Thursday, July 08, 2010

6 hours with the Paramount (Blue Mountains)

I started flying the Celestron 14" SCT with piggyback Tele Vue 101 atop the Paramount ME driven by the RASC dedicated laptop and TheSky6 software.

10:51 PM. I was looking at Saturn in the C14 up to 391 power. It was a surprisingly good view. Phil said it held up well. I could see many moons!

Titan was far to the west. Immediately as I started viewing Saturn, I could see Dione and Tethys, close together, close to the rings, between Titan and the planet. Rhea was immediately visible to the east, about 1 ringwidth from planet.

Checking software, I noted that Enceladus was between Rhea and the rings. I returned to the eyepiece to try to find it. And had a hard time seeing it. I thought it possible despite the 12.46 magnitude. I wondered if it was the moon with 2 faces, one light, one dark? [ed: no; it's fairly uniform.] Phil couldn't see it.

I could however easily see Iapetus (mag 11.89) on the west. It formed a lazy triangle with Titan and the gas giant.

Lora visited the GBO. I explained what I was doing with the high power eyepiece. She was having a hard time splitting Tethys and Dione. So I backed out the magnification. In the sharper view, Lora was able to see the two moons near the ring. Then I encouraged her to tackle the challenge of spotting Iapetus. Finally, she did it.

Of course, it helps with something like the Paramount. Phil remarked it sure is nice having the tracking. I'm jaded, I guess. Certainly it makes it easier for the casual observer.

I took off the RASC hoodie for my Lee Valley bug suit jacket. The mosquitoes were incredible...

The warm room was still hot. I was baking. Headed to the basement of the house in search of a floor fan. I wondered if the furnace fan was in the On position. It was awfully quiet.

Noticed Skeena was the designated supervisor. Excellent. That can only mean lots of sleep. And the main tasks in the job jar will be bellyrubs.

I returned to the GBO with fan. I was looking forward to keeping the mozzies at bay while I sat at the computer. I could tell however they are still biting me, through my bug gloves and bug jacket and very holey socks...

I took a Sky Quality Meter reading: 19.40. Not bad. That was around the middle of the scale printed onboard.

12:09 AM. We just spent the last 30 or so minutes looking at double stars through Phil's Obsession. She probably doesn't want this getting out but we definitely helped Lora get more points for her Astronomy Badge.

We started off looking at Mizar and Alcor naked eye. Lora could see the 2 stars (with her eyeglasses installed). Martin reminded us that they had been historically used as a vision test. Then we viewed the pair through the 'scope and split Mizar into two components. We talked about the colours, or rather, lack.

Phil picked off Albireo. They've looked at it before together. But it's always a treat, being easily split, and very colourful.

Off to the Double Double in Lyra, as a challenge object. Phil slowly bumped the magnification so that we could split the individual stars. It was a very nice view as we split ε1 (epsilon) and ε2. This afforded a mention of the one of key rewards of double star observing: separating tight pairs. But that you needed good optics, good eyes, and steady air.

I recommended γ (gamma) Delphinus. Took us a mo' to find it. Phil and I started off arguing about the constellation. Then neither Phil or I could remember which star that was [ed: the nose]. He finally tagged it as I was consulting Sissy Haas's book. I read details of her entry: a "close pair" at 9.1 arc-seconds. To Lora's question, I briefly explained the use of arc and seconds. Then I asked Lora her impressions of the colours. She thought the primary orange and the secondary white. I relayed Haas's description of "grapefruit orange." But I said that in the secondary I could see a hint of green. And that I wasn't the only one. Smyth thought it "light emerald."

I told that I always enjoyed viewing jewel-like double stars. I think she enjoyed that impromptu double star tour...

We remarked on how sky was good and that the clouds were gone. I was glad that I came up early. I thanked Phil.

12:25. I had started going through the monthly list from the The Evening Sky Map from skymaps.com... I looked at the Garnet Star is the C14 with the 55mm and noted the intense deep orange colour. Phil walked in at that moment. Showed him. "Oh, red!" he said. I referred him to the Bayer designation so he could find it in his Dob: μ (mu) Cephei.

Phil and I discussed the CAO bedroom arrangements. He said he gonna take one of the upstairs bedrooms. Fine with me. I admitted I wanted the library. Primarily, on this occasion, to stay cool. We agreed to offer a space to Martin since it looked like he was in it for the long haul...

Ironically, Martin walked into the warm room. We helped him relight his red candle lantern.

12:47. I viewed Melotte (Mel) 111 near γ Coma Berenices and found a large open cluster. I had to use the TV101 refractor with TV55 eyepiece to fit everything [ed: that's 10 power]. The bright stars formed a V-shape, like a flock of geese.

I visited Phil. He was knocking off globs. He had seen a dozen so far.

12:52. When I re-examined the view of Mel 111, I spotted a faint fuzzy. I learned that this was NGC 4565 (aka The Needle Galaxy and Caldwell 38). Immediately, I remember Paul's fantastic photo. In the 55mm, it was large, edge on. Very faint, it required averted vision. I changed to the Panoptic 27mm eyepiece. This emphasised the core, a bright centre.

