Monday, July 20, 2015

multi-tasking night (Blue Mountains)

8:25 PM, Sunday 19 July 2015. Checked conditions from the Davis weather station. Wind NW 325, current speed 3.2, high 33.8, 10 minute average 3, temp 20.6, dew point 18.2, humidity 86, air pressure 1005.7, falling slightly. Had been rising since 4:30.

9:10 PM. Checked the Sony recorded. 5 hours of space left.

Looked at the Moon and Venus. Quite pleasing.

9:29. Spotted Regulus, finally, naked eye, in the sky. Took SkyTools to help me to find it. Venus at 11 o'clock; Regulus as 5. Regulus was blue-white, flickering! Had a look in the Tele Vue 101 refractor with the 55mm eyepiece. Ha. Birds and airplanes flying through. Upside down! With the Celestron 14-inch SCT and the Tele Vue 27mm ocular, Regulus looked like a cop car.

9:49. Viewed γ (gamma) Coronae Borealis, aka Σ1967 (Struve). Blue-white. I saw a faint star at the 3:30 o'clock position, BD +26 02723, at mag 10.9. Did I see a bump at the 4 o'clock position? Inconclusive, again.

9:55. Had another look. Was I seeing it because I knew where it was? The primary looked like a figure-eight. With the 18mm I could see PPM 104263 above or north of BD +26 02723.

Oh, right. Sure. SkyTools said the separation was 0.5 arc seconds... In less than perfect conditions... Crikey! Been trying for this one for a long time...

Found a selection error in ST3P with BRT 167B. I could not select the A star.

9:58. I was happy to hear that Fire Capture was working for Risa, sorta. Whew, she was slowly moving ahead, toward her first images of Saturn. [ed: Later she went back to the provided software as Fire Capture was continuously crashing.]

Sounded like Phil was making progress too. I thought, it's gonna be a good night. [ed: Found out later, it was not so good for him.]

10:06. Viewed γ or 41 Serpentis. Was it another super tight pair? Light yellow. 11-5 orientation? Nope! My imagination. ST3P said the compatriots, B and C, were widely separated stars. OK then. So easy. I noted above, the C star, which was closer, around 10 o'clock or north-west. B was further, 11 o'clock or north-north-west. Both were faint. It was hard to tag colours. White? The primary was a lovely colour.

Spotted PPM 131829 at the 2 o'clock position at the edge of the field, mag 10.8. Seeing was not great.

I noted that γ Ser was on my double star candidate list. But I didn't think it should be: I could barely see B in the refractor. Not noted by Haas.

10:15. 78 Ursae Majoris, aka β1082. Touching stars. Didn't think I'd be able to cleanly split these... they were flickering badly in 18mm. ST3P said 1.0 seconds of arc, calculated a couple of months ago. This target would be higher in the sky in May. So I'll try next year... [ed: Set an alarm.]

10:25. Slewed to η (eta) CrB, or Σ1937, the 42 year binary system. I thought the primary looked like a bar. Would that mean equally-bright stars touching? I thought A and B in a 1-7 o'clock orientation for me, i.e. north-east to south-west. The ST3P chart matched. Huh. SkyTools calculated a 0.63" separation as of 2015.5. Wow. Tight. But I felt I saw them both.

[ed: Checked the orbit in SkyTools. B has been swinging out the last little while but it will dive back inward for the next decade.]

Noted other field stars in the 'hood. Faint stars to the north-east. A gaggle of stars to the south-west. C and D were obvious in the 18mm! [ed: Good news. I had not seen the C star before.] A was light gold; I could detect no colour with C and D.

Spotted GSC 02563-0165 to the south is about 3 or 4 times the distance of C (69.2"), along the same line. [ed: ST3P said about 3.75 arc-minutes.] These two points seemed the same brightness to me. ST3P must be wrong about one of them, probably GSC 02563-0165, which it is saying is mag 15; C is mag 12.6.

11:01. Started the star trails imaging run in front yard, near the red maple. Predicted it would be done at 12:30...

11:05. The seeing was bad.

