Wednesday, April 26, 2017

quickly viewed out back (Bradford)

Checked ISS Detector Pro for the sunset times. 8:15 or so... New Moon! We packed items in the kitchen, lowered the lights, and dressed for cool/damp conditions. Remembered my keyboard light this time.

The grass was wet. Air: warm.

Rhonda and I had finished moving gear outside. Borrowed the Gaherty Starmaster again. My little table flipped, dumping John Repeat Dance on the damp ground. Oops. Good thing I have a solid state drive in the netbook computer now. Put the Dob light shroud in place.

She spotted something in the south, moving east to west. Possibly a satellite; we could not see blinkies. I wondered briefly about ISS passes...

9:07 PM. We were at the telescope. On Jupiter, even though it was in the tree. With the baader planetarium Hyperion aspheric 36mm eyepiece.

She asked if I use my left eye. I could not remember. But I did have a preference.

Explained that using this Dobsonian was manual, completely manual. Showed rho how to grab it and move it.

She noted the 2 points to the right (at 1 o'clock) and 1 to the left (at 7), all in a line. I explained that they were moons. That was impressive. Liked like the orange stripes. "Wow." Rhonda enjoyed Jupiter and its cloud bands.

9:13. Security light came on. I heard a car horn.

Set up SkyTools 3 Professional for the view. Simulated the view. We learned the Io was behind the planet and would emerge from the eclipse in 2 hours. The Great Red Spot should be visible then too. Overall view should be better with it being higher.

Super steady. I briefly explained seeing conditions. Good seeing was good for planets and double stars but usually the transparency would be bad. If transparency was good with poor seeing, then one would go after galaxies. Decided to increase the power. Grabbed the Pentax XW 20mm.

Bree and Joel returned. Rhonda invited them out back.

Intake of breath. "Cool—oh, that's so cool. That's Jupiter? That's Jupiter?! No way. That's so cool! Joel, come look! That's so cool. That's so neat." Yep.

Joel thought it amazing, said that he had never used a telescope. Asked if I set it to a particular azimuth. Similarities to equipment he uses for work. He explained to Bree that the Great Red Spot had be raging since "forever."

They headed to the kitchen to make dinner, apologising about the lights. The stove vent hood light was not bad. Rhonda said she could put curtains up. She's drinkin' the Kool-Aid.

Went to high power with the Tele Vue Type 6 Nagler 9mm. We saw some barges near centre.

Rhonda heading north to find Cassiopeia. Triggered the security light on the way back.

9:27. Considered double star targets. Asked Rhonda if she was ready to go.

γ (gamma) Persei was too low. 14 Orionis would set before 11. Showed her how I was interpreting the Night Bar. That I manually moved the time bars as rough indicators. 16 Aurigae was on the list but the constellation was low and behind the west trees. Procyon, left of Gemini, low, also behind the trees. Rejected some others.

Made a note to build a horizon profile...

Helped Rhonda with star identification. She had found the end stars of the Little Dipper's pot, including Kocab. Explained the dippers were oriented like the yin-yang symbol with one pot pouring into the other. She knew the Polaris-finding trick. We could barely see the handle stars. The bottom of the pot, η (eta) Ursae Minoris, was not visible (magnitude 4.95). Shared that I often used the Little Dipper as a brightness test. She asked about the even pair to the west: the curious stick constellation of Canis Minor, with Procyon. We talked about the magnitude scale.

Decided on γ Sextantis (aka 8 Sex). On my View Again list, in the Fast Movers, also in the RASC Observer's Handbook doubles and multiples list. In Haas's book too (the AB only). But there were not a lot of naked-eye visible stars in the area. Planned the star hop from Alphard. With the low power eyepiece, headed north-east, past the hook, a little line, saw a random pair, made it. In a ladder.

9:46. Asked Hawk Eye to have a look. Asked if she thought it a single star.

Shylow wandered by. Tucker was watching us from the kitchen. Being observed by cats.

When I changed the eyepiece, I lost it, bumping the Dob. Really lost. Went back to the baader. Still lost. Returned to α (alpha) Hydrae. I grew frustrated. Redid the entire hop.

Meanwhile, from her comfy lawn chair, Rhonda took in the whole sky. She recalled Spica. Thought Polaris orange. I checked she wasn't bored. We picked up a faint smell of smoke, like a wood stove.

10:09. By luck, at medium power, I stumbled on the desired double. Asked Rhonda her impression while I took to the lawn chair. She described yellow-orange to the right and blue on the left. She kept switching eyes. "It's a mystery."

When I increased the eyepiece power, again the telescope moved. I had not had such trouble on the evening of the 14th. Finally, got back on target. Tough target. In the trees now.

10:20. Got it! Got the C star. 7 o'clock position. There, where it was supposed to be, very faint. Far distance away. I did not see the γ Sex B element (which is the actual OH suggestion). So, no joy, for us. We could not see the B star at a ½ second-of-arc.

While rho looked through the ocular, I saw a north-bound satellite, beneath the Little Dipper. I noted 5 UMi (at magnitude 4.2). Could see η UMi easily now.

The primary did not look round to me. Or was it that I knew that it was a pair? Almost a 90° angle to C. Perhaps if the seeing went perfect, they'd split? Also, C was inline with the distant stars TYC 5475-0096 1 and HD 85635 to the south-east. AB is a binary system with a 78 year period.

