Sunday, June 14, 2020

a double and a shadow (Bradford)

Quick report: will be replaced with detailed log entry later...

Viewed one new double star.

With Rhonda, viewed Jupiter, Io's shadow, and Io merging.

Really bad seeing most of the evening.

Some weird software issue but overall all the equipment worked really well.


Set up the tent. Deliberately positioned a bit closer to the house. And made sure to be inline with the east wall (even though I had disabled the security light). 

The zipper (slider joiner part) was missing. Gone from the interior division panels! Weird... Not rattlin' around inside on the floor anywhere. Not a critical part but still.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: slewing and tracking with IDEA GoToStar
2:45 PM, Saturday 13 June 2020. Post-setup. Lots done, mostly complete. Tent up but without fly, airing out. Vixen tripod up, mount atop with counterweights, and wired up. OTA under the apple tree to keep cool out of direct sunlight. Dew heating case δ below tripod. Eyepieces case ε out, on the little wood TV table. Sketching case σ out. Main astronomy case α prime ready. Camera kit out. Dew cap at the ready. Picnic table up inside "office" end of tent, sitting at it. Just brought netbook computer out. Binoculars. I had the Oregon Scientific weather station sitting on the table. When I first glanced at it, it showed 31.0°C air temperature; now it was 29.9° Celsius.

3:20 PM. Back from some lawn work. Rhonda is continuing. The Oregon air temp had risen a bit, now 30.3. Air pressure was rising, sunny tomorrow icon, relative humidity was 23%—a very good sign. 3:24 PM on the weather station. Computer showed a time of 3:18. The portable weather station is running 6 minutes fast. Sony seemed to match the computer. [ed: Verified portable computer matches desktop in terms of time.]

Finally remembered the Big DOC adjustable-height observing chair.

Set the desktop computer into dark mode. Turned on Chrome browser plug-in High Contrast. Closed the Evernote client and accessed the web. Switched to "old mode." Ha. They prompted me, why are you doing this? I told them I need a good dark mode for astronomy. Sheesh.

9:22 PM. After dinner, I brought out my toque, glasses-regular, and gloves. I was ready for the cool temperatures. I had two layers on below and three layers on top. I had seen a predicted low temperature below the historical! Brrr.

Changed colour of meridian line in ST3P Interactive Atlas as I couldn't see it under the red film.

Noticed some wispy clouds. Boo.

A short time ago, I installed the Celestron 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope on the Vixen Super Polaris. Then I balanced the 'scope with shield and eyepiece installed. It was ready to go.

During the set-up, I did some quick slews; both drives working. No issue with new 3D printed cover. Yeh!

I wondered where the power supply, the little AA battery pack, for the tripod pedestal light was. I did not see it in the mount bag. Was it on my desk for repair? [ed: Yes, to be cleaned after a battery leak.]

Continued adding constellations on or near the meridian to the observing plan. This would help give double star targets for me and DSO targets for rho. With well-placed constellations, I could choose double stars from Haas's book, things without check-marks. That would do double-duty then, fun for rho, new stuff for me.

9:25 PM. The mozzies found me! Again! I grabbed the new DEET bottle and headed out of the tent to apply. [ed: Wow, I discovered later I have a few bottles. Good. The little beggars like me.]

The air temperature was around 7 degrees in the "office."

Celestron 9 on Super Polaris with GoToStar motors

Photo captured with Motorola e6 phone camera, f/2, 1/15 sec, ISO 1800, 4mm, auto flash, auto white balance, JPEG format, hand-held.

Started the Sony icd-sx750 audio recorder.

9:49 PM. Getting dark. Hrrm, some wispy clouds... Starting to wind up for the evening programme. Skipped the star alignment process. Aimed to Arcturus so to co-align the Orion finder scope. It was off a bit.

9:51. Spotted CN Charlie November Boötis nearby, to the south. The software said it was magnitude 6.0.

