Sunday, January 16, 2011

not enough time (Toronto)

Arrived home around 1:30 AM after a separate memorial, visit to friends of friends, and yummy dinner. Saw lots of RASC people today.

Phil loaned me his friction-fit SCT adapter by Tele Vue. Hopefully it will allow the connection of the Denis's flip mirror to my 8" SCT. I had brought along the flip mirror for Phil and I to test fit during the day. That worked. So far so good.

Immediately after arriving home, I did some preliminary preparation steps for testing the occultation gear. I brought the shovel in from the front foyer and moved it to the kitchen, near the door to the porch. There was 10 cm of snow out there. Moved the MEC red winter coat upstairs along with my winter hiking boots. It was pretty cold so I knew I'd need the coat. These boots are such that I can quickly slip them on or off. That would help as I transferred things outside and checked things in the office.

Should not have opened my inbox. Had to push out some difficult emails... Ugh.

At roughly, 2:00 AM, I began to set up. Shovelled the porch. I grabbed the new telescope OTA bag and eyepieces case and moved them outside to begin cooling.

Dive. Dive. Dive. Red light mode! Red film to desktop computer monitors and netbook. Red LED lights on in bedroom and kitchen.

Took the tripod to the porch. Found one of the cam handles missing from the tripod legs. Happily it was safely captured in the new tripod bag! I was still missing the washer but I didn't let that stop me.

I was very pleased to spot Polaris over the roof of the house. I had not thought it possible to do a direct polar alignment. w00t!

Installed the main telescope tube and added the finder scope. Used Mizar and Alcor to align the finder. Hello, Sidus Ludoviciana. Then aimed at Castor. Lovely. Ooh. The view was good. I was seeing faint stars (mag 8 or 9) nearby.

Put caps and covers on to avoid frost. Was not planning on hooking up dew heaters.

Next problem was power. Without an AC outlet on the porch, I wasn't sure how I was going to get power to the telescope and accessories. I really didn't feel like lugging gel cell batteries outside... Looked that seam of the door. No space really. Hmm. The small windows flanking the door. Hey. They can open. Ah ha! The screens can be removed. I was able to feed a short extension cord from the socket beside the stove, through the east window, and outside. Finally, I was able to crank the window nearly closed. Happily I couldn't feel any draft per se. Nice.

Fetched my GFCI power bar, AC-12V custom adapter, and motor drive electronics. Soon I was tracking. And it held up between viewings so I knew my polar alignment was pretty good.

At this stage, I had done a "normal" setup, that is, using all my own gear. I needed to test if Phil's adapter would fit on the back of my SCT. In short order, I was able to thread it on. Yeh! I removed the SCT adapter from the Williams Optics 2" mirror and slipped the mirror into Phil's adapter. Like a glove. Looked through the eyepiece. Well, how about that. Still in focus!

Brilliant. Now I knew my telescope was able to receive Denis's video equipment. I thought it time to get on the target star for the Maja occultation. Oh boy. I realised at this stage, I had not done much prep for the occultation proper. I had not printed custom finder charts for my eyepiece set. I did not even have the information page from Preston's site loaded up. No time for that now, I'd just work directly with the computers.

Prepared the camcorder. Oops. Unit still had the RASC meeting tape 2 of 2 loaded. (Actually, it gave me a chance to quickly check that that worked. Woo hoo. I saw the end of Paul's talk. Could hear him too. Yeh.) In my darkened office, Moon beaming in, I located and loaded a new recordable tape. Checked it was rewound.

Fired up Stellarium 0.9 on the PC and SkyTools3 Pro on the netbook. I had previously configured (66) Maja in Stellarium.

Had a hard time typing in the dark. I knew I had another red LED light string (or two). Haven't put one into the desk yet. Forgot to get out the red LED USB keyboard lights... duh.

Made a new observing list in ST3 for the event. It took me a while to locate the target star in ST3. At last I had it. Preston's designation: TYC 1929-00358-1; SkyTools preference: HD 63991. Added to the observing list. Then added Castor. Moved to the kitchen, close to the 'scope. So I could star hop and keep my boots on! And keep warm...

Next I tried to use the interactive atlas and telescope views to plan the star hop. Did not think (at the time) I had the Orion finder scope field-of-view data in SkyTools. Tried using the binoculars option. Tried the Visual Sky Simulation three-panel view but was put off by the background colour and lack of stars. Went back to the interactive atlas, fiddled with the view preferences, and kind of used it by hand. Turned off the doubler option. (It would have helped significantly if I had turned on the mirror diagonal...)

I was thrown by orientation issues, I kept backtracking. Struggled with the context viewer and interactive atlas views, particularly on the small netbook screen. Pollux. Three faint stars in a little triangle. φ (phi) Geminorus. Finally, I arrived at what I thought was the star. Time check? 3:47! Damn it! There was no time left!

I had yet to hook up the flip mirror, an eyepiece, the camcorder, occultation-rig-in-a-box to power. Triple check my star. Get focus. 10 minutes to do all that? Some of which I had never done before? No... not possible.

So I grabbed the voice recorder and headed to the porch to do a visual (without time signal; just for fun)... And didn't see anything!

I strongly suspect I was on the wrong star. It should have been easy, with the star's brightness, and given the size of the asteroid. Probably my incorrect settings in SkyTools messed me up. Still getting used to SkyTools. Still getting used to the new finder scope and it's 5° field. Why I didn't go to a higher power eyepiece is a bit beyond me. Tired? Fuzzy? Cold?

All the wind was out of my sails. I packed up, save the tripod, crawled into the warm bed, Nancy watching over me, and promptly passed out.


It was a little disappointing but still somewhat rewarding. Learned a bunch. Next clear night I'll finish the test.

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