Monday, July 04, 2011

finished with a bang (Blue Mountains)

Moved my Celestron SP-C8 back to the Observing Pad for Kiron. Connected the 120VAC-12VDC adapter tonight so that he'd have infinite power.

9:41 PM, 3 July 2011. Done with spacecraft, I put scope on Saturn. It was lovely in 27mm in the C14. Both the planet and Porrima fit in field of TV101 with with 10mm.

10:06 PM. Looked at Saturn in the C14. Moved to a higher power eyepiece, the 18mm. Could see Titan. There were bright stars above and below. There was a faint moon, same side, just above rings.

Phil was very unhappy with mozzies. He decided to go into the house for 30 minutes. Let the bugs lose the scent... I felt well-protected tonight. Better than the previous night. I was wearing my RASC hoodie and long pants. I had my bug gloves on, which I had sprayed with DEET. I had also sprayed my head and baseball cap.

But there were dozens of the damned insects in the Warm Room. Evil, nasty, hungry, rotten vampires. They were on the war path.

I checked the air temperature. It was 18.3°C. The prediction for the low was 15. Less concerned with dew, I was hoping for a low temp, so to drive the mozzies away.

10:20. I continued viewing Saturn. Rhea, at mag 9.9, was north of rings. Titan was about 2 to 3 ring-widths away, to the east. Iapetus was north of Titan at mag 11.3. I could see a 12.6 mag star SE of Titan. I couldn't see Dione at 10.6 or Enceladus at 11.9.

10:34. I still could not spot Enceladus or Dione.

10:44. After consulting the summer TLAO list, I tried to split tau Boötis. I could not do it! I saw a white-yellow star. I check dsfst and found that it was not listed! Sheesh. ST3 says the pair is separated by 1.2 seconds of arc. But I thought the seeing was bad.

I dropped the ocular back to 27mm.

I found the Optec autofocuser on the C14 failing. I heard a repetitive ticking. I rebooted it. When I looked at the display of the TCF-S, I saw an ER-2 message. Huh. Wondered what that meant. I didn't know anything about the focuser although I recalled Dietmar saying a while back that it was acting up. Hadn't seen a manual around. I made a note to download the user guide during the day.

I aligned the TV 'scope.

10:53. I viewed zeta Boo. I saw a very bright white-yellow star. There was a bright star in da 'hood. But, once again, I could not split it... This object was listed in Haas's book. But it was noted at having less than 1" sep. Ooh. Very challenging. She also said that it was fast-moving.

I started to rethink my evening plan. Probably double stars were not good to do right now... I switched to large auto-generated list in SkyTools... Looked for targets fairly high. Stay in Boötes?

11:08. I viewed object New General Catalog 5615 with the 55mm. It seemed to be a spiral galaxy. Face on, it looked like. It was very faint. ST3 said it was mag 15.5. I popped in the 27 TV Pan. I could see the 6 faint stars to the north-east. They are mag 14 stars. I kept staring. I was seeing stars all the way down to mag 14.9. So, the sky conditions were pretty good.

I went to Observing pad to visit the crew. They reported that the bugs were improving.

Steve was setting up his AstroTrac (atop hefty pier tripod with guy wires) so to shoot some long exposures with his Canon DSLR.

Phil was at his TV refractor. He said he didn't bother with Saturn, given the seeing conditions combined with the low elevation.

I returned to the GBO. And returned to the C14 eyepiece. I think I saw, by averted vision, NGC 5613. The was a small faint fuzzy near the galaxy. ST3 said 5613 was also mag 15.5. Wow. Nice. OK. Let's try something else in Boo, I thought.

11:38. Ha ha. I thought I was centred on Index Catalog 983 but it turned out that I was looking at galaxy NGC 5490. It was curious to find IC 982 (ST3 says mag 14.5) easier to see than 983 (mag 10.4)! Still, they were all crazy faint. 5490 is mag 15.2. I wondered if this was not the best time to view this dim targets.

12:18 AM, 4 July 2011. Tried to view Campbell's Hydrogen Star in Cygnus. It took me a while to find it in TheSky6 as there was no regular designation. I had to position the telescope using RA and Dec settings. For the first time, I used the Orientation, Move to... command. What I was seeing looked star-like. It was unremarkable to me. I was expecting a small, bright planetary nebula.

I definitely didn't see a PN. Maybe I was not on the target... Will have to try again later.

Popped outside again.

Kiron showed me Messier 81 and Messier 82 in his binos.

I checked my 'scope. Checked the eyepieces and corrector for dew. Everything seemed OK.

12:24 AM. I was back from the pad.

12:26. I noted our local conditions. The temp was 16.8; the humidity was 61.

12:43. In ST3, I switched to TAC Eye Candy list. Then I headed off to IC 4756. I examined it initially in the C14 at fairly high power then in the TV101 with 55mm finally, so to back up and take in the whole thing. I observed an open cluster with many blue-white stars. There are a few bright stars surrounding it. Somehow the stars reminded me of a shopping cart profile.

