Monday, August 14, 2000

chasing Venus at Awenda

Looking over Georgian Bay at 2100h I chased Venus. Thought it was too low, too cloudy. But I got it! Lots of distortion from being so low on the horizon: the air variations would sometimes split it into separate red, yellow, and green images. The Psion palmtop Procyon program proved useful. It showed Venus a few degrees above the horizon so I knew it hadn't set...

The kids (Steve, Sam, Ben) and adults (Cam, Melissa, Heidi) joined us at one point so I felt some pressure to show them something impressive... And Venus was already down...

So I went for Messier 57 (M57), the Ring Nebula. And I found it! I had the telescope well aligned.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping
Initially, Lisa aligned it to magnetic north (with my old finicky compass). I remembered this evening to set the latitude of the mount for Awenda (45° 40'). Then I ballparked Polaris through the mount scope. Then I locked into a nearby star in Lyra and looked up the coordinates in my Epoch 2000 atlas (it was very accurate, within ½ a degree). Then I realigned to M57. Fine tuned with the axis controls and saw a faint greyish ring-like smudge. Very faint. I showed the kids (and adults). Steve could see it.

We tried a bit later and as it darkened it improved slightly in definition.

Later again it was fainter--perhaps due to moonglow (nearly full) and dew.

Lisa whispered I should go for something easier to see for the benefit of the younger kids. Good idea. So I tried to reel in Messier 51 (M51), the Whirlpool, and then M101/102 (Messier 101, Messier 102), to no avail.

One of the kids said, "What about that?" pointed to Arcturus, in Bo├Âtes. I said stars are boring through the 'scope but we went for it and enjoyed the yellow colour.

Double stars were mentioned and I knew there was a good one in Ursa Major—somewhere. Melissa or Heidi was describing it to one of the boys, I eavesdropped, and followed her directions to the second star in from the end of the handle (of the Big Dipper). A nice double star. Steve called it "sweet." [ed: Mizar and Alcor.]

Need a step-stool for kids! Something collapsible?

Lots of dew! My camera and papers were soaked!

Persistent mosquitos.

Lisa and I watched the zenith sky lying on our backs on the benches. It was very nice. The telescope was silhouetted against the sky—handsome. We saw the moon rise through the trees..


Later, Lisa and I drove to Kettle's Lake—probably around 10:30. Luna was glorious over the lake. Incredible indigos and midnight blues! Mist rising, turning to fog. Loons haunted us. Hil and Pam dropped by (after arriving too late at the beach lookout). Ferocious mosquitos. Lisa was very happy to watch the colourful sunset and see the near-full moon rise.

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