Sunday, February 16, 2014

tackled some doubles (Blue Mountains)

I settled into the Geoff Brown Observatory. Had the ceramic heater going, in addition to the baseboard heater.

8:20 PM, Saturday 15 February. According to Taurus laptop computer.

Took a few runs to get the Sony voice recorder going, some of the AAA batteries are weak. I put the low ones in a pocket to warm them up.

Lit the hand warmer after adding 20mL of butane. Did not overflow. The syringe made it much easier to fill. No spills. Still had to be careful. Put the USB hand warmers in my pocket.

Popped out to see what the Moon was doing. No pillar. Did not see Jupiter through the clouds.

Noticed they were setting up for a movie indoors.

The XP updates finished downloading onto the laptop computer. Let them install. Applied a Java install as well.

Checked the weather. Clear Sky Chart, updated at 4:00, it showed the cloud cover improving at 9:00 PM and continuing to 1:00 AM. The transparency and seeing was showing at medium. Moon would be bright at that stage. It looks nearly full to me. The Collingwood page from Environment Canada, updated at 3:30 PM, showed clouds increasing to morning.

8:38 PM. Restarted the laptop and reconnected to the talk. LAN Messenger restarted and reconnected to the house computer (I had installed the software on that machine earlier today).

TheSky 6 showed Jupiter left, or east, of the meridian. Perhaps not a good target. That is, too close to the Moon. Chose Messier 42 as a starting point.

Opened the roof. Started up OK but it started making a lot of noise as it neared the half-way point. From the west wall? A loading problem? Sounded like there was extra pressure somewhere. I released the button after I heard the toothed belt slip. Hit the button again and it sounded like the motor was strained. Released. Hit it again and the contractor problem returned. Tried to close, sounded strained, but then continued OK. Made a note to inspect in the daylight... Hopefully I would not be stuck, without a motor, at the half-way position.

8:46. Looked at the skies. Still hazy, cloudy.

Put an eyepiece in the Celestron 14" Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope.

8:51. Looked at M42. Sweeping grey clouds of gas. θ (theta) 2 off to the top-right. Seeing was not great. Transparency was low. Looked at the Trapezium. Seeing was coming and going.

Almost immediately I started to feel chilled at the telescope, particularly on my legs. Headed to the house to get more layers.

9:04. Returned to the GBO with a tape measure and the netbook computer and more layers. Rearranged the workspace in the warm room. Put the red film on the ASUS machine.

The USB hand warmers were done. I plugged them into available USB ports on the two portable computers. The butane was toasty hot.

Put John Phil on the ethernet hard line, as the wireless was not working.

Still saw hazy, scattered cloud. Very light wind, nothing to speak of.. Checked the local Davis page. As of 9:13. Wind direction WWWN, outside humidity 91%, barometric pressure 1017.3 mbar (and rising), outside temperature -15.9°C (ambient), inside temp. 23.1, inside humidity 51%. Humid! From my portal page, Collingwood showed as -13, going down to -18. Pulled up the Weather Network page for Thornbury, -16, feels like -23, with a 13 km/h wind, humidity 87%, pressure 101.8 and rising, cloudy periods, variable cloudiness overnight, flurries tomorrow. Viewed hourly. Cloudy in every time slot.

9:13. Started up SkyTools. Applied software updates. It automatically loaded the list from 24 January, an ambitious plan with 108 items, with lots of double stars.

Tried updating the "current" information. Huh. It said it was unable to update the novae and supernova data. I had never seen that error before.

Grabbed the 27mm eyepiece to probe deeper into the Trapezium.

9:20. Just barely made out the faint star, on the bottom, between the tighter pair, A and B. I couldn't remember the name [ed: E] of the dimmer star [ed: mag 11.2] but it was pretty easy to see. Found an image on the web. Confirmed. And it helped me confirm I was just barely seeing the F star. E is between A and B but "outboard." F is almost inline with A and C. The chart I found via Google said F was 10.2 and E was 10.3. Not good conditions...

9:25. Noted the SkyTools update was finished. Tried it again. Worked. It immediately reported success updating the exploding stars data. Good. Noted the official label for SN2014J. Mag 10.9. Activated red light mode.

Checked my old list. It had over a dozen objects in the constellation Orion. Created a new list. Added viewed objects including Jupiter. Transferred objects from the old list to the new. Removed the constellation item proper.

9:30. Noted a flashing low battery for the recorder. Checked NGC 1788, a diffuse nebula. Didn't think it a good thing to look at. Saw 42 Orionis on the list. A double star in many other observing lists. Including my recently-made "view again" observing list. Slewed. Ah, just above M42.

