Saturday, April 15, 2017

doubles before the Moon (Bradford)

8:45 PM, Friday 14 April 2017. Awoke suddenly from my nap! Yikes. Let's get going. Moved the gear outside. Changed my clothes. Headed out. My eyeglasses: I didn't know where they were... Wanted them to ID stars.

9:05 PM. Put the baader planetarium Hyperion aspheric 36mm wide angle eyepiece in but couldn't reach focus. Oh yeah: removed the paracorr.
Instrument: Starmaster 11-inch Newtonian
Mount: Dobsonian
Method: star hopping
9:13. Finished the finder scope alignment. Looked at Procyon.

9:15. I was ready to go.

My glasses were not on my desk so I went to have another look.

9:21. Returned with old glasses. Found them near my desk. I had put them to the side. On the BDT box, actually.

Left a note for Bree on the kitchen table: I was out back...

Grabbed my point-and-shoot camera. Snapped the setup. A bit further south and west than previous attempts. Out of the direct line of the third floor bedroom ceiling light. Borrowed Rhonda's campfire bench as a table.

quick 10-minute setup in backyard

Now that I had my corrective lenses, I could see stars and constellations. Mars, pale orange, was behind the trees. Auriga was setting. Taurus was low. Realised, sadly, that the targets in Orion were probably off limits. Gemini was almost straight up. Canis Major was falling behind the branches. Monoceros was no good. Andromeda was definitely out.

9:24. Moved the cover down the truss tubes to reduce stray light. Didn't think dew would be a factor.

Reviewed my planned list. Huh. Learned that Procyon (aka SHB 1) was a multi-star system. [ed: Forgot that I had attempted this before. Spotted C star on 17 Apr '16.]

9:27. Viewed with the 36mm (at 35x). There was a little arrangement of stars to my right (or east of Procyon). There was a triple to my left, slightly up. So I was viewing pretty close to north-down and east-right. Within the hockey stick, just inside the apex, there were two faint stars, one I could see direct, one with averted. Saw a star beyond the hockey stick (SAO 115779).

Noted the diffraction spikes from the secondary mirror holder.

Some neighbours to the west were enjoying the outdoors. Did they have a fire going?

Learned that the stellar group to the east was a separate system, nothing to do with Procyon.

9:32. Put the Celestron Plössl 26mm 1¼" eyepiece in, using my 2" adapter. Now at 48 power.

Thought I could see the Procyon C star. Below or north. Well away. Very, very faint. Almost inline with the stars BRD 2 and the middle star (SAO 115732) of the line of 3 stars to the west. The dim C star was near or in a diffraction spike. That was distracting. Just at the edge of visibility.

I viewed the apex of the hockey stick. SkyTools 3 Professional was not showing the A and B stars of HR 2950 (aka Σ1126) separately. I zoomed in all the way with the Context Viewer screen. The Object Information showed they were equally bright stars with an angular separation of 0.9 seconds of arc. I returned to the eyepiece. Could not see anything.

9:43. A car pulled in the driveway.

Upped the power with the Tele Vue Type 6 Nagler 9mm ocular. Oh. There it is... The C star of STF 1126 appeared.

The higher power (140x) also made the Procyon C easy.

[ed: The Washington Double Star database has good information about Procyon. Like that the D star is magnitude 12. It also shows that, currently, it is an 8-star system. D should be along the way to SAO 115746, about 1/3rd the distance. The E designation, aka D 29, is with a position angle of 67° and a separation of 467"! Well, that's the BRD 2 star. I don't know what the F star refers to: nothing shows in ST3P or Aladin/SIMBAD. AG at PA 314 and sep. 356 is the aforementioned SAO star. H is the dim partner to G, to the west. I added skymarks in ST3P to hopefully help in future pursuits.]

9:49. Realised I did not have my house keys...

Found that HR 2950 was already in my logged list (curiously, successfully, viewed almost actually one year previous, with a 14" no less).

Person on top floor went back into their bedroom and turned the ceiling light on. It lit the back yard.

10:02. Landed at Capella. Checked the field orientation in the ST3P software. Readied for my first starhop.

Arrived at Al Anz in Auriga. A 6-star system according to ST3P. Not in Sissy's book. Easy starhop with the low power eyepiece. I was a little surprised that this was not in my previously observed list. A bright straw-yellow light. Part of a big triangle shape of stars, with HD 32017 to the south-east. None of these stars were related. There was a thin, backward 7-shape of stars above or to the south-west.

