Saturday, August 27, 2016

from the floor (Blue Mountains)

It was a little cool. I put on my pyjamas bottoms! Ready to observe and then rapidly transit to bed!

I moved into the Geoff Brown Observatory. Nikki was happy that I'd be nearby. Set up the Celestron NexStar 11 GPS near the north-west corner. My eyepiece collection. SkyTools, connected.

The adjustable height chair was broken. I used a rolly-polly chair and the drummer's stool.

8:53 PM, Friday 26 August. Nicole flew the big 'scope.

I loaded some new ODEC batteries in the Sony recorder. I had 24 hours of space left.

Brought out my radio, from the car, to listen to the Blue Jays game. Tuned to 980 in London—weak. They were up 6-4.

Switched to red light mode in SkyTools. Turned down the lights on the observatory floor.

Fired up the mosquito coil. First time using the metal-glass fibre container.

Weather conditions were not looking great. Poor transparency but good seeing. Good for planets. So maybe I'd focus on double stars.

Felt dehydrated.

Logged, given the recent BGO runs, NGC 246, 42 Piscium, HD 196411, theta Lyrae, IC 289. For some, it was the first-time observed. One of the planetary nebula images was badly trailed.

Activated my prepared weekend observing list. Around 80 to 90 objects.

Viewed Saturn. I saw four, possibly more, moons. There seemed to be a shadow in the optical path from some dirt or debris.

Moved to my next target. Big slew.

Clayton dropped by briefly. Done his build work, for the evening, apparently

Jays scored another home run.

Looked closely at HD 204372 in Cepheus. A suggestion from an automatically generated list from SkyTools 3 Pro. I had to do a short, little star hop to get to it. Considered bumping the power from the baader 36mm to the Celestron 26. It was not good. I had a hard time splitting it. Super tight. Equal stars. Perhaps the one on the right was slightly darker. ST3P confirmed that. 7.9 and 8.9. They were oriented left-right to me. According to ST3P, west was to the 2 o'clock position. Fire truck. An interesting pair. The separation was 1.9 arcseconds. Neat pair. Challenging. Decided to increase the power some more. Pentax 20? Grabbed the Tele Vue 9. Not a good view. Dimmer, of course. But it split them easily.

Used my computer mouse, on my knee, wirelessly, to push the NexStar computer buttons. Handy.

Chris dropped in. We talked about the planets visible tonight, the big appulse. Clouds interfered unfortunately.

Considered trying the binoviewers. It had been a while.

Jays scored 3! Wow.

9:19 PM. Could not merge the images in the binoviewer. Frustrating. Tried flexing the unit. No luck. Double stars of double stars. I wondered if they could be collimated. There were some holes, it seemed. Or covers. Put it aside to check later in the weekend.

Went back to the Pentax.

Did a Sync command before going to the next target. Went back to the 26mm.

Once again I was lost.

Decided to go to Deneb then sync. Nothing! The pointing was way off...

Had the wrong eyepiece configured in the software so I was getting thrown off.

OK. Synced then went to target. Again.

Around 9:45. Nicole popped in. She had been talking to Clayton. They spotted some meteors. She thought it gorgeous out. She wanted to shoot some photos of Saturn. Loaned her my 2" nose-piece.

She kept having a little trouble with the door. I thought of the classic Gary Larson comic. ;-)

Bautisa got a RBI. 12 runs now.

Nicole caught another meteor. Over my shoulder. Long tail.

Showed her the cable tether. She was briefly blinded by the camera back when it started up. She forgot her red flashlight; directed her to ours in the drawer. Offered her my DC coupler.

Ian D wandered through. He wasn't getting any good images due to the transparency.

I couldn't see the companion for the diffraction rings. Not exactly concentric.

Bautisa scored. 13-5.

Reminded her to do crude focusing and then rely on the temperature controlled focuser. Ian coached her on focusing and ISO. He suggested 400. Fraction of a second. She used the timer.

Nope. I could not split the double star HR 7843. One of Haas's project stars. On my View Again list. SkyTools said the separation was 0.80"; they are about 3 magnitudes different. The sky would not allow it.

