Saturday, September 03, 2016

viewed many stars (Blue Mountains)

9:12 PM, Friday 2 September 2016. Ready to go. Denis and chatted about how we traveled to the CAO. He said the 410 through Brantford was bad, with construction, and heavy local traffic.

Earlier... I received guests during the afternoon, as the assistant supervisor.

Showed Chris the NexStar 11 GPS setup. Then I started using it in earnest from the floor of the Geoff Brown Observatory. Denis and I were kitty-corner.

No bugs!

Sailu was on the Observing Pad imaging with our Star Adventurer.

9:18 PM. Put the KMN lights on a couple of the N11 black tripod legs. One on the serial-USB-telescope control cable interface. And the power supply. Grabbed my eyeglasses strap.

I had trouble getting SkyTools 3 Professional to connect to the NexStar* hand controller. Tried many things. Denis wondered about the sounds. Yep, me, my netbook, sound bytes courtesy Zelda. Coyotes courtesy Gaia. Denis offered to demo PoleMaster but I was preoccupied unfortunately. He completed his polar alignment; I connected ST3P to the mount. Only after shutting down both systems did everything work as expected for me.

Forgot to check if the tripod was level.

Slewed and synced on Saturn. Headed to the house for a moment.

When I returned, I asked to turn the floor lights down.

9:47. Viewed Ascella aka ζ (zeta) Sagittarii. From the Turn Left at Orion book, the Summer chapter. It was also on my SkyTools View Again list. I had it set to high priority. My 36mm in the RASC N11. Not round. Very low. Shimmering in the air. The old 26mm. Clearly two stars. Equal brightness. Blue-white? Two stars. Very tight. All right! Awesome for such a low target.

orbit diagram of Ascella A and B with dates noted

Denis checked in with me. I was doing OK now. He offered to drop the south panels but my sight lines were fine. Denis headed out to see how everyone was doing.

Sailu popped in. Appreciated my tip on the custom dew shield. I told him about the 1.5 rule of thumb. Interestingly, he had ended up at about that ratio.

He asked about interesting photographic targets. I suggested to the right of the Teapot. Lots of cool stuff there.

10:10. Put in the 20mm. AB seemed to be at a 90 degree angle to C, or inline with GSC 06885-2776 (to the north). C was to the west. AB oriented N-S.

10:26. Headed to HD 350459. A lovely bright gold colour! Could not seem to spot a companion...

Sailu said, "It was a great suggestion," the centre of our galaxy. I then suggested around the Double Cluster.

Denis was trying to nail his focus.

I considered that all my targets of late were getting harder and harder. Fainter galaxies; tighter (and fainter) double stars...

10:32. Oops. I was on β (beta) Sagittae. That was the lovely gold star. Beta Sge.

Spotted HD 186224, to the east (previously viewed).

10:36. Viewed HD 350461. Another delicate faint tight pair. To the north-east of 186224.

Bev popped in. She was wandering about. Denis was getting ready to image M31. Shared that I was lost in space; I had just figured out where I was.

10:48. On review, I did not think I was splitting HD 350461. ST3P said a wide pair but very different magnitudes.

10:49. And no joy for HD 350459. ST3P said an equal but tight pair.

10:54. RS Cyg was a lovely orange star in a boomerang with B and C stars. A was brighter than C but dimmer than B. On a number of red star lists in SkyTools.

I heard someone walk quietly into the observatory. A ninja? I asked Sailu how his imaging was going. "Real good."

Noticed something at the edge of the field... To the south-west. Oh!

Back-breaker. Straight up!

11:00. Holy fire truck! I could see the Crescent Nebula, aka NGC 6888 and Caldwell 27, visually. Hints of its structure.

I tried to install my Oxygen-3 filter. It would not thread. Grabbed the Centre's O-III 2" unit. Still would not thread into the baader eyepiece. Weird. Sailu helped with some red lighting. Finally got it to bite into one thread, enough to hold it in place. Gently installed it.

Looked like a backwards number 3. Very pronounced along its top edge. Sailu had a look. "Really wispy. Webby." Offered to show my recent image (which I could not find in my gallery, oddly). [ed: It is there, beside The Bubble.] He had another look and benefited from viewing the photograph. Neat.

