Tuesday, June 12, 2018

completed the Finest (Blue Mountains)

I came up to the CAO primarily to assist Ian W. If I got some observing in, that would be a bonus.

The skies were looking good! Set up in the Geoff Brown Observatory. Transferred lots of stuff from my car into the GBO including camera, barn door tracker, netbook computer, dew heating kit, eyepieces, NOCO battery, and so on. Connected my netbook to the Paramount ME. Used the centre's USB adapter (as I didn't have mine)... [ed: Found mine at home.]

7:49 PM, Monday 11 June 2018. I was ready to go!

And it was only three hours to darkness! Ugh.

8:04 PM. Turned on the mount. Removed the caps.

Looked at the Clear Sky Chart.

CAO CSC for Mon 11 Jun '18

Yes. Lots of blue!

Loaded up the Clear Outside page.

Clear Outside Mon 11 Jun '18 CAO

Also good. Lots of green!

8:10. Pulled the weather data from the Environment Canada web site. For Collingwood. No Alerts in effect. Current Conditions: 19°C. Observed at: Collingwood. Date: 7:00 PM EDT Monday 11 June 2018. Condition: Not observed (i.e. no humans). Pressure: 101.8 kPa, tendency: falling. Temperature: 18.5°C. Dew point: 8.6°C. Humidity: 53%. Wind: NNW 8 km/h. Nice.

The 24 Hour Forecast: Tonight, Clear, 11°C. Clear, Tue, 12 Jun, Mainly sunny, 28°C. Night, Chance of showers, 17°C, 60%, A mix of sun and cloud.

The Detailed Forecast: Issued: 3:30 PM EDT Monday 11 June 2018. Tonight, Clear. Low 11. Tue, 12 Jun. Mainly sunny. Increasing cloudiness late in the afternoon. High 28. Humidex 33. UV index 9 or very high. Night, Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers late in the evening and overnight with risk of a thunderstorm. Low 17.

Overall, looking rather good for this evening. Moonless skies meant I should go for galaxies, faint fuzzies. But the transparency was not looking to be excellent. And the seeing was not high...

8:35. Considered trying to spot the tumbling or spinning satellite in a photograph. So I set up the camera and tripod between the GBO and the Observing Pad. Connected AC power. Aimed north with the fisheye. Connected the intervalometer. Loaded a new/different memory card. Set the 8mm lens to f/8 and infinity. Couldn't recalled a good exposure so I reviewed my notes from August 2015. Programmed a 30 second exposure. Set the camera to bulb, ISO 1600, daylight. Ready to start.

8:52. Ian D, Ian W, Wayne, and myself gathered at the Observing Pad. Helped Wayne with his polar alignment, discussing the alt-az controls.

I wondered about fighting with the camera rig; I wanted to know the expected dew point.

CAO Astrospheric for Mon 11 Jun '18

Astrospheric showed the air and dew temps getting as close as 5 degrees, around 10 or 11 PM. But then the dew point dropped very low... Decided to not worry about it.

9:07. I found the stink in the GBO! A dead mouse on the telescope pier stand.

Went to Jupiter. The telescope was way off target! [ed: I didn't notice it at the time but I had the wrong location in SkyTools.] Went to Venus. Had to sync in TheSky6 to improve the pointing. Returned to Jupiter. On target again. SkyTools seemed OK.

Could see the gibbous phase on the second planet. The air seeing was bad on Venus.

9:19. Viewed Jupiter. Seeing bad on Jupiter. Could see three moons. Two moons in the big 'scope, with the 27mm Panoptic, were "below" or to the west: Europa and Ganymede. Io was opposite to the east. Callisto was way out there.

Yep. Spotted the fourth moon.

9:21. Checked my email.

Reviewed the tumbler messages from Katrina and Chris V as well as the observing notes from Rhonda and I, looking for details, a pattern, times... Wondered when I should start the photo run.

9:28. Continued review. All the observations were around 11:30 so I decided to start shooting about 1 hour before. And that would be an hour from now...

Had another look at Jupiter. The seeing was getting better.

9:39. Yawned. Oh oh. I had not sleep-shifted going into this period. But then I had early starts...

