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Log, Sep 2, 2005

42+ people. Something absolutely unprecedented in the annuls of Frosty Drew Observatory for the last two years occurred last night, we actually managed to get two weekends in a row with decent weather. Oh, this weekend wasn't as good as last weekend in terms of clarity because of the heavier humidity, but faint fuzzies were visible, the planets could be seen and it was a moonless night. This didn't mean that it was dark, because Labor Day Weekend means Rhythm and Roots Festival in Ninigret Park. They produce a lot of light, and they had one huge bank of lights that shown directly on the Observatory. However it is events like this that support the park and I for one am more than happy to live and let live when it comes to these less than perfect seeing conditions. I'd much rather R&R up close and very bright for a one weekend than creeping light pollution every night of the year.

We actually managed to see some fairly faint objects rather well. We also did a lot of star identification and we had quite a group of people using binoculars to find M31 [The Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda]. There is something very special about seeing M31 with your unaided eye when you realize that it is the most distant object that humans can see without optical aid. The light has been traveling towards us for more than three million years. Each photon of light has traveled more than 18 million trillion miles. Kind of a far hike.

Because of R&R, we had quite a few people show up. Only about 42 people signed the log, but Nick Teta and I are fairly sure that the actual number of people was substantially higher. Lots of kids came around. And people were quite enthusiastic. Lots of "Oh, wows" when seeing Jupiter and Venus about three Moon diameters apart even though both planets are so close to the horizon by dark that we only get a very unstable image and low quality resolution. I spent a good deal of the early evening explaining that Venus is NOT red, white and blue - that those colors are a mixture of unstable air, humidity and a dash of pollution. The light from R&R through the very damp air caused a glare that made looking towards the North a near hopeless task. I did my standard thing of pointing out the Big Dipper, having the people put their fingers on the pointer stars and then march five strides over to Polaris. This was barely possible, but I didn't even try to point out fainter northern constellations like Cepheus, Draco or Ursa Minor.

For the record, we saw M54, M31, M13 [Great Globular Cluster in Hercules], M8 [the lagoon], M4, M45 [Pleiades] Jupiter and its moons, Venus, Mars, and a fair number of meteors.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 2, 2005
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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