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Log, May 28, 2004

7 people. At 7:15 PM I sent an e-mail saying that it was still raining at my house (six miles west of the Observatory) and that it looked like a washout. Yet by 8:00 PM the sky above my house was clear and I decided that I'd better scurry over to the Observatory because it was likely that someone would show up. In any case I wanted to install some orbital elements for comets Neat T7 and Linear Q4.

I got to the Observatory by fording a small size inland sea covering the roads at Ninigret. I opened the dome to be greeted with a pocket Niagara as water streamed of the shutter onto the sill of the dome. I installed the orbital elements, got the telescope up and running, and just managed to get Venus in the eyepiece when the first visitors arrived. Venus was very low (it is just ten days until it transits). Instead of a crescent, it presented a bubbling semicircle that looked like something on fire. All of this was simply turbulence near the horizon - the very same effect which makes the Sun and Moon have odd squashed shapes when they rise or set.

I tried for comet Neat next and ran into really annoying problem. Somewhere between the software for the telescope, Microsoft XP and possibly the microcode of the Think Pad there is a bug which causes the system to crash. It neatly (ugh - a pun) prevent me from simply "GOTO"ing the comet. The Moon and a lot of haze made spotting the comet with binoculars or the spotting scope impossible. I discovered that if I did not connect the software to the telescope that the system stayed up nicely. So I asked for the coordinates of comet Neat. It displayed the Right Ascension and Declination (which are really an azimuth and an elevation on our telescope) of the comet. I then proceeded to steer the telescope with the paddles to these coordinates. Lo and behold, the comet appeared slightly off center by clearly marked in the eyepiece. However it is a really silly way to do something which should be point and click.

Jupiter and its moons were easy to spot - all five of them. HUH!? Five!? Sure enough there they were Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and a star HD92993. While we theoretically could spot Amalthea, in practice this could never occur under less than perfect conditions.

The Moon was very bright and I soon relented on my poor half blinded visitors and installed the polarizing filter.

I went after some double stars in Virgo. A few split nicely but the glare from the Moon made some stars difficult to split. Attempting to view any deep space objects except a few of the brightest was impossible. So after my last visitor left around 11 PM, I decided that is discretion is the better part of valor that discernment was probably also the better part of pallor and I wrapped things up for the night.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
May 28, 2004
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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