I have a life-long interest in the Moon, planets and stars. Nothing equals actually looking firsthand into the depths of the universe: it does away with the existential fear and loneliness which sometimes seem to overwhelm people. Besides general stargazing, I also adhere to a systematic program of watching for novae; that is, exploding stars. I presently have five areas in the sky which I monitor whenever possible. I have memorized the normal star patterns, and look for any changes. Send me a message if you might be interested in helping in such a search, or if you could help confirm any possible novae sightings.
Jupiter and Saturn were well-placed, as were many stellar showpieces. The Double Cluster in Perseus is a favourite. The multitudes of distant stars which constitute the Double Cluster sparkle and gleam with subtle colours in the telescope. I can imagine what it would be like to live on a planet within the cluster and have the sky illuminated by a thousand brilliant stars. How would such a sky affect the philosophies and religions of any indigenous civilizations?
I have a life-long interest in the Moon, planets and stars. Nothing equals actually looking firsthand into the depths of the universe: it does away with the existential fear and loneliness which sometimes seem to overwhelm people.
Besides general stargazing, I also adhere to a systematic program of watching for novae; that is, exploding stars. I presently have five areas in the sky which I monitor whenever possible. I have memorized the normal star patterns, and look for any changes. Send me a message if you might be interested in helping in such a search, or if you could help confirm any possible novae sightings.
October 29/98. Observed Saturn at 6:10 UTC . Very good 'seeing'. Nice views of crepe ring and bright equatorial zone. Five moons visible.
I have observed what seems to be an unusually large number of fireballs recently. Is this due to the extraordinarily clear skies? Has anyone else noticed a relative abundance of bright meteors this autumn?
November 28/98: Beautiful conjunction of Moon and Jupiter this evening. I also looked at Saturn and think I glimsped the planet's outermost ring as a thin dark line against the disk.
December 12/98: Cassiopeia is high overhead now. This is a rich constellation for those of us at northern latitudes. I have selected a star-field near Delta Cass to monitor for novae. Closeby is M103, a fine star cluster embedded with red suns. Eta Cass is a fine double in my telescope. Later in the night I swing the scope southward to view M42, the Great Orion Nebula, for the first time this year. This is a stellar birthplace, and the nebula itself - the stuff of stars - fills my eyepiece with glowing light.
Gemini is overhead also, and I'm thinking of watching U Geminorum for any changes.
December 23/99. 3:09 UTC. I observe star field near Delta Cass: no changes.
Passed the amateur's 'frost test' tonight. The observatory roof was frozen, and I had to work with bare hands to free it. Kept thinking how warm the stars really are.
January 14/99. Cloudy and cold conditions have made this month less favourable for observing. I'm looking forward to this year's opposition of Mars and also to the close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on February 23.
February 20/99. Finally a clear, moderate evening. Jupiter and Venus already make a fine sight in the western sky after sunset. On the 23rd they will appear to be within a half-degree of each other. This is less than the apparent diameter of the full moon. Hope for clear skies.
March 13/99. Well the close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus has come and gone. It was visible here through thin clouds. Several people remarked to me that the two planets were "satellites." The vast majority of people, however, were too distracted by the city lights to notice this celestial event.
Sometimes it seems as if the sky can magically claim our attention. Today I was involved in my work - nose to the grindstone, so to speak - when I happened to glance up and observe a fine display of sundogs around the Sun. Three small rainbows (east, south and north) framed the lowering Sun, and two fainter coincentric haloes of light encircled it. It was a sight of breath-taking beauty, silently presented. I wonder what it portends for the weather?
April 27/99. Mars is now visible in the southeast sky soon after twilight. Only now is the Red Planet rising high enough to be well imaged in my telescope.
May 8/99. I hope you're enjoying the appearance of Mars in the southeastern sky and Venus in the west after sunset...
I truly feel now that sometime in the not distant future humans will begin colonizing Mars. I can only hope that some of the lessons we learn there will temper our destructive qualities. Let Mars be a new beginning.
I would like to attempt to write an environmental manifesto relevant to Mars (and of course to Earth). Perhaps you have ideas to share?
September 10/99. The autumn observing season is upon us. Wasps have been taking over my observatory, but now they are too sleepy to notice when I intrude.
A highlight of autumn, 1999, is the simultaneous alignment of Jupiter and Saturn in the eastern sky.
November 7/99. I hope you have noticed the bright lights of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky. They are nice and high above the horizon this year. This elevation lifts them above the worst obscuring effects of Earth's atmosphere, and makes for steady views through a telescope.
December 11/99. Although the sky has been frequently cloudy this autumn, I've had several great views of the Giant Planets. Jupiter in particular is about the largest I've ever seen it. Even 50x magnification is enough to reveal much surface detail.
Well, I'm sure you're aware of the loss of the Mars Polar Lander. It's very frustrating to be denied the new knowledge and discoveries which the probe would have revealed. Especially coming so soon after the loss of the earlier Mars probes. Imagine, too, the disappointment of the scientists directly involved in these missions... your decade-long labour of love suddenly becomes a worthless junk pile.
But, how easily should we expect a new world, such as Mars, to give-up its secrets? In our technology-intensive spacefaring, we sometimes forget the true immensity of a planetary surface compared to the human scale. The task of beginning to explore this new world is awesome and immense...All the more tantalizing.
Personally, I believe we have no choice but to continue efforts to explore Mars. Our species is a restless one. A quick glimpse into our history shows us always outward-bound and seeking new horizons. Of course, much awaits discovery and attention on Earth (the depths of the oceans, for instance; or the unexplored corners of your own backyard). But we need the challenge of space. If our exploratory urges are denied, then our aggressive tendencies seem to increase, resulting in wars. What will it be, war or Mars??
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