Friday, May 30, 2014

planets and doubles, an easy quasar (Blue Mountains)

Installed the red filters and dropped the screen brightness for the two computers.

Already felt cool. Checked Firefox on John Phil. Reloaded the local weather page. No wind. Humidity was 81%. Oops. I had not activated the dew heaters nor installed the dew cap. Closed up the Warm Room. Outside temperature was 12.4°C. Predicted dew point was 9.3. Weather Underground, for Thornbury, also showed no wind speed. Temp 13.4. Predicted clear. Said it was a new Moon. Almost!

Checked the Nightly Events Planner in SkyTools. Sunset 9:02. Moon set 9:47 [ed: huh?]. New Moon phase. Added the Moon to the observing list.

High wispy clouds overhead. Conditions still not great.

Internet was still slow.  Despite being on the hard line.

Wondered if the mount was going to hit the western limit shortly...

I wondered what Ian used before... to view Mercury. From last weekend. The phase, to me, was clearly visible. Less than half. Viewed in the 27mm.

Tried to find Ian online. Sent him an email. Could not find the framed red film cover for the Dell GBO computer. Checked the drawers again. Found it. Atop the tower computer on the right side! Could it have fallen out of the drawer?

Thu 29 May 2014, 9:39 PM. Slewed to Jupiter. 27mm. Swimming, still. Could see all four moons.

Started marking observations to the SkyTools list. Moon, Mercury, Jupiter.

9:42 PM. Wasat. delta Gem. Primary was white with hints of blue. Companion very close. Very different magnitudes. Maybe 3 or 4 different. Orangey. Neat double star. Very close with the 27mm Panoptic. [Haas thinks the primary is amber-yellow. Webb and Smyth thought the companion purple; Hartung red. Wow.]

Felt chilled in my back. Headed to the house for more layers.

9:50. The Dell in the kitchen had settled down at last. Copied the file from the USB memory drive. Checked the settings in the old version of PowerPoint 2000. Tested the slide show mode. It worked.

Learned that I had viewed Wasat in the past, Mar 2013. My current notes seemed to be in agreement. I think I had wanted to view again to double-check the colours: others say yellow and orange or yellow and red.

Put SkyTools in red light mode. Applied a variety of filters to the observing list. The list shortened to 55 objects. Changed the list columnar format. After moving my gear around, I hooked up the external monitor to John Phil. Sorted the screen rez. Grabbed the loose sheet of red film. Much better. Adjusted the monitor brightness and contrast.

Off to Talitha, aka ι (iota) Ursa Majoris. One of the front feet of the Bear. TheSky6 found it and I slewed.

9:56. I was on it. Bright star. But I could not split it. Bumped to the 18mm eyepiece. Then grabbed the 10mm out of the refractor...

9:58. Took the 3mm out to the Tele Vue. Still no joy. I wondered if it was a super-tight pair. Marked it to reobserve. Looked at the Object Information. A binary, indeterminate orbit.

10:01. Periastron was noted as 9". ST3P said the separation was at 2.8". Huh? Oh. Then I noticed the AB was 6 magnitudes different! Tough. The BC was noted as a fast-mover. But 0.7" sep. Yikes. None of these could be split!

[ed: The "a" value in the double star data in the Object Information dialog is not periastron. I don't know where I got that. The user manual says it is the semi-major axis of the apparent orbit.]

Checked the Interactive Atlas and Context Viewer. Yep. Super-tight, the B. It did not show the C star. No sign. Wondered what lists it was in... Huh. The RASC Observer's Handbook table of double and multiple stars. Interesting. Definitely a challenge object. That's like a Sissy Haas special!

Checked the time on the recorder. 13 hours.

10:15. Noticed HD 76522 to the west and PPM 50933 to the north. The three make an equilateral triangle.  The magnitudes seemed to match SkyTools. I thought the stars triangle might help me with the primary and secondary of Talitha. The software showed the alignment of AB parallel to the bright neighbouring stars. I.e. a PA of 201°.

10:19. No way. Could not split them. Maybe possible with real good sky conditions.

Leo was coming up. HD 82159, aka Σ1360, or SAO 98615... From the RASC coloured doubles list. Previously observed. My first viewing, using the N11, suggested I was not picking up the colours.

10:30. Slewed to the star. Viewed in C14 with the 18mm Radian.

10:35. Seeing was still bad. Felt cold again. Star on left seemed blue, maybe green. Star on right was orange. Checked SkyTools for the positions. B is the blue, for me, the outrigger, the west-most star. The primary is orange. I could spot C and D no problem. C faint, again, at mag 13.4. No colour detected on C and D. [Not in Haas's book. The RASC Observer's Handbook for 2014 refers to the stars as blue and green.]

