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Log, Jul 30, 1999

Monday: Dave, Joe and I met at the dome to try iron out some of the problems we have had with the alignment. It seemed that we never could get better than 2 or 3 degrees off target. We suspected that two star alignment had to be done with all a few minutes between the first and second star - maximum. This is a case where a little knowledge and a vivid imagination result in an erroneous conclusion. What we needed to do was start from the beginning. The step we left out was making sure that the telescope was pointing due South towards the horizon before we started. On this night we tried to improve the so alignment and ended up with something really poor until we made this crucial step. Of course it didn't help that the sky didn't clear until late, and that the Moon on the haze made visibility very poor.

Once we did everything right, we achieved a pretty decent first pass alignment. Objects all over the sky either were in the eyepiece or just at the edge. There is a "learning" mode where the telescope can be told it required slight adjustments to find the target. Each such session refines the accuracy until errors of 20-40 arc minutes become less than 5-8 arc minutes. This will place desired target almost dead center when we specify we want to see them. Dave and Joe decided to return Tuesday to further the scope's education.

Tuesday: An afternoon work session in the dome was followed by an interview for the Providence Journal. An article will be published Thursday in time to generate some publicity for our First Light Party. We have posters up at the Charlestown Information booth and both the Chariho Times and the Narragansett Independent will be doing articles this week. Media one will have a second Frosty Drew session, showing the drilling of holes and the party. About the only media we have not heard from is WJAR NBC10.

Tonight was a good deal better than last night, but the air was still pretty thick, and the 16" aperture magnifies that! Mars was difficult to focus on with any detail, but Alberio was very pretty. As we know from last night, the Ring isn't too bad, though we do go through the dome gyrations.

The Moon is very nice in the 26 mm and the zoom. It tends to be too bright in the unfiltered 2" eyepieces. Hmmmm.... I wonder if the nebular filters would help at all - we didn't try them tonight on the Moon.

We picked up M81 tonight, courtesy of the new and improved GOTO capabilities! We got a successful 2-star alignment on Spica and Altair, and "learned" a few other points. (Learning turns out to be blindingly simple; just hold down the Enter key when you've centered the object after a GOTO!) We have things down to where the selected object is within the field of view in the 25 mm eyepiece. Very nice!

Thursday July 29 at 6 PM: Tonight was final cleaning, including moving the heavy pieces from the old scope to storage in the basement of the Nature Center. The session finished earlier than usual because we all knew we had a long session the next night.

Friday: FIRST LIGHT PARTY! 106 logged in visitors plus at least half again as many who didn't sign our book. After 10 months of researching, getting funds, selecting equipment, waiting (and waiting) for our custom modified telescope and mount to arrive, followed by two weeks of frenzied demolition, assembly and cleanup we are finally ready to display our wonderful new tool.

We'd like to thank the media for the coverage they gave us. At least 15% of our visitors were first time residents, some of whom never even knew we existed. Of course we had many out of state visitors attracted to Rhode Island's beaches who spent Friday night with us. As always we had many old friends come to help us celebrate.

We only had one unwelcome visitor, a cloudy foggy mist which sometimes surged in from the Atlantic obscuring one target after another. Venus stayed permanently behind some clouds over towards Westerly. Mars was visible early, but wasn't as fine as earlier in the year when we were quite close. Mars is now about 93,000,000 miles away.

However some targets were truly spectacular. When we moved off Mars and opened the top trap shutter on the dome, we got a fantastic view of M13 - the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. I say I never saw more individual diamond pinpricks of light in M13. Hundreds of individual stars were visible where we normally expect to see little more than a soft blur.

We had great expectations of showing everyone the Moon, but the mist poured over the Moon at an astonishing rate. It went from clearly visible to totally obscured in minutes. Many folks went home about this time but a few stayed with us hoping for the clouds to clear. We did have a period of about 20 minutes of in and out viewing near 11 PM but then the sky finally became impossible. By the time we left just after Midnight, the fog reduced visibility to less than a third of a mile.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 30, 1999
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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