Monday, May 18, 2015

short session (Blue Mountains)

9:00 PM, Sun 17 May 2014. Back in the THO. The peepers were loud.

Not great skies. A lot of high cloud. West, and north west, clouded out. Hints of high cloud overhead. Contrails.
Instrument: Celestron 11-inch SCT
Mount: NexStar alt-az
Method: Go To
Checked the Davis station. Data as of 8:32. Humidity already high at 79%. Pressure had dropped and was now 101.60. Alluding to rain tomorrow. Temperature 21.5°C. Dew point 17.7. Checked the graphs but they had not been updated yet.

Brought the mount out of hibernation. Unfortunately, it had lost the date and time. Decided to try slewing to Venus. Huh. The first slew worked well; object near the centre of the viewfinder. Impressive.

9:11. Viewed Venus. Slightly over First Quarter phase.

Checked the weather reports...

Weather Network for Thornbury. Temp 24, feels like 29. Wind south at 8 km. Humidity 64. Pressure 101.8 and dropping. Sunset 8:42. Sunday overnight cloudy with showers. POP 40. Less than 1 mm. Wind. Gusting at 36. Monday: thunderstorms.

Very clear next weekend!

Weather Underground. Clear in Beaver Valley. 22.6. Chance of rain. 0 mm! Cloud cover increasing through the evening, as high as 88%. 37% right now. Pressure continuing to drop to Monday afternoon. Looked like it was going to be raining when we would be trying to leave.

Activated Real Time mode in SkyTools. Could not initially connect, probably a different COM number as a result of using a different USB port. Confirmed. Now 6. Connected successfully but had ASCOM issues. Restarted the netbook. Noticed the Parked status; set to Tracking; saw the blinking X. Tried various slews without success. Rebooted. Synced. Zoomed out and found the X very far away. Tested with Procyon. OK, now but that was weird.

Went to Jupiter. Used the software slew buttons to fine tune. A good view, very nice. Cloud bands very clear. Spotted Europa, very close. Did not see the Great Red Spot. Oh! SkyTools showed a shadow occurring. Yeah... Wow, neat. The tiny black dot was there. How about that!

I headed outside to tell Mr dos Santos...

But I couldn't find him! Visited GBO. Discovered the outer warm room door open, the white lights on in the observatory, and no humans! Very strange. Like it was abandoned. I turned off the lights and closed the door to keep the bugs out. Went to the house and turned off the white lights in the kitchen. Mr Horvatin protested from the living room; pointed out I was observing. Asked if they knew the whereabouts of the dos Santos. Encountered Millie at the pergola. I think she was hoping someone would fly the C14.

I noticed the lights were off in the trailer. Did the dos Santos go to bed early?! Oh well. I headed back to my observatory.

9:35. Shadow was nearly at the meridian. Between the cloud bands, near the equator. Wondered if it might tolerate high power. Viewed with the 9mm eyepiece. Very interesting.

Tried texting Tony. Maybe they were at their MODL?

Put in the old 18mm ocular. Usually a good eyepiece for planets. It was crisp. A good view in the Meade. All four moons fit, neatly. Incredible seeing, amazing. The shadow was moving up.

I could tell the shadow had moved. Confirmed the moon nearest to the planet was Europa. Did a trial in ST3P, speeding time, and saw the moon pulling away, to the west, dragging the shadow.

Below, or to the east, was Ganymede, and further out was Callisto. Lovely.

Hard to see the shadow at low power.

Sky was still blue. But I turned on red light mode.

9:46. Returned to my planned observing list. Last night I had spent a lot of time in Coma Berenices and Canes Venatici. I ensured it was sorted in the optimal order. Reviewed targets. Puppis targets first. Monoceros, crazy. Perseus, slightly better. Auriga, poor.

Slewed to Procyon. Is it a super-tight double? Seemed to show two colours... Orangey on the left; bluey-blue-white on the right. Or was that atmospheric distortion? Little, faint stars all around it. Lots of doubles...

The wind made interesting sounds, faint howling like lost souls.

