Log, Aug 6, 1999

Tuesday: After reviewing our performance at the First light Party, Joe and I decided to do some practice runs as the basis of a Docents Training Course which we have dubbed Meade LX200 101. In spite of reading and rereading the manuals, the telescope continues to display little subtleties which have escaped us. For example we learned that the LX200 considers the Moon to be the third planet from the Sun. This is a useful function but apparently not documented anywhere.

Most of the night was spent practicing with filters. We have fallen in love with the nebular filters for things like the Lagoon and the Triffid Nebula. It is hard to describe the crystalline quality of a high contrast diffuse nebula compared to what we have been used to seeing in smaller telescopes. Clouds rolled in about 11 PM forcing us to curtail our observations before Jupiter or Saturn arose.

Friday: 111 people. The recent publicity and the near by Seafood Festival plus the promise of a clear evening attracted a huge crowd by FDO standards. We could have handled the hundred plus visitors spread out over a three or four hour period easily. However, people were lined up by 7:30, half an hour before Sunset and at least a hour before dark. One elderly lady complained we weren't letting anyone in at 7:30 and had difficulty understanding that no amount of wishing was going to make the sky darker one minute sooner.

The weather was very problematical. Clouds or fog would pop up here and there resulting in the Dome Fandango with us moving the dome every few minutes looking for a suitable target that was in clear air. The 16" proved its worth by locating targets while we rotated the dome and moved the platform about. By 10:30 PM with perhaps fifteen people still in line the entire sky clouded over. Even M13 near the Zenith was gone for all practical purposes. Many people left disappointed when we couldn't promise that it would clear. After all, we are astronomers not meteorologists. A few people stayed and once again the sky cleared near midnight.

A father and son who arrived very late got the benefit of a clear sky and no one competing for viewing time. They got to see at least a dozen deep space wonders in Sagittarius and Scorpio. After they left, the hard core (Art, Dave Joe and I) started to use the telescope for fun and profit. We got a lot more practice with the filters. We saw a large number of Messier Objects. {M5, M6, M7, M8, M13, M17, M18, M19, M20, M21, M22, M23, M25, M31, M57, M70, Uranus [and Triton!!!], Jupiter [and the Galilean Moons] and Saturn [and 4-6 of its Moons]}

The air had a peculiar quality. It seemed to have rollers very akin to ocean waves which would surge over the viewing field like a tide washing up onto the beach. Frequently, the air would rapidly condense after such a wave hiding the target for several minutes. We could clearly make out disks on the Galilean Moons, although no details. Seeing Triton by eye alone was stunning. For several of us this was our first viewing of this distant world.

Another wave of clouds rolled in about 2 AM and we decided to call it a night. The Moon was just coming into view. We knew it was late when we saw the Pleides above the horizon and Orion just coming into view.

Throughout the early part of the night, sheet lightning momentarily illuminated the NNW. Meteors were more common than usual. We weren't sure if they were late Delta Aquarids or early Perseids.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Aug 6, 1999
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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