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Log, Dec 14, 2007

13 people. Since we are going to be closed for the Christmas and New Years Holidays (Friday December 21 and 28), and since last week was a washout, I really wanted to open tonight but it was far from satisfactory. At times we couldn't even see the Moon let alone any faint fuzzy nebula or globular clusters. We only had one kid tonight so he had all the fun of pushing a lot of buttons. He opened the shutter, spun the dome and made the telescope point at Mars. He knew a lot about astronomy and about snakes. He knew that rattlesnakes were pit vipers who could "see" infra red frequencies with their "pits" to find their dinner at night. Most adults don't know this.

The atmosphere was nearly totally saturated with moisture. Even slight variations in temperature made the opacity of the sky go from mediocre to outright grim. This is caused by clouds forming in place. While we looked at Mars, I had people constantly saying "I don't see anything" followed by "Oh, it seems to be coming back". I was one of these people. None the less we did get to see a bit of detail on Mars. We looked at some craters on the Moon, we looked in the stellar nursery (M42) in Orion and we did as much star identification as possible. My old standby "The Big Dipper" [Ursa Major] never made an appearance all night so my trick of placing fingers on the pointer stars and counting up 5 intervals to Polaris could only be explained by lots of frantic hand waving and laser pointer gaps.

Lots of people came because of the Geminid Meteor Shower. I really wish that TV stations would stop over predicting meteor showers. People came with expectations of up to hundreds of meteors per hour. Actually that many meteors may occur but you need wide angle optical support to see them and a very clear sky. The telescope is all but useless because the scope turning at a stately 4 degrees per second simply can't keep up with a meteor which can streak across half the sky in less than a second. Of course the dampness and adiabatic cloud coverage obscured all the dimmer meteors even with wide angle binoculars or Mark I Eyeballs. Still and all we really did see perhaps 20 meteors with four or five really bright fireballs.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Dec 14, 2007
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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