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Log, Jun 10, 2005

18 people. Well I frankly doubted we would open tonight. By 2 PM I had posted the "doubtful" opening picture of the FDO dome with its big question mark and half opened doors and shutter. I told my wife that I expected to be back before 9 PM but wondrous things do appear. By no one's imagination was it a great seeing night but after the string of complete washouts anything was welcome.

I actually had Jupiter up and in the eyepiece before sunset. All the Galilean Moons were lined up on one side of Jupiter (the left side in the eyepiece). During the evening we followed the occultation ("eclipse") of Io, the innermost of the great moons. I wanted to show Saturn as well but what became known as the "schmutz" steadfastly sat in the patch of the sky where Saturn was holding out. Venus was totally out of the question. It was hard to distinguish the horizon from the cloud banks in the west.

We got quite a sizable group of people, and with the haze blocking lots of deep sky objects, I turned to the Moon. The two craters near the western edge of the Moon, just west of the area called Mare Fecundatis (Fertile Sea), offered the most interesting view. In both cases, the central "ejecta mass" formed when the craters were firmed by a meteor were easily visible. The "upper" crater is Langrenus and the lower was Petavius.

Ernie, who in spite of his litany of why we can't see anything tonight, is always ready with objects had a number of targets. In fact, we had to settle for many old favorites but some were actually rather nice. M104 (Sombrero) was washed out but visible. M57 (Ring) was actually better than could be expected. It stood high magnification a lot better than I had any right to expect. While I was watching M57, a meteor streaked across the field giving the illusion that the trail went through the hole in the Ring. Very spectacular for me, but of course no one else saw it. We had a surprising number of meteors tonight. No shower is active at this date but there they were. We also saw an Iridium satellite pass. The flash was relatively minor but quite spectacular as it disappeared almost instantly. I spent some time looking at MQ Serpentitis. This star has few reasons to be studied, but it helped me align the scope on dim objects. M56 nearby was also clearer than I had any reason to expect. For me, M5 was really quite lovely. I didn't try M13 because it was located high in the sky behind the shutter of the dome.

We tried NGC 6888 without success and NGC 6210 was too high although Ernie hoped to see it. We looked at some fine doubles, Albireo of course and the very nice Alpha Hercules. I happened to mention that Antares was a case of the "purloined letter" - a completely unknown FIRST MAGNITUDE star. Two first magnitude stars are all but on top of each other visually - Antares itself (a red super giant) and HIP 80763B (a white star) The red of Antares and the white of the second star reflect from a nebula behind them giving Antares its more yellow than red color to most people's eyes. Trying to split these two stars is all but impossible. First of all they are less than 2.5 arc seconds apart, and with the glare of the background nebula, everything appears as a single blob. Last night this hardly mattered because Antares was blue, and gold, and red, and white and any other color you wish to mention as the air danced around.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jun 10, 2005
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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