Saturday, January 05, 2019

shot a comet, viewed doubles (Bradford)

Suited up. Three layers (this time) on my legs; five layers on my torso. Even though it was not that cold out tonight...

In the first go-round bringing stuff out, I forgot my eyeglasses.

Did I see a meteor out of the corner of my eye?

Wanted to photograph comet 46P/Wirtanen with my barn door tracker. Readied the Canon 40D with Takumar 55mm f/2 lens on my do-it-yourself barn door tracker.

8:00 PM, Friday 4 January 2019. In the backyard. Different spot this time. Two-thirds of the way south, between the fire pit and the shed. Pretty good when sitting, the street lights were not as annoying. Needed to be a bit south-west so to get the comet. Impacted my Orion angles unfortunately. Neighbours had the blue-white decorative lights on the deck turned on; not home.

8:03 PM. Was shooting the area near the comet. Pretty good focus. Tweaked it a bit. No obvious trailing per se. One minute exposure. Tried 2 minutes.

Thought the humidity was pretty high. I wondered about power for the dew heating. I had considered using the sealed lead acid batteries but had not brought any out at this stage.

Noted a plane in photo. Ah. I heard it. Slight trailing. Rotation? I had not yet done a proper polar alignment... Ugh. More stuff needed. More steps. Ruminated for a while.

Fetched the power tank.

8:15. Attached the 2" anti-dew strap to the camera lens. Used my custom dimmer PWM control.

Performed a precise polar alignment with my new larger chart. The custom alt-az base on the barn door tracker works fantastic! Went quickly.

Checked SkyTools for the exact location of the comet. About 5½ off the nose of Ursa Major, west-south-west of Muscida. Captured more test exposures using Bulb mode. Two and a half minutes, it was super-bright. Ooh. I had turned the drive off. Back on now. Set to ISO 100. Tried another 2.5 minute shot at f/5.6.

Tried field identification comparing the photo to the SkyTools Interactive Atlas chart. Alt-tabbing was acting strangely on the netbook computer. Frustrated.

Realised I had forgotten to do the co-linear alignment check on the BDT. Oh well.

Realised I still had the 2x doubler enabled in ST3P. But I had confirmed my location.

Loosened the ball head and aimed the DSLR a bit higher. Tried another bulb shot.

8:43. Reviewed all the gear to do photography. Barn door tracker, medium tripod, camera, camera AC adapter, extension cord, GFCI power bar. Tether and computer and associated bits and bobs. Battery pack, dew heater gear. Oh and table and chair. Crikey.

Checked field again. Noted a pair at the edge, that had been further up. I didn't move enough. Adjusted the ball head again. Also did a slight counter-clockwise rotation. Programmed the interval settings in Canon EOS Utility this time.

The dew heater did not feel hot... I had the controller at maximum.

8:48. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. It showed 70% relative humidity. Ambient air temperature read as -2.7° Celsius. There was dew on the unit. Said there would be precipitation tomorrow.

Moved up again.

While waiting, I set up Charles's old Meade ETX telescope on the Mamiya tripod.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Mak
Mount: tripod
Method: star hopping
Car pulled in the drive.

8:59. Readied for another shot. Programmed a 5 minute shot. Powered the Meade ETX 'scope while waiting.

The camera was nearly centred on the star HR 3106.

Went to f/4. Saw trailing in the 5-min shot. Dropped to 2 minutes. Changed the ISO to 800. Changed to 1:30. Set the aperture in the EU app.

I heard the west-side neighbour outside. Their dog freaked out until they put it inside. Neither of the humans could control it.

Whiskey tango foxtrot. Astrophotography is so... challenging.

Totally blown out exposure. Stopped down to f/8. Tried again. Darker. Continued to try to get the exposure right...

Found the finder scope fogged on the little MCT. Forgot to cap it.

