Monday, August 26, 2019

backyard session (Bradford)

Ready to go... Even though early, even though the sky was still bright, I headed to the tent. Last-minute checks for everything. And I would wait for the planets to show up.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: Go To (sorta)
7:37 PM, Sunday 25 August 2019. Popped inside. Returned with recorder, fully charged from desk session.

Checked the weather stations. The OneWorld unit on the desk was reading is 878 mbar (ha), 22% humidity, 20.9 degrees Celsius, 19:38. Meanwhile, the Oregon Scientific on the tripod tray is steady air pressure, clouds tomorrow, 46%, and 19.5°.

8:08 PM. I tried for Jupiter but it was in the trees! The trees are taller? If the neighbours wanted a look, I might be in trouble. Oh boy. Very low. The only chance to view it cleanly will in the dip to the south-west.

8:17. Got Jupiter at last, through tree leaves. Tagged one bright moon, to the left.

8:21. Got all four moons, yes! Neat, they're all stacked up on one side, to the west. Ganymede is one diameter away, Io is one more diameter, Europa is further out, at a kink. Callisto is above or north of Io, about 1 diameter north.

All this gave me a chance to align the right-angle finder scope.

8:24. I spotted our yard bat scooping up bugs!

8:25. Turned Rhonda's red astronomy lights on. Earlier I had put the thin-wire LED string on the central arc in the tent. Hopefully they'd produce some soft lighting without glare.

8:29. Plugged John Repeat Dance to AC power. Used the nearby tri-socket of the extension cord. Feed the cord through the hole in the centre of the portable table.

8:30. I couldn't see Polaris with the sky still bright. Vega, on the other hand, yes!

8:37. Oh oh. They found me. Little monsters. I lit a new mosquito coil.

8:41. I eyeballed Polaris. Oh dear. My tent is a little too far north and the tripod is a little too low. No way to move. I'd have to wing it...

It occurred to me I should measure that distance. From the house. [ed: 15 feet.]

8:46. Closed the west window and the east doors of the astro-tent. I enjoyed the open views but anticipated distracting light later. It was cooling off. The weather stations said: OW 26, 18.7; OS 51, 15.6.

8:50. I decided to defer the formal alignment for a bit... In case someone suddenly showed up. Then I thought, what are the odds? And I could always halt the process.

Used the alignment stars of Arcturus and Vega. Oh, right. The GoToStar gives a little report at the end of the process...

9:06. Pentax 20mm eyepiece in. I was square to the telescope, or behind it, looking down. Noted something at the 9 o'clock position or orientation. It must have been Titan, bright, about 4 to 5 ring widths away. About 1¼ to 1½ ring widths away, at the 4 o'clock position, a moon. There was a fainter moon due east, just under a ring width. I could see the shadow of the sphere on the rings on the right or east edge. The bright clouds at the equator stood out. Cassini Division. The C-band dark, in front of the planet surface. The seeing was quite good, really good. Sometimes it went razor sharp. It did it again. I thought I saw a moon at the 8 o'clock position, extremely close, about a planet diameter or a bit less.

9:07. Oh dear. I considered the RA "report" after the alignment. I thought it said approximately 17 minutes (sic) north (I think) and 225 minutes west. I didn't change anything. And when I went to Saturn I did a sync so maybe it was not an issue per se. I couldn't remember how to interpret that report... Do I go south and east to correct? I wanted some clarification.

Below Saturn, there was a bright star in the field to the south, 5 o'clock spot. [ed: That was HR 7182.]

9:09. There seemed to be a teardrop or drop effect thing with Saturn. The rings behind the pole of the planet seemed to dip. A dimple. Of course, they can't do this.

9:10. More points of light were visible now. To the east. Inline with the two moons that I saw before. Further away, 2 or 3 times the distance. More moons? Formed an equilateral triangle with another point further east.

9:11. I realised I needed to read the manual to understand what to do after or with the RA axis report. How do I correct it? Could use a cheat sheet (laminated like the star list?) for the future, left in the Vixen mount bag.

The seeing went bad.

9:12. Checked the SkyTools 3 Professional software for the moon positions. Titan (magnitude 8.6) to the west, obviously. Dim Hyperion beyond. Dione (10.7) was east. Rhea (10.0) was further out at the 4 o'clock position. Those inline points were just stars (one was mag 11.6). Tethys (10.5) was the super-close moon. No way, Mimas was mag 13.2—not possible tonight. I wondered if I would be able to pluck out dimmer Enceladus (12.0).

Stared for long time. Didn't see it. Tried and tried but I couldn't dig it out.

Zippered the main door closed, to block the light from the downstairs neighbour.

Oh. Iapetus (11.4) was way out to the east. Tried to find it... Wasn't sure but I think I saw it among some field stars.

Kept checking if the upstairs neighbours were around. No sign...

Tried for my first list target (not a planet). 41 Ophiuchi. I got lost, given the misalignment. Worked for a long time at identifying the field.