9:53. Checked the battery level of the recorder. The last segment and holding.

Checked SkyTools regarding Procyon. There were a star to the right or north-east, the double HD 61502, aka BRD 2. There was a brighter star, HR 2950, aka Σ1126 (Struve), further away, a bit clock-wise or more to the east, about 1/3rd or a 1/4 of the field of view away—also a triple. Added both to my observing list.

Oh, fudge. Discovered the 61502's B star is very close, super-tight, to the primary [ed: 0.8"; doable given my career split is 0.5"]. But it was a triple and the (faint) C star was well-separated.

Tried to identify some of the faint stars I was seeing. But I could not see 61502 C, four magnitudes fainter than A [ed: 9.2 vs. 13.4.]. Definitely would not be able to see it.

Procyon is noted as a quad. The first companion B is fairly close and 13 magnitudes different! Could not find the D star shown on the charts in SkyTools. Strange. Could not spot the C star.

Could see the high level clouds going by in the eyepiece, creating a weird, flickering effect.

A lot going on in this area, a bunch of stars. Might be good to sketch or diagram, when I have more energy. I was seeing stars that were not on the software chart... Marked to view again. [ed: And it would be better to view in late-winter.]

Viewed HD 63536, aka Σ1149. In my View Again list as well as the RASC Coloured Doubles. I had it logged... so viewed before. Nearby so I decided to go for it. First impression is yellow and red. Widely separated. Secondary was blinking madly in these conditions. SkyTools said 20 seconds of arc apart. Similar magnitudes, 7.7 vs. 9.5. The RASC notes says yellow and blue and faint. Why did I need to revisit? Were the colours off? Quiet field.

[ed: Looks like I goofed, identifying an unrelated star. TYC 00184-1768 1.]

Spotted bright HR 3050 to the east. Also a double but only 0.2" sep!

My right knee was sore.

Clouds went through.

Sorted by Optimum. Chose ε (epsilon) Hydra. In View Again, RASC Doubles, Cambridge showpieces, and my candidate list. Did not need to turn the roof, yeh. Yellowy-orangey. Very quiet field. I spotted a backwards question mark in the area. To the west, I saw the F faint star, mag 10.4, on the top edge of the question mark as it starts to curve. Spotted TYC 00224-0715 1 in the middle of the ¿. Down the ¿ I saw the E star, due north of ε. Easy pickings'. I decided to bump up the power.

Clear overhead. Leo. Windy was higher now. Distant fireworks.

10:19. Turned off the red lights. Target getting low... Viewed with the 26mm for a long time. I didn't spot B, C, or D. ST3P said D is quite faint at mag 12.5. C is mag 3.4 but very close. And the A and B are on top of one another...

After some work, I dug out the C star! Quite bright, orangey, compared to the primary. Very tight, 2.9". In the direction of the mid-point of the question mark. I drew a line in ST3 and the tool said the angle was 307°. ST3P says the PA is 309. OK.

Sometimes I saw a bump, a black line, at the 1 o'clock position. Possible B sighting?! No, no way. 1/4 of an arc-second?! No. [ed: Fast mover, by the way.]

I wondered if I saw the D, two or three times the distance, opposite way, 18.7" away.

Surprising what I was able to do given how low this was. And that the collimation was definitely off. I wondered why it was in the Cambridge "top" list. To view again...

Not good view with the 18mm. Frustrating. Decided to apply the 2 air mass filter.

Headed to Ursa Major and landed in a very plain field.

Wheel kept falling off rolly polly podium thing...

Left hand was itchy. The bright red dot was, I suspected, a black fly bite.

10:38. Struggled with finding φ (phi) Ursae Majoris. Close...

Something started scratching at the floor, the north-east corner, of the THO. A 'coon? Trying to get in? Weird.

10:46. Still lost. Continued star hopping—or manual plate solving... Realised I had used the wrong reference point. Too high?

Finally found φ UMa. The pointing was off. Synced. Turned the roof a bit.

