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Road Trip - 2002


August 29, 2002 - Lake Erie...

Comments: "Life in the fast lane..." Wow! Am I out of practice or what?! Guess the quiet life in rural Ohio isn't all that bad, huh? But, no matter... For I am here now and about to make the best of it!

A quiet dinner spent Lakeside meant an opportunity to watch the skies grow incredibly dark over an area that I'm not used to seeing that way - the North! And even more beautiful than that was a opportunity to see Venus again... Blazing unlike anything else in the sky, beautiful Venus paints on awesome picture along with the sunset. Aesthetics here? Well, why not? Trust me on this one, for it is just a fine thing to stand and watch Sol dip below the horizon and a planet blaze its' way onto the night.

Suprisingly enough, I was also afforded an incredible view of Saggitarius in the tree line. It was my great pleasure to begin the evening by seeking out that which I find familiar... the M8, M22, M28, M20, M17... You see, somethings go with me always. And my smiles widened as I took on the M54, M70 and M69. Globulars well met...

From there I followed custom once again. Sure, I've looked at the M13, M27, M71 and M57 over and over again this summer... But, I LIKE them, ok? And when those fine stars of Lacerta look this bright? Ah, now... You don't know how much I wish I would have had the dob! No matter. Relax, right? Right...

So, I did. Relaxed well and completely by tracing over Cassiopeia and all of her bright and beautiful open clusters. Simply smiling and not caring what their designations were. And those things in Perseus? Hehehheee.... Well, I know them, too. But tonight? I do not recall their names. Nor do I recall the name of that fantastic big galaxy I looked at even though the crazy thing barely fit in the field of view!

Free roaming. I like that idea. Shall we implement it? Just take all this great circumpolar view and not really care what we're looking at as long as we're looking at something?

Yeah, baby...

"How... How I wish you were here."



August 30, 2002 - Touring the North...

Comments: Beautiful day! Cool, lots of sunshine, a bit windy, and intensely relaxing. What a pleasure it is to go round to some of my longstanding favourite speciality shops - Mon Ami for the best champaign on the east coast, Cheese Haven for the finest 12-year old cheddar and the most mouth-watering rocky road fudge you can imagine. Top that off with a trip to the deli for sme olives and bakery for some crusty rolls, and you've got munchies heaven! A fitting picnic for a night under the stars...

But first? What say we ride around for a bit?

Just touring the grounds of the Mon Ami Winery is a treat, for their beautiful gardens, arbors and ancient limestone buildings speak the language of the ages. What a treat it is to go below the ground, into the musty caverns, chill from the Earth, carved into the limestone to see where the wine is aged in massive oaken barrels. There is a reason their champaign is so fine... For the grapes are grown only here, they are processed here, aged here - no less than 12 years, and placed in their special bottles and still hand corked. And speaking of corked? I'll pass on the wine tasting... I'm ridin', thanks.

Now, let's head over to Marble Head Lighthouse. Here is the setting for tranquility!

As the oldest operating lighthouse on the shores of Lake Erie, Marblehead is constantly being upkept by the Ohio Historical Society. It's impressive white height, and impeccable red trim is kept in perfect conditon, as well as the charming keeper's house nearby. Set on a peninsula, the view across the lake is always inspiring... Waves dashing themselves against the rocks that are Erie's signature... Tiny islands seeming so close and yet so far away... Fishing boats and sailboats... A glimpse of Cedar Point down the shore line. Just a very nice place to be.

I know another. Would you care to go? It's name is Johnson's Island. Let's pay our dollar to use the causeway and take a journey back in time, shall we?

Johnson's Island's claim to fame is that it once was a Confederate Prison Camp. During those horrid times of our Civil War, southern officers were kept here under appalling conditions. Suffering through disease, starvation and the relentless elements that come with our seasons, these gentlemen spent their days as stone masons, carving the huge blocks from the stone cliffs. Mute testimony of their time is still lingering, for the very place in which they labored... cold, hungry and sick... Has now been converted into summer homes. Where these men fought for their very lives now stand boat docks and wave runners... The original prison camp is now gone, too. It was stolen away in the name of enterprise. The ancient remains bulldozed away and turned into playgrounds for the well-to-do. These are the real crimes, folks. To bury what once was as if it never existed. I hope they walk through your hallways - these soldiers of the past. Calling out their names as they pass through your townhouse... But enough! For the Confederate Cemetary was saved by the Historical Society. It's hundreds of graves well tended and grounds remembered.

The statue still stands, brave and proud, facing the sea. The many graves marked "Unknown" are still remembered, and for those of us who care? The names of those who died are still spoken.

Taking care to leave Johnson's Island before sunset, (yes. the legend is true. i have proved it to myself three times over the past years, and for me? that is fact.) let's head for the Portage Wildlife Refuge and watch the Sun set.

