Thursday, September 05, 2019

examined gamma Herculis (Bradford)

Clear again! The weather predictors all aligned, including my little desktop app in Rainmeter. I saw the clouds dissipating through the afternoon. I was curious that a no-go call was made by the RASC team...
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: Go To
Main objective tonight: sketch gamma Herculis, aka SHJ 227. That meant being outside and ready to go early! Made a note to be in the backyard for 9.

It was intriguing the thought of just nipping out for a short while...

Wrapped up some online meetings, started dinner, switched to red mode in the home office, packed items.

Suited up with a few layers on the top half. Also grabbed the jacket and winter hat.

Posted the astronomer-on-duty sign.

As I walked around the house, at first, I thought the sky poor, it seemed to have an orange pall. I wondered if there was then high thin cloud. But when I reached the backyard, wow, there was Jupiter, bright. Whoa, and there was the Moon! Holy Moon. A big crescent to the right of Jupiter. OK! It was rather clear. Ah, Saturn too. Funny timing, Jupiter in the right notch, Saturn in the left groove. [ed: Moon in Libra!]

Freaked out the dog upstairs. The wrangler calmed him.

Did not get a chance to invite her down.

Did a quick align process with the IDEA GoToStar system. The hand controller suggested Jupiter, Saturn, and a star (forgot the name). The Moon was not offered. I chose Jupiter. Then I used the slew buttons, at high speed and then confirmed the location. Jupiter was soft, behind the tree leaves.

Decided to have a quick peak at the Moon. When I asked for the target on the controller, the mount started going in a weird direction forcing me to hit the STOP button. Then I tried returning to Jupiter by the controller. Nope. Interrupted the slew again. Huh. Now I wonder if one is supposed to declutch for the quick alignment process? Something to try.

Redid the alignment, using two stars. Before starting that I checked the time. Then I had an idea: I added one minute to the shown time. As I performed the steps, I found the target alignment stars in the finder. Seemed better now. Still, the R.A. Axis report showed over 60 seconds on both of the axes. Interesting. Slewed to the Moon without difficulty. Noted the lunar tracking rate automatically activated.

Wondered about the X but it seemed too soon. Interesting stuff along the terminator... Some high mountain range perhaps? Rugged. Seemed to be very tall mountainous territory west of Mare Nectaris. Bright. Switched to the right eye for viewing. Weird. It left an intense after-image!

Maybe too late to show Jupiter; Saturn would be good.

Fired up a mosquito coil on seeing the little beggars around the telescope.

Turned on the dew heating system once again with None More Black at medium output for both channels.

Set up the table near the mount again. Interconnected the netbook and mount motor system.

8:34 PM, Wednesday 4 September 2019. I was ready to sketch!

Set ASUS computer in red light mode. As I tried to adjust the size of windows, I accidentally made the Task Bar huge. Gah.

8:41 PM. Activated the Real Time mode tab. Connected to the mount within the SkyTools 3 Professional software. Noted in the status box it said "Tracking Sidereal." Not lunar rate. No matter.

Checked the Interactive Atlas chart for the blinking X. Nope. Not shown on the Moon, zoomed out wide or tight. Tried a couple of things. No X. No matter. Maybe I need to issue a command from the software first?

Slewed to a token star. Right in the centre. All right. Been a while since I have had good pointing...

Noted the "Cel." status on the hand controller. Back in true sidereal rate after the test slew.

8:44. Slewed to γ (gamma) Her. The A and B twosome was obvious. B to the 8 o'clock position. All right. Clearly visible despite the sky brightness. Here we go!

Neighbour took a call. Again, I wanted to invite her to have a look-see but the call went long and the Moon was dipping below the treeline.

8:53. Confirmed the field with the baader planetarium aspheric 36mm eyepiece at 56 times. Increased magnification with the Tele Vue 9mm Nagler Type 6 ocular. Now at 226x.

Checked the ambient conditions with the portable weather station in the tripod triangular tray. The Oregon Scientific unit reported: 67% relative humidity, 13.0°C air temperature, steady air pressure, clouds tomorrow.

