Thursday, June 21, 2012

experiments night (Toronto)

The set-up of the mount and telescope and accessories on the porch was complete. Weather lookin' good. In red light mode. Black tarp up. Ready to go.

I tried to use my alignment marks on the wood deck. They were hard to see. They had faded!

Tonight I was looking forward to conducting a few experiments... One of which was to operate the Vixen mount with the small battery pack. Another was to try some planetary imaging.


Presently, it struck me as funny that for the first time ever in a long time I was going to hook up the C battery pack to the Vixen RA motor. I guess I had just assumed, back in 2007, that the six C batteries would get burned up fast. Wouldn't last one night. And of course, using alkalines all the time, would not be very green. But all this was back in my brain now, after the recent DDO night, when I had forgotten to bring any form of power! Wherein I served as the telescope drive for the evening... Grrr.

If the C battery supply would hold up for one evening, it would become a game-changer! It would mean dramatically less gear had to be haul around, to public star party nights, or quick observing sessions. I still detest the one-night set-up tear-down. With the C battery pack, I could avoid bringing the:
  • heavy marine battery
  • CLA adapter(s)
  • extension cord(s)
  • GFCI power bar
  • computer power (or other form of 12 volt) supply
If these C batteries work even for a couple of hours, it will be very compelling for star parties!

10:13 PM, June 20, 2012. I found a bunch of C batteries. I hooked up the power pack. Fired up the motor. The experiment had begun. OK. Let's see how long it goes! I briefly viewed Saturn.

10:19 PM. I switched from Evernote to Notepad for the logging notes. It was a little hard to see the cursor.

10:26. OK. I decided to reduce the running back and forth tonight. Another little experiment. I moved the netbook computer to the kitchen. This is a first as well. Sorta. I thought. I had used a computer in the kitchen before, I recalled. But I felt this was the first time I actually sat at the kitchen table. While I didn't have a full keyboard or large monitor at my disposal, it would be very convenient to have SkyTools 3 Pro near the telescope...

10:29. I grabbed the current weather conditions from Env Can, for Toronto. Observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport. As of 10:00 PM EDT Wednesday 20 June 2012. Condition: clear. Pressure was 101.4 kPa and falling. Visibility was 24 km. The temperature was 28.3°C with a calculated dewpoint of 17.6°C. The humidity was 52 %. There was a south-west wind of 15 km/h. The humidex was 34. My kitchen was definitely the warm room...

I did the polar alignment using the built in 'scope. Dialed in the 10°W mag dec. Hold on. I caught myself. That's not what's that's for! That dial was for the meridian offset. 75 was the centre; Toronto is almost 80. So the difference is less than 5. 5°W. Close enough. I left it at 10. Then I set the date to Jun 20 and the time to 2200. And roughly put Polaris just inside the mini circle. Off a little in the low power eyepiece. Probably due to my 5° error...

10:34. Thirsty.

I checked the tracking and alignment. It was holding up...

10:45. Viewed Mars with the 36mm eyepiece. It was small! I checked ST3P. It was 1.3 AU away. I noticed I was looking through 2.3 airmasses. Ugh.

11:00. I noticed the tracking was a little strange. When I returned to the 'scope, Mars was way off, like the tracking had shut off. I fiddled with it. And Mars stayed centred. Huh. Seemed OK again.

I increased power on Mars, first switching to the 26mm, and then the 9m. Not bad! I saw a star above. The ice cap was at the 5 o'clock position; other pole at the 11 o'clock position. It showed a gibbous phase.

11:06. The tracking just let go! For no apparent reason. I had not touched anything. Were the batteries dead already?! The hand controller LED was still good. I slewed to the east then back to the west. That seemed to fix it...

I split Porrima. Blue white stars. Close at 222x. The current separation was 1.86", as of 2012.5, according to ST3P.

12:20 AM, June 21, 2012. So. The second main experiment was underway. Next, I wanted to try photographing planets with a Point-and-Shoot camera. Afocal, using the RASC camera-eyepiece clamp.

I was using the 9mm Tele Vue type 6 Nagler eyepiece on Saturn. First without the Barlow (so, 222x) and then with 2x Celestron doubler (444x). I did a lot of bracketing with the FujiFilm finepix J20 in manual mode. Manually adjusted the ISO to 200 and 400 mostly. I initally focused with Bahtinov mask on a star with the camera zoomed. I changed the white balance. Initially it was on incandescent (i.e. tungsten) but I set it to full sun. Then I zoomed out and used the timer (at 10 seconds) on most shots. The camera had to be very close to the eyepiece. I remembered to shoot some darks in the middle... What a riot. That was kinda fun. It will be interesting to see if they turn out.

12:30 AM. Heh. I discovered a little gotcha with afocal imaging. Surprise! You need very clean eyepieces!

Afterwards, I visually observing Saturn at 444. It was lovely. The seeing was pretty good.

12:38. I removed the 2x. I tried to spot 2 more moons, inner. But they were too faint, the planet too low. 2.0 airmasses. And I was tired. I had been at it for 2 hours...

1:15. Backtracking now... from ΞΆ (zeta) Draconis, aka Aldhibah. Visited 19 and 20 Dra, a very wide double.

1:26. OK. Finally. I confirmed that I had landed at VW Dra, which I assumed was part of a wide separated double, HD 156890. And, which I noticed right away had a faint tight companion. Indeed HD 156890 is a known double. The companion is magnitude 10.3 compared to the 6.9 of the main star. VW varies between mag 6 and 7. I thought it slightly brighter than HD 156890 which is, again, 6.9. So maybe VW was 6 or 6.1? It was a slightly yellow colour or light orange compared to HD 156890. I spotted GSC 04198-1239 nearby. ST3P says it is mag 12.3 (but poor quality).

Very tired.

2:00. I covered the 'scope and crawled into bed. That was cool. The mount run on the small battery pack the whole night. About 4 hours. That's impressive.

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