Sunday, February 14, 2016

doubles in a cold sky (Blue Mountains)

Early dinner.

Phil said, "I''ll be with you, in spirit." Sounded like he wasn't going to brave the cold.

Orion dominated the southern sky. Sirius was bright and flickering. Quarter Moon to my right. It was quiet.

6:57 PM. I opened the roof of the Geoff Brown Observatory. No issues. Everything was OK in the Warm Room. The temperature was OK too. The Bionaire said 38% humidity and 7°C. I checked the Davis weather station page. As of 6:30 PM: 10 minute average wind speed was 8.0 km/h; direction SWS; immediate wind speed 6.4; the high was 24.1; outside humidity 89%; barometer 1031.9 mbar; outside temp was -15.7°C; with the wind chill -21.1; the dew point was -17.1. Not happy about the humidity. But a ways away from the minimum temp for the Paramount. Wind: low. Good.

Clear Sky Chart for CAO on 14 Feb 2016

7:12. Viewed 66 Ceti. From the RASC Coloured Doubles list... aka Struve 231.

In the Celestron 14-inch SCT with the Tele Vue 55mm eyepiece, it was soft at first. Looked yellow and blue at first; on second thought, the secondary was not blue. Orange?! In the Tele Vue 101mm refractor with the TV 10mm ocular, it looked yellow and orange. A delicate pairing. Back in the C14: yellow and white?

And a bright star (HD 13598) to the north (unrelated).

There was a faint pair below. I could not see the faint pair in small 'scope.

The RASC Observer's Handbook refers to the A and B stars only and says they are orange and blue. Huh. [ed: Haas says yellowish white and grey.]

Millie joined me in the GBO. "Everyone else is chicken." Scared off by the chilly conditions.

Ha ha! One of the pair to the north-east was an official companion of 66 Cet. All right! SkyTools 3 Pro said C was mag 13 and other star (GSC 04690-0919) mag 12. I agreed that C was visually dimmer than other star. The one more to the north was the C star. The star more to the east was not related...

Bright HD 13598 was very orange.

7:32. Millie shared that she had viewed few doubles in Cetus. She couldn't remember which Messier target was in the constellation. I looked it up: M77. We took a look. Not at all obvious in the refractor. Dim even in the big 'scope. But then, with the face-on galaxy, we were close to the Moon, which seemed awfully bright. The Messier object had a fuzzy but bright core. I Googled it. The Wikipedia image in particular was comparable to our view in the C14.

Noted, in the software charts, we were very close to ο (omicron) Ceti. I slewed to Mira. Mira the Wonderful. SkyTools said it ranged between magnitudes 2 and 10! Millie thought it was fast; ST3P said it was over 330 days. And a multi-star system. It seemed very bright, for us, this evening.

Spotted a dim star below...

7:34. Jon and Tony appeared. Hello.

Noted HD 14473, south of Mira. At the edge of the field. Magnitude 8.1. Mira was brighter.

Bri visited too. All right. Some of the clan had suited up.

7:49. Used 70 Ceti as another comparison star. It is mag 5.4. Mira was brighter.

7:55. Asked if people wanted to view the comet. Headed to C/2013 US10 (Catalina). Once I got in the area, it was obvious is the C14. Near HD 27378 aka SAO 13127. A round fuzz. No obvious tails.

8:14. We enjoyed M42. It was spectacular with the O-III filter in the C14 with the 55mm. Saw the 4 main stars in Trapezium. Also viewed it in the TV101 with the 27mm.

Tony and I wondered about a lower power eyepiece for the big 'scope. I posited that an ocular much lower might show the secondary. Made a note to crunch the numbers.

Tried for the Running Man. Millie could see a hint of nebulosity.

8:18. Tony wanted M81 and 82. Yes, sir. Landed on 81. Then I manually slewed to the Cigar.

8:23. Tony spotted something very bright rising. Must be a planet. We checked it in TheSky 6: Jupiter.

Our visitors headed in. It was movie time.

8:34. I picked Rigel, β (beta) Orionis, from my notes, my impromptu weekend to-do list. ST3P showed 4 stars in the Rigel group. Previously, I had seen A and B. But I had not seen C or D.

Put the 10mm back in TV101; the 55mm was still in the C14. I could see B star at 8 o'clock position, i.e. south. Millie wasn't sure.

8:37. Bumped up with the 27mm in C14. It made it much easier to see.

The eyepiece dew heaters seemed cool to me. I wanted more heat to them...

8:40. I had hoped to see more. Ugh, D was mag 15. And C was too tight: the BC separation was 0.10"! So I did not have high hopes for that star. But conditions were not letting me get into the mag 14 or 15 range... [ed: I've gone to almost mag 16 with the C14.]

8:51. Moved to 32 Eridani. Also on my to-do list. Previously, I had seen the AB pair. But I did not have notes on C.

C was easy: the dim star beyond B. 32 was very nice in the TV. I thought AB tight and yellow and blue; C was colourless. RASC said topaz and blue. Millie liked that description.

Break time. In the kitchen, I had the last piece of cake; Lora had saved it for me. Made some hot chocolate. Grabbed my new balaclava and wristers from Donna. Put on another sweater. As they finished their movie, I returned to the observatory.