A lot of sky glow coming from Toronto and Orangeville. Not at astronomical twilight yet.

Bit of a headache. Ron, perhaps. Went to the house for a glass of water.

10:44. Exited the house from the Great Room. Looked down into Thornbury. A lot of bright lights. Thought I heard a car driving around, slowly. But there were no lights.

Looked for Wayne's "strange star" above Gemini. Hmmm.

10:46. March and April is the best time to view this double star. Decided to view targets in Virgo.

What a second! How about the quasar 3C 273? TheSky6 did not seem to offer quasars as targets so I chose Porrima to get in the 'hood. Took a look, while there...

10:52. Interesting. Kinda mushy. Still bad seeing. In the C14. Then I viewed in the Tele Vue 101 and it was easily split. Good airy discs, clear diffraction rings. Good black line between them. Funny.

Noticed Mars just below where I was aimed.

Found an SAO star in the area. 119431. In a little triangle to the north-east of the quasar. Slewed with Software Bisque's app. Dropped in the 55mm eyepiece.

10:56. No problemo. Easy quasar to see. Initially noticed the bright stars HD 108978 and HD 108929 to the east. Panned westward, south a bit. Spotted an L-shape of stars, a backwards L. PPM 158889 was at the top of the L. Nestled in the inside of the L, I saw two points, like a faint double star pair. The object on the right was the quasar. ST3P said the light time was 1.9 Gyr. Magnitude 12.8. The star to the left was GSC 00282-0337 at 13.1. Quasar slightly brighter. Neat!

Not visible in the 101mm. Need a big gun. Should be possible in a C8...

11:00. Mars was interesting. Bumped the power.

11:05. Viewed Mars with the 18mm in the C14. And also at low power in the TV101. Could see the ice cap. Just below it a dark region. In the other hemisphere, a dark region. Seemed to be something extending up between the dark areas. Added Mars to my observing list and marked it.

I wondered when Saturn would be best tonight. Big yawn. Nippy. Considered getting my winter coat.

Slewed to the next target. A double star in Lynx. I could not tell the colours of the double star...

11:14. HR 3686, aka HD 80024, SAO 61387 or Σ1333. Very tight double in Lynx. Nearly equal brightnesses. In a list called "most beautiful double stars." When I looked in the Tele Vue, with the 3mm, tough to split. Still, I felt the sky conditions were not good. High wispy clouds. Had a hard time picking colours. Seemed to change every time I looked. If there is colour, it is very subtle. Neat star. Challenging. 1.9" separation. Oh.

Top one maybe blue; bottom one maybe orange. Very pale tints. B is the upper star, according to ST3P. Very subtle. [Haas suggests both are "pure lemon yellow."]

OK, wanted to try HD 75353. Slewed to the next double, still in Lynx. Had to use. HIP 43426. Equal, similar colours.

11:24. Pleasing separation in the C14; tight in the TV101. Sep. 3.4. About 1 magnitude difference. From the most beautiful list. Huh? aka Σ1282. Faint. Both around mag 7. I had added it to my double star candidate list. Might be too tough. [Haas says "peach orange."]

Went to the house for the winter coat. Was feeling a little foggy. Needed to walk around. Wasn't sure how much longer I might be able to go on... Damn.

Had the munchies.

Left my eyeglasses in the house. I wondered if the sky was improving.

Slewed to Adhafera, aka ζ (zeta) Leonis. At the eyepiece I wondered what was going on. Then I found it was in binocular double star lists. Ooh.

Big zig-zag. I was viewing the target with north to the left.

11:49. ζ is very bright. It is part of a large zig-zag with SAO 81273 and 39 Leo. Adhafera is a neat double, super wide. It's on the EU. It's on the AL bino double list. [ed: Not in Haas book.]

Tried to split 39.

11:52. Couldn't do it with the 55mm. Almost 6 magnitudes different. Made a note to revisit it.

Allergies started acting up.

Deep sky time!

Fri 30 May 2014, 12:01 AM. Interesting. NGC 3227, aka Arp 94. Ha ha, it is two galaxies! I saw them. Impression of a large arrow of stars to the south. The galaxy to the north is 3226. Woo hoo! SkyTools said they were interacting galaxies.

Noticed the overhead clock was running. Looks like someone installed a battery during the work party. Good stuff. A few minutes after midnight. Turned off the baseboard heater—too hot now.

Crazy idea. Decided to try imaging them. Grabbed the light red film patch for the back of the DSLR.

Needed to focus, needed a bright object. Porrima was nearby...

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