Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Stars Over The Gulf II

The first Laramie Star Party was a great success! Eleven Shipmates (including the Captain) joined me on the bow to view the Moon, Saturn and the International Space Station passage which just nicked the edge of Luna, making for a spectacular view through the eyepiece!

The skies were clear for the first few hours, and I'm especially impressed by the cooperation of the Skipper and Navigator, who shaped our course to keep the Moon and planets on the port beam (where masts and booms don't interfere with the view) and decreased speed so as to reduce vibration and improve the view through the telescope.

A good time was had by all, and I now have a "go" for future viewing sessions on a not-to-interfere basis with ship's operations. I'm already planning for the next one. I wonder how many of my crewmates have really LOOKED at the Milky Way...

Friday, September 7, 2018

Stars Over The Gulf I

Calm seas and beautiful skies; the dust storms that have masked the heavens for several weeks appear to have moved on. Last night I gathered a few Shipmates on the portside bridge-wing and took them on a naked-eye tour of the visible planets and Milky Way.

At these latitudes (about equal to those of southern Nicaragua or northern Costa Rica) we can see well down into Centaurus to the south while the familiar stars of Ursa Minor (including Polaris, the "north star") are lost in the summer haze to our north. Thus, the central bulge of our galaxy stands high and impressive in the inky sky.

Just a fantastic view!

Tonight--if the weather and seeing conditions hold--I'll take the Astroscan 'scope to my favorite observing location up forrard. I think it's time to introduce some of my friends here to a few deep-sky wonders.

Stay tuned!


Friday, August 10, 2018

In The Sweet Spot

Last night: I was already tired from a long day's work as I carried my Astroscan forward to the Sweet Spot beside the portside boat station--where the ship's engine and generator vibrations are damped-down by a happy coincidence of hull structures and cargo tank placement--and set up for a few hours of stargazing @ sea.

It was an absolutely beautiful night, with only a mild swell to move 'Laramie's hull, a light wind, and those clear, dark skies that can only be found hundreds of miles from the nearest streetlight or 7-Eleven. The kind of sky where the forms of familiar constellations become difficult to discern because of the multitudes of dimmer stars that seem to crowd them out and break up the patterns we grow accustomed to seeing in the heavens.

Seeing and transparency were excellent, and after acclimating my 'scope's optics to the warm, humid Mediterranean air I began to explore.

Open clusters, globulars, planetary nebulae and galaxies presented themselves for inspection; M51, 27, 31, 32, 110, the Coathangar, M13 and 92--all framed in my 40mm and 25mm eyepiece fields like precious jewels and minerals on display. Stars; Hershel's wonderful Garnet, the spooky duo of v (Nu)Draconis, Lyra's Double-Double and so many more...the time flew past as I drank in the light of distant stellar beacons. And as finale; the fuzzy apparition of Comet Giacobini-Zinner, traveling through Cassiopeia, a distinctly elongated blur in my optics.

And, just like that, four hours had passed. If I was tired when I toted my 'scope up to the bows, then I was reeling with exhaustion as I began the climb back to my stateroom and bunk. But I was also drunk with starlight, overpowered by Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, stunned by the vistas revealed by my little telescope as the ship carries me across the surface of the sea and beneath the stars.

Immensities below, infinities above...the word and concept of awe seem to lack sufficient depth and power. To feel the rumble of the engines, hear the rush of water down the sides and the occasional splash of an escorting dolphin, to drink in great draughts of wonder from above...THIS is why I do what I do, and this is why I cannot imagine ever stopping.

 I really do have the best job in the world.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday, July 22, 2018

f-stop: Sharing The Skies

The 8-day-old Gibbous Moon

Another very nice evening of "sidewalking" on the shore at Marathi; I had two dozen members-of-the-public join me to explore Luna, Jupiter, Saturn and double star Albireo. The little Mak is getting quite a work-out on this deployment, but the time for a rest is not yet here--we have the lunar eclipse coming up on the evening of the 27th, after all!

This, for me, is what it's all about. I don't go to the effort of toting a telescope on these cruises in hopes of carrying-out observations of galaxies or comets. (There is usually far too much light pollution in port areas and cities I visit for "serious" observing) I bring the optics along in order to share the planets and Moon with people I meet along the way.

This is a large part of my enjoyment and love of astronomy; the act of introducing strangers to the greater Universe around them is just as powerful and rewarding an experience as exploring the skies alone. I like--need--to share this sense of wonder with others. Call it Tom's addiction.

Photo: crewmembers from Spanish frigate 'Numancia'--our neighbors on the next pier over--join me to enjoy the satellites and cloud bands of Jupiter. Next stop--Saturn!

'Jupiter' es 'Yupiter' en EspaƱola!