The polar alignment must have been good as I was not seeing much drift. Given the telescope's more northerly position, I could not see Polaris, not in the mount polar scope, neither in the main OTA. The latitude must have been near perfect. I had levelled the tripod with the integrated bubble. And, somehow, the east-west was rather good. No change needed for tonight. [ed: But I forgot to tighten the mount to the tripod.]

Kids were playing in their yards. A beautiful evening.

10:01. Noticed SkyTools was set for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. That's why I wasn't seeing the artificial horizon for the back yard. Scanned the whole sky, getting my bearings, figuring out what was visible. I wondered if I was seeing Spica to the south-west. [ed: Nope.]

Started connecting SkyTools to the Vixen supercharged mount with GoToStar motor system. Checked the port for the USB adapter. Oop, different. Good connection. Looked for the blinkie X on the chart. Found it near Polaris. That threw me for a bit until I remembered I had not done a formal alignment. Duh. The mount was telling the computer it thought it was in the home position. Stoopid human.

Lots of bats flying around.

10:15. Completed alignment. Not bad, could see the target stars in the finder each time. Reconnected software. The X was in the correct spot. Tried syncing. Some issues with that... Strange. It had worked for me before. [ed: Realised later than I had a new software build, I think; after the huge SkyTools corruption crash issue. The apple cart was still upset.]

Slewed to Denebola. Viewed for a while. No problem with the D star.

10:31. Could not see other members per se. Were the clouds affecting me? Running out of time, the target was getting close to the western trees.

Heard some sounds. I checked for grizzly bear, black bear, brown bear. Rhonda popped up, "Boo!" She had her woollies on. She said the backyard light on Frederick neighbour's house was really annoying. Oh well.

Fireworks! Huh, some residents playin' around.

Dove deep into β (beta) Leonis, on my View Again list. To the east, I saw GSC 00870-0103 at magnitude 12.7. Between it and Denebola, I saw J114927.4+143218 at mag 13.7. The C star is supposed to be 13.2, opposite D, more or less, about 1/3 or 1/2 the distance. Oh, spotted GSC 00870-0332 at 12.0 to the north-east, further out than 103. Interesting, seeing mag 12 and 13 stars. But no C companion [ed: In this bad seeing.]. Out of time, almost at the trees. Looked some more until leaves cast shadows. Moving on...

Let's try to get a comet.

10:42. Slewed into Ursa Major, inside the pot. [ed:] Rhonda returned as I was identifying the field. Looked for C/2017 T2. Wasn't sure I was on it. If I was, it was super-faint.

She asked the Moon phase. Around third quarter.

Gave up on the harbinger.

Considered some eye-candy for rho: ah, M13 (Messier 13), up high. Tried slewing but it didn't work. Rhonda asked who was speaking—Audrey of SkyTools. Had to disconnect and reconnect a couple of times to get it working. Slewed, easily IDed it in the finder. Centred. OK!

She correctly identified it as a globular cluster. She found it very bright with averted vision. I wondered (again) would it be like to live on a world, if an exoplanet could exist, in the middle of the globular. Found the distance in SkyTools: 26 000 light-years. But I didn't know the size nor the number of stars. [ed: The radius is about 75 ly and there are about 300 000 stars within.]

We talked about how our Sun would look to other exoplanets.

11:02. Went from the baader Hyperion aspheric 36mm eyepiece to the gifted Pentax XW 20mm. Really nice view!

I considered the Markarian's Chain. It didn't come up in ST3P. Checked my life list and found member M84. Added it to the list. Crikey, in Virgo, which was getting low. Dang. Hold on, I spotted Virgo. But the Chain was right and low. Hmm. [ed: I must have incorrectly tagged Spica before...]

Loaded up the Messier catalogue and looked for objects with high elevation. M94, M102. Rhonda went inside.

