Log, Jan 14, 2000

19 people. Saying that it was cold is like saying the ocean is wet - true but a magnificent understatement. Even with several layers of cross country ski clothing, your truly was forced to retreat into the warmth of the Nature Center. The intense cold caused the Kimball Nature Center folk to cancel their trip. However, more than a few hardy souls ventured out in the icy grip of Rhode Island's coldest night this year to look at various sky wonders. We especially welcome our visitors from the local high school astronomy class.

It is nice to have interested knowledgeable teens who already know about the objects we are displaying. We almost always have to explain the M## refers to one of the Charles Messier's false comets. These teens knew all about M##s. We pointed out examples of the types of stars these local teens had been studying. Gas clouds where stars were forming, newly ignited stars, young (teen age?) stars, mid life stars and star nearing the end of their life cycle.

It would be nice to report that the sky was perfect. Well, it certainly was brilliantly clear, but unstable. The stars twinkled heavily vigorously degrading the images. Even so, targets like the trapezium presented more than the standard four stars. Five stars were usually visible and occasionally six.

Our Meade telescope and our dome creaked and groaned in the cold. The scope's declination/altitude drive needs winter lithium grease. The summer weight petroleum grease has congealed into something thick as taffy. This causes the scope to lose track of where it is. In turn this causes poor pointing. Even so, we were able to easily adjust the scope for fine views.

The dome was another matter. The wind and the brutal cold have caused it to shrink and distort slightly. This in turn caused the motor drive to skip out of the gear race causing a thunderous chatter and stalled motion. Much broom handle poking was required to prod the motor drive back into the gear race. The infamous section 19 (which frequently sticks) was joined by random other sticky spots.

With visitors arriving through the early hours of the evening, we were constantly shifting back and forth among major targets. The ability to request the PC/scope to go to a particular sky target was impressive when it worked and a source of amusement when it would tell Joe "Huh". Somehow "Huh" is inelegant. Why can't the PC/scope really say what is on its mind like "Its too cold to move" or "Make up your mind. You were just looking at Jupiter three minutes ago, and I don't feel like going back there"?

Jupiter and its moons, Saturn, its rings and moons, our Moon, the Great Orion Nebula [M42 and m43] and the Trapezium. We looked at the open clusters [M36, M37, M38] in Auriga. M44 [Praesepe or the Beehive] was too spread out for even the 56 mm (our widest angle eyepiece) to hold the whole object. M67 in Cancer was very nice. The Leo galaxies [M65, M66, NGC3628, M96, M95, M105, NGC3384, NGC3389] were spectacular!

Finally Joe targeted the appropriate Eskimo Nebula! What else?? It was partially obstructed by the dome shutter when Joe went to it, but he bagged it specifically for the log on such a frigid night.

A number of visitors indicated some interest in joining our chilly band of intrepid icicles. We hope to see these folks back, as visitors or members.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jan 14, 2000
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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