Al Anz (aka ε or epsilon or Burnham 554) was along the upper (or south-west) edge. Opposite edge was a faint star (south-east of A). That was the E element (aka SAO 39960). Plopped in the 26mm. Saw a faint star to the west, almost opposite E, about the same distance as E. That was the F star.

Light upstairs went out. Yeh.

10:09. Spotted what appeared to be a classic double star to the west, far away from Al Anz. But ST3P said they are non-related stars. The bright member was HD 31691. A possible WDS candidate?

10:11. Saw PPM 47643 to the south-east of HD 32017 (the right-most point of the big triangle). Quite faint. The software said it was mag. 12.2.

With the 9mm, I saw Tycho 2907-0440 1. North of the E star. ST3P said it was mag. 11.2. Need averted vision to see stars near Al Anz. No joy.

10:14. I could not see the B, C, or D partners of Al Anz. Sadly. [ed: Strange. I was seeing mag. 12 stars in other places...]

I was feeling cool so decided to go indoors for another layer. Chatted with Bree briefly. I was not done. Not for a while.

10:27. Overshot my target and bumped into χ (chi) Geminorum (aka ES 2628). A neat multi-star system. Not in Haas's book.

A very interesting pattern of stars. There was a pair (with SAO 79902) to the east, not related. There was a wide pair (with HD 66139) to the north. And then a single star further north. With the 26mm, I saw a faint star to the east of the primary, about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way to the east pair. But I was not getting a good presentation from the software. At least, from the Context Viewer. In the Interactive Atlas, the star appeared. Oh. That was the C star!

10:31. With the 9mm, I got the B star! All right. But it was fainter than C. The primary was a rather pale orange. The B and C were at a 90° angle from one another. I saw GSC 1934-1123. ST3P said it was mag. 14.8. Can't be right. Oops. That was slightly to the right... along a line through B and C. I also saw GSC 1934-0888 (at mag. 14.0), slightly to the left. When hovering over the C star, the software reported the brightness at 14.4. Wrong. When I examined the OI box, it showed better numbers matching my experience: B at mag. 12.0 and C, 11.0. B was dimmer. Only revealed with the high power eyepiece. Happy accident, stumbling onto that star.

Next. My original planned target: HD 66176 (aka STT 186). One of the targets from the Sky & Telescope double stars spring "romp."

10:34. My first impression was that I didn't see anything. Swapped out the old Plössl eyepiece for the new TV. Empty field. Holy fire truck. Incredibly tight stars! Equal brightness. Oriented roughly east-west. Damn. No. North-east through south-west. Blue-white in colour. Sub arc-second! 0.90" according to SkyTools (and 1997 data). Wow. Noted a faint pair above... [ed: Very good seeing.]

Was having a hard time seeing the keyboard of John Repeat Dance...

Considered stars in Cassiopeia. Couldn't see it from my vantage.


Quiet to the west now. GO train to the east. A bird chirped madly.

11:02. Hands were cold. Made ο (omicron) Leo; was not yet at ω (omega).

Returned from house with USB mouse. This would allow me to keep my right glove on more. I noticed my legs felt cold when I was inside. But didn't grab my longies.

I was fairly sure I was seeing the B star of omicron (aka Subra).

Neighbours started up again. Nice night.

11:12. Bumped into 6 Leo (as I moved from ο to ω). Previously logged. Colourful. Delicate with the different magnitudes.

Finally reached omega. Changed oculars.

Left for the house again.

11:22. More layers: a vest for the torso and long johns for the sticks. Hard candy for the core. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. It said the air temperature was 3.2°C, humidity was 33%, and the air pressure was steady. I had noted Rhonda's thermometer said it was 10!

Essentially no wind.

Noted the flag-shape to the south-west (with SAO 117710). A faint star to the west.

Security light was on again. It is way too sensitive.

11:26. Super-tight pair. Light gold colour. They seemed to be oriented to the faint star to the left. Waited for good seeing. OK. Almost perfectly east-to-west.

11:29. Before it was good. Now I was getting touching stars. A rod shape most of the time. Extremely tight.

ω Leonis was in a couple of my SkyTools lists. It was a fast-mover with a 118 year period. It was included in the recent S&T "romp" list.

Quiet again.

11:45. Hopped to Talitha in UMa. I did not see anything. Hmmph. Will have to visit again.

The wind chimes started up...

