Monday, August 01, 2011

early morning planets (Blue Mountains)

I got up early. My back was hurting. Oldmanitis. Sciatica? Already! I was feeling very tired but the sky was lookin' good.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
The plan was to get a video recording of the International Space Station flying in front of the Sun. 6:34 AM was the predicted time.

4:22 AM. I started audio recording with the Sony. Opened roof. Homed telescope. Found eyeglasses. And shut off the audio recording. Didn't want to wake any of the campers up with my mumbling and/or exclamations.

4:31. I saw lightning flashes from Toronto flick through our sky. It was interesting to see intense flashes when looking north but less so looking east or west. Some reflective or propagation effect?

While waiting, I decided to chase down some other objects.

4:38. Viewed Uranus. Started with 27mm. Then went to 18mm and finally 10mm. I saw two points of light, one above, one below. Yes! Finally. Moons of Uranus.

Oberon (mag 14.2) was to the north. To the south, about half the distance of Oberon, was Titania (mag 14.0). I thought I should be able to see Ariel, between the pale blue planet and Titania. Kept trying.

4:50. Couldn't see Ariel. Had to continue to use averted vision to spot Titania. So I wasn't too surprised. Still, it was a little disappointing, with Ariel at maximum elongation and all. It was only magnitude 14.4!

4:56. Tried viewing M77 aka NGC 1068. Messier 77 seemed a small object. But the sky was brightening so there was not a lot of contrast. I will need to return to this target in Cetus.

Tried to set up MallinCam with new S-video cable. I realised that this new cable, going straight to the computer, would make it a challenge to focus. Perhaps the existing buried cable to the monitor could be used for setup. Then one would switch to the new cable for video recording or data transfer...

The video feed went out! Damn the new cable's not making the connection problem go away. This strongly suggests we have a board problem on the MCHC. Gonna have to open her up...

In the meantime, I strapped the cables to the camera body with some of my Velcro wraps. Headed over to the Jovian system.

5:51. Gave up trying to image Jupiter and moons with MallinCam through C14. Couldn't seem to find settings that would reveal the faint moons.

Visually? Jupiter was fantastic! Tremendous detail on the clouds. All four bright moons were on the west side.

6:00. I viewed Mars. And was a little surprised... I had to double check, step away, and look again. I could see an ice cap on the orange round disk! Cool. Started with the 27mm then went to the 18mm. What a treat!

Suddenly, I remembered that if I was going to point the TV101 toward the Sun that I'd better protect the other instruments... Ooh. Be careful. I put the dust cap on the C14.

6:39. Jean left a couple of minutes ago. Right on schedule.

The Sun still has not risen over the hill top. So, that meant that my ISS-solar pass movie op was a scratch...

Time for breakfast.

I briefly entertained the thought of going back to bed...

6:49. The Sun reached observatory.

6:52. The Sun reached the deck.

Sunrise had been calculated at 6:03. And it had taken another 50 minutes for it to be visible at the GBO. Will need to remember this in the future... We lose about 50 minutes to the hill.

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