Log, Apr 27, 2001

35 people. After some committee work by the staff as 6:30, the evening swung into higher gear near 8 PM. Two activities were running - a talk about Galaxies in the Nature Center as well as our normal viewing over in the dome.

Months ago Andy, the son of one of staff Barry Martasian, wanted to know about three things Black Holes, the Life Cycle of Stars and Galaxies. After I thought about it for a while it became clear that we wanted to explain the cycle by which star were formed, created black holes that formed the seeds around which later galaxies grew which in turn provided the area for a new generation of star formation. Our Observatory's first director, Bill Penhallow arrived to chat near the end of this lecture.

Early viewers saw Jupiter and the Galilean moons, Saturn and its bright moon Titan, our own Moon with a crater well beyond the terminator illuminated, the star Castor, δGeminorum, the Eskimo [Clown or NGC2391]. All this was preparation and waiting for the occultation at 10:38 of ηGeminorum by the Moon. Since ηGeminorum is a multiple star we hope to split it in the 16" and watch each star wink out a few seconds apart. However sky stability was mediocre and we could not split ηGeminorum with any regularity. Many oohs and aahs were heard from many folks with small telescopes, binoculars and oh yes one large telescope as the Moon's edge slid over the star's image. I tried to see ηGeminorum emerge about an hour later, but the Moon was so close to the horizon that the light of ηGeminorum was washed out by traces of clouds and low lying humidity.

We looked at gamma Leonis, the variable star R Leo and M65/M66 next. M100 had a visitor last night, the minor planet (asteroid) Hebe. Both objects were visible in the same field of view. I suggested that we try to collect the remaining Messier objects which we do not have a record of seeing. The first of the four M91 in Coma Bernices was nearby. We could see the barred spiral nature of the object quite clearly with averted vision. M91 is in a "asterism" or more properly an "galacticism" with M86, M87, M90, the Eyes and several other members of the super cluster along the border of Coma and Virgo. This "galacticism" looks exactly like a fry pan and I so deem it (for the good that will do!).

We looked at M87, M86, M104, the StarGate (an asterism in Corvus), NGC5247 and the wonderful globular cluster M5. All the while more clouds gathered. Suddenly the alarm on the UPS began to beep. We closed the dome while we had power and tried to track down why the UPS was tripping the circuit breakers. We eliminated one thing after another until everything was exonerated. We scratched our heads and then added things back in. The warning beeps did not come back on. As we closed down we noticed that wonder of wonders, the sky had become extremely clear particularly to the south. We could see stars all the way to the horizon. So we reopened!

Mars was high enough to command a view. We could easily see the snow caps and we saw a small triangular region near the planet's equator. We looked for both Deimos and Phobos. Phobos was less than one planetary diameter from the planet and Deimos scarcely more than one and half diamters away. In the turbulent air with Mars so bright what we saw as momentary glimpses were probably moons but we won't claim them for certain. Deimos remains on our list of unidentified suspects.

During our next seige on deep space objects we knocked off the remaining three unseen Messier objects. Dave, Doug and I looked at M26 and M29 (both open clusters in Scutum and Cygnus repsectively). Each of us remembers seeinbg the pattern's before which means we probably saw them before but forgot to log them. This happen when the is a lot of activity in the dome. This left on the globular cluster M69 in Sagittarius on our list of yet to be viewed Messier objects. About 2:30 AM it was high enough to view. Not very spectacular compared to M13 or M5 or the Omega globular clusters, but none the less it completed our search. We know have seen [and logged!] every Messir Object.

While we were wrapping up the Messir Objects, we viewed M7, M8, M17 (the Swan), M20, M22, M25, M27 [Dumbbell], M54, M57 and the double star βCygni (Albireo). By now it was 3:15 AM and we all admitted we were tired. We closed up only to discovered the doggone "Dim the Lights" sign was still out. The buzzer sounded as we put it in but we had no further problems. All in all a fairly good night.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Apr 27, 2001
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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