Sunday, August 29, 2010

2 more misses (Blue Mountains)

7:39 PM. I prepared for the first of two flyovers by the International Space Station. Connected to both the LCD monitor and the TV card in the laptop. Rerouted the cables to prevent strain. I had updated the laptop's date/time using U of T's internet time server.

I had loaded the satellite data from the web once again, as I've done successfully before. I noticed this time, in the Object Information window, when I had the satellite selected, I could see the TLE data. And as I had begun to understand the TLE, I could see the "metric" date/time stamp within window. It was not old; in fact, it was for tomorrow's date (day 241). I'm assuming it is in UTC...

8:00. Via instant messaging, I told Phil about the ISS pass. He was at home. He thanked me for the tip. He said he was going to head outside.

8:03. Paul popped into the observatory to see what was up with the pass. I told him it would be in about 3 minutes. He remarked that the sky was very bright. I pointed out that the station was to go to -3.5 magnitude brightness. Venus, at -4.4, which was now easily visible, gave a sense of what to expect. He wanted to know the starting location: slightly to the left of Venus.

I told him I was on Venus in the C14. He took a look. Noted the shimmering of the air.

Then he said, "Cool setup! Well done."

We talked about bugs and weather conditions.

I showed him the outline of the building structure in TheSky6, emphasising this was the optical limit.

8:07. I turned on the AVerMedia recording. I put the Paramount ME into satellite tracking mode. Paul remarked that it was a nice gentle motion. I reminded him that the station was 2000 km away; when overhead, only 350 km, it would book!

We talked about dew conditions. I relayed that it was very dewy last night down in the orchard. But I expected it to be fine, here, up on the mountain.

Paul headed out to the Observing Pad, where his 10" Dobsonian was set up.

Nothing appeared on the monitor. Nothing appeared in the eyepiece.

Remembered I still had the 27mm ocular in. I had meant to drop the power...

8:11. Michael came into the GBO warm room. "That is cool," he said.

From the observatory floor, I took a look at the station as it flew overhead. It was not a point! I thought there was some shape to it, oblong. I swear I could see detail! It was not a point source. It seemed a short line at times; then two separate points of light, attached. Paul thought I have very keen eyesight. I thanked Dr. Chou!

8:13. I observed that the 'scope had stopped moving, having reached the meridian.

We wondered why we didn't see anything. Paul asked if it was an alignment issue. I didn't think so.

I said that I would plan to use the Search pattern feature on the next pass. Hopefully, it would spiral outwards and find the object.

Paul went to get his point-and-shoot camera. He wanted to note the C14 configuration and activities in the (very) warm room.

I tested if the mount still worked. I sent the mount Venus. No errors reported. It moved. It looked good. Checked the eyepiece. Nothing. These satellite tracks seem to push the mount so far it must lose track of its position. I homed the mount to correct.

8:14. Phil pinged me. He said hi to Paul. They live quite close to one another, I learned.

8:17. Paul took a photo of "the control room" but his flash went off. I offered astronomy box α as a monopod, so he could shot without the flash, capture the room's red lighting. It worked! "It came out nicely," he said. I'll have to get the photo from him...

3 computers, 2 clocks, 2 telescopes, lots of red lights, too many Red Bulls

Spent some time learning SkyTools3 Pro. Built up a custom observing plan with the matrix of location, sky conditions, telescope, eyepieces, etc.

9:36. I readied myself for the next ISS pass. Dropped the C14 eyepiece to the 55mm to widen the field.

9:52. Failed to telescopically view or image the ISS, yet again. It was close, correct general area, correct general path. Probably off by a degree or so. Tried the spiral Search and I could see it would help with this problem, it is effective. But I didn't let it go far enough or long enough.

Is this epic fail?

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