9:24. Slewed to the Pleiades. I wondered why I had V455 Tauri in my list. Looked like a randomly selected item, from the SkyTools generator.

I noted that the ceramic heater was running continuously; someone had turned it up. The Warm Room was now warm. 10°C! I turned it down a bit.

9:35. Tried to spot V455 Tau. No sign of it at all... I saw a T-shape of stars centred on HD 23913. The T was south-east of M45. South-west of the T was HD 23743. EQ Tau and TYC 01260-0575 1 were to the SW. I could see both easily. Mag 10-ish. And HD 23764 at mag 9.5. But no target star.

ST3P said: Mag U14.00 to U20.50, Mag V5.80 to V12.30, and V magnitudes estimated from GSC. I wasn't sure what all this meant exactly. I thought the V numbers meant visual mag. And those numbers were within my evening limits. Still, I was not seeing anything. Oh well.

9:48. Reviewed σ (sigma) Orionis. In the past, I had seen the A, C, D, and E stars. But I did not seem to have notes on B.

A, C, D, and E were easy. ST3P showed B as super-close to A... Quarter of an arc-second. I tried the 10mm is the C14: it was too mushy. The 18mm offered a fair view. But still no B. I could barely see C in the TV101; D and E are easy in the small aperture. It is possible I'll never be able to split A and B...

Viewed HD 294271 aka Struve 761. ST3P showed it a quad. Previously, I had seen A, B, and C. But D? I had a close look.

Spotted D with averted vision in the 55mm. It was easy at higher powers in the C14. To the west of A. Happy about that!

9:57. I felt the wind. It must be picking up, I thought. Checked the on-site weather station. Yep. 11.3 km/h now, according to the 10 min. avg. The temp was -16.5 and the wind chill -23.4.

10:00. Wow. When I paused, relaxed, I could see lots of other faint stars around 761! Lots.

10:15. Examined HD 25184 aka Σ476. In Perseus. Another RASC Coloured Double (from the Supplement). It was very faint in the TV; still faint in the C14. Orange and blue, the AB stars. RASC says yellow and blue. [ed: Haas says "grapefruit orange... and dim arctic blue."]

There was a C star, SkyTools said...

The 'scope was vibrating.

10:19. Put in the 27mm ocular. Got it! At a 90 degree angle to AB: spotted C. Easy.

10:21. Confirmed! TYC 02877-0858 1 (mag 11) was further to the south-west, beyond C. GSC 02877-1135 (mag 13) was opposite.

10:27. Viewed 14 Aur. From the RASC regular multiple stars list. It was challenging in the TV with 18mm. White and ... orange? blue? Tight. With the C14 and 27mm, I thought white and blue. No, wait, yellow and blue. Easily split at the higher power. [ed: Haas says "bright straw yellow and royal blue."]

10:37. I manually changed the Kendrick dew heater controller to configuration 1. It showed a longer duty cycle. I removed the dew shield to reduce wind effects.

Spotted a faint star opposite B. Correction! I initially saw C. The bright "second" star was C.

10:42. Confirmed B. Weird, B was much dimmer than C. [ed: Haas lists the AB pair without colours.]

Spotted D to the north-west. Noted a tight pair of faint stars to the south-west, including GSC 02394-0742.

Saw GSC 02394-0464 and GSC 02394-1187 on the north-east side, in an arc to D. Both are around mag 13. D was brighter.

The sodium hand warmers were cold to the touch. They had not lasted very long. The electronic warmers had done well. But not were cooling; showed no lights. I tried to light the butane warmer with the flame lighter. No joy. Bad fuel? Bad catalyst? Both?

10:51. Decided to leave 14 Aur b for another day, with less wind, and no freakin' Moon.

11:02. Got it! The D star in β (beta) Monocerotis. Yet another on my homework list. I had no notes of the D star. It was four or five times the sep. of A and B, to the NE, essentially a right angle to ABC. It was very faint, popped in and out of view.

The wind had increased. The Davis, as of 10:30 PM, confirmed my feelings. 27.4 km/h in the 10 minute average. Had shifted slightly, now from the SES. Wow. The high was now 35.4. Curiously, the ambient temp was steady, at -16.2, but the wind chill had dropped to -27.1.

After some soul searching, I thought, "Nope. Done." No more doubles. No photography. Tired, a bit cold, but mostly getting upset with the wind.

I had no trouble closing up.

Took SQM readings before returning to the house. Around 19.62 and 19.70. Made a mental note to compare to the roof unit...

11:43. I was in bed reviewing, winding down.

A little disappointed that I had not undertaken any photography... That said, wide field was out of the question. And I was having fun doing visual.

Pretty good session. Initially, I had not thought it a long run—I had not even gone past midnight! But upon review, it was almost 5 hours! Easy to forget that in winter...

Winter observing is frustrating, bone chilling, maddening, challenging, fraught with peril, awkward, and demanding. It messes with your internal clock. Invariably, the conditions are not ideal, particularly the seeing. It pushes limits and demands cautions. It takes things to the extremes. It can be very difficult to face. And I love it.

One more look at the location conditions. The Davis unit said, as of 11:30 PM, wind 29.0 on average, still from the SES, the high now 40.2, temp still -16.1 with a wind chill -27.2. Good thing I wrapped when I did.

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