Log, Sep 13, 2002

112 people. Friday the 13th not withstanding, we had a great turnout tonight. We various Scouting groups including a pair of Cub packs with 29 and 26 attendees (including Moms, Dads, and some brothers and sisters). We several families of a half dozen members or so. We had some little ones who had no idea why Mommy (or Daddy) was putting their eye to the funny thing in the dark, and we had kids who literally knew all about it. What fun!

Now the evening promised to be a good one weather wise but just after dark "mackeral" clouds and then "roller" clouds criss crossed the sky. Outside in his favorite corner Satish had his scope up, but he really wasn't too pleased and I don't blame him. A long drive down from Massachusetts for a so-so evening is a disappointment. On our scale of Dark Sky Delight, this was somewhere between a 3 and a 4: possible but nothing to rave about.

Art was in the yard pointing out stars while Les stood on the platform and Steve ran the computer. We have installed a great new piece of software from the makers of "Ciel du Chart" which is a Virtual Moon map. It is great. It shows the Moon shadow very precisely and allow us to ask question like "How big is that crater there?" And we can answer "Theophilus is 61 miles across" rather than giving a ball park estimate based on the eyepiece and the apparent width of the image. Even with three of us working full tilt, there was a crowd and it was hard to get everyone a turn at the eyepiece. It also meant that we stayed on the Moon far longer than we normally would have done so.

In fact, the Moon for the most part made a fine object. Because we stayed on it for hour on end we got a chance to notice things we normally miss. For example, between two groups of people about five minutes apart, the central ejecta mass in Alphonsus (formed when an asteroid struck the Moon, forming the crater) suddenly popped into view as the sunlight just peeked over the Moon's horizon. We spent a good deal of time helping people make out particular targets. For example Theophilus was particularly well placed to be viewed, with good shadow definition.

By the time we finished with the Moon (as it slid behind a tree on the horizon), the sky was just sad. Not awful, but really sad. We fooled around with some double star splits. Altair was well placed. It splits very easily because it is so close to Earth (less than 17 light years away). Two of its satellite stars are really far apart. Les thought that he could split Altair itself into two stars but it may have been just atmospheric distortion.

By the time most of the crowd had left the sky was really not worth staying so we left earlier than usual.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 13, 2002
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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