Wednesday, June 17, 2020

visual observing (Bradford)

6:06 PM, Tuesday 16 June 2020. Reviewed the weather sources. All looked good. The seeing and trans looked to be average. Hmm. Halifax good too! Do I multi-task?
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: slewing and tracking with IDEA GoToStar
7:06 PM. Got an idea. Yes. Incredible, I know. Here goes. In the future, at the end of the evening:
  1. issue hibernating (or parking) command (the GoToStar will aim at or near Polaris)
  2. note Dec position on the setting circle (it should be on or very near the 90° mark)
  3. manually move to the OTA to whatever "park" suits (I want nose-slightly-down)
  4. power down (but don't disconnect the power cord, assuming the hand controller battery will not maintain the settings)
  5. before starting the next night, return to noted Dec position (as accurately as possible, on the tiny setting circle)
  6. power up (should be good to go)
Or can I set a custom park position?!

8:29. Was trying to figure out why I was having trouble with SkyTools and the IDEA GoToStar motor drive. Reviewed my evergreen page on the GoToStar system.
  • COM port speed must set to 9600
  • tested version is 2.01
  • tested "slew settle time" is 5 seconds
  • Site Elevation option is current set to 264
I was using all those settings! Didn't see anything different. Checked the ASCOM Vixen SS2K driver version via the About tab.
  • ASCOM Vixen SkySensor 2000-PC
  • Telescope driver 5.1.7c
  • with Trace and TLB loading - 6.1.7
That seemed to be the same as what I had before. Noted under the Version tab a long list, 10 entries, from 2.01 through 2.10. The first was checked/selected. That seemed to be correct or what I had used successfully before... Maybe I could try others?

Checked the computer ASCOM stuff under the Start menu, All Programs, my astronomy submenu. I found I was using platform 6.1, build 6.1.28126.2567. I could run diagnostics...

OOOOH! Should have read my notes earlier! "Sync commands from the software DO NOT work but Sync on the hand controller does!" Yeh! I had experienced the sync issue before and found a solution. Thank The Universe! Excited, I planned to try it.

Made a note for follow up, to write up a QRC for the GoToStar. The key points. So I didn't make all these mistakes again.

8:52. For Rhonda, I looked up Jupiter data. Remembering the exclamation, "It's in the handbook!" I consulted the 2020 edition of the RASC Observer's Handbook. There it is, sizes, distances.

Made up a list for my evening experiments and tests.
  • try the sync command on the HC
  • if the sync works, I could image again avoiding the object acquisition issues
  • use a Bahtinov mask for focusing in future image runs
  • so with the combination of better pointing and better focus, I could image 6520 again...
  • and end of evening, try my hibernate-manual move-restore technique
Made a note to find my Bahtinov mask. I think it is in my astronomy paperwork case...

Helped out with a building plumbing issue. The plumber dude was most impressed with my rig. "That's the biggest telescope I've ever seen." You should visit me at the DDO. "How far can it see?" Um, infinity? Billions of light-years? "What can you see?" Everything. Couldn't (didn't want to?) get into it properly. I half-expected him to visit after. See? Everyone, everyone, has an interest in astronomy.

9:22. Started the audio capture.

Saw bats.

9:29. Rhonda popped out for a bit. We chatted about building mechanical services.

Started the mount and did the two star alignment.

9:39. Stars were at the edge of the field, of the finder. Actually, Vega was just outside. A little challenging. Reviewed the report: 13.8 lower, 75.5 east.

Slewed to target, Spica. Did sync command on the hand paddle. Right there, on the main menu! Easy. Readied to connect the computer so see what the result would be. Look at that. The blinkie X was right on α Virginis! I had totally forgotten this process. Rusty, having not used the C8 and Vixen for so long... [ed: Seems like the last run had been 26 Aug '19 in the backyard. That's about 300 days! Lots of telescope systems in my head...]

I was ready to go even though the sky was still bright.

Long dual axis slew.

9:55. In Libra, I viewed HR 5568, a suggestion from Haas's book. aka H N 28. Could not do a lot of field identification. Yellow and orange stars, pleasing separation. Ah, a 5 or 6 star system. A and B were a long-period binary system, currently at 26". A was a K4 star; B was K5. There was no C noted in SkyTools. D was well-away but no mag number was noted. E was mag 13 and F 12. Probably E and F were not visible. I pulled up the Stelle Doppie info. It showed even more stars, G, Bb, although some were beyond the grasp of my 203mm tube. The web site said C was mag 14.

Did a sync command on the hand paddle.

To date, I hadn't been able to slew to another object without gyrations. I tried it. Today, no problem! Yes, smooth sailing now. Somehow today's start up and using the sync made the software happy.

10:02. Off to 18 Lib aka Struve 1894. The sync helped. In the low power eyepiece, it was 1/4 field away. This target had a very dim partner. Cool. Extremely faint. 5.8 and 10.2. C was 11.5, a bit dimmer still. I saw a star about 10 units away, 10 times the AB split. Was that it? Yes! Neat in the Pentax. A and B were yellow and orange.

Noted a wide pair. South-west. With HD 132192.

