Friday, May 22, 2020

planets, doubles, planets (Bradford)

Startled the bunny as I moved items to the yard.

Around 9:30, Rhonda came out and said she'd seen a posting by Tony H. He had shared a photo of Venus and Mercury. I thought that cool in itself. I also realised it gave her a visual clue (in contrast to my simple text message prompt). She wanted to see them.

We tried looking around from the backyard but nothing was obvious. As I set up the 'scope, she wandered to the front. A moment later, I went to the front. Didn't see Rhonda but spotted Venus right away, very low, through the trees. Bobbing and weaving, saw another point. Hello! Mercury was just below Venus. Very easy. Nice. Found rho out on the street and eyeballing the planets down the walkway. Unfortunately there was a street light right in the way. Not a great view.

Back in the driveway I found a little pocket between the branches. I was surprised how bright Mercury was. I told rho it was normally pretty challenging to see. We did a quick measurement and it seemed the inner planets were a bit more than one pinkie fingernail apart, not quite two, so a bit more than ½ a degree.

Took in the whole sky. Leo was just going into the trees, Corvus was heading toward the gap, Boötes up high, Corona Borealis, the Big Dipper was straight up or maybe a bit behind me as I faced south.

Horrible seeing (as predicted).
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Maksutov
Mount: fork mount with tracking motor, tripod
Method: star hopping, with angle finder
OK. Little after 10. Essentially set up and ready to go. Ready to do astronomy, visually observing. Ready to fine tune. Roughly polar aligned. Low power eyepiece installed.

Once again I enjoyed the portable, movable blind blocking the LED street light on Frederick. I thought the blind particularly important on the new Moon evening.

Lots of people were driving around their buzzy cars, goofing around, burning out from every stop sign. Brother.

Launched the SkyTools 3 Pro Visual Sky Simulation on a star in Coma Berenices.

10:12 PM EDT, Thursday 21 May 2020. It struck me as noteworthy, this outing, given my sciatica problems for the last few days. I wanted to do something, get moving, nothing too heavy. I couldn't stand the thought of losing another fantastic clear night.

Tried to figure out the current visible constellations in the south. The head of Hydra. One target was underneath Sextans. Too low. Hydra. Cancer? Slightly right, above Leo. Nope.

10:16 PM. Felt pain in my right shin. Tried to sit carefully. I made a mental note to avoid twisting.

Switched to high priority list items.

Star hopped from ε (epsilon) Virginis [ed: aka Vindemiatrix.].

Noticed the battery indicator was very low on the Sony recorder. Another mental note: watch the level.

Viewed a double near 29 Comae Berenices: HD 110932. Nearly equal stars. Upper one was slightly brighter. I could not get pronounced colours. Every once in a while I thought the bottom star orange. Top one was maybe white or yellow. Quite nice. The SkyTools software said the north star was magnitude 7.2 while the other was 7.7 (not 8.5). Struve 1678. Easy split. Quite wide at this low power. But still attractive. Separation 36.7". Noted a little triangle shape to the east.

10:28. Weird. I noticed that ST3P said the target was "not currently visible." Huh? I was just lookin' at it.

I returned to 29 Com. I had seen something, along the way.

South of 29, an obvious pair. Wider than Σ1678. About 45 seconds of arc or more, I guessed? ST3P said 65". Oriented south-north. The brighter element was south, below, and would take direct vision. But the secondary was very faint. In the bad seeing, I could barely see it, it didn't like direct. Easy in averted vision. Cool. Stumbled upon SAO 100278 aka S 642. [ed; ST3P said mags 8.6 and 10.0.]

It would be two-in-the-view at lower power.

My comet target suggestion just popped up. Or, a nearby star that I had added, HD 85457. Near the nose of the Great Bear. Hmmm. But I was not really excited about it... I was not expecting an easy hop. I was not expecting a spectacular view in the ocular.

10:36. The ibuprofen caplet gave me heart burn. Ugh.

Began the long hop.

10:44. Rhonda came out. She was bored. I told her I was comet hunting but not satisfied. I was sure I was in the right area but I didn't see anything. Nothing for certain.

I wondered what to show her. What would be good. The Virgo galaxies? The Leo Triplet. I assumed they'd be too dim. Maybe a globular? I chose Messier 3. Whoa. Straight up. Fire trucking hell.

Explained my star hop. Pointed out the starting star, ρ (rho) of Boötes! She couldn't see the screen. I said it was like a lowercase p.

Rhonda thought it a pleasant temperature. I shared that I saw the predicted low was 3°, with a frost warning.

Apologised for the slow progress. Much slower than using a go-to mount.

11:11. Finally landed at M3.

Called Rhonda out.

We viewed the globular. It was granular. A peppering of stars. [ed: Course.] I liked the view.

Got a lawn chair for Rhonda.

Noticed the voice recorder battery level very low. Went inside. Grabbed some AAA rechargeable batteries. And Twizzlers! Movie and treats!

Did some wide-field Mark I eyeball observing.

11:41. Asked Rhonda if she had seen any meteors.

Scorpius rising up through the southern trees. Oh ho! Spotted the Libra! Zubenelgenubi (lower) and Zubenelschemali (above). Verified it with the computer.

Tried to split α (alpha) Librae naked eye. No joy.

Saw Cygnus climbing over the hedge. Lyra and Vega.

23:50. Asked rho if she wanted to see how the focusing Y-mask worked. "Sure." Installed the wire focusing mask I made two weeks previous. I used bright star Arcturus. The 6-pointed pattern was visible although dim. It worked in the Celestron 26mm eyepiece. Then I tried the Pentax 20mm: it was better. Talked about the behaviour of light.

