Monday, January 16, 2012

more planetaries (Toronto)

It was promising to be clear and I was still riding high from last night. So I set up the SP-C8 on "The Overlook" (my porch). Made an observing list with showpiece objects, double stars, interesting deep sky, and interesting coloured stars, using the SkyTools 3's automatic generation feature. Made sure it included some planetary nebula.

6:38 PM, 15 Jan 2012. Aligned the Orion finder scope. Took a look at Venus. A little late now... The bright planet was down in the trees.

It was cold! I pulled the weather condition information from the Environment Canada web site for Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport.

Pressure: 101.9 kPa (rising)
Temperature: -11.4°C
Dewpoint: -16.9°C
Humidity: 64 %
Wind: NNW 18 km/h
Wind Chill: -19

I didn't notice it, at the time, that they reported the sky as "mostly cloudy." It was looking clear for me!

I did not have a marine battery hooked up yet.

7:21 PM. I finally opened the observer's chair...

Thanks to SkyTools (planned targets) and Stellarium 0.9 (horizon/trees simulation), I was in the target area. A big lazy backwards "J" with HR 1270 at the top-left. Seeing pretty low, mag 10 to 11, methinks. OK, let's find this variable star NSV 1484 in Cam, I thought... and rate the colour and brightness.

The star was not visible! Must be at mag 12 right now... I saw TYC 03730-0145 1 at mag 10.8 below or to the north. I saw TYC 03730-0741 1 at mag 11.6 to the west. And TYC 03730-0070 1 at mag 11.7 to the south-east...

7:35. Clouds! WTF? Big fluffy clouds. Surprisingly bright. Reflecting light from the snow...

7:47. Had another look. I could see TYC 03730-0734 1 at mag 11.9 to the north-west. And I was pretty sure I was seeing a faint star to the south of TYC 03730-0145 1, close. ST3 said it is a mag 12.9 star, but that the data is poor quality... If accurate, that'd be a new record!

ST3 says NSV 1484 has a magnitude 6.00 or 12.00 "p" or photographic. In the list, it said it should be "obvious." Ah, no.

8:03. I continued to get used to the ST3 accelerated way of hopping. Went from γ (gamma) Eri and the T-shape of stars, using 39 Eri as the marker for the top of the field.

Learned a little trick! If one must turn the finder scope (knowing that it will go out of alignment), fix it right then and there, before hopping to the new target. I.e. centre on a star with tracking on, turn the finder, then realign the finder. Done! Have to remember that.

Scanned the field in the finder. Couldn't see anything. Looked in the 36mm Baader. And I saw something with dimension, but fuzzy, even though the stars were nicely focused. There it was, a planetary nebula. It was quite apparent when I remembered to take my glasses off... Doh! Cleopatra's Eye or NGC 1535.

OK. I decided to bump up the power.

8:24. Went to 222x with the Tele Vue 9mm. Quite large. Not quite circular.

I could easily see 11.2 and 11.0 mag stars to the east.

8:26. Messaged the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Said I was doing more planetaries. Thanked Stu. Curiously, he sent a note 20 minutes before. He too was observing!

8:30. Tracking was holding up nicely—even though I had only done a crude polar alignment.

I could see TYC 05318-0153 1 at mag 12.0 to the south-east, below the two stars. And forming a loose square is GSC 05318-0785 at mag 12.8 (poor quality).

Nice target. Decent even in the city.

9:08. Wow. Hind's Crimson Star (aka R Lep). Fantastic. Faint but remarkable. Took me a little while to get to it, battling clouds, and not having great marker stars. Still, easily done with ST3. It's like a brake light! Striking colour. M-class star. Variable. I thought, "I should estimate of brightness."

9:13. I found it brighter than HD 31901 which is 9.1 but less than HD 31848 at 7.4. So, maybe 8.5 or 8.0. Not a lot of other stars nearby... ST3 says it varies between 5.50 and 11.70 over 427 days.

9:37. Used the 9mm on Spirograph nebula. IC 418. It's smaller than Cleopatra's. No nearby field stars. Weird. Empty part of space! I could not pick up any details. Seemed greenish at low power; grey at high power?

The thought flickered through my mind, using the 2x, with the Ultima Barlow.

I felt that I'd like to look at these objects again. Perhaps when at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Or at Mom's. Of course, they're winter targets. Still, I wondered what they'd look like in dark skies. I decided to not mark them as logged in ST3...

OK. Let's go for Ole Faithful, M42, and the Trapezium.

9:51. Did try the 2x. Certainly made it bigger... Parked on the Trap, aka θ1 (theta) Ori.

Felt colder now. Put on another layer on top.

10:04. Tried 222x on the Trap but the view was soft. Probably a tree branch.

Tried to detect nebula around 42 and 45 Ori. Couldn't see anything as pronounced as the Great Nebula. But it seemed a little misty in the area. Maybe I should get a UHC filter...

10:36. IC 2149 (PN G166.1+10.4) in Aur is tiny! Even with the 9mm, even while straight up, it was difficult to see any detail. Again, not a lot of field stars. Hint of colour at low power.

[ed: Already viewed once, at the CAO.]

11:09. Not very exciting, IC 2165 (aka PN G221.3-12.3) in CMa. I think I'll save it for another time...

11:23. Winter Albireo (aka HR2764) in CMa. Lovely. Used δ (delta) and ο2 (omicron) in the finder to nab it. Very pleasing in the 36mm. The bright star is orange; if I remember correctly, Albireo is more of a yellow colour.

Checked conditions:

Pressure: 103.3 kPa (rising)
Temperature: -8.5°C
Dewpoint: -15.1°C
Humidity: 59 %
Wind: E 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -12

They noted it was "clear" now. Indeed.

Huh. They said it was warmer...

11:59. It took a while but I split HD 52270 (aka AG 328A) in Mon. I was confused at first because I was misreading ST3's interactive atlas. I didn't noticed that I still had the high power eyepiece active. Explained why the field didn't match and why I wasn't seeing the double.

A faint, tight pair. Equal brightness and colour (if you can call it that).

Clouds were back. Looked more permanent this time.

Good timing... looks like the battery just died... The tracking stopped working.

I decided to do a rapid shutdown and just brought in the OTA and electronics. Maybe I'd get lucky with tomorrow's skies...

12:26 AM, 16 Jan 2012. Apple pie and ice cream. Perfect ending.

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