Rhonda came out to see what I was doing. Comet hunting. But "Cupid and Donner were gone," she said. She asked if I had seen any "inids." Nope. I hadn't been looking up much (sadly). Said they should be emanating from over the house. She thought the sky was grey. Indeed. Low transparency. Wondered where the Moon was; new phase! We talked about weird cinnamon-flavoured and pumpkin-flavoured beers. She asked if I had seen the "snowman" object. You bet. She wanted to put a carrot nose and button eyes on it. She said wouldn't mind returning if there was something really spectacular...

What was going on?! Brain fart. I was going the wrong direction with the ISO.

Finally got a satisfying result. Checked the histogram. Programmed for 25 shots.

Activated the three-panel telescope mode chart thing in SkyTools (the Visual Sky Simulation). Installed the ole Celestron Plössl 26mm eyepiece. Set the time sliders in the Night Bar.

9:36. Ready to start visual observing. Considered targets. I thought Cetus was gone. Andromeda? Below Cassiopeia... So portions were still visible, even though I was closer to the western trees.

Went to the shed for Rhonda's garden kneeling pad.

Grew increasingly frustrated. Hard-to-use finder, telescope-tripod height, object elevation, frickin' trees, high-priority targets out of range, bright lights everywhere, cold and damp, high humidity, old specs, bad eyes, finder out of alignment, a total manual 'scope, everything. Everything.

Reviewed a photo.

comet 46P near Ursa Major

Canon 40D, 60 seconds, ISO 800, daylight white balance, RAW format, Takumar 55mm at f/8, Canon EOS Utility, Digital Photo Professional 3.8, Paint.NET. North is left; east is down.

Panned around but finally landed at the Trapezium. Four stars visible. The nebula was spectacular.

9:56. Aligned the little 6x finder scope. It was way off.

Moved to 42 and 45 Orionis. Wanted to have another look at this wide pair.

10:05. Flattened triangle. Orange star, much dimmer, between them (aka V359). 42 was on the left for me, i.e. the west, in the little Mak.

I had added this pair to my list to view again. It is in the Astronomical League's binocular doubles list. But it was also included in Jerry Lodriguss's naked-eye doubles list. I tried to spot the two separate stars with my old fogged eyeglasses without success. ST3P said the stars were 4.25 arcminutes apart. [ed: Mizar and Alcor are 12.0' apart. And I find them somewhat challenging...]

With the 26mm (so 48 times). 42 looked yellow; 45 was dimmer... blue-white? Maybe? Or was it the same?

Forgot to bring out the binoculars. Easily split in the 6x finder. Pleasing pair, in lieu of bins.

There was dew on the screen of John Repeat Dance. Oregon said: 76%, -2.6°.

Upstairs neighbours got home. Their kitchen light flooded the back yard. Brighter now with the snow. I was a bit further away though.

Capped the camera and started a darks run.

Returned to Messier 42. To enjoy the spectacle.

10:14. M42 was very nice in the small f/14 OTA. Very nicely framed. Intense. The U-shape nebula, the grey cloud, was great. With the Trapezium at the bottom of the U. θ (theta) 2, in the string of 3 aligned stars, off to the right. Extremely large. In super-dark skies it would fill this field. Noted M43 (Messier 43) above, to the north. Small, surrounding a single star. The Great Orion Nebula has a large wing went off to the north-west. Quite big with averted. A tail that went to the south-west. Very nice. Big. Noted ι (iota) below (south).

For my next target, I started moving along the outstretched arm of the hunter. Starhopped from γ (gamma) Orionis.

10:32. Landed on a neat pattern of stars with HD 35038, a boxy C-shape.

[ed: Discovered SkyTools marks this as the questionable open cluster.]

Made it to 14 Ori. Oh boy. A super-tight fast-moving binary. About one second of arc between them. Too close to one another for the 90mm telescope.

Checked the camera. Five to go.

Headed inside for a bit.

Bagged the camera. Packed up the camera gear.

Wanted to revisit ζ (zeta) Persei. Hopefully to get more stars...

