Saturday, March 21, 2020

couple of doubles, Messiers (Bradford)

Set up further south in the yard than I normally do. This was to avoid unwanted invasive light from someone in the townies to the west. They had their bright kitchen light on and their patio door blinds open, flooding my backyard with annoying white light. I positioned strategically putting a tree trunk between me and the light. If I kept low, I'd avoid the stupid streetlight from Frederick Street.

This put me deep in the south-east corner though and cut off parts of the sky.

Grabbed a couple of lawn chairs.

Overall, I was able to set up fairly quickly. ETX on Mamiya tripod. At first the motor drive did not run but I suspect that was a poor contact inside the external battery pack. SkyTools 3 Pro (repaired) on the netbook John Repeat Dance. Started off with the Celestron Plössl 26mm ocular.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Maksutov
Mount: fork mount with tracking motor, tripod
Method: star hopping, with angle finder
Viewed the Orion Nebula, Messier 42, and the Trapezium to start and to align the finder scope.

Tried to get Rhonda's red LED string lights going. Didn't work! Had I removed the batteries? Totally forgot to check in advance. I should keep cells in that kit. Duh.

Tried, for some 20 minutes, to get the Kick-Me-Not lights to work but they were all kind of wonky! All the batteries seemed dead. Only got one going and it was dim and fading. Totally forgot to load regular batteries in the converted units.

8:59 PM. Could not clearly see Sirius for nearby tree branches; I'd have to wait for it to go into the gap or V in the tree line to the south-west. Orion was right over the gap. Venus was nice and bright. Noted the fuzz of the Pleiades (without my eyeglasses). Spotted the Gemini twins. Canis Minor with Procyon. Auriga with orange star Capella. Taurus, the Bull, was low. The Winter Football was kind of right overhead. Big Dipper was sweeping up through the east hedge.

9:02. As I moved my wood TV table it almost collapsed! The built-in metal retaining clip wasn't working. I need to figure out a way to lock the legs open. Many years ago I had installed a hook-and-loop strap but I don't recall it being in place any more. Maybe the latch pin can be used?

This evening, I wanted to view a Messier or two in deference to the scrubbed Marathon event.

9:14. Viewed Messier 40. Gah. A silly Messier, the strange double star in Chuck's catalogue. Big deal. Surprisingly faint. Wide, equal. Colourless, white or grey.

Tagged 70 Ursae Majoris in the field. It was at my 6:30 PM.

Medium bright star to the south-east HD 107649.

Spotted the two stars close to 70 UMa, Tycho ...634 and 03840-583 1 stars. Magnitude 10.4 and 10.7. [ed: one full magnitude from my life limit.]

I was fighting light. Any time the upstairs neighbours turned on their kitchen luminaire, it dumped light into the yard near me. I noted that this may not be a good spot after all as I was also getting hit by the streetlight over near the Toronto-Frederick intersection!

OK. That was kinda silly viewing M40. Decided to do some "real work."

9:19. Noted the wind sock for the Sony recorder kept slipping off: it is torn. Need a new one. I have some microphone windsock spares, I bought them years ago for the radios, somewhere. But where?

I was getting frustrated with all the little breakdowns and issues. Almost dumped the table again!

"There it is. Got it!" Then SkyTools zoomed when I didn't want it to zoom! Smeg! I was trying to drag the rotation handle in the eyepiece view but I must have missed a bit. Accidentally zoomed at a very high level. Zooming out with the roller button on the mouse took for-freakin-ever.

The target, HD 21700 aka STF A 7 in Taurus, was in the trees. But I did get it.

9:29. Easy pair, nearly equal. Left (west) one was slightly dimmer. Oriented north-east to south-west. [ed: SkyTools 3 Professional says A is magnitude 7.4 while B is 7.9 or 8.1.]

Tried to spot the lower double...

I was still having tracking, drift problems. Verified the motor was running. Huh. Way off... Clutch problem?

The wind was shaking the 'scope. I could hear the wind on the ICD-SX 750 recorder.

Grabbed a different eyepiece. Pentax 20 XW.

Removed the dew-light shield from the OTA to cut down on vibration. Probably won't have to deal with dew (or frost) with the breeze.

Cool. OK. Two in the view! It's a keeper.

9:35. Tack sharp. Good seeing. [ed: ST3P says this is HR 1065 or Struve 401.] The tight double, to the south, was 1/3 or 1/4 the separation of the wide pair. [ed: Separation of Σ401 is 11.3 seconds of arc while ΣI7 is 44.4".] Both very pale, very subtle in their colouring, blue, left, west, the right star was orange. Curiously, the tight pair was brighter than the wide pair! Nearly equal [ed: mags 6.6 and 7.0.].

"Oh come on!" More frustrations moving the table. "I don't understand."

9:37. Wide stars, again HD 21700, were much dimmer, ironically. Slightly unequal. Left is yellow or orange; right (east) was blue.

Great view.

Considered Coma Berenices—too low. Hydra? No, targets occulted by trees. Canis Major?

Switched oculars.

9:43. Was enjoying the low noise... Weird. One benefit to the lock-down, I suppose. Generally quiet around town, little vehicular traffic. It was very pronounced when I heard some joker with a loud rattley exhaust (er, not unlike mine) very rough on his clutch and short-shifting madly. Please.

Decided to try the binoviewer with the pair of wide-angle 20mm Rod Ends eyepieces. I've never used this in the ETX. Returned to M42.

There's a fitment issue. Things were crowded. I had to rotate the assembly slightly counterclockwise to allow the body of the binoviewer to clear the finder scope and angle finder.

