Log, Aug 4, 2006

16 people signed in but I think there were more especially after the Seafood Festival was over. The Seafood Festival illuminated the Observatory with banks of light that made viewing almost anything dimmer than the 4th magnitude impossible. Add to that a fairly heavy haze and Moon light and this was definitely not a night for faint fuzzies. We looked at the Moon (of course). I had the folks looking at Tycho with its prominent rays (glassy material sprayed out at high velocity in all directions). Some people had trouble spotting this. I think much of the problem comes with the fact that few of us really practice looking for hard to see things. Before glasses and technology, the ability to see faint objects let us know about upcoming weather changes and folks coming down the road to visit. Now we rely on the weather channel and the doorbell.

We looked at Jupiter. Ganymede was on the face of Jupiter as was the Great Red Spot but I didn't draw attention to them after the trouble with spotting Tycho's rays. If you knew exactly where to look (near the top rim of Jupiter), you could spot the faintly grayer hue of Ganymede against Jupiter's more yellow glow. It was sort of two shades rather than a definite change.

We looked at M54, the globular cluster which has been torn from the Sagittarius Galaxy and is being incorporated into the Milky Way Galaxy (our home galaxy). I turned to M22 as a more spectacular version of a globular cluster. M22 was quite nice but M54 was sort of a faint smudge. The Triffid and the Lagoon nebulae were complete washouts. Oh, you could see the stars they include (particularly the Lagoon) but none of the gas clouds.

Mosquitoes were fierce last night. Just remember to come well sprayed!

Hands Off

While I was leading a constellation and star spotting session, one man decided to reenter the Observatory and use the telescope himself. He might have thought that he understood it, but he did several things which are damaging to the telescope. First of all, he moved the eyepiece from its right hand side to the left hand side. This may seem minor, but on the left side, the torque loosens the grip on the eyepiece potentially allowing a several hundred dollar damage if it fell. However much worse was the fact that he manually slewed the telescope at least a dozen degrees from its setting (on Jupiter) in the general direction of the Moon. In fact, it was the out of position of the optical tube assembly which first alerted me to the fact that he had done something. He claims that he barely touched it but the scope was more than a dozen degrees off center.

What seems improbable but is true is that the large scope is very delicate. The motors which control the declination and right ascensions drives are tiny - basically as small as slot car motors. A seemingly insignificant twist can overheat them. A couple of years ago, a child put the telescope out of commission for six weeks and cost FDO many hundreds of dollars in repair cost doing a "similar hands on training". While I can understand young hands, the idea that an adult would be similarly unthinking is distressing.

I will be locking the dome from now on when I leave unless one of the FDO folks is there. I should have done this at this time but I forgot. It never occurred to me that anyone would feel free to simply walk into a building and "help himself". The Observatory is open to the public but it isn't owned by the public. The equipment is privately owned and should be respected.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Aug 4, 2006
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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