Monday, November 24, 2003

Jupiter shadow transit, meteors and more

We witnessed a mind-boggling shadow transit on Jupiter Saturday night. As the moon was approaching the preceeding limb, it sat just behind its own shadow. The shadow, inky black, was a wonderful contrast with the little moon's disk. Still, the disk of the moon was so well defined, a dark limb was obvious on it, a rather reddish color. The moon looked like a globe, instead of just white spot. Never saw that amount of detail before. The GRS was also obvious, and significantly redder than last year.

As for LSA itself, Saturday was the better of the two, but still some dewing (blow driers were the music of the night), although my scope didn't get much dew at all. I was in Cass, Perseus and Lynx for most of the nights. One surprise object found by Steve S and Jim T, where I was at first very skeptical, was IC443 in Gemini. After aquiring it in Steve's 12.5" NGT, I put my 18" (with OIII) on it, and sure enough, this previously elusive supernova remnant was visible, at least one thick streamer.

A few meteors was worth noting as well, one already mentioned on list. At a sharp decending angle in the west a very bright shooter fell to the horizon, illuminating the entire landscape around us. We thought it was an ordinance from Fort Hunter Liggett for a moment. One on the spot mag estimate was -8. Late at night I was facing east talking with other observers and a meteor began literally screaming across the easter horizon, no more than 20 degrees up. It had a bright head and trail that reminded me of Comet Hyakutake.... very very long and bright tail. Really, really awesome. Afterwards, I estimated it travelled about 90 degrees across the horizon with a good 30 degree trail.

Plenty of other neat stuff to report, but that will have to wait for another night.

Saturday, November 1, 2003


There are no astronomical objects described in this report. But what a night!

Sometimes it is best to just trust instinct. Last night is a perfect example.

Despite a first quarter moon that would not set until after midnight, I let instinct guide me and drove to Henry Coe State Park. The clear sky clock for Coe unbelievably suggested a clearing between sundown and dawn... that would be near perfect. And it was. With winter's approach I did not want to lose such rare opportunity. When you get them, grab them. I was lucky... I should trust instincts more.

It was relaxed. As the sky darkened I enjoyed a slow dinner augmented by some Shirraz, then opened The Night Sky Observers Guide to Perseus. There was no rush. Broken clouds overhead slowly thinned and passed. I was thoroughly enjoying a view, sounds, aromas, and a sky that combined to make this cool fall evening spectacular... if I could save it to relive it, I would do so many times. But at least I keep it in my head.

It is easy to become compulsive, pushing, rushing, checking off a list too quickly without savoring it. I no longer rush things. What I logged was inconsequential, I've stopped counting. Occasionally we have a renewal of spirit, our desire rekindles, even ignites, and the experience take on greater significance. I consider myself fortunate, for me this was such a rare night.

How rare? I was surprised by dawn. Astonished. It seems forever since I had a night like that.

The clear sky clock had been right, the window began closing... clouding over from the north shortly after sunrise, winter was returning. I looked again at the incredible view, at the light haze in the valleys, golds and reds of the trees... beauty in my eyes, then stepped into my truck and headed home. Nearing the freeway I found myself looking in the rear view mirror, reflecting, back to the night, and smiled.

I could not ask for more. Coe was near perfect. I hope you all can have a night like mine. I followed my instinct, I'm glad I did.