Monday, September 06, 2010

do we have to go?! (Blue Mountains)

Kiron and I were the last people at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

We were taking our time packing. Moving slow. Tired. I had released Tony; said that I would lock up. We wrapped up our packing. We were getting ready to leave the house. A couple of final trips to the car. We both noticed the sky to the west clearing. Damn. It had been such a miserable weekend for weather. Now we have to leave and it starts to clear. What rotten luck.

Wait a minute...

Neither of us had to be in the city tonight. We had food. The damned skies were clearing! We had to be back in the 'hood to rendezvous with the Horvatin clan for the air show. But an early morning start would allow that...

After some consideration, we decided to stay!

First light for the new doors!

8:13 PM, Sun 5 Sep 2010. Saw the International Space Station flyover in the Celestron 14-inch. Never set up so quickly!

Used the 27mm eyepiece. The ISS didn't initially appear in the field of view; a moment later I saw it.

We saw it in the C14! Woo hoo! But on the edge of the 27mm field.

Reviewed TESM from SkyMaps. Reviewed week's events from Sky and Telescope. Used SkyTools3 Pro to get a list of targets and check on Jupiter. The Great Red Spot was predicted to cross the meridian late, 2 or 3 AM. Too late for us. There were no shadow transits predicted for the evening.

8:51. Started recording audio. Turned on stereo mode. Reminded Kiron the big telescope was still cooling.

Viewed a double star, 39 Boötis as suggested by ST3P (which I didn't know I had already seen). Kiron was surprised that it was part of Boötes. It must have been close to the border of Ursa Major.

Learned that 39 Boo was 230 ly distant, after adding the distance column to the SkyTools3 observing list.

Reviewed eyepiece powers in C14. 55mm gives 71x, 27mm gives 144x, 18mm gives 217x. I didn't think it looked as good at 200+ power. Kiron agreed. We dropped back to the 27mm.

We enjoyed not having to share the 'scopes with anyone! "Too bad, so sad."

8:57. I suggested we do dual viewing, that is put an eyepiece in the Tele Vue refractor and angle the mirror diagonals so we wouldn't bonk heads. We could also run, simultaneously, low and high powers. Wide objects in the TV and small objects in the SCT.

It was hard to split the stars in the Tele Vue.

Jupiter had risen just over the trees.

8:58. Huge Perseid. Huge! It was perfectly horizontal. Very bright. In the east, it went very near Jupiter. About 4 degrees away. I was on the big step ladder, fiddling with the 'scope, facing the right direction (for a change). Kind of orangey, probably due to the low elevation. Kiron was on the floor and didn't, unfortunately, get to the ladder in time. When I first saw it, for a second, I thought it was an aircraft. But then I saw it moving fast, very fast! Bookin'!

Kiron said he had seen a huge one, started yellow and then went greenish, on Friday night.

9:00. As I was describing the Perseid to Kiron, he spotted something over my shoulder, due north. He said he was stunned by the brightness. I spun and saw a faded point. "That's an Iridium," I told him. We made a note of the time: 9 on the button.

Used the Divide feature on voice recorder. Handy.

Revisited the double star. I asked Kiron his impression of the colours. He said: left was yellowish; right one was whitish-bluish.

The left one he thought "bigger." I clarified that it wasn't bigger but brighter. He wanted to know if they were orbiting each other. I wasn't sure. SkyTools said they were 2.6" apart in 2003.

9:04. Explained double star Position Angle and Separation impressions and measurement to Kiron. Where's a sketch pad when you need one? Gotta know where celestial north is. Reminded that the telescope type and use of a mirror affects the presentation.

9:14. Discussed eyepiece presentation depending on the type of telescope. I told Kiron that I believe people, books, web sites complicate it; it's simple. Count the number of reflections. If odd, the image will be rotated; if even (including zero), the image will be mirror reversed. The GBO SCT and refractor had 3 and 1 reflections, respectively, which created the same view. The Centre's Dobsonian, a Newtonian, gives a rotated view. That said, I relayed that my new finder scope has a corrected image.

