Sam WHITBY #211

Letters to the Editor

from Sam WHITBY in CMO #211

@. . . . . Attached you will find a gif image of my first drawing for the present apparition. The drawing was made on Dec 15 at 11:20 UT. I used my 15 cm Newtonian at 310 X. The seeing was fairly good, 7 on the ALPO scale, and the transparency was 5. The CM was 73 deg. Ls was 70. De was 23. The ang. diameter of Mars was 5.6. The sketch shows Mare Acidalium as darker on its following edge. There was dark mare on the southern edge of the disc. The NPC had a dark boundary and was sharply delineated, with no sign of a hood. There were vaguely brighter areas, Chryse and Tharsis, but I would not over-interpret these as definite indications of dust or water clouds. Mars image was very small, especially for my telescope, and everything drawn except the cap was very hard to see.
  I am sorry to take so long to send this first poor effort to you. This is a very busy time of year, and for a couple of days our server was down. On another day I was sick in bed with a stomach virus or bacterium. I will make hard copies and get them to you later.
(22 Dec 1998 email)

@. . . . . Thank you for the news of CMO 210. I will be looking forward to all 20 pages. The photos of the meteor and its train are spectacular. There is a story to be told about a spectacular meteor train, but that story will have to wait for another time.
  Our Tyler has had another severe asthma attack, this time without pneumonia, and he is in the hospital tonight. His condition had much improved by the time that I had to leave him late this afternoon. He will almost surely be well enough to be home by Christmas Eve. His mother is spending the night with him. We are in the midst of a very nasty winter storm, and I left the hospital in order to prepare to try to make it to work tomorrow. The road is very slick from freezing rain and sleet. It is probably the worst driving condition that I have seen in 20 or more years. The ground is white, but it is the white of sleet. My hope is that snow will fall before morning, enough snow to provide more traction than the ice has now.
  Anyway, in spite of all the worries, I am glad to hear from my friend in Japan. I think we will overcome these worries and have a fine Christmas after all.
  I am very pleased that you numbered Colleen among those greeted. She is with her mother again this Christmas and is very much missed here. I will tell her that you mentioned her, and she will be pleased to be counted among us in spirit at least.

  Merry Christmas to you and your family and our colleagues of the CMO,

(23 Dec 1998 email)

@. . . . . Our little Tyler was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon, and he seems to be doing much better. He will have to receive asthma treatment regularly from now on. This will complicate all our plans, but we are glad that treatment is available. The ice storm was the worst in a long time. According to the newspaper, about 300, 000 people, including my family, were without electricity due to power lines being down. Chesterfield, Petersburg, Hopewell, and Prince George were all without electricity. My parents, 80 miles from here, also were without power. We spent the night with Uta's parents, for they had a gas heater that did not require electricity. For light we used candles. Electric service was restored this afternoon, after being disrupted for about 36 hours. Trees are broken down all over the area. The top fell out of one of our maple trees, barely missing our house.
  I worked Christmas Eve and even got to work early, in spite of the slick road. When the watch commander heard that my son was ill, he called me and told me to lock down my unit and go home. I told him that I had come to keep somebody else from having to work for me and in order that my boys, who have behaved very well lately, would not have to be locked down, and I did not need to go home, for Uta was with Tyler. The watch commander then closed my unit down and dispersed my boys so they would not have to be locked down. Then he told me to go home. As I left, he told me not to come in today, that he would make do without me. Another sergeant said that he would work in my place if necessary. I should be with my family. I am telling this story as evidence that, even in this materialistic country, there are some kindhearted people who will help others.

  All in all, this has been a Christmas that we will remember for a long time.

(25 Dec 1998 email)

@. . . . . The Whitby family would like to wish our friends of the CMO a very happy new year.

  Since Christmas about 300,000 of our fellow Virginians have experienced at least some time without electricity. In this region of the US about 900,000 altogether have been affected. Yesterday we had about an inch of snow. Now, just as most people have had their power restored, another severe storm is on the way. It is expected to arrive tomorrow afternoon, bringing more sleet and freezing rain. I do not have to work today.
  Tomorrow I must work, and I plan to take clothing in order to spend the night if the road is too slick to drive home. By Monday, when my family must be on the road, the worst should be over.
  We are grateful to be alive and well, and, on that note, I will leave you and save my tirade about Clinton, etc. for next time.

