Sunday, April 06, 2014

a great finish (Blue Mountains)

11:11 PM, Sat 5 Apr 2014. The icd-sx750 voice recorder shutdown. Headed to the house. Put some alkaline AAA batteries from the kitchen in the Sony; my 8 Duracell rechargeables were bad.

Seeing looked good! Hopefully, with the early collimation adjustment to the Celestron 14-inch, I'd get some better Mars data.

Shutdown the EOS Utility. Disconnected the long USB cable. Dismounted the camera.

Decided to go to Mars now. The Paramount flipped over the meridian. Viewed Mars. Tried high power, up to 391. The windy seemed to be shaking the 'scope. Could see some detail even though my right eye did not seem to be working. But the seeing was not good enough for that high magnification.

Reviewed the Nightly Planner in ST3P. Applied filters. First up was ε (epsilon) Persei. I was a little anxious about moving the roof further north. Switched to a Puppis target. Dropped the south wall flaps.

Thornbury weather from Weather Network. 0 feels like -3. Wind SW 10 km. Humidity 61. Pressure 102.1 and rising. Saturday overnight -4 feels like -10, POP 0, wind 20 gusting to 32, humidity 63. Sunday morning still cold. -1 feels like -7. Winds picking up. Humidity a titch higher. Collingwood .

Slewed to HR 3315. aka SAO 175378. Back across the meridian. The 'scope was nearly horizontal!

11:38 PM. From the RASC Observer's Handbook coloured doubles—supplemental list. They call it S 568 Pup. A pair. Colours are great. Widely separated. Very different magnitudes. The primary is a bright orange star. Secondary. Dull. Sparkling, shimmering badly. 2.8 airmasses, at the moment. Mag 5 and 9 stars (normally). Very colourful. Neat pair. Saw a gaggle of stars nearby. Found HD 71142 at the 5 o'clock position. Spotted another pair, off to the side, between S 568 and HD 71142 . Equally bright. Almost the same orientation as 568. HD 71175 and PPM 728610 around magnitude 9. Very nice. 568 is a great double star. Glad I saw that, even though it was so low.

[ed: Haas says "bright apricot-orange" and "small ruddy."]

11:48. Chose Hubble's Variable Nebula—aka NGC 2261 and Caldwell 46. In Monoceros. Just as it was dropping below the 2x airmass. Very interesting. At low power in the C14, it had something of a V-shape. SkyTools also showed a bright star, R Mon, at the tip of the V. Like the nebula was trailing away. Like a comet. Lots of stuff in the area... Nice. Pleasing with the 27mm eyepiece. Cool shape. Noted other stars, one to the south-east, GSC 00746-0913 at mag 13.6, south star GSC 00746-1835 at 13.5, a little gaggle above, the double below, to the east. Neat object. Diffuse cone shape or fan shape. Close to the Moon which is probably decreasing the contrast. Glad I viewed it. It was suggested from the RASC Finest list. Also TAC. At some point I had added it to my Showpieces list, which will be good, in dark skies. Not far from the Cone Nebula and the Rosette (NGC 2244).

Considered HR 3674 or SAO 220978. In Vela! I've not viewed doubles in this constellation. It'd be fun to add one, I thought. TheSky protested, said it was below the horizon. Indeed. Scratch that, I thought. Not visible in the Tele Vue either, despite being mounted higher. The Year Bar suggested the time is nigh. Maybe an hour ago it might have worked.

Considered the another target from SkyTools's observing list. Noted a big comet—C/2014 E2 (Jacques)—in Pyxis, near θ (theta) Pyx. Took out the 55mm ocular.

Verified I was on θ in the Tele Vue. With the 5mm. About a field away from the comet. Tried to pan manually straight up (mostly east) in the field. No... Floundered. Took out the 10mm ocular for the refractor. No.

12:05 AM, Sun 6 Apr 2014. Did not see anything. Double checked the location. Checked again. Manually slewed to where the comet should be and took the 10mm TV eyepiece out for the refractor.

12:12 AM. Still no luck. In-line with a pair of stars, HR 3770. Went down (or west). A mag 10 comet. Huge. But extincted to mag 12. 4.3 airmasses. Yikes. With a Moon-lit sky. Well, the Year Bar showed it would be much better later in the year... Aug/Sep. I wondered what the extended magnitude was.

I was on the west side of the sky. Considered Ursa Major. But it was just crossing the meridian. What about the Lynx area? Noted a supernova—SN 2014ai—from SkyTools albeit 15.6 mag. Oh. Way up there, in the limit of the big 'scope, but would I be able to see it? In a galaxy cluster ACO 779. Headed to α (alpha) Lyncis. Then randomly moved to the area near the group. Looked for a right-angle triangle.

12:28. Figured out where I was. Off target. Identified the super bright star HR 3707 in Cancer. And realised I wanted to go the opposite direction of it. I headed north, into Lynx.

Spotted galaxy NGC 2832. But not the supernova within. A big-L pattern. A T-shape. Confirmed I was in the right area.

