The weather has been – what else? – snowy for the last couple of days, and when I trekked out to the observatory to pick up a wrench I left behind I was unpleasantly surprised to find snow inside. It had come in through the ventilation grill and also through the track opening. The grill I could understand since there is very little protection for it, but the track opening is 15 or 20 cm deep inside the roof. The wind must have been blowing horizontally to get the flakes inside. I’ll have to sweep it out before it melts in a day or two.
[much later] I waited to post this, hoping to have some observing to report. Apparently there was a brief period one morning when the sky cleared, but I was asleep by that point. Every other night – Every! Other! Night! – has been cloudy or showed clear so briefly as to be useless. But I’m not bitter….
Sleep may knit up the ravelled sleeve of care, but tonight I dropped the ball of wool. As I drove home from work the glow from the big ball of rock in the sky was clear and bright, but by the time I turned in to check on my mailbox the evening cloud cover was rolling in (the Cloud Gods are always watching for me!). I ate, looked out the window at the beautiful pink skyglow, and decided a nap was in order.
Four hours later I woke up to find the sky clear, and, after checking my mail and finding lots of comments about Machholz, I decided to step out and view the comet. Hmm. Western clouds, not visible from the kitchen window. Where’s the comet? South… and heading west.
Open the observatory, enter the position from the ephemerides, check the eyepiece. Nothing. I’m pointing south-east. Aargh – I must have banged the mount at some point last week, probably during the roll-off check, and the alignment is off. Shut down. Realign. Check M42 – it’s still there. Reenter comet position, go there, check eyepiece. Very nice chimney – and no hope of seeing the comet through the scope for the rest of the night.
Nothing was visible directly, so I moved on to other things. Saturn looked good, even cranked up to 238x with the 15 mm Plossl and the Powermate, but I’d left the new Radian in the house, and couldn’t compare the two views – which would have been at the same power otherwise. His Doggy Highness had discovered I wasn’t in the house and was scratching at the back door, so I declined the opportunity to go back inside the house and get the eyepiece. By this time I was getting cold anyway – though it was a balmy 3 below, I found my gloves inadequate after an hour or two – so I called it a night (after all, I had work next day).
Looking out the window around 4 am, the clouds had all rolled back, so I wasn’t missing much.
Last week’s snow melted, but, like poltergeists, it’s BAAAAAACK!
Despite this I managed to open up briefly, if only to confirm that the roll-off roof wasn’t blocked off by ice. It seems as though every time I give up on the night and go in, a few minutes or an hour of relatively clear sky develops – and I read about it afterwards on my local club mailing list. Nertz.
I picked up a Televue Radian 3mm eyepiece, but as usual the sky is not cooperating and I’m stuck waiting for a sucker hole (while I’m outside). So far, winter astronomy = armchair astronomy.
I hate snow. I have tried to like it. I have tried to force enjoyment into that first wet shock of snow, into that cold burst when the freezing slurry strikes your feet for the first time, but to no avail.
Snow is evil. It creeps insidiously inside your coat, destroying that warm bubble of air you have managed to create around you, slipping sloppily down the back of your neck as you struggle to remove the white foulness from your driveway. It stealthily covers up that veneer of ice which lurks at the bottom of your steps so that you stride forth confidently out in the morning only to segue into a pratfall which exposes you to the obloquy of the nations. Snow hides all the dirt-laden puddles under their fragile covers of ice so you can stand by the curb waiting for your bus happily unaware – until too late – of the potential soaking which lies dormant before you, needing only the slurruping whoosh of a wheel to be released.
I hate snow.