Saturday, June 08, 2019

observed after midnight (Bradford)

It was late. Rhonda had offered me a beer during the game. I was tired. But the skies were very good. I didn't want to waste 'em. So I suited up.

Set up in the backyard but this time near the shed. No distant street lights hitting my eyes. It was a good spot.

Maksutov on big metal tripod, computer on table, bench moved near to me, eyepiece case ready, carry-all case handy, deep red torch ready, astronomy adjustable chair up. Put on bug juice.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Mak
Mount: tripod (with tracking motor!)
Method: star hopping (with angle finder!)
Added the dew shield to the OTA.

Did not know where the Oregon weather station was. Probably still inside... Forgot the ETX battery pack. Oops.

12:10 AM. Did not yet have the red film on the LCD panel of John Repeat Dance. Installed it. Switched to my new observing session planning list. Applied the filters in the app including the start and end time constraints, 11:30 to 2:30.

Warmer tonight. No long johns. No hat. Only three layers on top.

Examined the sky. Lyra was well-positioned.

Aligned the finder scope. Right angle finder continued to work well. Changed the diopter again.

12:28. As per usual, loaded in the ole Celestron Plössl 26mm. Aimed at Vega and friends, the Double Double, and ζ (zeta). Hey, let's check out The Ring.

Messier 57 (M57) was a decent size, especially with averted vision. But dim. Clearly a donut, ring with a dark centre. But very faint. The Meade does not have a lot of light-gathering power.

OK. Let's get to work.

12:33. Two in the view! HR 7272 (Σ2474) south and HD 178849 (STF 2470) north. Almost the exact same alignment. Almost the exact same separations. Neat! Good for my candidate programme.

The 178849 pair was yellow and blue or blue-green. 7272 was fainter, yellow and orange. The secondaries were both about the same brightness (8.6 vs 8.3).

Seeing was not good.

SkyTools 3 Pro made it look like upper (north) pair were slightly tighter but I thought they looked the same. 178849 was 13.6 seconds of arc vs 7272 at 15.8. ST3P said the 178849 primary was 7.0 whereas 7272 was 6.7.

Welcome to Saturday. I checked the Oregon weather station even though it was still acclimating: 48% humidity, 14.1° temperature. Oh, as I watched, the RH climbed to 49%.

For the first time, I used the checked entries mode for the Visual Sky Simulation chart; I've only ever used it with the Interactive Atlas.

Reconsidered my targets. I had used the high priority setting in planning this session. Everything in Lyra was not high priority. And already logged.

12:49. Got lost so restarted the star hop from the triangle of Lyra. Arrived finally at η (eta) Cygni. Noticed an open cluster nearby, NGC 6871, so I headed there. Cool!

My back felt cold. Put on three more layers. Put on my winter beanie hat.

Boat-load of stuff in the eyepiece...

1:00. Carefully examined the cluster elements.

Bright 27 Cygni was at the top of the field for me, nearly the 12 o'clock position, or north-east.

There was an obvious wide double in the centre of the open cluster, south of 27 Cyg, with the primary noted as V1676 (suggesting a variable). Hosted an 8-star system!

Down and right of the wide pair was another doublet, south, about half the separation, with HD 227634 as the lead. Light skewed to the right or clock-wise.

Grabbed the 9mm. Really, tonight I ensured I had the Tele Vue 9mm Nagler Type 6.

Checked the pocket weather unit: humidity still climbing, currently 56% , air temp seemed to be flattening out, currently 11.8°. The air pressure was steady. Clouds tomorrow...

Dove deep.

1:03. V1676 is also known as Burnham 440. The bright partner to A, to the north, was the F star, aka SHJ 314! Fascinating. A and F were nearly equal in brightness. The software chart showed other stars, faint stars, being visible nearby...

At 48x, I could not see any other components. Resisted high power for a moment.

Checked HD 227634, the tighter canted pair, aka SHJ 315. I was thrown off a bit by the display in the software as it was showing a D star (SAO 69404). Was it part of some other system? This in fact was the companion. Simply put, the tight couple in the middle of NGC 6871 is SHJ 315 A and D with dimmer D to the south-west. ST3P did not list B or C.

Remembered to do some limit checks. I could see nearby V1820 at magnitude 10.8.

Installed the high magnification ocular. 139x.

1:13. Spotted star D to the left (north-west) of V1676. Much dimmer. Didn't stand up to direct but was obvious. Software said it mag 9.6 or 9.7. That didn't seem right.

I was seeing stars beyond the chart display this evening. I went into the SkyTools location profile and changed the air temp (was 0°) and the humidity (was 75%). Seeing was set at "good." Ah ha! More stars were rendered. It was better.

I noted the stars Tycho 2682-0316 1 (mag 11.0) and GSC 2682-0424 (11.1) to the west of BU 440.

1:18. Opposite SHJ 315 from BU 440, to the south-east, was BEW. I could see dimly the A and C stars. Magnitudes 11.2 and 11.0. It was actually a quadruple system. Hey, C was noted as Berko 82.

Well that was fun. I decided to not go any deeper into the open cluster. Offering BU 440 on my candidate list would be good, satisfying a few of my wishes for the programme.


Spotted Cassiopeia in the north-east clear of the trees. Would not have been able to enjoy that from the location used the last two nights.

Back at low power, I could still see the dim D star. About 1/3 or 1/4 the AF sep. Pretty well a 90 degree angle to the AF line. [ed: AF is 34.7 while AD is 11.0.]

