Log, Sep 22, 2006

18 people. Come on world - give us a break. The day was reasonably clear and it was a totally moonless night - so you'd think that we get some sort of viewing in. Well we did get some sort of viewing in - about the worst possible. Yuccch! As I said to Ernie, in two weeks we are bound to have a clear night - almost guaranteed because we'll have a brilliant Harvest Moon sitting squarely in Pisces. And where will Pisces be that night? Right smack dab in the South East where it can blot out anything dimmer than a Solar Flare.

Here is what happened last night. I arrived early and got set up properly and began to track Jupiter. It was low in the South West and this bodes poorly for visitors wanting to see planets this Fall. Oh we'll have Neptune and Uranus in the skies, but they are hardly better than blue green stars as far as viewing goes. And we won't have anything else until Saturn arrives again towards the end of the year. We managed to get a view of M13 [Great Globular Cluster in Hercules]. It was just on the edge of the shutter when we viewed it. It was ok but not great.

Since we couldn't do much viewing, we did what we often do when it is poor, we chatted about things scientific and speculative. In fact we got so involved with chatting that when I finally did shut down, I shut the telescope down in the wrong order. No problem except that in all likelihood I will need to do a two star alignment when I next power it up. Why didn't I simply fix things last night? Guess! There weren't two useful stars in the sky to use for an alignment!

(1) There was an annular solar eclipse of the Sun by the Moon this morning. An annular eclipse occurs when the Earth is closer to the Sun on average and the Moon is farther than usual. This makes the Sun a bit larger (0.534 degrees wide) and the Moon a bit smaller 1766 (0.491 degrees wide) than usual. The little bit that was left over (0.043 degrees) is just enough that the eclipse is a ring rather than a blackout. Unfortunately for us, the annular eclipse was only visible in a tiny part of Brazil and across a strip in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

(2) If you look at a calendar, it should say that Fall begins on Saturday September 23. While this is true at the Greenwich Meridian, Fall actually starts on September 22 locally! How come? Well the center of the Sun actually crosses the celestial Equator at 4:04:27 AM Greenwich Meridian time. Since we are 5 hours behind Greenwich Time, we actually start Fall about 11:04 PM.

(3) Oh, by the way, the official name of UB313 which had been nicknamed Xena is Eris. Eris is the goddess of strife and discord. This is a particularly apt name given all the upset that it caused when it demoted Pluto from the ranks of planets to the category of dwarf planet. Eris is larger than Pluto but still far smaller than many non planets like our Moon, Jupiter's satellites Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, Saturn's satellite Titan, and Neptune's satellite Triton.

Wow! Another three utterly useless factoids brought to you courtesy of Les Coleman!

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 22, 2006
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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