Onto my experiment proper. I had Rhonda focus perfectly for her vision. Then I examined the view with my eyeglasses on. It was pretty good. I removed my specs and I felt the pattern was off a little. Went back and forth a couple of times.

So I think I can conclude the diffraction changes due to the observer's vision. [ed: I should repeat this with different masks and different 'scopes.]

Then I put in the Tele Vue 9mm. She saw the diffraction rings. Like waves around a stone in a smooth pond. I tried to explain the airy disc. She thought it egg-shaped. And the lines leaning a bit to left. Yep, due to an optical flaw in this 'scope.

She headed in, wished me a beautiful night.

12:12 AM EDT, Friday 22 May 2020. Tried for HD 111959 (STF 1686) in Com. Gave up. They must have been too tight. ST3P said 5.7". Should have been possible. [ed: I've made it to 2.2" in the ETX.] The bad seeing, I thought. Mag 7.9 and 8.9 stars.

Compelling group of stars... At low power. L-shape.


Not good for the programme...

12:31 AM. Oh. Forgot, I had the Oregon Scientific weather station sitting out on the table. Checked. The relative humidity was 33%, wow, air temperature 10.7°C, new Moon phase, barometric pressure dropping, cloudy and raining in 24 hours...

Good one in CrB, not far from ζ (zeta). No other observations... Hold on. The entry in my list was for the AC pairing. I checked the primary entry for HD 139691 aka HU 1167. Bummer. Previously observed. But it was on my View Again list. Logged. Probably for the AB pair at 1.3" with a delta-m of 5! I surmised I had just observed the A and C stars at mags 7.1 and 8.0 with a sep. of 15.3". D should have been visible. E would be impossible.

ST3P showed another star. Hmmm.

I think this needs some big aperture.

Was starting to feel cool. Wanted my winter coat. Wondered what I could take back. Grabbed the liquorice and went indoors. Grabbed my toque.

12:47. Centred on the non-ζ star. [ed: Huh?]

HD 139691. Zoomed in the software. Ah. C, D, and E were on top of each other.

The Object Information magnitude data is very different than the values shown when hovering the chart. To the point where I don't know which star I was actually seeing.

[ed: From Stelle Doppie:

A 8.1
B 9.9
C 8.1
D 9.0
E 8.2

C and D are 1.5" apart. C and D are 14.5 and 15.1 from A. So I think C and D are merging...]

Considered HR 6043. Ah, gee. Not doable in the ETX.

1:02. Lovely. Empty field. Nice pair. σ (sigma) CrB aka STF 2032. Looked great at low power. Good. A double-check for the programme.

In Corona, ν (nu) 1 and ν2 are considered a pair, at 360. Bino target.

Next in Corona Borealis.

1:09. I wondered what the transparency was like. Mag limit check. 10.8, 11.0, 12.2, 11.2, 11.5. Good stuff. Definitely in the mag 11 range. Nearly straight up.

Spotted an undesignated pair with Tycho 02580-00742 1.

Viewed HR 6110 aka H V 38 in CrB. What?! I wondered if the secondary was really faint. Hovering over the star, the software said B was magnitude 9.7. [ed: OI box says 6.4 and 8.8.] So weird. Much fainter. 1 or 12:30 o'clock position. Reminded me of the Blinking Planetary. When I looked directly at the star I didn't see it. Tiny bit east of north. Really interesting pair. In the Pentax.

1:15. Checked power. Recorder looked OK. Netbook looked OK. Icon was half-full; 44% remaining; 2-ish hours.

Viewed δ (delta) Boötis. Wide. Easy. [ed: ST3P says 103.8" apart.]

Next. Alkalurops aka μ (mu) works but quite wide. Arguably too wide. Perhaps a target for bins. Very obvious. Bright.

It was interesting looking at δ and μ at the same time, or back-to-back, as they are very similar. Same distance, similar colours.

1:24. A nearby bird suddenly called out. Crazy loud! Hello. You've got a way to go before sunrise...

π (pi) Boo is great. Also known as Σ1864. Good for my programme.

Low battery again.

I considered that delta is not a good candidate.

1:35. Changed one battery again.

Spotted HD 175885 aka STF 2421 in Lyra. Near HR 7140 (which I have viewed)... Fainter pair. Half the separation. One or two mags different. Opposed or rather at a 90° angle—approximately—to the HR pair.

No joy with T Cygni.

1:49. I heard a critter munching on the bread I had tossed by the hedge. Crunchy snack.

61 Cygni aka Σ2758 was great.

Done. I didn't feel like carrying on. It was 2 AM. I'd be lucky to get in bed by 3. Started shutting down.

2:04. Last condition of the conditions. 36%, 9.4, still dropping, still rain.

Tore down the telescope, all while the camera continue to shoot the backyard. Stacked things at the airlock. Started taking bits inside. Took the blind down and stowed it in the shed.

Ho ho! Down at the south edge of the yard, I spotted bright Jupiter in the south-east. Looked for Saturn. There it is! I knew it would be nearby. Awesome. Four planets, pairs bracketing the evening! Nice surprise.

2:17. Hibernated John Repeat Dance.

Took the last few items, TV table and carry-all, to the house. Checked on the photo rig.

2:20. Took everything inside.

2:25. Everything (er, the telescope gear) was back indoors.

Found that John Max had restarted. Stoopid out of control Windows updates!


Imaged STF 1686 on 2 May '21 and 4 May '21.

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