Split HR 8040, aka Σ2741, at 2.0". A triple. The C was much dimmer. Well away. This target sounded familiar. Found it in my View Again list.

I wondered if she might be getting mirror-slap. I posited she could program the mirror-up function in conjunction with the timer, as I had done. She didn't want to bother, partly due to the low elevation.

She saw the planet was swimming. I suggested she shoot video. One minute. Her camera supported it but she didn't know how to use RegiStax. I encouraged her to get some data. Worry about the processing later. I asked if she might want to use her intervalometer.

She was still working on focus. I showed her how to use the TCF. Memorise the starting point.

Noted a pentagon of faint stars nearby.

The stars were in different positions than the software.

Magnitude 15!

Ian W visited. Asked what I was doing. He asked if she was shooting video. He was shooting NGC 5907. He was heading to the Dob to do some visual.

We talked about science education.

Ian D announced it was scotch o'clock. All right!

I was getting disoriented trying to find some nearby doubles in the field.

Nicole found the computer had gone to sleep. We checked her new account power settings. I suggested it be put into Presentation mode. It would never go off then.

She slewed to Mars. We talked about SkySafari. I suggested that the Tonight's Best is useful when entertaining, doing the show-and-tell. Back at the computer, she noticed Pluto was in the area. Told her about my images during fly-by, three shots, each 2 days apart.

Couldn't find a star I was looking for. I could not see B star of HR 8025. This pair is near 8040. I tried it, seeing it in the field, displayed by SkyTools.

The game was over. 15 to 8. Well done. I turned off the staticky Grundig.

Ping and Ben arrived. Nicole greeted them. They headed to the yard to set up their tent.

Nicole received an "invalid code" error when trying to slew to M8. Weird. Something to do with the software date/time. We tried restarting TheSky6. I took the mount down to cold iron. She homed. It was all good again.

I headed to the comet in Cygnus. C/2016 A8 (LINEAR). In the middle of nowhere.

11:43 PM. Viewed the comet. Just barely visible. 26mm was slightly better. A round fuzz. No tail.

Nicole landed on the Swan. I reminded her that we have a 2-inch O-III filter.

Ian D returned. Break time!

The coyotes got going.

He shared that the HyperStar is very sensitive to sky conditions. We talked about awkward Granite Gap situation. Possibly visiting Pelee Island and Pelee Point National Park. Latitude 41.9. About 3 degrees south. Interesting. Verified that he bought SkyTools. The RASC National Office machine. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory. Super-faint quasars. The iOptron smartphone clamp. Angle finders, handy for terrestrial, handy for solar imaging. Canon bodies, including the new WiFi-enabled 5D Mark IV. Shutter lifespans.

Nicole and Chris joined us in the Warm Room. We toasted new supervisors. We talked about praying mantis, iTelescope locations, science article writing and science education, strange insertions, Ivan Semeniuk, C14 mirror locks, the weirdest animals.

I headed back out to the N11. Sorted the syncing.

Nicole centred the C14 on a planet for Ping and Ben. Then headed to M51, the Whirlpool. Or tried. 'Scope was pointing to a weird spot; she tried again and got it.

Still, I could not see the comet. [ed: Huh?]

Milky Way, right overhead.

Meteor! I got one! Big one. Right through Aquila. Long train. Kinda followed the Milky Way. Must have been a Perseid.

Chris and I talked briefly about the Garnet Star. He talked about nebulosity. Really? I never knew about that. Cool.

Referred Nicole to the Celestron big binoculars.

Nicole wondered if I was packing up. Nope! Just getting started.

She went to the North American (Caldwell 20). Hard targets. They couldn't see anything. Possibly. I could see some wisps in the 20mm (with the filter). Too much grunt. I suggested the 55mm in the TV101. With our Oxygen filter. Suggested asking Ian W for other filters. Ping asked if it was in the right direction. In binoculars, yes. But in our telescopes, backwards. It improved with a different filter.

