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Observation Report
Alexandra, New Zealand, Thursday, May 24, 2001

Southern Skies
by: Shneor Sherman

The day had been overcast from horizon to horizon all day, with constant rain in the afternoon. Magically, about 8:30 the sky cleared, and I headed up to the airport after dressing in my winter gear. Alan joined me just after my telescope was set up. But tonight, we spend some time looking at the Milky Way, as I had noticed a few interesting things.

The Coal Sack, adjacent to and northwest of Crux, is very apparent as an inky dark starless area of sky, quite large, about 3 or 4 degrees by two to three. Apparently radiating from there is another relatively faint arm of the Milky way, curving toward the North. The main arm of the Milky way bifurcates in Scorpius, and so it appears that three arms of the Milky Way are visible.

I spent some time showing Alan some galaxies in Virgo, after he identified Vendamatrix for me; seeing familiar constellations upside down still confuses the heck out of me. I panned through the bright, star-bejewelled Milky above, and we viewed some beautiful open clusters. I could not skip Eta Carina; the orange star near the end of the nebulosity is in a clear patch. Even though I have my Widescan II in the focuser, with a Paracorr, even though the true field was about 1.4 degrees, it's necessary to move the telescope around to see this huge nebula extending in many directions. We panned for awhile, and I did not take the time to put a filter in the eyepiece, just to see if it added anything. If tonight is reasonable, I'll try to remember to do that (though I cant really stay past midnight, as I'm leaving Alexandra tomorrow - a 5 or 6 hour drive to Christchurch. Hopefully, the roads will be open, as there was some snow yesterday.

We then moved to the LMC. The folks here have mainly looked at the showpiece objects - and who can blame them? But there's so much to see in the LMC, and we viewed about 25 objects in the LMC. Then Alan noticed the cloud coming up very fast from the South. Within a few minutes, we had decided to leave. I packed up and returned to my motel. The sky had become totally overcast. I stayed up unitl 2, checking the sky regularly, but the overcast remained. Wehn I awoke in the morning around 8:30, the sky was crystal clear. I hope it lasts for tonight.

The weather is very unseasonable...must be because I brought my telescope...This will very likely be my last post from New Zealand.

Clear skies,
Shneor Sherman

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