Friday, August 29, 2014

long meteor, aurora, and fuzzies (Sundridge)

11:04 PM, Thursday 28 August 2014. They spotted a bright meteor. And bubbled and sputtered and mumbled. "Where?!" I demanded. Neither Katrina nor Steve nor Phil could give a direction or constellation. Fortunately, as I swivelled around, I spotted it. An incredible eastbound meteor. They said, finally, it had started near Hercules. It was reddish at the beginning. Showed a very long train. It went through Cassiopeia and down into the treeline. Already slow moving. Slowed down more. Across the whole sky. Wow.

Tried to see the Messier 33 (M33) galaxy naked eye. Nope. Could see the blob above γ (gamma) and β (beta) Triangulum. NGC 752 naked eye. Open cluster. aka Collinder 23, Melotte 12, Raab 8, OCL 363, and Caldwell 28.

Phil and I talked about the brightness of the stars. We were both feeling like we were seeing less now, not more. Shared Tony's remarks are dark adaptation, his peculiar theory that you need to take a break, go indoors for a bit, to "improve" your adaptation. I pointed out that when we climbed from the truck, it felt like we could see so many stars. But we were not dark adapted. The dash console lights (even turned down), vehicle headlights, etc. Emerging from the truck, the sky was black. In turn, that made the stars brilliant and bright. But now, we were fully dark adapted and the sky was "bright." That is, the sky glow was very obvious, the trees were silhouetted and black. The sky, for us, had become brighter as we acclimated. And that meant the star-sky contrast was reduced. It felt like the stars weren't as bright.

11:51 PM. After focusing on Vega and doing some test shots, I shot a 20 minute exposure to get star trails. Used 400 ASA but still goofed on the light levels. And then the lens became fogged over. Lots of dew and I did not have any means of heating. I had packed light. Had not brought the dew heater box. Or the winter kit with hand warmers. Oops. I put the camera in the cabin. Done imaging.

Phil headed to his bunk bed.

12:11 AM, Friday 29 August 2014. Steve had his Disk Mount 6 up and running with the big Celestron 9¼. We viewed Messier 57 (M57) with the Ethos 8mm. Very nice, big. Good detail on the outer ring and central region but I could not see the central star.

I used Steve's image-stabilised binoculars, the Canon 12x36 IS II. Andromeda Galaxy. Viewed lots of fuzzies in the south. In fact, I was lost there. Don't know my Messiers well enough. Ha! Found M33. Damn, it's faint.

Earlier I had put out the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. It showed 73% humidity and 5.9° Celsius. Wow. Cool. The barometer was dropping. Rain in 24 hours.

12:31 AM. We viewed M33 in the SCT. Hints of the spiral arms with averted vision. Gradual brightening to the centre. How did Chuck Messier see this?! (And not others!)

The sky was bright to the north. Katrina thought it odd. Steve said that we should put a camera on it. So I grabbed mine. Tried not to disturb Phil. The lens was still fogged but I burned off the dew by holding the camera near the wood stove. I hoped the lens cap warmed in my pocket would help too. Headed outside.

12:45. Captured some bright aurora! Woo hoo. Green and red.

12:53. It was good aurora. Naked eye I could see streaks or spikes, moving and shifting. But unfortunately short lived.

1:00. While facing north, I viewed the Messier 81 (M81) and Messier (M82) galaxies in the IS binos.

Katrina used her point-and-shoot. Was able to expose for 60 seconds. But the aurora was fading.

We looked at the Double Cluster in the big OTA.

Katrina wanted to immediately share our good fortune so she took a picture with her smartphone of the back of my camera in playback mode. She immediately posted it online. I realised later that this is what Bill does! Light bulb.

We saw lots of shooting stars. Maybe some were α (alpha) Capricornids. The odd Perseid. Most were sporadics.

I checked the conditions again. Whoa. 83% and 3.7°C. Chilly. Even my eyeglasses fogged. Had to keep the eyeglasses and binoculars inside my sweater.

Early we had taken some readings of the sky's darkness. Steve's iPhone dark sky meter showed 21.00; Phil's read 21.80. Split the difference?

Headed to the Sierra Designs tent. It was large, roomy. I took a candle in to burn off some of the moisture. Snoozed briefly then blew out the tea light.

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