Log, Jul 16, 2004

38 people. All right, way to go, let’s hear it for the home team! This is our second week in a row with the kind of skies that made placing the Observatory in Ninigret Park so desirable. While we had a number of rainouts this summer we have also had three of the best viewing nights I can remember in a long while - even while the Big Apple Circus was here last week. Tonight, the sky started out rather mediocre with lots of high wispy clouds, a rather bright sunset and indications of poor seeing (instability and pockets of dense clouds). However the sky to the west was actually quite clear and yeah, whoopee, yes Yes YES, when I looked west the wind was in my face. The stuff was blowing out to sea and the temperature was stabilizing at a comfortable 68 degrees, only a few degrees cooler than during the day. By 9:30 PM, only traces of clouds could be seen up in the pocket of light where Cranston, Warwick and Providence ruin the seeing anyway. The Milky Way was the kind of b and of light that every astronomer hopes to see. On our hypersensitive ridiculously over calibrated Frosty Drew Seeing Scale that ranges from 0.0000 (so foggy we can't see the monsoon) to 10.0000 (clearer skies than the Hubble Space telescope enjoys) I would put the evening at somewhere between 8.0056 and 8.2145 plus or minus 0.7937. [Your mileage may vary.] In any case - just peachy dandy.

I arrived quite early to be greeted by a huge herd of bunnies. Big bunnies, little bunnies, hungry bunnies, and very audacious bunnies. I was afraid I might start a mighty bunny stampede raising a huge choking cloud of dust as they thundered by. Instead of scattering when I opened the doors, they just shrugged and went on eating. I carefully explained to the bunnies that this behavior was dangerous should the park's coyote pack reappear. I gave them statistics and many sage reasons why they should post lookouts and scatter at the first sign of Wile E. Coyote but they seemed to take this well intentioned advice as so much silly blather. You'd think they didn't understand a word I said. You'll be sorry bunnies when the big bad coyotes come again - you heard it from me first there bunnies - you'll be sorry.

People started arriving early - in fact much too early. The sun was still up and I was cleaning out the effects of the heavy rains earlier in the week. I really don't mind early arrivers but I expect to soon see things like the lines forming at noon. Folks, we really can't do much until it get dark. Really, truly. Yes I know that I can place the telescope on Jupiter currently, but even this daytime object will be leaving our skies soon. It will be setting before we open before Fall begins. In fact this Fall will be the season without bright planets. Only the outer three frosty worlds (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) will be in the evening skies.

When we opened, Jupiter was rather blurry as the temperature adjusted from daytime to evening. You could see ripples along its edge. Three of the four Galilean Moons were visible with Io hiding in Jupiter's shadow. Just before 9:00 PM local time, Io moved into the sunlight appearing suddenly quite a distance from the limb of Jupiter.

Usually we have quite a few people who stay for one or two objects but then go home. Tonight we had quite a few people who stayed for quite a few objects. This meant that we covered fewer than usual objects but they were excellent. After Jupiter we turned on Albireo. This is always a crowd pleaser. I then took everyone outside and we had a star hop across the entire sky. As usual, people wanted to see the Winter constellations in Summer, but after being told that Orion was under our feet they quickly began to enjoy some really wonderful eyeball astronomy.

Back inside we looked at various types of clusters and nebulae which abound in the southern summer skies. We looked at the Omega (M17), Ptolemy's Cluster (M7), the Butterfly (M6) and we looked at two globular clusters - M54 (which is a globular cluster ripped from the Sagittarius Galaxy which the Milky Way Galaxy is pulling apart) and the much brighter M4. We really couldn't get to see many more simply because we had so many people in the lines. It didn't really begin to thin out until well after 10 PM.

I was very tired this evening - essentially running a one man show although Ernie was out in the parking lot. As I was closing up just before midnight, a couple of young women arrived. I didn't have the energy to reopen, but we went outside and star hopped in the wonderful clean dark skies. Do you know, this is what star gazing is really all about.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 16, 2004
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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