Wednesday, March 21, 2012

finished a winter list (Toronto)

I decided to do some observing. Checked the weather at Environment Canada...

Current Conditions: sunny, 22 °C
Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport
Date: 6:00 PM EDT Wednesday 21 March 2012

Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 19 km
Air Quality Health Index: 4
Temperature: 21.6°C
Dewpoint: 13.6°C
Humidity: 60 %
Wind: SSE 9 km/h

Tonight clear, 12°C
Thu sunny, 26°C

Issued : 3:30 PM EDT Wednesday 21 March 2012

Clear. Fog patches overnight. Low 12.

Sunny. High 26 except 17 near Lake Ontario. UV index 4 or moderate.

6:39 PM, 21 Mar 2012. The Clear Sky Chart was looking good!

7:47 PM. 'Scope set up. Dew heaters installed. Cords tended to, neatly (something I've not really done before). Dew heater controller on marine battery; motor on computer Power Supply Unit. A different configuration then on Monday. Black blind up (this time). Chair out. Started dressing for the cool conditions.

Dug out the voice recorder. Installed new batteries. I decided to do some audio notes. Who cares what the neighbours and passers-by think.

8:01. Put the brown hoodie on. Eyeballed Venus and Jupiter. Jupiter was down in the tree branches. Venus was huge with the 9mm! Looked just slightly over 50% filled. Stared for a while. Could not convince myself of any surface details...

Debated taking the netbook to the kitchen. To be very near the telescope. But I really like the big screen and full keyboard... SkyTools really needs a lot of real estate.

8:21 PM. Started using Sony voice recorder. Wondered if the time was correct on it...

Viewed Jupiter. Two moons each side. Picked up some cloud bands. The south belt was prominent looked normal or typical. The north belt was different, not as thick, seemed to be broken up into multiple bands. The seeing was coming and going but in the 9mm it was surprisingly good. Occasionally went really steady. Kinda cool. Jupiter's northern polar region was quite dark. Did not notice any moon shadows.

8:23. Verified the voice recorder time was off by an hour, comparing to the stove. Still on Standard Time.

8:26. Seeing was really good again. Then went mushy, bad. Then came back. The band near the equator was white. It was tempting to say that the north edge of the white band and the south edge of the north belt was right on the equator but... that doesn't seem quite right. The wide white belt is slightly to the north.

South of the southern belt is another white band. And then it goes a darker shade. Fairly uniform.

The north belt is about half the width of the southern belt. Unusual. Then it goes light, dark, light, and then into the grey polar region.

8:27. The moon "above" (in the ocular field) appeared to moving into the planet. It is about one planet diameter away. Io?

The polar alignment was holding up well. I only did a rough alignment putting Polaris near the 45' ring near the 5 o'clock position. But objects were being tracked well for long periods.

There appeared to be no issue with the drive motor tonight. In the new configuration. It was functioning nominally.

Looked at the sky, Sirius in particular, across the street. Lots of stars were coming out. The sky looked good. Sirius was flickering slightly. Yawned.

Made a mental note to finally mark the tripod feet positions so to speed future setups...

8:30. Wanted to check the moon positions. As I suspected. Io was above the planet. Callisto and Io were to the west; Europa and Ganymede to the east; Io was diving into the planet; but the planet would set before we'd get to see it merge...

8:41. Went to ε (epsilon) Arietis, a tight double. Bumped to the 9mm eyepiece, thinking it was really tight. But I had to hurry: I was getting close to the edge of the roof. And in tree branches, as usual.

[ed: Did know at the time I had already tried for this. But it was on my list "unchecked" so to view again.]

8:44. I got it! Had to be patient. Kept staring at it and waiting for the seeing conditions to cooperate. Very tight double. Crazy tight. Equally bright stars. Orientation was roughly north-south. The brighter star, definitely brighter, was to the north. But only a slight difference in magnitude.

8:45. Occasionally I got a black line; but most of the time they looked like a figure-8. Touching. Super tight even at 222x. Wrong time of year!

SkyTools 3 Professional said the stars were magnitudes 4.6 and 5.6 and approximately 1.4 arc-seconds apart.

8:47. Equal colour. White? That was my first impression. Then I thought them yellowy white. But that might have been atmospheric extinction. Low in the sky. A touch of yellow. ST3P says the primary star is class A2...

8:53. Good timing... The 'scope was half in the roof line now. Venus and Jupiter were beyond the roof. This seemed to match the recently enhanced visibility parameter, as per the obstructed horizon, for ST3P. Cool.

Transparency looked good, suddenly. I could see a lot of stars. A lot of detail. It was striking. It seemed like more stars than I had ever seen before, for the city...

8:54. Viewed the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. 68% humidity. 12.3°C temperature. It had been outside for some time. Still showing the low battery. Tomorrow's weather will be partly sunny. The air pressure was showing as even or steady. The date and time of course was screwy.

9:15. I had a hell of a time hopping through CMa. I had to turn the OTA in the clamps so to get the finder scope up high, above the main 'scope.

