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Log, Oct 3, 2008

32 people. What do the constellations Fornax, Grus, Microscopium, Phoenix, Sculptor and Cetus have in common? Well quite a bunch of things. First of all they are all constellations which are low on the horizon at Frosty Drew, they tend to be hidden most of the year from view. They are about as unfamiliar as any constellations that ever appear in our skies. And last night, for reasons that defy logic, they were the stars of the late evening viewing. It is kind of odd picking slots between the trees to guide the telescope but that is exactly what we did.

Some of the things we saw were interesting like the globular cluster NGC 288 but other things were totally devoid of any distinguishing characteristics. For example, Nu Fornacis [aka HD 12767; CoD -29706 CPD -29 255; HIP 9677] is NOT (and I repeat NOT] one of the all time most see stars but we saw it last night. It is a star not much brighter than a Jovian moon, blue white B9.5 star. Lots of similar stars grace our heavens. It does have the [admittedly very minor] distinction of me calling it GnuForNewCoo. Why this silly name? I don't know but at 11:30 PM it was as close as I could get to something clever.

Another such star was Alpha Phoenicis, a star I can almost certainly attest to the fact that I have never looked at it before and probably will not look at again soon. Its sole reason for being selected was it was about the only star in Phoenix above the horizon. Theta Gruis has at least the benefit of being a double star of reasonable brightness but given the relative poor stability of the air, it twinkled a lot on the horizon and the only clue to its dula nature was it seemed elongated. Just above Theta Gruis was another star Alpha Piscis Austrini which is somewhat in a different category. First of all it really has a familiar name Formalhaut (which brings to mind the question, "Is there an Casualhaut?") and is the brightest object we can see that far south from Frosty Drew. Another reason it escapes the mundane, is that we often point it out and look at it from time to time. And Francine really likes it [more than enough reason to look at it]. Last night it was spectacular or at least specular. Yeah, it twinkled like mad, flashing every color of the rainbow. We looked at several more double stars and then tried unsuccessfully to find some faint planetary nebulae.

Earlier in the evening, we did a lot of fairly familiar objects. One little girl was excited as she explained to her mommy that the Moon looks like a banana. Banana is not a bad name for a crescent for someone who I think couldn't be much more than 4 or 5. One little girl who arrived was one of the youngest children (a few weeks old) to come to Frosty Drew. Last night she had grown up a lot and actually knew what she was seeing. We looked at Jupiter, the Moon, M22, M8, and a bit later we looked at Neptune and Uranus. Outside, Ernie had success seeing Pluto through his 11 inch scope. Francine confirmed the find but by the time I could get out to look at the "dwarf planet", it was playing hide and seek with a pine tree.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
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Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Oct 3, 2008
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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