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Log, May 12, 2000

9 people. Tonight is one of those reason why people need to look twice before settling in for a long comfortable snooze. The clouds which had deviled us all day dissipated by 9 PM I'll tell you the truth, I doubted we see much of anything except glimpses of the Moon, but it turned out to be an adequate if not spectacular evening.

I arrived later than usual to find that Joe and Art had things in full swing. The Moon was they first target. They were showing the "straight wall" [Rupes Recta] to visitors from our two neighboring groups of amateur astronomers: Thames Valley Amateur Astronomers and Skyscrapers. We examined Eratosthenes, the Ocean of Tempests, the Apennine mountains and Archimedes. About then there came joyful shout of "Real clearing to the north and east" from someone who stepped outside the dome. Soon we were trying for globular clusters - objects which stand out better against damp nights with a bright Moon. M13, M92 and M62 (a bit later when Scorpio was high) were not as wonderful as they can be but far better than the night had promised.

Since the the globulars were visible, we tried for some more difficult planetary nebula. Unlike last week when we could glimpse the central star of the Ring, M57 was merely a gray circle. We tried for a smaller and less well know planetary NGC6210 with indifferent success. I looked at nearby objects on the software and noticed the relatively bright Zeta Hercules was a double. I should have looked closer because this star is all but impossible to split.

With no planets yet visible (although we did glimpse Pluto later), we displayed Ceres for our visitors. Ceres was very bright, but in a region of the sky where the Moon washed out any background stars. Since the only object that bright in the area was Ceres, identification was certain.

We viewed the famous pair M81 and M82 up north. A foreground star gave hope that maybe we were seeing a supernova. A quick check of our references dashed that hope. Well someday we'll find something that no one has seen before.

We looked at the "double" GSC3820-0752 and GSC3820-1122. I know nothing about these stars except that they are probably an optical double with no gravitational connection. While we were on doubles we tried for the tough 7 Ursa Major with a little bit of success.

By now moisture was condensing and both M97 (the Owl planetary nebula) and M108 a galaxy were hard to make out against the gathering gloom. We went to the much brighter M12 (a globular cluster) and spent a great deal of time studying it. Unlike most globular clusters which are distinctly spherical, M12 gave the appearance of being elongated and heavier on one side. We couldn't make up our mind if this was an artifact of viewing or something intrinsic in M12. We wrapped up and went home a bit after 1 PM when the dampness and the Moon finally overwhelmed any chance of seeing much more.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
May 12, 2000
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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