Monday, August 03, 2009

20 pairs (Blue Mountains)

I visited over 20 double star systems tonight. Most were new to me. Wow.
Instrument: Celestron 14-inch SCT
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
I had been trying every day to plan for naps in the day. So to improve my staying power at night. But it just didn't happen. I was in danger of repeating the mistake again but I forced myself to sleep immediately after dinner. Put my ear plugs in and set an alarm for 9:30 PM. At first, I didn't think I was going to be able to sleep deeply. But then I suddenly woke at 9:45! Wow.

I dressed for cool air and bugs, brushed my teeth, and headed upstairs. The Moon was bright. And we were desperate. Took a few looks through Phil's Dob.

David took the Losmandy out to the observing pad for Jerry to play with.

OK. Let's crack off some of the unchecked items on Sky & Telescope's pretty summer doubles list...

12:07. 39 Boötis. It was split in the 27mm (in the C14, that would be 145x) but tight. Tried the 13mm (301x) but it was too blurry. Are these stars the same colour? I think they are golden colour. Maybe that's just the main star; perhaps the secondary white or very pale blue. They are almost equal in brightness. The 18mm (217x) offered a good view. But it made the colours look similar. Even the experts disagree: Haas says both as whitish gold; Smyth: "white, lilac;" and Webb says both are white. 2.7 seconds of arc separated these stars in 2004.

12:26. I was headed to σ (sigma) Coronae Borealis but went to δ (delta) by accident. When I got back on track, with the 18mm, I was rewarded with a nice double star. They seemed to be the same colours, both pale gold. Phil was taking a break from the pad. I asked what he thought about their hues. He said "whitish, the bright one is slightly more yellow." I thought they were similar magnitudes. Haas reports them to be lemon-white, mildly unequal. Smyth sides with Phil: "Creamy white; smalt blue." Except I don't know what smalt blue means. Hartung is more to my liking: "Deep yellow." There you have it.

12:40. Viewed μ (mu) Cygni. Very tight double. Haas reports the 2004 separation to be 1.9". Nice. They seem to me to be similar colours. Perhaps there's a hint of blue in the secondary (oops, I forgot to note the primary's colour). Smyth told Haas: white and blue. Phil suggested they were a full magnitude different. Haas says 1.5. We enjoyed the view in the 13mm.

David and Phil wanted to take a break. So we headed inside and made some popcorn. Jerry came out of nowhere. I sipped another Red Bull. But when I stood up for round 2, at 1:30, they said they were gonna quit. OK. Just me then.

At 1:45, I had viewed π (pi) Capricorni again. I noted the companion was faint, it was a tight double. The main star was bright blue white which can overwhelm the companion which is a dark orange. With the 27mm, I could split them when air was steady. The 18mm did not improve the view!

I also decided to look at ρ (rho) Cap again. There is a bright star distant from a medium star. At about a 90° angle to these two stars there is a fainter star still. Makes me think of a hockey stick? I cannot split the main star. Haas says they are 1.3" apart. I was thinking I should sketch this, measure the wide double. Next time...

2:01. I turned to ζ (zeta) Aquarii. I thought these stars to be overall rather bright. A very tight double. Haas reports 2.0" in 2004. They seemed nearly equal in brightness and colour. The main is pale yellow; the secondary is pale white. "Whitish citrus orange," says Haas.

2:19. I tried again to split 72 Pegasi. I used the 27, 18, 13, and 10mm (391x). No joy. I'll need better conditions to split these 0.5" stars.

2:27. Hoping to get lucky, I moved again 78 Peg. No luck. Hints though... Very possible. Even at low power with 27mm I did not think this object perfectly round. In 1999, the separation was 0.8". The period is 630 years. Gonna have to wait a while to see any change...

2:37. 12 Aqr. A nice double. I was just able to split them at 27mm; easily split with the 18mm. I think they are exactly the same colour! Different brightnesses though. S&T (3 rating) and Haas (yellow and blue) say very different colours. Haas lists the magnitudes as 5.8 and 7.5. I dunno about the colours... I tried a higher magnification: very blurry. Let's mark it as one to revisit.

2:48. 95 Herculis. A gold and blue-white combination, widely separated. Haas and Smyth disagree. Smyth is on drugs: "light apple green; cherry red." What?!

Hey! What's going on. It is getting cloudy in the west... That's no good.

2:51. I can see how 16 and 17 Draconis would be a good bino double. Very cool with the 18mm eyepiece. Easily split 27mm. All three are similar colours and brightness. 17 B is a little dimmer, perhaps with a touch of yellow. 16 and 17 were 90" apart in 2003; whereas 17 A and B were 3". Haas says they're set 90° from each other. Nice.

2:56. I noticed Mars rising. It was directly left of Aldebaran. Interesting. They are the same colour and magnitude!