8:56. I could see the star GSC 01513-0543 to the west. Inline with gamma B. Again, angled to the 8 o'clock position.

I saw a star to the north. I wasn't real happy with the Context Viewer display. Tried to wrangle the Interactive Atlas view, disabled the Real Time switch, changed the time to rotate the field. Played with the Flip and Mirror buttons. Huh. I was seeing a stars to the north-west... There was something north of A not in software! Was this what I had seen at the CAO? Could it have moved? Will have to compare to the various images I downloaded before.

8:59. Saw a point of light to the north. About 3 or 4 times the separation of AB. About the same brightness as GSC 01513-0543. Was it an asteroid or a comet? Time to sketch. Particularly as I didn't know when I could image this...

Collected the drawing gear: Strathmore Field Sketch pad, soft pencil, music stand, deep red lamp, hook-n-loop head band for the flashlight. New food tin lids for drawing circles! Organised my station and put on the red flashlight.

Started working.

Cool. Used the can lid to draw a circle. Super handy. Used the medium one but found it too small. Drew another circle, with the biggest lid. Yes.

sketch of the gamma Herculis double star

Remembered to note the direction west. North is to the top-right.

Seemed to be slight drift in both declination and right ascension. Had to periodically re-centre.

9:14. I thought I had all the visible stars. And the mystery object to the north-west. As the sky darkened, it was easier to see the faint points to the east and south. Cup-shape to the east. Straggly line to the south-east.

Switched the deep red light to the other side of my noggin.

Humidity was climbing. Turned up the dew heaters.

Continued to examine the field.

Tried and tried to spot another star, the purported D ally. Nope. Nothing obvious. Looked all around the A star.

9:29. The target was getting close to the trees. Time a'fleeting. I recalled it was "in the weeds" at 10:30 so that meant I had about 60 minutes left...

Seeing dropped off. It had been quite good earlier. I didn't think the transparency was improving. No new stars had emerged.

9:41. Done. Considered it done. Nothing more I could add to the sketch. Panned around a bit.

Put aside the drawing equipment.

(Maybe black bodied pencils for astronomy are not a good idea...)

Closed the main door of the tent to block light.

9:46. With the low power ocular, the A and B elements looked yellow and orange respectively. C was not visible at 55x.

OK. Now what? What to observe?

Looked at my RASC Finest NGC list in SkyTools. I wondered which ones I had only photographed. Considered that if I used the "re-observe" tag in the list, that would be helpful. I noted the current High Priority tagged on NGC 6520. [ed: Done. Maybe dropping them into View Again would be good too...]

9:55. Rhonda arrived home.

Ah. What about some showpiece objects for later... Loaded up my star party showpieces list. Huh? Why was SHJ 227F in this list?

Slewed to new target, ε (epsilon) Lyrae.

Looking out her window, rho spotted all the red lights under the stars. "Hello!"

10:02. With the 9mm eyepiece, I could see the associates E, F, and the I-star between ε1 and ε2 without difficulty.

Spotted the G comrade with averted vision—magnitude 13.2 according to the software.

It seemed an error to me. I didn't understand why SHJ 227F would be in a "showpieces" list. I checked the computer again and... oh... that's why! Brain fart. I was in the correct "folder" or SkyTools group, "my star parties / public outreach." But a different list was active, "DDO suggested targets 190518" when I had assumed I was in the "! star party showpieces."

Consulting my double star life list page, part 2 (L through V).

10:04. Noted there was also an H star, near G. Right angle to E. Not visible in the C8.

And what about D? Not in my life list... Confusing. I think this was a mistake on my part. Clearly D is one of the bright stars of the Double Double, the east-most star of ε2. Obviously seen.

Sorted the list by the Log column, so to try for things never viewed, to vet them. Ink Spot? Too dim? Awfully low for Ontario observations. NGC 6553? Too low for me from the backyard. Found a bunch of nova entries. Temporal. Should probably remove them... IL Aqr? Oh. A quasar in Hercules. Huh. Never viewed. Fairly high right now. Maybe in range of this 'scope?

