Observing Reports ~ September 2001

September 30, 2001 - The Sun, Mars and Nunki, the Moon, and Delta Cygni...

Comments: Beautiful, sunny Fall day! A good day to close the pool for the season, stack a bit of firewood, and finish a much beloved book. A good time to just enjoy the warmth from our nearest star... just sit here and...

Die from curiousity!

So, you KNOW I had to go look at the Sun. I've got to see how far the tremendous spots have traveled... and make time for a sketch before they slide from view! This has been one really impressive area, and although they are almost "gone over the edge", it still remains fascinating. Actually, they have changed form very little during the time I've been observing them. But, it has been one very wild ride... and perhaps they may even survive to come round again!

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Mars and Nunki... this is actually pretty cool! I've got the dobby out tonight, so let's see what we can do with this pair. (So, I go for a focuser change, cross-thread the darn thing and start over. I fetched my good 26mm Meade out of hiding, slid it in the focuser... and my stiff old fingers promptly dropped the set screw. ^&%$! For the next half hour I crawled around on my hands and knees, ouch, with the flashlight... and of all the places in the backyard, in a bed of clover! Grrrrrrrrr.... Phew! Found it...) OK, so the knees of my jeans are a bit wet, no problem. Back to Mars and Nunki! Mars is not exactly being cooperative tonight, but I can see a nice dark rift along the meridian. Best part is, you can fit both Nunki and Mars into the same field of view... and it makes a nice color contrast of blue star versus Red Planet!

So, looks like the Moon next! (No choice, eh? I wasted all of my deep sky time crawling around... ;) Let's just use the 4.5 on this one. Now, what's up tonight? Whoa! Bright! REAL bright! No problem... filter. Which I promptly dropped... again! (What is this? Sacrafice scope parts night???) Alright... no damage done. Let's try again...

Grimaldi is the master tonight. I enjoy picking at some of the rough-edged craters that hang around what remains of the terminator. I follow some of the rays around, and just generally enjoy the appearance of Selene. (It's just been "one of those days"... You know the kind I'm talking about? When you can misunderstand the simplest of things... drop everything you touch... can't type ten words without making a typo... can't even eat without dropping something on your shirt! Now I understand the Coyote's eternal fascination with the Road Runner... ;)

So, do I trust myself to try for a new double star? Oh, why not? How about if I pick one from the Cambridge Atlas that I can find easy? Delta Cygni... Guess what? Delta Cygni isn't easy. Finding it was not the problem. Seperating the secondary from the primary was the chore! (Will somebody put out the Moon!?!) Trying to shield my peripheral vision from the abundance of light and waiting on a moment of stability... DUH! (Slapping myself on the forehead, I jumped down off the ladder to move the scopes to where a tree blocks the Moon... and promptly tripped over the handle of the "grasshopper"! I think I'll just lie here on the grass for a minute...) Patience, eh? Patience...

The 4.5 reveals the secondary, but I want to reinforce what I see, and the 12.5 does just that. Delta Cygni's primary is white, and the secondary is blue. It (barely!) breaks away to the south, south/west frontier... and the secondary is about half the magnitude of the primary (guessing, ok?). Ordinarily I wouldn't have placed this in a report, but thanks go to Jeff B. for confirming this as factual information. I'm learning...

Now, there were a couple of more doubles I had thought to seek tonight, but my hands and knees hurt, I've got a major headache from trying to concentrate, and I'm gonna' have one really incredible bruise on my shin! Battle scars... gotta' love 'em. ;)

How about if we just put the scopes up for the night, kick back here in the chair with a blanket and a beer ( or three), and watch the Moon move across the sky?

Hand me that flashlight, will 'ya? Because I can't find the dust cap for the 4.5....

"I want to play a part... Because I love the game! But, in honest truth... I'm just not the same. It could set me free... But, I hear the sound... Of my body breakin' as it takes me down. Let the Sun never blind your eyes. Let me sleep so my teeth won't grind. Hear the sound of the voice inside...."  

September 29, 2001 - The Sun... The Moon, Mars, M22, M25, M8, Albeiro, 61 Cygni, 16 Cygni, Gamma Delphini, Struve 2725, M11, Struve 2391, Gamma Arietis, and Lamba Arietis...

Comments: Oh, my starz! The Sun is still rockin' the house and STILL sending off CMEs!! There has to be some type of connection between some of the phenomena that can be witnessed between a ground-based telescope and solar activity! Regardless... the Sun is simply tremendous right now! See for yourself... photo ~ spaceweather.com Once again, this doesn't even come close to the clarity seen at the eyepiece, but it sure will serve my reports just fine! This has definately been an interesting group to track. It it's still holding on Sunday, I'd say it's time for a sketch!

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The Moon was equally as beautiful tonight. Rapidly approaching full, it requires the filter to keep from toasting the eye! Crater Schickard was exceptional tonight... as is its' companion Phocylides. The interior of Schickard has this nice, soft, mounding effect... reminiscient of a pyramid that is slowly being eaten by a sand dune. Craters Piazzi and LaGrange are partially highlighted along the terminator. Oenopides to the north pole stands out very well with its' interor peak. Crater Sharp shows a perfect interior ring at this phase, while Crater Marian displays a broken interior wall and a great mound to the north. Although Keplar Crater is now "over-exposing" itself, it does make the shallow ring of Herodotus much more apparent.. replete with dark craterlet at the edge.

Mars and Nunki! What a pair!! These two have been slow dancing with each other over the last couple of days... and the waltz hasn't ended yet! (Hey, I keep trying to squeeze the M22 and Mars into the same picture!) And the great globular still shows rather well, despite the Moonlight. M25 loses a bit of luster, as does the M8... but I'll not stay away from Saggitarius for long! ;)

Time to work at a few double stars... not exactly my cup of tea, but the more I learn, the better astronomer I become. Albeiro is a starting point, a seasonal favorite... and the most beautiful of all colored doubles! Now let's try 61 Cygni... a double orange system with the secondary running toward the south/east to meet another pair of stars. 16 Cygni splits easy enough, with its' companion to the west/northwest. Gamma Delphini is a repeat... but a pretty one! Nice yellow primary with dimmer blue secondary to the west... At low magnification, you can just squeeze Struve 2725's tight, white form into the picture, running complimentary right angle with its' stars oriented north/south. M11 is up next... and remains splendid even with the added light. And bumping it away to the edge picks up Struve 2391. Now, HERE is a big difference in magnitudes! With the dim secondary pulling away to the north/northwest. Working at new ones means Gamma Arietis... and what a perfect match! It looks like eyes!!!! (hey, i'm not kidding here!) With the pair oriented north/south. And Lamda Arietis is a great counterpoint of disparation.... with its' faint secondary breaking off toward the north/east!

So, I've had a bit of fun tonight learning new things... and I look forward to learning more! It's a pleasant passtime when the Moon eats the sky. Teach me...

"Let the Sun never blind your eyes. Let me sleep so my teeth won't grind. Hear the sound of the voice inside...."  


September 29, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, and the Study Fields... M1, M42, M41, M35, M44, M81, M82, Venus and the Meteors...

Comments: You knew I simply wouldn't just go to bed and leave these clear skies be.. did you? By 4:00 a.m., the Moon was well down on the horizon, and I was ready... While I waited on the sky to darken more fully, I had a look at the neighbors. Saturn is just tops right now. While its' moons move considerably slower, they do change position slightly each night. The outer member appears to be closer to the planet body than before, and the three troopers that move along the ring system formed a halo across the top. Wonderful shadow definition tonight... and the Cassini is a sharp pencil line of black. Jupiter's atmosphere appears to have more clarity than what I've been picking up. Even at moderate magnification, the three central bands show clear highlight between each one... making it an easy six variations. The galieans were the pranksters of the show tonight, though! Looking all for the world like Epsilon Lyra, they took sides in little right angle pairings that even make the most "hard core" of us crack a smile! Now, the sky has progressively darkened... and the meteors have come out to play tonight! Seems like every time I look about I see one... or two!! But I'm ready to finish up some study...

~The Pegasus Field... So, you think you're up to a wild ride? Then grab onto this mane and let's take a walk through Pegasus... First stop is Eta... then move toward the Lacerta border. (Yee Haa!) First stop... NGC7331. This nice looking spiral galaxy has a bright core and a soft form, supported by a defined dark dust lane.. On good dark sky nights, it is possible to make out one soft, swooping arm! But hey... there's company here! NGC7335 and NGC7337 are in this too... the are tiny spirals, not much more than a fuzzy ball of light. But the NGC7340, wants to come out to play too... as a diminuative eliptical! Now, let's hop back to Eta and head east. (Howdy, Beta!) and slide toward the north for NGC7457... Sure, it's tough, but it's one more faint eliptical to target practice on! (So, feeling frisky yet? Then let's get down... ;)

To the really "good stuff"! Just touch the scope south. Let's get one of the best groups in the sky... Stephan's Quintet! The largest member of this group is the NGC7320, a beautiful face-on spiral which gives one the appearance of a concentrated galactic center, cupped by a halo of light, and embedded with the brightning of thousands of stars! The other members of the exclusive/elusive group are eliptical galaxies NGC7317, and NGC7318A... and the ever-so-slightly differing forms of spirals NGC7318B and NGC7319. When viewed, these are not much more than a faint group... but this is one challenge you won't regret! Now, let's ride on back toward Eta again... and head west toward Pi. South of Pi is the average surface of the NGC7217. This spiral galaxy shows density toward the core region, but the mass of the galaxy is well distributed. During excellent seeing conditions, a hint of an outward arm opposite the bright field star is possible! Now jump back to Eta, and let's shake it on down through the finder that resembles a partial Lyra. Omicron... Mu and stop! Lambda. Fade to the west and latch onto NGC7332. A small, shy eliptical who appears to be hanging out with another scratch of light!?! You ready to ride this horse on over toward Alpha? (Well... all right. ;) Touch the scope west from here to capture NGC7448. Just another average brightness spiral, but one with a soft, appealing core. Now, hold onto them reins... 'cause we're going back to Alpha and continue south just a couple of degrees. Howdy, NGC7479! (If this one doesn't get your blood to pumping... nothing will!) The NGC7479 is a classic "S" shaped spiral, with one arm curved gently above its' head like a ballet dancer... and the other tucked demurely behind. It you only bother with one in the EXTREME group... Do this one, eh? ;) One last hop now... and this time toward Gamma. In the northwest is our final galaxy in the Pegasus field. The NGC7814... (smilin', yet?) Because this is a perfect example of and edge-on! Although not as bright or as large as the "Sombrero" (M104), the NGC7814 contains a dark, central dust lane that you just can't miss!!

