Sunday, March 18, 2018

night 2 in the tent (Bradford)

7:52 PM, Saturday. Back out to the observing tent. Readied for night 2.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Celestron CGEM
Method: Go To
Opened the fly and observing portal. Tied the fly using the integrated straps. They worked very well. I can't remember using them before (perhaps as I put it on in the dark?). The top-centre I needed some help with being height challenged. The screen flap on the observing portal has its own short straps. The small carabiners were very helpful. One more would be perfect, i.e. a total of five, for the parts of the fly that roll back. Put an extra clamp on the side screen door.

7:55 PM. Tuned William Optics focuser. I've been using the lock knob incorrectly the whole time! Tried a 2.5mm Allen key which was a perfect fit. Tested tightening and loosening. Turned it tighter and felt the torque increase. Awesome. Ended up about 1/8th of a turn tighter. Hopefully this would work.

8:01. The automobile battery charger was still on the marine battery but it was trickling. Showing 1.0 amps. Left it in place for a bit.

Trip hazards. Considered rerouting the computer cables but left them as is primarily as the data cable from the mount had to run down the centre of the floor.

Turned on Rhonda's lights.

Checked the OneWorld weather station, inside the "warm room." -2.5°C, 20% humidity, 883 mbar. Never read the Environment Canada weather so I loaded up the Newmarket page. Mainly clear, -3°C, observed at the Buttonville Municipal Airport as of 8:00 PM EDT Saturday 17 March 2018. Condition: Mainly Clear; Pressure: 101.4 kPa; Tendency: Rising; Temperature: -3.3°C; Dew point: -17.7°C; Humidity: 32%. Huh, low. Crikey. Wind: NNW 29 gust 39 km/h; Wind Chill: -11. Tonight. A few clouds -8°C. Sunday. Chance of flurries, 4°C, 30%. OK. Normal low for the year: -5. Sheesh.

8:08. Prepared the computer. Connected the USB serial on the same port as last night. Put SkyTools 3 Professional into red light mode. Activated on the Real Time tab. Loaded my improved observing list and sorted it by transit time. Things in Andromeda, Triangulum, and Pisces looked out of reach. Considered targets in Perseus.

Disconnected the battery charger.

Moved the eyepieces from the tripod spreader to the desk. I wondered if this might avoid dew. I put them left of the ASUS Eee PC. Perhaps the heat venting from the little computer would gently warm them.

Powered up the CGEM mount. Brought it out of hibernation. Entered the correct time. Good to go. Slewed to Pollux. It was not too far off in the image-erect finder scope. Good stuff! Centred on the Gemini star.

Tried to connect SkyTools to the mount. It protested. I checked the Windows USB port assignment and found it had changed to COM4. Connection worked fine after applying the change. Closed and reopened the Interactive Atlas and saw the flashing X. Turned the horizon and meridian lines back on and restored the window size (as usual). Synced on the star.

Noticed the Pollux was a multi-star system and that I did not have a log entry for it! Wow. While here...

With the baader planetarium 36mm ocular, I spotted a faint triangle of stars at my 4 o'clock position. Those are members of the Pollux system. To the east of Pollux proper. The software showed another triangle, bigger, further away to the south. Unrelated. The little nearby triangle was made up of the C, E, and F stars. Cool! Saw something around the 12:30 or 1 o'clock position, not quite as far as the triangle. That was the G star! I could barely see it. Needed averted vision and some patience. Had to look between A and G to get G to show. Burnham 580 G. Crikey. The northern stars of the triangle, C and F, looked brighter than the lower one, E. G was at a 90° angle to the line formed by the C and F stars into A. Could not see B.

Rhonda returned. Asked if she was seeing the Pleiades. Yep. Her favourite. She thought the sky looked better than last night.

8:38. I would argue that F was brighter than C. Hovering over the stars in the atlas ST3P says C is 8.9, F is 10.5, E is 10.5, and G 13.2. Oh and B is 13.7. A lot dimmer. In the Object Information box, the star brightnesses were a bit different: C 8.9, F 10.4, E 9.7, G 13.3, B 13.7. Huh. Again, I thought F brighter than C and both F and C brighter than E. Neat system with some easier elements and challenging companions. OK. The B star I would leave for another day. Done with Pollux. That was fun.

Selected the Notes group and my custom session notes. I have never done this before. I liked it. On hovering over 7 Persei, my note "candidate" popped up. Nice. Gave me some clarity as to why it was here.

Went to α (alpha) Persei aka Mirfak as a waypoint for 7. Synced.

The Williams Optics focuser, after the adjustment, was working really well. Firm. No slippage.

