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Log, May 4, 2007

It must be getting to be spring because lots more people are starting to show up at the Observatory. However, I'd like to take this time to suggest two precautions - an extra layer of clothing and an application of DEET. We had several kids dressed as they had earlier in the day but the temperature dropped to 42 as the night worse on. No really cold but some of the kids were chilly. And of course the opposite applies. If the temperature stays high then the bugs stay active. Having had two bouts of Lyme Disease and one of the more serious Babesiosis Disease, I am well aware that coastal New England after dark is the playground of infected mosquitoes and ticks.

The biting bugs were not the only wildlife evident in the park last night. About 11 PM we were treated to a chorus of coyotes howling at the Moon. Of course I agree with them. Undoubtedly they had been settled down for a good night's viewing of the denizens of the Realm of the Galaxies when what to their wondering eyes should appear but the bane of all dark sky observers. They were understandably upset.

With a large group of people, we tend to view fewer things. Early on, the telescope was in dire need of a good three point alignment. The horizon point due south and two stars are sufficient to establish an accurate three dimensional alignment. When I was pointing the scope, the object I wanted sometimes was barely in the finder. That is all right for most things but the finder is useless for dim objects and last night the finder was useless for Saturn. The finder sits on the top of the main scope, just high enough that the dome shutter hides the sky from it while the main scope can see the planet. I fudged about, manually aligning the scope until our troop of Girl Scouts could see the Ringed Planet. We also saw Venus (about 63% illuminated) early in the evening.

I personally love the galaxies of Leo, Coma and Virgo. They aren't as brilliant or sometimes spectacular as the much nearer globular clusters but they come in all sorts of configurations, shapes and sizes. And there are so many of them! We saw the "Eyes", M104 (the Sombrero), the great Virgo giants M87 (Virgo A) and the closely joined M85 and M86. I went to a really nice double star W Corvi which I recommend to everyone. It forms an equilateral triangle with the bright stars of Virgo (Spica and Porrima). You'll probably need optical aid to spy it (them?) because it is a just at the edge of eyeball viewing. The two stars are nicely separated and there are probably no other moderately bright double stars more equally matched in brightness (5.17 and 5.19).

By 10:30, the Moon was up. It was just preceded by Jupiter. Neither was much to look at because the air out over the Atlantic was very turbulent last night. So seeking for further amusement since I was by myself by now, I took out some time to do a careful alignment. I was extremely pleased at the result. When I selected an object, not only was it centered in the finder scope, but almost perfectly centered at 208 power in the main scope as well. My joy was tempered a bit because outside Ernie Evans was having almost exactly the opposite result. His 11 inch seems to have some sort of an alignment problem. Ernie strongly suspects the declination drive (the gizmo which makes the scope go up and down). The alignment left and right seem ok but you need both directions.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
May 4, 2007
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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