~The Andromeda Field... OK, so who here CAN'T find the M31? Huh? It's incredible, impenetrable nucleas simply screams out that it can be resolved. (and i can't wait to point the observatory scope at it!! ;) Even with my least amount of magnification, I cannot fit it into the entire field of view in the 12.5. So, when I can keep from drooling, I study it one section at a time. One of the most remarkable discoveries I ran across was in the southern tip. Damn impressive, the star cloud NGC206 actually bears its' own designation! Wonderful study area... We already know of the companion galaxies, the M32 and the M110 (NGC205), these elipiticals that pale in the face of the mighty M31. But there ARE two more... (way to go, Jeff!) Because as I edge the scope toward Cassiopeia, the NGC185 and NGC147 turn up as a same field pair of faint elipticals! And what a team they all make...

Think that's enough? (Nah... I'm not letting YOU off that easy! ;) Now, find Omicron and Lamda and form a right angle to the east.... at the corner of this "L" is the NGC7640. A nice "scratch" of light that says, Take me edge-on!" So, let's hop again... this time toward Lambda... Because here you will find the easy NGC7662. This blue/green planetary has so far only shown me a smokey looking center, and an occasional detection of a central star that is more of a tease than a reality! (hey.. i wanna' be able to hold it direct/averted... not bopping around!) Andromeda.... 'nuff said.

~The Perseus Field... First stop.... grab a piece of Pi and hop west for the M76! Talk about shapes of a much repeated target, for the M76 bears a strong resemblance to the M27!! 8-D I was shocked (and pleased) when I came across it! (Hey! Two "dumbbells" share the sky!!)

The next step has been a personal challenge for me for the last two seasons. (and YOU know it, too... don't you? ;) We're talkin' galaxy cluster extraordinaire here... So, head off toward Algol and go roughly 2 degrees east and breathe north. Oh, my... The brightest member of this group is NGC1275, a nice, round eliptical. And joined by a host of others!! The NGC1270 is playing the field... North of 1275, the double galaxy NGC1278 and NGC1277 are in the house... west/Southwest of 1275 is NGC1272... and north is NGC1273 and NGC1274!! And still they don't stop! During evenings of exceptional clarity, I can make out as many as ten of the tiny players... but I haven't gotten good enough to name them all yet!! (keep going, huh?) Think you can hang with me through one more study area? Then set the mark between Algol and the Plieades and snatch open cluster NGC1342 right out of the sky. It is a nice, scattered group of diamond hard stars... and a fitting crown to the head of Perseus!

Damn... that was fun! ;)

And by now I'm so pleased that I can't call it in just yet! Every time I would take a shape on the sky, another meteor would flash by!! I don't know whats up with that... but I'm not complaining! I don't really feel any more intense need to hunt up obscure things... so let's just stick with some simple stuff. Like the ragged ribbons of the M1... the deep texture and splendid "frozen smoke" appearance of the M42... the open jewels of the M41... the small, but worthy M35... and a priceless memory in the M44.

And as I view these things, the meteors are EVERYWHERE! The radiant loosely from the triangle of Perseus, Gemini and Orion. I lost track of how many around the count of 25... I've no idea if we were expecting a minor shower or what... but it sure is a treat! And speaking of treats... what the heck is that? I'll be darned... it's Ursa Major back again! (hey... why NOT?! ;) So, off I go to pick up the M81 and M82 for the second time tonight. On both sides of Polaris! What a great circle... I can never behold how quickly we move through space without a sense of awe... I tried for Comet Borrelly... but it was a no go. Shamefully, I did not print a copy of the map I found... and now I can find it again! Ah, well.... that's the way it goes. But I am pleased to see Venus again. Full and healthy... and still around!

I think I'll just kick back here on the chair, sip my coffee and watch the meteors tickle the sunrise...

"When the morning comes... it's a see-through show. From what you may have learned... and what you think you know."  


September 28, 2001 - The Sun, the Moon, Cor Caroli, Albeiro, 37 Peg, and the M81 and M82...

Comments: The Sun is simply outstanding at the moment! Two superior groups of sunspots absolutely capture attention... Like deep, black, triple drops of oil... being slowly emulsified on the solar surface. (Their dispersion fields remind of of the "Wooly Willy" toy I had as a child... you know! The man's face filled with all the little steel shavings that you moved around with a magnet to give him a beard...) The grey areas look like they are both attracted to, and repelled by the major spots. And they are not alone. There are at least two dozen other smaller ones... along with depression spots at the limb, faculae and even a certain amount of granulation! Small wonder Sol has produced so much activity here recently!

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And not to be upstaged, the Moon put on quite a show tonight, too! Gassendi Crater rocked... no doubt about it. But, Pythagoras was really throwing the shadows around! The bright rim of Aristarchus sat on the terminator, and even Keplar was being cooperative. Schiller was also outstanding... It's sheer cliff structure highlighted by shadow play, making it appear almost "wall-like". And Clavius? Grrrrrreat! All the tiny craterlets around it were very pronounced. The image of the Moon itself held perfectly steady. (and i want that camera back! tonight would have been an excellent kodak moment...) Not often does the view stand so perfect. I am accoustomed to some atmospheric waiver... but were are talking 0% motion tonight!

Since the sky is so steady, I thought I would take up a doubles challenge. There is no effort to Cor Caroli and Albeiro... I look at them simply because they are favorites. But 37 Peg is a different matter... Normally I would not comment unless I have the opportunity to view something three times, but after having conferenced with both Cor and Jeff, I feel vaguely confident that I caught the target. (Thanks, guys! It was unusual, to say the least... ;) It appeared to me somewhat like a figure "8", tilted to the southeast. Creamy white stars that are reasonably close in magnitude. And the devil itself to catch with the Moon so nearby!!

The random meteor rate is also way up tonight. Two came from the general area of Cassiopeia, and two through Aquila. I always get a charge out of these streaks of light... makes me think!

And before I go in to nap to wait on moonset... I took a moment to check in on the M81 and M82. Like the M42, moonlight only diminuishes them... but they're still there!

I like galaxies.... ;)

"When the darkness comes, you'd be well advised... Not to plan my funeral before the body dies...."  


September 28, 2001 - The Plieades, the Hyades, Saturn, M42, M41, Jupiter, M35, M36, M37, M38 and the M44...

Comments: Wild horses couldn't have kept me in bed this morning! One of those days when I just seem to wake up naturally... and can't wait to get outside! So as the coffee brewed, the little scope stabilized... and out I go!

Sure, it's still cold. But who the heck cares when Taurus and Orion look like that!?! The cool blue of the Merope Nebula is a true pleasure... and is the precision of the Hyades. But there's no sign of the M1. (It's clear... but it's not nebulae clear. That dark silver edge is still holding the sky.)

But Saturn is quite a different story! Even though it is in a starfield proper, it is no problem to make out its' moon system. At the eyepiece, one leads the way, up and above... like a soldier's raised sword, yelling "Charge!" to the sky. The rest of the entourage is content to lie round the ring system on the opposite side. I think they're waiting to see what happens to the brave one first... ;)

Even though it's not the quality type of dark for nebulae... NOTHING stops the M42. (hehehehe... even "moonshine" can't put this one under the table!) That verdant fan of spectral light is the stuff dreams are spawned from... Sleeping Gods, if you will. ;) And the cosmic litterbox of the M41 is "Siriusly" easy pickins' this morning...

Jupiter is up next.... and I'm glad to see it has changed in quality! The surface variations are very clear this morning... and I can't wait until it becomes an evening study! And the galieans? All present and accounted for, sir. And all taking one side.... forming a shallow triangle, with one in the lead! And like Saturn before it, Jupiter also sits in a starfield... and you know me... can't sit still! So, I start sweeping around.... and low and behold... the M35! How nice to see it again, too! And a push up and over toward Auriga to visit with the M36, M37 and M38. The coffee is tasty, and so are these inspiring early morning open clusters!

But, can I catch a comet with the little scope? Hey, I'll indulge myself in some skywalking this morning... (and hum a bit of Jim Croce to myself... "but we sure had a good time, when we started way back when. morning walks and bedroom talks... oh, how i loved you then.") And sweep... and sweep... but no sign of Comet Borrelly! (I can hear the dob barking in the garage... "lemme out...i'll fetch it for you! woof!") Down now, dobby... You'll get your turn tomorrow, eh? And sweep some more.... Whoa! What's this, then? LOL!

I'd know the M44 anywhere... ;)

"Just one step closer to the edge..."  


September 27, 2001 - The Moon...

Comments: Well, well... I shall have to remember in the future that "Linkin Park" works as well as "Limp Bizkit" to chase away the clouds! At least long enough for me to look at the Moon...

And, of course, it waited until darn near bed-time before it decided to clear. But, that's OK by me. (Never minded throwing the greatcoat on over my jammies and going out... and never will!) And it is much colder here than it has been...

The Moon was a study is silver light last night. My mind kept wanting to divide it up into thirds. For a bit, I'd be lost in the rugged Southern Highlands... admiring Tycho at what I feel is its' best. All the surrounding region is highlighted in shadows, revealing craters that will be totally lost as the surface of Selene continues to gain. Moments of total clarity bring tiny craters out to prominence... like handfuls of tiny obsidians tossed onto the powdery surface. Another third was Copernicus.... absolutely majestic in its' solitude. Once gain, dazzling moments of utter clarity reveals its' structure so very well... and it makes me smile, thinking of Cor's wonderful photos of the area! Even the Carpathian Mountains highlight themselves very well tonight... And the last third of the Moon was Plato and the Sinus Iridum... Now, tell me, who among us can resist the Alpine Valley? Not me! For I would climb Mount Pico (still 8,000 ft.! ;) with my eyes... and sit down on the Juliffe Mountains to stare across the peaceful sea of the Sinus Iridum.

I can see that Mars has moved even more! It is now gaining on the handle of the "Teapot" of Saggitarius... and still moving fast! What a wonderful way of observing retrograde motion... set against my favorite constellation in the sky!!

And it thought about approaching 37 Peg... but the Moon doesn't think that's a good idea tonight. So, I'll listen. For there are sharp edges to the silver light tonight.... Light that reminds me of the way chrome looks when it's been repeatedly exposed to high temperatures. Silver, undercut with shadow. Light that looks like the sheen on a grackle's wing... Or the curve on a silver soap bubble.. A painful sort of light. The kind you don't look at too long lest it blind you...

The kind you can't help but look at, because you want to be blinded...

"I find the answers aren't so clear. Wish I could find a way to disappear. All these thoughts... they make no sense. I find bliss in ignorance. Nothing seems to go away. Over and over again... Just like before."  


September 26, 2001 - Yep. I'm going quietly crazy here. Will this stretch of clouds and rain ever end?

"I cannot take this anymore. I'm saying everything I've said before. All these words, they make no sense... I find bliss in ignorance. The less I hear, the less you'll say. But you'll find that out anyway... Just like before. Everything you say to me.... Takes me one step closer to the edge. And I'm about to break. I need a little room to breathe. 'Cause I'm one step closer to the edge... And I'm about to break."  


September 25, 2001 - And still the sky weeps... and they are only words to a rainy day song.

Or are they?

"Soft-spoken, with a broken jaw. Step outside... but not to brawl. Now, I'm fallin' all over myself... to lick your heart and taste your health. And with the birds we'll share... With the birds we'll share this lonely view..."  


September 24, 2001 - Rain... sigh.

"Scar tissue that I wish you saw... Sarcastic, Mr. Know-It-All. Close your eyes, and I'll kiss you. And with the birds we'll share... With the birds we'll share this lonely view..."  


September 23, 2001 - The Sun and Moon...

Comments: OK, OK... it's slow here in Ohio! What can I say? ;)

Besides the fact that I caught the Sun between some very ominous looking clouds... and was elated to see that not only has the really angry looking sunspot rotated to center stage, but there's yet ANOTHER one coming in from the wings! Hey, we're not talking little "penny ante" dark marks here... the solar surface already sports eighteen of those. We're talking great big dispersion fields... loaded with faculae, and spread out over probably a tenth of the solar surface! These are big, mean spots that usually produce CMEs and auroral activity... and rock the house in the eyepiece!

And the Moon? Sitting in a fine haze after sunset, but it kept the view very, very stable. There were are host of interesting areas to look at last night, but I was captivated by Posidonus. I image that it was probably better last night when it was nearer the terminator, but there was nothing wrong with the view tonight! Splendid shadows along the terraced walls, excellent detail on the central region, and the attendent craters were crisp and clean.

I could hang out there...

"Autumn's sweet, we call it Fall. And I'll make it to the Moon, if I have to crawl..."  


September 22/23 - The Study Fields...

Comments: I can think of no better way to start a night's work than viewing the stars! I'd love to say that I hopped all round the galaxy, viewing everything there was to see... but truth is, I only did my study field for tonight. It is cold, but the sky is beautifully clear, and the Moon has far passed away at this hour.

Later in the day I shall probably regret having forgone some sleep... but the memory of the distant galaxies will make me smile...

"You and me.... We're in this together now."  


September 21, 2001 - The Moon, Mars and the M22, M8, M23, M24, M17, M11, the "Coathanger", M71, M27, Albeiro, NGC6940, M57, NGC7789, M52, M30, NGC7009, NGC7293, M2, M15, study fields and the M31...

Comments: Began the night by drinking in the silver beauty of the Moon... And, oh! How my hands ached to hold that camera again... The view tonight is crystal clear, and rock steady. The simple beauty of craters Atlas and Hercules take my breath away...

And there is more to the night than the soft light of the setting Moon... music fills the air. The legendary peope who's music I have both listened to and played over the years, have come together tonight in a concert. So important was this affair, that it was being simulcast on both the television and the radio station I listen to when I observe. So I chose to continue my journey upon the stars while I listened. Their songs spoke of inspiration...

And as Tom Petty sang "I Won't Back Down"... I gave myself up to Mars, still delighting in the fact that its' retrograde motion is making it streak across the evening sky! Tonight finds it angled away from Kaus Borealis to the east... and heartbreakingly close to the M22! It sits within a triangle of the stars of Saggitarius... and try as I might with all the eyepieces at my disposal, I cannot fit them both into the same field! But it was fun trying, eh? And like Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water", Saggitarius sends me its' light... giving me peace and balance. The serenity of the M8, the profusion of the M23 and M24, and the essence of dreams in the M17. Saggitarius tugs at my heart strings... as it always has. I simply cannot leave it alone, for it is a part of me. Now, and always...

Neil Young sings "Imagine"... and how it touches! For I hear my own words and sentiments, reflected in my own webpages... a call for us all to be one. And I wonder as I walk the Milky Way, if my friends around the world are seeing the M11 tonight... Do they still look upon the M27 as a splendid mystery? Have the seen the M71 lately? And I smile as I view the "Coathanger"... for I know that at least one has! ;) Do you wish unity? A blending of the old and new? Then let Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst touch you and I both... "Wish You Were Here". And you were, my friend. You were... I hold you here in my heart and eyes. And we walk upon the night... through the magnificent open clusters on the edge of Cygus to Cassieopia. I take you with me to the south, where we smile at the treasures there... the "Saturn Nebula" and the "Helix"... the small globular M30, to the splendor of the large one, M2...

The smooth, perfect voice of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder fills the night as we continue on to the M15... And how the music speaks to me! (for it has always been so... i seek my refuge in music.) Who cannot be proud of who we are, when these very people who shun the public's eye sing their souls to us? And Bob Marley... oh merciful heavens! How silly I must look, perched upon the ladder viewing the study fields... for I cannot stand still when I listen to reggae! It makes me smile, for I wonder if the distant universes I'm viewing could enjoy it as much as I! But there are tears...

As I view the M31, I hear the strings that can only belong to one man.... the incomparable Willie Nelson. And as he sings, the voices join him... "Oh beautiful, for spacious skies..." and indeed they are, for the light of the most outrageous galaxy in the sky fills the eyepiece... and the tears fill my eyes.

But wipe them away for me...

"Oh... come on and kick me."  


September 20, 2001 - The Sun... M4, M80, M19, M9, M62, Kaus Borealis and Mars, the Moon... M13, M57, and the NGC6940...

Comments: Merciful Heavens!! Where have I been?! I cannot believe all the sunspot activity going on at the moment! There are fourteen LARGE areas of activity, and what's rolling round from the east is very impressive! A huge spot hangs at the outer edge, with the tremendous "depressed" look... with a gigantic formation of spots leading the way. This is NO joke... I haven't seen activity like this in some time!! Image: SpaceWeather.com I am VERY impressed by all the activity! And a quick check on SpaceWeather says there has already been a CME reported for that area, and there is also an auroral alert for the next two days!! WOW! Glad I looked...

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And, a bit of luck prevailed for the early evening, and the skies stayed clear past sunset. Although it was not the sky-dark I would have wished for, it was enough for me to take one last look at my favorite globulars in Scorpius and Ophiuchus. I know that the presence of the Moon in the days ahead, and the speed of the sky will take them out of my reach. So I bid "Aloha" to the tiny, perfect M80... "Godspeed" to the misty orb of the M4... "Bon Voyage" to the splendid figures of the M9 and M19... and a "See ya' round the comos, kid..." to the M62.

Mars is moving incredibly fast... last night saw it directly below Kaus Borealis. After having watched things seem to "stall" as the seasons change, it makes me all too aware of just how fast things can occur. And so I take shapes on the Moon... Mare Crisium was my choice last night. Sure, Cleomides, Geminus, Burkhard, Masala, Langrenus... all were well placed. But I just felt like that smooth grey sea... held captive by a ring of mountains. A lunar "pool"... where the only swimmers are Messier and Pickering.

And I stop to return indoors to listen to the words of our President. And take pride in what he has to say... Like all Americans, I am touched to see the British Prime Minister stand with us... and to know that peace-loving and also terrorist-affected countries around the world give us their support.

Time to stand up for what we believe in.

And when I return to the night sky, it is to see that the clouds have ringed round the edges... but the zenith remains clear and dark. So, I look up! And still I think... always. And the majestic gathering of the M13 shows its' power... The perfect circle of the M57 shows its' unity...

The awesome, glittering cloud of the NGC6940 gives me hope...

"I can't help my boogies they get out of control. I know that you don't care but I want you to know... The virtual flavor is a favorite treat.. Of men that don't bother with the taste of the heat... Oh, come on and kick me... And I say... Oh, come on and kick me. Come on and kick me. You've got your programs. I've got my real night. You've got your downloads. I've got my hash pipe..."  


September 19/20, 2001 - Mars, M22, M28, M8, M20, M21, M23, M25, M54, M55, M17, M11, M27, M71, M15, M2, M31, M32, M110, M103, NGC663, NGC457, NGC637, NGC7789, M52, M34, NGC869 and NGC884....

Comments: So where to begin? How about at the beginning... It had rained all day, and turned into a cloudy night, so I had pretty much figured that any type of skywatching would be out of the question... and settled into a corner of the sofa to watch a special presentation by the Discovery Channel and the BBC about terrorism. "Getting To Know The Enemy" it was called... (yeah, right... like I'M gonna' invite bin Laden over for a cup of tea!) but knowing that knowledge is power, I educated myself by watching how this all came to be. Near the end of the program (and my third beer... ;) I noticed a light in the sky. Mars? MARS!! And out I went... The trees were still dripping a bit, but as I watched, a small sucker hole turned large... and by the time the program had ended, the sky had cleared! Not willing to risk even one drop of water on the mirror of the 12.5, I chose the 4.5 to be my companion tonight. (hey, i've all but worn the tripod off this little scope, and when it has reached the end of its' usefulness to me, i shall give it to an interested child and buy a new one!) It still remains a remarkable little scope... even with the odd wing nuts holding the tripod together and the re-accquired stuff on the primary! It's collimation and finderscope are still spot on... and it knows its' way around the sky. I truly marvel at how quickly Mars turns retrograde. Last time I saw it, it had just made it east of the M8... but now it sits just a slight angle away from Kaus Borealis! WOW! Talk about progress... And when I center the bright red beauty in the finder and go to the eyepiece, I am not disappointed. The deep orange color, the swell of polar cap, and the hint of dark maria are still very evident. And it pleases me to see it...

As it pleases me to see Saggitarius! (anytime, old friend... anytime. for i miss you as much as i miss the stars themselves...) It would be interesting to note here, that by using a smaller aperature, I can no longer see detail like I'm used to... but what it does do is reveal form. Without the huge profusion of stars visible in the dob, the actually shape and concentration of deep sky objects are more readily apparent! The M22 resolves to a certain degree, but what appears most beautiful about it, is its' irregular shape... and the tiny "tornado" that twists off of the southwestern flank. The M26 is a tight ball of stars... with one exceptionally prominent member to the northeast, and a vague "fan like" concentration spreading away from it. The M8 is splendid in any scope. The bright cluster of the NGC6530 opens up 12 or so members easily, and the central star and companion which swim in the center of the "Lagoon" make it a very peaceful place to be! Much like the M20... and its' "eyelike" appearance of nebulosity and central star... this nebula stretches itself nothward, to encompass yet another bright star... and a tip to the east brings the "giraffe" looking configuration of the M21 into view. By far, one of my favorite things to view in Saggitarius with the 4.5 is the M23. It IS a hazy cloud of stars... but even at low power, several dozen bright members come forward with direct vision. It is superior over the open cluster, M25, whose more open structure loses something without the muscle of aperatue behind it.

Now, for some faint stuff... And the 4.5 is still quite able to catch onto the M54 and M55! The M54 is much brighter, and definately more compact in size... and its' concentration point seems to be toward the western frontier. The M55 is much more diffuse... simliar to the M4. A soft, evenly lighted, grainy looking ball of stars. Who has a soft "C" of density toward its' western edge. Very nice....

Now, enough fooling around! I'm ready to hop up the Milky Way lest those clouds decide to return... And the M17 comes next... I like nebulae structure in the 4.5, and the "Nike Swoosh" of the Omega is exceptionally pleasing. Covering about one third the field of view, the extended nebula appears rather round, but that wing of concentrated light to the southwest makes it! And speaking of wings, how about those "Wild Ducks"? Yeah, the little scope doesn't pick it apart like the dob... but the shimmering "boomerang" of pinpoints of light is still excellent! I know I could power up on it and make more appear... but some nights I would just rather "look" at things, rather than "examine" them! Like the M27... I just like the little "Dumbbell"! You don't have to be the greatest thing in the sky to be tops in my book! I like you just as you are... a "bowtie" of living light!! And if I can sense something different about you? Then it belongs to me... let the rest of the world find it for themselves! Like the weird M71... be you a globular? Or be you an open? It wouldn't matter to me if you were a blessed nebula! I just like having you around...

And it doesn't get much more "round" than the M15 in the little scope! A perfect, round ball of stellar light. Once again, I get the sense that there is more here than meets the "eye" of a 25mm... but I don't want it to lose that magic. Now watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat... M2! Hello, there! We extoll the virtues of the M13 and the M22... but I'm tellin' ya', guys... the M2 rocks in its' own right! Even the little scope with a minimum of magnification makes the stars come out to play... And I LIKE the way it plays itself out to the east!

So what's next? Damn Skippy... the study fields! And OUCH! Catching structure in some of these faint scratches of light with the 4.5 is tough!!! I itch to wheel the dobby out of the garage and take it on... but this IS part of the study. And so it shall be... M31 rocks the house. Pure, simple and plain. No other galaxy packs a light punch like this one. Structure? Sure. Core? Unreal... Dust lane? Yep. Companions M32 and M110? No problem. Same field? No way... Sketch? Eventually... Report? This is as close as I'm revealing for now. (Sober? Yeah.... ;) I don't feel like scratching around in the dark for the faint and fuzzies too very long... For I came out here to play! It's well after midnight by now. And the stars fall from Cassiopeia's lap...

The M103 is a miniscule thing, a soft gathering of stars with a bright one to either north or south... but the NGC663 is much more impressive! Resolution begins immediately, with a dozen or more small yellow stars that snap into focus. Like tiny topaz tossed onto a saw-toothed shaped field of diamond dust... and very beautiful cluster. Two more, the NGC654 and NGC659 are only a twist of the wrist away, but I can see clouds beginning to gather again in the south! Hop on to the NGC457... This open cluster spreads its' wings from the northwest to southeast. It stands with its' arms open, palms forward in universal gesture of peace. A "star figure" in the sky, looking down upon a troubled world... reminding us that we need to rise above it. The NGC637's "delta wing" form cries out for resolution... teasing on the edge of averted vision. Promises from the stars...

NGC7789 appears almost galaxy-like at first glance. Like the M67 (who i eagerly await!), this huge, open cluster contains what appears to be thousands of stars... and several dozen that delight the eye with direct vision. As does the M52... not as large, nor as populous, but when you hold its' bright, western star direct.... many more come out to play!

Jumping over to the glittering "J" of Perseus, the open cluster M34 is bright, but simple. Its' configuration looks to me somewhat like the cosmic symbol for Taurus... and reminds me of exactly who I am. Nothing more than a simple stargazer... happy with my maps and my easy-going style. Capable of hunting down difficult deep sky studies... but just as delighted to smile at an open cluster. So I hop to the "Double Cluster"...

Because I can.

"I can't help my feelings, I'll go out of my mind. These players come to get me 'cause they'd like my behind. I can't love my business if I can't get a trick... Down in Santa Monica where tricks are for kids. Oh, come on and kick me.... Oh, come on and kick me. Come on and kick me. You've got your programs. I've got the real night. You've got your downloads. I've got my hashpipe..."  


September 18, 2001 - Another cloudy night... Filled with a soft, cold rain and the distant rumble of low-key thunder. It even smells like Fall outside! Wet chrysanthemums, cut grass, the pungent tang of fallen black walnuts, and the sweet undertone of ripe pears. And how I wish it were clear!!

Perhaps tomorrow...

"Let's mingle... and make it well. Come together now. Yeah, let's gel. Well, let's bungle! And live to tell... How we came together. Yeah. How we gelled..."  


September 17, 2001 - Ah, yes. And into every astronomer's life a little rain must fall. There were "sucker holes", (as a friend once delicately put it... ;) in the early evening, but they moved far too fast to chase. Looks like a excellent night to cradle the accoustic, perhaps read awhile... and get a bit of sleep!

Or maybe I'll just drink a couple of beers and rock and roll...

"Clothe me in any fashion. Glitter to so mundane. Tell me how you'd love to change me. Tell me I can stay the same. Well, I just want... to shake us up!"  


September 16/17, 2001 - M31, M32, M110, and some studies....

Comments: Unfortunately (for my astronomical pursuits!) work has taken precedence over my stargazing time... and wouldn't you know it! The skies have been perfect. But, I always manage to squeeze in a bit of time for the things I love the most... ;)

And how can you NOT love the Andromeda Galaxy? Sure... it's big. But is there anything wrong with being large? Nope. Because it is beautiful just as it is.... Although its' playmates, the M32 and M110 are a bit overshadowed by this "magnificience", they are none the less for it!

Now, my time this morning is short... so I'm off to trip the "light" fantastic and zero in again on some things I've been checking out. Just give me one more night... pleeze?? LOL! Or one more week of nights... or year of nights...

Or a lifetime...

"Let's mingle... And make it well. Come together now... And let's gel!"  


September 16, 2001 - M15, M31, M32, M110, NGC884 and NGC869, The Plieades and Saturn...

Comments: Hey... what better way to start a night's work than a bit of time with the sky? When I know it's going to be clear, I always get up a bit before midnight and head out! And tonight was no exception... Sky changes always seem more drastic to me when I don't see them for myself. I've become so accustomed to seeing Saggitarius and Cygnus, that's it's rather startling to walk outside and see that Capricornus and Aquarius hold court in the south, and that Cygnus is "swan diving" to the west! It just seems so strange to see the Plieades ghostly form well risen... Pegasus at the zenith... and the glittering "J" of Perseus well met.

So let's go have a look, eh? I'm ready to start some new studies...

The M15 is a tiny treasure. Shall I extoll it's virtues? Nah. Go look for yourself! This compact ball of stellar activities LIKES magnification! And the stunning M31 is such a great visual! I had a rather hard time trying to concentrate on what I was doing with one so "easy" to see! (but, i did keep at it.. ;) And when I had tripped around long enough, I went to look. And what a magnificent beastie it is... Part of me wishes I had an even lesser power eyepiece so I could take the whole field in at once and sketch it! But the rest of me is quite happy to view it in sections... and it's little playmates, the M32 and M110.

Now, a hop off to Perseus and a quick visit with the "Double Cluster", and some more field work. I like this kind of stuff! And for those of you who like variable stars, Algol is on the downshift now.

Before I take the things in for the night, I have to give the Plieades and Saturn a passing glance, anyway! The Merope Nebula is very prominent tonight... the contrast is excellent! And, well... I just have a "thing" for that little triangle of stars in the center! And who doesn't enjoy a moment alone with Saturn? Sure, I have a preference for Jupiter, too... but he's in the trees still. But I'l be happy to slow waltz around the rings anytime!

And look for the lord of the ruins...

"Color me in any color.. Speak to me in tounges that share. Tell me how you love to hate me. Tell me how you love to care. Well, I just want to shake us up..."  


September 15, 2001 - The Moon and Venus...

Comments: Wow! The sky stayed beautiful this morning.... and being in a rather good mood, I thought that perhaps I might try to capture the Moon before going into work...

Instead, the Moon captured me!

And the close conjunction between this pair was enough to melt a heart of stone...

"Her imagination... has started stretching wide. And her new convictions? No longer will she hide. She's not branded when the prophets speak... words of fire. For the same love she gives... She requires. So, she gathers rain... Yes, she gathers rain... To rinse away all her guilt and pain. Yes, she gathers rain... She gathers rain. To wash and cleanse and make her whole again...."  


September 14, 2001 - M8, M4, M9, M19, M62, M6, M7, Saggitarius and Mars...

Comments: Far too beautiful and clear a night to go to bed THAT early! So, for an hour or so, I swept across my favorite regions in the southern sky. The splendid globular and open clusters of Scorpius and Ophiuchus are always a delight... and one that's slipping away all too quickly.

Ah, and there you are. Saggitarius... How wonderful it is to see Mars snuggling so close. What a pleasant thought!

I think I'll dream on that...

"No, she doesn't care what the prophets say.... anymore. For the love she had... she has no more."  


September 13, 2001 - Ah now, what did I tell you? Nothing good lasts forever.... and that includes the weather! No matter. It was kinda' nice having a bit of lightning and thunder... and a soft rain to wash away the dust.

So, what do you think? Maybe a glass of wine and some practice with the accoustic on "Collective Soul"? Suits me just fine...

"Well today she's dressing... For the change she faces now. In the storm that's raging... A safe haven she has found. And she doesn't care what the prophets say anymore. For the love she had... she has no more. So, she gathers rain... Yes, she gathers rain. To rinse away all her guilt and pain. So, she gathers rain... Yes, she gathers rain. To wash and cleanse and make her whole again."  


September 12/13, 2001 - Saggitarius, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus, Cephus, Aquila, Sagitta, Vulpecula, The Study Fields of Capricornus, Aquarius and Picis Austrinus... Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Andromeda, Triangulum, Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Orion, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and the Moon...

Comments: Those of you familiar with me know that I often feel the need to "skywalk"... an all night love affair with the night where I tie together study fields, and hop about the constelllations for pure pleasure! And last night was such as night.... I didn't have to force myself to nap away the beginning evening hours, because I had been up very early that morning to view the planets and film the Moon. So, I left the garage doors open so the scopes were ready to rock.... and slept until Scorpius and Mars had begun to set. Batteries charged, I was ready to take on Saggitarius (as always) first!

Rather than bore you entirely out of your gourd, I shall skip the descriptive narrative of last night's wanderings... and let it suffice to say that I take everything Saggitarius has to offer me! And I smile... and say "thank you"... a let it go on its' way.

I've still some time to kill before my study field sits proper... so it's off to Hercules to enjoy the strength and size of the M13. A bit of play with the eyepieces... and I've a view that matches one I've seen at the observatory! (Too bad it was one of their lesser eyepieces, eh?) No matter, it was fun! And I trucked around until I picked up the M92, who's small, but dense core turns me on!

Off for a visit with Lyra, and a smile it the perfect "Ring" of the M57... and a nudge at the "Hedgehog", M56. Epsilon splits cleanly, with a paper thin line of sky between each component. It's going to be a fine night! And so I just surf around the right and beautiful stars in this area... (hey... what the heck is the double star that closely resembles a faded albeiro? plenty bright, easily split... members run opposite of albeiro.... just... curious!) And wander into the Milky Way for a visit with Cygnus. Of course, NGC6940 is a "must" for me... but I enjoy the "Coathanger", tiny planetary NGC6826, the open cluster on the edge of darkness, M29. And who can NOT stop by Albeiro? It is the finest, most colorful double in the sky!

Still not time, I hop ahead to Cephus, for a peek at a memory target... delicious spiral NGC6946 and open cluser NGC6939. Then run back south for Aquila, and the Barnard's "Double Dark" nebula near Tarazed. Back up to Sagitta, for a peek in on the M71... and into Vulpecula to quiver over the living presence of the M27! (it's the spectra!)

So... are you ready to rock and roll now? Then let's turn up the tunes... and let me turn you on to what I've been into!

Capricornus ~ Psi Capricornius is the anchor star to hunt out a faint galaxy. In the finderscope, find Psi and hop two stars east... and when you hop again, it will put you in the neighborhood of NGC6907. This is a moderately bright, fine spiral galaxy that reveals its' "S" shape very well under the right conditions. Return to Psi and head west for Zeta... continue southwest to 41 Capricorni and pick up a small globular! The M30 might be tiny, but it is very beautiful. Set in the "hook" of a question mark shaped asterism, the M30 resolves quite well a moderate magnification. It has an unpenatrable core region, but the outlying area simply explodes into tiny stars... with a host of colorful doubles and triples to delight the eye! Of course, you simply cannot wander through Capricornius without a visit the Neptune, whose blue body lies just southwest of Upsilon Capricorni (at this time) and our greenish companion, Uranus who sits just a bit above Delta and Gamma. Say "howdy" to the neighbors!

Aquarius ~ Aquarius, you're up next... and what a fine study you have been too! (I haven't had this much fun since Virgo!) So, let's grab that big scope and "Do it to it, Pruitt!"

The NGC7293, "Helix" nebula is the first stop. The Helix is quite lovely, reminiscient of the M57, but much larger! Its' nebular signature more closely resembles a ( ) rather than a O. A double sets neatly on the edge of the structure, while several bright stars are contained within it. Averted vision will definately bring out an interior star in this one! ;) From the Helix, move west past a field double for the NGC7184. A wonderfully structured spiral galaxy with a bright circle at its' core! Keep bumping east to pick up NGC7492... this is a small, faint globular cluster which offers no resolution, but is a pleasing catch! Continue east to Omega Auquarii... and from here, jump north for the NGC7723. This spiral galaxy is faint, but shows an evenly lighted surface, slightly "flattened"... with very little frontier. (Yeah, I know they're not amazing... but I just like hunting them down!! ;) Continue north to find the NGC7727... also a spiral galaxy. This one appears very even, with a hint of a central core and a delightful indication of faint arms curling off into space!

The triple Psi Auquarii group is next... and south of Chi is the NGC7606. This is a fairly bright spiral galaxy, with a decent core structure... but it also appears "flattened" looking to me! Now, the going gets tough here... but you and I, we're "tough", aren't we? So let's get going!! Return to the Helix Nebula, the sweep dead east to find NGC7392. This one is a faint, but excellently formed spiral galaxy. It has a great core region... sports a "finger" of light, and has a trailing outer arm! Very nice.. and worth the hunt!

North of the Helix is 53 Aquarii, our stepping stone for the next target. Moving west toward Delta Capricornii, approximately one third of the way is spiral galaxy NGC7218. This one is most unusual, because its' center structure appears "lumpy"... almost like a cluster of grapes! Back again to the Helix, (tired of looking at it yet?) and cruise southeast to capture NGC7377... an "even" eliptical galaxy of average brightness. Back to the Helix, (yes...again!) and drop south toward Epsilon Piscis Austrius. A little more than a degree northwest of that brings you to NGC7314. This one is detectable with the smaller scope, but it's spiral "attitude" walks right out with the big one! A nice, bright nucleas... and hints at dark dust lanes within the galaxy proper make this one quite a worthy study!

Of course, I'm not letting you leave Aquarius without looking in on the NGC7009, "Saturn" nebula. This blue baby is lots of fun, if given half a chance! Picture Saturn out of focus... and paint it blue. With concentration, the edges just tweak out away from the general form during a moment of clarity. And, of course, the triangle of stars designated as M73... (whoopee) and the very open, barely resolvable structure of the globular M72. It's outer members are speckled around the edges, but a minimum of resolution requires averted vision.

Not so with the next study... M2 is superb. Its' dense, dense central core is very bright compared to the other objects we've just looked at! At mid-level magnification (17mm) the stars absolutely "spray" forth from the edges! A glorious profusion of pinpoints of stellar lights!! Thanks, Aquarius! It's been reaL... Piscis Austrinus ~ The last stop in the current study field (for now, eh? ;) is a constellation best viewed when it reaches due south. But, for early season viewers, it is worth the wait!

Locate Epsilon and Xi... because between this pair is NGC7314. A terrific elongated spiral galaxy, oriented from north to south... the one appears to be almost edge on! Head now toward Formalhaut... then slide west to capture NGC7361. This one is also and edge-on spiral, aligned from the north to south... evenly lighted and with no real core area. (But I LIKE it!) Now, draw a mental line (you've always known i was a "mental case", haven't you?) between Theta and the double Mu, and Eta... At just east of the center of this "triangle" is the NGC7172. Beautiful! And I do mean BEAUTIFUL! Of average brightness, the NGC7172 is a splendid edge-on with a prominent dark dust lane dissecting it... the best part is that it is also part of a "love triangle" of galaxies with the two faint scratches of light... the NGC7176 and the NGC7174! A superb study field...

Time to call it in? No way, baby! But I will acquiesce to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cup of coffee... And as I stand, enjoying my impromptu snack, I get the strangest sensation. (ok... i'm being metaphysical here, bear with me.) My left side began to feel extraordinarly warm... (no, i didn't have a stroke.) and the feeling passed across my shoulders... To coin a rather old phrase, it totally freaked me out! It was like having someone put their arm around me... but there was NO ONE there!! Something touched me... (Hey, I'm a realist. It was just the caffiene and sugar, right? Ha! So what brushed the top of my head????)

Looks like a good time to roll the dobby around to another of my favorite shadows and explore some more!! Cassiopeia and those beautiful open clusters come next... The "Queen" is high north, and the stars fall from her lap. As always, the NGC7789 and M52 steal the show...

Back over now to Pegasus for the M15... and some time to "prowl" around... because there is more here, too! And since the M31 is so visible without the scope, and simply cries out for attention... I am happy to accomodate Andromeda and that outrageous galaxy! I find the core on the M31 beyond galactic compare. (my pupils contract just thinking about it!) And, while structurally it is not my favorite of galaxies, the sheer size of it staggers the imagination! Even at the lowest I posess, (32mm, 2") it walks right out of the field at either side of the eyepiece! Magnificent... And just a touch of the scope bring its' attendant galaxies into easy view.

How about Triangulum and the M33? I find this to be one of the more difficult galaxies. Its' immense size, low surface brightness, and diffuse nature do not exactly endear it to me... but I am always pleased to snatch it out of the sky!

Perseus sits well now, and the "Double Cluster" is also a naked eye object. So, off I go! To enjoy its' twin beauty at low magnification, and admire the wide open spaces of the M34! Trailing behind it is Auriga... and the M36, M37 and M38 aren't exactly "difficult" targets either! (Don't we wish that all deep sky objects were as easy as seeing the smudge in the sky, the shape in the finder, and the DSO in the eyepiece? Nah... it's more fun to hunt them down! ;)

Dawn is not far away... and the already risen Moon is going to obliterate the fine stuff. But, I would take the time to visit the Plieades and Hyades.... and run across the M42! I thought about scratching around for the M41 and the M44, because Orion is dominating the upper third of the southern skyline... but it will wait for another time.

Because I want to see Saturn. Enjoy its' tiny moons at the outer edges of the ring... and marvel over the Cassini. I want to figure out why Jupiter seems "overexposed" at the moment... and enjoy seeing that the galieans have switched places from 24 hours ago. I want to film the Moon... and drool on Keplar Crater! I want to watch Venus rise from the trees.... and the soft fingers of dawn stroke the face of the sky! The rare occurance of some many clear nights in a row will disappear, for this IS Ohio after all. Work will take the place of play in the days to come. And the harsh realities of our United States trajedies will fill the day.

But we had the night....

"I sank into Eden with you. Alone in this church, by and by. I read to you here... save your eyes. You'll need them... your boat is at sea. The anchor is up... you've been swept away. 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..."  


September 11, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon... the Study Field and Saggitarius...

Comments: I am deeply enjoying the clarity of the morning skies. It is worth every moment of getting up early to see the Cassini Divison cut its' groove around Saturn's rings. I take pleasure in watching it's tiny moons waltz slowly around the planet. And the shadows? The shadows are my home....

Jupiter is a mystery at the moment... defying a bit of logic. There is something about the surface detail that I cannot quite put into words. For want of a better phrase, it seems too reflective, somehow. But the chorus line of galiean moons seems to cheer it up... The Moon simply "rocks" with detail. Filming it has been a rather unique experience... and also somewhat frustrating. I suppose I shall never care for photography.... Simply because it takes up my time at the eyepiece! But, my time with the camera is fast drawing to a close... and although my hands ached to sketch Copernicus this morning, I took it's picture instead.

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Little did I know that just hours later I would sit in stunned silence with my peers around the conference table at work... watching the collapse of the World Trade Center. Horrified at the news of terrorists hijacking planes... Shocked at the infiltration of the Pentagon... Unbelieving that a car bomb could be allowed so near the State House... And deeply sorrowed at the sacrafice of innocent lives over the benign state of Pennsylvania.

As with all of my fellow Americans, disbelief led us to hold onto the media... following the story. Fear for what tommorow may hold coloring our daily lives... Eventually I sought the stars.... For it is here that I find peace. But, somehow, the study fields were a rather grim and cheerless affair tonight. My mind was simply elsewhere... and what I did, was almost mechanical. It did not help...

Although the sky was simply pefect... I found myself just staring at the beauty I've always known. All too aware of the lack of air traffic... it underscores what I know to be the truth. Not since December 31, 1999 have the skies been so quiet...

Unrest.... Reaching for something I can't hold... Needing time away from my thoughts... Wanting a break from the world....

And so I hold Saggitarius in my heart and mind. I find a certain measure of comfort in knowing the the M8 is still there... that the M22 is safe. I wanted to know the M20 would still be there tomorrow...

The M24 eases my wearied mind...

"Look at your young men fighting... Look at your women crying... Look at your young men dying... The way they've always done before. Look at the hate we're breeding... Look at the fear we're feeding... Look at the lives we're leading... The way we've always done before. My hands are tied... The billions shift from side to side And the wars go on with brainwashed pride. For the love of God and our human rights, And all these things are swept aside By bloody hands time can't deny... And are washed away by your genocide. And history hides the lies of our civil wars. D'you wear a black armband When they shot the man? Who said "Peace could last forever"? And in my first memories They shot Kennedy. I went numb when I learned to see. So I never fell for Vietnam. We got the wall of D.C. to remind us all That you can't trust freedom When it's not in your hands. When everybody's fightin' For their promised land... And I don't need your civil war. It feeds the rich while it buries the poor. Your power hungry sellin' soldiers In a human grocery store... Ain't that fresh? I don't need your civil war. Look at the shoes your filling... Look at the blood we're spilling... Look at the world we're killing... The way we've always done before. Look in the doubt we've wallowed... Look at the leaders we've followed... Look at the lies we've swallowed... And I don't want to hear no more. My hands are tied For all I've seen has changed my mind. But still the wars go on as the years go by With no love of God or human rights, 'Cause all these dreams are swept aside By bloody hands of the hypnotized... Who carry the cross of homicide? And history bears the scars of our civil wars. We practice selective annihilation of mayors And government officials For example to create a vacuum, Then we fill that vacuum As popular war advances Peace is closer... I don't need your civil war. It feeds the rich while it buries the poor. Your power hungry sellin' soldiers In a human grocery store.... Ain't that fresh? And I don't need your civil war. I don't need your civil war. I don't need your civil war. Your power hungry sellin' soldiers In a human grocery store... Ain't that fresh? I don't need your civil war. I don't need one more war. I don't need one more war. Whaz so civil 'bout war anyway?"  


September 10, 2001 - Mercury,Mars and the M8, M22, M20 and M21, M24, M17, M16, M11, the Study Field, NGC7000, NGC6940, NGC6960, M29, M56, M57, M15, M31, and M33...

Comments: OK... so I missed the occultation this morning. The sky make up for it with style last night! This was one of those times of perfect clarity... a night when there are more stars than you can believe. Mercury made an appearance tonight. So, I had a look. It's not as often that I can see it on the western frontier, because clouds most usually follow the sunset. But, I am not unpleased with what I see... It may shake, rattle and roll, but it shows what appears to be a 50% phase... and I am just tickled I saw it! Mars and the M8 really took my fancy last night. Why? Because the M8 was an easy naked-eye object, with Mars sitting right below it! Absolutely a treat to the eye... It's amazing just how fast Mars is moving retrograde!

Saggitarius always rocks my world... and there was no exception to the rules tonight. The M8 telescopically fills the eyepiece with silver light... threads and filaments of the next best nebula of the sky. (M42 still holds the honor as THE #1) The M22 is a glittering jewel... Suspended against a very black background, it resolves well with direct vision, and takes your breath away with averted! The M20 shows no problem in dust lane divisions tonight. Like "Humpty Dumpty" in the sky, the deep cracks of this amazing nebula looks like they could be pulled apart, never to be put together again. And the M21, that tiny tag-along cluster of stars keeps it good company! As with the M8, the M24 is a skywatcher's delight. Easy visible without the scope, (but use the32mm... because I want every last drop!) this "cloud" of stars always leaves me open-mouthed. I could just stand there, unmoving... but not unmoved... for the rest of the night looking at it! But this IS the kind of night I needed... so head out, Astronomer!!

The M17 came next... showing more of its' frontier than usual. It appear almost as an elongated "2" this time... and stretches to fill the field with a light more silver than green. Beautiful... And the M16 actually came to call! Again, I just wish to stand there... rooted to the spot! This is not a "killer" nebula by any standards. Its' hazy cluster resolves beautifully... but it requires a certain degree of concentration to see form in the "Eagle"! And I have a lot of patience...

The M11 comes along next... because I delight in its' superior resolution! Like the other things tonight, I have to push myself a bit to keep from becoming transfixed on any one object... and this magnificent "fan" of stars is no exception! Study was meant for tonight. And tonight was meant for study. And it was good. It gave me the needed "edge" to see some things I wanted to view more closely. And now I have. All I want for now is one night to tie them all together...

Cygnus is incredible tonight. The dark rifts are very clean cut... and all along the spine of the "Swan" the stars twinkle and shine. I actually have to remove my glasses to see its' familar form! But I put them right back on... because the NGC7000, "North American" nebula is most evident! (How I wish I could stay out all night, tonight!! I love nebulae nights...) I'm just in the mood now to relax.... enjoy the starfields, and perhaps touch on some favorites.

And one such is the NGC6940. It's superior resolution and multitude of stars make it so. So, I drool on it for awhile... then take aim at the NGC6960. Like the M16, the NGC6960 is NOT a cakewalk... A filament that curls tenderly around a star is about the best I can achieve. But I find that "thread" most pleasurable... And while in Cygnus, I hop over to the M29. This is a decent, open cluster... and I enjoy seeing a rather "Pegasus-like" apparition of stars come forth from it's members!

Hop over to Lyra now... for a peek at the "Hedgehog" and a visit with the "Ring". I just like looking at some things. I guess, for my own personal reasons... Besides, who really cares what you see, anyhow?! ;) So, let's go to the M15, eh? And enjoy its' compact globular structure. Very concentrated... and always a treat. And the M31 is naked-eye tonight also... (i hear the chili peppers on the radio!) It fills the eyepiece with galactic light... and perhaps I'm tired now... because my eyes keep watering. And it doesn't help matters to grab onto the M33. I am always proud when I find it... because it is so very diffuse. But... well... I've just had enough for now.

I can't see at the moment anyway...

"Discomfort has endlessly pulled itself upon me.... Distracting. Reacting. Against my will I stand beside my own reflection... It's haunting... How I can't seem... To find myself again. My walls are closing in... Crawling in my skin. These wounds they will not heal... Crawling in my skin. Nothing is for real..."  


September 9, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter and Venus...

Comments: Hey... If I'm going to stay up all night, you know I'm going out to look at the planets! By the time I made it out, a soft cloud cover was starting to film over the sky. Only one moon was visible in Saturn, tickling the ringed giant's belly. Although the image held very steady, the Cassini was a total wash.. but the shadow play still remained excellent!

Jupiter was a bit less friendly. Although the three equatorial bands were prominent, the clarity was lost... Three of the galiean moons were quite visible at the time, but thanks to the sky, they appeared flat... without the "dimensional" qualities I find so fascinating.

Venus... is Venus. Bright and turbulent. Offering only momentary views of its' phasic nature. Which, by the way, appears to be growing more and more! But, like the summer constellations before it, Venus will soon be gone from the morning sky...

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

And a partially cloudy morning turned into a totally cloudy day.... and into a rainy night. (sigh.) So much for catching Saturn and the Moon, eh?

"To find myself again... my walls are closing in. Without a sense of confidence, and I'm convinced... That there's just too much pressure to take. I've felt this way before. So insecure... Crawling in my skin. Consuming all I feel. Fear is how I fall. Confusing what is real..."  


September 8, 2001 - Comet LINEAR, Iridium 68, the Hubble, the Saggitarius Region, Mr. Wizard's Galaxy, the Study Field, Neptune, Uranus, NGC7009, NGC7293, Ruchbah, M103, Trumpler 1, NGC654, NGC663, NGC659, NGC7789, M52, and the Moon...

Comments: Oh, yeah! This is more like it!! Beautiful warm night... mid seventies, soft south wind... and clear sky!

Began this evening by tracking on LINEAR... (yes, still like looking at it, ok? :) It is still moving gently through Saggitta.. a faint bit of a ball, who trajectory has taken it even closer to a nearby double star! And after I'd had my look, I headed out to the south field to play!

I had just barely gotten moved, and was deciding what to look at, when high up, out of the east a sattelite caught my attention... and as it moved steadily toward the west, gave off the great reflection that only a Iridium sattelite can produce! Hello, 68! And when I look back to the south to chose where to start, out of the southwest came a slow-moving, steady light. What's this? Not a plane?! And bright! A quick confirmation with Heavens Above made my night... the Hubble! Maybe it shall bring me luck...

Time now, for me to walk through Saggitarius. Although I delight in journeying the whole sky, this is my true love... All too soon I shall have to bid farewell to the M8 and M22. The M20 will no longer shine for me, and the M17 will become only a memory. The myriad globular clusters and the deep delight of all the stars at the center of my universe will slide away. And the seasons will change...

And I will never forget.

So, studies fill the void... as does work. I pass across Mr. Wizard's galaxy, for it keeps me company for now. It has lost a bit of something... perhaps the clarity is not what it once was. But, I would stay in touch with it anyway. Because I remember how it once looked to me, and perhaps there will come a time when those bright spots resolve again into distant stars... (For you, Tim...)

So, off to Capricornus... because the seasons do change. And I would take the time to visit with the blue ball of Neptune, and greet the green star of Uranus. They are acquaintances of mine...

Some parts of my study field are clear enough tonight... and others lack contrast. Like an old friend whose journeys have brought him round again, the NGC7009 has come to call. Dancing just a bit ahead of Nu Aquarii, the "Saturn Nebula" holds the record at the moment for the most blue DSO in the neighborhood! There is no real "clearcut" form to the NGC7009... It is merely a UFO-shaped wad of luminousity that seems to stretch itself a bit at the edges. A very beautiful sight...

And letting my scope and mind travel eastward, I continue to walk the path toward Upsilon Auquarii... and visit with the NGC7293. The "Helix" nebula is not quite as sharp in form as the M57, but the grey/green ring in the sky is still a very satisfying catch. At the outside edge sits a tiny double... and a bit of patience and averted vision shows two stars on the edge of the inner ring. Momentary flashes come from the center... but as the Wizard's Galaxy before it, some stars come a bit hard tonight... and bright individuals locked within the ring itself only show when they chose!