Applied the next batch of XP updates.

Headed to the telescope. But was not feeling optimistic, not seeing any Moon shadows...

Noted frost on the corrector! Verified with the flashlight. Weird, given the Kendrick was now running the SCT heater at 100%. I saw moisture on the inside of the OTA possibly! Grabbed the hair dryer.

9:39. Defrosted the corrector. It was very hazy cloudy.

Checked the satellite radar imagery from ADDS, both the colour IR and water vapour. It looked bad. A lot of lake effect stuff, coming down the peninsula. Big bands over Superior and Huron. Damn, clear over New York, the Finger Lakes.

Examined the software view of 42 Ori. Adjusted the Context Viewer to match. Bright, quite bright, 42 at the bottom (or west), a faint star, V359, in the middle of the flattened or squished triangle, with bright 45 at the top. Not unlike Mizar and Alcor with the faint star in the middle (Sidus Ludoviciana)... 42 is a tight double star with the A at mag 4.6. The V359 star is around mag 7.3. And 45 Ori is mag 5.2. I remembered something, the 42 and 45 are a popular binocular target. They are 4.25 arc-minutes apart. But I wondered why it was on my list to re-examine. 42 is double proper, and 45 is a triple.

I saw what appeared to be a faint double to the north-west of 42. That was Σ746 (Struve), the A (magnitude 9.7) and B (10.7) stars. I did not see the C star (11.0).

Rebooted the laptop again. Noticed LAN Messenger was not on the netbook.

Checked the Warm Room conditions: 11° and 37%. With a faded display. Needs a new AAA battery.

Did not see shadows. A soft glow. Sky was worse. No stars. Moon was dim. Looked at my Evernote task list for some things to do, to kill time. Turned off tracking on the mount.

Had serious doubts. Bad seeing. Bad transparency. Cold. Getting colder. Moon. Why bother?

9:56. Measured the outer diameter of the C14. 15-5/8". In case I want to build a Bahtinov.

After wrapping it in a plastic bag, I brought the DSLR camera in from outside. Left the aluminium tripod outside.

9:58. Measured the dimensions of the electrical panels, for future stickers. The MODL/BAO panel, just below the breakers, is 2" wide. 2.5" deep. On the main panel, could do a 3" wide label between the switch and screws. The height is 6", for 12 breakers on each side. And we'll need to cut around the heater indicator. So 3x6" for the label size, one on each side.

No Moon shadows.

Tagged 42 Ori to re-observe. Removed the Horsehead from the observing list—not possible in these conditions. Removed all the nebulae. Did not see NGC 1973. Wasn't going for it.

10:08. Still clouded out. No stars. No Jupiter. Added "inspect roof" to the task list.

10:19. Tested the planet walk reflectors with the little mini LED flashlight. Didn't work. But then they did not light up the domes... Limited throw.

Saw a shadow line.

10:23. Felt colder! Stars were back. Observed 42 and 45 again. Wanted to amp the power. Took the 18mm ocular out. Sometimes 42 seems blue-white to me, intense; other times it seems yellow. 45 on the other hand seems orange or orange-red. No sense of colour on V359.

10:27. Legs were cold. Turned up the ceramic heater a bit. Triggered the sodium hand warmers and put them in the gloves.

Noted some of the field stars. HD 294264 (mag 9.8) to the west of 42 and NSV 2313 (11.2) to the south. HD 37059 (9.0) is south-west of 45. Spotted KX Ori (7.3) laying to the north-west of 42 and HD 36938 (8.8) to the south-west of KX. Σ746 was outside the field of view now, with the 18mm.

Put the chemical hand warmers in my back pants pockets. Check the catalytic was upright.

There seemed to be a more distinct shadow outside.

10:39. Had a good look at Σ746. Stared for a long time. But could not spot C. But then I could not see NSV 2313 at the moment. So it was not completely surprising I could not view mag 12 stars... In good conditions, with the C14, it would not be a problem.

Moved the heat packs from the back to the front pockets.

Grabbed the 10mm eyepiece.

I wondered how low (er high) I could with the Tele Vue refractor. Checked the telescope report in SkyTools. With the 3mm, I could get to 180 power. Higher, of course, with doublers. Crazy high with the 4x Powermate... Cancelled the telescope profile (did I just notice that the software did not refresh the observing list?!).

