Cold night at IHOP

by Randy Muller

DDK wrote:
You know why that wasn't enough, 'cause our record cold this weekend was too bloody cold to be outside.

It was a beautiful night. The Milky Way was crisp and detailed.

The transparency was spectacular and the seeing ranged from "extremely poor" to "merely bad".

But I was inadequately prepared, although I've been prepared for everything I've encountered so far in 7 years. This time it wasn't enough.

If I had nothing to do to improve my preparation, I'd agree with you.

Actually, however, I can improve my preparation. So, I think I will.

One problem I had last night was that the ink refused to flow in my pens. The solution is to bring "emergency pencils". No big whoop, but it would have changed things significantly for me.

Another problem was cold legs. I only had two layers on my legs. I can add one or two more, starting with improved pants.

Because there are a few things that could have helped me survive it, more of the evening could have been salvaged for me, and I could have gone longer.

A number of us observed an interesting satellite re-entry. I don't recall the exact time, but it was relatively early in the evening, and 7:30pm sounds about right.

My attention to it was drawn by Jim, who started hooting and hollering excitedly and saying "Look in the south! Look in the south!" and "there's two pieces!"

What I saw (which was relatively late in the apparition) was a somewhat bright white satellite which had passed almost directly overhead on a NNW-SSE trajectory, and was now in the SSE about 50 degrees up. A "large" distance behind it (perhaps 10 or 20 degrees) was a contrail that appeared faint bluish. The contrail did not seem that prominent to me.

By this time it was not particularly easy to see, and others were asking where to look, so I kept saying "Look in the south-east!"

I don't have my directions at IHOP2 down yet, and where I think the south is is actually somewhat southwest. So the object was actually more southerly than what I thought at the time.

I was browsing the TAC South Yahoo group, and noticed that some people down there saw it as well, and that it was really breaking up by that time.

Right before I left, I looked at the Trapezium and saw four bloated stars, but eventually the other two came out as the seeing improved over a span of a minute or two.

But the seeing can't be too terrible when I can see 6 stars in the Trap. But I needed 226x. On nights with better seeing, I've needed a lot less, down to 133x with my 18".