Sunday, October 11, 2009

globs with Phil (Blue Mountains)

After doing dishes and tiding up the kitchen, we looked outside. Wow! Clear. Everywhere. What a surprise.
Instrument: Celestron 14-inch SCT
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
We headed outside. Lora and Phil prepared the T@B for the evening while I retrieved the Dell laptop to operate the Paramount ME. In short order, Phil joined me in the GBO and we readied things together.

Lora brought Skeena and Callebaut 'round for a little fashion show. First, the dogs were sporting their very bright aquamarine collars. I believe the technology is the same used on kids pimping out their cars: high-frequency electroluminescent ribbon or tape. Incredibly bright for a 9 volt battery. Later, they quickly switched to astronomer-friendly red blinkie LED collars. Fetching canine haute couture. One last scratch and the pups were off to bed.

I unlocked the eyepiece cabinet and pulled the 27mm Tele Vue Panoptic while Phil opened the roof. We aimed at Jupiter. From the laptop, I called out the moon positions. At first, I mistook a star (no, wait, two stars) for a moon. Closer examination of TheSky6 showed Io and then Ganymede on one side and Europa on the other with Callisto way out.

Odd. Through the eyepiece we did not see this star or double star. We checked in my Stellarium. No star between the moons. Perhaps TheSky6 has an error in its catalog...

Phil and I talked about viewing the GRS but we couldn't seem to do the math in our heads. I surfed into Sky and Telescope for more info and noticed the link to the GRS calculator. I hit the button to use today's date and stared at the numbers. Phil looked at it too. It was confusing. When we suddenly realised it was in error. There was some sort of modulus mistake in the calculations. Sheesh. This was not helping matters.

Still, we felt it was definitely the case that it had already happened. We had missed the meridian crossing by couple of hours. That said, I could see the GRS! Just barely. Festoons nearby. When I had first looked at Jupiter, 15 to 30 minutes before, I had noticed it clearly. Same side as Io. But Phil didn't think he saw it.

We looked at my Stellarium again. I had set the GRS value a couple of months back. It was still pretty close actually.

Io was moving in.

Oh oh. Clouds were spotted in the north-west...

Phil was tour guide. He felt like exploring globulars. OK with me. I certainly didn't have an observing plan. He suggested Messier 15 (M15) so off we went.

The globular cluster in Pegasus seemed to be a slightly oval shape to me with tendrils of stars emanating from the centre. There was a bright star nearby (probably HIP 106157).

Phil then considered Messier 33 (M33). All right! Not far away from where we were. The Triangulum Galaxy was extremely faint. Certainly being relatively low in elevation, well below 45° was not helping. Still, I could see the spiral arms. I sat down and let photons soak in. It was impressive. And large! I could tell it was filling whole field (0.5° with the 27mm). I asked Phil if he wanted to try a different eyepiece but he declined. While I was absorbing 3 million year old light, a bright satellite went through the field. It startled me.

This was maybe the second or third time I've looked at this galaxy. I'm always amazed that this was discovered. It is so hard to see. It merits more views, in a month or two, when higher. And it should be with less power. So it stands out in the black of space. Do I remember correctly? Have I seen this naked eye? Or in binos?

At 8:47 PM I remembered to pull the Sky Quality Meter. I took several readings. Most were in the mid 18s. Phil didn't think that was very good.

Next stop: Messier 72 (M72) in Aquarius. In comparison to M15, this globular was very small and compact. Again, I didn't think it perfectly round. More of an oval shape. I noted faint field stars nearby.

We had been dodging clouds much of our time at the telescope. Now, we were completely clouded out. The wind had gone out of our sails. We packed up.

The drama for the evening turned out to be losing a lens to my eyeglasses! As we completed shutting down and stepped outside to lock up the GBO, I noticed that one eye was wobbly. I clued in suddenly that one lens had fallen out. I checked the frame of my glasses back inside the GBO and sure enough the screw had worked loose.

The search began to find the lens. I knew it had happened only recently, in the last few minutes. But I had not heard the lens fall. So that made me wonder if it had happened in the carpeted area of the observatory. Phil and I looked and scanned and moved furniture and gear. No luck.

When Phil went to check on the kids and Lora, I asked if he had a powerful flashlight. He returned with a large MagLite. I did some more fruitless scanning. When I suddenly got an idea. I looked immediately below the door of the GBO, between the patio stones and the sill, shining the torch light between the 1-inch gap, and there, amongst the snails, was my solitary lens. Whew!

We were able to finally lock up. By 9:25, we were back inside the house, settled.


We saw 4 sporadic meteors this evening. All directions. Both of us. Well, Phil saw 3. I saw one as I viewed M15, in the eyepiece. I've never seen this before but I saw a meteor in the field of view: straight line path, high speed, faint glow, and gone. The kind of thing that if you had blinked at that precise moment, you would not have seen it. That was a first.

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