Log, Jul 21, 2001

126 people. We thought that last night's 76 people (logged in) would be the majority of the visitors, but tonight we had 126 folks log in and I'm sure we missed at least a dozen from the Camporee/Music Festival which was in progress.

Truth in advertising time: tonight WAS NOT as good as Friday. If Friday rated 8 out of 10, Saturday was 6-7 out of 10. There were periods of wispy white clouds, a good deal of reflected sky shine and heavy heavy dew. In fact as folks walked along you could see flashlights with "coma" effects you usually see with car headlights on a foggy evening. Heavy wetting from dew drove many telescopes into the protection of vans and cars hours earlier than their owners usually wrapped up. The upside of this is many folks who often stay outside joined us inside livening up the evening.

We started in the daylight with Mars. We had at least 80 people line up until well after 10:30 before we got a chance to make for a secondary target, the nearby globular cluster M4. Soon we had at least another 20 folks asking to see Mars again. And then by midnight we had yet another group. We could get a fairly clear view of the northern ice field (cap) which appeared at the 5 o'clock position due to the placement of the diagonal mirror. Hellas was usually clear near 12 o'clock. We could see it slowly rotate west throughout the night. Occasionally we glimpsed dark marking (Tyrennius?), but without the certainty of a completely fine night.

One of our objectives with as many folks as came tonight is to cover a wide range of objects. We like to show planets, comets if they are available, globular clusters, open clusters, nebulae and galaxies. We are somewhat limited by the need to get lots of folks at the eyepiece. We can be doctrinaire and simply move every half hour at the longest to the next target, but this really is self defeating. However staying on a single target (say Mars) means that people wait inordinately long times for another object. We direct them to telescopes set up outside, but especially the kids want to use the big telescope. It is hard for them to realize that for example Dave Aucoin's large dobs actually has a big objective. Kids only see the height of the 16" (over 9 feet). In any case, our solution or better yet our accomodation is to switch to other objects promising to return to Mars later.

After we finished with M4, we moved to the gas nebula M17 (usually called the Swan). Unlike most such designations, the Swan really does look sort of like a swan swimming in a pond. We rotated the dome as Doug lined up the telescope on Comet Linear C2001/A2. Linear was definitely fainter tonight than Friday. We could still see wispy tails from the head, but the central core was less defined.

M15 was a bit of a disappointment tonight. By now, a fourth "generation" of folks had arrived (pushing midnight). They were geared to see Mars but we had to tell them that it had moved too far towards the lights (and big trees) which are to our west northwest. We offered instead to show Uranus. We could easily make out Oberon, but Titania was simply to close to Uranus to be seen. We caught glimpses of Umbriel but it was also in Uranus' glare. Wispy clouds made viewing a bit of a challange although images remained steady.

We turned to Zeta Aquarius, a double star composed of two nearly equally bright stars with magnitudes of 4.5 and 4.7 respectively. We looked at the wonderful M13 cluster. This forced us to bring the telescope nearly as high as we could go, without opening the dome shutter trap. By now the dew was so heavy that opening the trap would have exposed everything to a fine mist. We moved to RasAlgethi (Alpha Herculis). RasAlgethi is a double-triple, but splitting each major star image into yet more stars is impossible in the 16" because of the wide range of magnitudes. We went on to 70 Ophiuchus, a very pretty yellow/blue double star (at magnitudes 4 and 6 respectively) which look very much like our old favorite Albireo. We looked for the second night a T Lyrae, a very dark red star.

We also viewed the fine bluish planetary nebula NGC6572 and the dim galaxy NGC6688 before we wrapped up. Moisture was finally overcoming obstinance a bit after 2AM. Doug rushed in saying that our "Dim the Lights" sign had vanished, but in fact it was just where Les had placed it hours before at the curve of the road. This is much farther than we usually move the sign. Hopes that people would heed the sign went largely unmet as one person after another drove in or walked over with high beam or big bright flashlights. It is funny that people seem to think they need bright lights to walk around when in fact, very bright lights obscure the path. Oh well, such is the fate of astronomers who open the door to large gatherings. By 2:30 we wrapped up and went home.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 21, 2001
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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