Sunday, February 25, 2007

20070224 - filled with pleasure

Session name: 20070224.1710

After a hiatus from observing that included a getaway to Bermuda, I returned to TotL. When an observing session at TotL is not part of the week, the interval between sessions always feels like ages. Having been about two weeks, I had that feeling to shrug off.

I arrived earlier than usual with the Teleport. Sun was still up and people were still walking around. This scope grabs attention and that was my intent. I wanted to share sidewalk astronomy and this session turned out to be a real delight. Many passersby stopped during setup and after the cool down and throughout the night. Even before Charlie arrived around 8:30 at least two ~ three dozen people and families stopped. One gal summed it up when she asked us rhetorically if we were the astronomers, following it up saying that everybody knows you guys.

A small crowd assembled as we looked for Venus while Sun was still up. It takes two or three people to look up, squint, and point toward the sky. This is enough of a core to build a crowd. Actually the extended hand with the hang ten hand sign is marking off 21°. Only one other person and myself saw Venus when the Sun was above the trees, almost all saw her when Sun dropped below the tree line.

Early I showed off Moon & Venus. When Sun set and the brighter stars appeared on a darkening sky, I showed Saturn rising above the trees in the northeast. For most of the adults and children this is their first time looking in the scope.

Saturn looked very good with tonight's condition. At 180x, a lot of detail was observed including A, B, & C-rings, Cassini Division, banding across the planet, and the southern polar hood. What caught my attention was the shadow on the leading side of the planet (right in our reflector flipped fov). It isn't long after opposition which occurred on 10 Feb and the shadow is already noticeable.

Daniel, the young intern, stopped by my second time meeting him. He arrived when I was looking at M81 and M82 (SEDS M81 & M82) through my favorite eyepiece - Tele Vue Nagler 17mm T4 - with the Teleport. He wasn't impressed at all, lifting and dropping his shoulders with a "Eh". Daniel is a dark sky observer but he doesn't have his scope here.

I made a round with doubles and multiples spanning the sky from Aries to Leo when offering a survey of the sky to a young couple Fatima & Jesse. Nice group of folk. I gave them a standard tour of different object types that included a ringed planet, a bright, winter nebula, open clusters naked eye and in the scope and more.

Charlie, Kin, and Mark would arrive later on. This sessions celebrity came in the form of J. D. A. Wiseman, an author was passing by and remarked on the scope. J.D.A. doesn't escape what is common practice for Team TotL to remember the various people that pass. Just like Michelle the Librarian, Greg the Painter/Met Guard, Mark the Literary Agent, Hawaiian George, and the many, many others, J. D. A. became the Cambridge Mathematician. A volley of banter revealed he earned his Mathematics degree from Cambridge and he mentioned that he sat in on a few of Dr. Steven Hawking lectures. (And Mark has a story with Brian Greene, both of them are affiliated with Columbia Univ.)

The best line of the night without a doubt was: I suggest you drop the precious. I'd love to tell you the story about the line, but I'm afraid the humor is reserved for " had to be there."

Before we packed up Charlie and I observed a few objects in the spring sky. I hopped over to M3 which looked really good at 75x. At first glance this globular cluster is"crunchy" and when the eye relaxes on the object, stars partially resolve above the cluster and along the periphery. Its brightest concentration, wanting to call it center is actually off center. Charlie and I described the brightness profile slightly differently.

I made half hearted attempts which I abandoned on M65 & M66 and NGC2903, three galaxies in Leo. I didn't check charts and thought I could hop right on them but when I reached the fields and scanned the area I didn't see anything pop out. I ended moving on to the galaxy M94 in Canes Venatici. M94 was was very easy because its surface brightness is bright. In terms of size, the galaxy appeared as a smaller "fuzzy" than the globular M3 but lacked the stellar resolution except its nucleus.

One of my favorite monthly events occurred with Time's Up making their monthly Central Park midnight ride, led by Richard. Got admit it that I love when these folks stop by. And like the crescent moon events - it's a weather permitting meeting.

Time passed so quickly with the late Fall, Winter and early Spring skies passing over us. Team TotL and the many others that I met over the course of the session shared peeks and stories and questions and answers. It was pretty busy most of the night and I didn't log any notes of the session until now. I dropped by Charlie's blog to his post of this session for some reminders. But nights like these don't fade from memory so easy.

Some of the hyperlinks lead to Kiminori Ikebe's website. A terrific inventory of astrosketch and information of a number of DSOs. Well organized and the Japanese website is more up-to-date and interactive.

Other links lead to SEDS, another fantastic resource for the interested person.