Thursday, July 16, 2015

ringed planet, binaries, comet, and quasar (Blue Mountains)

Looked at Saturn in Ian W's 20" Dob. It was pretty good.

Helped Dan with red film for his Mac display. Two pieces, one from my kit, one from the GBO, put together to fully cover the screen. Worked despite the overlap.

Visually looked at Jupiter and Venus. Could not see Regulus.

Helped Millie with her finder scope mount issue, with the bent bolt. I put some electrical tape around the mount interface so it would not fall out. Not a good design.

10:08 PM, Wednesday 15 July 2015. Checked the weather conditions. In fact, that's what prompted me to fire up the Sony...

From the Davis station, via TightVNC. Wind out of the north or 13°, currently 0 km/h, 10 minute average 0, high 37, temperature 12.3 (wow, cool, was cool in the day), dew point 10.0, humidity 86, air pressure 1016.0, high through the day, steady from 4 to 6, then a slow rise, then flattened, now 1017.5? Forecast: increasing clouds with little temperature change, precipitation possible in 24 to 48 hours.

Caught the app just as it tried to transferred the data. For Profile 1. Downloaded the data from the station, read the data, generated the images, connected to the internet, and then paused at the upload. Huh. I suspect it is not logging into the FTP server correctly... I could not remember the login data.

Checked the Oregon Scientific portable. In the Warm Room for a couple of days. The new batteries showed as empty! Humidity 55, temp 16.4, air pressure showed as steady, showing the Sun image, for tomorrow. Turned on the backlight briefly.

The GBO Bionaire unit: humidity 50, temp 17.

Mosquitoes in the Warm Room! Gah. One bit my finger.

Reviewed my notes in Notepad.

Started up SkyTools. Reviewed my target list for Rasalgethi. Kinda neat. It worked well, having the target star along with the calibration stars. It's a good approach and I look forward to using it again.

Considered my next photos for Pluto. Reviewed the data in SkyTools. Between midnight and 1 AM the tiny planet is at maximum altitude.

Updated the weather data in the location profile, the humidity and temperature. The Context Viewer updated immediately.

Millie borrowed the little carpet to cover her power cables.

Reviewed quasar 3C 332 in Corona Borealis.

10:53 PM. We were waiting for astronomical twilight. Cloudy to the north.

Viewed Saturn again in the 20". Could see Titan and Dione at the south pole. Rhea. Saw Iapetus way far away, above. Could not see Enceladus. Ian said he could see Mimas, coming and going.

Connected my keyboard light and started some visual observing.

With the Paramount ME, headed to gamma Coronae Borealis. Wow. Surprisingly good seeing. A bright blueish white star. [ed: Smyth said "Flushed white" in Sissy Haas's book.]

Noted a little blob of 3 stars at the 4 o'clock position, to the east, which included BD +26 02723. Oh! Super tight pair. ST3P didn't show it right away. Had to do a trick to get the stars to show up in a similar way. Turned off the mirror diagonal.

Bumped the power with the 10mm. Interesting. Right at the limit. I think I just saw it but the diffraction rings were making it difficult to know for certain.

I wondered why it was on my list. Found references back to 2013. Mag 3.9 and 5.6. Hrrm. 0.52 seconds of arc. A fast mover at 93 years. Returned to the eyepiece to wait for a good moment...

11:12. Thought I saw a figure-8 or peanut. I reconsidered the angle, that the line went under the three stars, so about 118 degrees. ST3P says 110. Still, inconclusive. I will leave it not logged.

Considered my next target: 44 Boo. It sounded very familiar. Felt familiar. Found some notes from early July: could not split on last attempt, with the 27mm. [ed: Weird notes. I found a "logged" tag in ST3P. So did I view it or not?!] On my View Again list... Once again, a fast mover, 206 years, with aphelion separation of 3.8"! That's a substantial change.

Two gold stars, equal colour, equal brightness. [ed: Haas says Smyth says "Pale white; lucid grey." Wow. She said "grapefruit-orange."] ST3P said 4.8 and 6.1. Separation: 0.8. And that the primary is an F-class star. I estimated the position angle to be 74 degrees; SkyTools said 69. Hey, that's pretty good. Split 44 aka Σ1909 with the 18mm in the C14. By the way, B is also known as I Boo.