Next: μ (mu) Dra. Ha! They are the exact same brightness and colour. Exact! A nice, tight double (Haas: 2.3" in 2004).

3:02. ζ (zeta) Lyrae. How about that... An easy wide double near ε (epsilon). Perhaps we should use this before showing victims, visitors, the Double-Double. The sep. is 43.8". The main was white-beige; the compansion was pale yellow lime. Look at that. Smyth agrees, "Topaz; greenish." A cloud moved in and dimmed everything out. Boo!

3:08. I saw that the Moon was almost down.

3:18. I went looking for STT 525 in Lyra. Using the R.A. (18h 54.9') and dec. (33° 59') numbers, I landed at WDS SHJ 282 in TheSky6. It is a nice wide double. Classic colours: pale yellow and pale blue. What catalog is this, that Sky & Tel is referring to? It is not Struve's... I'm a little confused about that. I'd like to understand the reference (ah, it's a catalog by Struve's son Otto).

3:21. Some birds are waking up. I heard a few chirps. Are there a few early risers in the avian community? For me, the skies are dark again.

3:28. At long last, I visited ν (nu) Dra. It is a nice easy wide double. The stars look to be the same brightness to me. One is white; the other has a hint of yellow. Hmm, if 2 stars are exactly the same brightness, which one is the primary, for PA?, for the A label? Inquiring minds want to know. Oh! Haas calls these stars the Dragon's Eyes. Scary. Webb describes this as "Yellow white. A grand object." Indeed.

3:34. Over to ψ (psi) Dra. This double might be a good candidate for an every-season double star list. Being so close to the NCP. It is a wide pair, about half the sep. of ν (correct). They are surprisingly bright stars. The main is bright yellow; the companion? Dark yellow or yellow with a hint of orange. Interesting.

3:41. Landed at 41 Dra. Another nice wide double. Maybe half the sep. again (correct). Nearly equal colour and brightness. Surpringly close to Ursa Minor. Might this be another good year-round double. Except that these stars are not very colourful...

I saw that the glow in the east was increasing.

3:49. Feels damp now. I saw that I was close to some deep sky objects. So I made a pit stop at M56 (or NGC 6779). It is a small globular, faint in these conditions. It does not look uniform to me.

4:02. Moving along, I took in 35 Camelopardalis. It is a wide double, once again with equally bright stars. They have the same white colour it seems. Again, not too exciting, although they can likely be seen year-round. Curiously, this pair is not listed is Haas's book. Hey, 32 Cam in Sissy's book matches this star. Who's right? [Neither, it turns out.]

Venus was up! Dawn is not far away.

4:14. It looked like I had exhausted the summer double star list. For now. A bunch of choices in were off-limits now, like those in Ophiuchus and Scorpius. So, I switched ot the winter double star list.

And headed to 11-12 Cam. This was interesting. The bright star is blue white; the companion is a deep orange. Haas says: "whitish lemon and citrus orange." Did she have fruit for breakfast that morning? Fantastic colour in the companion. There were widely separated (179" according to Haas). Now that would be a good one to show off...

4:22. Next stop: α (alpha) Piscium. Also know as Alrescha. Wow. A very tight double (1.9" in 2004 says Haas). Two pure white bright stars, the same colour. I estimated the companion to be about 1/2 or 1 mag different (1.1 says Haas).

4:28. ζ (zeta) Psc. Bright stars again. The main is yellow. The companion is about 1/2 mag fainter (no, 1) and is slightly redder. Webb said, "Yellowish, pale lilac or rose."

A bright satellite went through field rapidly. I tried to spot it naked eye without success.

4:33. ψ1 (psi 1) Psc. I thought these to be two equally bright (Haas states 5.3 and 5.5) pale yellow stars with a medium separation (Haas has recorded 30" in 2004). There's a nearby blue star at a 120 angle to the yellow stars. It has a sep. twice that of the yellows. I noted that this pairing along with ψ2 and ψ3 are good for binocular viewing.

4:49. Hmmm, looks who's nearby. I tried for the Triangulum Galaxy. Again. Being almost directly overhead, using the Big Gun, I thought it would look awesome. M33 is such a frustrating object. It is so faint! Stellarium says it is magnitude 5.70. But that's over 1° of sky. That said, I can see blobs. Are these part of its structure? The 27mm eyepiece was too tight. The 55mm was better but still... Next time, I'll switch to the Tele Vue 101 'scope... During a moonless winter night!

5:00. I took a quick look at Mars through the Celestron 14" SCT. I used a bunch of oculars: the 55mm, 27mm, and 18mm. It was a lovely colour. But the air was shimmering in the east. And getting bright, obviously.

Feeling a sense of accomplishment, for a change, I tidied up, closed the roof, and locked the observatory. As I walked from the GBO to the house, I took in the dawn sky, with Jupiter (and Neptune) behind me, Mars and Venus heralding the Sun.

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