Saturday, March 20, 2021

enjoyed the dark (Bradford)

Friday 19 March 2021, 8:10 PM. Started the recorder (it said 7:10). "Look at that." Good battery level, 9 hours space left. Wasn't sure the daylight settings for the Sony unit... Didn't have my phone. It was getting dark. I had been out here for a while, maybe an hour. I had finished work at 7... Must be 8 PM.  

The tent (with fly) was set up. I goofed on the order, putting in the poles before staking the corners. The new labels on the poles were great! Used a tarp under the observing section for the first time. Old carpet inside, a bit to the south. Broke a strap near the north door... Bad mounting on some of these.

On Thursday I had planned to set up the tent and take some things out. I removed it from the garage storage box and the picnic table from the shed. In the end I was too tired to do anything else. So I just loaded the airlock with gear.

Distracted all day today. Couldn't wait for my course to finish. Red light mode activated. Had a big "linner" and had slept in to begin shifting...

Heavy-duty extension cord end inside tent (it had been outside for weeks). Tripod set up with the mount installed. Half the cables and the counterweight shaft already installed, from my Stellarium level 2 training course. Triangular tray installed.

Continued the setup.

Installed counterweights. Levelled the tripod. Perfect. 

The tripod leg level clamps are getting hard to turn so I need to refurb them, clean and lubricate...

Quickly aligned on Polaris.

Installed the OTA. So nice doing this without freezing the fingers! In fact, I was soaking. All my clothes were damp from warm(ish) air, sweating, from all the work, and now that I was done the heavy lifting, I was getting chilled.

Installed the dew cap. Installed the finder scope. Readied the astronomer's chair. Hand controller with new strap!

Rigged up the power to the IDEA GoToStar system. The GFCI power bar would not lie flat in the cold.

Installed Williams Optics dielectric mirror diagonal with low power eyepiece. The baader planetarium 36mm aspheric wide-field.

Booted the mount. It occurred to I still didn't know the time. The hand controller showed 20:23 (preserved by the battery). Sounded good; I accepted it. 

Started moving. And I suddenly shut it down. I had not balanced the mount. Didn't want to stress the motors any more than necessary. Couldn't get it to balance with the two weights so I added the third. And finally installed the toe-saver. Good to go.

Did a one-star alignment using Aldebaran then went to the Moon. ('Course, that does not issue a polar alignment report.)

The contrast on the Moon was incredible! The transparency of the air was amazing. The seeing seemed quite good... Wow. Crater Aristoteles to the north was incredible, black inside, enigmatic. I could see many lava flows in Mare Serenitatis. Little white dots everywhere along the terminator, mountain peaks, westward crater walls. Super-bright, white small crater west of Crisium: I could see it's rays splashing across the sea. Proclus?

Lunar X was tomorrow night...

Headed indoors. Told Rhonda about the Moon. Changed to dry clothes. Grabbed my phone.

More stuff to do. Set up the portable picnic table. Tried it in a different orientation, seats east and west. Nope. Too intrusive.

Set up John Repeat Dance. Been a while. Already had the red film. Plugged in the keyboard light. Readied the power cords. Started SkyTools. Started a Notepad file.

8:42 PM. Rhonda visited. I warned her of trip hazards.

"Oh, nice. Wow. That looks great. Really amazing."

She observed there was no wind. Asked about the low temperature. That I did not know.

Still in the field. Little or no drifting. I had a rather good polar alignment...

8:47. Fired up the TextNow app on the motorola phone. Switched to dark mode. Texted the neighbours, invited them to have a look at the Moon.

8:54. Checked the time against my phone.

Closed the west window. Closed the east door.

Moved to a star to start exploring.

9:15. Headed inside for more stuff while the neighbour pinged me. I shoved my TV table and a Sealed Lead Acid marine battery out the airlock.

9:19. Cathy was waiting for me when arrived outside. Asked if she ever looked through a telescope. Nope. All right. I went back to the Moon. "Oh wow. Holy cow. It's so close and clear. That's remarkable."

She asked me what caused the shadows. I explained the Sun's illumination and the lack of atmosphere.

Tom came out. Awesome. We got him in the chair. "Oh my f---." Ha ha. Yep. "Oh my God! That is so amazing. Like the pictures. But better. So incredible." He was mesmerised.

They thanked me for sharing the view. Good stuff.

A string of white dots appeared in the darkness west of Serenitatis. Very strange. Was it the far west rim of the crater wall?

Grabbed the wood table for the eyepiece case. 

Grabbed the SLA for the dew heaters. Powered up the SCT strap.

Slewed to Sirius. Wishful thinking.

9:34. Noticed the power was low on the Sony.

9:40. Inserted fresh batteries. Set the time to Daylight Saving. Audio on track now.

Viewed Sirius searching for The Pup. Installed the Tele Vue Type 6 Nagler 9mm. Checked the chart in SkyTools 3 Professional.

Eyepiece fogging. Installed my custom eyepiece heater.

Oh... a zoom eyepiece... Forgot about that.

Tried all the tricks including averted vision. 

No luck.

9:41. Asked the neighbour to turn off their porch lights.

Movin' on... Considered my "just exploring" approach for the evening.


10:08. Headed inside to put on a bunch of layers and my red coat, the winter coat! I couldn't find it... Put on my jacket instead.

Damn it! The ASUS netbook locked up. Static electricity again. I need my wrist strap... sheesh. Damn it all to Hell! Lost my unsaved Notepad file! Arrgh. Rebooted. Restarted ST3P. Recreated the notes, saved the file...

