Wednesday, September 24, 2008

backyard on birthday (Toronto)

Thought I'd pursue a bit of observing from the backyard (on my birthday). The Clear Sky Chart was looking fairly good, with "average" transparency and "good" seeing (although the update seemed a little stale). I was set up by 9:00 PM (although I forgot to polar align).


9:08 PM, 17.1°C, 77% RH. I star-hopped to 61 Cygnus as recommended by the Turn Left At Orion book. Initially, I tried to bull's eye it directly, using relative positioning, but the finder scope was not showing anything recognisable. I backtracked to Deneb and then headed to ν (nu) and ξ (xi) Cygnus. It was an easy jump to 61.

I first viewed it at low power (56x). It was a satisfying separation in the wide field. They are almost identical colour, gold (not orange like TLAO suggests). The fainter star is perhaps slightly more orange or red. Just a hint. When I jumped to high power (110x), now I felt the colours were the same.

I could see a dozen faint blue/white stars in the field.

Mirror-reversed view.

The separation, in this 22' field, appeared to be about 1/30th of the total diameter. By my calculations, I estimate the stars are 43 arc-seconds apart. double stars by Sissy Haas says, in 2004, they are 31 arc-seconds apart.

I was intrigued to learn that this binary is very close to us. 61 Cygni is within 12 light-years. And it's proper motion is very high. But the orbital motion is slow (approx. 650 years).

9:36 PM, 16.9°, 81%. I noticed that τ (tau) Cygnus was a double star (according to the Pocket Sky Atlas). So I jumped to the bright beige star, not far from 61. But I did not see a companion. I tried 56x, 77x, 110x, 144x, and 220x. Nothing. At 220, the star was bouncing around and the airy disk was swelling and shifting.

Maybe this isn't such a good night after all.

9:54 PM, 16.7°, 81%. I had a similar experience with υ (upsilon) Cygnus. I could not split the single white point at 56x or 110x. That said, there's a nearby star, fairly bright. It's about 1/4 of the field away (in the Meade 18mm).

9:58 PM. I spotted Jupiter over my shoulder! Very interesting. There are 2 bright stars nearby. That would mess people up. Looks like the moons have been scattered and fractured!

Arrow indicates drift, i.e. west. North is down.

Hey... I think I see the GRS (despite the bad seeing)! Could it be? I headed inside for a break, and checked the Jovian system. Yep. There are the 2 bright field stars. And there's the GRS. The position of the spot in Stellarium is a little different that my take of the live view. To me, it looks like it is 2/3rds of the way from the west.

Stellarium said Jupiter was about 16° in elevation. I recalled reading early in the year that it would not get very high in 2008. When I looked again, the orb was getting colourful, with chromatic distortion.

I was getting distracted by the upstairs bedroom ceiling lights reflecting off the white sides of the garage...

11:18 PM, 15.2°, 92%. I was waiting for the house mates on the top floor to turn off their bedroom lights. One of them did. As returned from the long break, I was surprised by the brightness of the sky. The Moon was due to rise after midnight. That was a ways away. Still, I was having a hard time spotting constellations. I could not find Delphinus, for example. Suddenly, I threw in the towel.

As I wrote my closing notes in my notebook, I switched to my Space Pen. A dozen words in, the ink ran out!


Used the picnic table to set up boxes, my books, etc. Opened the sun umbrella. It worked! Everything near the centre of the umbrella was kept dry.


I noticed the back light of the Oregon Scientific weather station remarkably dim. Impossible to read. Later, outside, I noticed that the low-battery indicator is on. I'll need to swap the batteries soon. And, again. I must update the battery log with this information. It seems short... Whereas the OneWorld is still going strong in "continuous display" mode.


Speaking of low batteries, the red LED pen is looking a little dim.

And I forgot to replace the AA batteries in the Astronomy Case Alpha...


Forgot to clean the eyepieces again!


You know. The output from the re-purposed desk lamp is still not bright enough.

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