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Log, Dec 6, 2002

31 people. What should we do on a clear Friday night with the temperature dropping from the freezing point at dusk into the teens by the middle of the night? Hmmmm - I know! Lets go down to Frosty Drew Observatory and watch Les wrestle with frozen equipment. It should be loads of fun. Maybe the PC will freeze up the hard drive and we can watch Les restart it several times until the innards warm up. Doing a two star alignment when everything is cold and creeky ought to be fun. And the Dome, of course, the Dome. When it is cold, it usually is impossible to rotate the beast past sections 6 and 19. I'll bet that if things get annoying enough, Les will start muttering things in German. You know, if we get there soon enough, maybe we can watch him dig out the drifts to the Nature Center and the Dome. Yeah, and maybe the plows will have buried the gate. Won't that be fun!

I arrived at shortly after 5:15 with a lovely thin crescent Moon in the west. It took me nearly half an hour to dig a path to the NC and the Dome. Ernie arrived next and discovered that the parking lot was knee deep in snow drifts. Hardly a spot for a telescope. Our friends from Pawtucket brought down their big Dobs (the 20" and the 17") but likewise found the parking lot unusable. A wind began to pick up, causing fears of frostbite to be all the more believable. Ernie and Hank decided to set up on the southeast side of the Dome. They found shelter from the wind and a patch of clear grass where winds had scoured out a usable space.

The telescope, wonder of wonders, had maintained a very good alignment. It last wonderfully well until I attached the PC which misbehaved (or I did something stupid as the case may be) and I lost the alignment. The Dome positively refused to go past section 6 in spite of polite requests (jogglingly the motor and gearbox), heated orders (supplied by heavy whack with the billy club we keep for the purpose) and positively ferocious threats (in the form of a yard long screwdriver). Suddenly and for no apparent reason in lurched into motion. These happened twice before Les had the (for him) bright idea to go the other way around. Well eventually I managed a two star alignment. Sorry Steve, after all the excitement, I forgot to save the two star alignment with a "SET". We'll probably have fun doing it again on the next clear Friday. Finally after getting everything going we had pretty good luck with tracking and pointing.

We looked at Saturn. The air in the Dome was turbulent and most of the night the images twinkled, scintillated and displayed ersatz colors. However, sometimes lulls would allow fine viewing. Jupiter rose later and never did get high enough for good images but still it pleased the crowd. M42, M45, The Eskimo, open clusters in Taurus and Gemini, splits of Albireo and Castor, the Ring (M57), the Rosette (very poor for sme reason tonight). None of the views were spectacular, but for first timers (and we had quite a few), looking into the Great Nebula, seeing 6 or 7 stars in the Trapezium and discovering that this was a stellar nursery was impressive.

The night went quickly for me. I took a break about 11:30 and returned to find the guys sheltering behind the Dome were packing it in. I closed up the Nature Center and then did a little private viewing before packing things in sometime after midnight. After closing up, I had one last hurdle, which I couldn't surmount. Closing the gates was impossible. Plows had covered the base of the gates in slushy snow which now was as hard as grade 17 granite.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Dec 6, 2002
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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