1:26. Nice double, HR 7529. Nearly equal. White and orange. White and blue? Almost left and right for me (east-west). Milky Way field. Lots of faint stars. Attractively close at 48x. A and B were easy.

[ed: Haas says "pale lemon (and ) greenish white."]

Learned that STF 2578 was a multi-star system! The curious star to the far to the left or west was designated the F escort (mag 9.1). I went looking for the C...

Spotted 10.9 mag star Tycho 2668-0477 1 west of the F star.

Increased the power.

Spotted a star south of AB. SkyTools said this was GSC 2668-0049 at magnitude 12.5. Wha? [ed: Poor quality data.]

C did not make an appearance for me. D was not shown on the screen. [ed: The Interactive Atlas shows D as a mag 13.6 star. C is 11.5 as I hover. Should have seen it...]

Good stuff. A target never logged.

Done my high priority items in Cygnus. It was well up now.

Aimed to the south. Ophiuchus. Star hopped from Marfic.

1:42. Glanced at the Oregon. Whoa. Big jump. 68%! 11.2.

Targeted 19 Ophiuchi. Arrived at a big F-pattern of stars. The F was canted over. Nothing obvious at first glance... Learned that 19 was the bottom, southern star. Yellow. At first I thought there something, an extremely faint orange partner to the left.

With the 9mm in, it was clear there was a faint partner widely to the right (east). Nothing to the left. That was the B companion to 19 Oph (aka Struve 2096). Noted a faint star below. South. Nearly due south. A titch to the west. Fire truck! That was the C companion (mag 11.2). All right. Three stars.

The middle section of the F-shape there was an extremely wide pair. The bright star above was HD 151372 (WDS designation ENG 58). The dim star to the south-west (about the same separation as STF 2096 AC) was the partner.

Spotted BAL 1925 between the B of ENG and the A of 19. It was mag 11.5 according to the software planning app.

Back to low power. The B consort to 19 was very hard to tag...

Couldn't see my next target in the finder...

1:54. Viewed Messier 12 (M12). A little cloud. A couple of strings of field stars passing through, east-to-west, with a bright star on the south edge. Very pale, this globular cluster. Oblong, perhaps. Gradually brightening to the centre. Interesting to tag from the backyard but not a lot of detail.

Eyeballed orange Antares.

2:00. Hopped from Rasalhague. Viewed 53 Oph aka STF A 34. Yellow and blue? Or yellow and orange. Looked away. Yes, deep orange. North and south. Maybe 1½ magnitudes less than the primary. Very nice. Quite wide. Easy. Fairly plain field.

[ed: Haas refers only to the AB stars."Easy wide pair, bright white and fainter silvery blue..."]

Something popped for a second. It was the D star! To the south-west. Whiskey tango foxtrot. SkyTools says that star is mag 12.9! Well, hovering in the chart; from the Object Information box, it reports D as 10.8. That's probably the correct value.

With the 9mm, the C and D stars were easy! ST3P says C is mag 11.8 (or 10.8). They looked about the same. Must be 10.8.

2:04. I heard the neighbour rustling about behind me. Saw a bright light from a flashlight—no, a phone. Thank goodness I had my hoodie on. Heard him calling his dog. Oh oh. He had let the dog out (off leash) and it was tearing around our yard as well as the yard to the south! Neighbour walked by me flooding my workspace with light. I was about to ask him to not shine it on or near me. He said something about looking at stars. Then he called the mutt back and it headed straight for me. Before I knew it, it was under the tripod! Knocking it about. Damn, lost my alignment. I grabbed it just as the dog bolted. It could have tumbled over! If the dog had gone under the wood table, all that stuff would have gone flying. Then they were gone.

What an idiot, the human had absolutely no control of the dog. And no regard for me. He didn't apologise, didn't say anything. What a jack ass. Irresponsible, inconsiderate. As usual. What is it with these people.

Took the wind out of my sails.

Stoopid humans.

2:07. Interesting. Humidity was dropping. Now 66%.

I quickly packed up and went in. Carried the 'scope attached to the 'pod.

Spotted Saturn! Not bright but obvious.

2:18. Inside. Verified everything was in. Returned the ASUS to the desk.



Despite the near disaster at the end, I accomplished a few good things tonight.

Continued the testing of the right angle finder. It's very convenient. I'll try to make a more sturdy adapter.

Deliberately gauged magnitude limits with the little Meade OTA. This will help me in a few ways. Just knowing more about the 'scope's limitations is good. And it will also inform me as to dim targets that are in or out of range. I updated the mag limit page as it had been a while.

Assured myself the tracking motor was working fine. The night before I had noticed some drift. I thought it was slip. Or low batteries. But I think it is just slop in the gears. If I biased the target slightly right or west, it would settle in to the centre and then stay put.

I tackled a few high priority targets. Some of which were doubles on my candidate list.

I revisited a darker area of the yard. Much more enjoyable, with less polluting stray light, if I am not inside the Observing Tent, protected by the tent walls. That said, it is further from the house so if I need AC power, I'll need a longer extension.

And it was good to visit a couple of Messier targets. This inspiration is due in part as I read Mollise's urban astronomy book. While faint and small, M targets are possible in less than pristine skies.

This whole setup is pretty "fast." I can be outside and working within 30 minutes. Tear-down is probably 15 minutes if work quick and dirty.

And finally, thank you weather gods! So good to get some photons, on back-to-back nights. An amazing run of good conditions. I probably could have erected the astronomy tent and enjoyed 3 clear nights. No worries though. It was still good fun.

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