Sunday, July 06, 2008

better skies, more mosquitoes (Blue Mountains)

Oh oh. I did not nap today like I had planned. Troubleshooting networks...

I put the second portable weather station completely outside the THO observatory this evening. I remembered to close the floor vents as well.
Intrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping

10:51 PM. Inside weather station readings were 60% humidity, 16°C temperature; outside were 68% and 10.4°. With less air flow through the floor vents, I hoped it would keep the inside a bit warmer. And keep some of the mosquitoes away. No wind tonight and the damn mozzies were movin’ in!

Thought I’d start close to where I left off. But then I reviewed the current month’s The Evening Sky Map. And that made me want to check out Messier 64 (M64) again. It was quite faint but I could make out the oval shape and, occasionally, I could see structure, dark bits near the bright centre.

I returned to double star Σ1687 again, so to confirm it as well. The main star is bright and yellow; the companion is very faint and light blue.

11:34 PM, 64%, 15.3°C in; 84%, 11.9°C out. I viewed Messier 23 (M23). It is a loose, wide open cluster of blue-white stars. It filled the entire baader eyepiece field. It was almost like there are threads or strings all through it, with the stars towed along. I estimated about 100 stars were visible.

12:00 PM. I saw that (according to Pocket Sky Atlas) Kaus Australis or ε (epsilon) Sagittarius was a double. I couldn’t see anything (even at 110x) past the madly simmering colours. Disco. Well, it is Saturday night, I guess...

1:02 AM, 67%, 14.4 in; 89%, 11.8 out. Spotted Messier 29 (M29). It is a very loose, small cluster of stars in a dense general field. The galaxy is in the background, that’s why! The brightest stars make almost an H-shape.

1:24 AM. Following the Sky Map, I headed over to Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus. These guys were on drugs! It’s certainly colourful and stands out from the background stars. But red? No. Orange, yes. If it weren't so far north, one might mistake it for Mars. There’s a neat semi-circle of pale white stars nearby, like the mantle for this special star.

2:00 AM. I tried to view σ2 (sigma 2) Ursa Major but I could not see the double star companion. Even the Haas book sounds sketchy about it, although it is quoted at 4" away.

2:10 AM. OK, off to κ (kappa) Boötes, just to the left of UMa. I didn’t realise that these constellations got so close to one another... κ is nice double, a bright white star with a pale purple (I hesitate to say lilac) companion. Sounds like I’m on drugs now. 13.5" apart, according to Haas. They are close together, to me, at 77x.

Nearby was ι (iota) Boötes. It is a wider pair. Haas says 38". The main star throws off pale yellow light whereas the companion sheds a medium pale orange hue.

2:26 AM, 72%, 13.6° in; 83%, 12.3° out. I finally found Messier 101 (M101). Wow. It was tough! It is very, very faint. But large. You have to keep staring at it, or around it, to coax out any detail or dimension. Averted vision is key. Ironically, a bright satellite went through the field and exactly through the middle of the galaxy. Five minutes later, another satellite went through. It’s rush hour, I guess.


This weekend helped me bring my Messier count up a significant amount, totalling now 42! Woo hoo!

And I added 8 double stars to my life list, bringing that total to 46.


[ed: Reviewed for typos on 24 Apr '23.]

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