Log, Sep 7, 2007

36 people. Its been an eventful week for FDO. On Wednesday Arline Fleming (Journal Staff Writer) and Kathy Borchers (Photographer) a large heartwarming piece with some great pictures about me came out in the Providence Journal's South County section. It makes me feel like some sort of a celebrity. The piece most certainly captured the joy and exuberance I feel at FDO. So many thanks to Kathy and Arline.

On Thursday, my buddy Ernie Evans tempted fate by suggesting that Friday night might actually be (1) moonless, (2) without one of the large summer events and their lights and (3) clear. Well #1 was a certainty due to the laws of physics, #2 was scheduled and the Rhythm and Roots people from last week left nary a light to be seen but mentioning #3 was one those things we never do. You see, although I have never actually seen the beast, FDO has a Nemesis, a creature which wakes up almost like clockwork on Friday evenings. It gathers clouds, fogs, thunderstorms, rain, sleet, snow, and if all else fails thick dew and descends on poor little FDO which never did it a bit of harm to cast a pawl on our proceedings. I think I almost succeeded this week in foiling Nemesis by relentlessly calling Thursday "Wednesday" and so forth. I opened FDO on a day I insisted on calling Thursday without a hint that it was actually a day later. It almost worked.

Almost worked? Well over the years, FDO has awarded the faintly coveted Smudge of the Week award to a galaxy, nebula or cluster which did not live up to its billing. This week I sincerely feel the Smudge of the Week was won without a doubt by the construct we call "the Sky". Nemesis didn't have much time to collect his forces what with my erstwhile cleverness at calling Friday "Thursday", but we didn't escape his predations entirely. The air was simply very damp and low contrast. My car when I went home left a trail of moisture as dew rolled off windows and the exterior onto the ground.

Jupiter was a big success with its moons and storms bands and the Great Red Spot. The kids were actually better at seeing the Red Spot than most of the adults. Good going junior star gazers! I usually don't display asteroids, but Vesta is well placed near Jupiter and is something very few people have ever seen.

I had a long list of my favorites in the area of Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn. I confidently pointed the scope at M8 - the spectacular Lagoon Nebula. Smudge of the Week time! I could barely make it out and I knew that anyone who lacked my vaunted "averted imagination" (the ability to see things which just aren't there) would say "There isn't anything in the eyepiece". Well if the Lagoon was bad then surely my old favorite the Trifid Nebula (M20) would come to the rescue. Nope. Not on your Life. More grist for the Nemesis and yet another Smudge of the Week.

Ok, so I salvaged something with globular clusters and double stars. These discrete points of light fair much better than the lower contrast nebulosity. And we looked at Uranus. I actually did two star identification sessions where I normally do one and lots of folks stayed to the end. From a viewpoint of spreading the good feelings, old Nemesis didn't have a chance.

Ernie and I were talking after I had shut down the scope and closed the dome. It was late when Nemesis had one final insult. Since we were too late to reopen, Nemesis started to clear away the haze! The Milky Way stood out far better than before. M31 (Great Galaxy in Andromeda) was not only visible but fairly clear. Watch out there Nemesis, if I can ever find out where you stay the rest of the week I'll find a way to get back at you for all the dismal Friday evenings.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 7, 2007
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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