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Log, Nov 3, 2000

55 people. We had a fairly large number of people for this late in the year. A group of Boy Scouts, another of Cub Scouts and a class of FDO docents in training. Yours truly had to hop from one thing to another and its wasn't until very late in the evening that I actually had a chance to do any viewing. Doug, Dave and Joe kept the notes for the log and I'll try to do them justice.

The evening started extra early tonight because the docent training class assembled early to be taken through the start up procedures using the dome and the scope as training aids. It is the only way to do this justice. I could talk for hours about placing the shutter hinge chain behind the steel dowel when open the upper half of the shutter. A few minutes is all it takes to actually show people what I mean. Turning on the telescope is not just a matter of plugging it in. We need to have it "waken" in an orderly fashion. There is nothing worse than a telescope which get up on the wrong side of the bed. You'd think we had never told it which way is north. Actually if we don't start up the right way that is precisely the problem. It no longer can remember where north is, or where the horizon is or what direction is straight up if we start up wrong.

The evening was bedeviled by clouds and somebody far to the northwest with a search light. We had to hop from one thing to another. Yet it wasn't all bad. I took the class over to the Nature Center for a one hour session which lengthened to about twice that. Meanwhile Joe started the crowds of people on our most trustworthy partially cloudy sky target, the Moon. We had sizable lines queued up. The clouds kept the temperature gentle and we did not get great turbulence. Thin misty haze across Jupiter actually helped the contrast of the banding against the bright background. We could make our many details in multiple bands.

Early in the evening Saturn was only so so but as the evening worse on it became better and better. The banding in the south central latitudes was particularly vivid. I wondered if it was the Ring shadow but a little geometry convinced me that it couldn't be. Once the crowd had a chance to look a one Ring, it was time to look at another Ring - the Ring Nebula [M57]. We then went on to a series of deep space wonders the Dumbbell [M27], a globular cluster M15, and the Great Orion Nebula and the Trapezium [M42].

Just then at 10:05, a spectacular fireball raced across the sky. Everyone agreed that it was very bright with green and blue coloring. I was inside teaching at the time so I missed it but I wonder if we saw a piece of space debris falling. When parts of an old artificial satellite or a rocket casing falls, each metal or material glows its own special hue. With just green and blue, it could have been a stony iron meteor or it could have been a rocket casing.

We returned to viewing with Rigil and its companion. These are difficult binary stars to separate, not so much because they are close [they are not], but because they are so far away they seem close. We went after the stunning trio of open cluster M35, M36 and M37. M37 was stunningly beautiful. I love the golden orange star in its center with the great complex halo of blue stars. Magnificent!! M35 [also known as NGC2168] has a galaxy NGC2158 almost in its line of sight. In reality the galaxy is much farther away.

By now we were having serious problems with the clouds. For the two in training docents still around (Barry and Tom), we went through the shutdown procedures. They got to push levers and button in the correct manner and got to park the telescope so it would wake up happy next

We were leaving but we had an odd incident. Two fellows were in a pickup truck parked off to the side. We told them it was time to go and got a response we took for agreement. They never left. Joe and Dave went back, and told them it really was time to leave. They drove away from the Observatory but tried to park near the Monuments. Dave and Joe explained in the simplest terms possible. "Don't go away mad, just go away. We are locking the gate. You will be locked in. You will have to wake the policeman at the gate to get out. He will be very mad. You will be very sad. Go away now and be very glad you did." Since we are responsible to the Town for properly locking up we had no choice. Even if someone wants to stay for meteors or whatever, we have to be the last ones out.

I have a little quiz: In my 20 minute drive home which of the following conditions did I encounter.

A: Horizon to horizon clouds and mist

B: Horizon to horizon stars and planets

C: A rain storm

D: A snow squall

The answer is E: All of the above.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Nov 3, 2000
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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