Sunday, July 04, 2010

some Virgo galaxies (Blue Mountains)

Katrina asked if I was going to use the Questar in the evening. She wanted to see it in action. I moved it from the kitchen to the picnic table near her at the east end. Gave her a quick demo. Encouraged her to try it. But to inform me of any unauthorised users...

Kiron asked when the Moon was going to rise. Like a good Padawan Learner, he accepted the challenge of finding the answer. And while he took a long time—and we value quality over quantity—the young Kiron returned the correct answer of 12:19.

We enjoyed the line of planets in the west and the summer triangle stars in the east.

Tony took off with the girls. Handed me the reins! Suddenly I was in charge. Teach me to open my big mouth. So I flew the C14. Was kinda caught off guard by that. Should have had a plan of attack!

As it was, I viewed Saturn. As the sky darkened, I could see Rhea and Dione east of the planet and Tethys on the other side. Titan was very nearly over the planet disk. Drawing closer as we watched it. Later, I picked off Iapetus near the mag 11.3 star. I took peeks in Phil's Obsession and Kiron's Skywatcher.

There seemed to be even more mozzies tonight despite the wind. The air temp? I wore my bug suit gloves for part of the evening but not all... Probably a mistake.

Still very windy tonight. Lower average, I thought; but higher gusts. Phil had removed the fabric shroud from the truss frame of his 'scope to improve the view.

While killing time, and in an effort to improve the signal, I moved the latest Linksys wifi from the GBO observing area to the warm room.

I flitted around from 'scope to 'scope. Back to the GBO to keep an eye on the Paramount. Tony finally returned. As he pulled up the driveway, I warned everyone to shield their eyes.

10:28. We watched the ISS flyover. Very similar pass as last night's second run. These events are fantastic at the CAO, with such good sight lines.

At 11:11, I was back in the THO. Despite moving the second WAP to the GBO warm room, the signal strength was not improved.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping
11:36. I enjoyed the view of Messiers 60 and 59 in the same field of view, with the baader eyepiece (they are 25 minutes of arc apart). They were very faint, both. It looked to me that M60 was bigger than M59. Was I seeing a bit of structure in 60? (That is odd, since it is an elliptical.) 59 was just a fuzz ball (generally the case with an elliptical galaxy).

(Fun fact discovered later in the amazing wikipedia: At the centre of M60 is a black hole of 4.5 billion solar masses, one of the largest ever found.)

I tried to spot NGC 4647 beside M60 but it was not clearly resolvable. That said, M60 did not seem regular. Averted vision coaxed out a bit more detail.

Actually, on revisiting, after a break from the eyepiece, I could see a second bump in brightness toward 59, in the direction of 59.

Break time!

Phil, Kiron, and I wanted ice cream. I wore my red laser goggles and dove into the freezer for everyone else.

Dean grabbed me at one point and asked if I had more red film. You bet! Seemed he was perturbing others with his bright laptop... Then he asked if he could borrow a piece. OK. Fine. I loaned a pre-cut 2x2' piece and said he could give it back in the morning. Suggested he use electrical tape to affix it to his computer.

12:03. Katrina had spotted a very bright satellite. Much brighter than any of the others. Everyone wondered if it was the ISS but I said that I didn't think so. But it had to be. My mistake was that I had forgotten to check for flyovers past midnight... Oops!

12:21. Viewed M58 at 77x. It was very faint. Oblong in shape (that's because it's a barred spiral). I confirmed the location use the nearby flattened diamond of stars.

Caught myself falling asleep at the computer. Unable to concentrate at the telescope. Certainly not able to operate heavy equipment. Wondered if some fresh air would help. Moving about. Etc.

12:55. Viewed Albireo in Questar from the picnic table. It was a beautiful gold and royal blue at 40x. Very pretty. As always.
Instrument: Questar 3.5-inch MCT
Mount: table top
Method: star hopping
Returned to the THO but it was still zonked.

1:10. Closed up.

Viewed the Moon in Questar at 40x. Noted dark mare on east limb (checked later to learn it was Grimaldi) and the very bright crater above the equator (which I correctly guessed was Copernicus).

Loaned Kiron my netbook to let him use Virtual Moon Atlas. Left the keyboard light attached. Kiron liked the red LED over the keyboard, although we both agreed it was too bright. He liked it so much he's going to try to find one for himself... Asked me to hack it for him.

He asked me to help him with locating Uranus. I apologised. I was too tired.

He stayed up until 4:30 or so! One crazy man.

Despite very good skies and very dry conditions, I was very tired. I couldn't stay awake! This was very disappointing. But it clearly showed how increasingly important daytime naps will be.

Once in bed I passed out. I didn't even care that there were mozzies in the house.

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