Saturday, August 27, 2011

Garradd and M71 (Blue Mountains)

8:20 PM, 26 August 2011. I activated the Paramount ME with TheSky6 and readied the Celestron 14-inch Schmidt Cassegrain. Dietmar had said it was OK for me to use the C14. I only helped Kiron a little bit with the setup of my Celestron 8" SCT.

8:39 PM. I knew we didn't have a lot of time so I turned to Saturn. Showed Ro, Sneyha, and Thomas. Standing under the telescope, I spotted it naked eye. Cheating, I guess. The sky was still bright. No moons were visible through the eyepiece. Sneyha tried some afocal shots with her iPhone but they didn't work.

8:54. Just spotted Titan despite it being very murky.

I put C14 'scope on Messier 13 (M13). It was very nice.

Then I put the big 'scope on the comet! C/2009 P1 (Garradd) was very near the star cluster Messier 71! That was very cool! A fuzzy elongated patch beside the tight cluster of stars.

9:26. The Horvatins arrived. Trevor—excuse me, Ranger Trevor—was driving. He turned off the headlights in the Mazda, somehow. I guided them in with a red LED flash light, thanks to Lora.

I know! From Lora!

9:27. We quickly hustled them out of the mini van. Together we watched ISS flyover. It was a good long one. It was bright.

We returned to viewing the comet. It was fantastic beside Messier 71 (M71). I wondered if we were seeing fragments of the comet. It was hard to tell with all the stars in the field. It was likely that they were background stars from the arm of the galaxy.

9:28. While I was busy at the eyepiece or monitor, people on the observatory floor spotted a nice shooting star!

I wanted to revisit the supernova SN2011dh in Messier 51. Slewed and took a peek. Then I cross-checked star locations against various images.

10:01. Confirmed the supernova in M51. It is much fainter now! Fainter than GSC 03463-0591 at magnitude 13.8. About the same as GSC 03460-0588 at 15.5.

10:21. Went to Messier 57 (M57), for the crowd. It is so good in the C14. Big!

Tried for ζ (zeta) Boötis, again, without success.

10:35. Viewed the Little Ghost aka NGC 6369. A very faint planetary nebula. Ring-shaped. It was surprisingly low so I was a little impressed at what we were seeing. Easy to miss. Tiny. Kiron didn't see it at first.

11:01. I took a reading with the Unihedron Sky Quality Meter: 20.97 to 21.03. Not bad. Temp: 19. I reviewed the Davis weather station readings: 98% humidity; 1012.6 millibars; temp 15.0.

Millie and Kiron spotted a super bright meteor. From Delphinus into Aquarius. Broke into fragments! Sounded very exciting from the Warm Room.

11:10. Viewed NGC 5866, what some call Messier 102 (M102). I made a point of searching for the object by NGC number in TheSky6, to avoid landing at M101 again. The appearance in the eyepiece reminded me of M82. Long thin oval. Seemed a bit mottled in the middle.

Kiron just spotted Jupiter in the east.

11:26. Gord was back. I asked if he had any requests. He said: M8. All right. Despite the low elevation, Messier 8 was pretty cool, the nebula aglow, and the huddled cluster (officially NGC 6530, of course) of in the same field. I could see a dark patch in the middle of the nebula but Gord said he could not. I put in the 2" Lumicon O-III filter. What a difference the narrow band-pass filter made! The Lagoon!

We viewed Messier 13 (M13), the Great Hercules Cluster. Fantastic, as always, in the C14.

I tried for Zwicky's Triplet, a suggestion from Astronomy magazine. Gord had heard of it. But we couldn't see anything. Nothing in 18mm, 27mm, or 55mm.

Tony popped into the GBO. Any requests? He wanted Messier 27 (M27), the Dumbbell. Looks more like an apple core to me...

1:05 AM, 27 August 2011. Returned to Garradd. The comet had moved a bit to the left, compared to the last viewing.

Asked Gord if he wanted to look at Jupiter. We hopped to the gas giant. Then I got to wondering... I checked SkyTools3 and sure enough a Jovian moon shadow crossing was coming up. All right!

I also checked ST3 about the Great Red Spot. Cool, it was coming around to our side.

1:09 AM. We viewed the shadow of Io. Wow! Very easy, for me, to see in the C14. The shadow was black! The planet was still pretty low in the sky. But it popped when the seeing got good.

Tony asked if he could attend Farmer's Pantry event on Saturday. Sure! He said he could bring the big binos.

1:38. The GRS was starting to appear. Very pale.

1:45. Io was almost on the planet.

1:53. Io was almost touching. The seeing was very bad now. Dancing all over. That didn't make sense... The Great Red Spot was a pale red.

2:08. Went to the comet again. Moving quick. It was a bit further from a little equilateral triangle of mag 13 and 14 stars.

2:17. Viewed the Little Queen, a tiny asterism, on another tip from Astronomy magazine. Centred on HD 172922, the bright central yellow star of a little W shape, like a mini version of Cass.

2:19. Humidity down to 83%.

2:27. Took another peek at the comet. Wanted to watch it move but I was too tired... I think I fell asleep for a couple of seconds at the eyepiece. Time to quit. Kiron said he was done too. But he and Millie started into some Messiers so I packed up my gear and left them.

Spotted Dietmar, with white flash light, walking in from his MODL. Looked like he was done too.

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