Viewed 42 again, trying to coax out the B star. Saw a star to the right of 42, in the direction HD 294264. The context viewer showed MW Ori. Wild, a 13.3 mag star. And I might have seen 45 B! It was not inline with 45 and V359 Ori. A hockey stick again. SkyTools called this HLD 173B, a strange designation. A good distance away from 45 A. Mag 12.5. That was with the 10mm. Not a clean image.

10:49. Recorder went down. Swapped the batteries in the recorder.

Suited up for another look.

Grabbed the 3mm for the TV. Nice view. Wide. But no light grasp. I could barely see the NSV. How would I be able to see mag 12 stars? Could see the airy disc and one diffraction ring about 42.

11:03. Noticed the new set of batteries in the recorder were reporting low!

Conditions were not going to allow me to split 42. And they were falling below the 2 airmass.

Did not see the C star of 45.

[ed: 42-45, a suggestion from Sky & Telescope magazine, are on my double stars life list as observed. While viewing in Apr 2012, I learned 42 itself was a double, thanks to SkyTools. But could not split the tight pair. That's why it appears on my view-again list. 45, on the other hand, I have split before. Also viewed Σ746 A, B, and C before.]

The USB hand warmers were blinking green.

Decided to try for ξ (xi) Ori. Up in the arm...

Extended the TV dew shield; installed the C14 foam padded dew shield.

11:10. Viewed bright ξ with the 27mm. Very bright. Blue-white or pale yellow? Spotted some super faint stars around it! Like a little Sagitta. Noted the nearly straight line of stars to the north, including, from west to east, TYC 00742-1679 1, TYC 00742-1623 1, TYC 00742-1649 1, and GSC 00742-0987, all between magnitude 10 and 12. The brightest field star was TYC 00742-0807 1, further to the north, at mag 9.1.

Back to xi, I saw two faint stars below and one faint star above. Huh. SkyTools did not show a star above! Instead SkyTools showed an B, C, and D star below, in the Context Viewer. Checked the Interactive Atlas at a high zoom level. No star to the north. I made a note to view a sky survey image.

I suspected I was seeing the B and D stars and not the C star. D is mag 12.0. Both B and C are 12.3 but close together. The software said B and D were about 1/3rd the distance of B and D. So I was probably merging the two dim stars...

Grabbed the 18mm ocular and zero-length adapter. From the 27mm. And had another look.

The star to the north, is about the same distance away, and exactly opposite, the gaggle below.

11:16. I also spotted a star inline with B (or C) and D. SkyTools said this was GSC 00742-1743 at mag 14.2 (poor quality). Crazy.

The north star was inline with TYC 00742-1649 1.

xi was in my view-again list. Well viewed I think... Went for another peek.

11:23. Coaxed out C! Used the panning trick, moving bright A off the field. Averted. No colour to any of these stars.

Thought about the angles too. B and C stars are pointing almost directly to TYC 00742-1679 1. The A star I changed my mind... It was more in a north-east bearing, toward GSC 00742-1429. A is equal brightness to B, C, and D, so around mag 12.1 or 12.2.

Interesting... very interesting multi-star system. [ed: the digital sky survey image corroborates all this. A, same brightness as B, C, D. About the same distance as the stars opposite. Inline with the GSC star.]

Why was ξ on my view-again list? [ed: It was partly to verify the star opposite B, C, and D. And partly, if viewing again, to see at a better time in the year, as I felt April was too late.]

[ed. See note on the ξ E star.]

Decided to take a break. I wondered if they were done their movie. Put the 'scope horizontal with tracking off. Red glasses on! Movie was over, lights were off, chas was snoozing, said hello, I grabbed a water, and some hard candy.

11:39. Little hexagons. The snow sparkled and twinkled in the Moon light.

Considered some new targets, perhaps from a RASC list! Coloured Doubles. Turned on tracking. Slewed to HR 3174 aka STF1183A in Monoceros.

11:54. Viewed the double star. Pale yellow and pale blue. Viewed in the Tele Vue first with the 3mm then with the 10mm. I thought them faint then very faint, at the lower power. The RASC book agrees, faint. But the book says yellow and green. What?! I did not think that. I noted SkyTools says it is a quad, with 13 mag stars near the B.

[ed: RASC is referring to the A and B stars only. Haas says lemon-white and green-white. Huh.]

12:01 AM, Sunday 16 February. It is not a stark green colour. No way. Could it be at the close C and D stars are yellow and are blending with the blue B? Checked the Year Bar. This was close to the best time.