Closed the north door to cut the light pollution.

Orion was getting low. Oops. Betelgeuse was still above the trees though...

10:29. Really neat. West was nearly up. Super-obvious double to the south (left). Two equal stars, orange, faint. Same colour, right? It was an official double. Struve 817 aka HD 39758. First viewed 8 years ago! Almost to the day.

I could see alpha Orionis E.

Tonight was setup night. It was good to be up and running. But I was not sure how long I'd be able to last...

I still felt cold.

Wanted to drive the mount from the computer but I did not have my regular cables. The loaner USB is short. I'd have to use SAO numbers manually entered into the hand paddle.

Decided to drop the random wandering approach. Grabbed Sissy Haas's book.

Considered Gemini, up high. η (eta) Geminorium.

10:38. Cathy turned off the porch lights. Thanks. Shared her appreciation. You're welcome! The lights extinguished helped but the stoopid Moon was still out... Getting low though.

Back was sore. Out of shape being a desk-jockey for the last 12 months...

Slewed using the SAO number. Fairly easy but I didn't remember seeing this screen before. SAO 78135. Propus. One of the four propuses of The Twins.

10:44. Didn't see an obvious pair with 7 Gem. Increased the magnification with the Pentax XW 20mm.

10:46. Lovely field. Orange, warm star. In a nearly equal triangle with GSC 01326-0577 to the south and GSC 01326-0608 to the east. Was there a star in the middle? A little hook of stars to the west. 

To my 7 o'clock. Wide pairing of unequal stars well away to the south with the brightest member of LR Gem. Not a double according to SkyTools.

I wondered if there was something at the 11 o'clock position of eta.

Then I wondered if there was something at 4... 

Eyepiece kept fogging up. I noodled on ways to keep them warm for subsequent nights. Sat back from the eyepiece to stop the annoying fogging.

Seeing tanked.

Diffraction limits. The rings were biased to the top. I wondered if there was a star in there... Nothing strongly apparent. Bad seeing wasn't helping.

Stoopid Microsoft wifi mouse was not working. Smeg.

10:57. Rhonda popped outside. I "unlocked" the north door. She had a look.

We talked again a bit on Dr Sara Seager. There's a show coming up on W5 on CBC. Made a note to ask Charles. We talked about mass immunisations. Can't wait. Discussed a run to Sayal but now I didn't feel like it. So pushed that off. I'll make a good shopping list of electronics stuff. 

Headed inside to get more stuff. Found my red coat! I didn't see it before with all the low and red lighting. Rhonda thought that very amusing. I was very happy. 

Enjoyed a hot chocolate after installing the red film to John Max's monitors.

Saturday March 2021, 12:05 AM. Returned to tent. With another extension cord, a short one for the computer. 

Heard a static spark as I touched astronomy case alpha prime. Ah...

Gemini was half in the trees. Only head and shoulder targets were viable. Leo was crossing the meridian.

Considered next target in Gemini. Tried to find high Dec objects in Sissy's book. Flipped eyepieces.

Gem was dropping. Marked three Haas suggestions as "to be viewed." Switched to Cancer.

12:19 AM. Slewed by RA and Dec. I didn't recall ever doing that before with the GoToStar hand controller! 24 Cancri.

Yellow and deep orange, very colourful but faint! Easy wide in the 36mm eyepiece. Bright star way off to the right at the 4 o'clock position and another at the 8 o'clock (blurry off axis). Lots of faint field stars all around. Bright star above, one third of the way to the edge of the field.

Oops! That was not 24. That was Σ1220 aka HD 70897! Ha ha, fell on it. Still, a nice one. ST3P said  29 arc-seconds apart.

Turns out 24 was the object at the 4 o'clock position or north-east.

Slewed to this bright object and as it slid to the centre of the field, it become obvious. A tight pair of bright stars. 24 Cnc aka STF 1224. Nice one! Really nice, white and yellow? White and orange. Nearly aiming to 1220. The right hand star was slightly fainter, tiny bit. Very neat. ST3P said 5.7" separation.

That's a showpiece.

There's a third star, parked right beside B. Sep 0.13". Ah, no. A very fast binary, 22 years.

Felt like it was really late... My internal clock is all screwed up. It's true what Lewis Black says!

Noted long settle damp times. Thought about my electronic focuser project... No, not out here. That's a bench project.

Next Haas target?

12:49. Viewed Otto Struve 195 aka HD 76037. Faint pair. Ten seconds of arc. Yellow and blue. Oriented up and down, NW through SE. Easy split at low power.

I saw a wide pair, not official, close by, to the west, parallel to OΣ195. Very neat. The four together are amazing. But the other two were faint and may be out of reach in a smaller instrument.

Bunch of stars to the south-west, in an arc, faint. Attractive field.

That's it. Tired. Lower back pain. Still cold. 

Parked. Noted the position. Bang on 90 Dec. Shutdown. Powered off the Kendrick controller. Netbook to sleep (to power inside later). Packed up. Sealed the tent and reinstalled the fly with a few carabiners. 

That was a pretty good night. Very good polar alignment. Quick setup in the dark but I had just about everything I needed. Dew heating worked well. One computer glitch. Mended fences. Got a couple of new doubles. Impressive views of the Moon. Ready to go for two more nights.

Back under the canopy of distant suns, at last.

No comments: