Tuesday, May 08, 2018

viewed Jupiter at opposition (Bradford)

9:47 PM. Readied to do some binocular observing with the loaner Orion Little Giant II bins. Planned to view some wide double stars using an Astronomical League list.

Saw some thin clouds overhead.

Now I needed to get dark adapted... I could only see three stars in Ursa Minor.

Rearranged the lawn furniture.

9:49. Noted Spica. Tried to coax out another star in UMi. Made a note to look at Jupiter later.

Something flashed in the east.

Wispy high clouds. Transparency was not great.

9:51. Pulled up the AL Bino list in SkyTools 3 Professional while the neighbour's cat asked (demanded?) to be let in. I wondered about the source of this list and who produced it as I know there are two AL binocular programmes... Nevertheless, I pulled suggestions from the observing list.

Tried viewing with the big binoculars. Headed to Draco. Shakey! Combined with the slight collimation issue, I could not get good views.

9:58. Headed to the house for binocular support stuff.

Grabbed some mounting plates, washers, big photo tripod, and the Orion slo-mo control.

10:06. Set up the tripod. Retracted the legs so I could use it while sitting. Attached the Orion geared head. Had to invert the binos for best fitment.

Rhonda arrived home.

10:18. The mount under the binos worked well.

SkyTools display for kappa Dra

Viewed κ (kappa) Draconis. Quite high up. ST3P showed it was a variable star proper, not a double. But there was bright stars nearby almost in a straight line. Three below, equidistant. Bright one was blue-white (κ or Flamsteed number 5 proper), second one (#6) was orange, the third (HD 109822) orange-red, the dimmest. One above or toward the zenith (#4). The opposite one was pale orange. About the same distance as the third. Neat system.

[ed: The Astronomical League, in the basic binocular programme, refers to this target as "κ (5) and 6" with a separation of 926" and a position angle of 25°.]

Copied some more suggestions from my various double star lists.

Rhonda whispered "hello" from the window. Hello!

Wait. The middle bright star was yellow. Upon re-examination I thought the star a different colour from my first impression.

10:29. Rhonda visited me. We caught up. She relayed there were cops around the corner. Huh. She remarked it was warmer tonight. Indeed. Headed indoors for a bit.

The clouds were gone.

Struggled with a nasty behaviour in SkyTools. Each time I activated the telescope view or Visual Sky Simulation in the app, it would redisplay the chart with the equatorial lines in the Naked Eye panel. I could not seem to make them go away or permanently save to a different colour. Combined with having to set to the current time, it was very annoying.

10:40. Spotted more stars in UMi. Third one in the pot—ζ (zeta), magnitude 4.3. And the one above the pot—5 at mag 4.2. I could see all the stars in the head of the dragon.

A hog sparked up and departed the 'hood.

10:43. Viewed 39 Dra. Not as hard on the neck. Primary was white; dim companion was orangey-red. A pair of medium bright stars off to the left (or north-east). Lots of faint stars in the field. In a shape of stars not unlike the Sickle in Leo.

10:46. Learned it was actually the Struve 2323 C component that I was seeing. B was rather tight. ST3P showed it was a multi-star system with 6 components and stars labelled to H. Interesting. This would be good to revisit with a full telescope to pull out more stuff. The A-C separation was 90.4 arc-seconds. Tried for F, a mag 11.1 star, at 150", but did not see it.

The west security light was triggered by the arriving neighbours. Many lights on in the house which I was facing. Sheesh.

10:51. I saw Jupiter rising above the trees.

Considered a good target area. Perhaps Ursa Minor?

10:54. Spotted the constellation Hercules. It was above the cedar trees in the east. Oh. Vega was clear.

Tidied the filtered observing list for there were too many items.

It's really irksome when a LED street light, over a block away, shines in my backyard! The new Bradford light fixtures they used are really bad. Far too bright. And poorly installed.

11:06. Stumbled across HD 153557, a very faint tight pair. Actually, ST3P showed this was a triple. The AC pair was 112.1" apart. Equal in brightness. SkyTools showed the AB pair was referred to as A 1874; AC was also known as Struve A 32.

11:11. Viewed 42 Herculis. Saw yellow and orange stars, about equal. Hold on. SkyTools said that 42 Her aka Σ2082 was a double proper but with a close and faint star. The nearby star I was seeing was in fact V906 at mag 6.6.

Rhonda joined me.

SkyTools display for Jupiter

I told her it was "Jupiter Night." It was at opposition. She asked, "So, it's in the darkest part of the sky?" That was an interesting way to put it. Yes.

We agreed it was pretty nestled in the V of the south trees. I put the big bins on the gas giant then offered the view. She saw the three "stars" inline. Easy, three of the Galilean moons. An equally bright point was well away. Moon or star? She asked how many moons there were and was surprised by the high number.

I pointed out the focuser was underneath given orientation of the glasses. When I saw her lifting off the seat, I lowered the tripod head a bit to improve her comfort.

Checked the software and learned that the fourth moon should be visible. OK. I spotted it after a moment! Very close to the disc of Jove. I also saw cloud bands briefly. I thought the three obvious ones were equidistant. From the bottom left (east) was Callisto then Europa. Opposite the planet (west) was Ganymede. She was getting thrown by the glare from the bright planet and the colour fringing. She thought she saw something at the 5 o'clock position but I reminded her they would be generally in a straight line. When I checked, the system was off to the side and there was a lot of distortion. I re-centred and encouraged her to try again. She was not getting a clean circle but rather rainbows and red and blue colour spilling off the edge. Kept urging her to focus, in fact, using the moons. She got it, she spotted Io. "I saw a pin point of light in the sky! Woo hoo."

I though Io was moving away from the planet, slightly further than earlier.

We chatted about various things under the nice sky.

Learned that the distant bright point, in-line with the moons, was ν (nu) Librae. My constellation! The star is mag 5.2, right in the middle of the range of the Jovian moon brightnesses.

[ed: I didn't notice it at the time but the ST3P chart showed the Earth's shadow nearby! Interesting.]

11:43. Rhonda was tired and decided to head in. I started the tear-down. She helped me carry stuff in.

A good evening overall. Lots done.

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