So, why was I on this again? Ugh. A fast mover. But very tight [ed: 0.42"!]. Probably not resolvable. Cranked the power. Super-high power. No. No way.

10:55. Could not make out two stars. Could not see a black line. Seeing is not great. Collimation off. Conspiring against me. Too bad. Nice and high.

Decided to stay in the constellations. Oh. Lots of targets to choose from... Slewed to σ (sigma) UMa.

Interesting. Looked like a wide double, 1 and 2, in the head of the Great Bear. The number 1 star was at my top-right and orange. Aka 11 UMa. Number 2 was a light beige white. Aka 13. Lots of other stars.

Learned σ2 was a triple. A and B formed an oblong shape. Not in the same line as C. B was in the direction of the nearby stars... no. Yellow and orange. B was orange, in the northerly direction, much, much fainter. I could get a black line between them. Seeing quite good, at the moment. Slices a line between C and random star GSC 04141-1393 or about 346°. ST3P showed 348. Ha! Or is in the same direction at GSC 04141-0813. Not sure about colour. Blue? Grey? Dim? A was beige.

Heard Millie.

Off to the next target, an NGC this time, 2814. If there was an NGC in the field it must be really faint... Freaking faint.

Saw NGC 2820!

Saw what looked like a double, TYC 04138-0967 1 (to the north) and TYC 04138-1407 1 (to the south). Almost equally bright, around magnitude 12.

From there, to the north-west, I passed a couple of widely separated Tycho stars, and continued, curved slightly down, I landed on TYC 04138-0772 1, slightly brighter than all of these, at mag 11.4. Nearby, above, I could see just a hint of a needle, edge-on galaxy. I think. Pretty sure. Interestingly, ST3P showed a star, GSC 04138-0969. I did not see this! ST3P said it was poor quality data for the mag 9.7 star. No doubt. Could see the galaxy, 2820, no problem. Oddly, not the one I was going after. Marked as observed. Thin, wispy, oriented north-east to south-west.

Oh. It just popped. Slightly different angle, more a north-south orientation, below the 772 star. Half the length. Finally, spotted 2814. I had to look a little above 772 to get my averted vision to work. Extremely faint.

Must have been warmer tonight. Still in my Dickie. Had taken off my cap.

Could not see the face-on, NGC 2805, nearby.

This would be a neat area to photograph...

OK. Time for a comet, not far away...

11:15. Slewed to C/2015 F3 (SWAN). Nothing obvious. No fuzzy stars... Compared the view against the computer. After a time, I synced on a known star.

Mr Horvatin came by. Remarked that the wind was racing. A storm somewhere. Wasn't affecting me at all.

He was happy to see the THO was working well. Perfect size for personal use. I concurred. We conjectured the metal roof was affecting the GPS signal performance.

He still hadn't seen the dos Santos.

Asked if he had done another time lapse run. No. No stars visible near the horizon. Dietmar helped him with some of the imagery. Salvageable. Good to hear. Also shared that he almost lost his image files.

Asked if he saw any lightning around. Nope. Later, he saw some flashing light on the horizon. Oh, quite a lot. Toward Shelburne. Their fireworks?

We talked briefly about work party jobs.

Lockers and lots.

Departure time. Maybe 10. Oh. He offered to drive so I could sleep...

11:37. Super-faint satellite passed by the Owl Nebula, aka Messier 97 (M97). West to east, the satellite went.

11:45. Viewed NGC 2681. A spiral galaxy perhaps? Yes. ST3P said it was a face-on spiral. A tiny little thing. Not far from FT UMa.

Lost my mojo. Started thinking about things I'd have to do for departure: packing up the NexStar 11, packing my personal observing gear, my gear in the house, etc. I considering simply packing the N11 but leaving it in the THO overnight; I could move it out in the light of day.

12:06 AM, Mon 18 May 2014. Almost everything was packed. Box α primus was ready.

Couldn't find the cover for the visual back. Anywhere! Weird. Packed the N11 OTA and tripod.

12:15 AM. Box ε, netbook, misc. bag. Night, night.

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