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Log, Nov 8, 2002

45 people. In a very real way tonight was a sort of old friends night at FDO. Lots of the regulars, Steve, Art, Ernie and Satish were here plus 40 or so visitors including a group of about 15 Girl Scouts and their families. It is a lot more fun when there are several people about to suggest things to see and carry on multiple conversations about the sky. The other way that tonight was a an old friends night was that we spent almost all of our time on the very familiar (and interesting) sky objects.

Once I got the telescope up and running (about a 15 minute job), I turned it towards the Moon. With at least 20 people waiting to see the Moon, I had to hurry everyone along more than I would like because the Moon was already low in the sky and a big tree was placed exactly where the Moon was heading. You can look up when the Moon officially set (7:41) but by 7:15 it was impossible to see. We looked at M31 through the telescope, and then trooped outside where a great many people got to see it with their eyes alone. We looked at the Double Cluster in Perseus and split (easily) delta Persei.

We looked at Saturn for the first of several times. We could make out Cassini's division throughout the night. Later in the evening as Saturn was approaching the meridian, we began to catch glimpse's of Encke's division. I counted 6 of the 7 Moons we can sometimes see about Saturn. Mimas was too close to the Ring's edge to be visible. As usual 14th magnitude Hyperion was not visible. Later in the evening when we looked at Jupiter we could only see 3 of the 4 Galilean Moons. Ganymede, the biggest and brightest, while not behind Jupiter was in Jupiter's shadow cone until 2:10 in the morning by which time we had packed up and left.

M35 and M42 were spectacular as usual. We spent a good deal of time splitting the "belt stars". From viewer's left to right, they are zeta Ori (Alnitak), eta Ori (Alnilam) and delta Ori (Mintaka). The names mean belt, buckle and sash in old Arabic. All three are binary stars that relatively recently in star terms (a few million years) left the star birthing grounds of M42 (The Great Nebula of Orion) to move where they are now. Alnitak is one of the easiest binaries to split within the two stars more than 100 arc seconds apart. The trickiest part of splitting Alnilam is finding the dimmer star which is quite a ways from the primary. Alnilam presents a real challenge with a separation of just under 3 arcseconds. However we managed to split them although without a clear dark lane between them. Mintake is beyond our hopes of splitting at just 0.3 arc seconds. We didn't even try. The Trapizium was nice in the bif scope and was beautiful in the Observatory's Questar.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Nov 8, 2002
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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