Sunday, May 25, 2008

tight doubles split (Toronto)

I was outside a little before 9:00 PM Saturday evening in hopes of spotting Saturn earlier than I had in the previous evening. I scanned and scanned. OK, I cheated: I used my binoculars to try to find it. No luck. Where's a Sky Scout when you need one?!

Ah ha! Found it. Naked eye. Yes! I quickly checked the time. And started laughing. It was 9:04 PM. That was one whole minute sooner than last night. Oh well.

In the excitement of recording my accomplishment in my notebook, I lost sight of the ringed planet. It took me 5 minutes to find it again and ultimately bull's eye it in the finder scope.

9:10 PM, 40% humidity, 16°C. Titan was to the right, about 4 ring-widths away (mirror-reversed). I could see another moon, on the left, about 1 rw away (Rhea). And "down" a bit. That must mean it was behind Saturn...

Just a minute. Just a minute. Is that another moon I see? Is there another one on the left? I couldn't tell for certain. Eyes or brain playing tricks on me. Air wavering.

9:21. Confirmed! There are 2! The second one is about a ½ rw away (Tethys).

[Other people reported seeing "three in a row like Jupiter's moons." From Saturn outward: Tethys, Dione, and Rhea. I should have kept looking!]

9:35. Turned to Mars to find it had escaped from the bees! It was well clear, at least of the very bright stars in M44.

OK. What's "falling" away? I decided, while reviewing The Evening Sky Map, and scanning the Pocket Sky Atlas, to tackle objects in constellations descending into the western trees. Part of Hydra was still visible. A constellation I've never viewed before.

I tried to τ1 (tau 1) Hydrae. A pleasing double star with a warm yellow main and a pale orange companion. They were widely separated. Perhaps 1/15 of the field at 110x power. That would be 86". Haas reports 66".

This eyepiece, the Meade 18mm OR, washed out some of their colour. At 56x, through the baader planetarium 36mm Hyperion aspherical, they were wonderful, rich, particularly mixed in with the gaggle of nearby white stars.

I shifted to τ2 (tau 2) Hydrae. Didn't see any companions. Rechecked PSA: oops, not a double.

Off to γ (gamma) Sextantis. Another "new" constellation for me. Tried to split it. Could not see a companion. Checked double stars for small telescopes. Haas intimated it would be difficult, listed a separation of 0.6". I've never seen any stars that tight! I raised the power to 220x with the 18mm and the Celestron Ultima 2x Barlow. No go.

10:36, 45%, 14.6°. I wanted to try for doubles in the head of Hydra. While I could spot this asterism from my vantage close to the house, the view was blocked for the telescope. Alas, too late.

Zipped over to ι (iota) Cancri. But on viewing it, I felt it looked familiar. I don't mean, that it looked like Albireo. I had a hunch I had seen it before. Sure enough: it was already checked in Haas's book. Still, the yellow-blue combo is impressive.

10:51, 46%, 14.4°. I just split Σ1291 or 57 Cancri. They are crazy close! I needed 220x to do it. They are identically pale orange stars, identically intense. Checked Haas's book: 1.5" separation. Woo hoo! A new record for me (beating the pairs in Lyra's Double-Double)!

I moved over to Leo. I found ι (iota) to be a very tight pair. The main is white-yellow; the companion is dim blue. Haas says they're 1.7" apart. Eyes are good tonight!

11:28. Huh. Lots of new constellations this evening... I just learned my way around Virgo and Corvus. Virgo was higher than I expected it to be. I was surprised to see Corvus from the back yard! I could just see δ (delta) and γ (gamma) over the trees, trellis, and roofs.

Actually, I stumbled across δ (delta) Corvi (aka Algorab), a wide double, pretty at low power. The main star I felt strongly was a white or pale yellow colour. The companion? Didn't seem to have any colour. Just paler. Grey? Seems a strange moniker for a star colour...

11:41, 50%, 13.5°. I just split γ (gamma) Virginis (Porrima)! Holy cow. I didn't expect to do that! Identical bright white stars, extremely close. When the air was steady, it was definitely 2 points, with a black gap between them. Haas says 0.4". I'm smashing the records tonight!

12:16 AM, 52%, 13.1°. Completed my second star hop to globular cluster M3. Even though I had a sneaking suspicion I had already viewed it. Oh well. Good practice. Still, it was a worthy pursuit. I enjoyed how it sat in the middle of a right-angle triangle of stars.

It occurred to me during double star and Messier hunting that I need with me, in the field, some sort of check list. I.e. a check list of what I've already seen. Actually, with the Haas book nearby (and presumably updated), I'll have a listing of double stars viewed. But I need a quick reference list for my deep sky objects. Not that I don't mind seeing them again...

12:44, 52%, 12.8°. I tried for M51, the Whirlpool. I thought, being almost straight up, it would be easy to peg. I dunno, man...

1:23, 56%, 12.0°. Done.


I may have mentioned this before. But do you know what would be incredibly handy near the telescope, for my star charts? A podium. OK. Maybe not a big heavy wood podium. Perhaps I'm thinking of a music sheet stand. Adjustable height. Something to hold my star charts near the 'scope so I can view without craning over.


Funny. No raccoons Friday night. Tonight, on the other claw, lots. I heard them chattering and fighting with each other around the 'hood. At 921, a fat one ventured into the back yard with me. I chased him away. Later I heard the neighbours to the east attempting to deal with them.


I forgot to note that last night, for the first time really, I did a lot of viewing (through the eyepiece) without my eyeglasses on. And I enjoyed it. I seemed to be flipping them on and off less. When I wanted to view constellations, sure, I'd need them. I found I needed them for star hopping through the finder scope. Hmm. If I refocus the finder scope to my vision without eyeglasses, then it should mean even less flipping...

No comments: