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The Webfooted Astronomer - September 2000


Table Mountain Reflections

By Norman Whitley

I'M sure there will be much more scientific reports than I can present, but to my mind this year's Table Mountain Star Party was a successful event, more than making up for last year's dismal weather-driven event. Monday, I believe, was clouded out. I arrived Tuesday afternoon and, although the seeing was good that night, it was with a temperature of 37 degrees and a 20 m.p.h. wind, which was conducive to retiring early to one's tent.

Wednesday night was another cloudy night although there was a break around midnight that allowed a short period of viewing.

Thursday was spectacular, particularly the Aurora Borealis display that started at 1:40 a.m. At its height, the spikes and pinnacles of light stretched in an unbroken arc from about the middle of the bowl of the Big Dipper around to a point between Jupiter and Saturn, and reached almost as high as the Pleiades at one time.

Friday was again spectacular, and although the Northern Lights (quite a bit earlier on this night) were not quite as widespread, I heard some say they thought them even more vivid than the previous night's display. Saturday was again another good night's viewing, but without the Aurora.

After TMSP I saw one of Jerry West's photos that showed the Auroral spikes reaching up well past the Pleiades. I'm not sure whether his camera captured more light than I actually saw or the picture was taken on the second night of the lights. Either way, it was two nights of absolutely stunning displays. I spoke to one gentleman from Oregon who said the lights alone had made his trip more than worthwhile.

And now for an incredibly intriguing coincidence ... On Sunday morning, contemplating with some loathing the prospect of taking down my tent and packing everything into my car, I thought I would procrastinate by first visiting Jerry West's camp site to verify that he had, as promised, shaved before leaving the mountain. He was indeed clean-shaven (for once) but what's more was talking to a gentleman with a parrot on his shoulder. Gentlemen with parrots on their shoulder are not all that common at TMSP, I've noticed, so some friendly parrot talk necessarily ensued. After that, we went our separate ways, and I tackled that which could no longer be put off.

Upon returning to civilization on Monday, I attended to mundane matters. I had occasion to seek out an interview over some property matters with a city official, whom I'd not previously met, in a town to the south of Seattle. I was astonished when the official asked whether I recognized him as the man with the parrot on his shoulder the previous day at TMSP. What can such a remarkable coincidence mean, do you think? There has to be some profound meaning to it, surely? Should I buy a lottery ticket, or what?

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