Considered Himalia. It's a rather dim moon around Jupiter but it is in a large orbit, possibly easier to see than Amalthea which is very close to the host planet, and consequently difficult to see through the glare. SkyTools is really good, right? Huh. SkyTools showed it would be visible at 10:55 PM with the C14 with the 27mm! Intriguing.

Remembered the camera memory cards were reaching max capacity. Made a note to clear them out.

9:42. Opened the local CAO weather page. Schlanger. Stale dated. Went to the house to reboot the server. Returned with a snack.

Adjusted the SkyTools site conditions, temperature and humidity. Ran the NOLG to get some evening suggestions.

Tried to connect to the house server from the GBO but couldn't access it. Had someone else changed the system? Or was I using the wrong/old password? Ah ha: the latter. Ensured all the services were running. Logged out.

Davis weather station as of 9:49 PM. Wind: 10 minute average 9.7 km/h; direction SE; instantaneous speed 8.0; high 38.6. Humidity: 53%; was as high at 70. Barometric pressure: 1016.7 hPa. Temperature: 16.3°C; dew point 6.7; inside 22.3. Historical charts had not updated.

Continued working on my observing list. Considered some Arps. Tried "off the beaten path." Pulled from my Caldwell list. Reviewed my View Again list. A good mix, with 91 objects... OK.

Went to the 'scope to have another look at Jupiter. Higher now.

10:32. The seeing was better. Tried for the faint moon Himalia.

Wayne popped in. He reported loosening the large centre bolt did the trick; he was now able to move his EQ mount in azimuth. I opened the SkyShed Pod clamshell for him.

10:41. I started the star trails, time lapse imaging run aiming north-north-east.

Ian W and Chris M were on the Observing Pad.

10:42. Rhonda messaged me. She included a photo of the envelope from the ministry! w00t, it arrived, my volunteer service award stuff. I asked her to open it.

I left the GBO. I was cold.

Ian W came lookin' for me.

10:54. She sent photos of the contents. An attractive colour certificate. Gold pin. Nice!

Returned with more layers on, including long shirt and hoodie. And my toque.

Thought I was seeing the L-shape of stars. Kept trying to identify the star field around Himalia.

Ian W called out, "Bright satellite to the north-west."

The alcatel froze. Crikey. Rebooted the phone.

11:15. I had to perform a meridian flip as I couldn't nudge the mount any further. Then headed by to the tiny moon. ST3P said the moon was 942 arc-seconds away.

Closed and opened the Interactive Atlas to get the blinking X to reappear.

Once again, west was down. Kept searching.

11:24. The meridian flip turned everything upside-down.

Nope. Nothing definitive.

I did pick up the magnitude 13.6 star, GSC 5577-884, to the south. It was inline with a pair of stars to the north and the bright star, PPM 229302. Himalia should have been between. The pair included GSC 5577-367, the brighter star, at mag 12.6; the other star was shown as mag 14.4. Himalia is mag 15.1 according to the software. Maybe below the C14 limit? Or impacted by the conditions. [ed: ST3P says the 14-inch Celestron can go to magnitude 16.1!]

11:30. Adjusted ST3P. Used the IA chart, versus the Context Viewer, to simulate the view. None of the orientations worked, unfortunately.

Decided to go after some deep sky objects.

Moved the ladder and slewed to NGC 4236 in Draco. It looked like an edge-on galaxy. Quite large in the C14 but extremely faint. Oriented north-to-south. Noted two bright stars above or north-east.

11:39. Grabbed the 55mm ocular. Bonkers.

It was a bit better, the view. Barely visible. Something interesting going on in the centre, reminding me of the Cigar. Noted a third star, HD 106925, to the NE.

A Caldwell target. You are crazy Sir Moore. SkyTools said it was magnitude 10.1. Diffuse.

11:43. Ian D visited. Things were working with his SkyTools software after following my advice. He had forgotten to select the Real Time tab.

Chose Hickson 68 in Canes Venatici. The galaxy group was not far away. Slewed.

11:45. It was good to see the Milky Way again. Pinged rho.

11:48. Neat. I saw three little galaxies beside a pair of bright stars.

The two on the right (south) were brighter. They were touching each other. The north galaxy was bigger.

The pair of stars (with HD 121197, mag 6.4, micro-variable) were yellow and blue! Huh.

Checked on the camera. Still clicking away...

Returned to the OTA to spot the other members of Hick 68...

