Saturday, December 07, 2019

two doubles in one hour (Bradford)

Planned the backyard observing session. Wanted to do some quick observing. Capella was high in mind. And I wanted to verify a couple of the double star certificate programme candidates.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Maksutov
Mount: tripod (fork mount with tracking motor)
Method: star hopping (with angle finder)
Reviewed the weather prediction sites. Looking good...

6:29 PM. Rhonda found Elf starting at 7. Silly, I know. I told her my plans. She programmed the DVR. She looked outside to report the skies completely clouded. Yep. But it was supposed to be gone by 8...

6:56. I reviewed the observing session preparation checklist in Evernote. Having finished dinner, I started working the "bare minimum observing" list.

Prepared the ETX with external battery pack, the dew shield with new elastic band, and big metal tripod. Found the hex plate in the camera bag. Grabbed two eyepieces, the 26 and 20. Astronomy chair, deep red glasses, deep red flashlight. The old bike light flashlight was weak so I installed some fresh AAAs. Packed the audio recorder, some rechargeable batteries, my regular eyeglasses (in case), eyeglass straps, and the house keys. All in a bin. Considered not taking out the TV table, opting to use furniture already outside. Prepared the ASUS Eee PC with SkyTools. Affixed the red film with new elastic bands. Activated the list I made a week back. Grabbed the Black Cloak of Doom. Considered hand warmers but decided I wouldn't be out long enough. Backed a sketch book and pencils.

Couldn't find the keyboard USB red light thingee... Last time I remember seeing it was at the CAO, during the Scouts event. Had I left it there? Had I misfiled it? Ugh. Hope I didn't lose it. [ed: Found it in the ethernet repair toolbox!]

I put the OTA outside. Deactivated the driveway light.

Switched to red light mode to begin my dark adaptation. Switched to Evernote in the browser 'cause the Windows desktop version still does not have dark mode!

7:42. I noticed the Moon reflecting off Rhonda's car. Right on schedule.

The clouds were gone!

7:19. Checked the Sony ICD-SX 750 recorder for space and power. About 10 hours left for space; mid-level for the batteries.

Suited up and headed outside.

Set up the Mamiya tripod (with Manfrotto head). Mounted the Meade ETX RA Maksutov 90mm telescope. Polar-aligned the mount. Set up my adjustable height Big DOC astronomy chair. Grabbed Rhonda's lawn chair for a platform for the computer.

8:16. Ready to go. But I wondered if I needed more space in my "workstation."

8:17. Plugged in the battery pack and powered on the mount. Motor was running. Amazing, actually. Super-fast start up this evening. I was happy about that.

8:24. The finder alignment (with my 3D part) was good. Landed on Capella, fairly quickly and easily. Started field identification with the Celestron 26mm Plössl eyepiece (48 magnification).

Verified the time of the computer and the recorder.

8:27. I had α (alpha) Aurigae aka BAR 25 prime pretty well centred. To the 10 or 11 o'clock position, a dim star, G. Two stars including a fairly bright one, 1 o'clock or north-east. I saw a star opposite G, i.e. SAO 40191. With averted I could see other things which I thought included the H star.

8:30. Remembered to set out the Oregon Scientific eb313hg portable weather station. It was still warm from inside. Steady air pressure, precip tomorrow, humidity 36%, 2.7°C.

8:32. I could not see the F star. I could not split the tight companion to A.

Switched to the Pentax XW 20mm ocular (62x).

Wait. Briefly saw a star, more than one, with averted, about an 1/8th of the AH distance. That's F! Was the distance right? Then I couldn't see it. Bad seeing? My target was rising...

8:40. To the south-east I could see the nearly straight line of 3 or 4 stars with H in the middle. It did look like H was not a single. Yep, two stars. I? No, the L star. Very faint. In-line with the other stars. PPM 47943 on the north-west end. [ed: NW? Not NE?]

Kept looking.

8:44. Definitely was seeing the F star. F was very dim. H and L were tough but there. Equally bright.

Went looking for E, toward G. But the software showed it dimmer still so I was not hopeful.

Changed eyepieces.

Scanned around the primary but did not expect to see others. Did not try for B, C, D, b, I, Q, R, O, or P.

Wanted to see Altair but I couldn't see the Summer Triangle. Too low. Cygnus was diving down. [ed: The Eagle was even lower.]

Rhonda popped out to say hello. She noted the skies were good. Indeed. Cold though, she headed back in.

Orion rising.

Changed eyepieces.

Tried to get to my next target, beta Cam aka S 459. It was about 1/3rd of the way between Capella and Polaris. "Oh boy." Could not figure out where I was.

The finder view was mottled. Weird. Checked the objective lens—it was fine.

9:20. Noted a low battery warning on the recorder. Oh oh. Hopefully it would last. Checked the weather station. Now it showed the air pressure dropping, humidity 77, air temp -5.7.

Ah! The finder had fogged, the eye lens. I warmed it and waited for it to clear.

I continued in my quest for β (beta) Camelopardalis... Switching to star hopping with the finder, starting from Capella.

Spotted 11-12 Cam along the way.

Finally! Finally made it to β Cam.

Cops were busy tonight...

9:26. That had been a long star hop. Whew! But worth it! Viewed the target with the 26mm. Wide pair. Yellow and blue stars. Intense deep blue. For me, oriented 12 to 6, nearly perfectly, nearly vertical. There was a bright field star to the 4 to 5 position, 4:30. [ed: Tycho 4079-2279 1. ed: Correction to the addition. Not a Tycho star; it was HD 32186, at magnitude 7.9.]

SkyTools made it seem like the companion was much dimmer but it seemed only 1 or 2 magnitudes fainter. The software said 4.9 magnitudes different! [ed: That delta from the numbers in the Object Information box: 4.0 and 8.9. Confusing. Hovering over the stars in the Interactive Atlas shows 4.0 and 7.4. That's more like it.]

A triple according to ST3P. Was curious if I could nab the C element so I loaded the Pentax.

Oh. A firetruck. That didn't sound good. [ed: A bizarre accident near downtown injuring a 67 year old man! Sheesh.]

9:34. I wasn't sure. Maybe I saw it for a fraction of a second. A hockey stick. C toward the 5 o'clock position? Dunno for sure. [ed: ST3P says C is mag 11.4.]

78%, -5.9°. Good timing. My hands were starting to get cold.

So, that was good. Tagged a couple more double stars, setting up and tearing down quickly. Taking advantage of the rare clear skies.

There was also the "proving" aspect that I was pleased with. Capella was easy but beta Cam was challenging. Still, under bright skies without a computer driving the mount, I was able to get to the target. And I was able to see some companions.

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