Sunday, April 19, 2020

tested before clouds (Bradford)

Experiment night. Wasn't expecting excellent conditions but wanted to get out anyway to do some tests. My primary goal was to get familiar with the SkyTools drift alignment aids. I would be able to test the clothespin on the focuser. Also considered the double star mask but couldn't find the template I had made previously... Readied to take a Globe At Night reading.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Maksutov
Mount: fork mount with tracking motor, tripod
Method: star hopping, with angle finder
9:02 PM. Continued setting up... Rhonda's wood bench. 'Scope was on the tripod. Rhonda's blinkie lights.

Remembered the netbook was in "super" performance mode; I set it to automatic.

Unscrewed the 90mm objective cover from the Meade.

9:05. Connected the external battery pack. I heard the tracking motor start up.

Spotted a bright satellite! Space station? Really bright. Almost as bright as Venus. When I looked back, it was much dimmer. Wait a minute. I spotted another point ahead of it. A craft near the ISS? Wait! I tagged another point after the initially seen one. Ooh... A Starlink group. Aye. First sighting. The track nearly west to east, coming up through the feet of Gemini, near Auriga. No, more west to north-east. Going past pail of the Little Dipper [ed: Kochab]. Equidistant. They all flared at about 70° in altitude. Near θ (theta) Aurigae. Different brightnesses. A train of satellites as a GO train headed north. Boy, if you were imaging in this area, it'd be bad. The 10th was really bright. The 15th was closer to the previous. I stopped counting at 18...

[Looked up the details in Heavens Above. Starlink-1303, for example, flew over from 9:06 to 9:15, starting to be visible between Gemini, Taurus, and Auriga, passed theta around 9:10, continued toward Ursa Minor, very near Kochab and Pherkad, and disappearing in the east-north-east.]

Allergies were bad.

Green mouse was acting a little strange.

Decided to go for Venus.

Glanced to the north-east: still more Starlink satellites...

Ugh. Honda-boy is driving around in circles.

9:16. Venus was big with the 26mm (48x). Crescent phase, about 25% illuminated. Very nice. In the tree branches but I got a good view.

Checked the Starlink again. Two really close together, train still continuing.

Noted some cloud. Hrrm. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station even though I knew it would not be acclimated. Humidity 46%, air temperature 3.1°C, barometric pressure dropping, cloudy in 24 hours. Felt damp. I saw random clouds overhead.

John Repeat Dance was 5 minutes ahead of the weather device. Rolled back the computer a bit.

OK. Ready for drift testing!

Activated the SkyTools Real Time mode. From the Telescope Control menu, activated the Mount Alignment Tool. I then selected to align the east/west direction of the mount. The software suggested a star in Sextans. Headed to the target...

Watched the star. Oh, right, the reticule eyepiece!

9:32. The Starlink seemed to have stopped. There was a slow-mover along a similar path.

Carefully put the batteries in the Celestron Micro Guide ocular illuminator. Couldn't remember which way they went. Tried both ways. No response. Tried again. No response! Had they died? Gah. There ya go. Check all your batteries.

Back to the regular eyepiece. Clearly, the star was drifting up. That meant to move the mount east. I released a clamp on the tripod—aah, wrong one, the tilt! Shoot. Put it back.

9:37. Switched to up/down mode. It told me to go to a faint star in the middle of nowhere in Virgo.

Went for a little walkabout, west side of the yard, to tag the constellation, Spica, et al. I wouldn't be able to get to the suggested star so I went to Spica instead and checked the telescope chart in ST3P.

The star drifted up so that meant to move the mount down.

I was missing the illuminated eyepiece. I checked the required battery type: LR44. Headed inside for fresh batteries.

Inside, I spotted some 2016 coin cells. Oh. How about that.

9:48. Returned with new lithium batteries in a blister pack. Got it working at last.

[ed: Positive (flat) side toward the switch.]

Loaded the CMG for the first time into the ETX. It worked. Rotated it to align with the RA axis.

Reviewed the help documentation in the software. Moved the mount down. Repeated. Down more. Repeated. Down more. Started to wonder if I was going in the right direction...

10:09. Considered what I'd show Rhonda when she ventured outside. Something interesting... Wanted to have an good option or two. Checked my "showpieces" observing list. Leo was high up. Aimed at Algieba to get started. Accidentally landed at Adhafara or ζ (zeta) Leonis. Neat field in finder with 35, 39, and SAO 81273. Slewed down. Got it. And she popped out. Good timing. Installed the 20mm Pentax.

She looked up and thought she saw a few satellites. Tricked out by the moving clouds. The moving train frame-of-reference issue.

Offered a seat so to view the double star. B was on the right, at a 45° angle. Yellow and orange.

Showed rho my new focus control, the clothespin.

Wondered about another target but clouds filled the lion constellation...

Eyeballed the polar alignment. Ah. The mount did look to high. So I was going in the correct direction.

We sat in the fire pit circle looking for meteors. I looked north-east while Rhonda looked to the south-east. Sadly, no meteors.

The driver of the Honda continued to drive around in circles, up into the rev-limiter, melting the clutch in second gear.

The clouds continued, worse than predicted. It seemed that the wind had picked up. OK. That's it. Time for a night cap.

Rhonda helped me pack up.

Checked the conditions one more time. 64%, -0.6°, calling for rain tomorrow.


The drift option in SkyTools looks to be good, helpful. I'll try it again.

Got the Celestron Micro Guide going with fresh batteries. [ed: One of the two was flat.]

First time using the CMG in the little Mak. Worked fine. It occurred to me I could measure things...

The 10 ¢ microfocuser worked great! It's a keeper.

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