Log, Nov 19, 1999

Monday: In spite of my own calculations which said that I would see less than ten minutes of the transit of Mercury from Southern Rhode Island, I packed up my Questar and solar filters and drove to the beach. The weather was breezy and cold, but the entire sky was clear from horizon to horizon except one cloud ominously drifting on the western horizon. Sure enough, just 40 second prior to the beginning of transit, the cloud began to cover the Sun. I began to fume as the solar disk became a memory. No transit for me.

Joe said he got a perfect view - on the Internet. Much as I like technology I asked Joe if that wasn't / sort of like / maybe / just perhaps / nearly / possibly / perhaps / NOT THE REAL THING?

Thursday: This was the day the Rhode Island (in fact New England) entered the space age with the launch of a Viper/Dart from Ninigret Park less than 500 feet northwest of the dome.

The day started very early for some of the more hearty souls among us when we stayed up late [or got up very early] to see the predicted spectacular Leonid shower. Pardon me, but this prediction was as over blown as the predictions for Comet Kahoutek years ago. The Leonids were not even up to average let alone spectacular. Both Joe and I at differing sites came up with estimates of about a hundred meteors per hour with only a handful that could be seen by anyone not trained in using averted vision. Joe saw a blue white fireball. I saw a large yellow fireball which illuminated a large cloud when it passed behind.

I got to the dome at the appointed time [AM more or less] and spent the next twenty minutes trying to figure out why the computer wouldn't boot. While it appeared that the unit was on, the green light was only the result of reflected sunlight. The power cord was loose. When all the subtle and sophisticated remedies failed, I finally pushed all the connectors and 'Voila!'.

Art arrived, followed by the Hartleys. Soon Comet Chasers galore descended on our dome. We showed kids [and accompanying adults] the mysteries of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, TT's relationship to the Leonids and simulated views of the inner solar system. When crowds got too large to allow the folks at the back to see the monitor, I took my Tempel-Tuttle model [a contraption cut from some scrap plywood] and explained to the waiting kids what they would see when they got to the front of the line. All in all, things went pretty well. People were impressed with the simulations and they got a lot of good insights into the associated astronomy.

As the morning went on, one of our demonstrations was cut short by a loud swoosh! The first of the "advanced rockets" had been launched. We watched it fly up over the trees and then suddenly realized that it was coming dome to close for comfort to our dome. I rushed in and pointed the LX200 away from possible harm. A gust of wind carried the parachuting rocket away and all was well. We managed to get one more group through before Charlestown Police and the Army National Guard hustled us out of possible harms way as the time approached for the launch of the Viper/Dart. Its launch was truly spectacular. It was out of sight in the twinkling of an eye. A few more people stopped by as we put the scope and dome to "bed". One small visitors helped I put the big blue blanket on the LX200 so the telescope could take its nap. It made sense to our young friend that the telescope had to sleep in the day so it could look at the stars all night long.

Friday: 50 people. The air hovered around 100% humidity all night long. We had a unusually large number of telescopes set up outside ranging from two 90 millimeter scopes to Art's 10" Dob. We welcomed a troop of girl scouts currently working on an Astronomy project (merit badge?). The extra scopes helped everyone to see things when the large scope was mobbed.

The Moon was very bright, limiting our ability to look for fainter Messier objects. However, the damp air was very stable and it allowed us unusually good views of Jupiter and Saturn.

We began to experience periods of heavy cloud cover for short periods. I actually think the clouds formed locally as the damp air rose and chilled. Almost every telescope, eyepiece and sundry auxiliary pieces of equipment soon became coated with dew. Joe's ETX-90 stayed dry with its Kendrick dew removal system. Most folks left when a particularly dense cloud passed over. However, it was clear when we finally decided to close down

We welcomed back an old friend, Bill Penhallow who founded the observatory more than a decade ago. We don't see as much of him and other old friends as we would like. We cordially invite our old members to renew their participation with us.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Nov 19, 1999
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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