12:05 AM, Saturday 27 August. Got the B star with the 9mm. I viewed ρ (rho) Capricornus. Another item from my View Again list. A quintuple system. Same separation? Yes! Separated my next target! Got the C star! About the same separation between D and E. I changed eyepieces. "C is toward D and E." Yes! I got the B star. Yes. Freaking eh. 4 o'clock position?

Ping asked if we could see alpha Centauri. No, sadly, not from here.

I synced and moved to my next candidate.

12:16 AM, Saturday 27 August. Tiny object. Blueish, aquamarine. Tiny. Not round. Below the line of 4 stars. [ed: Poor notes. Not sure which planetary I was looking at.]

12:21 AM. Is there a naked eye double, near the centre star of the W, of Cassiopeia? [ed: Yes, υ (upsilon) 1 and υ2, south of γ (gamma).]

12:22. Can you see a shell around the PN with 9mm?

We saw some high cloud.

Super-faint. Doris. Asteroid 48.

12:33. Slow mover from left to right, while on 48 Doris. Very slow. Satellite? Or another solar system object?!

Ping wanted to know how far M13 was. I checked in SkyTools. 2600 light-years. Ian D helped Ping see the Andromeda galaxy naked eye. She asked about the Crab Nebula. Too low. I thought it was a winter target. He slewed to M92 for them. Encouraged her to count the stars. She said 200; Ian said one can sometimes count 500.

Oh oh. I noticed dew on the corrector plate. While I cleared it with the hair dryer, Ian D retrieved his dew shield for me.

Viewed τ (tau) Cygni. Wow. P, C, Q, and D. All visible. P, C, and Q were in a nearly straight line. Nearly equidistant. Could not split A and B. Nicole had a look. This is an entry in the RASC Observer's Handbook Double and Multiple Stars list. It specifically refers to the AB pair only.

To the west was a different system, the pair of SEI 461.

Nicole slewed to the Ring for the crowd.

Chip break.

Low cloud. I could not see all of Cygnus. Ugh. We were in a bowl. Sagittarius was clear. Delphinus was clear. The wind was up.

I wanted to look at Messier 2 (M2) again.

1:12. I slewed to Neptune. Yes! Spotted Triton! The star to the east was magnitude 11. The star to the south-west was mag 12.5. Triton, to the north, was 13.5.

Another double.

Nicole asked me number for the Pleiades. 45. And brightest star in the cluster. Uh. Didn't know that. Merope? Atlas? The numbers for the Double Cluster. They couldn't see anything. Still had a high power eyepiece. I simulated the field for her, the 55mm in the TV101. Made the two clusters very small.

Stoopid clouds. Stoopid hobby. Stoopid roof.


1:35. Clear in Perseus. NGC 1528. The stars went dim. Clouded out.

Checked the weather. Looked at the clouds with NOAA. Something big was headed our way, just crossing over Lake Michigan. And something pushing from the north.

Cygnus was good again. Applied the constellation filter in the Real Time mode.

HD 207087. Slewed. Pretty well straight up. Wasn't sure I was on target. Synced using Deneb. Then tried to sort the field of view orientation. The big house-shape was aiming down. Oh. I see. OK. I could see C to the west and D and E to the north-east. D and E were equal in brightness, very faint; C seemed fainter, required averted. The bright object was supposed to be the A and B pair.

1:58. Switched from the Pentax to the Tele Vue. I was not sure if I could split A and B. Tough. A little challenging with the NexStar set low on the tripod, I had to kneel on the floor. Went to the 20mm again.

Deneb. B was visible. Challenging. Faint. To the east.

Dew on the tabletops. It was a little cool.

Ian D and Nicole looked at M33.

Nicole and I reviewed the telescope shutdown.

Nicole spotted a huge meteor. She just about blew a gasket. The best she'd seen in ages. She wondered if she should report it.

Misread my chart. Thought it said there was an F star.

Finally got the B star.

2:28. Got B of delta Cyg. Visible in 20mm. Very obvious with 9mm.

Headed to the house for another layer. Noticed the Moon was coming up. Reflecting off the clouds. That's it, then.

Started to shut down things. Put the N11 in hibernate mode.

Heard a protesting Killdeer.

2:38. Left the GBO.

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