Spotted GSC 5583-952 at a 90 degree angle to AB, about the C separation. ST3P said it was mag 11.8. To the west.

Returned to the baader. I could still see the C component.

I was so happy that the back-to-back slewing was working! Two big problems solved.

Saw a triangle in the finder.

HD 132883 or STF 1899. Lovely! Another Haas target. Interesting pattern. Nice. A and B were oriented or angled to the bright star HR 5599. East-east-north. Low power, so 55 or 56x. About 3 magnitudes different I guess—software says 6.7 and 9.4.

Spotted something nearby in the chart. Performed a slew-to-cursor command then panned as a hog ripped down the block at hard throttle.

Noted a stretched L-shape. STF 3090 or HD 134212. Didn't think I could break A and B apart at 0.70". C was easy at mag 10 and 90.6". Fascinating system. The long part of the L was a line of 3 stars, nearly perfectly straight. Added to my list. Oops, it went into the Nova Scotia list. Added again to the current plan. Tagged it to look again, to split AB.

Rhonda visited. Told her the software and mount were working a lot better. We talked about the amazing weather. But clouds coming. Stinkin' hot on the weekend. Very happy with last night's session. And no deluge of mosquitoes. Rhonda saw a satellite, then another. Four in 2 minutes. I shared that I used to tell people, at star parties, "Oh, there's about 3000 up there." I should update my numbers especially with Starlink. Maybe there were a lot of sightings for us now, because of the lighting angle, they were still in sunlight. I saw an east-flying jet plane and it's contrail, a faint white line. We talked about capricious club members. Computer programming and The Pit at UW. The foresight of the Experimental City of Tomorrow curators. Video telephony is a good and a bad thing. Work stuff. Getting back to normal routines...

I had not seen a single meteor.

Bats still flying around.

I didn't think the current object terribly interesting so I slewed to a previous object.

Enjoyed the lawn chairs in the office, comfy chairs.

10:45. Slewed to a Hercules target... No no, stop! Experienced a collision, the mount went too far past the meridian. Powered down, then up. Tried a two star alignment. Bad sound, gear hop? Ugh. The software locked up. Oh boy. Issued a park. Tested the motor movement controls on the keypad, inspected the gears. Hopping. The Dec motor had been pushed out of position. Had to do an in-situ repair, loosening and re-seating the drive. Fortunately I was able to get to the fastener without removing the OTA. Not quite a shady tree repair...

[ed: Was it the HD 174897 object?]

Redid the two star alignment. Seemed OK. Whew! Sorry, sorry about the technical difficulties. Where the heck was I?

Big big hop. Wow. Almost hit the target!

We talked about star colours words. Again, I critiqued Mullaney, misusing the words tint and shade. Whereas Bruce MacEvoy is very good about it all, scientific, urging people to settle down, be consistent, use a common set of terms. Rhonda talked about colour descriptors for water colours, acrylics, and oils, the consistent labelling. We talked about my double star programme, Rhonda asked if people were following it. I am thrilled that Melody has jumped on the bandwagon and that Chris seems to have taken a serious interest.

11:14. Oh! Look at that! HD 148683 in Hercules. STF 2051 from Haas. Shared the view. "Cute." Not a lot of colour. Rhonda asked if it was more than two. Wasn't sure. Both white for her. Me? Yellow and orange. Intense orange, right one. The left one was yellow. Blue? No, orange! I changed the power, panned a bit. It was flipping on me. Blue or orange. Wait, the left was orange; the right was blue. Faint. Good one.

11:40. So glad I figured out the sync. And it was good to get some stars in Libra.

I wished SkyTools could be commanded to stay on one side of the meridian. Or a list filtered accordingly.

Rhonda returned. Asked if she brought pie. She said the stars on my shirt were glowing, the tentree hoodie. Glow in the dark! Nice. Invited rho to stay up to 2:30 so I could show her Saturn. Yeah but no!

Slewed to HR 6361 in Ophiuchus. Pointing was better. Low power. "Have a look," I said. Tight and a big delta magnitude. Took her a moment. Haas target again. "Beige? Not white-white, off-white, off-white wedding dress, she's-been-married-before-white! The other, bottom one, was lemon, not quite banana. Sunrise; not sunset." Ha! I had a look. "Lemon meringue?" White and orange. The bottom was white-ish. Checked the software—just a double. Switched to higher power. Upper, B, to the west, was definitely orange. More or less angled east and west.

Wait! Spotted a faint double nearby. Faint. Half the separation. Same angle, almost the same. Between centre and the edge of the field. Not on the chart. Undiscovered? With GSC 5064-842. Along the 5 o'clock line. She could only see them with averted.

[ed: Found in WDS. 17072-0135, AAQ 1, discovered in 1998 with 9 observations to 2015, PA 67, sep 12.4, mags 12 and 12.2. Precise location: 170712.37-013449.0. Thar she blows.]

12:00 AM, Wednesday 17 June 2020. My phone alarm went off, a reminder to prep to image NGC 6520 again. That also served as a signal to Rhonda to wrap it up. Couldn't stay up late. Again declined my offer to wake her at 2:30.

Followed Rhonda inside. I got more clothes.

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