9:20. I continued my star hop to HR 2949, aka Markab, using the 36mm. I was close...

This was another target from Turn Left at Orion. But it is also in the Sky & Telescope double star winter list: there it is listed as "k2."

Had to drop the blind in the south a bit, to let more light in the big tube... These Puppis targets were very low.

9:21. Got it. HR 2949. I was sure that I had made it. Very nice double. Equal colours. Yellowy-gold. Equal brightness. Low. Flickering quite a bit. [ed: Haas calls this κ (kappa). Huh. The software doesn't use this name. She also notes them as vivid bright white stars, attractively close.]

Nearby, I saw a wide pair of stars, equally bright, blue-white, at a 45 degrees angle. HD 61687 and HR 2956, classes B3 and B5.

I saw a number of field stars.

9:23. That was something of a challenging star hop. Easily split at 55x. They seemed wider than what ST3P presented. The data said 9.9".

9:30. In SkyTools, I learned something about the wide pair at the 45 degree angle: the star inline with the Markab double, was a double. 6+ seconds of arc separate them. But I could not get see the split... Faint?

Looked again at Markab. Still seemed to be the same brightness. The star closest to the wide double seemed a bit yellow or gold; the furthest star looked blue. Very low. Got some bad seeing. At times the colours swapped! The star closer to the wide pair was perhaps a touch brighter. ST3P said: mag. 3.8 (A) and 4.6 (B). The classes of the A and B stars respectively: B5 and B6.

9:34. Went with a touch more power. Put in the 26mm. The view was still good.

9:35. Spotted a super-faint star. It was near the closer of the two wide stars. It was going toward Markab. Not inline; more like at a 90 degree angle with the other partner in the wide pair. ST3P said it was TYC 06547-2481 1 was mag. 9.9.

I could see more faint stars in the area. Beyond the wide pair, and almost inline, there is a faint star. A very faint one to the right of it.

Centred on the purported double in the wide pair. Still could not see a partner.

9:36. Spotted TYC 06547-1749 1, away, mag 10.66.

Oh! Learned that the partner of HD 61687 was mag 13. So, stop looking...

9:41. My dark adaptation seemed better tonight. I could see things in the hallway better. It seemed bright! Not tripping over stuff. I wondered if it was because of my use of the black canopy on the deck...

9:47. Scanned in the area to the right of that weird orange-blue pair, ξ (xi) Pup. Through the branches... And I found the faint small cluster. Messier 93. First impression was that it is tiny! It appeared small. Has bright stars but not a lot. Just a few easily spotted. No doubt in a dark sky location more stuff would be visible.

9:55. Put in the 18mm. M93 seemed fainter now. Branches in the way? Certainly it is low in the sky. Clouds?

I saw a bright star to the right (HD 62679). Noted a flattened isosceles triangle near the middle. In the centre, two pairs of stars, almost equally spaced, going in the same (east-west) direction (TYC 06540-4459 1 and TYC 06540-4458 1; and then TYC 06540-4460 1 and I 780A). Almost a perfect triangle below (TYC 06540-4466 1, SAO 174426, and SAO 174427). A little winger, three stars, going up. There seemed to be a central thread or band of running left to right, 10 to 4 o'clock (north-east to south-west).

9:59. ST3P said the bright star to the right or west was a double! And it clearly showed two stars in the chart. But I was only seeing one star... Tried to spot the two stars of HD 62679... nope.

10:01. View seemed better. Tried for the double star again. But did not have any luck.

10:03. I had no problem spotting CD -23 06076 at mag 8.35. I thought I was in fact seeing HD 62679 no prob at mag 8.18. ST3P said the companion was mag 11.28. It's probably effectively at least 1 mag fainter through extinction and tree bark. So, I considered that it was there, in the right spot, just rather faint, and for my location and conditions, not visible. I decided to move on.

10:08. Seeing Messier 93 meant I have finished the winter TLAO list! Woo hoo!

10:12. Put the canopy back up. Funny how I was blocking much of the SCT 8" entrance but I could easily see stars of the cluster...

The OS reported 77% and 11.2°.

10:16. Viewed η (eta) Orionis. I was pretty sure I was looking at the right star... but I was not seeing an obvious double star. η Ori was in a triangle, a right-angle triangle, with HD 35456 (at the 90° corner) and HD 35524 at the far end. There were some faint stars in the field. The one at the 90° was slightly brighter than the other one (ST3P said they magnitude 6.9 and 8.0). I looked for a long time at the main star. It was not round. Could not split it... Increased the power but the 9mm was too much.

10:19. It was a figure-8 at 77x.

I thought they looked blue-white colour, like many of the stars in Orion... [Haas describes them as straw-yellow and silvery-yellow. Webb says white and purplish.]

10:20. Viewed η again. Spotted GSC 04757-0674 along the hypotenuse, at mag 10.96.

Yep. I finally saw the double. It needed a lot more power to split cleanly. Maybe the 18mm would work...

10:24. Unsatisfying in the 18.

