Friday, July 21, 2017

planets and doubles (Blue Mountains)

Settled into the Geoff Brown Observatory. I had the roof partly open. Installed the dew cap on the Celestron 14 inch. Started the dew heater system.

Checked space remaining and power for the Sony voice recorder. Loaded fresh rechargeable batteries in the recorder, to be safe.

Checked the time stamps on various devices. The ASUS tablet just ticked over to 8:31 PM. Then the ASUS netbook computer did as well. The Sony recorder appeared to be a couple of minutes fast. S'OK.


9:57 PM, Thursday 20 July 2017. Just got off the phone with my sweetie. She was still struggling home. Stoopid traffic.

Finished my vindaloo. I popped outside to quickly check conditions. It was relatively clear. No clouds per se. None in the area. The afternoon wisps had burned off. It was hazy still.

Occurred to me that I did not have astronomy case α in the GBO. Still in the car. I'd need the t-ring and 2" tube for imaging.

Still a ways to go to astronomical twilight.

Noted I had a ton of web page tabs open (from the CHDK research). I started up SkyTools. I put it into red mode. Put my Alcatel phone aside as I did not have a red screen for it.

Before closing the Facebook tab, I noted Mr Park posting lots of remarks on Starfest. Hopefully, the early arrivals would be able to take advantage of the possible good conditions tonight. Someone posted it was currently "Soakfest" with all the day-time rain. I stopped looking at Facebook. Time-sucking, mind-numbing Facebook.

Had a flashback to using Squirrel email when I was doing late-night checks in red light mode. I had set a custom dark theme. Can't do that in RoundCube. Turned off the preview and reduced the window size. Moved the window to the internal monitor.

Congested. Still. Gah. Stoopid sinuses.

Noticed a recent aurora alert. It was to go to kp 5 in the next 4 hours. Huh. I'd have to keep an eye to the north...

Connected my red keyboard light.

Added Polaris to my observing list as a reminder to look north for aurora. Added Jupiter and Saturn. Added the Moon. Added a reference HD 172825 to my evening observing list to serve as a link or gateway to the previously-made double star campaign list. The HD primary contains a neglected star, SLE 235 D, according to the WDS. With the entry I could flip back and forth between the lists quickly.

The whiskey was good.

I had my bug kit ready, for the mozzies.

Readied to fire up the Paramount. Started the Dell laptop. Having this computer out would mean I could later reconfigure the supervisor user accounts with the Kendrick software... Opened the roof. Started Software Bisque's TheSky6.

Occurred to me I did not have my keys for the eyepiece cabinet. They were in the house.

I noted a gravelly noise when I turned the Optec temperature-controller focuser on. That's different. Motor? Gears? But it worked as prescribed: drawing in and returning to the original position. I exercised it. Put it to 3500 and did a graceful power-down. Powered up. All's well.

10:15 PM. Did some double star project checks. Connected the laptop to the mount. While the mount ran through the Home process, I collected items from the house and vehicle.

Put on my eyeglasses strap.

Grabbed some eyepieces: the 27mm Panoptic for the Celestron 14 and the 18mm Radian for the Tele Vue 101. Found both 'scopes loaded with 1¼" adapters.

Slight breeze.

Made TS6 look south. Noted Saturn was left (east) of the meridian and Jupiter, obviously, to the right. Slewed to Jupiter.

10:25. Remembered to check the fire bottle in the GBO to complete my inspection.

Viewed. Jupiter. Seeing was not great. Saw four moons. No Great Red Spot.

10:28. I had been meaning to check the local conditions via the on-site Davis weather station. Loaded the custom page and reviewed the graphic images as of 10:21. The 10-minute average wind speed was 8 km/h. The direction (the thin point) was west-south-west. The immediate wind speed was 8 km/h with a high of 30.6. The humidity was already high at 96%. Oh boy. Dewey. We'd need the heaters at max. Barometric pressure 1012.0 hPa. Just above the low marker. Outside temperature was 20.1°C. Dew point was calculated at 19.4. Pretty close. The house temperature 23.8.

Oh hey! The historical charts were updated! Cool. Friday to Thursday. Hadn't seen that in a long time. All right. Humidity was 100% late Sunday, through Monday, dropped a little bit, spiked Monday night, then started to fall. The barometer dropped Saturday evening and then slowly climbed to Tuesday mid-day. The temperature from Saturday through to today varied between 26 and 15. I was very happy to see the charts working again.

The Kendrick dew controller was running.

I thought of the people at Starfest possibly getting dewed out. If you don't have a dew heater for your 'scope, sucks to be you. Welcome to summer astronomy in Canada.

After some double star target planning, I found I had some time to kill. Considered objects from my July 15 observing plan. SkyTools said Moonrise was at 12:30. Huh? Oops, wrong date. It was New Moon. Astro twilight ended at 11:12. I could go for DSOs then. Unfortunately, I'd be ramping up on my double project.

One of the choices from the list was Antares! A double star system... While the mount slewed, I dropped the south wall panels.