Again I noticed it was a double star system without a log entry. So I dove into for a closer look. Saw a little "cup" of stars at the 1 or 2 o'clock position (north-east). I was off a bit so I used "Sync telescope to cursor" again. The planning app showed B below or south of the primary. Noted the rough rectangle to the east-south-east. And a wide pair of stars at 9 or 10 o'clock. I saw a triangle of stars to the south. The software did not show this exactly; rather, there was a smattering of faint stars. But I thought I was seeing the B consort. It was about 3 or 4 times the distance from the west pair separation and roughly in a line with the top stars of the rectangle. Wow. Faint. ST3P said mag 11.9 for BUP 44 B.

Barkie McBark was released to the neighbour's back yard. Barking at nothing as usual.

8:53. Slewed to 7, a multi-star system, at last. A quick hop. [ed: Don't think I knew at the time that I had viewed this before.]

The focuser was working well.

Busy. My first impression was that it is not a good candidate for my double star project. Not a showpiece double even though right beside h Persei of the Double Cluster. Also there were a lot of field stars so it made it difficult to pick off the companions proper. Noted an orange star. And a big triangle of stars.

The software showed that the companions were dim. And the BC separation was impossible.

Almost moved off but decided to probe deeper, for my personal records.

There was triangle near the orange star. And it was the top apex. Saw a flattened rectangle. A brighter star toward the 8 o'clock position. Not one of the members. Well separated, heading down, to my 6 o'clock, 3 times the distance, heading toward the 7 o'clock.

A and D formed a triangle with a faint star (unrelated) to the south.

I tagged the B (south) and D (south-east) no problem. Noted another unrelated star HD 13910 further past B.

[ed: The "B" (south) star I was referring to at the time is a completely different double: STI 1830. A pair of faint stars, mag 10-ish, with a 10" sep. This is NOT a member of 7 Persei. To recap: I saw 7 Per A and D only. Did not see B, C, or E.]

Headed to θ (theta) Per. From the Coldfield list. Nice. Interesting. Yellow star. At 11 o'clock (north-west), very close, an orange star. That was B. At 10 o'clock (west), about four or five times the distance, a blue star. The C star. Fuzzy? Itself a double? Oh. I was in the tree branches. Was that making for artefacts, diffraction patterns on the stars. Something opposite the blue, a bit further away, quite faint. Not related. A line of four stars below or south-east, running left to right. Nearly empty field. Neat triple with colourful stars. Aka Struve 296. The OI box said A was 4.1, B 10.0, and C 9.5. C brighter than B. Oh and that B was a very long period binary.

Security light went off.

These Perseus targets were getting low...

Next high priority target in Taurus was selected. Not far from the Pleiades. Struve 435 aka HD 23075. Nice pair. Orange? Yellow-orange? Very faint. Nearly the same magnitudes. Easily split while close at 13.5". Pretty faint for a candidate but I'll check the aperture limits. In a group of stars evocative of the Andromeda constellation, a widening V. Interesting.

Spotted a bright star to the 9 or 10 o'clock position. It was 11 Tauri or STU 16. Within a degree. 11 is nice pair. I could see a faint orange star to the north of A. About 4 or 5 times the separation of Σ435 AB (73.7"). Mag 6 and 11. Quite nice.

V711 was too low. M45 with tight and naked eye doubles unfortunately was too low.

9:20. Chose HR 1188. One of my entries in the fast-moving binary list. Nope. Couldn't see anything. Too tight at 0.54". Too low, in the trees. Next?

HD 24992 in Cam. Super faint. All stars were faint including the primary...

Rhonda returned with dry clothes, many layers, poofy, and mitts (which make tent zippers tricky). Again she thought the skies better. Not as windy. Nicer conditions. She liked the blinkie lights. Showed her all the trip hazards. And the dew heater cords.

I told her that the external focuser was back in business. I was very happy about that.

Slewed to the open cluster NGC 1502 in Camelopardalis with a bright pair in the middle. Tiny slew. "Oh wow," she said. A whole bunch of doubles. I shared that it is one of these small open clusters that is also a multi-star system. HR 1260 aka ES 2603. With members up to N and O so 14 or so elements. And there was an unrelated double nearby. And a quad off to the west just out of the field. There was an orange star in the field and a blue one. Pretty neat.

Showed her the photo I had looked up of the Clown Face Nebula.

Special requests? "Something pretty." I asked if she liked open clusters. Suggested the Messiers in Auriga. They sounded familiar. Yep, we had looked at some of them in the fall up north. From the showpieces list, I chose Messier 36, a bit open cluster. "Oh yeah, nice," rho remarked.

