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Log, Sep 29, 2000

71+ people: There is a [only somewhat fictitious] rumor running around that yours truly races home, grabs an hour of sleep before beginning these log entries. However last night defeated even my best intentions. Not only did I not awake at 5:30 (my normal rising time), I didn't wake until well after 8:30. Attempting to write this seemed impossible after my near all nighter (I arrived home after 4 AM). So I have dragged out my ultimate remedy. To my left my stereo plays John Phillip Sousa Marches by the Boston Pops and on my boombox off to my right The Queen's Own Highlanders simultaneously play pound drums and wail away on their bagpipes. I defy anyone not already dead for a week to remain asleep in that cacophony.

The Moon, Venus and Mercury formed a lovely trio easily visible in the view of binoculars together last night. To the naked eye, Mercury was hard to spot but the other two were easy. I spent most of the early part of the night with members of the Tuesday night astronomy class. Since we were not able to fit in a viewing session due to rainy Tuesdays, we held our star hopping tonight. This occupied about an hour and twenty minutes while Doug and Joe ran the big scope, Art provided backup with his Dobs, Ernie had set up his Cave Astrola, and Barry had set up his Orion [which he shut down to join our star hop for a while]. I'm not sure if others had scopes set up but I think there were while I was off to the side.

While I was gone, Doug and Joe knocked off one Messier object after another, M13, M92, M22, M17, M2, M57 and NGC7009 [Saturn Nebula]. They also targeted Uranus and Neptune with its great moon Triton. About this time, the great planets were high enough for viewing. After last weeks wonderful view of Saturn and the careful collimation by Joe and Doug, I hoped for even more stupendous views. However, the sky while very clear wasn't really stable. We actually saw less detail this week than last. We saw Rhea, Dione, Tethys and Triton at Saturn but couldn't see Encelidus, Iapetus or Mimas.

Jupiter raised some concerns with our software. The software seem to show Io well clear of Jupiter's limb, but it was not visible after a scant few minutes. A little detective work showed the situation. The software was right, Io was above the surface, but the telescope was right as well - Io was nowhere in sight. If we had been a bit more observant we would have noticed that Io was rendered dark gray by the software while the other three large moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa were in a light shade of gray. Dark gray is how the software represents being in Jupiter's shadow. Very neat!

We turned to NGC6826 [Blinking Nebula]. Depending on the eyepiece and the observer's eye, the nebulosity and the central star seem to alternate on and off. Most people could see the effect at high power but I didn't seem it until I tried a low powered eyepiece. We looked at Delta Cygni and Beta Delphini (double stars). Beta is a lovely lilac and topaz star pair.

We went after NGC7006, NGC7293 [Helix], NGC253 [the very large and bright Sculptor galaxy] which showed marvelous structure, NGC247 which was faint and show a little structure. NGC257 was faint and small. NCG246, a planetary nebula was next followed by another planetary NGC253 which showed a lot of detail. We could see the spiral structure in M74 (very nice). On to NGC488 which was adequate. NGC520 was shaped clearly much as it appears in Burnham's Guide. NGC128 appeared small and a bit like Saturn. We saw the barred spiral structure of NGC1232. We could see a fair amount of detail in a very good image of M1 [Crab Nebula SN1054 remnant].

Finally as mighty Orion was high enough we tried a variety of views of M42, the Great Nebula in Orion. The four bright stars of the Trapezium were easy to spot but E and F were not easy to see. The differences in the views through normal vision, Hydrogen Beta Filters and Oxygen III filters is amazing. We could see the Trapezium in all of them but the backgrounds were radically different.

About this time, I finally made good my threat to leave, but not before the others did as well. I must admit to a little tom foolery as we tried a few things with a toy planetarium to see what effects we could get. The ranged from dismal to downright hideous. The stupid planetarium shows something we think was supposed to be the Plieades far far brighter than something shaped more like an H than an X that represented Orion. Numerous so called constellations could only be identified by their position. They looked nothing like the real thing. Well, it proved what we thought - this toy cannot be used as a way to simulate star hopping on partially cloudy nights.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 29, 2000
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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