Sunday, July 14, 2013

galaxies, doubles, planets, and a dash of aurora (Blue Mountains)

As the sun set, I helped Risa with Kendrick dew fighting system. I had her take some DMM readings of the eyepiece strap: 60 ohms. Looked like it was working fine. Flexed the ends. No shorts. No breaks. We tried connecting both straps again. Almost immediately, the controller stopped working.

The mosquitoes were already bad. Put on layers. And started to sweat. Grace and Tony offered their butane-powered Thermacell thing for me to try. I started it inside the THO and left for a bit to let it work.

Returned Ian's camera and cable and Dietmar's 2" adapter. I was not going to image. I was looking forward to a good viewing session.

10:01 PM, July 13, 2013. Took in Saturn. Saw Titan to the right, a moon below, Rhea, a moon left, Dione, both about the same distance from the planet.

10:13 PM. I thought I'd try the (anti) cord-wrap feature of the NexStar hand controller. But then realised that if I was going to use the lectern as a mobile workstation, cord-wrap would probably not be an issue. Fired up SkyTools and ASCOM. Checked I was already on COM2.

10:19. Slewed to a nearby double star, HD 121444, in Virgo. I thought I saw the two stars. It was tight. And very different mags (SkyTools said magnitudes 7.8 and 11.0). Kept staring...

I saw it! A north-south orientation. The secondary was on the south side of A, almost in-line to bright star HD 121496 which was a quarter of a field away. A looked blue-white; B looked dark orange. Neat, the double was one corner of a large rhombus. Actually, considering the star in the middle, a bow tie.

10:28. Viewed 35 Comae Berenices. I wondered if I had viewed this before. [ed: I had.] I saw a wide pair, orange and blue. Perhaps green? SkyTools 3 Pro made it clear I was seeing the AC pair, at 28.7 seconds of arc. The AB pair, at 1.0", was likely not possible. I strained to see the slightly brighter B star to no avail.

10:44. I returned from the GBO. I asked to borrow the Tele Vue 10mm eyepiece (and 1¼" adapter). I hoped it would help me dig out 35 Com B.

I spotted J125328.4+211731 to the north-east. A 13.77 mag star. So, no problem going faint...

10:47. I noticed good diffraction rings around stars, signalling decent collimation. But still no B. ST3P said it was PA 199° and sep. 1.03" as of 2013.5. Maybe too tight for me? I've seen things in the 1 range... Poor conditions? Maybe too tight for the 'scope? Meh.

[ed: Plotted the orbit in ST3P. Oh oh. A and B are only getting tighter...]

10:53. Landed at the orange and blue 2 Canum Venaticorum. The RASC Observer's Handbook says gold and blue. It was pleasingly close at 78x. Lovely.

10:58. Popped over to Messier 106 (M106). Big. A canted spiral with a bright centre. Saw a bit of mottling.

11:01. A satellite went through the field, to the north.

11:05. I panned over to big bright arrow of stars. I saw the fuzzy cloud near the mag 9 star SAO 44095. It made me think of reflection nebula around stars. NGC 4217. It did not look oval shaped. [ed: Photos reveal an edge-on galaxy with a very dark lane at a slight angle.] I noted the orange star on north side of arrow, HD 106556, a K star. The others were blue-white.

11:12. Wow. Took in the very faint, long and thin, NGC 4244. It is also known as The Silver Needle and Caldwell 26. I thought it extremely large.

11:16. A double star, spotted nearby, to the east of the Needle. HD 107341. Gold and blue, fairly tight. aka Σ1632.

Took a break. Yummy tarts from the kitchen.

Looked at the Lagoon (Messier 8 or M8) in Steve's little refractor 'scope. Impressive view despite the small aperture. A Takahashi FS-60B, f/5.9, 60mm of course. The eyepiece was a Tele Vue Ethos 13mm.

I found an empty GBO with the C14 trained on M51 and companion. Nice. Good detail.

11:57. I finished my break. Viewed NGC 4088. It was very faint. Smaller than 4244. It was not symmetrical. [ed: Photos show a very distorted galaxy, with a gentle S-curve shape.] It was angled north-east to south-west.

12:01 AM, July 14, 2013. Eyeballed NGC 4085. Wow. It was very small. Nestled in the notch of a triangle of stars. South of 4088. It looked good with averted vision. Wow. Very neat these two contrasting galaxies in the same field.

12:18 AM. Did a big slew, over to Aquila. Tony, in the 'hood, helped me turn the roof. I was trying to track down Σ2424C. I saw yellow and blue, equally bright stars.

12:31. I thought I had arrived my target initially. Nope. Turned out I was at HD 176486 (or Σ2426). Yellow and blue. Equally bright. There was a wide double to the north and a faint tighter double to the west.

12:35. Wow. I spotted the C star of HD 176486 to the south. A mag 13.3, super faint star. It was at a 90° angle to A and B. A dark orange colour perhaps? That was crazy. Another indicator of good collimation! Yes. And the seeing was good too.

Tried the 10mm but it was bad.

12:39. The "wide double" I had seen to the north-east of 176486 was not considered a double star system. HD 176544 was to the east and HD 230357 to the west. But, SkyTools showed the latter, itself, was a tight double! OK.

12:43. Briefly, when the atmosphere went steady, I could split HD 230357. A very tight double. Two equal pale white stars. Very very close. Good seeing showed a thin black line. They were oriented north-east to south-west. ST3 said they were 1.60" apart! And mag 10.4 and 10.1.

12:46. The equally bright (but faint, mag 10, 11) stars to the west were not a pair.

That jump from north to south was the only bad or poor slew I had all night...

12:51. At last, I arrived 11 Aquilae. It was pale yellow and blue, the A and B stars. Again, I wanted to track down the C star...

1:07. I was pretty sure I had seen it, the C star, of 11. It was dim, very faint. It was on the opposite side from 176483 and 484. OK. Log it!

1:09. Risa drifted by. Said good night. See you...

1:12. I headed back to HD 180994, near NGC 6781. But, despite trying hard, I was not convinced I could split the very tight pair. Tried low and high power.

1:27. A lark... Tried to split γ (gamma) Coronae Australis. It was just a shimmering blob. Crazy low. Crazy tight. It's best in late August, according to the planning software. Next!

1:37. Viewed Neptune. Lovely colour. But could not see Triton (mag 13.5). Boo!

1:40. I felt tired. Felt myself falling asleep again. Considered wrapping. But sat there...

1:42. Out of the corner of my eye, through the vertical slot, I spotted a bright meteor. East bound. Fast mover. And then it suddenly popped out. Strange direction?

1:47. Remembered to take a reading with the Sky Quality Meter. Stepped outside the THO. Got 21.07 twice then 20.98. It reported 17°.

I partially shutdown. Did some of the THO closing. Roof in the final orientation. Considered that I'd be leaving tomorrow. And that I didn't want to hog the THO any more. Returned the RASC stuff to GBO. Lugged a bunch of my equipment back to house. Would box up the N11 in the daylight.

2:10. As I exited the THO Steve and Justin told me there was aurora. Cool! I thought they were talking about the meteor. I went to porch. Grace, Tony, and Risa were there. The aurora was fairly faint but occasionally brightened up. A nice way to end a great night!


Risa put one of her aurora shots on Facebook.

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