She asked if they were related. I suggested that the stars might be very close to one another, maybe 1 light-year apart or less. And if there were stable planetary systems, the night sky would probably be very interesting, filled with many extremely bright stars. That said, solar systems might not form at all given the gravitational forces. If they did, they might destabilise ejecting planets. I commented on the book Nightfall with a six-star system and the epochal alignment of all the stars.

Suggested M37 now to see what was different. Rhonda thought it "nice." Bright star in the middle. Yellowy-orange. "Pretty."

Barkie McBark got riled up again.

I wondered about M38 but I had not added it to my list. Went to NGC 2169 in Orion. I took a peek. Nice. I shared the other name: the 37 Cluster. She saw the pattern although backwards.

Rhonda asked if the street light to the south was new. Nope.

Returned to Auriga for M38. "Looks good." She thought them a lot alike. I thought most of the stars were faint blue.

Rhonda asked if it was Guinness time. Ooh. Great idea. I encouraged her and she headed to the kitchen. But I had to resist. No drinking for my eyes!

I was pleased how everything was working tonight.

9:51. Returned to NGC 1502 aka Collinder 45. Slewed. Had a quick look. I was able to easily spot the stars D, K, and L to the east. I considered that the brightest ones where A and B. N was to the south.

The computer froze. Damn it! Oh boy. Completely locked up. Time not progressing. Mouse not responding. I wondered what happened. Took it down to cold iron... I was hoping I didn't lose anything from the Notepad file. Got things going as Rhonda, bearing gifts, returned. Guinness goodness. She gave me a sip. So tasty! Rhonda thought the sky not as good.

We took in Messier 35. She noted the strands or lines of stars.

She sang...

Is it written in the stars
Are we paying for some crime
Is that all that we are good for
Just a stretch of mortal time

Slewed to the next. β (beta) Mon. An obvious triple with an extremely tight pair. Bright. All very white. In the Unicorn!

We heard an animal chattering. Perhaps a 'coon?

I wanted to do a little experiment. Could we see any of the faint objects around ζ (zeta) Orionis aka Alnitak. We could see the faint C companion. Then I moved to the centre of the Flame Nebula. Nothing was visible. Then I centred to the Horsehead Nebula location. Nothing. Without a hydrogen filter, nothing was visible. Was I seeing faint wisps? No obvious shapes. Boring! Finally, tried nearby Messier 78. Rhonda saw two faint stars. Not satisfying. Boring! Just thought we'd try since we were in the neighbour.

Rhonda spotted Hydra in the software atlas. Not to be confused with Draco.

Briefly considered Leo and Virgo galaxies but then rethought it. Wanted The Cigar but landed on Bode's (M81). Centred with the software controls, synced, then shifted to M82. Shared that a supernova went off in it.

Rhonda asked about the explosion in the NGC 6946 galaxy. I hadn't shot it for a while. It was low this time of year.

It felt cold to me. My left hand was quite cold; I needed to stop taking that glove off. Rhonda's brewski was chilling despite the insulated cup. The OneWorld said it was -4.5°C inside the tent. I could not show the web page after the computer reboot.

There's no time for us.
There's no place for us.
What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us?
Who wants to live forever?

I saw that Leo was leaping so turned to that part of the sky. M95. Not a great view. Yuck. The sky looked grey in the 'scope. Perhaps the sky was going away. Rhonda suggested a break. Warm up. Have a snack. She tempted me with another sip of Guinness. OK.

I saw a tiny blue spark as I touched the 'scope. Oh, that's why the computer crashed. I shocked it with static.

10:32. Headed in.

11:08. Back out. Happy with my progress so far. Considered the next. I was pointing to the east side of the meridian. Returned to NGC 1502. Oh oh.

Lots of clouds to the north-west. Loaded the satellite image. Switched to black and white. Huh. It reminded me of what I had seen earlier in the day. Something rolling in from the north-west. The Clear Sky Chart and Clear Outside sites still showed the sky get worse at 2 or 3 AM. Maybe this system was moving faster with high speed winds.

11:17. Put the lens caps on and headed back in.

1:03 AM, Sunday. Popped out. Clouds! Clouds everywhere. The station said: -5.8°, 20%, 885mbar, 279m. Shut down and sealed the tent. Remembered the recorder this time.

Good pointing tonight. Hibernation worked well. Mount worked very well. No issues. No freezing. Jeez. This error is a totally random one—frustating.

At some point in the evening I decided to not mess with eyepieces. There was the issue of fogging that I wanted to completely avoid.

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