10:25. That was one tight double. ST3P stated 1.7" separation. At 34° altitude and falling into the pine tree... not easy. I wondered if this was a bad idea going after winter targets so late, in March... would be better to do in January or February. I decided that I would not check it off in SkyTools, so to make me look at it again. Next winter.

10:37. Tried to split 32 Ori. Could not split it. Nope. Tried the 36mm. Seemed that I had touching stars in the 18mm. In the 9mm I was losing it in the diffraction rings and getting annoyed with the slight miscollimation. Off a little bit.

10:39. Yep. I think I saw the double briefly in the 18mm. Orientation matched the view in ST3P. But another one I need to view again.

10:57. Is there a problem with ST3P? When I click the "now" button it is off by 1 hour...

11:01. I found 12 Lyncis. A nice double, in the 36mm, among many faint field stars. Interesting, medium tight. Primary was white, bluish white perhaps; the companion was orange. Very different in mags. Perhaps 1.0 to 1.5. ST3P said they were 4.9 and 6.1. The main star was class A3.

Initially the seeing was OK, then it tailed off. Again. That is, gradually worse, the further I go, later into the evening. Like the other night. Every once in a while, it would get really good, super good. Rare. Day-time heating crap.

There was a bright star, somewhat orange, much further away. ST3P said that was the F-class star HD 47977.

11:05. Ah. Here I was viewing 12 Lyn thinking it was just a double. It is the AC pair that is obvious. This target had ultimately come to me from the Sky & Telescope winter list... I thought, at the time, they were talking about the obvious pair... the AC. But S&T's list has 12 Lyn twice, with the tight AB pair, and the wider AC pair. [ed: Like how Haas shows it...] But it is a quad, according to the SkyTools application.

I think I saw the D star! It is widely separated to the west.

11:11. Waited for good seeing, in the 9mm, to confirm the companions of 12 Lyn. West was straight down in the field of view. The AB pair was inline with D. C was at a 45° angle to AD. A and B are about the same brightness. Same colour. The C star is a little orangey. It was hard to pick a colour for D, it was so dull.

11:14. Back sore. Feet sore.

Confirmed. I saw the A and B stars! They are 1.7" apart. D is mag. 10.5.

11:22. Star to the east is GSC 03778-1013. ST3P says it is mag. 15.11. Ha. No it's not. Star GSC 03778-0871 is in line with AB, mag. 12.54.

GSC 03778-0865 at 90 deg is mag. 12.07.

A neat system. Rewarding at low and high magnifications!

11:34. Viewed 19 Lyn. Another neat quad system. Primary white; secondary blue? Pale blue. Seeing was coming and going...

11:26. Been at this for about 4 hours. I started to think about winding down.

11:36. Humidity was 81; temp 11.3.

11:37. Oh. So the one to the south is D. A and B are in the 45 angle. Now to find C to the west... at mag 10.

11:42. Put in the 26mm. Tried to find the C star. Not convinced. It should have been easy. I could only see A, B, and D. No sign of C. Seeing conditions were poor now.

[ed: I didn't know it at the time but Haas only refers to the A, B, and D stars. That makes it sound like the C star is difficult...]

11:45. I forgot to note earlier that there had been a click or a pop or a snap with the observer's chair. I suspect one (or both) of the dowels in the seat have become unglued. And I remembered I have not yet followed Phil's advice to cut or trim the rear leg of the chair so to change the angle.

11:46. Viewed Mars. Could just make out the ice cap. Was looking straight down over the telescope. So that meant north was up.

11:49. Put in the doubler with the 9mm! 444x!

11:51. I was happy with the telescope configuration. Tracking well (even at this very high power). Heaters working.

Probably not a good scenario for observing where the temperature was high in the day and then everything cooled off. Isn't that a golden rule in summer? Don't expect good viewing when it's been super hot in the day and then it cools off at night...

11:53. There was a dark pattern near the equator of the red world. Almost dead centre. Very dark. Maybe slightly to the right or the east. But SkyTools doesn't show anything...

12:25 AM, 22 March 2012. Viewed Saturn. Very three dimensional. Could see the equatorial belt, light. Could see the planet's shadow on the rings, on the right. Could see the Cassini division, particularly on the right. Pretty easy. Faint moon to the left [Dione; mag. 10.5]. Bright [mag. 8.4] moon (probably Titan), about 4 to 5 ring-widths on the right (west).

12:26 AM. Was at 222x. The seeing was good. Good in this direction (south-east vs. over the roofs).

12:28. I saw it before but I wasn't really sure. There was a faint moon on the same side as Titan, about half a ring-width away [Tethys; mag. 10.3]. I spotted a moon underneath (er, north), very near the pole [Rhea; mag. 9.8]. About half a planet-width away.

12:30. Conditions: 82; 11.6. No luck with M95.

12:33. OK. 5 hours is enough...

12:38. Checked the corrector plate. Looked OK. No dew. There was a spider web. Minor markings... Not pristine any more.

12:43. Shutdown. Ready for bed.


Often, the voice recording was broken. I was speaking too quietly and the recorder went into standby...

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