Thursday, June 08, 2017

Moon, planet, and stars (Bradford)

9:22 PM, Wednesday 7 June 2017. Outside, ready to go. Camera outside. Dobsonian was set up with Wildcard Innovations Argo Navis digital setting circles. I needed to read about the alignment process.
Instrument: Starmaster 11-inch Newtonian
Mount: Dobsonian
Method: digital setting circles
The June bugs were buzzing all around. Some were nestled in the grass. Reminded me of the static-like crackling noise under wet high tension wires.

Clear Sky Chart for Wednesday evening

Conditions were looking good as alluded with the Clear Sky Chart. (Thursday looked good too.)

Had to remove red film from the netbook screen so to be able to read the Argo Navis User Manual. Someone decided to render text shown on the hand controller display as red. Duh. It was impossible to read. I wondered if I could make a black and white copy...

I saw a bat.

Aimed at Jupiter. A nice view in the baader 36mm!

9:42 PM. Headed to the house to call Rhonda. She was chatting in the kitchen. Apologised for interrupting.

At the telescope, rho said she said she saw three points. I encouraged her to look closely and to have a seat. "I thought I was looking at the Moon a minute ago with dots on either side of it." I was distracted and missed her reference to the Moon. Again I encouraged her to look closely. I got her to examine the first point to the right. She thought it fuzzy. We set the seat height on the astronomy chair to better suit her viewing position. "So I'm looking at the one on the right that's closest to the Moon. And I'm supposed to notice something different about it?" I missed it again. Urged to finely tune the focus, using the moons. "Well, I got as close to I can focusing on the Moon. I don't know what you want me to see." I missed it yet again! "Two moons," I said. "Like a double star." Totally not listening.

9:48. Oops. I realised she thought it was the Moon in the telescope. I said we were looking at Jupiter and its four Galilean moons with two essentially on top of one another. We were clear now.

9:50. I bumped the power. Went to the Pentax 20mm. Pretty view. The seeing was amazing. Rock steady. rho thought Jupiter looked great. She enjoyed the cloud bands. Now the two moons were easily split. Very nice view. Rhonda thought the seeing was very steady. And that meant we could go with even higher power. I grabbed the Tele Vue 9mm.

9:54. Shared with Rhonda that I was using digital setting circles to help me with pointing. Very easy to use. Fast. Hopefully I would avoid repeatedly getting lost this evening.

I noted dark region near the meridian, in the lower band. Possibly a shadow? Or a barge?

9:56. "Oh wow! Very nice. That's pretty amazing." She liked it. Encouraged her to focus, again with the moons. Then nudge the 'scope so Jupiter would drift through the field and then let go of the 'scope. Then just watch and soak it in.

I identified the Jovian bodies using SkyTools 3 Pro. Io was to our left, Europa and Ganymede were on the right, together, and Callisto was far off to the right (or east). ST3P did not show any moon shadows.

Tried to eyeball Saturn but it must have still been low. I thought we'd probably have to wait an hour or so. ST3P said it was 22 degrees away from the Moon.

Jupiter looked incredible in the amazing seeing. The upper belt was divided with a light region in the middle, right (east) side of the meridian. Colourful! Swirls and eddies.

10:00. June bug bounced off my head.

Rhonda asked how close she should get to the eyepiece. I didn't think it mattered in the end. You can go close enough that the rubber cup touches you, then the eyepiece presents the full view, which is a fairly wide field. But I usually didn't do that, I viewed back a bit. A disadvantage to sticking your eye all the way in on a Dobsonian was the risk of moving the tube.

Considered the supernova. It was near Cepheus. Again, a late-night object. Should be visible in an hour or two. Before bedtime.

Rejected targets over the house particularly with the top-floor neighbour's light on.

Rhonda headed inside for water.

10:09. Fantastic seeing.

Choose PPM 225935, near Jupiter, for my target. When I discovered it did not have a SAO number, I thought about star hopping to it. It would be a long hop from Jupiter; be better to begin at δ (delta) Corvi aka Algorab. Loaded in the 36mm ocular. Oh. Maybe I could look up Algorab in the Argo Navis.

I could not find a list or catalogue of named stars. There was Bright Stars and Double Stars. There was no SAO catalogue. I found the RA Dec option! Wow! Freaky. I headed to 12h30m and -13°31'. Way easier than star hopping. The DSC system also meant that bumping the 'scope would be less an issue.

Rhonda returned with travel mugs.