Slewed to π (pi) Her first, so to sync to a known-good, before heading to a ultra-dim object.

I heard the back door. Quickly slewed to nearby globular cluster Messier 92. Looked good to me in the wide field eyepiece.

"Hark." Rhonda visited. Her toast smelled good. Offered a view of a fuzzy blob.

"Ooh, fuzzy." She guessed it was a Messier. Yes, number 92. It popped for her with averted, "really bright." Not centred. Around 4 o'clock. I let her pan to centre.

We caught up. Family matters, singers, the backyard, me killing the grass, impending snow.

Showed her my double star sketch. Pointed out the unknown, unidentified point of light, not in any of my charts. Moving north. To be corroborated.

Offered to make me some toast. No thanks. Toasted out for today. She requested another good fuzzy, before heading to the kitchen!

10:18. I enjoyed the glob. Very nice direct and averted. Synced on M92.

Slewed back to the quasar. ST3P said B3 1715+425 was mag 13.3.

Highest power eyepiece. I saw the pair of stars Tycho 03081-0148 1 and GSC 03081-0739 to the south-west and the bright star HD 156756 to the north-east.

Rhonda returned. I put out the comfy chair with a spot for her beverage.

If visible it would be 2.1 billion light years away...

Vetting my list, that is too optimistic.

Talked about cars, sensors, indicators, gas caps, and siphoning. She observed it was not cold out. She was "toasty." Ha! We chatted about arts and crafts at the DDO. Upcoming events. Sideways work projects. She liked the red lights, the ones she had given me. She asked about bats—I had seen some before; none tonight.

She saw a really bright meteor. From Cassiopeia, heading toward the shed, the south-west. Sounded like an Aurigid. Chris had seen some on the Blue Mountains. Normally a weak shower. We're slipping into a lull for meteors. No big showers in September and October.

Considered a good target. Saturn? Still occulted by the tree.

Moon? Gone. Told Rhonda I had looked at Luna earlier. "But you hate the Moon," she said. Indeed. "But I only looked at it with my bad eye." She enjoyed that. "Save the good stuff for my good eye."

Ah. Cat's Eye! Slewed. Dropped to low power. Oh! Bright satellite went through! Got it. Seemed star-like in the middle. Centred in the field of view. "A tiny fuzzy." Told her to have a look and then we'd bump the power. Traded seats. "Kind of a bluey fuzzy? A bit of violet?" rho asked. Yep. Pretty tiny. So I loaded in the Pentax XW 20mm.

Dew heater was working good. Now I need to make more!

She thought more "bluey violet" at this increased magnification. I thought it was taking on an almond shape. "No way." She thought it round. It looked good at 102x.

Rhonda popped inside for beverages.

I loaded up the TV for 226x. Worked good but less colourful. Big now! But a little soft now. Grainy. Definitely not round.

Talked about spiced rum recipes. She had just finished hers from Barbados. Large mouthed bottles. Maple syrup... Stocking up at the next farmer's market. Apples. She suggested getting some from a Blue Mountain orchard. Good idea! Dew heaters for the bum, the camping chairs. Good idea! We could hear people hauling out their recycling. She heard birds peeping briefly.

From rho, still a blue fuzzy. Bigger. She still thought it round, not oblong, not enough to call it almond- or football- shaped. An old, retired star with a white dwarf in the middle. Admittedly, a little small. [ed: 22".] How about something bigger? The best one? The Ring? Rhonda agreed, "Yeah." Slewed. Nearly straight up. A bit disoriented in the finder scope but I found it and centred. Looked good in the 36mm.

"Oh yeah." She liked it. "Bluey, too. Not as bluey [as the Cat's Eye]. Nice ring. Yeah, good. Cool. Good eye candy."

Next up. A really big object. Only for the finder scope. I shifted it off the cross-hairs... Not easy to focus.

