Sunday, October 01, 2017

couple of DSOs before fog (Big Hawk Lake)

Took my telescope to Big Hawk Lake. Borrowed the mount.

Friday was clear but I didn't set up. Started the integration on Saturday afternoon so to take it slow and easy. Scouted about the yard.

gear (most of it) unloaded from the car

3:02 PM, Saturday 30 September 2017. I preferred the "front" yard, on the lake side.

I found the dovetail bar attached to the Celestron 8" SCT was too small for the Celestron DX saddle. Had to MacGyver it. Located a 1x½" piece of wood to fill the gap. Strapped it down with hook-and-loop wraps so it couldn't buckle up.

setup (stage 1) complete - note the stick protruding

4:07 PM. Completed the setup.

When I did a test alignment, I heard the RA motor straining. Checked the balance and found it way too top heavy. I had brought two 5-pound weights thinking it would be plenty.

counter weight (aquatic) on mount (telescopic)

6:05. Considered a rock in a sock but settled on the 10-pound anchor roped on RA shaft! Wow.

Installed the baader planetarium 36mm aspheric wide-angle eyepiece.

Put many items under the deck, cases, books, etc. hopefully out of the dew.

Looked up the exact latitude and longitude. Levelled the tripod. Used the compass to get the base roughly pointed to true north.


Set the mount to track the Moon.

Wondered if it would every clear the trees from the location I had selected.

7:21. Looked up the immediate azimuth (148°) and altitude (21°). I estimated I needed the Moon to go 20° to the right and 10 up. At 8:20, SkyTools 3 Pro said the Moon would be at 163 and 26; at 9:20, 178 and 27. Hmmm.


After our late dinner, I headed out to complete the polar alignment. Initially, Jackie and Rhonda helped but then they headed down to the fire pit. The neighbours to the south-east had a fire going too.

10:57. It was really humid. Dew covered the eyepiece case, the glass plate on the dock, the telescope tube.

I finished the polar alignment using the app on the Android.

Activated Rhonda's tiny red LED light string.

The mount motors struggled from time to time with the imbalance so I had to help by holding or pushing the optical equipment.

11:05. Tried to complete the star alignment but I had set the mount too high. And I had forgotten to align the finder scope.

11:12. Grabbed a patio chair to help me view through the finder scope at the top of the OTA. Then I was able to continue the two-star alignment.

11:18. Added a calibration star. But worked blind. I expected the model to be off.

Chose the Double Cluster (aka NGC 869 and 884). The pointing was indeed off. Eyeballed the location.

I was feeling a little out of sorts.

11:22. Final got to the Double Cluster just as Rhonda called up. She and Jackie walked up from the fire.

11:23. I hit the Enter button by accident causing the mount to slew. Given the pointing was off I lost my target. But I was able to get back to it quickly the second time.

Rhonda asked about my binoculars. I had put them on the steps from the deck. We unpacked them. Before going to "back yard" by the driveway to see the Moon, I had them take a look.

11:26. Jackie viewed the two clusters. She enjoyed the Double Cluster. We showed her how to focus for her eyes. She struggled a bit with staying in the ocular's sweet spot; she kept shift off axis and everything went black. I encouraged her to bob and weave a bit and then brought over the astro chair to lean against. That helped.

Asked if they could see colour. None per se.

11:29. Rhonda really enjoyed Caldwell 14. "Look at them all," she exclaimed, viewing the two groupings for stars, one on the left, one on the right.

Jackie said she was happy to find Cassiopeia in the sky. A new constellation for her toolkit. I had also shown her Cepheus, the upside-down house. I used the green laser point to draw the constellation out for rho.

They then headed "back yard" to do some bino Moon gazing. I went inside for a bit.

Put my winter coat on. Found deep red flashlight! I had not seen it for a while. It was in the red shopping bag with the coat. Yeh.

11:35. When I returned to the telescope, I thought the tracking looked OK.

11:36. Considered syncing to improve pointing. Pressed the Back button multiple times to return to the main menu. Then hit Align. The hand controller presented various options like Alignment Star, Calibration, Polar, plus Sync. I chose Sync and hit Enter. Used the coarse and fine movement techniques.

I thought the eyepiece view OK. It did not seem dim or fogged even though it looked like it was at 100% humidity. I was worried about the dew on the corrector and the ocular. I had the 8" Kendrick heater; I had forgotten the 2" eyepiece heater. I had the Type IV controller on maximum. The wraps did not seem very hot.

11:38. The neighbour's guests departed. I watch the green and white lights drift across the lake. I couldn't remember my boating sidelight orientation clearly.

I noted some clouds. I could not see Perseus at all! Damn it.

11:41. Slewed to Albireo, helping the struggling mount. When it completed, I thought the OTA was low. Using the chair again, I put the double star in the centre of the finder.

11:44. Synced again.

When I walked to the back yard, I found the Moon was too low. Rather the trees too tall.

11:48. Returned to the 'scope. Checked over the mount. The hacked dovetail clamp was holding; the hacked counter weight was OK. Rhonda's LED light string was pulsing away. The dew heaters once again didn't seem hot enough. I heard Jackie and Rhonda in the distance, drawing closer. I saw that Perseus was back. Put the SCT cap on while I waited for them to return. The eyepiece cap was on. The neighbours had gone quiet.

11:51. The happy Moon lookers returned. They had found Luna in the binos once clear of the trees, a couple of cottages over. Unfortunately, the Bushnells fogged up. They had spotted the Big Dipper, low over the trees.

They wanted to know where Auriga and Capella were. Below Perseus. I thumbed the laser. Rhonda did not think Capella as yellow as other times.

11:57. She noticed mist on water. And it was getting worse given the lack of breeze. Did not bode well for astronomy; Jackie liked it. We all agreed it was eerie.

I was feeling a bit bad. Last night had been good but I had not set up. Was kicking myself.

11:59. After I removed the caps, rho had a look at Albireo. Two bright stars just right of centre. She called Jackie up. She really liked the double star in Cygnus. She described the top star as orange with a blue one on bottom. Rhonda was happy for Jackie seeing stellar colour.

We talked about double stars, the different types, etc.

We lost the sky sadly. And Jackie was cold.

12:08 AM, Sunday 1 October 2017. Jackie called it quits and headed inside while rho and I went down to the fire. Stoopid fog. Stoopid hobby.

Told rho about once losing the SCT cover in the drink...

We took in the whole sky, such as it was, from the pit, mist and fog and clouds coming and going. I assured rho we were not seeing aurora over the cottage roof; just clouds reflecting light.

12:20 AM. We viewed delta Cephei. Rhonda thought it at minimum. In fact, it was a tiny bit dimmer than "top" star (epsilon).

I shared that this was the first official time using rho's red LED lights. I liked the random pattern. I particularly liked that system used "regular" batteries versus coin-style lithium (or some other nasty metal). Told her about Phil's mild protest in Merritt. I feel they'll be a hit at public star parties.

12:28. Told rho about the trick of putting the bins inside one's jacket. Warm 'em up.

12:31. We decided to head in. The sky was not really improving. Earlier, I had planned to go to the Dumbbell but now it was too low.

Said it was OK to turn the cottage lights on. I slewed to a good orientation and hibernated the mount. I headed to the car to get blankets, a tarp, and the clips.

12:37. Powered off the mount, installed the polar scope caps, covered the 'scope.

Took stuff inside including the recorder and computer.

12:42. Inside, I turned the recorder off.

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