel... and look forward to meeting more new friends and new experiences!!

"So if I waiver my chance... to be one of the hive... Will I chose the water over wine? Or hold the wheel and drive? Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there! With open arms and open mind..."


 

June 19/20, 2001 - On the North Carolina Coastline at New Bern (Taberna)...

Comments: One of the things I noticed the most was the way the cloud patterns changed. Am I talking drastic? Of course! For this looks nothing like the backyard in Ohio!! There is just something "different" about the way they mount, and a difference in the color of the sky itself... And, of course, an additonal thousand miles makes one heck of a change in the position of the stars!!! :-D

And so I observe...

The first night (or shall I say early morning!) brings up spectacular view of globular clusters M54 and M55... The M54 is still quite small, but it is a very pleasant sight! The M55 is considerably larger, (and looks one heck of a lot less like a planetary that the aforementioned) and shows the fact that it has a "loose" structure to the 4.5. Averted vision brings out just "hints" of resolution...

And now for two constellations I've not explored in a great deal of time! Capricornus and Aquarius... (and yes... i needed the "steenking maps" to find these things, ok? :)

First up, the "Saturn Nebula"... a very nice "egg" shaped in the 4.5... and a most pleasing catch! Now for the M72... very dim, it reminds me a great deal of the M4 in the small scope. No great views, but I'm delighted to have found it! How about the M73? (Mr. Messier, I am ashamed of you... even I don't drink when 'scopin'!) I'm not to sure what Charles saw when viewing this, but I see a collection of four stars... (oooooooh) Now on to the M30... It's a small globular, and it tries really hard, ok? (I can relate to that...) In the 4.5, it gives just a "teasing hint" of resolution... It looks as though it might have an occasional "bright" idea going on in its' field of grey matter! And now for a prize... the Helix Nebula!!! It gave me a bit of a hunt... but now we're talking! It doesn't really appear to be a spectacular object for the small scope... just a round patch of light in the sky... But, hey... I know this light! And it is most unmistakeably a planetary nebula!

Night two brings on guests... and that is fine, for I too, am a guest. Stars and guitars... A "tour" of the objects most easily understood, such as Mars, the M81 and M82 galaxies, the M3 and M4 globular clusters, the M57, Cor Caroli and Albeiro...

Try as I might to capture the Omega Centaurii Cluster... the tenth putting green is the only place I have a clear shot at Centarus! A word of warning from my host about nesting cottonmouths... (and after having stepped on a tree frog in my bare feet trying to "make a date with Mars" ... ;) plus the fact that the automatic sprinklers on the golf course went off randomly... put something of a damper on my quest! No matter, for I am thoroughly enjoying myself... and all the "different" conversations taking place! It's a pleasant way to spend part of the evening, but I've plans, eh? And should I never need to sleep, perhaps I can fit everything in! ;)

"And I feel... all this pain. Stuffed it down... it's back again. And I lie... here in bed. All alone... I can't mend. But I feel... tomorrow will be OK..."  


June 18/19, 2001 - At Eastern Kentucky University...

Comments: A chance to actually visit with one of my e.mail compadres! (You ARE real! Too cool...)

Eastern Kentucky University is a lovely place... "Campus Beautiful"... very peaceful... very restful... A place where old a new architecture blend flawlessly... a place where fresh young minds abound. You would quite like the "Kentucky Backyard"... the "Ottoman" exudes a warmth... a mixture of kindness and intelligence that make him a very special gentleman! (And one who knows his way around the sky!)

An impromptu "Star Party" emerged following conversation with my newfound friends... what a dream come true! A chance to view through a 6" Mak... (and a "homemade" 'scope made by Rico(?)... an ingenious design of PVC pipe, a plastic bucket, a bit of wood and some lenses! Duecedly clever... and highly effective!!) As a matter of a fact, they even had an excellent spot arranged for us to go to! (imagine that, huh? ;)

And so we "sat up shop" near the Hummel Planetarium... and Otto and I "tag teamed" the great objects from the sky to share with our intelligent young companions! Mars, the M57, M3, M5, M4, M8, M27, Epsilon Lyrae, (pssst! There was about a much room between them as was between cars on the bloody freeway! And I do believe we were moving about as fast! Sheesh! ;) the M20, M17, globulars and opens in Saggitarius... and Otto's charmed find... "The Herschel Cluster"!