10:30. Checked the Rhonda was OK. I was a nice evening. Discounted Talitha and 11 LMi. Chose HR 3701, a triple, in Lynx, near the feet of the Big Bear. In the Sky & Tel spring romp list. Also on my View Again.

Rhonda asked which way the Big Dipper was turning. If looking north, counter-clockwise. Acclimating to changing perspectives. Later she spotted another satellite.

10:48. Apologised. Too difficult. Gave up. Looked for something easy. Chose 54 Virginis. From the RASC Coloured list. On my View Again. Considered the star hop. It would be challenging with few field stars, about 2/3rds of the way from Spica toward gamma Hya. It was dewy.

10:52. Ha. Hopping with the finder scope, I landed immediately on the target star! (Should set up a software FOV ring for the finder.) That was quick.

Lovely. Increased the power. Nice. They both looked blue to me. Very, very close. Almost the same magnitude. [ed: Haas said both were "gloss white."]

Rhonda soaked them in. I recentred for her. Yellow and blue. Really?!

I looked again. Ah. I saw the yellow. Top-left, the brighter star; pale blue, robin's egg blue, to the bottom-right. Oriented nearly north-south. 5.3 arcseconds apart. I noted the faint random wide pair of stars to the left (west) including HD 114727. Low and not great seeing.

11:01. Asked if she was up for one more. Then we could return to Jupiter.

I smelled her coconut lotion. She sang Harry Nilsson's song. Rhonda curbed the recycling and garbage while I reviewed the evening observation plan. I switched to my View Again list and filtered on multiple stars. Item in Cancer, no. Rejected objects in the fore of Leo; tail would be OK. Found 12 Comae Berenices. Between Boötes and Leo. Ugh. Of course, no bright field stars, a bit of a dead zone. Decided to start from Denebola. A long hop... but I arrived fairly easily. Identified the target within the open cluster Collinder 256.

11:16. Ooh. Yummy. Carefully raised the power on 12 Com. Let Rhonda have a go. Suggested, given our quarry was almost straight up, that it was more of a twisting action to aim the 'scope. I recentred again.

The bright star was yellowy. There was the faint star above (south-east), close. That was C. Then there was a star further along, more to the right (east), making a hockey stick with A and C, same brightness as C: that was D. Then yet another star, further still, unrelated: HD 107793.

I showed the simulation in SkyTools, zoomed in a lot. I was not seeing faint B. Also ST3P was showing HD 107701 right beside A but there was nothing at that location. B should be around our 2:30 o'clock position; the HD should be around the 1 o'clock.

Rhonda pointed out the faint stars to the right or north-east, in a large triangle. This included TYC 1989-0807 1 (12.0), 1989-0788 1 (10.4), and GSC 1989-0896 (12.7). I saw them too. Good.

Then I spotted GSC 1989-0651 and GSC 1989-0316 to the north. Both magnitude 13 stars! Yes. (Deepest I had gone with this instrument, I believe.)

Back to B. I relayed that SkyTools said the companion was close, to the north-east, at magnitude 11.8, but last reported in 1935. Perhaps the Washington Double Star report was in error. Maybe it had moved. And HD 107701? That looked suspiciously like a software error.

Looked again. I was not seeing a star at half the separation of AC. And if magnitude 11 or so, it should be visible, if we were correctly identifying other mag 12 and 13 neighbours.

Put in the high power ocular, holding the OTA steady. Still on target.

Could be that the B star is a variable and is currently dim. Rhonda didn't see anything. Made a note to look at photos...

11:33. What! I saw it! I found the B! Different position! It was at the 3 or 3:30 o'clock angle and slightly closer than what I was expecting. It has moved! About half the AC separation. B has moved a bit clockwise. Rhonda saw it. Fainter than the triangle stars. I thought it fainter than the other stars at magnitude 13. So perhaps B is mag 13 to 14! Maybe 13.5? Very happy!

Time to wrap. Headed to Jupiter, directly, leaving the powerful eyepiece in.

Rhonda said it was super-bright. Indeed. She noted Io. She did not see the GRS, the "eye of Jupiter." She kept trying for the spot. No luck.

I noted Hercules rising over the east trees. Corona Borealis between it and Boo.

I examined the Jovian world. The Great Red Spot (er, Medium-Sized Pale Orange Spot?) was centre, near the meridian. The upper cloud band for us, very pale, very orange in good seeing. Just gotta wait for it to pop. Not as good as 2 weeks ago...

11:42. Rhonda saw it. A bump. Yep. Gave her the medium power eyepiece and let her change it. Guided her on focusing. I started packing up. It would be smaller now, with the lower magnification. She liked the higher power.

We hauled everything inside. Very convenient, very easy.

I inspected the primary mirror for dew. It looked clear. Good.

§

That was a fun evening. It was OK conditions. I was able to set up easily and quickly in the back garden to take advantage of the clear skies. I was able to do a "bit of work," knock down a couple of double stars. It was a treat to have Rhonda join me and help in the hunt. My happy place.

Another exciting bit of this evening's session was that I was able to cross-off one more entry on the RASC Observer's Handbook coloured double star list. There are remaining unseen entries from that list but they are only visible in southern locations. Viewing 54 Vir this evening means I have effectively completed the coloured list.

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