Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Retro-Blog; 29 August 2009 NEFAS Public Observations


When Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon I was in Louisville, Texas sitting on my Grandmothers lap. This is the Grandmother that crossed the Red River in a covered wagon. It is her legacy, and that of her people that has prompted such wanderlust and starry dreams.

This is the first blog where I am passing on my observations and research, but I am finding that looking towards the skies is only part of the party. NEFAS was there for a purpose and that has as much relevance to my astronomical pursuits as the actual astronomy and I choose to include them as part of my science.

After that there will be my obligatory flight of fancy….


Statler and Waldorf live! Straight from the Muppets into a parking lot at Hannah Park for the public observation sessions. Dennis and Don are fellow astronomers and NEFAS members who helped me set up my telescope and gave me a lot of laughs! I have inestimable gratitude for their help, else frustration would have ended things pretty quick. They are funny, extremely knowledgeable, and played off of each other like a seasoned duo! They had me cracking up the whole time. Especially when they referred to their wives, who were lovely ladies sitting on comfortable chairs, as a couple of chicks we picked up off of the street.

It may be serendipity that lead me to this moment as I have been listening to a lot of Bob Marley and the Wailers, plus a whole host of other reggae talents. I have to warn you if you fall asleep listening to Nappy Dread in the headphones…. Man you are in for some funky ass dreamin’!!!

The motto of the Virginia Air and Space Center is “From the sea to the Stars.” and that is just as appropriate for here. The public observations are an outreach program geared towards stimulating interest in the science of astronomy and is held at the Hannah Park State Park, lot #8, right on the beach. Clean salt air Mon… sorry about that… and the lap of waves while pursuing astronomical investigation! Not a more appropriate quote to look upward, really upwards in and for a very long time.

I have always felt that for any organization to survive it has to promulgate itself some how. In the scope of the Astronomical League the Outreach Chair Dr. Mike Reynolds states that, “Outreach is paramount to the survival of our hobby.” If there is one thing I am good at is talking to complete strangers.

The whole time my favorite Muppet characters are helping me out I kept saying let’s point it at the Moon! Let’s point it at the Moon!!! Well I did after I figured out how to center the secondary mirror. And I stayed there all night as my fellows were directing theirs towards Jupiter, Saturn, stars, and nebulas. So I had the moon covered for NEFAS and took great delight in sharing some eye piece time with the public. Particularly the children.

They all asked what my name was. I’d say Buzz. Then they would reply Lightyear! Grin… I knew that was coming. So there they were with Buzz Lightyear looking at the stars. Part of me is hoping that was the sitting on my Grandmothers lap moment or them.

But the next time I will have the tripod lower and a step stool for them to stand on. I was there for them and not me.


To conduct my observations I was using a Bushnell, NorthStar model three-inch reflector mirror telescope with a 114mm focal length and viewing it through a 20mm lens. I got the telescope at K-Mart years ago.

The times of the observation were from approximately 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

The moon was at 72.05% illumination and was waxing gibbous.

These were my two significant observations for the night. Lacking a chart or map of my own I created my own geography, well selenography, for one feature jumped out at me, and the other I had an inspired purpose for. After the fact I have researched the real names and other significant data, but I am stiff referring to these objects by the names I gave them, the Lighthouse, and Luna’s Crater.

Palus Somni (The Lighthouse) jumped out at me as the very first thing I thought when I saw it was “There is a lighthouse on the moon.” It is a plain on the northeast side of the Mare Tranquillitatis, close to Mare Chisium. There is a point, a very distinct point of light that had two”rays” running approximately 165 degrees northwest and near southeast or it’s origin. Palus Somni has a higher albedo than the rest of that plain.

I could cheat this out a little more and find out if it is a mountain ridge or a lip of a crater, but I am saving that for future research. All in all it has to be some kind of reflectivity coming off of the landscape, but then again I don’t know because the rays were pretty straight.

The selenographic coordinates: 14.1 degrees North, 45.0 degrees East

Albategnius Crater (Luna’s Crater) did not jump out at me as I had decided I was going to name a crater after my friend Allison. I wanted something unique that I could quite frankly find later to show her. Albategnius is slightly out of round and had a dimple. That dimple I find out is actually another impact crater called Klein.

Selenographic coordinates: 11.2 degrees South, 4.1 degrees East.

Diameter: 129 km.

Depth: 4.4 km


So I texted my friend Allison to let her know I just named a crater after her. Allison has a special connection to the moon much like I do and I wanted to do something nice for her. So I let her know. Much texting later she calls and we get to talking.

We have our Steampunk Beach party in September, and that was discussed in between bouts of “Wow” from me looking at the moon, she pausing long enough to say “that is so cool!” and then go back telling me about this neo-Victorian bikini she is making…. So the train of thought went like this…

Allison is making a bikini, and I am at the beach. I am at the beach looking through the telescope. The telescope is looking at the moon. Then I am suddenly hearing One Love/People Get Ready and imagining a beach party on a distant shore.

Jeez… Real astronomers are going to hate me.

1 comment:

  1. Correction: Statler and Waldof are Dennis and David, not Dennis and Don.