Log, Jan 10, 2003

20 people. I arrived very early (about 5 PM) to check out the problems we have been having rotating the dome. The smartest thing I did was bring a bright light that let me really look into the gearbox. It only took a moment to see the problem. All along we knew that the gear attached to the motor sometimes jumped out of the grove in the huge gear (18 feet in diameter, attached to the dome itself). I had always assumed that it was due to the lack of true roundness. Well that contributes, but the main problem is a tired old spring that has lost it "oomph". It has sort of sagged in on itself, and has no yield to allow for bumps in the great gear. I managed to apply a temporary remedy that allowed me to run all night quite nicely, but we will have to get a replacement spring and probably a replacement bolt and butterfly nut to set the tension. Anybody out there any good with things mechanical? Maybe we could spend a Saturday fixing it. It requires bright daylight. Fixing it at night is an iffy thing at best.

The wind was ferocious at times. The temperature wasn't really horrible (upper 20s to freezing), but my hands became numb if I left my gloves off for a while. At the beginning of the night, the sky was very clear but by 8:40 it was nearly opaque. The Moon could be seen in thin gaps but everything else was totaled. However for the two hours before we had a lively group of people looking at Saturn, M1 and the Moon. We looked for details on each of these objects. Almost everyone could see the great Rings and the Cassini Division. The Enke Division was not visible. The four brightest moons of Saturn formed a "kite" with Saturn as the logo. Titan formed the tail, Dione, Rhea and Thethys formed the other corners. Mimas and Encelydus were momentarily visible but the air wasn't stable enough to make it a target for everyone to try. Farther out I could see Iapetus, but neither Hyperion nor Phoebe were visible.

On the Moon we paid special attention to the crater Arzachel. This crater was just inside the bright area next to the terminator and stood out very well. The central ejecta mass where the crater forming meteor hit was a big treat to kids. Lots of questions about big meteors and inevitably the dinosaur killer 65 million years ago.

We went outside and did some star identification. I noticed "mackeral" clouds beginning to form. Up in the north we could make a faint but clear aurora borealis. As we watched we could see it flicker and bend slightly.

Art tells me that the February issue of Astronomy magazine has a favorable mention of Frosty Drew Observatory along with some others in the north eastern US. I haven't seen the issue myself but I'll be on the lookout for it.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jan 10, 2003
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
Subscribe to Leslie Coleman's Log RSS Feed