11:49. Viewed HD 77078 (aka ES 598). Saw the B companion. Briefly. Much dimmer. ST3P says the difference is 2 magnitudes. North-west of κ (kappa) Ursae Majoris. Looked again. Definitely there.

Wondered if Cepheus was visible. No, not really.

Changed eyepieces.

Prepared to visit Lynx target with α (alpha) as the starting point. Huh! I had never viewed it before. The BC pair was far away. Incredible orange and blue.

Another GO train rolled in.

Jumped directly from the 36 to the 9mm. Oops. Too much? I was lost for a moment.

11:57. What a great system. STT 571 was lovely. I already had it on my candidate list. C was to my left, colourless. A wonderful subject, good at low power, good at high power. ST3P said the primary was a K class star. No doubt. The AB angle was north-east; C was at 90 degrees so the BC line was north-west. B-V was 1.5.

12:01 AM, Saturday 15 April 2017. Oh wow. When I returned to the low power ocular, I could still see the third element, the faint C star.

12:05 AM. Viewed 38 Lyncis (STF 1334). Whoa. Wow. Pretty neat. A was white, B was orange, above, beyond there was a faint star above, left was another faint star. Looked like a quad. The A and B were very close. Quite lovely. Different intensities. ST3P said the A and B were 2.7" apart and about 2.5 mags different. The star to the south-west was C; the faint point west was D. Added it to my evening planned targets. It was then I realised it was previously viewed. It is in a lot of other double star lists.

[ed: While I had viewed it previously (5 years ago), I only took in the AB pair.]

Carried on to my target HR 3701 (aka Σ1338). Arrived. Wow.

12:12. Pair of beige stars. North-west through south-east. Equal in brightness. I estimated more than 1 arc-second. ST3P said 1.0" and 1.0 delta mag. I could not see the third partner.

Tried again to spot C.

Noted the Moon to the south-east beyond the coniferous. Probably bleaching the sky. Ugh.

12:23. Fell onto 10 Leo Minor. Lovely colours. Orange. Flanked by two blue stars. Noted the bright, light orange 9 LMi nearby, to the north-west. None of these are considered members of a multi-star system. Kinda strange.

Viewed 11 Leonis Minoris from my list. Spotted two faint stars above. Crikey. View again...

Looked again to the south-west. The galaxies were pooched now... Comets pooched.

Decided to wrap up after one more target, near Zosma.

12:31. I had not viewed δ (delta) Leonis before! How about that. Blue-white lucida. At low power I saw the B star to the north, below. At high power, I found the P component. No problem. P is at a 90 degree angle to the outlying flanking stars PPM 101001 and SAO 81724. Maybe a good addition to my double star programme.

12:36. Viewed HD 97561. There's an equally bright star to the south-east that makes a very wide pair. It is between I noted the faint point of light. That was the C companion of STF 1517. The software revealed that the B is a 1/4 arc-second from the prime star. Ah no.

[Haas listed the separation at 0.6 but suggested it was closing. ST3P says the orbit is 4000 years.]

OK. Last object: Jupiter.

Wow. Very interesting! Three moons, all about the same separation from the planet, to my left, about the 8 o'clock position (west side); one moon opposite the others, further, 2 to 3 times the separation. The Great Red Spot was very orange-red, on the 3-moon side, upper hemisphere (given the rotated view). It did look small. Whoa! The view was really colourful! Fantastic. The seeing was extraordinary. Very good surface detail.

12:38. Started to pack up. Noted Alula Australis on my list. Gah. Too tired to proceed.

Table and chair to the deck.

12:42. Temp 3.5, humidity 34. OS said it was going to be sunny.

The little plastic bin was very helpful for cargoing small items—glad I brought it out.

12:48. Rest of the equipment was back inside.


Things forgotten: laptop keyboard light; house keys.

It was a treat to try the Starmaster telescope (from the late-Geoff Gaherty collection). Certainly it was easy to use. The 11" instrument offered good views (at the centre of the field of view). I was impressed with the collimation—it appeared spot on. Didn't have to touch it. I was surprised that I could not go terribly deep with it. Probably the sky conditions.

If I only had a Dobsonian. It certainly allows rapid setup and quick teardowns.

It was a joy to use my neighbour's deck. I could avoid the bright front porch light. I could avoid the parking lot security light. Nearby warm-up hut. A few less steps.

A fun night.

I had really wanted to get some more double stars under my belt.

My only regret was not being able to share.

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