Sunday, June 15, 2014

dark skies with Peter (Caledon)

Sat 14 Jun 2014, 7:55 PM. Peter arrived a bit earlier. Didn't take as long as he thought. After a bit of reshuffling we packed my gear in his truck. Pitched in for fuel.

Sun in our eyes as we travelled north to the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park via regional road 11.

We found about a half dozen cars in parking lot, mostly hikers and dog-walkers. We stopped on the north edge. A young couple arrived later with their music and booze. It's a Jeep thing. After sunset they split.

9:01 PM. I paid park fee. $7.50.

I had a loaner 8" f/6 Dobsonian. It was quick and easy, of course. Very satisfying. Attached the image-erect finder scope, attached the red dot finder (incorrectly at first). Had not brought any power. Was hoping I wouldn't need to fight dew. Helped Peter with his setup. A Meade fork-mount 8" SCT. He needed darker skies to finish.

A family came over. Very curious what we were up to. I grew anxious when Dad repeated, many times, to his son "Don't touch ANYTHING." Oh oh. We invited them to come back for planet-viewing when darker.

A single woman wandered by. American. Wondered if there was any special going on tonight.

9:29. Peter aimed his iPad to the west. Jupiter was up there... After some concerted searching, I finally found it. Thanks to Peter's Celestron binoculars! Then spotted it naked eye. Only about 15° up. Then got the Dob on it. Swimming. Initially only saw two moons (Io inside, Ganymede). Then all four moons became apparent to me (Europa opposite the two, Callisto beyond the two). Stellarium helped confirm the positions.

I could see the shadow of secondary visible while using the provided 40mm Tele Vue Plössl ocular. I put my old Celestron 26mm in. Hard to see detail on the planet surface for the sky conditions.

9:31. Tried the Meade orthoscopic 18mm. The seeing was bad. Combined with the low elevation. Not a great view.

9:45. Headed to Mars with the 18mm. The disc was clearly visible. But no surface details. Diffraction spikes. I don't like it... Hard to get it crisp. I wondered if the collimation was off but some quick checks suggested it was OK.

9:56. Headed to Saturn. Very nice. Dropped in the Tele Vue 9mm Nagler Type 2. It looked good. Could see the equatorial belt, the Cassini division. Titan and Rhea were immediately obvious. And it would only get better. Was I seeing the C ring?! Peter thought we were. Cool!

Offered views to the family. The young boy behaved. Mostly. Looked like a loose cannon.

Peter did his alignment process. I helped him with locating Dubhe. He started the sky tour function in the hand controller.

9:58. Beautiful. Spotted Iapetus near the ringed planet! Yes! Dione same side as Titan; Tethys same side as Rhea. There was a star above (er, to the south): HD 133034. Magnitude 8.9 according to SkyTools 3 Pro. Watched. For a long time. Wow.

I liked the view in the Dobsonian. Brighter, better contrast.

Gave Peter a quick demo of SkyTools.

I was frustrated with the telescope view.  I could see way more stars. Made a note to look into it...

11:11. After starting on the incorrect star, ψ (psi) Ursae Majoris instead of μ (mu), I starhopped successfully with the Dob and found comet C/2012 K1 Pan-STARRS in Leo Minor, at the feet of the big bear.

11:14. Encouraged Peter to photograph the comet with his DSLR. He forgot to focus first. Oops. Suggested Dubhe. Then, from β (beta) LMi, I helped him get back to the field. Very near the stars HD 88191 and HD 88352. Suggested exposure and ISO settings. Try 15 seconds. He shot 1/15. Keep going: the symbol that looks like a quote. "15 inch?" That's it! I think he got the comet.

In the reflector, I could see the visually see the comet beside the mag 10 stars TYC 02509-0501 1 and TYC 02509-0529 1, just to the north.

11:17. Just a smudge. Not round. But no sense of direction. No obvious tail. I thought it looked a bit better in the 26mm.

11:18. Few mozzies this evening. It was cold. I put my winter coat on.

Peter wanted some targets for imaging. I suggested M51, the Whirlpool. And the Great Hercules Cluster, M13. Meanwhile, I got to work!

11:51. Found Lalande 21185, a variable star in Ursa Major, suggested by SkyTools's Nightly Observing List Generator. It didn't look particularly red to me. ST3P says it is an M2 star. Was it a light orange? [ed: Oh. Close. 8 light years.]

I spotted a double star to the south. HD 95658. The A component is blue white; B is orange. The colours were obvious at high power, with the 9mm. ST3P said it was a triple. But the BC pair were very tight. I did not split them.

Noted TYC 02521-1484 1 and TYC 02521-1443 1 inline with the A and B stars. Magnitude 11 and 12 stars.

We watched the light of the Moon creep across the empty parking lot. Peter channelled Cat Stevens.

I tried keyboard shortcuts in the telescope view so to reveal more stars. Initially used + and - but learned that was wrong; they advance or back-step the time. Tried to locate my keyboard shortcut documentation. I wanted the white-on-black web page but I had only downloaded the hyperlink. Oops. Checked the Help. Gah. Opened my PDF and reduced the window size to cut the bright light. Tried > and < to no avail. Damn it.

Peter was getting cold. Particularly his feet. I had put my woolie socks on.

Another car rolled in. Parked on the north edge. Three men poured out. I heard one talking about constellations at one point. Peter invited them over.

Sun 15 Jun 2014, 12:37 AM. I tried again to split ζ (zeta) Herculis. No luck. Let's go all the way, I thought. Put in the Meade 4mm. [ed: Over 300x.] Crazy. Airy disc and diffraction rings obvious. But no split. No luck. Damn!

We showed the three guys some stuff: Saturn, Mars, the Moon, Albireo. One said he had just ordered a Dob. But was wondering if it was the right purchase. He was impressed how I picked things off. Challenged by how to move it. Peter told them about RASC, urged them to join.

I realised I had not heard my programmed alarms for the International Space Station flyovers. The palmtop was in the car, inside the Magic Bag. Well insulated. I was also surprised we simply hadn't seen them but Peter pointed out that they were in the north, behind the trees, from our vantage.

I tried for a long time to find φ (phi) UMa. And then, finally, I could not split it. Way too tight! Gar.

Some high clouds occasionally drifted through.

Peter was done. Ready to go. I wanted one more double. A good one!

Sorted the list by separation and selected something that looked doable. Eyeballed δ (delta) Cygni. Then starhopped from κ (kappa) and ι (iota) 2. Spotted HR7294 in Cygnus, aka Σ2486. I split the A, B, and D stars. Nice one. D was very faint. C was not visible to me. I asked Peter if he thought they were equal. No, he thought A slightly brighter. And he thought they were slightly different colours. I agreed.

[ed. Haas calls them "kissing twins" of a "vivid gold" colour.]

I also spotted the faint double SAO 48207 nearby, to the south-east.

OK. Let's go. 

1:23 AM. We packed up. Likin' a Dob!

I noticed the temperature gauge on the truck's instrument cluster: 11°C. It was very dewy at the end. Made a note to put some of my silica packs in with the accessories.

1:35. We were rolling out the drive. Thirty minutes later I was bringing gear in from the front porch.

2:23. In bed. That was a good run.

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