[AZ-Observing] January 2012 observing report from the Antennas site

  • From: L Knauth <Knauth@xxxxxxx>
  • To: "az-observing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <az-observing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 22 Jan 2012 11:53:52 -0700

I joined the group at the Antennas last Thursday night and had a great time 
observing with the 25” until clouds rolled in around 11 pm.  The blue sky 
Friday morning looked like it was behind gauze. The Clear Sky Clocks looked 
butt-ugly through Saturday night, so I packed up, spent some time telling lies 
with Ken Naiff, Steve Coe, and Mike Wiles, and then drove home.  I think Lynn 
Blackburn was still there sacked out somewhere.  

So, it was a lot of effort for a few hours of observing.  Most memorable was 
NGC 750.  I was surprised to see 2 tiny discrete glowing blobs and figured this 
had to be a pair of colliding galaxies. I see today it is called the “dumbbell 
galaxy” together with NGC 751.  Both are ellipticals, which is apparently 
unusual for colliders. No dumbbell through the 25”; it was 2 separate galaxies 
for sure. 

I was really affected by the sight of this object and got put into a reverie.  
I was here witness to an eerily silent cataclysm of cosmic proportions 
unfolding at an inconceivably great distance with nothing between it and my 
soul.  Here in the tranquility of the dark-sky Arizona desert I was getting a 
freeze-frame of an upheaval that started long before humans appeared and will 
continue on long after we are gone.  A time interval where a freeze-frame is 
longer than the ice ages. I think I was so moved because a palpable sense of 
the immense time over which the universe evolves combined here simultaneously 
with the usual appreciation of the great distances that cause these blazing 
island universes to be such tiny little objects.  It became a human encounter 
with the vastnesses of both time and space that cannot be otherwise 
experienced. This alone was worth the whole trip cut short by clouds.

This lifelong passion to experience the universe with human eyes is lots of 
work, time-consuming, and expensive.  It is regularly frustrated by clouds, 
wind, turbulent atmosphere, fatigue, shoddy build quality of commercial 
telescopes, and relentless pressures to do other things more tangibly 
productive. But even brief encounters like this one continue to make it all 
deeply meaningful and worthwhile.  I'm already longing for the next New Moon.  
I know many of you feel exactly the same way.  

Videmus Stellae!!

Paul Knauth

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