Wednesday, March 14, 2012

a couple of Messiers (Toronto)

I had a good visual observing session on the porch. And photographed two planets.
Intrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping
13 Mar 2012, 7:24 PM. Did not set up light shield. Couldn't be bothered. Did not turn on dew heaters (at first). Found Venus and Jupiter in the bins. Higher than I expected. Just put the 'scope on Venus. In the 36mm eyepiece, the "first quarter phase" was obvious. Nice.

7:30 PM. Red mode started up. I put the red film on Dell monitors. Started SkyTools 3 Pro up and turned night vision mode on. Dropped the brightness on external monitor. I still don't have a properly-size piece of film for this flatscreen.

7:33. Put the 9mm on Venus. Wow, huge! The seeing is coming and going. Or was it clouds? The higher power showed it was just over ¼ phase.

7:59. Shot the planets with the FujiFilm FinePix J20. Did piggyback, make shift, to the Celestron OTA. Shot 1 to 4 sec exposures with fireworks mode. Used the 10 second timer. It was a little windy.

I had been in short sleeves up to this point. And I hadn't had dinner yet...

8:05. Turned to Mars. Seeing is very bad. Heat waves. Noticed a bright star nearby: HD 93993 at magnitude 6.8.

8:16. Spotted Auriga up high. Surveyed the sky wide field, Mark II eyeballs. Gemini, Sirius, Procyon, Orion, the Pleaides, Aldebaran.

Check the Environment Canada web site for Toronto conditions (as reported from Pearson International Airport).

temperature 11.9°C
dew point 0.7°
wind 21 km/h from west, becoming light
101.5 kPa and rising
low 2°C

The humidity? I must have missed it! Forgot to jot it down.

8:32. Viewed Messier 41 (M41). Ha! I had never seen it before. One for the life list! With the 36mm. There was an orange star in centre. And a double to the west: HD 49024.

8:38. I normally don't get too excited with open clusters. this one is colourful! 12 CMa was in the 2 o'clock orientation, HD 49024 around 6 o'clock, and there was a tight double to the north-east: SAO 172308.

9:00. I saw a faint double at a 45° angle to HD 49024, to the east. But it was not in SkyTools. Weird.

[ed: I looked it up. Checked deep sky imagery - the double is there. So ST3 is wrong. The J2000 location was approx.: 06 45 53.6 -20 41 16.49. Used Aladin and Simbad...]

I also observed that the bright star of the equally spaced line of 3 was not visible, while ST3P was showing it. Star GSC 05961-3174 is simply NOT there! I wondered if I should report this. ST3P said it was a mag 11.5 star with no known variability.

[ed: I checked for this too in a deep sky image - also not there. So ST3P was wrong here too.]

9:10. Viewed the double, BD -20 01558, at about half the separation of SAO 172308. I tried the ole Celestron 26mm ocular for a little more power. The 9mm views were not good.

9:19. I had to change observing site location in ST3P to the Texas Star Party to get a better representation of the sky I was seeing. I was seeing faint stars, e.g. J064603.9-204503 is mag 12.9, near the L shape, the fainter of 2 stars, before HD 49126.

There was still no sign of double east of 49024. I tried to split HD 49317; no joy.

9:53. Viewed Messier 48 (M48) for some time. Bit of a difficult hop, from Procyon, with tree limbs in the way, and few bright stars in the 'hood. Once there, spotted the double star HJ 2435A, in the centre, in the string of central stars. Cool. Another life list item done!

I copied the unfinished Turn Left At Orion winter items to the main ST3P list.

10:13. Spotted the faint 11.5 star, TYC 04859-0622 1, forming a triangle. Spotted a faint double: HDO 116A.

10:38. Took a quick peek at Castor, hopped from Pollux. Had to wait for it to clear the tree. Enjoyed the whole of Orion for a moment... Thinking about the multi-star systems σ (sigma) and ι (iota). While waiting, a plane went right by Mintaka.

Arrived at 63 Gem. Oooh, just tried ST3P companions feature, the "c" key, in the atlas. Nice, it highlights the other stars in multi-systems. But is that cheating?!

(The wrong symbols started appearing in my quick notes on John Smallberries. What's wrong with the keyboard?! I wondered. It was almost like I had a language option flip. But I knew this could not be the case; I did not have this setting enabled.)

10:48. Spotted B star to the north, the C star to south-west. Now D... that will be a challenge... I could see GSC 01359-0150 between.

[ed: Had attempted 63 Gem almost exactly 1 year ago. No luck then with AD stars then, like tonight. Decided to mark it as observed in ST3P so to show completion in the TLAO winter list, having seen the "two faint companions." And double stars for small telescopes for that matter, which only comments on two stars.]

10:55. Spotted mag 13.0 star GSC 01372-0667, north-east of 63!

But I still couldn't see the D component!

Viewed HD 294271. I had viewed this, of course, when looking at σ Ori in the past. ST3P shows the faint D star. I couldn't see it tonight. A, B, C were easy. But it was getting low. I decided to cross this off the TLAO winter list.

11:17. Felt a little chilled. Added a layer, a long sleeve shirt. Reviewed ST3 list. And felt pretty good. Only two to go in winter TLAO list!

Considered them but they are in Puppis. And that was not viable here, now.

I thought, let's go see what's up with Mars...

11:32. View seemed mushy, no detail. Noticed some faint stars in the field.

11:38. I was feeling a little tired. I realised that I had been at it pretty hard core for 4 hours now. Without dinner.

The view of Mars was disappointing. I was a little surprised with Mars so high up.

Checked Env Can - PIA again:

pressure 101.8 and rising
temp 5.5°C
dewpoint 2.1
low 2
humidity 79%
wind 11

Ah ha. It looked like the humidity was up. And it seemed possible that we'd hit the dew point...

14 Mar 2012, 12:07 AM. I cleanly split Alula Australis in Ursa Major. The stars looked the same colour to me. Same brightness.

The prospect of hooking up the SKYnyx right now, to do a video drift recording, is a little daunting... Then I checked the view in ST3. That is, the simulated view with the Lumenera camera. It showed that they would not be split far apart! Oh. Huh. Maybe this is the wrong 'scope... Need more magnification. The C14?

12:21 AM. Found the comet Garradd. Vear near star HR4659. Three stars actually. The software showed the galaxy NGC 4236. Simply could not see it.

12:35. I was yawning a lot. I considered that I should probably call it quits.

12:42. Finished a super fast shut down. That was a good night. I had not expected to cross off any new Messiers!

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