Southern Skies
by Warren Kirbo

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(In 1969) I used to go down to Miraflores and help with the crowd who would come to the Observatory.  That was a really nice old refractor there (with a mechanical clock for guiding on the planets).  A foot wide slit in the dome's roof made it dark, but did little for the skyglow from all the the nearby lights. 

All I ever saw from there was Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars ... a few really nice close double stars and the JEWEL BOX cluster in Crux.  But, one of my most anticipated deep sky objects, one I had seen for years through my bedroom window, low in the south, a fuzzy, out-of-focus star, hanging just over the tree tops across the street from my south Georgia home's front yard:  The great globular cluster, Omega Centaurus's stars were too faint for my telescope.  Even from Miraflores, it could only be seen as a half-a-moon sized glow.  I did see my first satellite shadow transiting Jupiter from there.  I learned that I could see more moons swarming around Saturn than I could around closer-to-us Jupiter.  After a couple of visits I started taking my 4.25 inch Edmund Scientific, Co., Newtonian reflector on nights when there was sure to be a crowd.  It made the line that would form outside the building a bit more tolerable, and becaue I did not have to rotate a dome, I could show more than one or two objects a night. 

Being assigned to the 517th ADA at Clayton, taught me how to get to the tops of all the hills on the roads to Empire, Gold Hill and Gamboa, places where the sky was much darker.  The Milky Way showed from there with knots of stars and dust lanes and clusters my North American and British publications didn't list.  But still, the hundreds of thousands of 11-12th magnitude stars of Omega Centaurus (attached) still eluded my sight, but from there, the huge glowing cluster offered a few dozen of its brightest as points of light across its face when I averted your vision.  (Human eyes are far more sensitive to light and movement away from the center of your vision.)

I learned a lot about the southern Milky Way with that old Edmund (I still have it, it is my finder/photoguide scope on my 16 inch).  Now have an eight inch SCT and a 16 inch Newtonian, but because of northern location, the glories that run from Puppis, through Crux and Centaurus, to Scorpius are forever unseen; but they ARE missed.  From north or southern Florida, there is no ALPHA Centaurus  RIGEL KENT  or Southern Cross -- with its dark Coal Sack and Jewel Box. 

God ... for the time and the wheels to take the 16 inch "light bucket" for a ride out to Madden Lake ...  Even though I am not a Brat ...  I am even now, thirty years later, a bit homesick for their sky.

December 3, 1999

The linked photograph  is the exclusive property of the photographer.  Reproduction by any means is prohibited without the written permission of CZBrats

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