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Log, Nov 21, 2008

33 people. It was bitterly cold with a wind that was all but certain to drive everyone but Francine, Ernie and I inside where there is coffee and hot chocolate, and goodies too numerous to mention. Did I say certain to drive people away? Well a few hardy folk were there before we were! And lots of others came.

We tried for Venus first thing out of the chute but shoot; the fir tree to the west of the dome was strategically placed to hide the planet. Oh, well, lets try Jupiter - and there its was in the eyepiece in glorious shades of red, green, yellow and blue. Duhhh! The air was cooling rapidly after sunset and was as stable as custard in a blender running at maximum speed. Luckily, it managed to set behind the self same tree that was already hiding Venus before the damaged image was impressed too deeply on young minds. I'd hate to have kids thinking that the real planet looked more garish than its representations in cheaply produced cartoons.

Ok, the air is unstable, and the two brightest objects in the sky are playing peek a boo with a tree. Whad-a-we-do-now? Obviously, go after things which require ideal viewing conditions. Yeah, I know this makes as much sense as playing basketball in a bathtub but it worked! I went to The Little Gem nebula [NGC 6818] which is fairly faint but low it showed up fine. Then I tried the Ring Nebula at high power [certain to fail and drive frustrated viewers home so we could close up shop and warm our tootsies]. Well we couldn't make out the central stellar remnant but the ring was big enough at 308 power to plop on your head like a cap.

Well, I know what to do! Since the faint fuzzies are easy to see let try something hard on an unstable night - splitting double stars. Well of course Albireo was not only easy but beautiful. Then I decided to try Epsilon Lyrae - the double double. Yeesh! Not only were the two doubles visible but between each of the doubles was a dark lane nearly wide enough to make you wonder if we had gone to the wrong target. Worse yet, by this time more people were arriving and actually having a good time. At this rate any chance of quitting early was rapidly disappearing.

I actually thought about trying the apodizing filter on Sirius after we could make out not only the four corners of the Trapezium [Theta Orionis A, B, C and D] in the Great Nebula in Orion but the much fainter stars E and F. I wanted to convince myself that I even saw G but only in my averted imagination was this tiny glimmer to be viewed. Still any night when you can see E and F is a good night. And the dark lanes between M42 and M43 in the Great Nebula looked like something out of a quality monochrome photograph.

All in all, it was a pretty good night.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Nov 21, 2008
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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