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Log, Sep 7, 2001

27 people. The evening was supposed to start for Joe and Les around 4:30 PM. We had agreed to meet to do something about the outside plugs which have been tripping circuit breakers after every rain and even after particularly heavy dew. Les decided to stop by to pick up some FDO papers and Joe had just a few last minute details to fix. The upshot was we both arrived more than three quarters of an our late. Oh how we would we rue those precious minutes being lost when the Sun set.

Joe and Les examined all the "fence" plugs which have been inoperative for years. In the bushes where you would least expect it we found a ground fault plug which had tripped. After a reset, voila power along the outer fence. The pad plugs were much worse. Nothing could be salvaged. One outlet was full of every kind of vermin that would fit. In an attempt to discourage the vermin, we sparyed the outlet with bug stuff and packed the cavity with moth balls. By the time Joe had picked up the new hardware, the Sun was low. Three of the four plugs went fairly well, but by the time Les got to the last one it was just too dark to see. Les, whose manual dexterity rivals that of someone in boxing gloves, lost little screws and had trouble hooking wires onto sockets. Finally we got everything together and wonder of wonders it worked perfectly.

However that wasn't the end of the saga. Some folks set up a variety of telescopes in the vacinity. In the dark it is hard to see what everyone was doing, but if you came close enough people were sniffing various telescopes, PCs, and electrical pariphenalia. Now people often do odd things in the dark, and we are a pretty laid back group, but sniffing telescopes was something new. Finally someone shouted loud enough for Les to hear them - "Something's weird. Our equipment smells strange out here. Kind of a sharp chemical electrical smell." Les asked if perchance the smell was like mothballs and everyone said "Yeah! That's the smell exactly!" To which Les replied "Duh, uh sorry. You are smelling mothballs I packed in the socket cavity."

Steve helped a family who had bought their 8 year old girl a very nice GOTO telescope. I didn't get a chance to see it because of much grumbling at the power sockets, but I think it was a NEXSTAR. Once Steve showed the folks how to do a two star alighment they were off and running and having what seemed like a great time.

A while later, Les demonstrated the Sky Chart III [V 3.5] software which now has excellent renderings of the solar system. Skimming through the Jovian system passing Io on the way in towards the big guy is pretty impressive. At best the "halos" around stars got a mixed review. Luckily this feature can be tuned off.

Inside we had the 16" running shortly after the power came back on. Mars was the first target, but its moons simply could not be seen through the layers of air near the horizon. This meant any chance to view the occulation followed by an eclipse of Phobos would not be visible.

Uranus(magnitude 5.7) and in particular its tiny moon Titania (magnitude 13.9) skimmed past HD205829, an orange magnitude 7.6 star. In some parts of the world, Titania actually passed across the star but from FDO it barely missed it. We looked for any dimming which would have indicated that Titania was somewhat longer than assummed but we saw nothing like this. We could also see Ariel and Oberon tonight. Later in the evening we say Neptune and Triton as well.

We spent a great deal of time in the southern part of the sky looking at M22, M8 [Lagoon], M17 [Swan], M54 (globular torn by MWG from the Sagittarius Galaxy], and the fine globular M2 and M13. Somewhat west of overhead we looked at the planetary nebula NGC6210.

Then the Moon rose and for the most part we were done with deep sky work. The Moon was more than 60,000 times dimmer than the Sun yesterday, but that still is more than 5000 times brighter than anything else. So much for dark adaptation.

As we were closing near 1:30, Les asked Doug some famous last words "How did the dome behave tonight?" eliciting the reply "Fine, only two small glitches." I don't know how, but the perverse thing heard us and jumped the track at sector 6 (exactly opposite sector 19 which is usually the worst offender). Much poking, prodding, peeking and nudging accomplished zilch. Finally, after more than half an hour, Joe growled "Let me take another try at it." No more Mister Nice Guy. No soft broom handle. Joe weilded a huge shovel with a wicked looking handle. The dome could be seem to pull away in fright as he manhandled the motor back into the tracks. Away the dome went to Joe's closing words "And that is why I am the Technical Director!"

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 7, 2001
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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