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Log, Jul 5, 2002

86+ people. With a 4th of July 4 day weekend it was hardly a surprize to see a sizeable crowd. In fact I am quite certain that we didn't get everyone's "John Hancock" into the guest book because quite a few folks had set up scopes outside. There was a nice Celestron Nexstar 8", a fine TeleVue 4" refractor, Barry's 8" Dobsonian, Hank's 20" Dobsonian and for all I know maybe another one or two scopes. I was inside or shouting loudly in a Star Indentification Party just outside the dome. Lots of kids, and lots of good questions (YEA!!). The crowd some learned that it is positively dangerous to get within range of my flailing arms when I am discussing the sky because I don't always see you behind me. One lady got bumped on her shoulder when I was discussing how huge gas clouds condensed into a star, and one boy had the tip of his nose bumped when I got heated up about something else. Oh well, everyone was in good humor.

Up to the northwest, the Big Apple Circus was setting up their tent. When I came in the four main "poles" (actually more like metal scaffold towers) were up. By the end of twilight, the tent had been raised. We had no light pollution of any major sort this week. The Big Apple folks are very good neighbors and they try to kept the lights to an absolute minimum. Next weekend (July 12th) however, they will have to put up area lights and parking lots lights for safety of circus goers.

Lets face it, the sky while techically clear (no clouds) was not transparent. It was very mediocre seeing with a definite emphasis on the ochre. There was an overall brightness which I assume was due to high humidity levels and lots of lights at area beaches and towns. We finally gave the night no better than a 3 or so. Sigh....

A late addendum - the poor quality of the skies turns out to be high level smoke from a huge Canadian forest fire. The air was "clear" as far as meteorologists were concerned, but the smoke made life for poor astronomers a bad show.

With a large crowd, we didn't get to see many objects in the 16", although our friends in the field added lots of additional targets. We looked at Venus, M57 (the Ring Nebula in Lyra), Albireo, and M27 (the Dumbbell). One reason we didn't try more targets was the declination gear was slipping badly (probably because of the heat wave this week) and needed an hours work just when we had a large crowd. We made do with constantly tweaking the telescope's position to follow targets. We discovered that using the PC to guide the scope ended up with better tracking, although we don't know why. One clue was where the telescope ended up pointing when we parked it for the night. It is supposed to park heading towards the horizon point due south of us. It ended up at least 20 degrees east of there and I don't know why. Steve and I have a work night date ahead of us - tightening the declination worm gear and doing a proper two star alignment.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 5, 2002
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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