Viewed HR 6267 aka KU 1 in Ursa Minor. A bright yellow star, perhaps elongated. That's A and B according to the planning software. Could not split A and B. There was a bright star to the 6 o'clock or north. That was C. A and C were easy in the TV101 at 54x.

A lovely field. There many field stars, a little faint triangle to the bottom-right, or north-west. Actually, it's 4 stars!

SkyTools is inconsistent here. In the Object Information box, the magnitudes for A, B, and C, respectively, show as 6.0, 10.2, and 9.8. However, in the Context Viewer, 6.0, 6.1, and 11.5. Which is right? I felt sure I was seeing equally bright stars in A and B...

Merits another look, in better conditions. Discovered (at the time) it was already in my View Again list!

Not in Haas's book. It is also on my double star candidate list. Now I'm wondering if it should be...

[ed: I have viewed this target on more than once occasion and not yet split the A and B stars. Not a good target in poor conditions. Found repetitive information in the life list table; consolidated the 4 rows into 2. Consulted the WDS to get more information about the brightness of B. It is KU 1 B is listed as 10.2—which correlates to the ST3P in the OI. And likely explains the root of the challenge: A and B are very close and, at the same time, more than 4 magnitudes different.]

11:18. HD 156162 or Σ2146 in Draco. There's a wide bright pair, wide is the TV101 too! AB and C. Lots of bright field stars. Could not split A and B. Not surprising. The seeing tanked.

Not in Haas's book. [ed: Already on my View Again list.]

11:44. Helped Risa with Antares, Summer Triangle, and the Andromeda galaxy.

Slid over to HD 164492, aka H N 40, in the middle of the Trifid. The nebulosity was visible in the refractor; dark lanes in SCT. [ed: Those dark lanes are classed dark nebula B 85.] Many bright stars. Bad seeing. Like I was underwater at times.

I saw two or three bright stars in the centre, possibly A, B, C and/or D. I was pretty sure I saw B below A or to the north but much fainter.

Again, I was getting confused by SkyTools. The CV showed A and B as the same mag; the OI said A was 7.2 and B 10.4. [ed: The later corresponds to the WDS suggesting my visual impression was correct.]

The C/D pair was to the south of A. Could not cleanly separate C and D.

Was certain I saw the faint G star, inline, above, or the the south-west, at mag 13.2.

I saw a box below or north-east of the main group. With two wings or tabs or flaps on the lower/north edge. The box proper: SE corner TYC 06842-0928 1, SW corner GSC 06842-0157, NW corner GSC 06842-0206, and finally NE corner GSC 06842-0349. To the north-west of -0206 was GSC 06842-0143, forming the right wing. Going east from -0349, about the same separation as -0206 and -0143, was a star, slightly fainter than -0143. The left wing. That star did not show in the software chart.

Wanted to coax out the E and F stars. Not happy. It was too much of a fight. I'd simply have to return in the future. It was already on the View Again list!

[ed: Disappointing at the time but it was still successful. Gave some structure to the existing life list notes.]

12:09 AM, Monday 20 July 2015. Measured the sky. SQM readings in the 21 range.

Viewed Ascella aka ζ (zeta) Sagittarii. It was OK in TV101 but a joke in the C14. Impossible to focus. Swimming! I was getting frustrated.

12:17 AM. θ (theta) or 4 CrB. Nearly pure white. Equally bright stars. Very, very close. In a north-south orientation. Skytools did how the stars in a line north-south. But again I found the listed brightnesses to be inconsistent. Which is correct, I wondered? The OI showed they were more than 2 mags different. [ed: WDS says 4.3 and 6.3.] Decided to view again.

[ed: Now, looking back, it sure sounds like I definitely split them. I decided to set the Logged flag in SkyTools.]

12:23. SAO 85564 in Her. A delicate pair, faint stars, to the west of the triangle, north-west of ξ (xi). Pleasing in the TV101. An isosceles triangle off to the west. ξ is a bright yellow. B is to the right or south-east is very slightly dimmer. [ed: ST3P says 9.9 and 10.4.] Both A and B are dimmer than SAO 85584 (8.5) and SAO 85585 (8.6). Not in Haas's list.

