Thursday, March 29, 2012

spotted the X (Toronto)

I was getting pretty excited about seeing Lunar X. Phil was doin' his darnedest to get us fired up. And as I still had the StellarVue refractor and SKYnyx camera on loan, I considered imaging it. When chatting with Phil, we discussed it further. And hatched the idea of doing a time lapse. Phil suggested I capture an image every 5 minutes. We also discussed imaging it in a wide field with the refractor or at a long focal length with the SCT...
Instrument: Celestron FirstScope 76mm Newtonian
Mount: alt-az one-arm
Method: star hopping
Then I had a horrible thought. Phil had said the night before that the "predicted optimal time [was] 11:50 PM EDT." That was pretty late. I considered that I had been watching Venus and Jupiter from my office window around that time. Low. In the trees. To the north-west. In other words, I wasn't sure I'd be able to see the "event." I checked in SkyTools. The path of Moon in the Nightly Planner went dark around 11:30. I watched the Moon go into the trees across the street and then into the roof of the house around that time. Confirmed. By 11:45 or 12:00, I'd be snookered. The prospect of finding a good spot, moving, going out, setting up, tearing down... not attractive at all. Still, I thought it worth it to try imaging from the porch. From an educational perspective, if nothing else...

As I started to prepare, I realised that the Orion SVD mount wasn't going to work. While I had installed motors on the RA and Dec axes back in December, they were not really functioning correctly. I didn't want to use an unreliable platform. Then I got an idea: I could put the StellarVue AT-1010 on the Vixen Super Polaris! I immediately put the Vixen tripod on the porch.

The first step was to remove the tube rings from the Orion baseplate. Which required releasing the c-clips. The stock bolts proved too long for the Vixen plate; I hadn't noticed that the Orion was thicker. A ¼" spacer took care of that. In short order I had the small rings on the Vixen. Then I installed the StellarVue optical tube. Oh oh. The Vixen plate was longer, forcing the rings into spots on the tube impossible to clamp down around. But when I loosened the bolts and let the rings tilt, I was able to get it to work. Lucky. The OTA was on the Vixen atop the tripod. I installed the counterweights.

I desperately wanted to install the camera, check alignment, and focus but thick clouds covered the sky. Phil promised that the skies would clear. I'd have to wait. I left the deck.

Periodically, I returned. But the skies remained covered. The radar and satellite imagery showed patchy, fast-moving clouds over the Greater Toronto Area. But, in the end, I was clouded out. I torn down the refractor 'scope. And after an intense week and day, I crawled into bed early. Just around the time, 10:30 PM, Phil sent an email to the Yahoo!Group. "Go out now!" The X had appeared an hour early! OK, OK.

Grabbed my 7x binoculars.

The clouds were still very patchy over the High Park area. But everyone once in a while, the Moon would appear in a small open space. I tried to spot the X feature in the bins but couldn't see anything. A combination of the small image size and the drifting clouds.

There was no way I was going to haul out the Vixen and refractor. But the little Celestron 76mm First Scope, sitting on the kitchen table, caught my eye. I put it on the barbecue. Loaded it with the SR 4mm eyepiece. Slewed about until I hit the target. And stared. And waited. And stared.

And, in a brief break between dark clouds, at 75 power... I finally spotted the tiny little Lunar X.

I hate the Moon.

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