Saturday, July 30, 2011

magic carpet ride (Blue Mountains)

9:30 PM, 29 July 2011. Started dinner very late... Where had the time gone? It was getting dark as I was finishing up. Others were starting to set up their telescopes.

10:00 PM. Kiron had asked to borrow my Celestron 8" SCT telescope over the weekend at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. I said that was OK with me. I asked Ian W if I could fly the Celestron 14 atop the Paramount ME. Plan B was that would learn the Bob Abraham 6" Mak. Ian said he was OK with me operating the big 'scope. He was going to be preoccupied aligning and testing tonight. As we had some new members, I knew that I might be called upon to show particular objects with the big Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope.

Kiron and I set up inside the Geoff Brown Observatory. Kiron wanted to position the C8 'scope in the same spot as the previous visit, at the south-east corner of the observatory floor. Meanwhile, Ian set up his large RC imaging 'scope kitty-corner.

I had brought my recently coddled together jugaad computer power supply. We connected my three dew heaters and the tracking motor to the 3-way cigarette lighter adapter. Ready for testing... Kiron eyed it cautiously but said he really wanted dew heating.

Outside, Millie was on the Observing Pad. Dietmar and Phil, of course, were in their new SkyShedPODs. Geeking out. Millie told me she had forgotten her eyepiece case. No. Way.

For the weekend, I had pre-built a custom CAO observing list in SkyTools3 with some preferred targets, such as Vesta, and then unobserved objects from the Turn Left at Orion summer list. It would hopeful reduce jumping around in the software. I had kept the list short this time so to not feel overwhelming.

10:54 PM. I played sky tour guide for new members Kasia and Justyna with the big Celestron on the Paramount driven by TheSky6. Justyna had a lot of questions about photography. And she specifically wanted to know what she needed to attach her camera to our telescopes... Keen!

We viewed Saturn at fairly low power. We saw three moons: Rhea, Tethys, and Titan.

We viewed some double stars: Albireo, the Double Double, and γ (gamma) Delphini.

Discussed the double star Izar with Kiron. He had trouble splitting it. While not super tight, I explained it was challenging given the differences in magnitude.

11:10 PM. Viewed Messier 51 and the supernova. Ian had taken a quick image with the RC. I pointed out the exploding star for Ian.

I was a little anxious to see it in a big 'scope but Ian was not planning to set up his 20" Dobsonian until tomorrow night. S'OK. Later.

11:23. I confirmed supernova position in C14 and with my images.

Settled into my observing plan.

11:53. I wanted to split all the elements of Jabbah aka ν (nu) Scorpii. A and C were easy. I thought the main star yellow-white.

Ah. Finally! I was able to split A and C stars, each, into pairs. It was not easy though. A and B tight; C and D wider.

12:00 AM, 30 July 2011. Viewed ξ (xi) Scorpii. I saw the AC pair at 7.6 arc-seconds. I used the loaner ocular from Phil, the Pentax XW 20mm, the sole eyepiece with me, having been packed in a different case, to split the stars!

The AB stars are 1.01" apart, according to ST3. And this separation value appeared to be current, as of June. This was a challenging split but I don't think I broke my record. Perhaps I should consider this a career tie. If nothing else, it confirms that I can see down to 1.0 seconds of arc.

12:15 AM. Helped Kiron get δ (delta) Cephei.

12:45. I viewed the Magic Carpet nebula, aka NGC 7027! What a weird name. I stumbled across the planetary nebula in TheSky6. It was very small. It was hard to make out detail. Was I seeing a bluish ring around a star?

I was curious about the naming so I googled it. Found a very nice site, the Graphite Galaxy, with wonderful sketches. And saw why one might think of it as a flying carpet... Still, I did not see this detail myself.

[Turns out that I had already viewed this, although I don't know when... Noted it as "cone shaped."]

Kiron showed me M106 in the C8.

I tried to spot asteroid Vesta naked eye from the GBO observatory floor. No joy.

1:27. We viewed comet Garradd, C/2009 P1 (Garradd). It was faint in the C14 but large. Hints of two tails. It was a small smudge in the TV101.

I was tired. Kiron said he was too.

We packed it in.

I was so tired I left Kiron to close the GBO.

1:55. My back was rather sore. In bed, I ruminated on the night. I was a little frustrated at missing some Jupiter moon events. But I felt so fatigued. It had felt like my vision was going. Couldn't seem to see clearly.

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