Helped her identify it. Asked if she saw the horizontal line of stars. Yes, six stars. And a cup-shape below, like the Big Dipper. A very small object. "It kinda looks like a coat hanger." There ya go! "What?!" It's official the asterism Collinder 399, a bit prosaic, but casually called "The Coathanger Cluster." With her above average vision, I suggested she could see it naked eye. Showed her the SkyTools chart. Grabbed my green laser pointer. Got it going after a moment. We looked between the two bottom stars of Sagitta and Alberio of Cygnus, closer to Sagitta, a bit down from that. Actually, with alpha Vul and beta Sge, it formed a flattened (upside-down) triangle. I thought I could just barely see it.

Rhonda tagged another shooting star, south-east to north-west this time.

Kitty Tucker bayed in the house.

11:08. She went to comfort her feline. Found Tuck in the bedroom window, watching us. Stargazing cat.

I wanted a good colourful double, something interesting. I looked for a target from the Coldfield 200 beautiful doubles list.

Rhonda returned. Scanned the sky for more meteors.

11:10. Medium slew. One axis shut down quick. Wow. Middle of nowhere... Wasn't sure I had it. Pointing was off. Rhonda spotted the Dolphin. I went to a known-good. "Hold, please." Then back to the star to demo. A "cute double star" on the west side of the meridian.

"So bright. Little... eyes. They don't have much colour. Pretty white..." She wanted to know their relationship. A binary? Didn't know. "Maybe the bottom one was cooler, whiter. Top-right was yellow. Really close. Oh, wait. Flipped. Flipped again. Nice and bright. Very nice." Neat patterns around the pair. Asked if she saw a little C-shape of stars nearby. One to the left. Yep. She also saw a kind of C-shape to the right. More doubles below?

She asked for one more. I wanted gamma And. Pivoted to the star. Oopsie. In the trees. Too early. Stoopid trees.

OK. η (eta) Cass or Achird. Slewed. That was not it. Don't know my Cassiopeia doubles very well. Panned about. Got it.

Rhonda tried to split the bright star. Drew her attention to three different stars, three different colours I proposed. 2 o'clock and 7 o'clock. 2 was close, orange. 7 was 4 or 5 times the distance, white or blue. She saw more. She saw a star at 6, fainter. It made a triangle, nearly perfect. I saw that too. An 8 star system! She wanted to know if the bright star was a tight double. Didn't think so. I checked SkyTools.

She thanked me for the mini star party and headed to rescue her kitty. Good night!

11:33. Oh. Not that late! [ed: The early start threw me off.]

Returned to the "showpieces" list to vet more suggestions. Chose my next, a short distance away. Ordered the mount to move. Lost. Known good, again. Got it finally.

11:44. NGC 185? No good. Not visible in Bortle 4 to 5 skies in a 8-inch instrument. I tagged it for removal from the showpieces list.

Adjacent NGC 147 was not visible either.

Next. I chose a target in Pisces.

Closed the door again.

11:58. Bumbling about. I needed a plan. [ed: Should have quit.]

Loaded up "Ahad's red star" list.

12:01 AM, Thursday 5 September 2019. Headed to 19 Piscium.

Took me a long time to figure out where I was. I initially was dropped on the west side of the Circlet, near a big L, near γ Psc, just about the tree to the south-east. Finder view seemed upside down. Loathe to move the finder. The Circlet was barely visible naked eye. Lots of light pollution from Newmarket. Essentially, I needed to star hop backward, eastward, through κ (kappa) and λ (lambda).

Spotted the wide double in the finder!

12:19 AM. Viewed κ closely. Wide double. Easy. Primary white; secondary blue. ST3P said it was a triple. GSC 00578-1121 to the north-west, a bit further away than B. ST3P said mag 13.1. Looked briefly for C. Between A and B, inline. Nope. Apparently also 13.1 in magnitude but not accessible to me. Too low. Too bright over there. Makes a binocular double with 9 Psc. [ed: Hovering in the IA chart says mag 15.2!]

[ed: Checked the WDS. Pulled the data for 23269+0115 S 830:

AB    2014   342 182.7  4.92  9.96 A-class
BC    2015    156  80.3  9.96 11.2

So, fairly recently viewed by others. B is listed at mag 10.0! And C is pegged at mag 11.2. All doable. On closer examination, the AB data in SkyTools is from 1991 but the BC numbers are dated 1907. Perhaps sky glow was a big factor, washing out mag 10 and fainter objects...]