9:16. Demonstrated the SkyTools3 year bar feature, night bar, the arranged list.

9:20. Kiron corrected me about Boötes. He is not carrying a shield. Nor does he have his arms outstretched. I was thinking about Orion. In Stellarium, we turned on constellation artwork. Hey, the Herdsman was carrying a sickle.

9:23. We looked at the details of the next ISS. 9:46. Shortie, 3 min long. Looked at the path in Heavens Above. Would start from NW and head through Ursa Major. Kinda toward Polaris. And stop in the shadow. Kiron thought it was a funny configuration on the site. I picked up the computer and rotated the screen.

9:29. Showed Kiron how to track the ISS with the telescopes on the Paramount ME. I would tell TheSky6 to get the ISS orbital (TLE) data from the web (although I don't know where it is getting it from). Then I would plot the path (while that's optional). Search for one of the station components (e.g. Zarya). Centre on it, if nec. Then using the telescope tracking command and Start Tracking. It might do one or a couple of slews, to catch up.

9:32. Kiron asked if TheSky could be used to identify a spotted satellite. Talked about determining details of a satellite spotting. Probably TheSky6 could do it but it might not be a good idea, if you loaded too much satellite data and then asked the computer to simulate it. I said that I used Heavens Above in combination with good log entries. And reviewed the Iridium flyover. 9 PM sharp. Confirmed! Satellite 61.

9:33. The sky looked fantastic. "The sky has opened," Kiron said.

Went to π (pi) 1 Boo. Very nice. My first impression was that they were the exact same colour. Kiron did not think so. While defocused, the colours emerged. The primary was blue white; the secondary was orange. Kiron said bluish (brighter) and redish or pink (fainter).

(I had also previously viewed this star...)

9:34. While we were both looking through eyepieces, we saw a satellite. Stereo! That was funny. I reacted first; then Kiron. Ha.

9:36. Alarm for the ISS went off. Ten to go.

9:38. Checked my email. Dietmar replied to my CAO booking / extension. He said he would have been too tired to do anything, if he had stayed. Told us to have fun. We already were!

We prepared for the next ISS pass. Originally I wanted the 55mm eyepiece from Kiron did not like the view. "It's kinda OK," he said.

I took a look. That was the eyepiece I cleaned (after dropping it). Did I put it together correctly? So, we put the 27mm back in.

9:43. I decided to do a little experiment. I chose the Soyuz TMA 18 vs. the Zarya. Started tracking... The software protested, at first.

Once again Kiron reported that it was at the edge of the field.

I tried the spiral search. It was improved. Second time was better. Manual repositioning. Couldn't stop fast enough.

Could see the panels. A bit of colour. Not very crisp. Low in the sky.

Stars zipping by.

While I looked in the C14, Kiron took a look in the TV 101. He really liked the view. It was a much better, razor sharp. I actually enjoyed the view in the Tele Vue a bit better. It is also somehow more interesting in a large field, stars drifting through the background.

I was happy to see it in the field of the TV 101. It meant that if I had connected the MallinCam, I likely would have had an image.

I finished off with Mark I eyeball viewing while Kiron used his old crummy binos. (His new Nikons are in for repair.) He tracked it a little bit longer while it had dimmed to low for me...

We agreed that the view in the TV was better. "Nice," Kiron said.

I felt a bit more confident. It confirmed that I was doing the general steps correctly. Probably the missed on the previous CAO visit were due to old TLE data... An interesting experiment.

Off to the Lagoon. Messier 8 (M8). Kiron checked clearances. "Andromeda's up." As I walked into the observatory floor, I looked up. It was a great sky. Wow.

Kiron commented, "Hoo. Very nice." He noted many stars, a bunch of stars. Reminded him of the Pleiades. There is a cluster, around the 8 o'clock position. There were 2 stars on the right-hand side, almost horizontal. I noted a bright central star. A glow around it. He spotted another satellite, in the wide field. I wondered if the faint stars were in the foreground, simply faint, or in the nebula or behind it. Intriguing.