She asked if she could look at the Moon in the 'scope. I cautioned it would melt her eyeball. OK. Not really. Would she be able to see anything? I pointed out that we were a day or two before the full Moon so there should be some craters and mountains visible at the terminator near the eastern limb.

Rhonda pointed straight up and asked if she was seeing Draco. She was looking toward Boötes. Also known as "booties."

10:20. Hell. Faint. Freaking faint! ST3P said the PPM 228935 stars were in the low magnitude 11 range. Nuts! A hard double. No colours per se. Wow. I could not split, at 1.6 seconds of arc, sadly. Marked to view again.

I could see two stars in rho's eyes, reflections of the big Moon. She broke into song. "When the Moon hits your eye..."

10:25. Considered objects in Leo but only the rump was visible above the trees. I noted the custom horizon outline in SkyTools was off a bit. Showed that feature to rho.

She asked about the backyard view on her iPad. I had demoed it interactively in Stellarium on John Repeat Dance and SkySafari on Ananke. I didn't think she had an astronomy app; it was likely a screen snapshot I had shared. rho walked to the front to check stars to the north.

10:28. Decided on 17 and 15 Canum Venaticorum. Used the RA/dec coordinates with the AN again. This system was on my View Again list. While I had seen 17 (the A star or primary) and 15 (the B star) before, I had not split out the C element, which was near to B.

Rhonda reported seeing a satellite. That reminded me that the International Space Station was due soon. It would start around 10:46 and get near the Moon at 10:52. About 15 minutes. A treat. She spotted an airplane above the Moon.

I checked the software to determine which star was which. The right-hand (easterly) one was 17 CVn. It looked brighter to me; 15 was slightly fainter. I invited rho to check out the wide, easy double. I asked if she saw colour—she knew I was going to ask. I thought they looked the same, blue-white; rho thought 17 was warmer. Really? I looked again. OK, it could be pale yellow while 15 remained blue-white. There ya go.

Rhonda set up her hammock for some Moon bathing.

10:41. Yellow and orange. Split HD 114146 aka Σ1723, north-west from 17-15. Ah, previously logged. The 6" separation was quite doable though tight in the StarMaster. They looked yellow and blue at higher power. [ed: Found this on my SkyTools View Again list. Removed it.]

Tried for 17C. I was not feeling hopeful given the 1.2" sep. Increased the power. Nope. Could not split...

10:47. Readied for 78 Ursae Majoris. Went back to the low power eyepiece.

When Rhonda returned I bull's-eyed the Moon for her. I think she liked it. "Whoa. Holy! Oh my goodness. Oh, wow. Wowzers. That's amazing."

I went in for a sweater. A smokey sweater.

She was a little perplexed by the view. I explained that while my (SCT) telescope created a flipped, left-right view, a mirror image, this (Newtonian) telescope showed a rotated view, turned 180°. I suggested a check: the Sun was over in the west of course, it was illuminating the right edge of the Moon, but in the telescope the rough edge, with the shadow effects from the terminator, was on the opposite side.

Rhonda spotted the space station going over the Moon but when I looked it was gone. Missed it! I had not heard the programmed alarms as my tablet was indoors. Where was my smartphone?

Some of the craters were amazing. Tycho and its huge rays were bright. There were a couple of small but extremely bright craters.

Bree called out getting ready to hit the hay. We invited her to have a look. "Oh my gosh it's beautiful."

I offered up Jupiter at high power. Bree liked it too.

On a lark, I asked the Argo Navis where Saturn was. Crazy low. The OTA was almost horizontal.

11:01. I headed to 13 01 by 56 22.

The air was moving slightly, echoed by the wind chimes.

ST3P calculated the split of 78 UMa at 0.9 arc-seconds as of April. Ugh.

Medium power. Continued star hopping. High power. Could not cleanly split them. Decided to try the Meade orthoscopic 4mm! Such a tiny FOV... Gave up on 78.

11:22. Rhonda checked in. I was struggling.

I re-aligned the Argo Navis. Offered the view of Vega to rho. Part of the Summer Triangle. Headed to η (eta) CrB.

No chattering raccoons tonight, thankfully.

11:36. Wanted to show rho something fun. Asked if she had looked at the Double Double before. It didn't sound familiar to her. But then we had viewed the Ring Nebula...

11:41. Spotted KZA 86 A and B south-east of eta CrB. A very faint, colourless pair. There was a nearby star to the west that made KZA 86 seem part of a thin triangle. [ed: Previously logged.]