Did I see another fuzzy patch above? And a bright star below?

I read that M39 is visible naked eye. I headed out to the Observing Pad to do some 1x power observing. And catch up with the lads. All I could see was a single point. Well. It's a busy region. But in binoculars (even cheap ones) I could see a few of the stars of the open cluster.

Phil invited me to look at the Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009, Caldwell 55) is in the big 'scope. What an interesting shape. Seemed bluish in colour. We tried the different filters (easily done with the filter slider thing). It was a bit better in the UHC.

We viewed Neptune in the Obsession. Very nice. Hey; what's the little point? Triton perhaps? Phil ran it up to 263x. I checked my Stellarium software (the latest version) but it doesn't have Triton. Shoot. I had added to a previous version. I made a note to upgrade in the daylight.

Martin reported success with his 'scope, at last.

I wandered back to the GBO to find that my netbook had suffered BSOD!

1:57. I just recovered from a severe windows crash! I had forgotten about this problem. I had had 2 such crashes last weekend... I was developing a theory that they had to do with the EverNote Windoze client so I immediately shut it down. I hoped I would not have more issues.

Happily, it looked like I hadn't lost any of my blog notes! Moving on...

I read that M10 and 12 were close together. I checked the FOV indicator in TheSky for the TV101 with 55mm eyepiece and found that they fit in the same view! I viewed the two faint fuzzies at low power.

2:10. I found Phil winding down. I helped him navigate the "wheel barrel" into the GBO. He took a look through the C14 before trundling off.

Hey. There was dew on the tables in the observatory. Fortunately, none on the SCT corrector.

2:17. I found an omission in my companion site.

2:25. I observed the lazy S-shape of NGC 6633. The 55mm in the C14 was too close; the 55mm in the TV was too small. I found the 32mm was better. It appears as a lazy S of pale blue stars with one bright yellow-white star nearby. It looks dispersed or disturbed. Made me wonder if in the past it had been more uniform but then had been perturbed by gravity?

2:32. An interesting idea just popped into my head. While I have my telescope-eyepiece matrix information sheets hanging up in the "cold" and "hot" rooms of the GBO, I wondered if a small info card with each eyepiece, noting the FOV and mag (for both telescopes) might be more helpful, for tour guides.

Continued to tick off items from the TESM sheet. But it was too late for a group of targets. Too low to view were M94, M51, and M64.

2:39. Well, will wonders never cease?! I just learned that β (beta) Lyrae, aka Sheliak, is a double star. Doubles everywhere! Lots o' doubles in Lyra.

Sheliak is close to the Ring Nebula. At 17x, I observed a close pair; at 71x, they were widely split. The primary is white with hint of yellow. Hold the phone: the secondary looks green at high power. Haas says the primary is white but says the companion is a "little sapphire." Smyth says they are white and grey.

2:48. I just looked for Martin: no sign. His telescope appears to be wrapped up... With what? I'm not sure.

The Milky Way was soaring directly overhead, beautiful.

I finished reviewing the TESM for July. I have viewed most of the suggested targets. Later this weekend I'll try to knock off the others.

I checked local weather station for the CAO. I found that the humidity was still rising: currently 90. It was 1.8° from dew point... Hence the dew everywhere.

3:05. Needed a break. So I lugged some of my luggage to the library. I signed into the guest book. I got some more water.

3:11. I viewed the fifth planet. Hey! Jupiter has a pimple! Ah ha! Io is emerging from behind the planet, according to Stellarium, to join all the other moons to the east. Wow.

I wondered if the GRS was visible. I thought I could see it... This reminded me I hadn't checked (and adjusted) the Stellarium software... Another thing to do, in the daylight.

I noticed that the Moon was up. A crescent rose over the trees of the mountain. [ed: damn, didn't realise, at the time, that it was very near the Pleiades.]

3:17. I returned to viewing Jupiter. Neat. There was a thin black line now between the moon and the largest planet in the system.

3:32. I took a SQM reading (with this partial Moon): 20.40. Started reviewing double stars, on my life list, that required more data, a revisit.

I tried to pick up the companion to γ And B, i.e., the companion to the companion. No joy with the 10mm (391x) or 18mm (217x). The seeing was no good. Oh. The altitude/elevation is only 36°. That's not helping. I should try for this later in the evening (or season).

3:51. Revisited ρ (rho) Capricorni. I still don't know what's going on here. And I was not too keen on doing a sketch... Tired.

3:56. I closed the roof. I turned the Paramount off. I turned the power bar off. I set the dehumidifier to max dry. I turned the control laptop off. And then began to lock up.

I tried to shoot some photos of the Moon using the car as a pod. The puppies thought me a prowler. I thought they were bears!



4:35. And SLEEP!

§

I made a to-do list over the evening...
  • add Neptune's moon Triton to this new version of Stellarium
  • program the ISS flyover times into my palmtop
  • research if the Paramount can track a satellite like the ISS
  • check Jupiter's GRS meridian crossings
  • plan my daytime naps!
  • and plan early evening targets, e.g. 35 Com, Black Eye, etc.

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