It was truly a pleasure to look through Otto's scope... now I have a much better sense of what another sees... (and, of course, poor Otto had to deal with my rather unorthodox methods and strange behavior!) So, in essence... a certain "understanding" has come about. I now can view the sky from a "different viewpoint"... no longer just a "theory" on how it "should" look. (By the way, Mr. Wizard... Mars is simply spectacular in Otto's scope! The Mak picks up every bit as much detail as the dob, but with half as much aperature! Very impressive.... ;)

(And so I wish to thank you, Otto... for providing me with the opportunity to visit with you and your friends, and to stay on the most lovely campus of Eastern Kentucky University!

I am most grateful for the time that we spent together, and I shall remember you always...)

"What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me? Lend me your ear, and I'll sing you a song. And I'll try not to sing out of key... Mmmmmmmm.. I get by with a little help from my friends.... Mmmmmmm... Gonna' try with a little help from my friends..."  


June 17, 2001 - (in the "Ohio Backyard") M57, M13, M4, Mars, M8, M20, M27, M17...

Comments: Too beautiful of a night to not use it! (I've finally swiped some of the dust off the 4.5, packed my favorite books, threw some clothes in a bag... now I'm ready to rock!) And, you know... I couldn't go to bed early like I'd planned, because if I made the mistake of looking outside and I see stars... I'm gone!

The 12.5 it is tonight... just time enough to speak to favorite old friends, lest skies turn cloudy. (Or I take a wrong turn! Or get killed... Or never come home... You know... live EVERY day like it's the last!!! Because it just may be...) Enough of my morose attitude, for I simply stand for some time, just looking at this beautiful black canvas... etched with silver stars.

"And you... bring me to my knees, again. All the times, when I could beg you please... for me."

I reach for the "Ring" always... the merry-go-round of life demands no less of me. And, as always, the beautiful bright field of stars so near the solitary planetary takes my breath away. (What a great place!) The M57 floats in the DOB... like an ethereal life preserver... holding on to a dying star in a deep, black sea. (Go now... you promised yourself you wouldn't drift!) Now up to Hercules for the M13! (Has what I have seen in the 31" taken away my joy for the globular in other scopes? NO!!!) It doesn't make any difference to me what 'scope i use.. This is one magnificent object... no matter what! The 32mm televue was the only eyepiece I didn't pack away... and I'm glad I didn't! Not always do I seek perfect resolution... For some of the finest things in life to me are less than perfect. (Just like me, eh?)

Mars calls, but tonight I chose Antares instead. I like the way the atmosphere makes the colors roll about it... A distant read giant, clothed in irridesence. And I bump the sope, scooting the antithesis of Mars to the edge of the filed of view, and drink in the M4. No need for eyepiece trickery here... simple averted vision brings this globulars components to my hungry eye. Sure... it doesn't stant out from the crowd like the M13.. but beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, is it not? And tagging along, it's tiny attendant globular seems quite content just be be "hanging out" with one of the big guys!

Hi Mars! Bye Mars... (this "low" power doesnt' do you much justice, does it?) Just a glimpse... enough to see you really are a planet. A wink of detail. A splash of shine... and on you go again.

So, now I go to Saggitarius... just to touch it. For don't we all have needs? Just let me look at the "Trifid", swim in the "Lagoon", work out with the "Dumbbell" and fly with the "Swan"... for these things have a soothing quality to my soul... A place where no thing or no one else can touch. Perhaps some day... ah.

Tis' not important, eh?

"All these times... that I've cried. My intentions... full of pride. But I leave my burdens at the door. Because I'm on the outside... I'm lookin' in..."  


June 16, 2001 - At Perkins Observatory...