Crikey. Saw η Crb C. Saw D. Magnitude low-12 to 13 stars. But I could not tag B...

It was quiet as I aimed to the ε (epsilon) Lyr. At high power, rho thought it really neat. I noticed that SkyTools showed it was a 9-star system. Huh. I didn't recall probing deeper before.

She was getting tired. OK. Where was Saturn? Right in the trees. Still, I centred on it. It was soft but I could clearly see the rings and a couple of bright points. Increased to medium power. I warned rho to put on more socks.

11:51. Rhonda was very impressed.

I suggested she come back after washing up. Hopefully it would clear of branches...

Put on my bug spray.

12:00 AM, Thursday 8 June 2017. Targeted γ (gamma) Coronae Borealis.

Rhonda returned. While not free from the trees, I found Saturn, happily, briefly, in a clear space! Spotted some moons, two or three. Quick! Raised the magnification. She had not put more socks on. She liked it, enjoyed seeing the whole ring system. Titan was below, to our 7 o'clock. I directed her to other moons but I think the view had gone soft again, occulted by pine needles. And the seeing went off.

Rhonda asked about when Saturn would be visible. I did not explain it well at the time. It is not strictly an annual event.

I could see ζ (zeta) Ursae Minoris despite the light pollution from the Moon... Mag 4.3.

She headed to bed. I obliged to keep the "holy nut butter" exclamations to a minimum.

Re-checked the location of γ CrB.

Considered Sabik. Too low.

12:22 AM. Remembered the extra stars around ε Lyrae.

Immediately after aligning the AN, it worked great. But it seemed to drift. I wondered about adjusting or improving the alignment afterwards...

With the 9mm, I spotted many stars. E and F were between AB and CD—almost exactly between. E was brighter, closer to CD, lower (for me, or more to the west); F was dimmer, closer to AB, and eastward. I needed averted often to get F. G? It was tough. Occasionally I'd see G, below E, about the same distance from F, almost opposite F. ST3P said it was mag 13.2. The I star was easy, bright, further I above F. Really interesting.

12:31. H was not showing in the Context Viewer screen; I switched to the Interactive Atlas. Ooh. Very faint. Right (or north) of G. The ST3P chart said it was 16.2! The OI box said 13...

Noted a faint double to the east. ST3P showed it was actually it was a triple. SAO 67349 aka β51. The primary star was bright; the B and C associates were quite dim and angled toward the Double Double.

Noted the time. Wondered if I should wind it up soon...

12:46. Finally got 'em, ε Draconis. I had been accidentally aiming at stars in Cepheus. Golden and orange. Quite tight. Very different magnitudes. The B colleague was to my 1 o'clock, i.e. north. Very nice. It was really hard to tell the colour. The same, perhaps? A pretty barren field. This pair is in the RASC multiple star list. [ed: Haas says Sun yellow and powder blue.]

Just remembered the supernova SN 2017eaw. I was not far away.

At first, I thought of hopping from Alderamin then eta but when I spotted eta naked eye, I put the 'scope there.

Lots of doubles in the area!

Put in the 20mm so to minimise the jump.

Used the craggy line of stars to the west to verify my location. The galaxy NGC 6946 was just right of the small triangle of stars (with Tycho 4246-0779 1).

Raised the eyepiece power with the 9mm.

12:56. I thought I could see the galaxy, faintly...

The supernova should have been between the inverted triangle to the south and double (with Tycho 4246-0473 1) to the north.

Adjusted the SkyTools software to remove distractions. Customised to the Interactive Atlas. Added more stars.

The SN was almost inline with the bottom of the two stars on the right and the top two triangle stars on the left. No... slightly above. If I extended a line from the bottom right star through the supernova it was just above the triangle.

Slightly closer to the double.

ST3P said it was magnitude 13.

Done. I started to pack up.

1:01. Continued packing. Staged telescope items on the back deck while the camera continued shooting. The Dob was too heavy to move as one piece. Packed up the camera gear. Moved items indoors.

Bonked the door frame at one point and something fell in my mouth! Ew! A bug. Turned out it was a small spider. Blech.


A good session overall. About 10 things observed. Sadly, did not have a lot of luck with some fast moving binary stars.

Good conditions. Quite good seeing. Low humidity. Just had to contend with the stoopid Moon.

It was super-fun showing Saturn to Rhonda.

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