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Log, Jul 24, 2009

16 people. Several times throughout the late afternoon, Francine and I debated what we should do about opening. The weather forecasts ran the spectrum from marvelous to horrendous. Yet as we almost always do, we chose to assume the best and by the time we opened and had the telescope trained on the Moon's thin crescent in the west, the sky was really bright and clear. As it grew darker, the Milky Way was very distinct, with obvious markings where it widened, where it split and where the arms stood out. This is the normal signal for a good night.

We had two space station passes, one quite early before any visitors arrived. Ernie, Francine and I were able to track it basically across the entire sky. The second pass, visible by a sizable crowd, was less spectacular, but no one was disappointed by the Iridium flare which peaked near magnitude minus 4.

The scope needed alignment after so many weeks of bad weather and cloud dodging. We got a fairly good one which I nearly scrambled by doing the "SET" function wrong. The "SET" function places the telescope's alignment in permanent storage. It requires placing the telescope in the "turned off" position (facing due south at horizon level) and issuing the "SET" command. I leveled the telescope at the horizon but neglected to turn the scope due south. Saved by the software, the telescope refused to believe that a point some 50 degrees east of south was south. It issued a polite "SET could not find home." message which is computerese for "Oh human operator, verily thou art duller than a doorknob. Goest thou and do things with seemly rectitude." Which Les did the next time around.

We looked at the Moon, M4, M54, Saturn, Albireo and did a bit of star hopping. We were actually waiting for Jupiter to clear the trees to the southeast. Jupiter has gobbled up another comet like it did with Shoemaker Levy 9. Due to the spin rates of Jupiter and the Earth, we would have had to wait until after 1AM to see the hole.

We thought (or at least I thought) that one of the casinos to the west was displaying fireworks. There were no obvious clouds and lightning didn't seem likely. Then in a surprisingly short time, the sky filled with clouds as the temperature dropped below the dew point. Now the fireworks were obviously distant lightning. We shut up rapidly shortly after 10PM.

I drove home and the sky cleared by the time I put the car away. I was awakened an hour later as the storm finally hit Westerly. We have had a lot of rain in July. In the beginning of the July my rain gauge overflowed at 6 inches the weekend of the 4th. This week, we ad 0.95 inches on Tuesday, 3.15 inches on Wednesday evening and early Saturday morning we had yet another 0.25 inches. There have been showers at other times making this just about the wettest July ever.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 24, 2009
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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