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Log, Dec 17, 1999

24 people. The evening started out with Joe getting to the dome very early to install some uplevel software. I arrived at 5:20 PM fully expecting to be the first only to find the dome red lit and in operation. Some four leggedy beasties similar in shape and size to Santa's sleigh propulsion systems, bolted out of the brush less than a car length ahead of my car. A word to the wise to our visitors.

Since Aquila sets early these days, Joe and I turned the LX200 onto the fading nova near Delta Aquila. It is somewhere fainter than the 7th magnitude now. Only its color (sort of an orangy-white) makes it distinctive.

Folks began arriving around half past six. One visitor identified himself as Bill Penhallow's "foreman" on the construction of the dome 11 years ago. M57 was one of the earlier targets. The Moon made finding the central star difficult to impossible, but the ring itself was clear with dark lane definition. As always Saturn and Jupiter were big hits. Jupiter really benefited by blue filtering. You could clearly make out the "tails" streaming out from the equatorial bands filling lesser bands. Saturn was quite clear with good definition of the rings. We could make out the south equatorial storm band on Saturn along with the shadow of the ring on the planet's surface. Considering the the Moon was right in the area of Saturn and Jupiter, seeing wasn't bad.

I showed Allyson, Art and Joe a wonderful new "coffee table" book by the great astrophotographer David Malin. These color pictures are 13"x16" reproductions of Malin's work over the last quarter century. The density of the star fields are incredible. I recommend that anyone who can see this book take the time.

Joe in turn showed Allyson, Art and I my new Christmas/Birthday Orion 11x70 binoculars. If you haven't had a chance to see extended objects with good night binoculars get I or Joe to let you use one of their Orions. As Joe points out, each objective in the his Orion's are more than 3/4s the size of his Meade ETX telescope. Between the two objectives, they collect fully 15% more light than his ETX! Binoculars are very wrongly underrated.

As the evening wore on, we began to look for unusual deep space objects. One very successful find was the "Eskimo" planetary nebula. While it takes a very vivid imagination to see an "Eskimo" in this stellar remnant, it is very vivid with a fuzzy patch (parka fur?) surrounding a bright central star (the Eskimo's' face?). We also tried for a globular cluster which was deemed the least interesting object any of us had ever seen (or couldn't see). This faint dull vapid collection of faint dull stars against a Moonlit sky was stunningly uninteresting.

I turned the telescope onto Sirius and was startled to see "Sirius-B" at 6 o'clock to Sirius-A. He didn't think that the LX200 would be able to split this double where the bright star outshines the dim star by about 10000 times. However there was a nearby star that did not appear in the Hubbell database. What else could it be I thought. About this time, Joe returned from locking up the Nature Center. Joe was even more dubious than I. Rightfully so. After he twiddled the eyepiece a bit, "Sirius-B" moved relative to Sirius-A. Now our telescope is powerful, but even I had to admit that it was unlikely (in fact against all the laws of physics) that turning the eyepiece would swing "Sirius-B" about in its orbit. Finally "Sirius-B" was determined to be a reflection of Sirius-A bounced off my eye onto the eyepiece!

Clouds rolled in just after 12:20 AM forcing a close to our session. Except for some work on maintaining the dome Saturday 12/18 hosted by Art and possibly a midweek work session if weather permits by Joe and Dave, this will be the 1999 swan song of FDO. However we look forward to a wonderful year viewing in 2000 with our (what we sincerely hope is the case) Y2K compliant telescope and software. Happy Holidays to all. We look forward to seeing you next year.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Dec 17, 1999
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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