I have had enough of study for now... it gives me a certain satisfaction, but I want to play! And for that, I chose Cassiopeia tonight...

"And you... bring me to my knees, again."

And the "knee" is Ruchbah... I took pleasure in discovering that it was a double star on my own. I sought it merely as a stepping stone... only to see its' duplicity! So, it's not a hard target... but to see such a red secondary break away from the northeast of the white/blue primary when you weren't even aware it was a double... I thought was kind of exciting! Ah well... you guys have at it. I shall stick with what is familiar to me.

"All the times... that I could beg you, please. For me..."

Deep sky is what I long for... and I find it at the "end" of the Milky Way. (and i've pleaded enough with capricornus to show me what is has...) There is no need to "beg" in this starfield. Cassiopeia offers itself willingly...

The M103 is a lovely open cluster... touched at either end by bright stars. Many dozens spring into resolution, but an "ace of spades" looking asterism seems to be very pronounced. Near it is Trumpler 1... a patch of stars that almost loses itself in the Milky Way. It does have a rather unusual feature, though... a "mean streak" that cannot be resolved!!

NGC654 is next. Not exactly what one would class as a spectacular open cluster. It is somewhat elipitical-looking, but basically shapeless. Just a cosmic shadow running along with a bright star. The NGC663 is much better! It somehow reminds me of a globular cluster that changed its' mind at the last possible moment! Resolution is exceptional on this one. Many bright stars come forward... and with a bit of magnification the shape of the cluster begins to look somewhat like the continent of Africa... Wild! NGC659... Oh, here we go! We shall call this one the "X" cluster! For that is the impression I get from it... (give me a kiss... indeed! ;) Splendid resolution, there is also a nice yellow double in the field with it... but I haven't the foggiest of what its' name might be!

The NGC7789 has always been one of my favorites in either scope. The 4.5 shows it as an amorphous, glittering pool... while the 12.5 show it as a crystalline gathering of stellar activity! This one actively seeks resolution from you... Its' tiny points of light virtually cry out for attention... but don't push it too far with magnification, because it will lose its' beauty. Some of its' charm relies heavily upon the yellow star that shares the field, and an odd looking group of five stars. This quintet forms a chain of four... with the third one being the brightest, and the fifth angled off to the side. A multiple delight! If you're into such things...

Now for the M52.. a rich open, and only upstaged by the NGC7789. It is dominated by a star along the edge, but even as little as 25mm will start individual stars coming forth... and 17mm makes it rock! Hundreds of stars gathered together... only to fade away a bit to the southeast. It is an awesome target... and a very worthy Messier!

And what of Selene? It's beaufiful, and you know it. When it waits, and buys me some deep sky time, I'll never complain about its' appearance. I find the scar of the Alpine Valley attractive... a battle lost, yet won. The Appennine and Caucasus ripped across the surface reflecting the light. Piton stood as solitary as Machu Pichu... a lunar mystery. (8,000 feet! ;) The ancient craters sing their songs... and I would listen. Stofler, Albategnius, Pythagoris, Archimedes.... Timeless. Priceless.

And while in the light, Plato fixes its' flat, loveless eye toward the shadow...

"Crawling in my skin. Consuming all I feel. Fear I how I fall. Confusing what is real... There's something inside me that pulls beneath the surface. Consuming... Confusing... This lack of self-control I fear is never ending. Controlling... I can't seem... I've felt this way before. So insecure.. Crawling in my skin. Consuming all I feel. Fear is how I fall. Confusing what is real..."  


September 7, 2001 - Cloudy... with a bit of rain thrown in for good measure. Figures, huh?

"All alone is all we are... All alone is all we are... All alone is all we are..."  


September 6, 2001 - Comet LINEAR, M71, M27, M4, M80, M9, M19, Mars, M8, M22, NGC6528, NGC6522, M54, M70, M69, NGC6638, M20, M21, M11, M17, M23, Uranus, Neptune, some study, and the Moon...

Comments: I cannot get over what a distinct difference the absence of extra light makes to the south. For years I had just contended with it, learning how to place the scopes in certain areas to avoid the annoyance... and now there is no need! And on a clear night... the stars walk right down to the ground.

Armed with maps, I went out tonight ready to practice and study. One of the most primary targets I had hoped to look for was Comet LINEAR... Was it still there? Oh, yeah... Although it was visible in the 4.5, this one belongs to the dob now. Still in Saggitta, LINEAR has greatly diminuished in both size and magnitude. All that remains is a soft, fuzzy ball heading out into space... receeding away from to wide field doubles. It's been a great deal of fun following it, but it won't be long before it disappears altogether. And while in the "neighborhood", I made a pass over the M71 and the M27. (hey... if i'm on the ladder, i might as well make the best of it, huh?) I am anxious for these targets to take a dip to the west, so I might study them with my feet on the ground.... eyepiece changes are much more comfortable that way!

Time to drop by and visit with Scorpius and Ophiuchus before they, too, retire for the season. M4 and it's attendant globular are still dancing along... and the concentrated little M80 hasn't quite ducked away just yet! I had thought about tracing out the many globulars of Ophiuchus tonight... but I prefer just to stick with the M9 and the M19. Both are splendid. Even after a couple of months of viewing time with them, I am hard put to say which one I like the best! (M19... did i say that???! ;)

Mars is still out and shining bright! Once again, I thought about playing around with filters and magnification... but my goal lies to the east. So I let Mars rest, content to see a vague sense of maria around the central meridian, and leaving it in the outer edge of the Milky Way... playing in a field of stars. Ahhhh, Saggitarius.... Everytime I get near it, I always want to swallow it down! Even though my studies tend to be foremost in my mind, I make the rules here in the backyard... and Saggitarius it is.

The M8 walks right out of the finderscope, and fills the field in the 32mm. It's brilliant star patterns keep me riveted... watching the ones emerge from the thickest part of the nebula. The M22 is literally outstanding tonight. Wonderful resolution, bringing forth star chains, and inviduals from this most impressive globular. Even the rather "notched" look of its' west side is apparent tonight. Down to the tip of the teapot for a hunt on the lesser know globulars.... the concentrated, small forms of the NGC6528, and the NGC6522 sharing the same field of view. Both are very tight, and moderately bright... and in perfect form! So, pardon me, while I hop around a bit. For me, there is no constellation like Saggitarius. I was ready then to coast across the "bottom" of the teapot... to lovingly collect the fainter, less concentrated globulars, M54, M70 and M69. And when I've had my fill, I return to Kaus Borealis again, to find the NGC6638. I will give the dob credit on this one... for it picks it up every bit as good as the observatory scope! So, I follow the Milky Way up for a visit with the M20, whose segmented shape shows very well tonight, along with its' open cluster, the M21.

M17 is the glowing "swoosh" of fantasy... a beautiful nebula that glimmers in the eyepiece. The M23? Oh my.... the lines and curves of its' star patterns are hard to resist! But the show stopper for this part of the sky tonight is the M11... this bright fan of stars goes beyond resolution tonight! I am alway taken aback when this one produces intense clarity... for its' stars are too numerous to count! What a beauty.... Hopping of now for a bit of study before the "big picture" gets too well lighted. Amazingly enough, the area which appears to be sparingly populated to the naked eye, is filled in the dob! And so I drive around these new highways... learning the roads to come. A pit stop at Neptune and Uranus will serve my reports for now. I wish to learn the track on which I run first... knowing that dark, moonless skies are in the near future. And I would race the stars... Then along came "la Luna"...

"I wish I was like you... easily amused. Found my nest of salt... everything's my fault. I take all the blame.... aqua seafoam shame. Sunburned with freezer burn... choking on the ashes of my enemies. In the Sun... In the Sun we're as one... I'm in the Sun."  


September 5/6, 2001 - The Moon...

Comments: Duty called last night. And I am a creature bound by duty... so I was required to sleep during the dark sky time. There will be other times... and other clear skies. For work fulfills a need in me every bit as important as astronomy...

But there was time for the Moon. And while I sipped at my coffee, I split the time between eyepiece and camera... simply enjoying the surface detail offered by Selene. Mare Crisium is almost consumed by shadow... and the first four craters I learned, Geminus, Cleomides, Burckhardt, and Masala lay along the terminator. There was a splendid mountain region, which may have been Montes Pyrenaeus... casting tall shadows on the surface.

Between this, and the conversation of friends, I cannot ask for a better way to wake up...

"What else can I write? I don't have a right. What else can I be? All apologies... In the Sun... in the Sun, we're as one..."  


September 4, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, Venus... the Sun... Mars, the Saggitarius Region, some study time, Neptune, Uranus and the Moon...

Comments: (report written on 09-06-01) I have done myself and my reports a grave disservice by waiting two days to complete. As always, I take field notes, but rely heavily upon memory for some details, such as the positions of the moons around Saturn and Jupiter... and my thoughts, feelings and impressions. So, I shall try to do my best...

While I don't remember the position of Saturn's moons, I do remember a very beautiful impression of a ball set within a vinyl record album. Powering up on Saturn always leaves me amazed... the shadow play is beyond compare. And I never forget just how very far away it is. And Jupiter? Now that it is achieving better elevation, the striations on the surface are becoming more and more clear... offering more than just the three equatorial belts to the view. Venus? Losing altitude fast... Mercury and it shall make a splendid coupling not long before dawn in the very near future! I also remember being very excited about two major sunspot groups! One I filmed, the other did not show as clearly... maybe I would do well to take my lazy self out there today and check on their progress! Of Mars I remember a dark curve of detail across the central meridian... but not dark enough to have been Syrtis Major. I also remember that it is in an area very rich in stars, giving it the momentary appearance of having moons itself! (psssst... i've heard you can stop the aperature and see diemos... but i've never tried!)

And I never forget the beauty of Saggitarius... The M8 was back... full of light and detail. The M20 showed division... and the M22 will rival the M13 anyday! I distinctly remember journeying from the soft globulars at the base up through the M17.... and I very much remember splitting the double star that serves as the tip of the spout of the teapot... because they were the same size!!

Field notes are expressive at this point... and very clear. But this is a challenge/study area... and these type of notes are meant only for myself. When I complete my studies, I will publish it in my daily reports... then when I have an opportunity, I cross reference it with the web to see how accurate I was! Picky? Oh, heck yeah! I only prove things to myself... Neptune and Uranus were also memory targets. And how could I forget seeing Neptune so close to a finderscope double? These two stars ROCKED in the eyepiece.... and the small blue body of the planet was unmistakable!! And at the other side of the constellation of Capricornus, was Uranus... one of the very few sky objects that actually appears to be green! The Moon I filmed... (good thing, huh?) I won't do this to myself again...

