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Log, Apr 15, 2005

19 people. Now, most of you folks who know me well would describe me as an eccentric rationalist - someone not likely to let his imagination run away with him no matter how fanciful the stories he tells about the constellations. Yet upon arriving at the vicinity of FDO, I saw a disc shaped flying object in the southeastern sky. "Oh" said I in my most eccentric rationalist tone of voice to no one but myself "behold a blimp on the horizon." Yet the blimp darted about in a most un-blimp like way and moved rapidly to the south. Says I to myself, "Upon applying the known laws of motion, this darting about in an unseemly blimp like fashion and the object's overly rapid motion towards the south bespeaks one of several possibilities. Either I am indeed seeing a flying saucer, or my recent chemotherapeutic episode has left me bereft of my senses, or mayhap that object is much closer to me and isn't what it seems." Yet as I drew closer, the object remained steadfastly shaped like a disc and bore various odd undecipherable marking upon it. I fumbled around in my collection of CD-ROM's and found the theme from the Twilight Zone on the car's player. Thus was I fortified by music appropriate to the absurdity of what lay before my wondering eyes. I fervently hoped that everything would respond by becoming shades of gray but colors remained, dashing any hopes of meeting the ghost of Rod Serling. As I rounded the drive into the Observatory, suddenly all was revealed unto me in a blaze of light [or at least a reflection of the Sun from the object]. Several people were flying kites and the one I had marked was a nearly circular kite with what appeared to be the silhouette of a flying saucer emboldened upon it carapace. Now I can in all truth say that I have seen a flying saucer, even though it was not an Unidentified Flying Object.

A family showed up with a telescope unlike any I had seen before - one with an unusual finder telescope mounted at 45 degrees to the main tube. They asked for some help setting it up. Rather than admit that I had never set up such a device in my life, I took it over to a pad. Since I had not unraveled the mystery of the 45 degree finder scope yet, I sighted along the tube. In the eyepiece, Jupiter appeared in all its glory except that it was being partially eclipsed by a huge new moon. Jupiter was distinctly crescent shaped. "No" says I in my most eccentric rationalist's sotto voce voice. "This will not do. Twilight Zone flying saucers are my limit. This must have something to do with that peculiar 45 degree finder scope. And indeed it did. The finder scope has a knob which flips a mirror into the main objective's focused beam of light. In this way, the main objective becomes the finder scope's first lens. It is rather like the inverse of the finder scope arrangement on a Questar which uses, the eyepiece of the telescope as the eyepiece of the finder by flipping a prism in and out of the focused beam. I went on to show them M42 (The Great Nebula in Orion) through their telescope.

Inside, Joe and Ernie were showing off the sights that can be seen on a bright night. They looked at Saturn which was a short distance from the Moon, Jupiter, and Castor. These have all been described numerous times and were their old selves. Ernie particularly wanted to see Beta Monocerotis which has been called one of the most beautiful triple stars in the sky. Currently, this triple has a bright star at the center of an imaginary clock with another bright star on the "end of a minute hand" at about three o'clock and the third star at the end of the hour hand about seven o'clock. Two of three stars are about 685 light years away. The third star while close to the other two as far as line of sight is concerned is about 65 light years closer to Earth. The area in an around Beta Mon including Gamma Mon contains a large number of stars which are approximately 610 to 690 light years away. This entire grouping while no longer called an open cluster is just that - an old open cluster which is drifted far apart. Sort of like most of the stars in Ursa Major only dimmer and farther away. Monoceros is a constellation which we don't mention very often, and frequently neglect because of it proximity to the stunning constellation Orion and bright Procyon. Yet the Unicorn (for such is the translation of Monoceros) contains some lovely objects such as the Cone/Christmas Tree Nebula and the twin nebulae NGC 2238 and NGC 2239 which together form the Rosette Nebula. Maybe we should spend more time in this dim constellation.

We did see our old friend the Eskimo Nebula (NGC2392) but we didn't try to see it through an Oxygen III filter which really highlights it. We also saw M42, M37 and I think M35 while I was outside pointing out the constellations.

A special treat for a few people who stayed late was a view of Pallas - the second discovered asteroid. It is sitting up in the Realm of the Galaxies that straddles the Coma Berenices and Virgo border. Actually Pallas is somewhat closer to Denebola (Beta Leonis) than the bulk of the Realm, but I suspect it will be on our list of must sees while the Realm dominates the spring and early summer skies.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Apr 15, 2005
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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