Decided to hook up the camera. Returned to α Lyn for focusing. Centred with the 27mm eyepiece. Returned to the galaxy area. Connected to the camera (after wiggling the cable and waking up the camera). Focused manually. Bit of a connection issue again... Tried a 1 minute exposure.

Was lost. Star hopped but couldn't get my bearings. Slight pointing issues with TheSky again. Was trying to find a medium-sized triangle in SkyTools that was taking up about 1/5th of the field of view. Gah. Took a couple of 300 second exposures.

C14, unmodded Canon 40D, 300 seconds, f/11, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, no noise reduction, no processing,converted from RAW to JPG with DPP. North is top-right; east is top-left.

1:17. Ha! Activated the ALL button in the Context Viewer. The image showed many faint galaxies! I had actually been in the right spot. Focus was poor, sadly. Still, I could see lots of fuzzies! I figured out the field. Damn! Right on it. The photo is pretty well centred on the ACO 779 group marking in SkyTools.

[ed. NGC 2832 was the bright fuzzy galaxy in the centre; NGC 2831 is just below; NGC 2830 is the edge-on below again; NGC 2834 is to the left of the pair of stars TYC 02496-1181 1 and GSC 02496-1354, yellow and blue. LEDA 139185 is visible to the left of the star GSC 02496-1254. NGC 2825 is near the bottom centre. Possibly LEDA 2037597 is visible; if not the galaxy then the star J091945.6+334312. LEDA 2036350 is down and left of TYC 02496-1118 1. NGC 2828 is at the right edge. It looks like TYC 02496-1118 1 might be a double star... Fascinating. Amazingly, I caught the supernova SN 2014ai.]

1:54. After another round of imaging of the Auriga area, I returned to Lynx. Tried to image the supernova with 5 min exposures. Now I had better focus.

[ed: The host galaxy is about 310 million light-years away from the Earth. So this supernova makes my life list as the most distant!]

1:55. The sky was looking very dark now. And Mars had crossed the meridian.

1:56. I would need to empty the Sony recorder soon. I continued waiting... waiting for the images...

1:59. The first image downloaded. Ha. I nailed the area! I blinked it but didn't see the supernova.

2:25. Focused on Spica again for Mars. Use AJT again.

2:31. The seeing looked crappy. I tried 1/250 of a second every 5 seconds. Took 50 shots. It was frustrating. The conditions seemed worse now.

2:40. I shot darks. Removed the dew shield which seemed to be picking up wind...

2:42. Viewed HD 79210, aka Σ1321, from the spring RASC Coloured Doubles list. I initially saw two equally bright, equally coloured stars. Both orange. Widely separated in the 27mm in the Celestron 14" SCT. These are the A and B stars.

RASC says yellow and blue. Wha? Are they talking about the A and D stars? [ed: The RASC list says the separation is 18", the mags are 8 and 8, and that's the AB pair.]

3:03. I took SQM readings: 21.19 first, then 10, 16, 11, 06, and 10 again.

3:08. I tore down the camera and USB cable.

Viewed the double again. Definitely orange. They were faint in the Tele Vue 101 refractor at 50x. It's a nice quad. D is blue. C, wow, is very faint! Didn't notice it... Averted vision is needed for C. [ed: Haas says "interesting object." Indeed. "Cool M" stars, "widely apart," and "identical." She thinks they are "peach white" whereas Webb says "yellow." At 17.7" separation, it seems she is commenting on the AB pair. No mention of other stars. M stars would be orange or red. She says they are identical. Both she and Webb use descriptions in the yellowy-orangey end of the spectrum. So, in summary, Haas and I are in agreement in terms of appearance, separation, colour, brightness. But the yellow-blue colours from RASC seem wrong. The RASC list also makes no mention of the other two companions. I'll report to Duval.]

The stars B and C and D are all about the same distance apart and form a nearly perfect equilateral triangle. Wow: the AC separation, in the ST3P Object Information dialog box, is totally wrong. The chart view however agreed with what I was seeing.

[ed: Some more details from SkyTools... From the OI box, the magnitudes, rounded: A 8, B 8, C 15, D 11. The separation and position angles, rounded: AB 17" 98° (as of March 2014), AC 28" 283°, AD 133" 140°. In the Context Viewer, with the Angle tool, AB 17" 97°, AC 152" 64°, AD 150" 126°. Again, the AC pair is way off. The AD is different too but in the ballpark. Wow. I'll report to Crinklaw.]

3:21. Viewed the Baby Eskimo. It was tiny, bluish, not round. There was either a bright star in the centre or the region was bright. I noted a faint double below. I felt that the planetary nebula IC 3568 deserved higher power. I should look again. [ed: Added to the View Again list.]

It was getting windy. I was feeling tired. But I wanted to finish with something... wow!

3:27. Found comet K1 in Corona Borealis. C/2012 K1 (Pan-STARRS). Yes! It sported a bright centre and an oval coma. The fan tail was diffuse off to the south-west. It was within an arc of bright stars lead by HD 140847. Very pleasing. It was obvious in the TV101 at 50x. Nice.

3:57. I was in bed.

What a week!


Verified the location of the supernova a few days later.

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