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Log, Aug 6, 2004

16 people. The yearly Seafood Festival was well underway when I arrived near sundown. A spectacular sunset with golds, yellows and russet colors dominated the western sky but of course this means there are clouds about. As I was setting up the telescope, the first visitors came over and asked if the Observatory would be open. I allowed as how we would try to open but I said that clouds would probably hassle us most of the night and so they did.

Ernie arrived with a whole set of charts for finding Pluto and asked if we could try for this planet tonight. I said sure if the clouds cooperated. Ernie has seen every planet but Pluto in his half century of viewing. I've seen Pluto three times through our 16" and once through a visitor's 12" telescope. However Pluto would have to wait for the clouds to clear because finding a faint star like image against traces of clouds is impossible.

Meanwhile we showed Jupiter to the folks that drifted over from the Festival. We chatted about how bright the Festival made the grounds of the Observatory. Several people were surprised when I said that the lights shinning upwards were our worst problem but sure enough they could see the lights on the undersides of the clouds.

Jupiter was a poor image tonight, very close to the horizon and subject to the boiling turbulence over the town of Westerly. One person was thrilled that Jupiter was so colorful with tans, reds, oranges and blues. I almost felt I was being a meanie by explaining that Jupiter was really basically a light yellow white with brownish bands. All the other colors we were seeing were caused by the Earth's atmosphere. People wanted to see other planets as usual but I explained that we were in a part of the cycle where the planets are mostly in the daytime and early morning skies.

Because of the clouds and the brightness from the Festival, I limited the other targets to a few Messier objects in Scorpio and Sagittarius. While I was outside leading a star hop, I was impressed by one woman who knew her constellations every bit as well as I did. We had fun talking about the mythology surrounding Andromeda being chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea dragon (Draco).

After looking at M4, M20 and M17 the people began to drift away when another band of clouds appeared. Ernie and I hung on and then the sky cleared. We began to search for Pluto. Normally I would simply move to Pluto by using software but something is causing the software to crash on the new laptop. Things certainly were not helped when the power jack fell out of the back of the laptop. When the laptop suddenly hibernated, it sent some bizarre coordinates to the telescope. Even with the computer turned off the telescope began to behave like we were 20 or 30 degrees off target. I had to do a star alignment to readjust the telescopes positioning information. Finally we had success. By pointing to the region where Pluto was without actually trying to point at Pluto itself, we were able to track down the elusive planet. It was late but worth it.

Pluto map

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Aug 6, 2004
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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