Sunday, June 01, 2014

busy night (Blue Mountains)

Busy tonight! Lots of people. Elaine and Tony, Steven and Stephen, Dave The Sage, Richard, Ian D, Wayne, the Sil family, yours truly. It got very crowded at times in the observatory...

Pie! We had a blue berry pie in the oven. 10 minutes to go. I had turned the oven down a bit. Moved the rack to the middle. Brought the chicken timer out to the GBO.

I convinced Dave to stay for the night.

Did an "opening up the GBO" simulation with the dos Santos.

Helped Steven with piggyback astrophotography. Not dark enough now. I talked about astronomical twilight. He recalled the numbers better than I.

Said hello to the Sils. They were on the eastern edge of the Observing Pad. Taban said he had entered UT instead of local time in the past. That's why his 'scope was pointing wrong before. He had sorted it. It was working well again. Good!

Dave spotted the Sky Quality Meter. Guess he had never seen one before. Showed him my log book.

They were looking at Jupiter.

Discussed the presentation in a telescope with a mirror diagonal with Elaine. Showed her that if she looked down from the top, up was up, left was right. But if viewing at a angle, if the star diagonal was turned, then it changed it.

The alarm went off. Pie time! Pie o'clock.

Elaine slewed to Mercury. It was around 10 o'clock. Could see the crescent. Disappearing in and out. Dave did not think it was a good view in the telescope.

Talked to Elaine about the red lighting controls. Considerations for public events. Showed her how to adjust the laptop screen brightness.

Steven and Stephen were working with the Polarie on the Observing Pad.

I collided with the Oberwerk binoculars. Moved them out of the way.

Elaine wondered if she should put the dew shield on the C14. Tony saw that the dew heaters were on. I pointed out it was too windy.

Removed the solar filter from the big binos.

10:32. We reconfigured for Steven's camera. Removed the Tele Vue 101. Installed Ian D's special adapter. Then mounted his long lens. We used some tethers too. Elaine helped me with lighting. Helped Steven focus with a star. Chose a bright star near the zenith. Encouraged him to shoot a test photo and zoom in to verify.

Reminded Elaine and Tony that if they are running the show, they can't leave the GBO. Someone always needs to be nearby. Their account was still closing out. Elaine showed Tony how to search. Ah. The bifocal crowd.

Richard wanted to know when twilight ended. I checked SkyTools. 11:19. Right about now.

10:47. Slewed to Messier 81 and Messier 82 (M82). Helped Elaine with the Paramount joystick. We were using the C14 to bull's eye the galaxy. The big 'scope was aimed at M81. Of course it was not an issue with the camera.

Photo copyright © 2014 Steven Fanutti. Used with permission. Canon T3, 439mm. Self-timer. Stack of 10 shots in sequence at 30s each, ISO 3200, f/8. Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. North is to the right; east is up. [ed: NGC 3077 is above M81, slightly left. NGC 2976 is near the bottom-left of the frame.]

Suggested to Elaine and Tony use the counter in the Warm Room for the eyepiece station.

Steven and I talked about the state of affairs with DSLR technology. We commiserated about the software situation for the Macintosh. There still isn't a lot of good astrophotography processing software for the Mac.

Tony moved the 'scope. He showed me an article in a May astronomy magazine. He was going to use it for some targets for the evening. Reminded him I had my SkyTools handy, including a list of edge-on galaxies.

Sky looked pretty good.

I asked Tony for some good showpiece objects right now. He suggested Messier 33 (M33). In Triangulum. Not up yet. And a terribly low surface brightness. Tony said "Well its gotta be NGC 2403." I pulled up the NGC 40 best in ST3P. Above 2x. I suggested the Black Eye. He liked how the SkyTools software was so helpful.

Tony slewed to Messier 64 (M64). Elaine spotted something near outside, pulled Tony out of the observatory. He said, "We'll get in trouble." Ha!

I noticed the pointing was working well. With the 27mm of the C14, objects were in the field.

11:08. Steven imaged the dusty galaxy.

I asked Dave what he wanted to look at. The Ring! I put it in the hopper...

Tony wanted to make some coffee. Elaine asked why we didn't have a coffee maker out in the Warm Room. Ooh, I like how she thinks!

Elaine and I tagged up. She wanted to know if the Sil family was staying. Nope, they had changed their plans. Talked about monies collected.

Dave, Elaine, and I talked about darkness. Steven reminded me about the 18 degrees magic number. Astronomical twilight would be as dark as it could be in terms of natural light from the Sun. If the Moon wasn't up, then that's as dark as the sky would get. I also pointed out that, generally, after midnight, the sky would get a bit darker, near urban centres, as people went to bed and turned off lights.

We chose the Whale Galaxy (NGC 4631, Caldwell 32). In CVn.

Elaine busted my chops on the timing! Good for her.

11:23. Steven imaged the faint galaxy.

I handed the reins to Elaine. I wanted to go to the house. Pie! I showed Elaine how to use the phone intercom system. I rang Elaine from the house...

Steven finished his capture of the Whale. But Dave noted there was no operator around. Hey!

Elaine and Tony chose the next target. NGC 6946. Tony slewed. Elaine called from the floor, "You didn't call clear." Oops. Too low?

Wind was really picking up.

