Monday, February 13, 2012

the Sword and some planets (Toronto)

Wanted to see some new stuff tonight... Was hungry for photons.

7:18 PM. Had dinner early. I was pretty well done my setup. The black blind was up, black duvet cover over the railing, dark green one too. And one towel to fill a gap. Good and dark on the porch. I had the observing chair up. The Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain 'scope was on its Super Polaris mount on the tripod. Dew heaters were installed and running. I had brought a single marine battery outside. Tonight I would keep it in the cooler bag. In fact, to keep the battery from getting too cold, I opened a Grabber disposable iron hand warmer and threw it inside the cooler. The battery was running the motor for clear power.

Oops. I occurred to me that I had not yet hacked the cup warmer heater. I elected to not use it. I'd have to be careful then to keep the lens caps on.

7:31. Tried out the push pins on the focusing mask. It worked well. Hands-free now.

Venus was very bright. I could see a gibbous phase.

7:43. Found Uranus (star hopped). A little below Venus. About one finder scope diameter away. Aqua blue in the baader planetarium 36mm ocular. Fuzzy blob in the Tele Vue 9mm. It was very low. On the verge of being cut off in the 'scope at the blind...

7:53. Viewed Jupiter. Two moons missing. Two on the east. Oh... hold on. Just spotted one near the edge of the disc! [ed: It was Europa and it was inbound. Io was already behind.]

The seeing looked decent.

8:25. I decided to go for the Trapezium now, while Orion was well-placed between the two big trees.

Started at Mintaka. Saw the companion. Actually, when I saw the companion I knew I was at Mintaka. Kinda near.

Moved east along the belt and down. Viewed the Sigma Cluster and four stars of σ Orionis proper. Fantastic!

Headed to the sword region.

One of the stars in NGC 1975 looked hazy...?

Ha. I saw the E and F stars at 77x but not 222. The star on the left (west), between the tighter stars, easy. The star on the right (east) was fainter, closer to bright star; but in-line to theta 2.

8:38. Used the binos to scanned the area to the left of Jupiter.

Checked the conditions, accordingly to Environment Canada, for Toronto Pearson.

Mainly Clear
101.5 kPa and rising
Temperature: -1.3°C
Dewpoint: -8.5°C
Humidity: 58 %
Wind: SSW 11 km/h
Wind Chill: -5

Viewed Messier 42 (M42) again. And Messier 43 (M43). It was like a large bird, wings outstretched. Viewed the area above again. No nebula visible. Couldn't see the Running Man. But noted the 2 clusters. NGC 1981 reminded me of a palm tree, leaves bending over, or a water fountain. Viewed ι (iota) below. The hockey stick. The primary was so bright! Noted the 2 bright stars below; all part of the NGC 1980 cluster...

Off to Cetus... I wanted to view Messier 77.

9:07. Clouds! From the west...

Spotted Mars a couple of minutes ago. Tangled in the tree.

I had finally made it to the area... Seemed difficult star hop. But could not see M77. This is not an easy target in the city.

I double checked my route: started at Jupiter; used ξ 1 (xi) Cet and ξ Ari; followed the little curved gaggle of stars to ξ 2 Cet; continued east to a mini Scorpius-like asterism, pausing at ν (nu) Cet; finally made it to γ (gamma); δ (delta) was easy from there.

Huh. Clouds dimmed the field of view.

9:13. Just checked the ADDS radar. The clouds overhead were the first wave of several...

9:49. Looked like the gap was almost here.... I could see Jupiter again (though hazy).

Probably M77 was hopelessly low now. Ugh. The computer said it was 17° up... The SCT looked like it was aim directly at the hydro pole.

I resolved to look again, in darker skies.

9:55. I considered redoing the star hop. Just to make sure I was at the target area. But the skies were not looking good. Looked like another cloud bank was on the way...

I scanned the rest of the sky. The shield region of Orion is behind the big tree. No chance for NGC 1662 then. Headed indoors again.

10:21. Checked the skies. Still cloudy. Very reflective clouds to the west. "That's it," I thought.

10:56. Just finished packing up. Did a fairly rapid shutdown.

Folded the black tarp along its entire width versus folding it in half first. I think its easier this way. I did it all on the deck. And then, in a moment of inspiration, I put it in the deck box.

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