This is a pretty place, but watch those loose stones! Marsh grounds and water ways, plenty of heron and geese to keep one amused. A fine place to watch the Rayleigh Effect stain the coming night and Venus to emblazon itself of the Universe. Just a nice place to... WHAP! Sit on the bank and... WHAP! Film the sunset and... WHAP! Oh my word! KAMAKAZEE!!! Blood sucking, mammal hunting, totally fearless, huge, insistent, persistant, orafice seeking, life taking, heart breaking, swarming MOSQUITOES!! Uh... I don't know about you, but 437 bites is my limit! Ready to jet? Let's go...

Back to a place where we may adventure the night skies together. One where the waterways are quiet, the breeze is cool, and the insects are not! A place where the northern skies are on fire with the light of the stars... One where an old shadow dressed in black awaits you with a 114mm Celestron telescope and a bottle of reserve champaign on ice. Let's stay awhile...

The galaxies are incredible tonight. The M81 and M82 walk right out of the sky. The core of the 81 seems so bright and perfect, and the soft, silver oval of galactic arms swirl round it like a silk nightgown. The 82's elongated spindle shape is a powerful reminder of cosmic attraction - slim and intense. Oddly enough, the "Owl Nebula", M97 is visible tonight. Only the vaguest of circles, no great detail is seen, but it is a treat to catch it with minimal aperature. Just as is the M101. This one seems ultra-dimensional, a ghostly glow captured amongst the stars...

It took a bit of time to find, but once there the NGC6503 was quite worth the hunt. A very stellar nucleas caught inside an elongated wisp galaxy structure that breathes life into the night at 17mm. A bright star nearby captures the direct vision, allowing the averted time to fully satisfy the curiousity. These dark skies are something! Imagine capturing that with a 4.5...

Feeling adventuresome? Then let's make the very most of the deep dark north... Following the star charts through Cygnus, we drink in pure starlight from the Milky Way. Our hop is not the easiest, but who wants things to be easy? Ah, now... Here it is. Following a trail of Barnard's "nothingness", we come to the end to find the IC5146, "Cocoon Nebula". Isn't this a beauty?! Tiny stars locked within a beautiful emmission cloud... It looks like the PacMan of the Cosmos! Eating its' way through a trail of stars, and stopping here at the end of the maze where we may catch it! Shall we celebrate now? Oh yeah... Time to wrestle with the cork!

Mmmmmmm.... That is fine stuff.

Now, while we've still got our heads about us? Let's move on to the M39, shall we? It's a rather over-looked, but very pretty open cluster. Perhaps a double handful of various magitude stars walk easily for the 4.5. It's configuration remind me of nothing in particular, but what a fascinating double star it has! How about the M52 next? Oh, this is much more like it! Two excellent stand out yellow stars in a field of profusion! Much more dense... A finer texture to it. Just delightful...

And speaking of delightful, why don't you pour us another glass of that fine wine? Let's just sit here for a bit and admire the stars? Listen to the sounds of the water, and feel the fresh breeze? Just dream along the Milky Way...

Shall we go again? Just look at how dark the north is! Come now, let's try something new. Oh, my... Will you look at this and tell me what you see? The book says this is the IC1805 and IC1848 nebulae... What is in the eyepiece is two beautiful open clusters, surrounded by the faintest of haze that reminds me of the Merope Nebula. Just incredible. Heart and soul, kid... Heart and soul.

Just another taste?

Then let us walk on the the M76... What a fine fellow you are tonight! About half the size of the M27, this tiny bowtie of soft, greenish silver glows rather splendidly. Just a nice touch, if you know what I mean. As is the Perseus "Double Cluster" and the "Andromeda Galaxy"...

For now? Time to cap up the little scope. Finish this bottle of fine champaign with some cheese, olives and bread... Watch the stars wheel by.

Because no touch is as fine as yours.

"So... So you think you can tell... Heaven from Hell. Blue skies from rain... Can you tell a green field... From a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade... Your heros for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change... Did you exchange... A walk-on part in a war, for a lean roll in cage..."


September 1, 2002 - Just Relaxin'...

Comments: Hey, hey... This is just as it was meant to be, yes? A fine, big breakfast... a long, peaceful nap... and time to motor quietly through one of my favourite nature reserves, Magee Marsh and Crane Creek State Park. To the eye, these are perhaps not places of beauty - For it is nothing more than long canals filled with run-off, acre upon acre of shallow water filled with marsh grasses and lily pads. But to the birds? This is heaven...

"And with the birds we'll share this lonely view..."

The short-horned owl lives here, as does the heron, crane, geese, ducks, gulls, fox, deer and innumerable migratory species of small bird. I am not a dedicated "bird watcher", but I find something intensely pleasant about seeing species that are not native to where I live. There is just something grand about seeing a crane wading through the weeds in search of his supper, or to watch the magnificent blue heron take to flight.