10:02. My palmtop issued an alarm to cancel the Mew Lake car reservation. Reprogrammed my palmtop. We discussed Monday morning plans. When to wake, closing the GBO fully, etc.

Kiron saw a Perseid. A small one.

10:04. I headed to the loo.

10:07. Back. "I normally hate winter," I shared with Kiron. "But the earlier starts," to observing are good.

10:16. SkyTools suggested the Turtle Nebula, aka NGC 6210, in Hercules. Kiron said, "Oh, I can see it beautifully." Then, he said, "I can't see anything." Then, "There is something in the 'scope. It looks like a planet." He thought the colour blue. Small.

I was fiddling at the computer. Doubling checking the Jupiter's GRS predictions. It was to emerge at 1:30 AM. Kiron said, "It's moving fast." Indeed. Paul had reminded me that the rotational period was 9 hours. Kiron asked me to display the Jovian moons so to confirm what he saw after we concluded movie night.

10:38. Tony phoned with CNE info. They wanted to be at the Ex ground at 11; so that meant leaving the High Park area at 10:30. That moved everything up a bit for us. It impacted on our departure time. Kiron was concerned about possible dress code. We checked with Grace. Casual.

Grace asked about an object viewed at 6 AM a night or two previous. Said she had seen a bright orange object above Orion. It was Aldebaran.

Wow. The GBO cordless phone created a lot of interference into the Sony recorder!

10:46. We talked about absolute and relative scales in Stellarium. 1.0 and 1.0, the out-of-the-box settings, I thought were a bit artificial. Helps the novice spot the constellations. If you drop the absolute, you can simulate light pollution. Talked about Dynamic View. Simulates contrast.

10:52. We viewed the Turtle Nebula. We tried different eyepieces in the two 'scopes. At 400+ power. Asked Kiron if he could see any shape in the Turtle. Reminded him that we're not supposed to go over 300 power, under a thick air blanket.

We were keeping the doors of the warm room closed. It was cool outside.

11:04. I returned from the house. We discussed going to comet Hartley. We should have been lookin' at this an hour ago, according to SkyTools. I had already loaded it into Stellarium. Checked the ocular settings but I didn't have the C14 entered. Aimed for the comet. It was near ο (omicron) Andromeda (at the time, I misread as omega). It was about 2° from ο Andromedae. Wait: 16 Lacerta was closer.

I tried to load the comet data into TheSky6 but it didn't work.

11:21. Suggested we put the 27mm in the TV 'scope, so to give a 3.5 degree field. The predicted mag was 10.4.

I moved the 'scope a little bit.

Could not confirm it.

We talked about shutting down soon. Couldn't play too late, with our early start plan for tomorrow... Earlier now.

Kiron wanted to look at a few more objects before we wrapped, including M13, Andromeda or Messier 31 (M31), and Jupiter. OK. While I was yawning like crazy, the globular offered a lovely view.

11:39. We viewed the neighbour galaxy. Tried to pick out the dust lanes. Kiron returned to the C14 and did some panning to spot Messier 110 (M110). He couldn't find it. So I put the 'scope on M110 and then, from the control room, panned to the centre of M31, and finally stopped at Messier 32 (M32). Then he did it himself.

12:00 AM, Mon 6 Sep 2010. I advised Kiron of the time. And off we went to Jupiter.

We went for the moons around Uranus. We had the 27mm in the C14; 18mm in the TV. Kiron noted the stars around Uranus, forming a triangle, with Uranus in the middle. There was a mag 14.65 star inline with Oberon, at mag 14.15. I could see it when the seeing improved. Titania was mag 13.95; could not see it. SkyTools3 and Stellarium showed similar views. I was yawning again.

Clouds were spotted.

Started packing up.

12:26. I closed the roof while Kiron removed eyepieces. Closed the new and improved south wall door flaps. In the proper order now, as per the new procedure. Latched. I parked the 'scope. Kiron powered off the mount, power bar, and UPS. Fired up the dehumidifier.

12:37. We shut down the GBO. Fully. So we wouldn't have to re-enter in the morning.

Outside. Black sky. It was cold.

We got lucky this evening.

We hadn't had dinner yet...

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