Tuesday, January 06, 2009

third time with charm (Toronto)

I actually woke a few minutes before my alarm went off, maybe at 3:57 AM or so. Nature calling...

Put on the goofy red goggles and headed to the loo. Stuck my nose outside. Brrr! I'm not venturing outside, even briefly, with boxers only! Back to the bedroom for some sweatpants... From the backyard, I could see stars! Hey, hey, and my neighbours to the east had shut off their backyard lights (as per my request).

I immediately moved the telescope tube and eyepiece case outside to begin cooling.

Back to the bedroom. Put on four layers on the bottom (boxers, long johns, jeans, ski pants) and four layers on the top (t-shirt, sweat shirt, RASC hoodie, MEC winter coat). Thin socks and fleece socks over top. New RASC toque. Good to go.

Outside, I eased up the garage door as slowly as possible so to not wake the neighbours and housemates. And began, albeit slowly, the setup.

Smelling a wood fire, at 5:36 AM, too late for comet hunting, I was completely done and read to work. Just as a satellite went through the field, from bottom to top, from position 7 o'clock to 1.

DOH! Forgot my eyeglasses... Actually, it wasn't a problem while using the 'scope. Increasingly, I'm not using my corrective lenses while looking through the eyepiece or finder scope. But I couldn't see constellations...

Look at that: Saturn is edge-on! At low power, it looked artificial. Like a symbol in an astronomy program. A beige disk with a line crossing it! Reminded me of when first-timers look through the eyepiece and speak of what's on "the screen."

Using the baader eyepiece, yielding 56x power, I took in the field. Titan was clearly to the right (mirror-reversed view). The large moon lay about 2 ring-widths from the planet. Maybe a smidgen more? There was also a faint object to the left, off-plane, higher than the planet, about 8 or 10 rw away. Iapetus I bet.

Up to 77x with the Celestron eyepiece. During brief moments of clear seeing, lessening tube currents, my eyes not watering, sitting comfortably, not fogging the eyepiece with my breath, using averted vision, I could spot other objects, very faint, to the left of planet. What?! There's one very close to the rings! It was like splitting double stars! The separation was very small... Like a half-arcsecond?!

My Space Pen was being finicky; I switched to a pencil.

At 111x power, with Mom's Meade eyepiece, it was unmistakeable. Two very faint moons to the left of Saturn, one about 1 rw away, and the other very close to the ring.

I sketched the field but struggled with the scale. There was a field star, closer than Iapetus, but to the right, at the 2 o'clock position (HP 56322).

I could see the thin shadow of the rings on the face of the planet. Above the rings.

It seemed to me that the left side of the ring was thicker, at the outer edge. Was this the visual effect of the two thin strips converging?

Am I seeing the Saturn's shadow on the back ring? Where's the Sun? It's to my left, in space. The mirror-reversed view is showing the darkness on the left edge. I think that's right. That means it's really on the right side, opposite the Sun.

The clouds belts immediately above and below the equator are lighter. Striations of colour, it seems, more so on the top hemisphere.

Traipsed inside for eyeglasses and a lighter.

Checked the weather stations:

The OneWorld contrast is getting poor. I think that's a tell-tale of the battery weakening. It's been a long run, this battery. That's particularly interesting given that I set it to display constantly! Anyway, it showed, at 6:28 AM, an air pressure reading of 1013, humidity of 30%, and temperature of -9.0°C.

I turned the key lock off on the Oregon Scientific and turned on the backlight. It was bright blue! Oops, forgot to set the time to Standard: it's showing 7:28. 58% humidity and -10.7 temp. Hey, the low battery icon was on. Sheesh! Not again.

No wind per se.

My upper back was cold. Wow. Need another layer on top... Legs feel fine.

I tried to light my hard warmer but it would not start! Kricky. That's not good... Ironically, I chilled my right hand, ungloved, trying to light it.

Thought I'd try for Ceres. Got out Pocket Sky Atlas and my loupe. But I was feeling very slow. Briefly tried for the asteroid but I was having a hard time finding many stars in the finder scope. The Sun's coming up soon...

At 7:11 AM, it was -9.3°C, according to the OneWorld.

I could still see, naked eye, Regulus (alpha) and Algieba (gamma) and Zosma (delta) and Denebola (beta).

I didn't think so earlier, when it was darker, but now, it was clear that Saturn was brighter than Regulus (mag 1.35).

Visions of breakfast were dancing through my head. I packed up.

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