"What else could I be? Except for all apologies..."  


September 3, 2001 - M13, M27, M57, M71, a Challenge and the Moon...

Comments: Unfortunately, the night stayed very warm and humid, which meant the partially cloudy skies stayed that way. (ohio... one day you need a coat to go out... the next you're in shorts and a t-shirt!) But, all was not lost. For the most part, the zenith stayed fairly clear.

Which gave me an opportunity to pick at some deep sky targets... like the M13. It had been awhile since I had looked at this great globular. I was quite pleased to see it fairly well resolved using the dob! Although it doesn't pick every little star out like the observatory scope does, the 12.5 still holds its' own... and the view IS magnificent.

The M27 (yes... i was looking for LINEAR, ok?) is always mysteriously beautiful. Glimmering and glowing with a life of its' own... and showing its' stuff. The M57 was less cooperative... the field stars around the "Ring" were achievable, but the planetary itself didn't appear a "clean" as usual. And the soft-spoken, odd shape of M71... although it makes me catch my breath for a second... isn't LINEAR either! (i really shall have to print a map before i go out next time... i'd love to know how far it's moved!)

Now to explore unfamiliar ground... and the soft washes of cloud are not exactly being real helpful at finding guide stars. I tried to memorize the map earlier... and I think I can get this one without leaving one of my favorite shadows. Results? The star in question is orange... and the blue secondary sits at its' feet on the progressive edge. (so, if i have the right one, the orientation would be to the northwest...) What can I say besides "Teach me..." (you'll find me a willing pupil!)

Time to "moo"ve on?

Yeah, no choice. The Moon has barged it's way up over the horizon clouds and is demanding attention. So, I covered the dob up and turned the 4.5 its' way... Suprise! A wealth of detail... Mercurius crater rocked, with the flat interior and central peak... accompanied by the shallow Zeno. Crater Proclusis is extremely bright and very prominent. Mare Crisium's smooth expanse is punctured by Craters Pierce and Picard.... and the Southern Highlands? Crispy... very crispy! (i don't even know where to start with all the great craters there... but i did truck back inside and fetched the camera. from what i saw in a quick review, i'm getting better at finding focus!) There are so many very detailed craters in this area... wow! I really should have brought the map out.

So, I just enjoyed them... just as I enjoyed myself earlier in the evening. Thank you...

"So tear me open, but beware... The things inside without a care! And the dirt still stains me. So wash me, 'till I'm clean... I'll tear me open, make it gone. No longer will I hurt anyone. And the fear still shapes me. So hold me, until it sleeps... Until it sleeps..."  


September 2, 2001 - Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, the Plieades, and M42... M8, NGC6530, M20, M21, M23, M25, M17, M11, NGC6940, and a "Double Take"...

Comments: Started off the morning with an effort at filming the planets for the last time. Apparently they only get "so good"... and already I tire of wasting observing time messing with it. (Jupiter had a tiny, splendid pairing of its' moons going on... and I'm just plain ready to go back to magnifying Saturn the old-fashioned way! ;) The excess of light was still around, robbing the Plieades of their beautiful blue nebula, and fading the M42 way out. (and there would be about as much point in looking for Comet Petriew as trying to look for Comet LINEAR right now. chances are good i'll not see either of them again...)

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

The earlier sunset is definately becoming a bonus! There was a brief "Moon reprieve" to start the evening... and although it did rise while I was observing some of the Messiers, I did chose ones that will stand up to the light.

M8 is visible... but the NGC6530 steals the show in this part of the sky. This cluster becomes rather interesting without the nebula to distract from it. As is the M20 and the M21... without the "Trifid", the M21 becomes a "horse shoe" formation with a bright star held in its' cup. The M23 becomes a collection of chains and a tiny double. The M25, who is always rather "wide open" about itself, reveals a miniscule triangle of stars at its' center... and a small double to the southwest in the formation. The M17 also remains visible tonight, but looks surrealistic! It changes are subtle with eye movement.. but with the lunacy going on so near, refuses to reveal itself to direct vision. The M11 is always spectacular... a covey of pinpoint stars with one leading the way right toward a field double. And I shall stand on my head to aim... and climb the ladder to view the NGC6940 anytime... It is exquisite! And now we have Moon proper. And I did take a peek... Yep. Full. Da*n full. Just a hint of craters to the north. Thanks, Selene. Now... GO AWAY! It's far to beautiful and clear to go

in just yet. A random meteor has seen to that... So, I would try to learn to do something new, ok? Double stars... Mr. Tirion and the Cambridge Star Atlas provides me with location and numbers... but somehow, I don't think quoting the text book is exactly the point. At the same time, I'm not exactly sure of how to take notes "scientifically"... But, since I do this for my own pleasure... Does it really matter?

Beta Scorpii comes first, with it's yellow primary and blue secondary positioned to the northeast. This one was a bit difficult because of its' low sky position, but there were moments when the atmosphere went clear, and they seperated quite nicely. Eta Draconis came next... and this one is NOT easy. Patience required... but its' tight double also reveals itself. Polaris is always grand, because its' tiny blue companion to the southwest (like Eta!) sits a bit farther away, and just seems to pop out of nowhere! Alpha Herculis is another familiar double to me... the components are very tight together and similiar in size. This red/green couple would rather stay conjoined tonight... but it appears the secondary likes to stay on the east side. Beta Cygni... Albeiro! A classic... This orange/blue, easily seperated pair was the first double in color I learned so many years ago... and still it makes me smile. 61 Cygni comes next... soft orange and near to each other in size, the secondary is on the southeast side, pointing the way to yet another pair. Gamma Delphini.... in yellow and blue. Also very similar in apparent size, with the "blues" being sung to the west. Interestingly enough, another double is here too, Struve 2725, whose north/south pair of whites add a counterpoint, reminding me of the similar positions of Epsilon Lyrae.

Iota Cassiopeia is my next choice. This is not exactly a double... it is a multiple star. All the components are white in this one, and the two that mate together cannot be seperated. However, to the east of the coupling, a small one breaks away quite cleanly. Eta Cassiopeia is last on my list for tonight... and an excellent choice to finish with! The yellow primary gives great contrast to the red secondary positioned to the northwest.

And that will do for now... I am a visual astronomer. I find my way by looking at a map, then at the sky. I know there is many, many more doubles out there waiting to be explored... and perhaps I shall answer their call. But for now, the "Lunatic Fringe" has eradicated the majority of the guide stars. Tis' OK... I've had a pleasant evening.

Time to just sit and watch the constellations move slowly past and sip at a glass of wine...

"So tell me why you've choosen me... I'm afraid of the grip. I'm afraid of the need. I'll tear me open... Make me gone. No more will I hurt anyone. And the fear still shakes me. So hold me, until it sleeps..."  


September 1, 2001 - M4, M6, M7, M8, Mars, M22, the Moon, Polaris and a challenge...

Comments: I couldn't have been more pleased to see how very clear the night had become. Even with the close-to-full Moon dancing along, the stars were simply excellent... and even some deep sky was achievable! While the Moon was still a distance away, I had to try Antares... but with no success. It glittered, it twinkled... it simply would not hold still! (fine... be that way.) But, the M4 just barely came through... and the race was on.

I had been feeling rather jaded. It happens to me when the nights are clear and the Moon superimposes itself on all that I see. I don't really care that much for double stars... and it always feels like such a waste when I can't view the things I enjoy. It's times like these when I usually turn "skywatcher"... content to just sit in my chair and look up. But, sometimes the cosmos has other plans for me...

Tonight the lower stars of Scorpius were very visible. Since I was able to draw a shape on the M4, for some reason I thought I would just have a look at the M6. And the sky sent me a "kiss"... a deep, soul-searching "kiss"...

I have often viewed the M6... never particularly impressed by it. It has always been filled with stars, that never really grabbed me as any type of asterism. Boy... was I wrong. Thanks to the excess of light, the overpowering starfield had become washed out.... leaving me with the most beautiful vision of a diamond-dust "Butterfly" that I have ever seen! Here it was... before me in the eyepiece. The "Butterfly Cluster"... looking like it's namesake!! Bright stars formed the outline of the body... while dimmer ones filled in the lines. Gone is the profusion of stars that sometimes keep me from seeing things as others do...

If I could have... I would have kissed it back! And when I find myself a bit more "under control", if you will, I move on to the M7. It is a bright, open cluster, and stands up well to the extra light source. On now to the M8. While washed out, it still provides a very satisfactory view. More than anything, I guess I was trying to see how long it will be before Mars retros back near it... for I would tease photographer friends into trying their hand at both a solar system and deep sky portrait in one...

And speaking of solar system... Mars is still hanging around... albeit heading the wrong direction! There is no detail visible... just a great red ball in the sky with a bright spot where a polar cap should be located. Ah well... we took its' blank picture anyway.

The M22 is as faded as the M4... lost in lunacy. Perhaps the clouds will stay away as the Moon departs the early evening sky... to let me visit with Saggitarius just one more time before it leaves. La Luna simply commands attention... and being the pushy personate that it is, I let it have its' way. Armed this time with a map, I study the familiar Grimaldi first, then explore the dark reaches of Riccioli. I enjoy the dune-like areas along the terminator, and move south to take in Lagrange... then Piazzi, with its' irregular structure, high cliffs and interior detail. Then down again to the north for Cardanus... whose central peak will figure quite prominently in photographs.

Then I play for a bit... trying my hand at filming again. Experimenting with different colored filters, and focus. The results? I don't know! I haven't looked at them yet. As much as I have enjoyed my lark at photography, my first, best and true love is my observations. And as I have for years, my reports come first... and so they have.

Reluctant to leave such a beautiful night, I turn my attention toward a bit of a challenge. Double stars have never been my field... nor have I ever explored the area to which a request has been made. But I shall try again a second time... (hey... thanks alot! turn me loose on a field i'm unfamiliar with... no setting circles... no magellan... and thanks to the moon, no field stars to be sure of where i'm at! hehehehheee... i love it....) If I have the correct star, I shall say this... It follows at the shoulder of the primary. If I were to look at it like a clock, what I see resides at 11... and the stars drift toward 3... am I right? Doesn't really matter that much to me. So, to do a "double check" on the sky, I home in on Polaris. And here we have basically the same configuration... but Polaris' secondary sits a bit farther away. It is outside the influence of the primary... where as the other, like Antares, is in the sphere of stellar influence.

Now, I ache... and this lawn chair and a beer sound awfully good...

"Just like the curse, just like the stray. You feed it once, and now it stays. So tear me open, but beware! There's things inside without a care... And the dirt still stains me. So wash me, until I'm clean... It grips you, so hold me... It stains you, so hold me... It hates you, so hold me... It holds you, so hold me. Until it sleeps..."