This will NOT work in all configurations. The binoviewer assembly cannot be arbitrarily turned. I was viewing a target in the south-west and it worked. But if aiming to the south-east, I have a feeling it wouldn't work.

9:50. I was surprised by the view. Still fairly bright. But a little softer.

The focus control was very stiff, I think I was at the end of the travel. If the binoviewer assembly is not fully seated, one will not be able to come to focus. This is adding a lot to the overall focal length.

It was a little harder to pick off the four stars of the Trapezium. Softer because of the additional glasses and reflections or attributable to the lower elevation? Worked on the interocular distance. Worked on focusing the right eyepiece.

When I was aligned and steady, the view was very interesting. It can't be three dimensional but the impression with dual inputs is very interesting indeed...

9:55. Rhonda joined me. Offered her a view. Encouraged her to focus for her eyes. Then I put my specs on and focused, to match her vision. She split the Trapezium. We talked about averted vision; it might not apply per se with a binoviewer.

We talked about life, the Universe, and everything, in this crazy virus-infected planet.

The binoviewer is really heavy. I had to be careful releasing the altitude clamp.

Cold! Still windy.

Moved to the Sigma Orionis Cluster and double star.

Shared that I was tracking down new candidates for the RASC double star certificate programme; some of the other ones were too hard or too complex.

We saw thin streamers moving quickly.

We tried for The Pup, the faint companion of Sirius. I noted the bent line of three stars included SAO 151867 on the left, to the south-west. Rhonda thought she saw something at the 1:30 position. When I rotated the field in the software, it put the Pup at the 3 o'clock position.

I put the high power Tele Vue 9mm eyepiece in. Slightly non-symmetrical diffraction rings. Rhonda found them a distraction. "Too much noise going on." I could not see anything.

I was feeling cold. My hands, in the thin gloves, were getting cold. I shifted the butane heater from hand to hand. Rhonda headed inside.

Back to a low power eyepiece.

GO train came through town. I wondered how many people were on it.

10:45. Resumed my regularly scheduled programme. Shifted the time constraint filters in SkyTools.

Had a look at the Oregon weather station. The relative humidity was 59%, air temperature -8.2° Celsius, air pressure was falling, calling for rain tomorrow. It said the time was 9:50; I hadn't reset it after the Daylight change. I noticed the wind had died down.

Considered the next target. Found many of Blair's open clusters but I needed to get another double done. OK, 17 CMa, close to where I was...

Software went bonkers again, misinterpreting my drag rotation action as a zoom request. Schlanger!

I was pretty sure I got it. Confirmed. Secondary was very faint. Yellow and orange. Other things... More faint stars nearby? Eye-catching. Increased the power.

10:55. I liked it, H 5 65. Little number-4 shape. But it might be considered a challenge object. Too tough? I dunno... Interesting view with 15 and π (pi).

I could see all 4 stars. [ed: ST3P shows the following magnitudes for A through D, 5.8, 9.3, 9.0, and 9.5, in the Object Information panel; on hovering in the chart: 5.8, 8.5, 9.2, and 9.7. Those latter numbers seemed better.]. D to the south, C in the middle, B to the east. No colours for C and D.

I could not tag B of π [ed: ST3P shows mag 9.6 at 11.5", so doable].

Hands were getting really cold.

Moved the table again. Oh boy. Almost dumped the bino assembly.

Dropped the weather station twice!

Knocked eyepiece covers onto the frozen grass.

Next? Betelgeuse? The comet? Ah, Denebola... Off we go...

11:06. Landed on 93 Leo by accident, a colourful double. Yellow and blue. Pentax eyepiece. Fainter pair, two in the view, the fainter pair (HD 102428) was angled toward 93. Both pairs previously observed. I was still a ways from Denebola (over 5 degrees).

Panned and hopped. Made it. Noted a very wide pair. Screwed up in SkyTools, pulling the wrong chart. Determined the companion was the D star. Learned that B (mag 15) and C (mag 13) were below the limits (well below) of the 90mm telescope.

So quiet I could hear the furnace running.

I don't think Denebola is a good double star for my programme... AD is too wide; the others are too difficult.

Interesting bird sound.

Looked at stars in the notch. Ah. Maybe Hydra would work now...

Dumb ass neighbour let his psycho dog out and the mutt's fluffy radar picked me up, whisperin', movin' about, sniffin'.

Tried to figure out what star I had landed at. Ooh. That was Alphard! Oops. I had meant for a target in the head of the water monster... Much higher. Naked eye I could just make out the 2 stars (in the neck).

Told the barking dog to shut up. Hrrm.

11:22. It is a very easy star hop in the head of Hydra. Lots of stars around, including ε (epsilon) and ζ (zeta). Easy to spot in the finder, HD 73668 aka STF 1255. Faint pair. Easy split in the 20mm. Yellow and orange. They are faint to be sure.

Take care of your loud mutt, stupid human.

I hoped the beast was leashed; I did not relish it bounding across the yard.

I can revisit this double Σ1255 as it has 2 more companions that will appear in a bigger aperture.

The other Hydra target was in the body, south of α (alpha) Hydrae. Too low for me. Too low now.

Legs OK (3 layers); torso OK (∞ layers); head OK (toque, hood 1, hood 2). Hands very cold.

That's it. I'm done. No more energy. Started packing up.

11:28. -9.3°, 59%.

11:32. Put the chairs back. Moved gear to the loading dock. Left the backyard.

Hot chocolate time!

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