(1 Jan 1999 email)

@. . . . . Thank you for CMO 210, which arrived yesterday. It is good to see that Mars is being actively observed around the world.
  The ice storm that we feared last week end did not arrive in the expected form. There was about an inch of snow early Saturday morning, followed by a clear and painfully cold day. That evening, when the freezing rain was expected, the weather suddenly turned warm, and we had heavy rain and high winds, with thunder and lightening. The wind was loud enough to wake Tyler and me, and it was scary enough to make it hard to go back to sleep. Electric service has been restored. There are piles of limbs and branches in yards and on the edge of the road. It will take a while for them all to be cleaned up and taken away. Just for the record, David said this morning that the ice storm made this Christmas the most fun ever. Kids have their own perspectives on things. David is continuing to teach himself Japanese. I have encouraged him to write you a message, but he is not sure enough of his skill to try. Do not be shocked if you soon get a message from me translated into Japanese by my son. This morning, with the temperature at 9 degrees F., I observed Mars and made a sketch which is attached. The sketch was made at 12:00 UT on January 6,1999, . . . . . The disc diameter was 6.5. As is usual for me, not many details are shown. The mare on the south were difficult. There was vague, amorphous darkening toward the center of the disc, evidently due to its being relatively clearer than the hazy limb. On the northwest limb there was a much brighter patch, almost as bright as the NPC itself. The NPC had a dusky border. It is worth noting that I began observing at 11:20, when, due to tube currents and poor seeing I did not make a sketch. At that time I noted a dark and easily visible collar to the NPC, and I was somewhat surprised not to be able to see it at 12:00.
  I will make a hard copy of the sketch and mail it to you when I have several more sketches to send.

(6 Jan 1999 email)

@. . . . . P.S. to previous message: the sketch attempted to give a white light view. I did observe with blue (80A) and orange (21) filters. The amorphous darkening was accentuated in blue, while the southern maria were de-emphasized. In orange the bright patch on the northwest limb was very strong. This latter fact would lead one to suspect, but would not prove, the presence of dust. We will have to keep an eye out for obscuration and movement.

(6 Jan 1999 email)

@. . . . . I scanned the image that you requested and attached it to this message. There was a great temptation to go to work with an artist's stump and smooth out some of the imperfections, but it seemed wrong to work on the drawing at this late date. What you see here is the scanned image of the drawing just as I found it.
  There are some other blue light drawings of mine that show anomolies that may be due to clear areas over the Martian desert. Right now I am busy, but I will look through the drawings later and see what can be found.
  We have continued to have variations in the weather: clear, rainy, snowy, cold, warm, you name it, never a dull moment. At least there have not yet been more severe ice storms. Virginia Power revised its estimate of people without power in our area up to around 400,000.
  You seem to have guessed that David's interest in Japanese is grounded in his interest in Japanese cartoons. He is a big fan of anything to do with Anime, and his interest has expanded to almost anything to do with Japanese culture. We are very proud of that young man.

(9 Jan 1999 email)

@. . . . . We are expecting more freezing rain this coming Thursday. Today it is warm enough to go outside in short sleeves.
  My collard and kale plants have survived repeatedly being encased in the frozen rain. They have been damaged, but they are still alive. I may go ahead and cut them down, leaving a few to provide seeds for the spring.
  My work hours have not yet changed, which is regrettable. When they changed about a year ago, several new people came onboard because they could arrange day care for their children. Changing back will be very hard on them, for there is no day care available at 5 in the morning.
  The change back to the early hours has been delayed in order to give the people with day care problems more time to make adjustments. Some people who have worked mornings will now have to work evenings. Some may even have to find new jobs. At least my employer is trying to be flexible and helpful. As things stand now, we will make the change on February 14, Valentines Day. That may still leave me some time to observe in the morning.
  Today the first flowers of 1999 are starting to open in the front yard, snow drops, appropriately named.
  Separately, I will forward to you some mail from a cousin of mine, which gives a site with information about a so-called UFO sighting that occurred over 30 years ago near where I grew up. I visited the place only days after a flying saucer supposedly took off there. About five years after the incident a co-worker confided an account of what really happened. He said that some local men had wanted to scare away an African-American family planning to move into that area. They blew up a tank of propane gas that they had left in the road. Mr. Crowder, not the person they hoped to scare, saw the explosion, and his imagination created the UFO. Even 30 years ago in the South, doing something like trying to scare away a potential neighbor was not socially acceptable, so the men could not come forward and admit their prank. The alleged flying saucer landing even made the national news for awhile. By the time the truth found its way to my ears, I suppose everybody else had already figured out what had happened. If this old news is interesting to you, fine; if not, also fine.

(12 Jan 1999 email)

Samuel WHITBY ( VA, USA ) :