11:05. Saw the three stars. The two faint ones below. The D and E stars to the south. D was fainter of the two. A was pale yellow. Hard to get any colour on the dim companions. Maybe D was orange and E was blue. Noted the star opposite D, further out, at mag 10.3.

A bunny rabbit hopped by me, to the south.

Loaded the Pentax XW 20mm ocular. 62x.

The seeing was quite good.

Noted the pair to the north-east. HD 24601, the A and C stars. Two in the view...

ζ is on my candidate list.

Tried the Meade orthoscopic 18mm. Only slightly more powerful, 69x. Could not see any more stars.

Tried for κ (kappa) Leporis. Starhopped south from Rigel. The bottom-right star of a cup-shape with ι and λ (lambda).

11:25. Not a great candidate for my programme. Too tight. 2.3". ST3P said it was "not splittable" at any time. While not an overly difficult starhop, just too tight for a little 'scope.

Wondered about some other doubles in the rabbit constellation...

Oh. Red star! M-class. Went to ι with RX Lep right beside it. Nice. Arrowhead of stars. iota proper was a double but the B consort was 6 magnitudes dimmer and fairly close at 12". I peeked. It was to the north according to my software atlas but I couldn't see in the telescope. [ed: Previously viewed in early 2018.]

Viewed double HD 34071 aka GAL 378 near μ (mu) Lep.

11:36. Yellow and orange. Nice. Separation 38.6, mags 7.6 and 9.1. Ah. The primary was a K2 star.

Accidentally activated the Interactive Atlas. Dang!

Noted Sirius was twinkling wildly. Flashing into different colours like a police car cherry bar.

Took in the huge Winter Football.

11:42. Wondered about The Pup... Hmmm. Eleven arc-seconds away...

I had HR 2358 in my list, the C star of β (beta) Monocerotis. I decided to return for another look. Started my hop and landed at γ.

SkyTools said there was a multi-star system west of gamma. A nearly straight line of 3 stars. Quite faint. This was HD 42924 or A 666. Actually, the Object Information box revealed it was a quad with the B partner less than 1 arc-second away. The C sidekick was a mile away. OK, 230". C and D were too close for the ETX. Intriguing the star between A and C...

[ed: Reviewed the WDS data on A 666.]

Hopped using the ocular again... Carried on east.

When I arrived, I saw a tight double. Changed eyepieces, going from the 26 to the 20mm. No way!

11:52. Whoa! I split the B and C stars of β (beta) Mon! Wow! All the same colour... C was dimmer than B by a touch. B was a tiny bit dimmer than A. When I had the 26mm in I thought at first I was out of focus when examining the B star but it was because it was two stars! Fantastic. [ed: B and C are 3 seconds of arc apart! That's a useful number...]

Went back to the 26. I could see B and C separate! How about that! Amazing.

Now that's good seeing conditions!

Tried to coax out the faint D attendant. Nope.

[ed: Highlight of the evening, right there.] [ed: While I had seen the C star before, never in so small an instrument.]

Headed to Sirius. Looked for the B colleague. Used my flotilla of eyepieces.

Rhonda checked in.

Suddenly I felt tired. My disturbed sleep patterns of late were not helping. I was a bit cool in the torso.

12:10 AM, Saturday 5 January 2019. Done with Sirius. I kept wondering about diffraction mask tricks...

Starhopped from Procyon for 14 Canis Minoris. Somewhat tricky.

12:16 AM. A triple, also known as SHJ 87. Nice. Nearly equilateral triangle. The B and C stars were very faint. I wondered if this item should remain on my candidate list. Hard to get to, the companions might be invisible for some, nothing exciting nearby.

Started packing up.

There was a lot of frost. Checked the weather device: 82%, -2.6°.

Energizer head lamp light was working poorly. Low batteries presumably.

12:30. Hauled the marine batteries back to the house.

Enjoyed a night cap.


Edited 7 Jun '19. Changed 89mm to 90mm for the aperture of the Meade ETX.

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