Monday, September 03, 2012

shook down the N11 (Blue Mountains)

Staying on another night... The weather was looking decent. Steve wanted to do some more imaging.

Tim took control of the C14 and TV101 for his imaging.

Staying Sunday night meant I could test the NexStar 11 GPS telescope. Fully test it.

I set up on the Observing Pad. Grabbed the tripod from the GBO observatory floor. Moved the large OTA from the shade of the GBO to the Pad. Retrieved more accessories from the JMI case. Couldn't find one of the tripod bolts. Must have wandered within the case. Fetched a large cardboard box for a light shield. Set up the netbook with red film. Fired up SkyTools.

My eyes started watering...

8:16 PM, 2 Sep 2012. Phil said he could see Vega. I booted up the N11. After a pause, the blank LCD display on the hand controller showed the message "No Response" on line one and "16" on line two. WTF?! What happened? It had started up fine (with Steve's lead acid marine battery) after the reassembly. Was a wire loose?

I fiddled with it, remembered (this time) to aim the OTA down, connected the HC to an AUX port, and started it up. Whew. No error code. Reconnected to the standard HC port. Rebooted. No error.

Noticed that it felt damp. There seemed to be some dew forming already. A bit on the carbon fiber tube. I wondered how far I'd get without dew heaters... I grabbed the huge extra dew shield from the GBO. It would work in a pinch.

8:33 PM. Did the alignment process (although I forgot to use the preferred approach). But then I noticed the time was wrong. Huh?! Was the GPS suddenly not working? Tried again. Same issue. Weird. I manually entered the date and time. Finished alignment. Then did compass calibration. Went to Saturn. In the eyepiece! That's what I'm talking about!

It was good to the ringed planet but the seeing was bad. I couldn't see Titan in the Celestron 40mm ocular.

I put the big dew shield on. It kinda of flopped around. But it would help...

Checked the weather information from Environment Canada for Collingwood. Current Conditions... 20°C. Data from 8:00 PM EDT Sunday 2 September 2012. Condition: Not observed. Pressure: 101.7 kPa and falling. Temperature: 19.5°C. Dewpoint: 14.1°C. Humidity: 71%. Wind: WSW 3 km/h. Forecast. Tonight: Clear, 15°C. Mon: Sunny, 30°C. Tue: Chance of showers. Issued : 3:30 PM EDT Sunday 2 September 2012. Tonight: Clear. Low 15. Monday: Sunny. High 30. UV index 7 or high. Monday night: Clear. Increasing cloudiness before morning. Low 18. Tuesday: Cloudy with 40 percent chance of showers. High 26.

I checked our local conditions as gathered by the Davis weather station. Wind 0. Direction NE. 10 minute average wind speed 0. High wind speed 25.7. Outside humidity 81. Barometer 1016.5. Temp 16.2. Dew point 13.0.

8:39. Checked Saturn again. Now I could see Titan.

Went to η (eta) Lyr. It was centred in the 40mm eyepiece! Impressive, the GO-TO function.

And, happily, no issues with slewing.

9:25. I thought I saw jumping in eyepiece. Was there something wrong with the big fork mount?

Tried the Tele Vue 10mm, borrowed from the GBO collection. Nobody was using them tonight...

Noted that I was seeing more stars than what ST3P presented. The model it was using to represent the sky was not correct. I could see more than than when I turned on the "Simulate view from current condition" switch, with the Moon-on-a-blue-sky button. But when I turned it off, then I saw too many stars. I checked the setting for the Carr location. Adjusted the temperature and humidity settings. I tried, in the Advanced tab, changing the sky brightness value from 23.83 but it wouldn't let me. I returned to the Basic tab and changed the magnitude setting from 7.8 to 9. I also changing the seeing option to Good from Average. Very artificial. And still it didn't seem right. I tried changing the location to the Texas Star Party.

9:31. In fact, I thought the seeing conditions to be.. so-so. I would not have said good.

9:51. Tried for 41 Oph again. No joy.

The jumping in the field of view was distracting. In part due to the regular frequency. I turned the tracking off via the hand controller so to concentrate on the target... That helped a little.

10:09. I could see nothing obvious with 90 Her.

Tim and Steve came by. Gave them the quick history of the N11.

I showed Steve M13. It looked pretty good, all things considered.