11:38. They chose something straight up, instead. Messier 101 (M101). Elaine showed Tony, in my SkyTools, how to gauge the elevation of a target, using the Night Bar. Tony wanted to see an image of it. I should show them how to view images in TheSky6 and SkyTools.

They headed to the Whirlpool. Also in CVn.

11:49. Steven imaged the interacting galaxies. Said he used to use GIMP for image processing in the past. And it was a struggle.

I checked the Davis weather station for the wind speed. 10 minute average 12.9; gusting to 19.3. Advised Elaine that wind speeds above 15 km/h might affect the C14. Elaine and I reviewed the Clear Sky Chart for tonight and tomorrow. Dave asked how I could interpret the CSC graph with the red screen on. I showed him the pop-up feature. He was curious about the source of the data, why it was collected, etc.

Tony wanted the Lagoon. We'd have to drop the walls. I reviewed with Elaine and Tony the process on door 1. Had Tony do door 2. Tony slewed. I recommended the lowest power eyepiece. Altitude is 10 degrees. Ooh. Not good... Over Toronto. And clouds. Dave didn't like the view.

Steven requested the Leo Triplet. Was that M85 or M65? Messier 65. I slewed.

Tony and I looked at some of Malcolm's photos on Facebook. They were Oak Heights.

I wondered how Nicole was doing. Near Lake Simcoe.

12:13. Steven did his last imaging run.

Dave and I talked about him old laptop that we had used while programming the touchkey system. The blue screen error referred to the IRQ code. I told him I suspected it was an overheating engine. Told him about all the dust that flew. I suggested he open it up. Vacuum it. Check in the inlets and outlets. Popped all the RAM and reseat them. Told him about my outrigger solution for the old e-machine.

The Sil's visited the GBO.

Elaine slewed to Saturn. We enjoyed the view.

12:25. They spotted the International Space Station heading to the north-east. Really bright. I shared that we have viewed the ISS in the telescope. And that I followed it in a big Dob once.

Elaine asked what the red band meant in TheSky6. I reviewed what the meridian line was. I was trying to view reorient the 'scope to get out of the wind. I tried to force the mount into the meridian zone. Closer to the meridian. Didn't work. Had to go back.

Elaine was tired. Thinking about heading to bed. They wondered what to do if they were both tired. Said they could practice sleep-shifting.

M57, the Ring Nebula, at last. It looked pretty awesome in the 27mm. I requested the 18mm and 1¼" adapter. Helped them with the 2-to-1¼ brass adapter. It was a better view at the high power. We tried to round up people. The Sils were in their car. We found Wayne.

I requested the Apple Core, aka the Dumbbell, or Messier 27 (M27). And suggested we go back to the 55mm. Helped Tony with searching.

1:00. We slewed to the big planetary.

Richard and I talked about imaging.

Asked Dave if there was anything else he wanted to view. Bed. Ah, the Bed Nebula. We talked more about the SkyTools software. He was impressed by what he saw. He asked me how long it took to learn the software. A year. He liked the Night Bar graph. I pointed out that the software puts the observing window centred on the midnight period. Makes perfect sense. Demo'ed the telescope control interface. Demo'ed some of the photographic features.

Checked Facebook. Ha! Charles met Brian Green and Bill Nye. So awesome!

Wind check. 37 high! Wow.

1:30. Dave was getting ready for bed. He suspected he'd still be up early. Before I'd be up. Thanked him for setting up the new system. He said he'd do a few more things, caulking around box, in the screw holes, a drain hole. Good night.

Elaine and Tony chatted about the Sils. She noted they were imaging while sitting in their car.

Fixed the Dell laptop account settings for the dos Santos. It was screen saver setting in the red light profile. Finally figured it out.

1:44. Viewed NGC 5033 in Canes Venatici. Richard thought it a faint fuzzy. Yep. Bright centre, canted, mottled. It reminded me a bit of the Black Eye.

Steven and Stephen popped into the Warm Room looking for me. Didn't see me. Didn't realise I was at the telescope. "OK, we'll just go." Drive safe!

2:05. Viewed ΞΆ (zeta) Herculis. I was not sure I was splitting it even with 27mm. SkyTools showed the pair separated by 1.2 seconds of arc. Oh. [ed: A very fast mover, with a 35 year period!]

Very windy now. The 'scope continued to shake.

Richard kicked his 'scope tripod! Oh oh. Second time tonight...

2:20. Confirmed. The double star HR 6267 in Ursa Minor. I could see the C star in the C14. B? No... I saw a little triangle of stars to the north-west. They are mag 13 and 14. I could see the C star in the TV 101.

The seeing was bad. The wind was bad.


2:36. Tried for 41 Oph. Too tight for the conditions? Wind was bad. Davis said the 10 min avg was 24.1.

I consider wide-field imaging. With the loaner fish eye. Too tired.

Tony popped in for a bit. Still up! He said he spent a lot of time with the two Steves. Said one was very talented and the other was very excited. Richard reported he was going to go all night. Tony and I debriefed. And talked about Sunday plans. More training.

Richard came into the Warm Room. Felt cold. 11.4 with the wind chill.

3:20. Messaged Steven. Reminded him I owed him $10 change. He had paid me upon arrival for his guest. Unfortunately none of us could break the $20.

Something was wrong with the park position. I rebooted. Then I shut down. Handed off to Richard.

3:31. Reported to Lora the visitors for the evening. Once again, Kiron was a no-show.

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