Sunday, September 23, 2007

done the planets! (Richmond Hill)

This evening (technically yesterday) I assisted once again at the David Dunlap Observatory.

Arrived at DDO in reasonably good time, particularly with the DVP and 404 being closed. On the fly, I made up the simple route: Black Creek, 400, Major Mac. Lots of stops. But also some fast sections along Major Mac.

I was the first RASC member to arrive. Later, John, Phil, Alexandra and Paul, Scott, Tim, Brenda and Eric showed up. Ray dropped by with timbits!

As I was uncoiling my extension cord, Ian said, "Let me know if you've got power or not. I can turn it on..." I reported it was "good!"

It was appropriate so many RASCals showed up for a fairly large crowd descended on the observatory public tours. Perhaps they are hearing that the DDO might close or be sold... I also heard that an astronomy club from Hamilton had booked a visit. I guess they were in the school bus.

I showed the moon in the early evening. Always pleasing in a bright sky. Good detail. Pretty good seeing. We fought off the mozzies who ventured into the cool air.

I spotted Jupiter a bit later. All four Galilean moons were visible, Io and Europa tangling over the early evening. Cloud bands very visible.

I took some requests. We went to Messier 57 and Messier 31 (M31). Pretty faint stuff.

Phil lent me his filter for M57. It was an Orion 1.25" UltraBlock (generically known as an UHC – Ultra High Contrast) filter. It did help, I realised, as I looked at the Ring Nebula longer. Everything was darker. But there was more detail in the ring.

Phil also let me try his 24mm Tele Vue Panoptic wide field eyepiece. We used that on the Andromeda galaxy. And it was very good. It made me realise that I should not necessarily try for a super lower power eyepiece; rather, I should try for wider fields!

We forgot to watch for the Iridium flare... The ISS was not due until the next evening. No shooting stars. I didn't even see one satellite!

I positioned on Albireo for some time. People seemed to enjoy that.

When the crowds died down, I readied for my planetary search. The only remaining planet that I have not seen through my telescope was Uranus. Now that Pluto has been kicked out, the check-list is a little shorter.

Earlier, John had gone to Uranus in his GOTO. I had a sense of what it should look like. But it was going to be a challenge for me, good ole EyeBallTo, waxing Moon out and up high, and the general murkiness of the sky over Toronto. Also, it was a long star hop from my planned starting point...

But, I did it! I found Uranus. 10:45 PM. A pale blue, almost aquamarine disk, a very small disk, a bit to the left (rotated view) of φ (phi) Aquarius. Initially, I used Procyon on my palmtop to begin the search—it reminded me of the constellation. Then I used the Tirion SkyAtlas 2000 black-on-white chart to hop from α (alpha) to λ (lambda) and φ. Finally, I pulled my detailed, personalised Neptune plot (black-on-white version). It made relatively easy work of finding it, once I was in the region. I tried observing the 7th planet at 220x but it was not very good. 154x was pleasing though, improved the disk's dimensions, colour, and clarity.


It was 11:30 PM. 11°C. Without a specific plan, I reviewed the September Skymaps sheet. It said γ (gamma) Andromeda was a nice double star. It sure is! Like a compact version of Albireo, perhaps more interesting, with the gold and blue stars so close to one another.

α (alpha) Andromeda is a double? I'll have to read up on that. I did not see anything close to single bright star. Is it the super faint companion...? (Ah, Haas says one is mag 2.2 and the other is 11.1. It is 89" away...)


I was getting tired. The skies were good but I knew I should wind it down. That said, Mars would be coming up... I tore down very slowly, keeping the 'scope up and running. Paul positioned their GOTO 'scope on Mars. He said it was 3° above the horizon. Not too far to go. A short time later, Alexandra spotted it through the trees. I had the better sight line. It was good to see again!

Orange. Not even in colour. Slightly gibbous.


Phil and I chatted about his SCT setup. It has a different visual back with large opening, high-end focuser, and Williams Optics 2" diagonal. I told him I was thinking about going to 2" tubing on my 'scope. He made it sound like it will not make much of a difference. And of course it puts me into a whole different snack bracket with eyepieces...


Tested the new (OneWorld) portable weather unit for an altitude reading. I had set the elevation to 150 meters at home; here at the DDO it was reading 245. Phil fired up his portable GPS: it said we were at 250m. So I bumped up my unit a couple of meters. Promising...

That said, the back light is kinda lame. Goes off too fast.

Also, there's a contrast issue in the cool air...


The power cord kept slipping from the controller. I tried a one-wrap Velcro strip but that didn't work. Gotta figure out something to avoid this in the future...


Scott had trouble finding Neptune. I'm going to send him my Neptune chart.

No comments: