Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Valentine's Day

I owe a whole slew of posts and I am going to do them in chronological order. First up is Valentine's Day.

I love this "holiday." Its fun to plan for and if you plan well there is a good payoff (compliments and the like). I usually go all out for it too and this year was no exception.

I started with the typical box of chocolates, but I bought them from a local candy shop named "The Candy Lady." These chocolates are delicious. I bought a randomly assorted box where I picked out the chocolates I desired. I also bought some dog treats for Keira as well.

Then late one night I waited for Stef to go to sleep so I can make the clay sculpture I wrote about a few posts ago. She woke up that night and to cover it up I turned all the lights off and ended up just creeping her out. I explained everything to her on V-day itself.

On Valentine's Day itself I gave her her present and the chocolates and she gave me a BAG full of Reese's hearts and one giant Reese's heart. I also received a giant Hershey's Kiss. After we exchanged gifts we headed to the store to purchase groceries in preparation for the evening.

Returning from the store, I began to make dinner. I prepared a crab and avocado salad and sea scallops with a mango salsa. For dessert Matt, Stef's roommate, made us some chocolate covered strawberries so we brought those with us. We packed up all the food and headed off.

I planned out a picnic for after sunset so that we may also go observing. We drove out to the Oak Flats (South East of ABQ) to find a nice dark and secluded area. Getting there was a trip. All the signs were super tiny and driving at over 40mph makes reading them extremely difficult. Add the fact that it is really dark and it becomes near impossible. I ended up driving past the picnic area where we wanted to be, and had to u-turn and drive incredibly slow on the return trip just to find it.

When we arrived at the picnic area, it turned out to be closed. Apparently in New Mexico, parks are closed during the winter. Apparently in New Mexico winter lasts until May 1. We decided to just stay by the entrance of the park (there was plenty of space and no traffic because it was slightly off the main road) and set the telescope up there. After setting up we ate the nicely prepared dinner, and then began observing.

Stef has a four inch telescope which is small as far as amateur observing goes, but is still pretty good. In previous observing instances we have seen Jupiter, it's moons, Mars, Saturn, the Pleiades, and the Ring Nebula to name a few. There have been a few deep field objects that I have been hoping to see (deep field is anything in the sky not a star like neighboring galaxies), and this night was the perfect opportunity.

First up was the Orion Nebula. After spotting that we saw an object that we thought was Jupiter but turned out to be Venus in crescent phase. We then started looking for some other deep field objects the Andromeda galaxy, the Pinwheel galaxy, and the Whirlpool galaxy. While we didn't find either the pinwheel or the whirlpool galaxies, we did catch a nice surprise... Saturn and its beautiful rings (and some moons).

I was a little disappointed we couldn't find the last two objects, but it was cold and starting to get a little creepy out. We packed it in and headed home after a fun night of food and science.

Update: I just discovered that we really had no chance of spotting the whirlpool galalxy. One of the images on google image search is extremely small and taken with a telescope bigger than Stef's. Time to get a bigger telescope!

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