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Log, Jul 1, 2005

1 person. Fog and mist precluded opening up, but I did get some work done cleaning house. We through out a great deal of old paper work, obsolete magazines and useless stuff. We needed the space to install an old computer with some new software to handle Frosty Drew administrative matters.

As a point of privilege, I am going to bore you with what I did on my summer vacation. Over the past two weeks, I traveled farther south than I have ever been before allowing me to see stars which had always been below my local horizon. None of these stars was more personally significant to me than Rigel Kentauris - which is almost universally known as Alpha Centauri. A story by A. E. van Vogt called "Far Centaurus" was my first inkling of the huge distances between the stars. I was a boy when I read it and my memories of it are probably confused but it was the story of a rocket ship traveling at speeds far below the speed of light requiring many generations among the settlers to arrive at Alpha Centauri only to find that in the intervening centuries that science had found a way to travel much faster than light. The planet was already settled.

The reality of Alpha Centauri is that it is really three stars Alpha-1, Alpha-2 and Alpha-3 more commonly known as Proxima Centauri. Proxima gets its name since it is the closest star to the solar system. Alpha-1 and Alpha-2 circle each other 23 astronomical units apart (which is would place them between Uranus and Neptune in the Solar System). Proxima is more than a tenth of a light year away from the others (over 650 AUs away). There is some indication that Proxima really doesn't circle the other two but merely is traveling on a parallel path. Proxima is a very dim red dwarf (magnitude 11.05 which means a 4 inch or better telescope is needed to see it). Alpha-1 is the fourth brightest star in the sky (magnitude -0.01), a yellow color like the sun. Alpha-2 is a dimmer star (magnitude 1.35) and slightly more orange.

If you draw a line between Alpha Centauri through Beta Centauri (which is much farther away) you come to a kite shaped constellation Crux (the Southern Cross). This was the second target I hoped to see for the first time in my life. It was just fine. As a cross, Crux lacks a star at the intersection of the crossbars which is why I have always thought of it as a kite.

I hoped to get a chance to see the Small Magellanic Cloud. It rises at about 4:30 AM. However, by 5:30 AM the Sun rose and the twilight made the SMC invisible. There was no chance to see the Large Magellanic Cloud which is in the southern daytime sky in summer. Well two out of three isn't bad, and I was really excited.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 1, 2005
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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