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Log, May 25, 2007

45 People. I confirmed a scientific observation last night that was a first for me while running the telescope at Frosty Drew. It is this.

In any violent confrontation between members of the species "canis latrans" and "mephitis mustelidae", it is inevitably true that any proximate member of species "homo sapiens" bearing an intact olfactory organ will find distance can be a virtue.

Or in more familiar terms:

If Senor Wile E. Coyote decides he is hungry enough to actually hunt Monsieur Pepe Le Peu, then Mister Les Coleman's nose will suggest to him that it will be advantageous to close the Observatory a bit prematurely.

I don't know exactly how close the coyote and the skunk were but they were certainly too close for comfort. I heard a few yips and howls, followed by one very loud howl. The sounds that immediately followed were a series of explicatives best left deleted and the clattering sound of the shutter descending. Alas, it was already too late to exclude the gentle breeze which wafted a stench of epic proportions through the opening in the dome. All this happened about 11:20 PM.

We had a fairly large turn out last night. If everyone wrote their name in the logbook, there were no fewer than 45 visitors. It was a soft night that was warm enough for shirt sleeves but early enough that clouds of mosquitoes still haven't descended upon us. There are many ways of deciding how good the seeing is. Some measure the dimmest visible star. John Bortle has a very famous and useful scale where 1 is brilliant lit and nearly rained out sky and 10 is clearer and darker than any astronomer could hope for realistically. I have several including the 1 mosquito to 10 mosquito nights. A 1 mosquito night is one where the mere buzzing of a single pesky bug will drive me home to 10 where I will endure veritable hoards of bites. Frankly last night would have had a hard time reaching 2 on anyone's scale. The Moon was squarely illuminating the Realm of the Galaxies (Leo, Coma and Virgo). A thin condensation from the moisture evaporated during the warm day created a grey cloud deck tha obliterated any thing dimmer than the second magnitude. Normally on a night with thin moisture clouds, the air is very stable but not tonight.

All in all, I had to spend the entire night looking at bright objects. This is fine for the visitors. Everyone loves Saturn. The Moon's craters were very easy to view along the terminator. Venus was almost exactly "half-venus". Even Jupiter made an appearance. And yes, I could make out Arcturus, Regulus, Spica and a few other notables. And to the north we could see the Dipper overhead well enough that everyone learned how to find Polaris, but other second magnitude stars were dim to non existent. I wanted to point out Denebola but I couldn't make it out. So using averted imagination I told everyone where it would be, if in fact it was there at all.

Jupiter was an odd sight last night. It rises late, behind the shield of trees which rim our south eastern border. In winter, the trees offer little problems since they have dropped their leaves. In summer and fall, the leaves are simply too thick to allow anything to be seen through them. Yet at this time in spring, the leaves are out but not fully mature allowing a murky view. The large lens/mirror of the telescope "sees" around a single leaf. Jupiter can be free of the leaf at one point on the surface of the optics, and obscured in another point on the optics. You can't actually see the leaves (at least not while the scope is focused for astronomy) but they intrude on the view by making the image of low quality. I could see the Galilean Moons but I could not make out marking on Jupiter itself. Ganymede was crossing the face of Jupiter last night. I could make it out as a faintly whiter blur against a more yellow mass but no one else seemed to be able to pick it up. Perhaps some more averted imagination by yours truly. I was waiting for Ganymede to pass free of Jupiter's disk when our animal friends decided to have their party.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
May 25, 2007
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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