The breeze was lovely.

10:47. Viewed orange Antares with the 27mm. Noted the bright star HD 148563 to the south-east, part of a Y-shape asterism. Noted the pair of stars, with HD 148606, east of the HD 148563. Spotted the faint star, away, to the east, GSC 06803-2124, at magnitude 12.4. But, sadly, I did not see an obvious companion to Antares proper. When I consulted SkyTools and learned the separation was 2 arc-seconds, my heart sank. Such a close partner to such a bright primary would be very challenging. It would likely be lost in the glare. I considered bumping to the Radian 10mm. In fact, ST3P recommended that. I headed to the telescopes to exchange the oculars.

Collimation looked pretty good.

10:53. I thought I saw the partner... Something seemed to be there, to the north-west. It almost looked brown. A very dim brown star in the bright glare of the primary. Brown? It must have been the same colour as A. Considered increasing the power higher.

Checked the Kendrick system. The objective heaters were not running; the eyepiece ones were. Probably due to the temperature differential. I wondered if this would be a problem.

Thought I had the Tele Vue 10mm eyepiece in already; nope, it was the 18mm. Tried the ocular yielding 391x, hoping for an obvious result. Unfortunately, it was very soft. Went back to 217x. Wished I was at a more southern location for viewing this target.

When I compared the view in SkyTools, it showed the B star to my right or west. Noted a triangle of stars to the south-west. Realised it was a bit late in the season to view it. Hmmm. Not a good split. It needs to stay on the View Again list...

Slewed to Saturn.

10:59. A pretty nice view! Still had the 18mm in. Saw the shadow of the planet on the rings on the left (east) side. Thought I saw five moons... in a zig-zag pattern. Noted a star, well off-line to the north-east, bright at magnitude 8.8, about the same brightness as the biggest moon. Titan was south-west, at my 4 o'clock to 4:30 position. A line between Titan and the star would skirt just below the gas giant's north pole. I saw Dione east-south-east. Just for a second I spotted Tethys, quite close, opposite Dione. Rhea was no problem, directly left of the Titan. Went back out to find Enceladus and others... The eyepiece was a little fogged.

Noted a triangle of points well to the west. Oh! That included Iapetus. Seeing got good but I still could not spot Enceladus or Hyperion. Looked for Mimas. No joy. Eyepiece was clear this time.

Reviewed the Canada Day observing list again. Kept ignoring the deep sky objects.

Panned to nearby Sabik. 27mm in the C14; 18mm back in the refractor.

11:18. Sabik, aka η (eta) Oph, was centred. Noted a wide pair at my 6 o'clock to 6:30 position, near the edge of the field (east). I was sure I saw the C and D elements, to the south, to the west respectively. Oh my. Noticed that the AB separation was just over a half second of arc. Headed back to increase the power and wait for good seeing.

I was feeling a little tired. Yawning. I wondered how I would fair later, given the early start today...

Checked the big corrector plate.

11:22. Really tough. Not high in the sky. Marked Sabik to re-observe. C was quite faint, surprisingly so. D was brighter. I guessed the A and B were oriented straight up and down or north-east to south-west. They appeared to be the same brightness. A light cyan colour. Almost a hint of green.

SkyTools showed inconsistent magnitude information on the Interactive Atlas chart and Object Information box:

star IA OI
A 2.4 2.42
B 5.7 3.48
C 12.2 12.2
D 11.6 10.7

Looked like B and D chart values were wrong.

It was already in my View Again list.

11:29. Checked the time.

After a trip to the house, I started my double star research prep.

Amazingly not buggy. None on the observatory floor! Weird.

1:05 AM, Friday 21 July 2017. Popped outside between a drift shot. Thought I heard some voices to the west. Seeing was poor at the 30 degree level. Milky Way was visible. Not great though. Could see the dark rift.

Looked north for aurora. Nothing. Checked the Android tablet. The Widget did not show anything big. Checked Spaceweather web site. Not great. kp 4.

Thought of the die hard Starfesters. They'd be getting a good show tonight.

1:25. While walking between the house and observatory, I thought the sky looked better.

Between double star drift images, I checked the local conditions, as of 1:06. Looked like things, the daily highs and lows, had reset at midnight. The 10-min average wind speed was 4.8. Now coming out of the west. Immediate, 4.8, with a high of 16. Humidity had dropped a bit to 91%. Pressure, 1012.2, at the low mark. Outside temp was 19.6 with a dew point of 18.1. The historical graphs had updated again

3:50. Completed my double star project, collecting the light frames.

Fired up the dehumidifier. Closed the south panels. Closed the roof.

Spotted a super-bright object over the hill. Must be Venus!

Disconnected the Optec focuser software then shutdown the hand paddle. Grabbed things for the house and closed the observatory.

Enjoyed the eastern sky from the walkway. Pleiades, Taurus, and Auriga. Very cool. Nice finish.


4:50. You know the humidity's high when you hear the dew dropping off the roof.

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