11:13. Was this the first time I had seen the Crescent visually? [ed: I had viewed it but not on my own; with Adam's 18" Obsession back in Sep 2013.]

Yawn. Tired...

11:21. Ooh. Nice. Intense deep orange! T Lyr, in a field of faint blue-white stars.

Denis shared that setting a tracking mount to the northern hemisphere vs. the south is quite helpful. Indeed. "That's an hour of my life I'm not getting back," he realised.

Visited Sailu on the Observing Pad.

As I walked to the THO to visit Chris, I saw a long alpha Cap meteor. Nice!

Someone called, "Aurora!" I looked to the left. Wow! It was very bright! Wow! We watched it for a while, spires dynamically changing. Should I stay or should I go now? Finally, I ran to the car—warned people—and grabbed the camera gear.

11:44. Did some quick shots.

Brenda told Randy there was aurora visible.

quick shot of aurora down the driveway of the CAO

Canon 40D, EF-S18-55 lens at 18, manual focus, f/3.5, 15 seconds, ISO 1000, daylight balance, RAW, tripod, DPP.

11:53. Chris showed me his iPhone shots. Dumbbell, Ring, M92, ET Cluster, M13. Very impressive. Well done! Messier 31. All with his small refractor and the iOptron smartphone holder. I notice a reddish glow along the edge of some of the photos.

Ananke issued a tone. Low battery.

11:55. Went looking for the ASUS AC adapter.

Slewed to my next.



Denis gave a quick demo of Backyard to Sailu.

Slewed again.

12:19 AM, Saturday 3 September 2016. Finally found NGC 659. Had to sync on delta Cas aka Ruchbah. It was tough with the fogged finder. Lots of dew!

I asked Denis about a hair dryer. He offered his 12 volt unit. We agreed the 120 volt would be faster. He had loaned it out on the Observing Pad; he grabbed it for me. Thank you. Dried off the N11.

Denis noted the C14 was uncovered. I explained I had removed it to show Ivy. I cleared the dew from the big SCT.

Wondered about a cap for the N11's view finder. I borrowed one of the Celestron binocular end caps.

NGC 659 looked like it was made up of about a dozen or fifteen stars. If north was right and east was down, it was something of a heart shape. I had the 20mm in.

In all my wanderings, not being in the right area, in Cassiopeia, I had noted NGC 663 nearby. To the north-east. It sounded familiar. I found it logged in ST3P.

I also bumped into Messier 103 (M103), the nearby open cluster.

Closed the software chart to getting the telescope-pointing blinking-X to reappear.

I heard someone say there was aurora again. Grabbed the gear. Installed the fisheye lens. Checked settings.

12:35. Imaged aurora from the Observing Pad for a while. Later moved to the front yard. Was at f/4.5 for some then f/5.6.

Chris told Denis the aurora was quite strong again.

1:08. Neptune time! Unwound the cable. Slewed. Ugh. Fired up the hair dryer again.

Sailu was getting ready to pack up. We suggested he bring it into the observatory floor to dry off, with the dehumidifier. They shot their dark frames.

I could not see Triton.

1:31. No aurora.

21 hours of recording time left.

The SCT glass was clean. The finder looked really dirty.

Tired. Sore. Yawning.

Considered an uber-cool target to finish up on. Lots of orange and red stars noted. A galaxy? Something bright. Back to Cassiopeia.

Shedir. Slewed. Everything looked foggy. Dewed out. The eyepiece was totally fogged. Put the dryer on it. I did not see my star. Realigned on a nearby star. I did not see a galaxy...

1:43. Had to star hop a little bit but I finally got to NGC 147 (aka Caldwell 17). Super-faint. East of the star HD 2804. A bow-tie of stars nearby, at my 4 or 5 o'clock. I could easily see the centre of the galaxy. Obvious while panning. Really large, even in the low-power eyepiece. Challenging.

It was almost 2 o'clock. It'd be after 2 once I was in bed.

Began my shutdown procedure. Disconnected SkyTools. Put the mount into Hibernate. Positioned the OTA out of the way. Rescued my camera from the Pad.

Asked Denis if he wanted me to close the roof.

Sparked up the dehumidifier.


I found the ASUS tablet keyboard was completely soaked as I started to turn it on! Oh no...

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