[ed: The SkyTools orbital plot shows the separation is continuing to decrease. In the fall of 2019 they will be at their closest. And then will fall away, to 2076... Good timing.]

11:17. Considered HD 133389. Reviewed a remark in Evernote: there might be an error is SkyTools.

Instead, I slewed to 25 CVn.

11:20. Viewed 25 Canes Venatici aka Σ1768. Another fairly fast mover: 228 years. Fairly tight. Pale yellow and orange stars. Very different brightnesses, 3 or 4 magnitudes different. While pointing in the chart, ST3P said the primary was 4.8 and the secondary 4.9. No. The Object Information said 4.8 and 7.0. Right. One point seven arc seconds apart. I might have seen the B at the 4 o'clock position (east) with C star, well away, at 12:30 (north-west). Yep, confirmed.

Went back to the ocular to dig out the other stars... Good conditions! Yeah. Saw D, E, and F. All easy to see. The chart mags show as 13.4, 12.6, and 9.4 respectively. I would argue the D value. Also noted the mag 14 stars GSC 02543-0640 and -0724 to the north-east.

Took SQM readings. All around 21.

Viewed 25 CVn at 50x in the Tele Vue. Is it a good candidate? Not super-exciting.

11:29. Dan and Ian dropped by. He thought the seeing was crappy. They requested Neptune. Ah, maybe not: 3 degrees up. Uranus was 10° below the horizon.

Ian asked about my pointing accuracy. I shared I was hitting targets with the 18mm eyepiece in. He also found his good. I wondered if, for some, it was a combination of the mount locks, temperature changes, and model issues.

Ian suggested comet Lovejoy. This comet is on its way out. This could be the last time it might be viewed...

TheSky 6 was not showing C/2014 Q2 in the correct location. Ian said it was near Polaris. Ah. Using my TS6 profile now, not Katrina's. I tried updating—crashed! Damn. I thought I had that fixed! Looked like I'd need to go to each profile...

Noted that RR Ursae Minoris aka SAO 16558 was nearby. Slewed. Grabbed a low power eyepiece, the 55mm. We headed to the 'scopes. The mount bull's-eyed orange RR UMi and I could easily see the comet. With averted vision, it popped. Dan saw it, with some coaching. At the 12 o'clock position. The comet was big.

I asked what they thought of the shape. Ian thought the comet oblong, less of it toward the star. SkyTools showed the tail going away from the star. Mag 9.2.

We moved the refractor objective dew heater up a bit after Ian noted the view was soft. Ran the hair drier on the lens.

Bev popped in. Ian gave a quick sky tour.

It might be a neat photo, I conjectured, with the orange star and green comet. Checked the framing in SkyTools: too tight in the C14; nicely framed in the Tele Vue. Grabbed the 40D and bolted it to the 101. Asked Ian to slew to Mizar, for focusing. While I manually focused, he readied to return to the SAO coordinate. Did a test shot, at 30 seconds. Verified the comet was between RR UMi and the equilateral triangle to the east. Grabbed the intervalometer so to push past 30s. Configured for a 1 minute sub. We chatted politics and stacking while killing time. We thought it a neat shot. We could see more of the comet's shape, a fan. Ian encouraged me to shot another half dozen. He thought my exposure OK. I programmed an imaging run.

Ian proposed a coffee break; I suggested we go for the quasar. 3C 332 in CrB: 1.8 gigayears light travel time, with a redshift of 0.15. HS 1603+3820 at 9.4 gy (which we viewed 4 years ago) was our current record holder. Still, I suspected 3C 332 would be challenging as it was fainter. We headed to the east end of the Observing Pad to aim the big gun...

Found it! Observed 3C 332. My fifth quasar.

Fixed Ian's SkyTools display problem with Dan's remarks and Greg's notes. Something to do with the tablet's high DPI screen...

12:41 AM, Thursday 16 July 2015. Headed to Pluto. Moved the DSRL from the TV101 to the C14. Grabbed the USB camera-computer cable. Headed to a bright star to focus. Connected the camera to the netbook. I liked that I could still operate the camera directly and things were replicated on the software in the Warm Room. Then headed back to Pluto. ISO 1000. Shot a frame to analyse the field. Shifted west.

