Tuesday, October 12, 2010

popped over to park (Toronto)

I was feeling pretty stressed at the prospect of sleeping in an alley... But I felt a strong pull to attend the RASC Toronto Centre City Observing Session at High Park. Mostly to support John. OK. And try out his Celestron 8x56 binos...


John asked me to submit a report to the Yahoo!Group listserv. Edited slightly for public consumption...


I arrived around 8 PM or 8:30. Found the baseball diamond/soccer pitch lights were out! Hurrah! John was already there with the society's loaner Edmund Scientific 6" reflector on equatorial mount and Celestron 8x56 binoculars. Joining him was Mark with his fork-mounted 8" Celestron go-to Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (SCT). They were showing a visiting couple Jupiter and its four moons. I scared them off when the guy thought I was going to crash into his car.

I learned from John there were a few other walk-throughs before me.

We took a quick peek at the pale blue disk of Uranus and hoped to see its moons but that was crazy talk, with them all hovering around mag 13.

Jas and Steve arrived out of the blue. NOVA alumni, they said they regularly lurked on our web site and decided drive down from Yonge and Lawrence. Steve had his new and improved LightSwitch 6" SCT (LS-6). John, Mark, and I were mesmerised as it homed, levelled, took wide field photos, and aligned itself. Meanwhile, Steve grabbed some modern 2" eyepieces. He too then tagged the King of the Planets.

In the cool air, we chatted about Uranus's tilt and alignment of moons compared to the solar system plane, who had seen comet 103/P Hartley2 (unfortunately inaccessible to us behind trees), it's distance from Earth (0.1 astronomical units), how close it would get to the Sun (1.1 AU), current meteor showers, dew heating equipment, infinitely adjustable-height chairs, getting to know the sky, and the benefits of RASC membership.

Before it set, I viewed the half-lit Moon in John's binoculars. Very crisp, very three dimensional with the Earthshine easily visible. We viewed the Andromeda galaxy with binoculars and in the LS-6. We took in the double stars of Albireo, ε (epsilon) Lyrae 1 and 2 (a.k.a. Tim Horton), and β (beta) Lyrae in binos and the LS-6. We also put the LS-6 on Messier 11, the Wild Duck, and M45, the Pleiades. Sadly, could not find the comet in the Celestron binos.

We kept returning to Jupiter. Waiting the for Great Red Spot to emerge. It did not disappoint. Stunning when the seeing was good.

Everyone was cold. We packed up around 10:30 PM.


I didn't take anything. That was on purpose. I certainly couldn't afford the time to set up my regular SCT telescope. With nothing big erected, I could peel out quickly. Only wanted to do some binocular viewing. I did pull out the netbook (with red film) to look up the GRS crossing, using SkyTools3. That was helpful...


In the end, I was glad I went. It was a break, a distraction, for me. Change of pace.


No one had a green laser pointer... Made instructing/helping a challenge. Totally forgot that my telescopic pointer was in the Magic Bag.

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