Sunday, December 24, 2006

chilly viewing (Union)

Session ending 9:03pm using my cat and my new Pocket Sky Atlas (PSA).
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping
Started off with the Plössl (77x) viewing Messier 31 (M31). It was bright, easy to see with the naked eye, almost directly overhead, could see some structure, viewed with Steve.

I tried for Messier 33 (M33) but had difficulty finding it in the finder scope. I could see it in binos, hopping from Andromeda to ν (nu), to μ (mu), to β (beta) then sweeping to α (alpha) Triangulum, could see a faint smudge between, but it was straight overhead, which is always a challenge with the cat finder scope (which is straight-thru).

The telescope was dewing up so I got the heaters and battery.

Through the finder scope, Steve and I looked at Hyades cluster in Taurus, confirmed Aldebaran (alpha), 80 and 81 and θ (theta) 1 and 2 and two other small stars forming an irregular hexagon, rho 1 and 2 above alpha, a loose triangle below of δ (delta) 1/2/3, and γ (gamma) off to the left. All were pleasing pale yellow in colour, Aldebaran glowing brightly.

[ed: Hyades: aka Cr 50 or Mel 25 or OCL 456. aka Caldwell 41.]

I wanted to try some double or multiple stars. We viewed the cluster of stars above Orion, φ (phi) 1 and 2 and λ (lambda) a.k.a. Meissa but it was not very exciting.

When Donna came out, I was hunting for more interesting doubles. I happened to be looking below Auriga, at a large, bright asterism, which, when I checked the charts, proved to be Gemini (Donna's sign) although she seemed non-plused. PSA showed that Castor (alpha) was a double so I went for it. At first I thought it was not a double but I then saw (at 77x), it was a very close pure white pairing! Donna was able to split them as I dashed into the house for the OR18mm eyepiece (111x). Very nice!

Damp out! And as the temperature dropped, it started getting slippery. Frost was coating the wood of the deck and it was surprisingly slick.

Everyone was getting chilled so we headed inside. Saturn was to rise at 10:30 so we had a way to go yet.

Steve started to fall asleep so they packed up and headed home. Mom started to wind down. And I suddenly didn't feel like battling the cold weather. I lugged the intact 'scope inside (after trying a quick peek at Orion's Sword).

Funny how social astronomy is for me. With Steve leaving, I really didn't feel like doing anything. I was simply not up mentally for doing solo viewing tonight.

This better not turn out to be the only clear night!

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