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Log, Jun 20, 2003

16 people. Brad Brown and I were talking when Ernie Evans showed up with his usual pessimistic appraisal of the nights viewing. Can't blame Ernie's pessimism, or more correctly realism. On average this year he'd be batting better than 750 and that would get you a quick trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame if he had been wielding a bat rather than a scope. I've done a bit of research and have come up with the following sad fact. From the moment of the winter solstice last December until the summer solstice this afternoon (around 3 on Saturday) we'll will have had the all time wettest combined Winter and Spring if we get as little as a half inch of rain from the low pressure building to our south. We are currently in 3rd place with two other years just edging us out. And the forecast you ask? Why rain of course.

In spite of this, and my own warnings to assembled kids (and hopeful adults), we actually had a decent night until sometime after midnight. By 10 PM the Milky Way was showing excellent detail, with well delineated dark lanes and easily visible clusters in the central regions. Towards the horizons - in Cassiopeia and Sagittarius, damp air obscured viewing. Even a small difference in latitude made a great difference in quality. M54 in Sagittarius remained almost invisible, while M4 near Antares in Scorpio was lovely last night. The guys outside were having fun looking at the various sights in the deep southern sky. For the most part, I was helping people through the 16" scope. We spent a lot of time looking at Jupiter, who is making one of his final appearances this year. In two weeks, it was remarkable how far Jupiter had moved towards the horizon. Its low altitude made it at best a mediocre target.

Albireo high in the sky was another matter. It was bright and intermittently crisp. M57 was quite good, and stood a lot of magnification. Cooling winds aloft sometimes were quiescent allowing sharp view. Other times the two stars skittered about. I spent sometime convincing several people that Jupiter was not the Polaris. I would like to take the nincompoop who started this stupid myth that the brightest star was always the pole star and lock his head in a clamp facing due north at an elevation of just over 41 degrees and say "See, oh thou who art duller than a doorknob, the pole star is not - I say again Not - and for the last time I say unto thee POLARIS IS NOT THE BRIGHTEST STAR!!!"

As the evening wore on, Ernie asked if we could try to split Antares. Well, the answer is we could try - but merely trying does not mean success. We both sort of convinced ourselves that we could see an elongation with Antares in the center and the secondary star at about 11 o'clock. We checked and sure enough the position angle was 93.7 degrees. Nice going guys, 93.7 degrees is at 3 (not 11) o'clock. We were only off by 120 degrees. This is like driving to Dallas via Fargo. Duhhh. At least it shows the value of making a observation before you read the references. We probably would have used averted imagination to "see" the secondary star at 3 if we had known before hand where it was located.

I will let you know for sure later in the month and again early in July, but it very much looks like we will be closed July 11 and July 18. The Big Apple Circus will be in town on the 11th and the Moon will be full in Sagittarius as well. This will exclude deep space viewing that night. On the 18th, it may be possible to get some deep space viewing in early, but the Moon will be three quarters waning right near Mars, so view of the red planet will be poor. Maybe this will reduce the downtime potential, but I regret that it may be necessary in any case.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jun 20, 2003
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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