Log, Mar 3, 2006

17 people. Tonight was certainly "The Revenge of the Pesky Problems" night at FDO. Nothing serious but annoying minor glitches abounded. The town plowed the park road but the wind pushed drifts across the road making driving a bit more exciting than it needed to be. We are supposed to get the walks cleaned off as soon as possible. Apparently, in time for the opening FDO is impossible because there were piles in front of the gate and worse yet the door to the dome. I already knew that the Nature Center would be out of commission because the furnace heat exchanger thing-a-ma-bobby was so much scrap metal. With the water pipes drained and the building as cold as outdoors, I would have no warm retreat tonight. For the first time in memory, the dome was piled in snow. Usually the dome shape sheds snow very efficiently but the shutter looked like a bob sled run. I got the door open to find that snow had managed to infiltrate through a loose fitting seam and was inside as well as out. I used the push broom to get that out. I went outside and pushed snow off the shutter near the bottom. Luckily the shutter opened, but I hustled outside to push snow off the other side of the shutter which was now in reach. I ran the shutter up and down twice to make sure it wouldn't jam before I went on. The telescope was stiff and cold. The inside temperature in the dome started at 22 and went down quickly to 16 degrees. The wind whipped through the open shutter pulling stuff off the walls. The focuser would work it one direction, but froze stiff in the other. [Later it worked intermittently in the frozen direction but focusing was a nuisance all night.] I got the equipment up and running after resetting a bunch of circuit breakers which tripped for some reason.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but Cub Scout from Kingston. We were just getting ready to look at some craters on the Moon when one of the adults said stop throwing snowballs when one whizzed by the shutter opening. Nothing came in but the idea of a snowy spheroid descending into my beloved telescope was distressing. Well we saw a bunch of nifty things, craters on the Moon, Saturn, its rings, five or six of Saturn's moons, Cassini's Division, the Trapezium and M42 before the cubs got too cold. After the Cubs left, I decided to do a two star alignment. The scope was moving in the general direction of objects but it was close enough to see the object in a middle powered eyepiece. Surprise! The alignment went perfectly the first time. As soon as an object was called up, it appeared all but perfectly centered in the eyepiece. However, the telescope was stiff and cold and when I tried to do a ALIGN/HOME/SET combination, the telescope decided it couldn't find home position. The second time was the charm and it finally took the setting.

A group of three people came about 8 and as I was showing them various things, we noticed a cloud sweep over the Moon. Within 20 minutes or so, all that was visible were a few bright stars in Orion, a pale Moon and lots of clouds. The visitors left and I stayed around until about 9 with the clouds getting heavier and heavier. Finally I gave up and shut down. Strangely, the "peskies" had apparently fled by now. [I think it was too cold for them.]

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Mar 3, 2006
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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