Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter observing (Blue Mountains)

12:30 AM. We had finished watching our second movie. Grace had already gone to bed. I was thinking about it. Tony returned from the back deck of the Carr Astronomical Observatory and urged us to step outside: it was very clear to the west and north. How about that! Steve pointed out the big and fuzzy Coma Berenices Star Cluster directly overhead.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
I was very tired, yawning, didn't feel like going out. Really sitting on the fence. But Steve was interested, Tony was interested. We had all come a long way... I talked myself into it. And suited up!

It would also prove a chance to let Steve practice his new CAO supervisor training.

1:00. We opened the Geoff Brown Observatory together. Our agreed that our first target would be Saturn.

1:05. We just viewed Saturn through both the Celestron 14" Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope with a Tele Vue Panoptic 27mm eyepiece (yielding 145x) and the Tele Vue 101mm refractor telescope with a TV Radian 5mm (108x). The northern temperate zone belt seemed darker than I recalled. Titan and Rhea flanked the ring planet. Dione was close to the rings, same side as Titan. Iapetus was visible too, way off to the right.

1:32. We tried, with the Nagler 20mm in the C14 (at 196x), to draw out Tethys, Mimas, or Encedalus. The view was not bad but we didn't have any luck. I wondered if we had a masking eyepiece...

Tony headed off to bed. Way past his bed time. Now I was wide awake! Funny that he was the one to nudge us outside...

1:46. Steve and I viewed Porrima, not far away, 2.5 degrees from Saturn. With with the 20mm in C14, it was a nice split, like car headlights. Since we had both 'scopes going, I was curious. I put the 3mm in TV101 but, even at 180 power, I could not see split it.

2:02. Steve wanted to try manually steering the big 'scope. It took us a while to sort out the Telrad though.

The 1x finder initially aboard the C14 had been left on, so—of course—the batteries were dead. When we opened the battery cover, sadly, we found that the batteries had leaked. To make matters worse, a small metal part, a spacer of some kind, fell out. My fears were confirmed when we tried fresh batteries: the battery holder was irreparable damaged. I put it aside to take home to repair.

We borrowed the working Telrad from the orange tube C8. Steve got familiar with the equipment.

2:11. We viewed Messier 3 (M3) in the big 'scope at 145x. The globular cluster was amazing, beautiful. We could see individual stars, gradually soft brightening to the centre.

The 3rd quarter phase Moon rose over the mountain, flooding the observatory, and sky, with light... Urg.

2:34. We viewed the big needle-like galaxy Herschel H47-5 aka NGC 3079. Thin, edge-on.

Nearby was the small elliptical, NGC 3073, just beyond 3 stars. Faint. It was magnitude 14.1 according to SkyTools3; TheSky6 said it was 11.6.

2:43. The Moon was bright. I probably should have tried for this earlier. But I wanted to see if we could detect a quasar. I had added two candidates to my SkyTools list. We slewed to the "twin quasar" neighbourhood. I couldn't see anything... I was too tired and chilled to sketch anything.

We called it quits and quickly packed up.

There was dew everywhere!

3:03. I checked the conditions in the Davis Vantage Pro weather station console: humidity was 94% and the temperature was -1°C with the wind chill.

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