Continued eyepiece hopping.

12:28. Ugh. Arrived at last. Centred. Variable star 19 Psc. Certainly it was a warm orange. I would not call it red. And a completely empty field—at low power no less—so nothing to compare against.

Nerts! This was already observed! Sheesh. All that for nothin'! I wanted something new.

Wanted to wrap it up. Didn't feel like going all night again...

Turned to the Cambridge Double Star Atlas showpieces list for a good one, to go out with a bang. Looked for items not logged.

TZ Aries? Still too early.

GQ Andromedae? Slewed.

12:42. Arrived at the crazy star. Interesting stars, interesting field... Craggy line to the far right. North was to the right. There was a bright star to the 8 o'clock: STT 5 AB aka 26 And. Stuff below... Very different presentation than in the software. SkyTools showed an equilateral triangle but I saw a flattened one. Ah, dag nabbit. I've viewed this too! It is Groombridge 34 [ed: Viewed 2 years ago. Correction: imaged with BGO.] Top apex star yellow-orange; the right hand star red; the left (south) star, 2 or 3 times the sep, blue or green.

Was the transparency going away?!

Headed to another object. Ross 248. From another "red" star list. Slewed and panned.

12:48. In the 36mm, noted κ And. Was a white star. To the west I saw the C star, very faint, no colour. Could not pick off the B though. SkyTools said they were both mag 11.3. West was up.

[ed: Pulled the WDS data for kappa, aka 23404+4420 HJ 1898:
CSN   1Aa,Ab 2012    55   1.0  4.6  14.6  B9
HJ 1898AB    2002   202  47.4  4.14 11.3  B9
HJ 1898AC    2012    293  115.3  4.14 11.3  B9

Here, the magnitude numbers are all OK. Stars are moving around a bit but the position angles aren't too different. Same class. So, I can't explain why I didn't see partner B. High up at the time, 80 degrees. So very little atmospheric effects. Note: there's a new element at 1.0 arc-seconds! But incredibly faint!]

Spotted a wide double to the west. Extremely wide. Nope, misread that. TYC 03243-1401 1 was near a bright star, itself a double.

To the west-north-west, at the edge of the field, there was an interesting looking quad. The host star was HD 222229, in the WDS as WEB 10. Cool diamond shape. Centred on it. Cute little diamond. Brightest element was to the east, blue-white. To the north was B, second brightest. D, west, was orange. C: blue or orange? Hard to tell. Dimmest. Um, tied with D. Perhaps they are the same brightness and colour.

Moved further west. Seemed to be a lot of things that could be classed as double stars.

Tagged HR 8962, aka STT 500, no problem. The A and C stars. C, dimmer, to the north. SkyTools said B was 0.4 arc-seconds from A. Wowzers.

The whole object here was to get Ross 248. Stoopid faint. A variable at mag 12.3. So faint. I couldn't get any colour off it. In a row of three stars, it's nearest neighbour was Tycho 03244-1352 1. Boring!

One more interesting object. 35 Psc. Slewed.

12:57. Nice. Yellow and... blue? Orange? About 1 mag different. Tight. Tight at low power. Nearly empty field. Pisces has no background stars!

Well, that was all kinda silly. I should have quit an hour previous. Done. Shut everything down. Final conditions check: 85%, 9.8°, steady pressure, clouds.

1:10. Back inside. Did I hear the west neighbour finding his lost dog? Son of a motherless goat.


Also viewed the ET Cluster, briefly. Found I had already IDed the double stars within. A great item to keep on the showpieces list.

Similarly, popped into NGC 663. Already viewed. Borderline for the showpieces list...


Really happy that I sketched.


Did you know... The word slew means "turn or slide violently or uncontrollably in a particular direction." Huh.

Ah. This from Merriam-Webster is better: "to turn (something, such as a telescope or a ship's spar) about a fixed point that is usually the axis."

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