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Log, Nov 14, 2003

23 people The evening promised to be among the best of the year, with clear skies during the day. Strong winds were blowing, but had subsided from the powerful gusts from the night before.

This was the first night that we've been open for viewing since the repair of the telescope and a successful but brief test run on Monday night. I did not do the 2-star alignment tonight, but relied on the scope's parking ability to hold an alignment. It worked only moderately well, but it's only ever worked moderately well in the past, so it must be fixed. It tracked well, which was an enormous relief from having to re-center something (Mars) every 60-90 seconds as it drifted from view.

When we opened up, Ernie was waiting with his newest gizmo, a webcam set on a Barlow lens. He's gotten some good shots of Mars through his 6" reflector and was hoping for some time on the 16". There was no one else so we dove into it, only to find we needed a Windows disk before we could use the USB ports on the machine. Ernie decided to make the trip home to get it, and so missed by 3 minutes the arrival of Den 6.

The dome was immediately filled with the eager Scouts and their leaders and we took in some old favorites first: M2 and M15, the great globulars. Then we went to M57, a surprised "whoa!" or two.

Mars was next, and though its diameter is half of what it was only a few months ago, we could still see Syrtis Major and the southern polar ice cap.

By this time clouds were starting to make their way into the sky quickly, driven by the strong winds aloft. The cold and clouds caught up with Den 6, and they were on their way, and Ernie and I dealt with the computer off and on between visitors.

By the time we had everything in place, Mars was playing hide and seek with us, which was frustrating given how accurately the target has to be centered on the tiny camera chip.

We gave up on Mars and turned to the Moon, something we couldn't possibly miss in the camera! We made some progress, but had a very difficult time obtaining focus. The arrival of our next guests had us back in visual mode, and we caught our first glimpses of the year of two old favorites, Saturn and the Orion Nebula. The clouds scudded in until we were almost completely covered, sending our friends back home. Ernie and I dithered a while longer hoping for the clouds to break, or at least stop thickening, but the call of a warm bowl of soup back home had me closing things up at about 11:15.


For those of you who do not know, Joe Hartley, our Technical Director, made an extra trip Monday night to FDO to realign (point the yoke and barrel absolutely level and perfectly due south) and collimnate (bring all the optical components into a "common" line). Needless to say this delicate work is not conducive to holding a normal session. Many thanks to Joe for this work over and above the regular load of work.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Nov 14, 2003
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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