9:51. Turned out that I was on 30 Oph! I figured it out at last when panning and spotting the fuzz-ball globular cluster, Messier 10 (M10). Quite fair from 41...

ENG 59. In a Y-shape of stars to the east. It was a multi-star system. Neat! Intriguing. Main star was orangey; all the others were blue-white. B was obvious to the east-north-east. C due east. Taking a star to the south, with the Y-stars, there was a stretched diamond shape. I noted the faint star J170121.8-041304 to the east of the C companion at magnitude 11.9 and the south star J170118.1-041408, mag 13.3, making a right-angle triangle with C.  The stars to the left or west, with HD 153564, were in a curious pattern, symmetrical, that made me think of a bug or a beetle. Interesting multi-stars... Why was the star to the north, the TYC 05072-1212 1 light (10.6) not included, given it was the same separation as C. And why not TYC 05072-0744 1 to the south, again, about the same sep as C?

Fun. But I wanted to get to 41, finally.

Considered computer control...

10:01. ST3P. ASCOM, the SkySensor... Been a while. That sounded right. Configured for the active COM port. Received audible feedback upon connection. Volume was loud! Looked for the blinking X cursor. Got it.

Tried the Sync command. Failed error showed in the dialog box while the audio prompt said "synced." But the connection had dropped.

Tried again. Tried a different command (there's Sync Telescope and Sync Telescope to cursor). Same error and signature. Reconnected again.

I wondered if the alignment was so bad, so far off, if it was causing the problem...

Whoa. Tried various other things but did not meet with a lot of success.

Decided to move to the star by SAO number, 141586. Struggled at first to get them into the GoToStar hand controller.

10:11. I headed to the house for some layers. Checked my notes for other needed items. RASC vest and warm hoodie.

Looked at 41 Oph, aka WDS A 2984, again. Increased the power. Reviewed the details in the software. Uh huh. A tight double at less than 1.0 second of arc. Tried the Tele Vue Nagler 9mm for a plus 200 times view.

10:20. More looks. No luck splitting. Airy disc, one or two diffraction rings. There were brief moments where I thought I saw something but the position kept changing. So indeterminate.

Tried more sync actions. No luck. I would have to star hop...

Considered γ (gamma) Herculis, hopping from β (beta) Her.

10:31. White and orange stars (at low power). Tight. Different mags.

10:36. I spotted the flattened triangle of stars to the east [ed: with V361 Her.]. 

There was a star inline with gamma B. ST3P said this was GSC 01513-0543 at mag 13.5. [ed: About 5 times the AB distance, to the south-west.] That didn't seem right. 

Did I see a star to the north? No. 

C was supposed to be west. [ed: Well, north-west.]

I saw the big extended 7-shape of stars, with GSC 01513-0424, to the south. 

Familiar? View Again, Most Beautiful. At high power the colour changed, it went yellow and blue. Why do view again? I saw a star not in the software...

Opened up the sketching kit!

Wondered how to draw a nice round circle...

10:46. Readied to sketch to dig out faint stars and to corroborate what I saw at the CAO. Gah! It fell into the leaves of the west tree, softening the image... Dang!


10:57. Viewed 61 Oph aka STF 2202. Two nearly equal stars, the A and B stars. Viewed before. Hook shape, starting in the east and going to the south. Lots of stars. Stuff to the east, not part of it, reminded me of Cygnus. With TYC 00420-0434 1, where Deneb would be. Curving around, a big arc, with bright HD 161303. Cheated in the software to find the C star. In the north...

Picked up 2 faint stars in the cross, triangle, Cygnus thing: GSC 00419-0729 at mag 12.8 and GSC 00419-0450 at 11.9.

11:00. Checked the conditions: Oregon 58%, 15.1°, air pressure dropping, and rain! OneWorld: 35%, 16.9°, partly sunny. Huh.

Headed to 67 Oph, also known as Burnham 1124.

11:07. Pretty double! Yellow and blue with the Pentax. A bit less yellow in the baader. Now the secondary looked purple! Ha ha. [ed: SkyTools, with the colour saturation turned up, shows a white and deep blue star.] A multi-star system. Previously visited, it seemed. I was after the B and D companions!

11:12. Interesting. Got the E star. Popping in and out. ST3P said mag 10.8, 10.9. Didn't seem right. C was mag 8.1. What?!

Extremely difficult. E was tough. D off limits at 12.5 it seemed. The software said B was mag 13.7 but very close to the bright host star so lost in the glare.

Considered Barnard's Star but then rejected it. Didn't want to hunt for it with the pointing off... OK. Sulafat? No. I felt a little discouraged.

11:21. Aquila. To hop from δ (delta). Challenging...

11:35. Along the way, I stumbled across triple HD 181386 aka Struve 2498. C star easy. There was a star closer than C, TYC 00472-2854 1, that you could argue would be a D partner. The right hand or east star was dimmer; that must be B.