11:15. Some planning. Looked at the V-notch in the trees in the south, considering NGC 6520. Wondered when to do my drift alignment. Spotted stars of Scorpius. Antares, 19 degrees up, upper pincher, β or Graffias, middle pincher Dschubba, μ (mu) naked eye double. [ed: Correction, ω (omega) is the naked eye double between Graffias and Dschubba...]

Rhonda returned. Invited her to have a seat at the picnic table. I told her I was hoping Jupiter would sweep through, when it was putting on it's show. The shadow and later moon transit. At 1:45 though, I predicted Jupiter would be behind the big nut tree.

The new Motorola e6 chirped.

Next. Discounted the Ring Nebula. Suggested the "Tim Horton Star." Canadian notation for "Double Double." Tried a slew. It moved about a degree. "Ah, no." Once again, disconnected, reconnected. Ordered up ε (epsilon) Lyrae by slewing to the cursor.

Set-up for the 20mm. A good view. I suggested rho look first in the finder for a wide field. Vega off to the side. Then go to the ocular. Zoom out, zoom in, zoom in on me, eh? Encouraged her to focus carefully. She was having trouble focusing. "I'm seeing four stars." Yeah. That's it! Not great seeing, unfortunately.

Strange: the weather station was showing rain now. 9.9°C, 49%. I was feeling cold. I needed my winter coat.

11:46. Returned to the observatory. Disconnected and reconnected the software. Panned to δ (delta) Lyrae, a colourful system of stars. I suggested defocusing to spread the colour out.

Rhonda provided snacks.

What interesting object could I show next? How about a fuzzy grey ball?!

"Oh, a beautiful slant."

Galaxy Messier 102 (M102) in Draco.

I was surprised how dim it was. I thought I saw it on recommended lists.

We started talking about the Muppets camera test from 1979. You're not a real bear. Frog, you have a wire on your arm.

I noticed the Splinter galaxy (NGC 5907) was nearby on a chart. The software didn't seem to work so I tried to star hop. Was making progress. Arrived... holy hell in a handbag. Barely freakin' visible! I thought it would be way bright, as a needle galaxy. Apologised.

Considered Ophiuchus. Couldn't think of any deep sky objects that would impress. A double star then... Cor Caroli aka the α (alpha) star in Canes Venatici, the constellation of the dogs chasing the bear.

12:13 AM, Sunday 14 June 2020. Slewed. Readied chair and eyepiece. "Oh, wow," said Rhonda. A and F class stars. [ed: Dang. Didn't realise I was so close to M94...] 

Since we were enjoying the colours, I decided on the summer fav, Albireo. Dropped the telescope magnification. "Ooh, colour, thank you." Rhonda asked if they were both called Albireo. Yep, due to period of the naming, a pre-telescope era. I talked about modern catalogues from surveys with space telescopes where every star is getting a designation. Clementine and blueberry!

Talked about Jupiter events, occultations, transits, eclipses, shadow transits, Great Red Spot meridian crossing, etc. Shared that I only pay attention, in general, for multiple events. Reminded me of my time with Uncle Tony... I suspected gas giants would be visible from the deck.

12:37 AM. Checked my list. Updated it. Oh, yeah, Pallas. Considered a target in Vulpecula.

I noticed, more than once, the Slew button would show as Abort Slew. Clicking it would not move the mount. Clicking again would issue feedback that it had just aborted. Clicking again would make the mount move a very short distance. Clearly wrong. Very peculiar. The disconnect/reconnect seems to "reset" things, while fiddly.

Check the target again. Oh. Didn't realise The Foxes constellation was so... long. The target was behind the hedge.

Slewed to T Cygni.

12:46. Made a note of the other screw hole I found in the Williams Optics focuser. Did I have another thumb screw and loose it? [ed: It's not a thumbscrew hole. It has a grub.]