I was getting very tired of the never-ending waves of mozzies. I brought the floor fan out from the house and aimed it at the workstation. Make 'em work for their meal.

1:00. I viewed the Muscle Man Cluster, aka Stock 2 or OCL 348. When Sharmin came in, I offered a look. She rightly noted that it was very near the Double Cluster. I returned to the eyepiece, thinking it a curious moniker. Oh... I see! I finally figured it out. I saw why it was called the Muscle Man. I saw the stickman with arms overhead.

I noted that comet LINEAR is in the 'hood. Slewed to the area. But neither Sharmin or I could see anything. I bumped the TV up to 27mm and used the C14 at 55mm. No luck.

1:21. I viewed NGC 663 (also known as Caldwell 10). It was very compact in TV101. In the C14, it resolved into a dense object. There were many double stars within it.

There was something below it... But I didn't make good notes. Not sure if it was NGC 659, 654, or something else. I should stop doing that.

1:27. I helped Sharmin find NGC 6144 in Scorpius. It was pretty low so appeared just a smudge in the TV with the 27. It was nice in the C14 with the 55. A small object.

She requested Messier 4. Nearby.

Then Messier 14 in Ophiuchus. She said she couldn't see stars. I increased to 18mm in the C14.

Went outside again.

Kiron encouraged me to look through his binocs. He was viewing Kemble's Cascade. Nice. I don't think I head ever seen it live. Been on my wish lists...

I noted that the constellation name used in ST3 is "Camelopardus." I wondered why it was different. [I learned from the amazing wikipedia that this is an older term. Camelopardalis is the modern name.]

Phil was offering views of comet Garradd in his refractor! It was a small smudge in Pegasus but obvious. ST3 said it was mag 8.7. Nestled in a little arc of 4 mag 8 to 9 stars. In the middle of nowhere! Good job finding it. Cool!

I started to feel a little chilled so I headed indoors. I added two layers of clothing.

1:55. Back in the GBO, I took a few SQM readings. They were around 21.00. It reported the sky temperature as 15. The Davis weather station reported 16.3 with a humidity reading of 63.

2:13. I put comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd) in the C14 with the 27mm and the TV with the 18mm. It was a good view. I let the peeps on the Observing Pad know. Steve said, "Hey, it's moved!" It turned out it wasn't moving all that fast. Phil and Steve were getting thrown by the different magnification. I backed out the C14 to the 55mm.

I thought the comet appeared to have 2 bright centres. There must be a star nearby...

2:30. Kiron asked for help finding the Scutum constellation. We borrowed Steve's green laser pointer. I pointed out the main stars (including alpha at the middle-right, beta at the top, gamma at the bottom-right) by using Stellarium. I told him that I had seen the faint constellation shown as a stretched diamond in other software and charts. In fact, ST3 does the thin trapezoid. It wasn't that easy with the faint stars.

I needed a boost. I cracked open a Red Bull, my last one.

2:35. Kiron informed me that Jupiter was up. So it was. Hazy and coloured over the Blue Mountains.

If I remember correctly, I was looking for something up high. Perhaps in Lyra. I switched to the Sky and Telescope summer double star list.

2:59. I couldn't split the primary star in STT525 or Σ525 aka HR 7140 in Lyra. Again, Haas notes this is a triple star; ST3 says it is a quad. The AB pair are 1.8" apart based on a measurement in 2003! I resigned that the seeing is not good enough. Using the 10mm in the C14 didn't help.

I first viewed the 45 arc-second AC pair on 3 Aug 2009.

In the end, I kinda crashed and burned here. I need to re-examine this star to confirm the AC pair, split AB, and spot the super-wide AD. A sketch would settle everything nicely!

I wonder if I should delete the logged status in SkyTools... Well. I dunno. I did view the AC pair successfully from the S&T list. So, that's valid. Perhaps the source of the confusion was that I had not marked it as view in SkyTools. And that appears to be because I never checked it off in my old S&T spreadsheet! Any hoo...

3:03. Now, the Davis weather station said the air temp was 15.1 with a humidity of 67.

3:11. I viewed Messier 102. It was a big object in the C14, a face-on spiral. Still, it was faint. It didn't seem to be the best time to look at it... It was setting. [ed: Update from 3 Dec 2018. This was not the correct object due to a catalogue error in TheSky6; we landed on M101.]

I switched to the TLAO - summer list.

3:35 Viewed δ (delta) Lyr and found a wide pair. The main star was yellow with hints of orange. I thought the companion pale blue. I wondered if this target would be easy in binoculars... I thought it a little strange that it was not in the Haas book.

Laid down on the floor of the GBO.

3:42. A moment ago I saw a westbound meteor. Caught it below Lyra. Left a persistent train. Earlier I had seen a few meteors. The first two were northbound.