Fired up real-time mode again. Looked around for the mount nudging controls... I remember seeing these (but probably with the Celestron driver). Slewed with the computer. Big jump. Things were not working right. So I decided to redo the alignment.

11:55. I was able to see Polaris in the finder! w00t!

After the alignment, the RA axis report said 17.5' higher, azimuth 6.5' east. [ed: Oh, very good actually.] I had a faint recollection that the units was wrong, a typo. I considered the way to interpret this was to raise the 'scope higher and move east. [ed: Upon reading old notes, I think this wrong, so I made it worse... And the units is shown wrong on the display, it is seconds, not minutes. So 17.5" x 6.5" was quite good. I should have left it alone!]

Went about changing the mount again. Did the 2-star alignment again. Tried syncing again. Failed. Weird slewing behavior.

12:05 AM, Monday 26 August 2019. Oh. Got it working... Maybe? Nope. Sheesh. Slewed. More testing...

12:15 AM. I continued to have trouble syncing with SkyTools. I knew it worked with the NexStar 11 but I couldn't remember if it worked with the ASCOM-SkyTools combo. Decided to try at the hand paddle.

12:17. Viewed γ Equ aka KNT 5. The bright star down and left for me was D (south). Very wide. There was a couple of faint stars, to the west, or south-west, at a separation the same or less than D but not considered part of the system. Strange. I didn't see the C companion (aka Burnham 71). ST3P said it was mag 12.6. Curiously, I was seeing GSC 01108-0282 at mag 12.4 (poor data). Huh. I didn't see the others... B or C.

Bumped the power or magnification.

Got it! Got the C star with the 9mm. Somewhat opposite D. Much fainter! About 1/3 or 1/4 the AB-D split.

B is 1.5" away. And about 4 mags fainter! Ah no.

12:23. Tried to view IK Pegasi. The mount started going a weird direction and suddenly I heard gear hop. I did a panic power-down! Collision! Great. Just great.

12:25. Crikey. Tried moving in RA. Nothing. No action on the gear wheel. Oh boy.

Not happy. But I had half-expected problems earlier. So I should have felt thankful...

Headed to the house for tools (needed a small Philips screwdriver to remove the motor cover). And water. And lip balm.

Removed the 2 screws. Disconnected all the cables. The dummy plug fell out; put it back. The motor had be pushed out of position! Wow. With a 2.5mm hex wrench, I re-seated it.

12:47. Did a run-up. OK again. Did an alignment again.

A piece of hook-and-loop came unglued! Sheesh. Will need to be glued.

12:51. Continued to experience pointing problems...

12:53. After the alignment, the mount reported the following; 123.9' higher; 74.3' east. It seemed to be getting worse. The east had definitely increased. So I reconsidered the directions; I should go the opposite direction: lower and west.

12:56. As another GO train departed the station, I readied to redo the alignment, hoping to see the numbers decrease.

1:00. Numbers were better: 68.5 and 48.4. Tried again. That said, targets were not always in the finder... [ed: Something else wrong?]

Albireo was out of field.

1:07. Now 480 and 108. Gah. All worse. Tried some more.

1:12. Now 172 higher, 57 west. Better.

1:17. Oh boy. 242 higher and 109 west. Tried more stuff with the computer. Got very frustrated.

Had to do a graceful shutdown of SkyTools after a severe crash. Mucked up Windows too.

1:36. Came up with an idea. I'd go to the target on the hand controller. Then centre with the hand controller. And finally sync on the hand controller. All while the software was attached and connected...

1:37. Hey. The software showed the cross-hair right on the correct spot. Whiskey tango foxtrot. Slewed to the Tim Horton stars for a test.

Not in the eyepiece; it was in the finder.

Checked the Oregon: 77%, 14° and change. Mozzies still active! Grrr.

1:47. Pair of stars. Really tight in the 9mm. About 1 magnitude different. Orange and blue. π (pi) Aquilae.

Spotted the C element, almost inline, a little bit north. Extremely faint.

1:49. Upset with all the issues so decided to pack up. I didn't feel too tried, actually, but it was pretty late. Fairly rapid process: the main thing was the tent fly. The carabiners worked well. Packed up all the oculars.

2:04. Done.


Out of the corner of my eye at one point while facing west I thought I saw a fast bright meteor. A Perseid!


On re-reading the GoToStar notes on the blog companion, I see that everything's there! Ahhh. Should have paid more attention.


Didn't get a lot done, in terms of targets. It was good and a little frustrating working with the GoToStar system. It had been a while and it worked well overall. Amazingly well. No weight or balance problems! That was really good news. But the polar alignment was very confusing. I need to work on this more. It was frustrating slewing and then feeling lost, having to star hop. That burned up a lot of time. And I couldn't sync. What's the deal with that?


Grabbed some "tin can" lids for drawing different size circles. To be washed. Then into the sketching bag.

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