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Log, Feb 22, 2002

15 people. In spite of arriving early, I was by no means the first person there. Doug and Steve had already opened the Dome and had reinstalled the computer. The odd case of the "slows" and the humming noise in the 3.5 floppy had been repaired. The processor now speeded along merrily although one application seems to have trouble accessing a CD-ROM database. Yet something else for the technical wizardry of our computer cognoscenti.

The weather was overcast with hints of a break. Throughout the evening the temperature dropped very slowly starting at 48 degrees and ending up two degrees cooler. None the less many fairly well jacketed folks ended up just plain cold. Moisture was high and this robs your body of heat almost as badly as a brisk wind. Periods of largely open skies alternated with total overcast. It was the most frustrating type of night, one with a hint of seeing but rapidly dimmed by clouds. I would rate last night on our scale of 0 to 10 as a 1 with delusions of 2.

With the Moon brilliant in Gemini, we had a Hobson's Choice: either we could look at bright objects or we could pack up the scope and go home. We made our bright object tour of Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon, M42, a number of double stars and a couple of bright fuzzies in Leo. All of them were old favorites, so nothing was added to our Meade LX200 16" LifeList this week. One very interesting event was watching the Moon pass Jupiter during the evening. The two passed within 17 arcminutes of each other (limb to limb) atabout 20:52. Fourteen minutes earlier Europa was eclipsed. Les thought he saw a Moon shadow, but it was actually a dark storm note opposite the Great Red Spot. Doug had been following this spot all week and we finally correctly identified it.

Outside a father/daughter had set up a nice 4" Dobsonian. They were having a great time swinging it from one object to anotehr and giving all of us a chance to look through it. It provided crisp well aligned images of the Trapezium, Jupiter, the Moon, and some double stars (which split cleanly). The father was saying that he had aperture fever after looking at a Celestron 11" GPS telescope. He tended to understate his existing instrument. No doubt, a 11" scope would greatly extend his ability to see faint objects. That, after all, is exactly what larger light buckets are intended to do. However, smaller telescopes, easy to manage with clean optics are wonderful tools. The daughter had no difficulty slewing the telescope to various objects. I doubt this same young lady could have assembled a hefty 11" telescope in the dark. I've said it before and I'll say it again. For a "first telescope", after a pair of binoculars, a small Dobsonian is a great starter tool. There is much to be said for GOTO scopes, but a GOTO scope dollar for dollar simply cannot provide a better view than a well constructed small Dobs. I've seen some pretty awful telescopes bought at department stores. It was a joy to see a pretty nice telescope bought from a reputable manufacturer. The proof was there for all to behold. Instead of FDO staff trying to get the awful scope to do something, our visitors were already having a great time.

After the visitors had left, the four staffers decided to make an early evening of it. Art brought some good news that several more donations had raised the Sky Theater Fund up several notches. Clouds had swept in with only small breaks.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Feb 22, 2002
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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