Was thrown by the EOS Utility showing that I could now shoot 8000 photos. Huh? [ed: Didn't realise, at the time, that it was because it was aiming at the hard disk for storage.]

The dew was incredible. I was feeling slightly chilled from the damp. The Warm Room windows were fogged, could not see through the glass. I set the humidity to 90% in SkyTools.

Millie brought her equipment in, to store in the observatory. Bev popped by again. Shared how I was framing things. She correctly IDed the Teapot. Yep. Pluto was just above the handle.

Shifted a bit more. Started 2 minute subs.

2:00 AM. Got a nice shot. Tried to find the teenie planet.

Everyone had packed up. The Observing Pad was quiet.

Took me a while to find the little point. It was obvious. I was just misreading the chart.

2:03. Pulled up the Davis weather station conditions. Wind NE, 44°, speed 0, high 11.3, 10 minute average 0, temperature 11.2, dew point 10.7, humidity 97%. Barometer had risen slightly through the evening, from 8 PM to 2 AM, to 1018.5. Increasing clouds with little temperature change, precipitation within 24 to 48 hours.

Wanted to look at the comet photos but they were in the camera...

Another picture downloaded. Trailing. Gah! Programmed EU for 10 shoots. I'd keep going until I got a good one... The next image was bad, again. A tracking issue? The last three shots were showing slight drift to the west!

Ice cream!

Briefly, Millie and I chatted about the double star certificate programme.

OK. A good shot. Finally. Another one. Good. Stopped the third Pluto imaging run.

Started ISO 1000 darks.

Returned to the Warm Room. I had two more layers on. Pulled out the ceramic heater! Closed the outer door.

Started the ISO 1600 darks.

Before heading to bed, Ian D popped in. We commiserated. He had a good visual run from the THO.

Considered 52 Cygni or Σ2726. But I didn't want to do a meridian flip. Oh. It's in the Veil. Right. Two years ago I had tried to split this.

The western Veil remnant was going straight up and down for me. Very different magnitudes, 3 or 4 or 5? A hint of yellow in the primary; companion was orange. Very close. Companion at the 2 o'clock position (i.e. north-east). ST3P said the stars were mag 4.2 and 9.5 and 6.4" apart. Neat. [ed: Again, the Observer's Handbook says the partner is blue; that was not my impression.]

2:39. OK. SAO 33034 or HR 8040. Close to the meridian. I waited for the sky to shift...

Stopped shooting.

2:47. Viewed ε (epsilon) Equulei. The number 1 star in The Little Horse. aka Σ2737. Pretty double star. Bright yellow and light yellow stars. Hints of green? About one magnitude different. SkyTools said it was a quad! But A and B were 0.22". So, no chance for me, on those. Curiously, the AB pair is a 100-year binary with an aphelion separation of 0.65" So, maybe in the future I'll be able to split them... It was the AC pair I first spotted. ST3P said mags 5.2 and 7.4. Easily spotted in the TV101 at 50x. The D was well away. The A star was F5 class.

Spotted the D star!

There were a couple of stars inline with the AC pair. For example, GSC 00521-1928 at mag 13.9 and then GSC 00521-1231 at mag 14.1. About half the distance of -1928 was D. What?! When I hovered over the star in SkyTools 3 Professional, it said the magnitude was 15.8. No. That can't be right. It was fainter, yes. About a 135° angle to the AC pair. Neat.

[ed: The Observer's Handbook refers to the AB pair! And shows that the separation is presently decreasing! Yikes.]

Almost 3.

Slewed. But did not enjoy the view. Done. Tired and cold.

Copied the comet images.

Started closing up. Rolled back the roof. Turned on the dehumidifier. Shut down the laptop. Detached the netbook. Turned off the heater. Packed up for the house.

3:07. Stopped recording.

3:10. Spotted, walking to the house, a fast meteor, in the western hemisphere, heading west. It left a brief train. A Perseid? Already?


A fun night overall. Good views of Saturn. Tackled a few more multi-star systems. Dug deep to nab another quasar. Imaged a comet and a dwarf planet. Despite average conditions.

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