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Log, Jul 13, 2007

30+ people. This was one of those nights which frustrate me greatly - a possibility of clearing but one where radar showed yet another storm moving northwest to southeast across Connecticut. Yipes! Weird! Holy Cow! Isn't that exactly what I wrote last week? Let me see - er yup so it is.

Actually I nearly pulled the plug on this week's activities but I remembered that the Big Apple Circus would be in town and I decided that so many folks were likely to stop by anyway that I opened in any case. I got to FDO after the Circus was underway, explained to the parking attendants that the Observatory would be open, and that we had to be allowed to have access to the Dome. The parking folks were very nice, rearranging the "witches hats" orange cones to let us through. As I set up, I saw a truly spectacular sunset. Now I love sunsets but I'm not so peachy keen on them on Friday Nights. A great sunset requires clouds and clouds are **-explicative deleted-** as far as astronomy goes. I turned the scope on Venus and just got a glimpse when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a heavy cloud bank, alas and oh dear! It only got worse as the people started coming out of the Circus.

Not wanting to be the Grinch of the evening, I asked the kids to move the telescope, the dome and the shutters. Not as much fun as looking though the telescope but they seemed to have fun. The smallest of my assistants didn't believe he could "turn the big window [the Dome's shutter]" but with the aid of a remote control switch and a motor on the south east side of the dome he found he could! He was beside himself with excitement. If that young assistant only realized what an absolute disaster we had with the burned out motor earlier this year, he might have been even more impressed with what it takes to keep us up and running.

As the evening wore on, folks from the Big Apple Circus stopped by. Yes, they saw the clouds but hope springs eternal and they showed up anyway. I really feel sorry for them because they get only one chance a year. Hope they make it back next year and we have a series of Friday Night clear skies.

One thing that never seems to break down is my tongue when I get talking about the night sky. We covered lots of things. As always, the older kids are fascinated by Black Holes. One lady asked about images that we have of all the planets. Jupiter in particular bothered her. She wanted to know why the Great Red Spot wasn't where she thought it should be. I started my usual spiel about inversions in mirrors only to see what she had spotted. Yikes! Good Grief! Ooops! A certain person who shall remain unnamed [blush] had hung the picture of Jupiter up side down! It’s always fun to play the game of catch the yaketty yakker making a really boneheaded mistake.

We got into a long winded discussion of languages and their impact on the names of objects in the sky. There were comments about various languages. For example, the principle planets and the constellations are primarily Latin, the earlier minor planets are primarily Greek, the stars are mainly named in Arabic and comets named after their discoverers. The moons of the planets bear a relationship to their planet. For example, Mars (God of War) has Deimos (Loathing) and Phobos (Fear), two of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Jupiter's moons are named after his lady loves. Saturn is named after his brother and sister titans. Neptune's moons are sea deities. Pluto's [in spite of his demotion] attendant are underworld denizens. I've always loved the bizarre naming scheme that astronomers have come up with for Uranus.

Why is Uranus a problem? Easy, in Roman mythology, Uranus was the very first being - no one else existed except Gaea (mother Earth) who was his wife. One of Uranus' moons could have been named Gaea I suppose but he has a slew of moons. Astronomers for reasons which I do not quite understand decided therefore that the moons of Uranus would be named after Shakespeare's heroines (Belinda, Bianca, Cordelia, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Miranda, Ophelia, Portia and Rosalind) and mythological beings (Ariel, Oberon, Puck, Titania and Umbriel). At least the astronomers didn't go as far as they did when they discovered the Milky Way Galaxy was absorbing stars from a small galaxy that had been pulled in by gravity. When they discovered this little galaxy they started calling it "Snickers" because "Snickers is peanuts compared to a Milky Way." Saner heads prevailed and it now the galaxy has the rather pedestrian name of the Sagittarius Galaxy.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 13, 2007
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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