Monday, October 30, 2006

The Comet, The Moon, and Mrs. Sherman

As we sat in our living room having a Sunday picnic, we could see out the window to the south a low hanging first quarter Moon. It looked like the terminator was drawn right down the exact middle. I looked to the wife, gave her the look, and then packed the grab-n-go bag.

In a short time, I arrived at the statues at the mouth of Central Park, 59th & 6th and setup the tripod and Tak bins. While there I decided to look for Comet 2006 M4 (SWAN). From this location, it is awfully bright from the street lamps and passing cars. Initially, I had to hop into Hercules by starting at Vega out to gamma- & Beta Draco, the two brightest stars of the head (Lozenge). Back down to zeta- & pi Hercules. As I sighted down the Tak tube to align the bins with zeta, I landed on Comet 2006 M4 (SWAN). It was obvious as a moderately bright condensation. Form my location in all the lights, I compared its brightness with M13 and say that it was slightly brighter M13 judged by the ease of detecting it. Its difficult to say if one was larger than the other as I made no notes of this.

I moved the tripod more west into the middle of the feeder street. From where I stood, I could look straight down 6th Ave., also called the Avenue of the Americas. It's an uptown avenue meaning that traffic flows uptown. From behind the police barricades, I set up the tripod in the middle of the park entrance street with headlights coming straight at me. At an azimuth of around 213°, I can see First Quarter Moon down the Avenue of the Americas. I stood and sketched Moon while it crossed the street occasionally catching some glances but no one stopped.

Until a woman passed by with what looked to me like the skeleton of a two story Lazy Susan, who I'll call Mrs. Sherman. With a chrome stem and base plate, Mrs. Sherman, thinks possibly otherwise. Her husband is an artist and she thinks that between the two of them they'll come up with an idea for it. Otherwise, back into the bins. As Mrs. Sherman was passing with Lazy Susan in hand, we made some eye contact and lonely as the sidewalk astronomer, I invited her for a look at Luna. She came over and took some peeks through the bins. I described some of what we saw and referred to the sketch once in a while to get our bearings. It turns out we spoke for a good period of time and looked at the sky naked eye with limited success.

We walked a short distance from our things to get a better view of Perseus who was obstructed by the trees. We spoke briefly of mythology that exists in that part of the sky. Mean while, the Lazy Susan stood at the foot of the tripod-mounted binoculars. While talking with one another we took turns looking at our stuff, making sure that no one would walk off with any of it.

clipping of Moon from Virtual Moon AtlasMoon was spectacular as she usually is. Archimedes served as a landmark for the terminator in Mare Imbrium. The mountain ranges, Appenines, Caucasus, and Alps rose majestically, easily rivaling the Rocky Mountains in emotion. There shadows black to the west help in creating more depth of field. A lone mountain peak sitting on the floor of Mare Imbrium, Mt. Piton, casts its black, pointed shadow to the west. It reinforces that it's morning here on the Moon and the Sun is rising. Over the next couple of nights, we will see this and the other shadows east diminish in size. The southern hemisphere is bombarded with craters, too many for me to sketch convincingly or with any realistic likeness. I stick with just getting the proportions of mare, their relative shades, and positions.

In the end, Mrs. Sherman and I exchanged our names and wished each other well. It was the end of the day and a good one at that. I was happy to have gotten my first sight of the comet with little effort, kick around on Moon, and pass some the time with Mrs. Sherman. There are only so many first quarter moons, or equivalently trips around the Sun, so the more people I meet and the more joy that people can gain from intersecting with an amateur astronomer, it makes those small arcs of the orbit that much more worthwhile.