Spotted NGC 5371 with the TV Plössl 55mm. Well away to the east. Near two bright stars. Large. Obvious. Oval.

Learned that the Hickson group was made up of a bunch of NGC galaxies: from south to north, 5353 and 5354, touching, then 5350 (aka Markarian 1485). I had to pan for 5371. I could not see 5355. Nor 5358. None of these were logged! Awesome. That was a good target.

Slewed to the comet C/2015 O1. Same constellation. Spotted the pair of stars to the left (north-west)... Nope. Nothing obvious.

12:02 AM, Tue 12 Jun. Headed to the Blaze Star.

Weird. Nothing there!

ST3P said the magnitude changes from 2.0 to 10.8. Whoa. It has a period of 29,000 days. And the current magnitude is 4.4. Was I in the right area?

Noted the double nearby... Not logged. Hmmm.

12:10 AM. HD 143707, aka H V 75, is pale yellow, almost white, and pale blue, quite dim. Much dimmer. An official double according to ST3P.

There is a tight pair to the south-east of the Blaze Star. It includes PPM 104510. South of it is PPM 104511. Equally bright. Mag 10.9 and 10.6. The numbers didn't seem right.

The Blaze Star showed as mag 6.4 in the chart when I hovered but it seemed dimmer than that.

I liked the little triangle of stars to the east. With Tycho 2038-222 1.


Moved to my next target: γ (gamma) CrB.

12:13. Pretty bright. Eyeballed a little gaggle of stars nearby. Eww. 0.37 seconds of arc. ST3P said it was not splittable. Period of 93 years. Decided to throw some power at it.

The seeing was poor.

12:17. No joy in the 27mm.

Slid to θ (theta) in Corona Borealis. Could not split it either. Separation: 0.8".

Felt tired. It was getting close to 12:30.

Considered high priority targets.

Big slew. Headed to Arp 330 in Draco.

Wayne peeked in. He surmised I was around. He had completed his polar alignment with satisfaction but was tired. He needed to get into town. We headed to the pod to close the lid. Afterwards I went to the Pad.

Mars was up! Saturn in Sagittarius. Scorpius was quite high.

Chris M was not on the Pad; I noticed red light coming from the THO.

12:44. Oops. It helps if you take the lens cap off when you're shooting a time lapse... 211 accidental dark frames!

Mmm. Hot chocolate.

The Arp group was very small. Near a bright star. Could not see anything. Nearby pattern of stars reminded me of a Space Invader sprite.

Rejected Messier 62. Too low.

Slewed to Saturn. Nice. Nice to be back on the ringed planet. Lots of moons buzzing around the nest. OK view; not great.

12:54. Looked for candidates on the east side of the meridian.

Tried panning around the region...

Stumbled across Messier 22 (M22). An oval shaped globular cluster. Very nice in the refractor. Not round. Quite bright. Near a funny triad of stars with 24 Sagittarii. ST3P showed lots of doubles within (or ahead of) it. Huh. I'd expect that of an open cluster... Must be close. Didn't have the patience to dig out the doubles...

Tried panning in the direction of the triad and beyond to reach M28. Fell into the Lagoon or the Trifid. An open cluster (on the left) and diffuse stuff (right). Saw lanes through it.

Did some more panning.

Bumped into it, NGC 6520! A small cluster in the 55mm in the C14. Orange star. A double (HD 164562). A bit of nebulousity? Quite small in the Tele Vue refractor. To the north-west, there was this orangey star. Noted a string of stars.

1:15. Nice. Blue white stars in the cluster, aka Collinder 361. Neat alignment of about three stars, equally bright. Seeing was not great. Plus really faint points. Streamer to the south-west. Equal pair to the north-east. Lots of stars in the field. At low power, a streamer off to the right. Really neat.

Went out for one more look.

This view of NGC 6520 marks the final NGC in the RASC Finest list! That was very exciting to tick this box.

I closed the observatory.

1:25. Concluded the imaging run and brought the photographic kit into the Warm Room.

Ran into Ian W.

1:30. Shut down the computer.

Locked the GBO. Headed to the house. In short order, I crawled into bed.

1:51 AM. Thanked Rhonda. My feet were warm tonight. Planet socks rock!


Enjoyed Perez's sketches of NGC 6520.

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