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Log, Feb 23, 2001

35 people. Teasing, Wheezing and Freezing - I don't think these were the names of Snow White's little friends but it was a more than adequate description of the weather. The clouds and even a brief snow squall raced across the sky almost faster than we could switch to the next target.

I arrived early to find Doug waiting. I wanted to move the electrical outlet from the base of the telescope pier to a protected area on top of the first stepping ring. A little preplanning and assembly speeded the work but it still took three quarters of an hour what with drilling bolt holes in cement. We should have done this a year and a half ago, but it took the inevitable accident which finally happened Sunday when the plugs got damaged. What we have now is a real improvement.

After doing an alignment we put Jupiter in view. Europa was transiting and we could follow its shadow across Jupiter's face. Saturn was inviting with the Crepe Ring clearly visible against the planet. The Cassini division was evident completely around the Ring. Four moons were easy to pick up. By now several families were taking turns but the sky had other ideas. We got a quick snow squall. It looked like the end of the night. I tried to show the kids stuff on the computer. The planetarium programs are popular with the grade school contingent (and a few parents I might add).

Some friends from SNEA began to show up. Wayne set up his 11" SCT out on pad 1. Clouds were still around but the squall passed as quickly as it came. Back to Jupiter, Saturn and the Great Nebula in Orion (M42 and M43). As a contrast we showed M48 an open cluster and NGC2392 (the Clown or Eskimo Nebula). Over the next hour or so, we also displayed M37, M35, M41, M50, tau Canis Major with NGC2362, and NGC3242.

All the while, the clouds teased us unmercifully, with periods of good though not excellent totally clear skies. We would just build a head of steam up only to have the anguished cry of "more clouds" from one of our spotters. Still we persevered with M55. M66 and M65 were dedeviled by a thin hazy web of clouds. M3 was spectacular in the breaks in the clouds, but faint to nonexistant when clouds rolled by. Several people noted that the sky mapping software showed M3 as an annulus of stars rather than as the cluster it is. This is an artifact of the Hubble data base which excludes areas of the sky as "too bright". This is exactly what the centers of the great globular clusters look like.

We closed with M51 and its outlier galaxy [NGC5195] connected by a star bridge. It came and faded over and over. Much as we were hopping for a great night those left knew it was time to pack up and leave. Of course by the time we got to the gate, the sky was great. Joe was tempted but we realized that the weather fates were playing us for suckers. We left shortly after 12:30 AM.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Feb 23, 2001
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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