Saturday, June 30, 2007

it is Vesta! (Toronto)

Set up in the back yard early, or rather, in the late afternoon. It was looking and feeling like it was going to be a good evening (despite the nearly full Moon). This caught the attention of Joachim and some of my other house mates as they made dinner on the barbie. And when Diane chatted with us "over the fence" I asked if Evan (her energetic 4-year-old) might be interested.
naked eye
Bushnell 7x50 binoculars hand-held
Celestron 8-inch SCT on Vixen Super Polaris by star hopping
This prompted me to start a bit early. I had been fiddling with AstroPlanner to get some ideas but I abandoned it.

It was a bit before sunset. With my binoculars, I began to scan the sky for Venus. Couldn't see it. Inside, I checked RedShift and grabbed my astrolabe to align the binos. When I looked back at the sky, there she was! Moved the telescope and targeted the brilliant planet. Showed the boys at 110x and 220x. They enjoyed that. Went over to the neighbours and knocked on the back door. The whole family came out, Evan, Maia, Diane, Mark. Even Hilda (Evan's grandmother) came out.

Poor Evan. I think he was intimidated by the whole thing. And he did not know what to do at the eyepiece. I wonder if he saw anything...

Hilda is interested in astronomy! She said she had taken a course at U of T. And they used the big telescope on the campus. "It was disappointing." She was enjoying my 'scope much more. Interesting.

I invited them back in an hour to see Saturn. I spotted it, with averted vision, around 9:30. A very pretty view with the planets about ½° apart. Hilda came back out at 9:45 and was amazed by the view. I urged her to locate the Cassini division—not sure if she picked that up. And I pointed out the bright point to the right, a possible moon. She could see that. She was thrilled.

Joachim returned outside at 9:50, hearing the commotion, I guess. He was blown away by Saturn. "Unbelieveable," he said.

They saw a whole other side to me this evening.

At 10:09, I checked the air conditions, with the Oregon Scientific eb313hg weather station, for the first time: 44% humidity with a temperature of 20.4°C. It was a very pleasant temperature. The clouds were gone. Seeing was fairly good (not as good as last week though). Little wind. And therefore, the mosquitoes were out! Yikes.

At 10:30, Saturn was getting murky. The air was boiling. It was hard to make out details on the planet's surface.

(That's Hyperion, Dione, Saturn, Rhea, and a field star, way off to the right. Titan, at the 3 o'clock position is the first object I spotted near Saturn...)

By 10:49, I had moved on to move new targets. And I had decided to try to find, once and for all, double star Σ1798 in Ursa Minor. Wow! Got 'em! Both of faint (Haas says 7.7 and 9.7). I think the brighter one (pah) is a pale yellow whereas the fainter one is pale orange brown (Haas only describes the main star as amber-yellow). They are quite close together at 110x. I understand what Haas means now by "difficult but striking." All the doubles I've looked at so far are really bright.

Funny timing. At 11:14 as I returned to the finder scope to move to a new target, a satellite went through the field, heading south!

11:24. I located π1 (pi 1) in Ursa Minor. They were yellow and orange with a medium separation at 110x. I estimated they were separated by about 1/40th of the field (Haas says 32" apart; wow, I nailed it!). Nice!

For the first time I think, I pulled Turn Left at Orion to get some ideas for summer targets. M13 in Hercules would be a very good subject, being almost straight overhead. Almost all the other targets were blocked by houses and trees.

It was challenging to locate Messier 13 (M13) with the street light and the Moon shining straight down the driveway and the target being directly overhead. Still, at 11:45, I picked up the cluster. I could see individual stars, some bright, some far from the centre. At 110x it was a large object. Probably in a dark sky it would fill the field. I could tell it was very dense in the centre.

My vision was coming and going. Getting tired I think.

OK. The main event. Vesta should be up...

I trained the 7x50 binoculars on Scorpius. Whoa, another satellite, heading north this time.

I started at β (beta) Sco and moved north to 49 then 48 Libra. I moved slightly east then north again to 11 Sco. I used to large rhombus of ψ (psi), ξ (xi), 11, and χ (chi) Sco to verify my location. Then I shifted back south. And there was a point, not on the maps, the same brightness as 231226 and 11 Sco, approximately magnitude 6, almost in-line with ξ, 11, and the other field star. Once again I sketched it, the view at 12:15am.

Checked RedShift and EasySky to verify this was Vesta. It had moved approximately 1° in the week. The image below is from EasySky 3.0 using the "trail" option set for 1 day iterations over 7 days.

That was very cool. Another solar system object viewed...


Neighbours to the east had even more lights on. And they left them on all night. Even though no one was back there. I'll have to talk to them in the future...


Used my new red light bulbs in the house. It made easy work of running in for additional gear, bug repellent, to check the computer. In fact, in the living room light, I turned out the bulbs so I was only using one. That 60 watt bulb was plenty of light.

Used my light box with new diffuser and the LED array elevated closer to the diffuser. Used with my Tirion charts for some detailed star hops. Worked very well.


Lately I've been using Microsoft Digital Imaging Starter Edition 2006 Editor on Windows to do a lot of my image clean-up. It has a feature I've never seen before. While cropping, you can rotate the crop zone. That's cool. I used that on my Vesta sketch to get it to synch with the EasySky snapshot.

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