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Log, Dec 30, 2005

17 people. I got to FDO early with hammer and nails and the intent to make a few minor fixes to some things that had come detached. It went well but I discovered I had a trio of visitors waiting, a Mom, a son and his best friend. I had wondered if anyone would show this evening only to find we had a good winter turn out. And it was a nice dark night. It would have been totally great except that we had a lot of atmospheric turbulence. Ernie was set up outside in his corner of the parking lot. I didn't get to see much of Ernie but he says that Venus was a beautiful crescent.

Mars was centered pretty much above the dome's top shutter which made it a very poor target. I knew that Saturn would be appearing soon but at the early hours it was tucked down behind a double screen of trees and the murky turbulent air just above the ocean. M42, the great nebula in Orion with it famous stellar nursery was placed for fine viewing. Just about everyone who looked could make out not only the four bright stars of the Trapezium but the E star as well. A few of us caught a quick glimpse of the F star as well. G and H were completely hidden. The nebulosity was excellent and almost looked like we had filters which we did not.

Saturn is in Cancer this winter. Now Cancer would be a completely forgettable constellation except for two things - it contains a part of the Ecliptic so the planets run through it and it has the fine open cluster Praesepe M44 often called the Beehive. As Saturn makes its yearly run this winter and spring, it will pass through the margins of Praesepe, a sight which I look forward to seeing. Right now the two are about two eyepiece diameters apart so you don't get the effect. To the naked eye, Praesepe was not very distinct. I pointed out where it was with the laser but I doubt many could make it out. However, it was fine in the scope with the wide-angle 56 MM eyepiece.

I tried just for the heck of it to see if I could split the Pup away from Sirius. One glance at the image told me this was a forlorn hope tonight. Sirius looked like a firework's sparkler. It was also incredibly bright. I was able to do eyepiece projection more than four feet from the eyepiece forming a distinct image of the star. Given that I was limited by the platform, not brightness of the image, and that the red room light were on this was impressive - at least to me.

After a while everyone was gone. Even Ernie had closed up shop. I did a lot of looking at M31 and M32, sweeping back and forth across the sky to catch the outer edges of M31 farm from the bright nucleus. M31 is really a large object when you look at it this way. This being done, I tried to twiddle my thumbs only to find them nearly frozen stiff. I huffed and I puffed and drank the remains of my coffee before I finally said to myself "Self, thou art colder than the proverbial block of ice. It has been 45 minutes since you saw the last signs of a human being. Dost thou truly wish to continue?" So of course I started to close down and had just gotten to the point of throwing the large blue tarp over the scope when three faces appeared at the door. Being just too cold myself and not really willing to restart, I begged off and closed FDO for the last time in 2005.

I wish everyone a fine New Year.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Dec 30, 2005
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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