I find it interested no one—no one—came out tonight. Tony, Charles. Millie? She's usually the keener.

Selected ρ (rho) Orionis.

12:08 AM. Wicked colours for ρ Ori. Orangey gold or orangey yellow and a deep or royal blue. Quite tight. Even with the 27mm. Very different magnitudes, 3 or 4 different maybe? Beautiful colours, really nice. RASC said orange and blue. In the Object Information dialog, SkyTools reported a C star, far away, very different mag, A and B are 4.4 vs 8.5, so 4.1 different. Best viewed in January. Amazing, the primary, fiery orange. [ed: Haas says primary is tangerine.]

12:12. Spotted the C star. I guessed 90° to A and B. And about 20 times. ST3P said the PA for AB and AC is 64 and 156. So 92° according to the software. Distances are 7 vs 183 arc-seconds. So, more than 20x the difference.

Yawned... Thought about quitting.

Check if there was anything interesting going on with Jupiter. A shadow transit! Oh. An hour away.

Decided on HD 79552. Way up there, in Cancer. Ew! Close to the Moon... Slewed.

12:20. I saw A, B, and C, stars of Struve 1327. I did not see D. Were A and B separated by 3 or 4 arc-seconds? Very faint. Equal magnitudes. A and B seemed yellow and orange or red. And I thought the C was blue.

The RASC table said they were yellow and blue. Are they talking about the A and C stars? I'd have to check the book and the quoted separations. ST3P says A and B are 5.5 apart (tighter than the previous star). A and C are widely separated at 28.6. Almost equal magnitudes.

Checked the Context Viewer of SkyTools. A is mag 8.6, B is 10.3, C is 10.2. The software also showed D as 10.2. That didn't seem right, particularly given that D was drawn as a fainter star. In the Interactive Atlas, I found a random 11.2 star. TYC 01957-1573 2 mingling with the C and D. And if the mag is correct, it would be visible before the true D companion? I thought these stars are fainter than ρ Ori.

Weird stuff in the SkyTools databases. The Object Info box says

A: 8.6
B: 10.6
C: 9.3
D: 14.3

Took another look.

12:28. Very strange. The seeing went steady. Rock solid. I wondered if I was seeing C and D and they were aiming directly toward the B. But software says D is mag 14. And I should be seeing that star. If I'm seeing the random star, mag 11... Is the position different? Or an error in ST3P?

[ed: More confused after reviewing the RASC Observer's Handbook. Σ1327 comes from the Coloured Doubles supplemental list. The magnitudes are noted as 8.0 and 9.0 while the separation is 7. This seems to suggest the A and B stars, in terms of distance, but not colour or magnitude...]

12:30. Suddenly realised I didn't have to go to work tomorrow. Nice.

Realised Canis Minor would be a good area. HD 63536 aka Σ1149. Slew.

12:34. Nice colours for HD 63536. Yellow and blue. Widely separated. About a magnitude different. Sort of faint. RASC said yellow and blue and faint. OK. SkyTools said 7.7 vs 9.5 mags. 21.8".

[ed: Haas says grapefruit-orange and silvery-yellow.]

Put the USB heaters back in the gloves. Butane still pumping out heat. Shooed clumsy flies.

Selected κ (kappa) Geminorum. Not far away.

12:40. RASC said orange and blue. No... Yellow. Intense yellow, yes. Curiously, this companion made me think green, or aquamarine. About 4 or 5 magnitudes difference. Very close. 5 arc-seconds maybe? ST3P said 7". 4.5 mags different. RASC said they were faint. Certainly the secondary is. I suppose both would be in a small 'scope.

[ed: Unsuccessful at splitting before. Yes!]

How about Taurus? Decided on HR 1741 aka HD 34579.

12:46. Took in Struve 680. About four magnitudes different. Companion is very faint. The software agreed. First impression was yellow and orange or red. But I saw the blue later. RASC says yellow and blue. I thought they were about 7 seconds of arc apart; the software said 9. So pretty close.

Closed the roof (from the half-way point). No issues. No unusual noises.

12:50. Started a quick shutdown. Considered the Notepad document I started on the laptop; deferred it 'til I was inside the house.

12:52. Shut down the laptop. Turned off the portable heater. Packed the netbook, power cord, recorder, camera, expired warmers, USB heaters and cables.

Very clear when I stepped outside the Warm Room. Ursa Major up high. Didn't look at the supernova... Hello! Mars almost exactly horizontal to the left of Spica. No aurora... Bright Moon like a spotlight over the silvery white landscape.

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