12:40. Retrieved the camera from the front lawn. Wanted to get the Milky Way pouring into the GBO. Set it to shooting frames at 45 seconds. Phil had done a similar thing, aimed at the Milky Way centre (and Saturn). He shot at 45 sec, f/4, ISO 1250.

Returned to the roll-roof to attempt a faint galaxy.

12:58. Getting late. Phil had gone to bed. Risa too. Millie appeared to be packing up.

Gave up trying to find the mag 12.9 galaxy MCG 11-16-10. It should have been immediately south of J130619.8+674537, a mag 14.6 star. No joy.

1:06. 59 Ser. Could see B beside A. Fainter, close. NNW direction. OI says they're about 2 mags different.

Now, this is in the RASC Coloured Doubles list... I wondered why. OK. Maybe there are hints of colour. A is pale yellow; B is pale blue. But not really striking. Haas agrees with my colours; Herschel said orange and green. The Observer's Handbook says yellow and green. I dunno...

[ed: ST3P says there's a third star, P, but it's 1/3rd of an arc-second away...]

I had imaged 59 Ser and its neighbours a year ago. The photo is overexposed so A and B merge. But the stars to the south-west are rather interesting. I deliberately checked this. And, again, like last year, I saw an additional star near GSC 00433-0179. This is to say, there's a star not showing in ST3P.

1:17. Headed to δ (delta) Lyrae, specifically δ2.

Saw a Flying V, Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. OK. Not really. The bright yellow star, δ2, was the nose of the Flying V. The white star to the north-west, δ1, was at the end of the left wing. Another star, HD 175538, same distance as δ1 and δ2, but slightly fainter, to the south-west was at the tip of the right wing. There are 2 stars on the wing leading edges, one left and one right. Noted a band of similar stars going north-to-south. Right where the engines would be! All of this is Stephenson 1, an open cluster, also known as OCL 137.

Where was I?

In fact, δ2 A is the yellow star. I could see a point to the north of A. Very faint. It wavered in the eyepiece. "Comes and goes." That was BC, a tight pair.

Noted δ1 B to the north-east of δ1 A. B was in an isosceles triangle with two other stars.

All of this fit nicely in the TV 101 at 54x. Beautiful.

Checked the conditions. Wind NW or 318, wind speed 3.2, high 11.3, 10 min avg 2, temp 17.7, dew 13.8, humidity 78, baro 1007.1 and rising.

1:37. Studied HR 7162 aka β648 for a time. The field in Lyra looked quite different...

1:42. Rotated the field in the software. Ah ha. Yep. I saw C and E to the north-west, F to the east, D to the south-west, in addition to many other field stars. For example, GSC 02643-1483, to the south-east of A, formed a parallelogram with F. Could not split B and A... Bad seeing again! [ed: Oh, tight and very different magnitudes.] Guessed the pair was in a NW-to-SE direction. That disagreed with ST3P. Not included double stars for small telescopes.

[ed: B is a fast binary, 61 years...]

1:56. Tried to view the Phantom Streak aka NGC 6741, a teenie planetary nebula. It was not very exciting. Again, conditions were not great. Generally, I found it hard to focus.

Hrrm. Was feeling a little irked. A little perturbed, perhaps, that I had not accomplished more.

Headed outside. The camera was still clicking away. Impressive. Maybe these batteries (in warm weather) aren't so bad. I put the cap on lens and let it carry on, shooting darks.

OK. One more object!

2:04. Viewed ρ (rho) or 11 Capricornus. I saw C, D, and E no prob. I could not split A and B. I thought AB a light yellow. D was also yellow.

[ed: This was good, even though I could not dig out the B star, for I had not spotted the C star before.]


Well. Any night under the stars is better than... not. So, actually, I was glad I had decided to stay another night! This was, for me, possibly the best one, the best conditions.

I was pleased too with my ability to multi-task. I planned and executed two DSLR wide-field runs while continuing my telescopic observing.

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