Log, Nov 3, 2006

17 people. This was the first truly frosty night at the Observatory this year. I was bundled up against the cold but I must be getting soft because I never really felt warm. There was an extremely bright Moon (93% Full) which managed to bring the sky brightness enough that nothing dimmer than the third magnitude was visible without telescopic enhancement. I featured the great crater Tycho which stood out well with the rays being particularly prominent. I had to use the polarizing filter because the Moon shine was as disconcerting as the liquid variety of the same name.

It was hard to find anything which was as good as it usually is. M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) was too high to reach without taking the top shutter and opening (a hassle). The M13 (Hercules Cluster) was well placed but the contrast was poor to miserable. Later in the evening I tried M42 - and when the Orion Nebula is barely discernible you know you have a poor contrast night. However, the Ring Nebula [M57] was not too bad.

Well if we can't see faint fuzzies due to lost contrast, I always have the fall back of bright double stars. We looked at some of the more spectacular of the breed. Epsilon Lyrae split nicely in the two pairs of two pairs. I've always liked the current alignment of the close pairs where one is north/south and the other is east/west. Albireo was lovely. The lack of contrast did little to harm the colors of blue and topaz.

People wanted to see a planet. Most wanted to see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars or Venus. Saturn is reasonably far from the Sun but wouldn't rise above the tree line much before 1:30 AM. The rest of the original planets including Mercury are bunched up in Libra right next to the Sun. Even Pluto is far enough to the West that it sets shortly after the Observatory opens. In any case, it is lost in the glare from Foxwoods, and with tonight's moonlight, it was hopeless. This left Uranus and Neptune. I did not try Uranus because it was quite close to the Moon. So after a bit of telescope slewing, I found Neptune. It was a much washed out blue disk barely larger than a point. A definite ho hum. I think I will award it the Smudge of the Week even if technically it isn't in the running because it isn't a faint fuzzy.

Late in the evening, a student from a CCRI astronomy class arrived. He wanted to see several things but a few hadn't cleared the tree line yet. We looked at Comet Swan. We could not see any of the tail because the comet was close to the horizon and the moonlight was doing its thing.

By 9:45 everyone left. I did a bit of personal seeing. I said hello to constellations I haven't really visited much since early Spring. I tried to let my eyes really dark adapt to pick out details in M42. Well I could see the point like sources easily but the nebulosity was all but gone. It looked like we had installed the opposite of a nebula filter - something that blots out all that annoying nebulosity and lets you concentrate on the gaps between anything you'd want to see.

Time went on and no one came. I spent some of the time doing a very careful two star alignment. It seemed to go well, but when I picked a star [Formulhut] which was far from my two guide stars [Betelgeuse and Vega] as a test to see how well the alignment had taken, I was more than disappointed when Formulhut wasn't in the field of view of the finder scope. That's odd I thought and looked through the main eyepiece to try to determine the star field. There was Formulhut exactly in the center! The alignment was so perfect that the cross hairs of the finder scope completely hid the star. I tried Deneb. About half the star was hidden and in the main eyepiece, it was almost dead center. I was also able to center faint fuzzies even if they were nothing much to look at. I just hope this excellent alignment holds for a few weeks.

It was moving on up towards 11 PM and no one had showed up for more than an hour. My cold finger and toes began to stage a mutiny. Twice my feet started walking to the door on their own and my hands refused to grab something to halt the runaway. I reached an agreement with my mutinous body parts. If they would stay just long enough to close the scope down in an orderly fashion, I would turn the car heater up to the melting point of iron. All of my body parts worked well together and we all sauntered on down to the car. The car started happily and cranked out copious BTUs to the firm enjoyment of one and all.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear - well no it wasn't Saint Nick and his entourage of reindeer but a car with two folks in it followed by a pick up truck. I told the folks I was cold and heading home. I backed up my wimpy behavior with the stray cloud that I said bespoke a mythological storm band predicted early in the evening. I know that this prediction had been made because I made it just in case I got cold feet. These two vehicles were leaving when lo there appeared in the East yet another vehicle bound for that fabled realm we call the Observatory.

Does anyone want a series of 6 inch mirror blanks with jewelers rouge, pitch and so forth to grind your own mirror? The complete kit including books on how to do it are available from the Observatory for the astounding price of $0.00. Just ask me.

-Les Coleman

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