Comments: There is no wild, hair-pin turn, dirt road, bonsai up the side of the mountain to arrive at Perkins Observatory. It resides along the interstate... once a part of Ohio State University, but now "belonging" to Ohio Weslyan, it has been swallowed by the capital city of Columbus.

It hides within a grove of pines trees, surrounding by manicured lawns and gardens. It is a magnificent structure. Formed from granite and concrete... a tribute to astronomy. Its' interior speaks of the old world classroom... hardwood floors and blackboards... ancient radiators bespeaking the cold reality of changing seasons.

In the anteroom, graceful double staircases curve their way toward the dome... with their treadworn steps and filagreed iron bannisters. A lecture hall is off to one side... built with accoustic wisdom, for the "talks" held there reach all parts of the room without the modern aid of amplification. Across from that is a wonderful library... a true anachronism. Tall windowed majesty... the walls lined with the leather bound volumes, that rainy day hands would have eagerly sought... to curl up in the leather arms chairs and contemplate. But, through the center runs the reality of today... a double banked row of computers set upon the wooden tables where students once spread their archaic paperwork.

Behind the staircases lay the classrooms... now dedicated to exhibits. They contain astronomy antiquities... and how fine they are too!!! Brass telescopes... sextants... copies of the very first editions of Sky and Telescope magazine! Each room takes you on a different journey... through beautiful pictures of our own cosmos, to examples of modern rocketry.

There is one very special room here... perhaps it was only so for me... The old professor's office was left intact. The marks upon the oak floor bearing mute testimony to the man whose swivel chair made countless journeys between his desk and window... to look out upon his beloved gardens. Here in this room, history walks and talks. At one time, Perkins Observatory was home to the largest radio telescope in the world. Real research was done here... like the movie "Contact" there was once a signal. A signal so strong, that the student monitoring the equipment at the time wrote "WOW!" in red ink upon the margin of the printout. And I am allowed to put these papers in my hands... to run my fingers across the numbers... to feel the indentation in the paper left when this bit of history was made!!! And as I leave the room... I touch the old professor's sweater and hat... left hanging, as if he had only stepped out moments ago... Bittersweet nostalgia? No... only a need to reach out across space and time.

To connect with what once was....

Down another curving staircase now... into the basement, where so often history has been relagated. Tis' fine by me... for I LIKE the cool musty smell of hidden treasure and venerable knowledge!! And so I walk the gallery... to follow its' timeline to the glory days of this magnificent place. Sepia toned photographs... (is there anyone among us who does not love these things so?!) showing the construction of the Observatory... and the loving installation of a magnificent 69" mirror! How glorious it would have been to look upon the cosmos with this!!! But in interest of preservation, it has gone to the Lowell Observatory... and rightly so. For the modernization of this area has taken away the very sky for which this monumental mirror was designed. But once again... it's ok. Because here on the walls, the faces of the men who constructed this place are frozen forever... their excitement etched for all time on their faces! And left for those who care enough to look...

Time now, for the public program... a basic "lesson" in astronomy. And how very entertaining it was too!! Bob was a wonderful speaker... and though he told me nothing new... I took the most immense pleasure in watching the faces of those about me! In a manner much like George Carlin, his energy and enthusiasm overflowed... and how exciting it was to see the smiles and hear the laughter of those around the room as they made "connection" with astronomy! (I saw the face of the young man with the long hair in the back "light up" when you talked about space... and the giggles of the bored children when you grabbed their attention with your stories!!!) Bravo, my friend!!! Bravo....

Time now... to move into the dome proper. The last vestiges of the eradicable stonework, which once held a truly remarkable telescope. Upon the pier now stands a 32" cassegrain... donated to the Observatory by a private individual for whom cataracts claimed his vision of the stars. Tiny red lights adorn the staircases... for there are those who shall never be able "to see in the dark"! And what does this impressive telescope see? Double stars... planets... a cluster or two... For it is sad fact that this huge scope can barely reach for "The Ring"! Why? Light pollution...