3:50. Just saw a satellite. Not as bright as Deneb or Sadr; about as bright as the stars in Delphinus. Heading due south. Fast and high.

3:55. The mozzies were still harassing. Cricky. Weren't they ever going to give up? I reckoned it just wasn't getting cold enough...

I went to Sulafat aka γ (gamma) Lyr. I think, based on details in SkyTools itself, I was expecting to see a double. I spotted a super-intense white star in the C14 but nothing else that jumped out at me. It occurred to me that I may have added it to the TLAO summer list only to gauge brightness of another star... [Correct: the TLAO book says to compare it against Sheliak...]

3:58. I heard a bird call. Wow. They were waking already!

I took it as a sign... Time to wind it down. I was feeling a little perturbed. I think it had to do with the automatic generated list I had made in SkyTools. It was too big. It was overwhelming. I caught myself jumping from list to list. And that's just a time-waster.

4:00. I tagged Jupiter. It was higher in the sky now but still not great. Nevertheless, it was good to view again. The north and south equatorial cloud bands looked the same to me now, equal dark, unlike last summer. I saw 3 moons. The seeing was poor still.

4:07. I identified the moons with software: Europa, Ganymede, Callisto. Inner to outer. All on the west side. Where was Io? Must have been behind or in front...

Sharmin came into the Warm Room. She asked me to confirm what she was seeing outside. Was she seeing aurora? As we walked out of the GBO toward the parking lot, I noted the bright glow in the north-east sky. Sun coming up. Perhaps it was... what a minute. That wasn't aurora. That wasn't sky glow. It was familiar. Somehow very familiar. I had seen it before, in images, in photos. Holy cow! We were looking at noctilucent clouds! I freaked out. What incredible luck!

4:12. I grabbed my FujiFilm finepix J20 point-and-shoot camera and teeny tiny mini-tripod and starting shooting! I put the camera into fireworks mode to be able to control the shutter speed and used the self-timer to eliminate shake.

I took photos from the top of Kiron's car from the south edge of the parking lot.

I was surprised to see Capella (α), Menkalinan (β), Al Anz (ε), Hoedus II (η), Haedi (ζ) of Auriga in the image. β Aurigae is just above the hydro pole.

4:16. Then I shot some pix from the picnic table at the Observing Pad.

4:18. We admonished Kiron! "Why did you tell us about this?" Sharmin asked. He said he thought it was just the dawn sky. Dude. I didn't like the angle from the pad. We moved to the north deck. The view was fantastic. The prismatic colours were brightening.

4:20. I continued bracketing as the sky brightened. I turned the camera a bit west to get some of the Big Dipper.

4:30. Kiron and Sharmin wanted to be in the shot.

4:36. I realised after a time that the clouds were moving toward us.


We debating waking the others. Very tempting. But I didn't wanna face the Wrath of Lora (They're clouds! Gah!). Kiron woke Steve. Steve shuffled out, fiddled with his Canon for a while, mumbled, and went back to bed.

My exposure times ranged from 8 to 2 seconds. Finally 1 second. The camera automatically selected the ISO of 100. Other details: 6mm focal length; f/3.1 focal ratio; no exposure compensation. The photos came out quite well. I was happy.

Total shot: 48. I'll upload the whole set to my flickr account at some point.

What amazing luck.

4:47. I was done viewing and photographing the noctilucent clouds! What a show. It would have really been something to have been up on Thursday night to see aurora. But this sure made up for it! Now I was very tired... And the GBO was still open. And my 'scope was still on the pad.

The C14 was still on Jupiter. Took a peek. Saw a little bump on Jupiter, on the east side. Ah ha! There's Io!

4:53. We were all ready to pack it in.

I knew the weather was to be clear overnight and into the morning. Er... morning and into mid-day. I told Kiron I wasn't concerned for my gear and it could stay outside. We covered it with a heavy sheet. Confirmed everything was powered off.

4:57. We took our last look at Jupiter. There was a thin black gap between the moon and the gas giant. It struck me as funny how small Io looked now. That's not quite the right way to say it. Io is small. It looks bigger when it is out on it's own...

What a night. Even though I was feeling a little discouraged, I had seen a lot. Some new objects for the log. Solar system stuff: Saturn, Titan, Rhea, and Iapetus. Comet Garradd. Jupiter, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and an emerging Io. Deep sky objects: NGC 5615 and 5613. IC 983, NGC 5490, and IC 982. M81 and M82. IC 4756. Muscle Man Cluster. NGC 663. NGC 6144, M4, and M14. Kemble's Cascade. M102. A double star or two: Porrima, δ Lyr. And some terrestrial phenomena: Meteors. Man-made satellites. Noctilucent clouds.

Freakin' noctilucent clouds, man! Everyone in Toronto's gonna be so jealous...


Wikipedia link: noctilucent cloud.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scaredy Cat!!!
Now you have the permanent Wrath of Phil for not waking him up to see the glow-in-the-dark clouds.
Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.