Friday, July 05, 2019

a gift (Blue Mountains)

We headed to the observatory floor.
Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
10:13 PM. Rhonda said she could see the dark part of the Moon. Indeed.

I asked if she remembered what it was called. Not sure. I asked her if she knew what was causing it. She did. With some leading questions, I helped her with the terminology. She got it: earthshine! We talked about contrast issues. It's always happening, of course. Also, discussed the psychology, given that our brain knows the Moon is a circle...

Some clouds went by the Moon. She thought the Moon a big fuzzy.

I offered to put the big telescope on our nearest neighbour. Tried to spot Luna in the software but I did not see it. Must be a realistic size, i.e. small on the computer display. Performed a search, found it, and slewed.

We talked about if astronomers could see the flags and equipment on Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, lunar erosion, and how long the 50-year-old boot prints would last.

She enjoyed the view of the cratered surface. She saw clouds in the eyepiece. I suggested they might be moving quickly which rho confirmed. "So cool!"

I centred on Mare Crisium. The shape reminded me of a flatfish (like a sole). Pointed out the two little craters (eyes of the flatfish) including Picard.

Rhonda spotted the Big Dipper.

I pointed out the shimmering, the atmospheric distortion from our atmosphere, like heat waves over a hot highway. The Moon was "boiling."

Pointing out faults in lava-filled maria. [ed: in Mare Fecunditatis.]

Noted a smudge in the eyepiece. Figured it out. The pine tree!

I asked if she fancied anything. While it was good, I didn't think galaxies would render well given the conditions. We talked about the Summer Triangle.

I flip-flopped between the Find tab and the Telescope wondering if there was a better way to work.

Rhonda asked about the little box on the counter. That was my portable weather station.

10:30 PM. Slewed to next. Albireo.

We talked about diffraction spikes. I explained some of the pros and cons.

Rhonda asked how I knew where to go. Summer Triangle. Knew Albireo was, knew it would look good. Then the computer did the rest...

She thought "peach and blue." Lovely view.

Rhonda has an interesting thought: we should arrange for red-butt fire flies. They'd be astronomer-friendly.

10:38. Slewed to next, Izar. Similar colours but much tighter. "Oh, wow," rho said. She agreed the primary was pale gold. The secondary I thought pale blue; she argued white.

We talked about colour impressions, mixing, proximity. I grabbed more powerful eyepieces to move the stars further apart. I shared that some observers report colours like green and purple but we know scientifically that's not possible.

Rhonda asked if they were ISS flyovers. None until early morning, pre-dawn.

Higher power again.

I think rho aka Hawkeye was seeing chroma. I talked about refractor telescopes and how they could introduce some false colour. SCTs and Newtonians generally did not. We talked about eyepiece design. It is what it is.

10:49. Looked in lumpy to find the super-colourful system I had viewed recently. Right: 31 Cygni. We enjoyed the deep blue and orange and white stars.

Rhonda asked if we had bats. Yep. Not many, unfortunately. We also had owls.

With the green laser, I pointed out the naked eye doubles of 32 and 31. Traced the asterism of the kite.

Big meteor! I spotted it in Cygnus. North-bound. [ed: It wasn't a Bootid. The South Aquarids weren't due for a week...]

I put on some of my anti-bug juice stuff.

Seeing the three stars close together, Rhonda thought it might be Orion. Ah, that was Scorpius. [ed: β (beta), δ (delta), and π (pi).]

Pointed to the bright planets. Rhonda wanted to know if the Great Red Spot would be visible. I wasn't sure.

11:04. Slewed to the Jovian world. We identified the Galilean moons using the cloud bands as pointers. She was curious about the sizes and the numbers. Told her with the new bigger 'scope I was trying for some of the fainter moons.

Time to amp the power! I talked about the outrageous claim by cheap telescope makers but that the recommended magnification limit was around 300x. Encouraged her to use the moons to focus. As she absorbed more photons she started to get more detail of the cloud-tops. Colour, shades, festoons, barges, current and eddies like a slow-moving stream of water. Averted helped.

I noted the equatorial belt, the dark brown bands above and below, the many bands in the upper zone (south), the nearly all-white opposite hemisphere (north).

I backed off the power a little bit.

Distant lightning flashes showed to the west.


11:23. "Woo!" Rhonda liked Saturn! I agreed. My first view of the year. So nice to be back.

We could see little faint points all around. Bright Titan above. Hawkeye could see more than me.

Very high mag. A little soft. Dropped the power.

Added the ringed world to a new observing list in my favourite planning app. Set the settings and viewed the chart. Carefully set the date/time and location. Red mode. Correct 'scope and ocular. Noted little moons scattered all over the place. Hyperion and Iapetus were way out. Mimicked our orientation. I spotted Titan. Good. "I saw the cluster between 2 and 4. We saw the 11 and the 7. So, yeah. Woo!" Rhonda exclaimed. Heh. That was funny. Titan was super bright at 12, Rhea, I could see it, below left, Dione, 2 o'clock. Rhonda saw Tethys and maybe Enceladus. We talked about position of the moons, the inclination, the 29 year cycle, oppositions.

On Saturn, I could see the equatorial belt and a dark line below it.

I headed to the house for a moment. Returned with water to re-hydrate.

11:44. Rhonda spotted the Christmas lights in the GBO chunnel. Yep. Our recent upgrade. We chatted about the roads and routes surrounding the CAO.

Moon was gone.

One more. One more target.

11:53. We finished on The Ring.

We did some whole sky. We spotted the Dolphin.

Rhonda called it a night.


It was such a treat to view the skies tonight. I thought Friday night was gonna be cloudy with thunderstorms. I'm glad I was able to put on a good little star party for rho. Very happy with the performance of the equipment: everything worked very well.

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