Shopping centers, auto malls, enclosed communities, condominiums, and the highway itself has claimed the once dark sky of the Perkins Observatory. Where once stood a true research facility... "The Big Ear", as it was known... is a golf course. What once was... is gone.

But it has left an echo.

So I retreat to the garden, and the well-manicured lawn to visit with the Columbus Astronomical Society Members. They have brought their personal telescopes.... each as unique as the individual who owns them. I am given free reign with an 8" Maksukatov Cassegrain... my hands guided to the unfamilar design. My host is pleased to let me "drive"... for I know the roads. And buried deep within a conversation about spectroscopy... we take the time in silence to watch the International Space Station flying bravely overhead. A delicious mixture of old... and new! I listen to the history of Perkins, and the Society itself... while finding objects for curious passersby to view. I speak out when I observe the flash of a meteor... and I am dragged by the hand, running and laughing back to the basement!

There was a room that I did not explore... but now am invited to! This one still contains active monitoring equipment... and my host presented to my amazed eye, the very meteor I had just observed recorded electronically!! Fascinating!!

I pass by the library once again... and stop to visit with one of the older members. Just a moment to sit in the leather arm chairs, and pass the time of night. For like the books that surround us, this person has a story to tell...

And I would take the time to hear it.

Time for the journey back... each mile and each minute bringing back the dark sky I so love. When I return, I chose to take the dob out into the backyard... to walk upon the fields with Saggitarius. As gentle wisps of clouds stroll overhead, I find myself in the embrace of the warm water... taking "time"... time to contemplate all I have seen and heard tonight...

"From childhood's hour I have not been-- as others were. I have not seen-- as others saw. I could not bring-- my passions from a common spring. From the same source, I have not taken. My sorrow--I could not awaken. My heart to joy at the same tone! For all I lov'd... I lov'd alone."

For this has been a private experience... a chance to reflect not so much upon the practice of astronomy... as to be touched by the history of it.

"Come... as you are. As you were. As I want you to be.... As I am... as you are... As an old memoria.... Memoria...."
 


June 14/15, 2001 - At Rupp Observatory...

Comments: How to explain the experience of visiting a true observatory leaves me at a bit of a loss for words... So let me begin at the beginning, and perhaps in that fashion the right words will come...

To get to Rupp Observatory means driving up the side of a mountain... (and you know me, I'd drive to the ends of the Earth if it meant the kind of opportunity I had tonight!) and at the top of this mountain sits a dome... and inside this dome is a telescope... and what a magnificent beastie it is!!

Climbing to the apex of the dome, the open-truss design of the Rupp telescope is towering! (I feel so small beside it...) The counterbalance is enormous... the size of a refrigerator! The supporting arms anchored into the concrete floor are perhaps three feet in diameter... and at the heart of it all... an optically perfect 31" mirror. (And what a mirror! Just being allowed to look at it is every amateur astronomer's dream! ;)

We turn off the lights now... it is like being inside a submarine... lit only by the soft glow of red light and the gentle eyes of computer screens. I stand awe-struck as the slot of the dome trundles its' way open slowly... and a slice of the heavens is revealed! No computer guides this wonderful scope to its' destination... for it would despoil it. Only the human hand may take it upon its' journey... (and it is not "light" work!!) How solid it is!! How real!! (How heavy, eh?) Imagine yourself pulling, pushing, and directing something that makes you exert every ounce of energy... It was a pleasure, I tell you! Because some how... it made you feel more "worthy" of the experience.

Onto the manlift now... to travel eighteen feet into the air (top of the world, ma!!) to look into the two inch eyepiece... and capture Mars. (I was told that many people balk at the height... to be honest, I didn't notice!! I hung over the side of the cage with as much comfort as I do on the step ladder in my own backyard!)

Now shall I tell? Oh yes... It surpassed anything I believed it to be. Mars is perfect. What I see in the 12.5 is like comparing a dime to a dinner plate to a 31!! There is no struggle to see feature... for it is laid out before me, as beautiful as any picture I have seen. The words on the maps mean something now... Cimmerium Mare. Eridania. Aeolis. Zephyria. Elysium. Cebrenia. Amenthes. Utopia...

