Log, Nov 28, 2008

20+ people. Francine and I really think we had more folks than the 20 which were listed but only that many signed in. It may seem like a minor thing but we really do need to keep track of who is there because this helps us establish our value to the community when we ask for grants. And what do we need grants for? Well if you check on the Sky Theater part of the website you'll see that we've got the walls up on the Sky Theater and the rest of the exterior should be coming along soon.

In many ways this night was very similar to last week. We had very clear skies. The temperature wasn't as cold as last week but correspondingly the air wasn't quite as stable. There was almost certainly more moisture in the air. My car had a coating of ice on the windshield before I went home and the light pollution from the cities to the north and Ledyard were pronounced.

Even a week makes a big difference in the sky. Last week we were able to catch a peek of Jupiter before it was too low. This week, it simply was too low when we opened. By the way, next Monday, Venus, Jupiter and the Moon will put on a spectacular show. An hour before Sun RISE, the Moon will occult (sort of eclipse) Venus with Jupiter just above them. During the day, the Moon will move eastwards until just at Sun SET, the three bodies will form a triangle. Between 7 and 7:30 PM, first Venus, then Jupiter and finally the Moon will set. Find yourself a place with a clear southwestern horizon and enjoy the show.

A number of the objects I tried to target last night in the southwestern sky were disappointing. Too much moisture probably. Oh, you could see them but they were low contrast and disappointing after last week. Orion was up - sort of -. More correctly it was nestled in the trees. Yes the leaves were gone but with the heavy moisture, the Great Nebula looked like a greasy set of fingerprints with grains of salt. The Andromeda Galaxy was too high. I wanted a crowd pleaser so I tuned in on M45 - the Pleiades. I used the widest angle eyepiece our telescope can use [56x (wider angle eyepieces can be installed, but they all show the central mirror as a black circle in the middle of the image)]. I had everybody view the Pleiades by eye, then use the 8X finder scope and finally look in the 56X eyepiece at Maia and Alcyone (the brightest of the Seven Sisters). It really made a point about varying powers, the ability of various sized optical system to gather light as well as really showing a lovely part

When we finally could look at Orion without dodging branches, it was beautiful. Theta Orionis [the Trapezium] presented the A, B, C and D stars easily. Glimpses of E and F were possible although they were never as prominent as last week. However, for some reason, in spite of the less than perfectly stable conditions, the great swirls of gas were magnificent.

After most folks went home, Francine and I started after various less prominent objects. Some of these objects are big and even relatively bright but their color makes them almost invisible. As an example the Rosette Nebula which is reddish really needs a filter to increase contrast. Even so, we could see the boundaries of this object - as sort of a very dark gray against an almost black background. The Cone Nebula is usually pretty good in the 16" but tonight it was lackluster.

Finally, we did a two star alignment which worked better than any in quite a while. After aligning and setting the telescope, we could go to any object and not only find it in the eyepiece but just about dead center.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Nov 28, 2008
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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