Monday, March 28, 2016

first telescopic viewing (Bradford)

OK. On the edge in terms of interest. Still, let's experiment, I thought. Let's see what's actually involved with using the grab-n-go Meade Maksutov. Clear Sky Chart looked good. The Aviation Weather Center showed the clouds pushing off to the south-east.

Clear Sky Chart for Newmarket from 28 Mar 2016

It took 5 or 10 minutes maybe to get outside? With the little 'scope. Not bad.

Long johns. Winter coat. Toque. Fingerless mittens.

I brought out the Meade ETX 90, already on the tripod, the adjustable height chair, the TV table, the netbook, with red film, the eyepieces case, and red flashlight.

Did not bring power. To keep it simple, I did not worry about powering the telescope. Yes, it was now modified for external power but I really didn't want to screw around with adapters and extension cords. Yes, it could run on three AA batteries but I didn't even want to fiddle with that either.

Forgot a couple of things. Computer mouse. Then again, the touchpad on John Repeat Dance was working again. I could have used the red LED keyboard light though.

Ugh. It was windy! Slipped my mind. I had noticed/heard the breeze earlier in the day...

Came outside with my red goggles on but, oddly, I didn't need them. House side light did not come on... Weird.

10:17 PM. Viewed Jupiter. Initially I only saw 3 moons. When the wind subsided, the equatorial bands were visible. I was using the old Celestron 26mm Plössl eyepiece. [ed: Is that around 40 power? No, 48x.] Focus was already fair. Went to change it. Yikes. Super sensitive. And, it shakes the 'scope. Gah. Gently adjusted it. Hard to tell if it improved. Had another look at the planet. Ha! Got 'em. All 4 moons. Two were very close together, the inner ones...

Readied to chase down some targets in Leo.

10:22. Someone's security light suddenly came on, across the way, other street, to the south-west. Damn. Right in my face! Popped on my goggles. Sat there for a while. I didn't hear anyone. Must have been a sensor and trigger by the wind...

Turned away from the light. Ah. OK. Ursa Major. Filtered on candidates there.

It was hard to work the little MCT at about 60 to 65 degrees altitude. The tiny 8x21 finder scope is inaccessible. A right-angle design would work better. Wondered if my Orion could be adapted. Or maybe a red-dot finder is the way to go.

Hard to reach the focus knob. Silly design.

Someone behind me, nearby. Up high? A building neighbour? Upper floor? Dunno. I didn't look; they didn't say anything.

10:49. From HR 4569, I starhopped to HR 4439. Could not split. At least, not the A and B. The SkyTools app said there was a faint C well away. I did not look per se for it.

Tried the Tele Vue 9mm. Crikey, the eyepiece thumb screw fell out. Fortunately, I did not drop it into the grass. Sheesh.

Knew there'd be a problem with the high power eyepiece [ed: 139x]. Confirmed. Way too windy. Very shaky view. Could not cleanly split in the now darker field.

Checked SkyTools 3 Pro. It said the separation was 0.91". Whiskey tango foxtrot?! Why bother in this teenie objective? No way. A challenge in a better 'scope, it would be... Why was it even showing in this filtered list?!

Turned back to Leo. Decided to try for ω (omega) Leonis.

Took me a long time to get started. Again, partly because of the extreme altitude factor of the ETX. Finally, I located Regulus and started the long journey west.

Part way I landed on HD 86419, a triple. I could see the C star (212" away) but not B (at 40"). C is magnitude 10.8 according to the planning app. B was supposed to be a bit brighter.

Continued through ο (omicron) aka Subra.

At last I made ω. Huh? No obvious pair. Checked ST3P. Man! Not splittable! The software said 0.84. So after a very long star hop, I landed at a star that would normally be a great challenge. I thought I had selected some better targets...

Stoopid. I quit! I decided that was enough. I was cold. Hands were cold. I was frustrated. Not really in the mood. Not sure exactly why. Anyway, enough. Certainly the wind gusts were not making anything easy.

Quickly packed up. At least that was fast...

During my last run to the big back yard, I thought I'd have a wide-field look... Would I get lucky? Now that I was, in theory, very dark adapted. I turned to the head of the lion.

And in short order I spotted 22 Leo between μ (mu) and ε (epsilon). All right! I saw it with averted vision. Paused, scanned. Again. Yes. Flattened triangle turned sideways. Definitely there.

A nice conclusion to a mildly challenging session. Tagged a magnitude 5.3 star without magnification. That was good.

11:39. I was back inside. Fast.

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Conditions at 10:40 PM: 4°C, wind chill -1°, wind 26 km/h SE, 75% humidity, pressure 101.3 kPa and steady, dew point 0.

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I didn't realise until after the session that the ST3P Difficulty index is not an indicator of splittability. Oops.

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