Log, Aug 17, 2001

21 people. Had the evening been even one whit worse, we would have adjourned to the Nature Center where Doug had brought an "emergency" back up plan - a really superb mini-documentary first seen on A&E called "Longitude" staring Michael Gambon with a cameo role by Jeremy Irons. We'll keep it ready in case of additional inclement weather.

Quoting Doug:

" It was one of THOSE nights down at FDO! Some promise of clearing, a few decent views, then more clouds, then pea soup and showers. Quite a few determined souls (mostly folks on vacation at local campsites) came by with high hopes of some good viewing. Well, the logbook will tell the story. I believe we managed to look at five objects in total. None of the views were anything to write home about, as the naked eye limiting magnitude must have been about 2.5 - at its best!

Still, regulars Les, Steve, Barry, Satish and I were in high spirits all night. The most interesting thing to watch, in fact, was the nearly constant flashing of lightning in the far distance, illuminating the thick humid air over FDO, even when it was nearly clear above. As I found out later, two lines of thunderstorms had passed by - one to the south over the ocean, and a second one up through northeast Connecticut and on into south central Massachusetts. So I guess we were lucky to get even a few minutes at the eyepiece of the 16"!"

While Doug and Barry held down the fort at the dome, Steve and Les were talking about Steve's soon to arrive Meade LX200 12" telescope. It is Steve's very generous intention to make this telescope available to the staff as a secondary telescope. This will be a great help during times when visitors want to see a single target all night such as was the case with Mars this year. For objects such as Mars, the 12" will be able to enlarge it as well as the 16" because the limiting factor in both cases will be the atmosphere. At say 200x, the image of Mars will be exactly as large in either telescope. We will of course continue to have staff and visiting astronomers set up their telescopes, but Steve's contribution will be of a more regular second instrument of large power. Our biggest problem is housing Steve's equipment. When we get the Sky Theater, this will be solved. Until then we will have to make other arrangements. Many thanks Steve for your generosity.

Well in case, we did actually open and look at stuff in the gathering clouds. Mars is still the brightest object, even though it is rapidly losing size as the Earth moves away. Cloud banks pretty much decided what and where we would look. However, before Doug and Barry finally fave up the battle and joined Steve and Les, they had logged Alcor and Mizar, the doubled pair in the handle of the Big Dipper, M13 the giant globukar cluster overhead in Hercules, Albireo, the lovely topaz/sapphire double in Cygnus and the Ring Nebula in Lyra [M57].

By 10:30 it was hopeless - but of course we are astronomers so we didn't give up host. We simply closed the dome and waited out the clouds in the Nature Center. Barry said the naughty four letter word "rain" but we shushed him. [It is a well known astronomical piece of lore that if you are patient and don't admit it might rain, that it will clear. Of course, it sometimes takes weeks, but it WILL CLEAR EVENTUALLY]. We talked about this and that.

Les told a ridiculous but true story about some loonies who stole a bank. No, they didn't rob a bank, these dingleberries jacked it up on wheels and drove it away. However, in their planning they neglected to consider that they were on Long Island. With the police in pursuit they first headed towards New York City, thought better of it [if one may characterize their behavior as thought] and decided to hijack the ferry boat to Bridgeport CT. The boat captain simply didn't land and these numbskulls eventually slid - truck, bank and all - down the ferry slip into Long Island Sound. They had spent a good deal of their own money to rent a tractor truck large enough to tow the bank, had worked all weekend to get the bank onto wheels, but never considered the fact that branch banks empty their safes every night. Their collective IQ must be lower than Tiger Wood's score on a good day.

By now, Barry's naughty word was becoming a reality. As Doug and Les locked the main gate, it started in for real and was a modest downpour before we reached home.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Aug 17, 2001
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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