Log, May 11, 2001

34 people. Sky conditions were passable but not spectatcular. When Cygnus rose reasonably high the Milky Way was barely discernable. However I would certainly take tonight's sky over last week's misery. Doug has taken to opening while the Sun is still up even if officially we do not open to the general public until after dark. Early birds got a view of Jupiter and its bands. Shortly after dark we were able to see Mercury with a quite distinct crecent shape. For a very bright object (first magnitude) Mercury is surprizingly hard to see. In spite of view in the scope we never did catch a view by eye alone.

We went after a number of bright stars in the gathering dusk. As we get close to the Summer Solistice, not only does the Sun set ever later but twilight hangs on through a large part of the evening. At 41 degrees north latitude this is annoying, but not as bad as when I lived at above 50 degrees latitude when the twilight really never completely leaves exept for a hour or two in the middle of the night. We viewed Castor, Pollux, and δgem (a double star).

Doug made a try for Comet Schaumasse. We found it, but with its small coma and a lack of a tail, it could be easily mistaken for one of Messier's objects. [Which is only fair because this is exactly why Messier created his list]. We looked at M5, NGC4038 [Ringtail Galaxy], and M104.

Many of us were out in the yard. A visitor [Gary, if my failing hearing caught things right] from Massachusetts had set up a fine Meade LX200 10" scope. Les, Marcie, Sarah and Tom had set up the Questar to allow us practice star hopping to objects which could not be seen with the unaided eye. Barry had his dobs doing major duty next to the boundary with the Wildlife Refuge. The occasional meteor brought the expected shouts but suddenly, someone discovered a triangle of satellites moving down from Bootes towards Virgo. This cleared the dome as everyone rushed to see this event. They kept perfect formation until they were too dim to see. They must be from a common launch.

We looked at the "StarGate" in Corvus, the Sombrero M104, γVir, M13 - the great Globular Cluster in Hercules (actually seen in just about every instrument in the field tonight), MGC6210 (a planetary nebula in Hercules) which we often view this time of year, αHer [Ras Algethi] which is a fine double star [orange and green], and M10 an excellent and often ignored Globular Cluster.

Many folks had hung in all night waiting to get a view of Mars. It was hanging out over the water to the south east and on a warm evening, the contrast of temperatures caused a bit of turbulence. None the less we could make out the planet, the ice cap and Phobos. Deimos was BEHIND Mars so we still do not have a confirmed sighting of this elusive moonlet.

Haze increased particularly over the water. As the Moon rose, it was very orange with strands of high clouds across its face. We decided to grab a last few deep space objects. The Ring Nebula in Lyra [M57] was quite good. Some structure could be seen although the central neutron core was not visible tonight. M107 was a real disappointment with no resolution at all. Finally M12 was quite good, but by now the Moon was washing out the whole sky and no one was anxious to stay longer for mediocre viewing.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
May 11, 2001
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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