Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday part one (Bradford)

8:49. After-dinner review, observing session preamble. 
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: slewing and tracking with IDEA GoToStar
Eyepiece installed, Celestron Micro Guide (CMG) ready. Tray light ready. Both lawn chairs ready, mine and Rhonda's. Tidied a bit. Re-read my notes.

9:22. Nice night, Monday evening. Skies were looking good again! Woo hoo, three in a row!

The bats were out. Eat those bugs!

9:49. Checked the battery on the recorder: full; 10 hours of space. Checked the conditions: 43%, 15.6° (again the Oregon is about 5 or 6 minutes fast). Found my deep red flashlight.

Oops, removed the inner cap. Then aligned the mount on two stars with the CMG 12.5mm reticule. The polar axis report: less than 1 minute for each, "display R.A. axis error," altitude 29.3 higher, and azimuth 17.3 west. Pretty good numbers.

Connected the computer. Started the drift alignment routine in SkyTools but caught something out of the corner of my eye, a time-out error message. Got it again. Weird. But when I looked at the hand controller I saw that I had left the axis report screen active. Cleared it and suddenly the mount moved, the slew commands released from the queue. Accepted the star in the south. Oriented the linear scale of the reticule to the celestial equator. It suggested φ (phi) Virginis (a neat double). Discovered I could rotate the bisected field of view in the software—excellent. Switched to the other axis slewing to a star in the east. 

Rhonda popped in. Tucker was happy. "A beautiful night," she remarked. It get loud with a swarm of motorcycles ripping through town. "I like the music but I can't stand the racket." Told Rhonda I was missing the Death by Chocolate event and my supply of Hedgehogs was running "alarmingly low." We talked about actor Chris Dowd. What the backyard would look like if we grew 150 sunflowers!

Did another round of drift aligning, south and east, south and east. OK. Done. Tightened the mount fasteners. Issued a park command. Readied to redo the star alignment—what I forgot to do last night and had dreamt about. Used Albireo. Next star... Done. All right! Huh. Still reported a large error on one axis, over 1 minute. Anyhoo.

10:33. Asked rho if she had any special requests. No... not really. But no fuzzies! OK then. Fine, be that way. In fact, I had added a bunch of doubles from Sissy Haas's book.

The ISS Detector app issued an alert on the Motorola phone. I had programmed a new sound. The message was not for the space station but for a Starlink satellite train... Ugh. Explained the issues to Rhonda.

Off we go. Pointing was better. 

1 Boo. Σ (STF) 1772. First impression was that it was a binocular double. But wait... Keep looking, I prompted Rhonda. "The prize?" She said, "It would likely be the one on the bottom." Yes, the bright one. "Can I 'split it?' More than two? I see something small around 5 o'clock..." A super-faint star, I checked. Super-close, right? "Is it really? Did I do it?" Rhonda questioned, excited. Drinkin' the Kool-aid. I read Sissy's note: "A bright star with a close, dim companion." Mr Webb says, "Bluish-white, very blue."

I shared some flamboyant descriptions from the book. "Grapefruit orange, kissing." And "Sun-yellow with misty dot." Or "gloss white" stars. To Rhonda, talked about my poor assessment of Mulaney's double star book. No, you don't see colours like in your flower garden. Talked about how Mr McKinney and I when viewing doubles try to outdo Sissy. "Crimson and beach sand white."

The seeing was better. It was a good view in the more powerful eyepiece. She could see it more clearly. I thought the dim star was orange. She thought it grey or white. Try the other eye. Defocus. She still thought it grey. I had another look, OK, maybe blue. A and B were 4.7 seconds of arc apart.

I learned there was a C star. 88". Used the software to check the location. Got it in the eyepiece!  Groovy. About the 1 o'clock position. Fainter than B. She saw it too. "Well, it's 1 minute after 1 o'clock." Really?

It was 14 degrees in the office.

She saw more stars. 4 o'clock, 8 o'clock, a bunch above. I admitted they could be part of the system but my old software didn't show anything.

Had some water from the aurora mug when Rhonda went inside.

Big slew. Oops, I landed on κ (kappa). Meant to go somewhere else. At high power I saw a faint double. PPM 78886. Bright one on the left. Freebie.

We talked about the amazing alignment of things. A third quarter Moon phase i.e. no silly light pollution from our celestial neighbour. A fantastic clear patch of weather, first time in a long time, and we just don't get that many good nights in Ontario. Thus allowing me to get the "big gun" out, the big aperture 'scope (with Go-To). My excellent backyard. And while my work has picked up significantly (thank the Universe), I had a quiet week ahead. So I decided to take my vacation time. And play. No dew to contend with, remarkably. And not a lot of bugs. Wow. Just outstanding. My happy place.

Spotted my target. HD 141186 aka STF 1973. "Not very exciting." Apologised for pre-conditioning. "Super-low," I said. Rhonda thought them pretty. I liked all the stars around it. "A bow-tie" with Tycho 2577-630-1. Rhonda thought the shape was a butterfly. The two in the middle were the double star candidates. I explained that Haas's book was produced using a small telescope, not unlike the 90mm MCT that I often use for one-nighters. I was at the lowest power on this but I had to be careful assessing. 

I love when stars are really close together. When wide, it's less... compelling. Less... exciting. This target was attractive but just didn't have the same oomph when doubles are in that sweet spot. Rhonda thought the top star warmer, bottom was brighter. Yellow-orange, bottom was yellow. Rhonda said the bottom was "maybe, buttermilk." Ah. So the top was "pumpkin." No, wait, "Squash." Rhonda thought about it some more: "Butternut squash!" Oh that's good. 

I looked up the location: 15 46. Haas said, "An easy white pair in an interesting field. It's a fairly bright white star with a little grey companion. They are centred in a cross-shaped asterism." About 30 arc-seconds separation. The previous pair was about 4". Top one was orange, bottom was yellow, I thought. A simple double. No other doubles nearby. Good in the medium power eyepiece. Wondered if the A and B were splittable in the finder: no.

Checked the mozzie coil was burning.

11:27. Chose a star in Cygnus. Oh oh, spaghettio. In the treeline.

Chose a target in Herc, HD 150340 aka Struve 2079. Disconnect, reconnect, go! Took me a while. Field in the finder didn't look right. Lost? Yes. Saw a hockey stick of stars and figured it out. Panned to the subject. Pretty. OK. Finally arrived. A nice one. 

Rhonda liked it. "The right separation," I said. In a butterfly pattern, again. "A trapezoid," she said. Nearly equal brightnesses, I suggested. She disagreed, the top was brighter. "Close but not equal." Warm colours, Rhonda thought, "I wouldn't go so far as pumpkin but not a cold blue-white." Yellow and orange? Haas says, "Nice effect. This yellow-white pair." I thought they were different colours, subtle mind you. Also, Haas said there was a red tint field star that formed a perfect triangle. Neither of us understood what Sissy was talking about. Unclear, the notes in the book. Rhonda saw another star, above (west), about 6 times out. Yes, inline. I looked again at the pair. We agreed: not the same colour and not the same brightness. Lots of field stars.

I spotted a very faint double at the 4 o'clock position (north-east).

Rhonda was tired. Gardening and all. And another school night. We talked about neighbourhood chicken coops. We thanked Sissy Haas vicariously. We made a sewing plan. She spotted Jupiter from the deck.

Good timing, all. I had to get ready for another imaging run.

11:59. Rhonda departed stage left.

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