And it is Utopia... I do not wish to leave!!! (After having been assured that I wasn't being a "scope hog"...) I simply clung there... in open-mouthed wonder! It was my first experience with clock-drive, so you can understand what a treat it was to have this behemoth telescope continually readjust itself so i could salivate over Mars!

The hours passed far too quickly... best move on to another target, eh? So down we go from our perch upon the stars... feet once again on solid ground. Time to move the dome! (And you cannot imagine the sense of vertigo it gives you to watch it rotate! My host had a fine time laughing at me, because I actually staggered when it moved!)

Now what to chose??! There's an entire night sky FULL of favorites! What shall it be? Then let's pick the grandest of them all...

The M13.

And we whisked our way back up toward the sky! Using a telrad... and a finderscope as large as most amateur scopes... the final adjustments were made. I could see the silhouette of my companion overlaid against the night sky... peering into the eyepiece. And when I heard his sharp intake of breath... I knew something very special was about to happen. My heart began to race! And then it was my turn...

No words. No pictures. No sketches could EVER begin to adequately convey the true beauty of the M13... Perfect resolution. No star was unrevealed. (My chest throbs even now with the re-telling!) Heart-breakingly beautiful... every single star of the Hercules Cluster was spread out before my eager eyes! I can feel my hands shake as I adjust the focus... my knees are so weak, it's a wonder I can still stand! This vision... this vision will go with me for the rest of my life! Thousands of points of diamond hard light... splayed like frozen fireworks in the eyepiece!! No averted vision... for the scope will reveal down to magitude 24. (Oh.. come to me words!! How can I tell how very inspiring it is?) There is an X.... etched in stars... laid over a field of stars... like a soft, sweet kiss from heaven. And at the heart of it all... there is only one star.

When we come down to the ground again, I must step outside. For I am weak, and shaking with the experience of what it has been my privelege to see. I lay upon my back... to look up! And think...

(for i shall always do so... and if i could take it from my eyes, and put it into my hands... i would give it to you...)

When I have calmed down... and rational thinking has returned, we fly back up to the eyepiece once again... to go through the fantastic toy box! Because each eyepiece gives the M13 a different "look"! For once in my life, I had no desire to "hop" around the sky... My host gave me a very special gift... we turned the dome toward Saggitarius. And I was left alone... my hands guided the scope. Stand or fall? Fly.... FLY!! I know these skies... and they were given to me... in all their glory! And if I should die tomorrow... I shall die happy. For I have seen into the "heart" of our galaxy...

Once again, I must walk away and regain my composure. This has gone beyond the wanderings of my imagination...

It has touched my soul.

When I am able to stand firmly... we return to Mars! A fitting end... a fond farewell. The polar ice caps.. Hellas Basin, Iapgia, Libya, Syrtis Major, Thoth, Isidis Regio, Nilosyrtis, Umbra... take your choice! Here I stand... and you give to me, Mars... far more than I feel I deserve.

(I want to Thank You, Dan Everly... for having a open mind, and an open heart! You have given me something beyond measure... and I am most grateful. What I have seen here tonight will be with me forever...)

"When dreaming I'm guided through another world. Time and time again. At sunrise I fight to stay asleep... 'Cause I don't want to leave the comfort of this place... 'Cause there's a hunger, a longing to escape From the life I live when I'm awake... So let's go there! Let's make our escape... Come on let's go there... Let's ask can we stay! Can you take me higher? To the place where blind men see? Can you take me higher? To the place with golden streets... Although I would like our world to change, It helps me to appreciate Those nights and those dreams. But, my friend, I'd sacrafice all those nights If I could make the Earth and my dreams the same. The only difference is To let love replace all our hate. So lets go there! Let's make our escape... Come on let's go there... Let's ask can we stay? Up high I feel like I'm alive for the very first time! Up high I feel like I'm strong enough to take these Dreams and make them mine."
 


I had a wonderful time... And I thank you all for making dreams come true!

~T