Log, Aug 1, 2008

Friday August 1, 2008 40 people. The Sea Food Festival was in full swing when I arrived this evening. Francine had been there long before me, manning a booth for the Frosty Drew Nature Center and Observatory at the festival. I had the telescope up and running rapidly. It retained the good two star alignment over the week in spite of high temperatures and some fairly powerful thunderstorms. We got quite a few early visitors, two of whom brought their own scopes. I found Saturn as soon as possible for two reasons - to have something that early comers could look at, and the fact that Jupiter (which turned into quite the hit of the night) was hiding behind a tall tree that borders the Frosty Drew compound.

It wasn't surprising that Saturn which was in the bright lights of the newly set Sun and directly over the lights of the carnival that sets up at the Sea Food Festival (as well as smoke and what have you) was more than a little disappointing to look at but many folks found it impressive. When Jupiter cleared the tree, there simply was no comparison. Ganymede was a small but obvious disk. Callisto when the temperature cooled for the evening as a disk as well. The Great Red Spot was just coming into view about mid way through the evening as a bulge in the lower of Jupiter's two largest dark bands. I counted more than a dozen light and dark bands as the night wore on.

The Milky Way Galaxy [MWG] put on a spectacular display. As was the case last week, we could see multiple arms with dark lanes between them. One of our visting astronomers turned his 11 inch scope on M13 which was difficult for us to reach with the dome shutter in the way most of the night. We looked at M22, a beautiful globular cluster near the center of the MWG. It is quite close, about 10,400 light years away and has a large diameter (almost as large as the Moon). It is easily visible to the naked eye as a denser area of the MWG. We also looked at M54 which is another globular cluster which is most probably, a cluster torn from the small Sagitarrius Galaxy which is being shredded by the tidal forces of the MWG.

I'm a great fan of the Stanley Holloway classic "Albert and the Lion". I love the part which goes:

They didn't think much of the ocean,

For the waves was piddling and small,

No wrecks, and nobody drownded,

Fact nothing to laugh at all.

Well, in spite of the fact that there is nothing but glorious thing after

glorious thing in the central regions of the galaxy, I was in a "was was piddling and small" frame of mind

So seeking for further amusement,

They paid and went into the zoo.

Last night for me, the zoo was Delphinus (the Dolphin). Francine asked what if anything could be found there, since it is rightly one of the most neglected parts of the sky surrounded as it is by the Summer Triangle (Lyra, Aquila, and Cygnus) and not far from Sagittarius, Capricorn, Pegasus and Andromeda. But scorned as poor little Delphinus is, it is not without its rewards. Albireo was two high hiding behind the dome shutter but Gamma Delphinii is gorgeous if not as colorful. It has two beautiful stars about 9 arc seconds apart. NGC 7006 is a nice if modest globular cluster. It has several planetary nebulae and most astounding of all, it is right next door to the second most boring constellation in the galaxy - Equaleus. Only Fornax, a two star constellation, carved out by Abbe LaCaille in the southern skies is more devoid of any reason to look at it. But as I proved by faultless mathematics (and a bit of verbal legerdemain) there is absolutely no uninteresting part of the sky. If case, then some part of the sky would have to be the least interesting and that fact alone makes it interesting. QED.

Since I had the scope pointing away from the Festival, I turned to Andromeda. Unlike Equaleus, the big fuzzy patch, just to the right of Nu Andromedae is vaguely interesting. Just a huge galaxy with two smaller galaxies circling it. Lest any of you doubt, I am talking about mighty M31, the Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. I had the folks troop outside and we learned Les Coleman's nearly fool proof way to find Andromeda on a clear night. Find Cassiopeia and the Great Square in Pegasus. Use the bright arrow head formed by Alpha, Beta and Gamma Cassiopeiae as a pointer. Where it crosses the diagonal of Markab (the brightest star in Pegasys proper) and Alperatz (which is in two constellations as Delta Pegasii [and brighter than Markab but who is counting] and the brightest star of Andromeda [Alpha Andromedae]). It is indisputably a corner of the SQUARE. It is also just as indisputably the head of the chained lady Andromeda herself. So the International Astronomical Union fudged and put th two constellations in spite of it own rules against doing so.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Aug 1, 2008
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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