Big scope, little scope (4/4/2015)

Big scope, little scope (4/4/2015)

fter texmex with my old NASA buddy Mike and his lovely daughter Tara, we caught up with his wife and then went over to Eastern Florida State College Friday – they have a great observatory and we got a chance to check it out. The sky was clear, and on the rooftop outside the dome we chatted with one of the staffers and picked out the constellations. Also caught a satellite with the naked eye – cool to see it arching past.

Anyway, the dome was very impressive. Big scope pointing out to the slit, and unlike other big scopes, these guys were more than happy to go touring. Got to see the moon so very close, Jupiter, and the Orion Nebula – all at about 200X+ (as opposed to my desperately shaky 120X). Anyway, really really cool.

So that was Friday. Saturday there was an eclipse – for those of us on the east coast, we’d be catching it between dawn and treeline, not the best window. We woke up early and drove over to Fashion Square Mall with my FedEx scope, a puny (but easily transportable) 35x. Set up on the parking deck roof and waited, reading the morning paper and occasionally scoping the moon.

I can see why ancient people freaked out when this happened. One moment it was hanging there, all full and fine, the next, a sinister corruption began. I tracked it across Oceanus Procellarum, sliding across the oranging landscape. Seeing that, one can imagine the some sleepy astronomer-apprentice night-watch Babylonians atop their ziggurat, blinking as the new phenomena unfolded, sending their youngest to “fetch the masters”. As we watched the eclipse, the first flights of a nearby crow roost were launching, with groupings of 3-6 birds croaking past us – this took me back to my Indigo days. Interesting when two hobbies intersect.

So a good night on the roof. Now I’ll go check the sheep entrails for portents.