Examined T Cyg aka HR 7956 and BU 677. Noted the line of three stars nearby. Checked the particulars: 10 arc-seconds and 14. Easy. Magnitudes within range of the 200 mm 'scope. But they looked super-tight on the electronic chart. Interesting, the chart showed 8" and 16". I grew frustrated—I could not see any companions. Tried the 36, 20, and 9 mm oculars.

At 222x, the vibration in the 'scope and mount was quite pronounced. I had forgotten to tighten the tripod and mount! At the time I had deliberately done it so to allow for movement, fine tuning during drift alignment.

Should have been an easy split... Wait! What? Thought I saw a rod angled north-west to south-east. Gold. Same colour.

There was a double, in the bent line, east of T Cyg, where the Tycho 02695-3185 1 at mag 10.6 showed in the SkyTools chart. Saw it before. The other star was really faint while the ST3P suggested they were all equal. Wide gap. Noted star GSC 2695-3467 at mag 13.6, west of T, opposite the bent line.

[ed: Looks like this faint double is known. I found the following in the WDS:

ID: 20486+3424
discoverer designation: ES 249
first discovered: 1905
last observation: 2015
number of observations: 9
current position angle: 26
current separation: 7.7
star magnitudes: 10.73 and 11.8
precise coordinates: 204736.47+342352.3

The Tycho star coordinates are 20 47 36.5 and +34 23 52.

So, good. Well documented. Simply a matter that it was not listed in SkyTools.]

Nope, not visible, a little ridiculous, this target—T Cygni. [ed: It is not a good candidate for my double star programme.]

Spotted Jupiter with the unaided eye. Still in the trees. Another hour before clear?

1:03. Oh. Pallas. Commanded the mount to Vulpecula, near the Coat Hanger. Star hopped the last little bit. Verified I was in the right area. Found it. Formed a triangle with HD 344413 (9.8) and TYC 01612-1147 1 (11.1). The number 2 asteroid was equally bright. South-east of HD 344413. In the middle of a flattened diamond with TYC 01612-0929 1 and HD 344414. Nice. Gotcha.

Spotted a whole bunch of doubles, not tagged... Hmm. A bunch centred around HD 183013. Boatloads. [ed: Should photo this region.]

The bad seeing made it difficult to focus.

South-west of the asteroid, I identified WSI 22 in Vulpecula. Faint colourless double. Equal. Oriented east-west.

Ah. Spotted both Jupiter and Saturn through the trees. I saw the top of the Teapot in the gap in the trees.

I was feeling a little tired. Big yawn.

Rhonda arrived, ready for the show. It was nice out, air was still. 7.8°, 62%. Pointed out the Summer Triangle.

Slewed to the Jovian world. Occulted by greenery. Pointing was off so I panned to the planet. Offered the ocular even though not an excellent view. Spotted Io! Close to the planet. Cloud bands were visible when the foliage didn't interfere and the seeing was steady. Checked the software. The shadow should have been happening... Left edge.

1:39. We saw it! The tiny shadow. I simulated the whole transit in the app.

Blob of leaves blocked us. So we waited.

We talked about the particulars of Jupiter. Distances of moons from the parent.

2:02. It cleared! A great view. Pin prink on the planet. Lumpy cloud bands. Io drawing so close. Lots of stars. 62%, 7.6°, air pressure steady.

A moon was missing!? I only saw 3. Was one behind? Or way off? If only 3 were visible then it meant the 4th was behind. Huh.

2:05. Io was touching the limb. A bump. A couple of minutes later, the next tree started interfering. So we missed the final contact events.

Regardless, that was awesome!

Done. Rhonda offered to help close shop. "Remember to park the 'scope before closing the roof." Indeed. I got terribly snagged in cables when I tried to move the TV table! [ed: Need one of those floor cable things!] Having not found my carabiners, I stacked down the fly.

2:24. I was back inside. Headed to bathroom for brushing of the toothes. What a fun night. Great weather. Very glad I set up, tonight was good, tomorrow looks good, maybe I'll even get more nights.

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