10:16. Viewed 23 Aql. It was already done but still... I split it in the N11. Saw yellow and orange stars.

10:25. Tim visited me again. He left a USB cable at home. Asked if we had any at the CAO. No... However, I had brought my USB kit with different adapters... Saved his bacon.

10:31. Millie came out for a visit as I was chasing Σ2403 aka HR 7075. With a 1" separation, I was not expecting Millie to see anything.

10:47. I borrowed the 5mm Tele Vue eyepiece. I took me down into the diffraction rings. But no obvious star. Went back to the 18mm. Still no joy.

I heard the azimuth motor making a soft "dup dup dup" sound. Which corresponded to the jump in the eyepiece. There seemed to be too much sticktion in the horizontal axis. I had tightened up the base too much.

11:00. Tried HR 7764 or HJ 5188 again. In the 18mm, I saw A (with B merged in it somewhere), C, and D and E separately. D and E were tight and faint. Once again, I noted HD 193244 to the west and its B component. I also saw J202013.1-290904 to the south of B.

11:08. I marvelled again how this was a great example of brightness challenge with double stars. I could easily split the D and E stars (in iffy seeing and a nearly full Moon) but I could not split A and B.

The wind was picking up. I had to remove the dew shield for it was shaking the 'scope.

11:20. Tried Kui 97 again. No joy. Nothing visible in the 40mm or the 10mm. And it was straight up! Damn.

Did a realign, swapping in a new star. Didn't seem to help.

It was a little off-putting, how my evening was going. No progress per se with Sissy's project. Some frustrations with conditions, seeing, Moon pollution. And troubles with the NexStar. Some my fault. Allergies suddenly acting up. Severely. I needed a change of pace. I switched to the Sky & Telescope summer doubles list... Ah ha. A few left.

11:54. Viewed ρ (rho) Cap. Spotted the A, D, and E stars. No luck with C or B. ST3P said that C was faint and that B was very tight to A.

11:57. Millie dropped by again. I asked her her impression of the seeing. "It's bad tonight," she replied. Indeed.

The humidity had eased off.

12:04 AM, 3 Sep 2012. Viewed 12 Aqr. Saw a yellow and orange, tight pair.

Elaine, Tony, Phil, and Steve visited. I offered to show Uranus but then decided against it. It was too close to the Moon and the sky was completely washed out.

12:24 AM. Instead, we viewed Neptune. The telescope GO TO was off a bit so I had to manually hop to it. Everyone enjoyed seeing the pale blue disc. I tried to spot Triton but there was no joy. Curiously, I could see star GSC 05806-0799 nearby. SkyTools said it was a mag 13.01 star (but that was based on poor data).

12:50. Jupiter was well up.

Millie asked if I was going to leave the N11 outside. She said I could use her telescope blanket since she wouldn't need it. I accepted. It would make my shutdown at the end of the session quicker...

I switched to the RASC colourful doubles list. Needed some excitement! And wide doubles...

1:04. Viewed 94 Aqr. The primary was yellow. The secondary... I stared for a long time. Was it blue? Or green? Perhaps a dark green? It was weird! It was very hard to peg the colour. I knew there could not be such a thing as a green star but still, that was the impression. The pair was easy split at low power. So it wasn't an easy of the primary's colour blending... Very interesting.

1:12. Assigned a new alignment star, again. But the GO TO targets were still out of the field.

Visited ψ1 (psi) Aqr. Yellow and blue, I thought. Another wide pair.

1:24. Next up: 57 Peg. Orange and green? The secondary was very faint.

That was fun... A good way to end the evening.

Checked the local conditions again. Wind 10 min avg 12.9. SE. Current speed 14.5. Hum 74. Baro 1016.4. Temp 17.4. Wind chill 16.9. Dew 12.8.

I was a little tired. Could have continued. But tomorrow was departure day. And I recalled that Steve wanted to get away early. That said, I was frustrated with my allergic reaction to something in the air. Which the wind was picking up. I was feeling conflicted about the NexStar. It was working well overall and I had not broken it. But it cleared still needed some lovin'. A big problem though was gone. I tried almost all the slew rates and did not see any stalling. All right. That meant the clutches were not slipping. I'd just have to easy back the centre bearing fasteners a bit...


Looked a few times but did not see any aurora borealis tonight, despite alerts from CalSky.

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