Friday, April 08, 2011

wow factor (King)

When Bill said that Marion and Duncan were already at the farm and that I could go up any time, I entertained the idea of getting out ahead of the rush hour crowd. I was able to get on the road at about 2 PM. It proved a pretty easy drive.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping, Vixen tracking
I tried the hand-me-down Panasonic GPS after loading in the latitude and longitude of the Bobo's farm. It worked! It beeped to signal that I had arrived my destination as I drove up their driveway. That was comforting. I was otherwise going completely on visual memory.

It was interesting to me that, as the crow flies, they are less than 50 km from me. For some reason, I thought the Holland Marsh was much further away...

Shortly after arriving I asked Duncan if he would like to help me set up the telescope. Duncan, Marion, and I first considered the deck above the sunroom but with all the trees close to the house, we knew it would not work. Damn trees! We decided on the lower driveway for good sightlines, especially for tagging Saturn.

I explained how the 'scope and mount worked as we assembled it. Duncan helped track down a long extension cord to get power to the 'scope. I used my compass to get close to the north celestial pole. I aligned the finder scope on a distant southern tower with a round top. I thought it a water tower at first but, in the 55 power eyepiece it turned out to be a communication station of some king. Marion thought it a radar device.

Marion loaned me a pony blanket to cover the 'scope as we enjoyed the afternoon Sun. The blanket proved very handy with integrated clips. We left the rig to cool down. The skies were looking promising.


After a delicious dinner, we headed outside. We extinguished all the outside lights, on the garage and house. It was turning into a pleasant evening, somewhat clear, not too cold.

We watched the stars and constellations come out, including Canis Major and Sirius, Canis Minor and Procyon, Taurus and Aldebaran. I helped them spot, naked eye, with the green laser, the Pleiades, just below the Moon.

First I trained the Celestron 8" on the young Moon. That was exciting for everyone. Bill had never looked at the Moon through a telescope before. We talked about how the bright satellite, while only partly lit, was knocking out our night vision. It gave them a good sense of importance of dark adaptation.

Then, as I spotted Gemini with Castor and Pollux, I moved the 8" SCT to the double star. Everyone was able to split Castor.

Before it dipped too low, we enjoyed Orion. Marion wanted to know where Rigel was, having named one of their cats after the star. I also pointed out Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. We viewed Great Nebula and Trapezium.

I tried for Mizar and Alcor but couldn't align as that part of the sky grew cloudy. Meanwhile, Bill spotted a bright point over the garage. Good eye: it was Saturn!

With 55x we spotted Titan; at 110x, we could see Iapetus. I thought it a little strange that we couldn't see other moons but I surmised they we close to the planet or rings.

Marion, Duncan, and Bill enjoyed all the views. There were lots of wow factor moments! Bill was so amazed, he sent a email to Lex and Ger.
I SEE STARS!!!!!!!!

Ok so cool. We just looked at Saturn. WOW.
As the ringed planet rose, as the view improved, I was able see and point out the lighter equatorial belt and darker northern cloud bands. Bill thought he could see the Cassini division on one side of the planet.

It was too bad they could not attend on this evening but they had a visitor.

A friend of Bobos came by later. She enjoyed the views as well.

The skies gradually degraded. We headed inside and reviewed what we had seen. I showed Bill the Newmarket Clear Sky Chart.

Later we schlepped the assembled 'scope into the garage. That was very handy, having positioned so close to the garage. Duncan spotted for me.

Overall, a short and sweet session. But lots of fun had by all!


I was pretty happy. The weather sites were showing improved predictions than what I had seen early in the week. The afternoon sky was looking so good I was regretting not bringing the solar filter. The evening conditions were rather good. The seeing was not bad. It was pretty dark at their place above the March. It's gonna be great on a good night...

There are a gaggle of lights to the north! Must be Bradford. So if we continue to use the driveway or south lawn in the future, it will be awesome. When they move the old barn, the southern sightline will be amazing.

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