Who among us can keep a straight face when we share a bag of popcorn on the beach with the opportunistic gulls? The ease with which these creatures can take to the air and snatch a kernel from the breeze is inspiring! Walk the trails with me... Listen to the sounds of the deer moving only yards ahead of us, hidden in the foilage. Take a glimpse through the trees and the clearing where the red fox stands proudly near its' den, and then disappears like a wraith as soon as it catches our scent. Look in the cataulpa tree, and catch the bright yellow wing of the finch as it sings its' song... Climb the firetower with me. And let's look out over mile after mile of lake and wood... Left as it should be - For the original inhabitants.

Do you want to walk on water? The come with me to another place I know... Camp Perry. Yes, it's a military base, and thanks to the terrorists, we now have to pass through a guard to visit, but it has its' pleasant features. You may examine the tanks and rockets if you like, but I'm heading for the pier!

Extending at least a quarter of a mile onto Lake Erie (i'm guessin' here... cuz' i didn't hold it down and measure it, ok? but it's a long walk... and thank goodness, a long pier!) the iron works are left open so you may see the Lake beneath your feet. Vertigo? Ah, come on now! Just look ahead if it bothers you... and let's head for the end. Much more stable, eh? And just look at this view! One way you can see the Davis/Besse nuclear power plant we passed by on our way to the marsh... the other you can see the mouth of the Portage River and the town of Port Clinton. Ahead are the islands, with Perry Monument so prominent on Put-In-Bay. Catawba, Little Sister, West Sister and Kelly's Island. They seem so close! But watch those waves, for Erie is not the place to be fooling around, my friend.

Walking back, the gulls have made themselves their own private cove on a portion of the beach that is not public. They fly in at sunset, and what a magnificent sight they are, too! Hundreds upon hundreds of them, wheeling through the sky like a bad scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds"... But, fear not! For they have only come to feed upon the zebra mussels.

"Bodega Bay" is a quiet, friendly type of place these days. ;) And as we motor our way out, we finally see a large group of Canadian geese. OK, dumb cluck comes to mind here... For of all the protected regions within a stone's throw of this place, exactly WHERE are these birds?

Standing on the active rifle range...

The darkness will be with us soon. What say we purchase some supper from the many open-air produce markets? Come on back, and let me show you how to catch a fish - clean it and eat it with no regrets. Perhaps chase it down with a cold Corona and a wedge of key lime? Just kick back here in the easy chair and nap...

And awake once again to dark skies... Where do you want to journey to, tonight? Ah, still got birds on the brane, eh? Then start with Cygnus we shall! But, before we go to the scope, I want you to take this good pair of binoculars and check out the "North American Nebula". Isn't that something?!! Just huge... Now, look at what I've got captured in the scope. Caught between two bright stars is just a wisp of grey smoke. It is called the "Pelican Nebula", IC5067. I am sure that with the proper filter, this one probably does resemble that grand bird which we once saw in flight, but the the 4.5 is is nothing more than ghost. But you know what? I'll kiss the 26mm Meade 4000 for showing it to us!

Now let's continue, shall we? For the deep rift in the Milky Way, and all the very fine stars that make it up says we can push the little scope to it's limits tonight! M29? You're next... And resolving all the way. Let's go for something a bit more difficult, NGC6910. Oh, yeah! What a little sparkler you are! Caught in the field with Gamma, this handful of magnitudes is quite worthy. What a tasty little treat for the small scope! Now, let's try NGC6811. Ah, very nice. Not much to go on to call an asterism here, but it is a very nice concentration of stars!

Now, let's get off the wings and head back toward the body, ok? For the revelation of these tiny stars mean easy markers! Head for Brocchi's Cluster and let's back it up a bit... Right there. The NGC6823 is nice, isn't it? Nothing vague about this open cluster! For there is a right sweet concentration at the heart of it that makes it quite worth the hunt! And we're losing sky position fast here... Not into the trees or anything, just tough for a EQ mount to hit. Wanna' rock one more before we move out of Cygnus? Then let's do it. Heheeeee! Check this out... For the NGC6830 looks like a little Cygnus itself! What a splendid capture...

Now, let's "hold on to the wings of the Eagle... and watch as we all fly away...". Ready? The let's go for a toughie first - the NGC6755. OK, I took you vague again, I'm sorry. This is one that would definately benefit from some aperature, but there is nothing wrong with this nice string of stars set on a grainy background with some concentration to one end! Wanna' hop up to Zeta and try our luck with NGC6738? Then let's rock... Argh! Again a loveless cluster for small aperature. We've a chain of stars here, distinguishable from the background "noise", with a slight bit of concentration. That's it...

Now, I'm tired of concentrating. Let's head toward one that will knock our socks off, shall we? For the M11 is simply grand in any telescope under any conditions! And tonight, the concetrated wedge, with the bright leading star, and incredible amount of resolvability to the small scope makes or a very fitting end to the night.

And my time here! See ya'll in the Backard tomorrow night!

"Cuz' how... How I wish you were here. We're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl... Year after year. Running over the same old ground... And how we've found... The same old fears.

Wish you were here..."


~theAstronomer