Friday, September 19, 2008

high clouds (Port Elgin)

It was Guys Weekend hosted by Stuart. He had invited a bunch of the regulars (Cam—my high-school friend, Eric, Mike, John—whom I had met before) and me. We were to congregate on Friday evening at Laurie and Stuart's cottage, just south of Port Elgin. Saturday, Stuart had planned a big bicycle ride, 80 klicks round-trip. A big steak dinner was promised. Cam would be supplying excellent wines, as usual. Stuart asked me to bring my telescope.


Cam and I made arrangements to travel together. I took telescope gear and a few bike items over to Cam's on Thursday night and we began the loading of his car. On Friday afternoon, Cam drove to my house. We loaded up the last few items and my road bicycle.

We had intended to get away earlier but Cam was delayed. We departed my house at about 4:00 PM. Then we had to do the requisite pit stop at the LCBO.

The traffic exiting the city was terrible. Maddening. All because, as best we could tell, of a delaminated tire in the left lane...

We stopped for dinner in Waterloo. I wanted pasta! That was probably around sunset. I took over the driving after our meal.

It didn't occur to me until Cam cleared the alarm in my palmtop that we would arrive very late to Stuart's. That would affect our being able to see the Pleiades occultation.

It turned out that our late departure was serendipitous. As I turned the car from Highway 86 (west-north) to County Road 21 (east-north), we saw the Moon rising! It was just over the horizon, as usual, looking enormous. But, those clouds! The clouds I had seen earlier were still in the sky... And they would surely obscure the stars of the Pleiades. Still, we enjoyed the view. The vista was classic Hallowe'en Moon.


I set up the 'scope shortly after arrival. I decided, while there would be vibrations, that viewing from the deck offered the largest view of the sky.

Jupiter was out of the question.

I could see Andromeda and Pegasus directly over the roof. Cassiopeia, standing on end, was off the left gable. Cygnus was straight over head. Lyra just about to set behind the pine trees. I looked briefly at the Andromeda galaxy but it was not a good view. So, I decided to bull's eye M57. The guys enjoyed the Ring Nebula at 56x and 110x. We talked about exploding stars. I corrected John: he thought that all stars would end in a black hole.

While challenging, I wanted to catch it before Lyra would be occulted by coniferous. I targeted the "Tim Horton" star. They enjoyed the low power view of ε (epsilon) Lyra. Then I went to 110x. We could easily split one of the stars. But the other one would not consistently resolve. I noticed the seeing was wavering and the contrast was poor. Streamer clouds could be seen. I apologised for choosing such a tough target.

For fun, we hopped over to Albireo. That was a treat.

The thin cloud was becoming increasingly illuminated by the Moon. The glow to the north-east was intensifying.

The boys enjoyed the green laser pointer. They like their toys.

We retired to the living room. Using Stuart's little one, I showed John how to use a planisphere. Periodically, I'd pop outside to see what we could see.


When the Moon cleared the roof top and tall trees, I centred on it and invited the guys back outside. They really like the view of the Moon. It was quite good in the waning gibbous phase.

Some spectacular crater shadows.

One crater (Aristarchus, I believe) was very bright white! Markedly different than the other craters.

Mike spotted a halo around the Moon. Like the sun dogs Cam and I had seen earlier in the day, it had a radius of about 15 to 20°.

I pointed out the wavering effect, like a heat mirage, to Stuart. A problem when viewing over a house...

Stars were blinking out. The clouds were getting thick.

We moved the 'scope to the garage.

Stuart asked me how far away the Ring Nebula was. I didn't recall the distance. I pulled my RASC Observer's Handbook and was surprised to see it was not listed with the Messier data. Curious. Later, I directed Stuart to my observing plan sheet wherein I had noted the number (2.3 kilolightyears).

Someone asked me how fast the Sun rotated. I quickly responded 11 hours or so. But then immediately retracted the answer; I was thinking of Jupiter. I could not recall the rotational period of the Sun. I'll have to look that up. I did recall however that it was quick different between the poles (34 days) and the equator (25 days).

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