Sunday, March 21, 2021

fixed mount, viewed X and many doubles (Bradford)

Almost 7 PM. Saturday 20 March 2021. Back in the temporary backyard observatory. I brought out the first round of stuff, including my electronics kit anti-static strap. Wires and tape for a quick diffraction grating. My personal USB-serial adapter. And a second SLA battery. But I forgot my phone again!

Looking forward to another clear night. Amazing all the CSAC weather alerts I've been receiving noting "Transparent" for the clarity and "Good" or better for the seeing.

Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: slewing and tracking with IDEA GoToStar

Cathy went by with the dog. I gave an open invite. "Absolutely." Tom apparently was still going on about it.

The SLA battery was showing "FUL." Put away the intelligent charger.

I cut out a piece of the rubber grippy cloth stuff from the roll, so to fit the seat of the astronomy chair. Width is perfect! I'd staple it down later...

Rotated the Declination axis back to 90°. Fired up the mount, from it's sleep mode, just as the neighbour to the south started cutting some stone. Loud! A gaggle of motorcycles ripped along the strip. Loud! I sent the mount to the Moon. On target. Love that.

I could see the Lunar X was in progress... Looking more like an H, actually.

Went to the house to get stuff. Including the motorola e6.

Considered an afocal shot of the Moon...

The baader eyepiece was really dirty. Blew out a little hair filament from the inside. Need a blower-brush tool in the case epsilon...

7:10 PM. Tried imaging the Moon.

Moon in daylight - Lunar X forming

motorola e6, f/2, 1/60th of a second, 4mm, ISO 61, hand-held afocal to the eyepiece, 36mm aspheric baader ocular, 8-inch SCT telescope, tracking at lunar rate. Due to the 3 reflections, up is up, left is right.

Interesting how the shadow of the SCT secondary mirror is visible to the camera...

There ya go. I expected it but this clearly shows you can see Lunar X in the daytime.

Whoa! As I was playing with the settings for the camera in the smartphone, when in Manual mode, I discovered the save-image settings and in addition to JPEG it offered RAW! What the Universe? My phone does RAW?! Awesome, I set to DNG+JPEG. That'll be fun... Is this new?! Was it added recently?

7:14. Tried another shot.

Lunar X very obvious in this fast shot

motorola e6 again, 1/54th of a second, ISO 50.

That's better.

Tried high ISO to shoot faster to reduce hand-shake. But noisy.

Showed Rhonda my Lunar X shot.

7:20 PM. Rhonda visited and had a look. Thought the presentation of the Moon made it look "round." Yeah, sometimes I get a strong sense of a sphere floating in space. It's cool when that happens.

She warned me, "Don't sit on the scissors."

Decided to try for Sirius in the daylight... Slewed. It did a meridian flip. Nothing in the finder.

Hooked up the computer and mount using the found 9-pin serial cable, not sure it it would work, but all went well. Yes. I've extended the serial leg of the data connection (apropos). Couldn't remember where ultimately this came from but it's a keeper. The cable needs nuts on the one end though.

7:32. Temperature was dropping. Made a note to get the Oregon weather station. I'd get that on my next clothing run... Closed the shed. Closed the west window. Closed the east door.

I started a manual spiral search for Sirius.

Slew to cursor: F3. 

Got it! Found Sirius in the blue sky. "Look at that." Centred and synced.

The robins were really going!

Went inside for clothing, my jacket and hat. Grabbed some spare AAA batteries for the red blinkie LEDs. I put it in the random pattern... Fun.

7:52. I found the blinking X in SkyTools was in the right location! Good.

Put the heater pad sheet into the eyepiece case, connected to None More Black, my custom controller, and the second marine battery. In short order it started putting out heat. Yes!

7:59. Looked at Sirius again and I was seeing field stars emerge in the darkening sky. Helped me rotate the field in SkyTools.

I chimed in with the chattering robins. I think I upset one!

Made a simple diffraction grating with a single wire across the dew shield. My initial installation was too close to where I thought Sirius B would be so I shifted it by about 10 degrees. But then I was not getting crisp spikes. Torn it down.

Oops. Forgot to turn off the security light for the driveway...

Made a note to find my second heating pad sheet...

Watched clearances. Sirius was moving past the meridian and the mount continued tracking.

Shot a quick movie, with the phone, of the scintillation of Sirius.

Tried the Tony dos Santos occulting eyepiece. It was super-black! Awesome, thanks to the painting I had done with Rhonda's supplies a while back. No reflections. [ed: And shows just how bright the sky really is.]

8:34. Immediately saw faint stars in the field. I activated more stars in the software but found it disorienting.

The thing to do would be a detailed sketch, rotating the eyepiece 3 or 4 times...

Or put the computer right beside the telescope...

B was mag 8.5... Maybe I should make the Square Mask. There's lots of light to work with...

8:38. Made a note.

8:40. Also made a note to ask people about the faint ring around bright stars. I had first noticed it last summer around Vega. [ed: I think I have it in photos, so it's just a human physiology eye thing.] Here I could see it around the alpha star of Canis Major. About a third of the way from centre. I should ask the community what this is, or what's causing it. It's clearly some diffraction artefact. I'm curious the math of it... Something to do with the 203mm OTA aperture.

Went inside. Gloves. Keys. Turned off the driveway light robot.

8:48. Had another look at the brightest star in the sky. Darkening sky. Increased contrast with Sirius and the field.

I thought out loud, "I don't think I can get there from here."

Noticed there was no silica sachet inside the zippered plastic bag for the occulting ocular. Made a note.

Hey! Wondered if there was a space in case epsilon for the occulting eyepiece. Maybe I can cut a new slot...

8:50. Considered the evening targets and decided to try things in the east, as the telescope was on the west side of the pier... Synced the software. Verified the flashing X was in the right spot.

Cracked open the Black Seal... aaah.

In one of the whiskey glasses, the classic Glencairn, from Katrina no less.

I did a short slew to get close to the meridian. Selected a star on the other side of the meridian... A Leo star.

Did another slew—no! It went the wrong way! Mount collision! 

I could hear gear hop by the time I got to the mount and powered it off! Then SkyTools started to crash due to the interrupted data connection. Powered up the mount but SkyTools couldn't recover. It trapped a time-out and then closed. 

It had flickered through my mind to abort the slew in the software but I didn't recall the process hence running to the mount.

Set back. 

Wow. Took the wind out of my sails. Demoralising. I stood there for a moment. What to do. What to do.

Reconfigured the mount to its home position and tried a star alignment but the mount didn't move in RA. Repair time...

I checked the cover from the RA motor drive. It was held in place with two small Philips screws. Reached for the mount carrying case. Checked the bunch of tools there. Did I have everything that I needed? All right, a small Philips screwdriver! I had forgotten about that.

Then I needed to loosen and retighten the Allen grub screws holding the Right Ascension motor drive in the mount. The collision had pushed the motor out of position. I looked in the mount tool kit and there was no small Allen key! I had all the other ones for the tripod but not the teenie one for the set screws.

Off to the house. I grabbed my extensive Tekton Imperial-Metric Allen key set. I knew a Metric wrench would be needed... Learned that the 2.5mm key fit the grub screws. In short order, the mount was up and running again.

A perk of backyard observing is having a full tool set at one's disposal! When the mount goes rogue, one can affect a repair in-situ. Whew.

I made a note to find or buy a spare 2.5mm Allen key for the mount repair kit. Dedicated.

Left the cover off to do a quick shakedown. Restarted and did a one-star align on Aldebaran. Quite far off this time but got on it and then slewed to Bellatrix without issue. No problem with the Dec axis, of course.

9:15. Up and running again. Time for a drink! Frack!

[ed: Not bad overall, fixed the problem in less than 25 minutes.]

Where was I? Before so rudely interrupted.

Oh. Must take a photo for Katrina!

computer, book, lubrication

Busy at work in the office. motorola e6, f/2, 1/30th of a second, 4mm, ISO 259, auto-flash. Up is up, left is right.

I took the hint to view targets in Orion. Relaunched SkyTools. Gah, all my settings were gone (I should really reconfigure it to my current preferences).

Looked up a double in Sissy Haas's book. Added π (pi) 1 Orionis to the SkyTools observing plan list. Readied to slew. Located the Abort Slew button, just in case... Off we went.

Didn't see anything obvious in the eyepiece. Seeing was bad. Was it really tight? No, ST3P said it was super-wide. Huh.

Back was cold. Needed another layer for the torso and the winter coat. This time I remembered to put pants on.

9:40. Checked double stars for small telescopes again. The numbers didn't seem to match. Oooh. π3! Wrong star. Duh.

Looked again, while I was there. West was up. The two stars with... HD 287234, down, below, was east. The B star was above. No problem seeing that, B was well away and to the west. Therefore the P partner should be to my right. Looked again. Nope... 

Noted the string or line of stars below. They all fit with the low power eyepiece.

Running out of time with Orion.

OK. Now to Haas's actual suggestion: pi number 3 (these are all stars in the shield or bow of The Hunter). Short hop. Dang. In the trees. Bad diffraction. The right side of Orion was out of range. 

Betelgeuse. That side or area. Chose 59 Ori. [ed: aka H V 100.]

Three stars, with a very dim one. There was a wide pairing with the brighter stars, the medium bright star to the west, my 1 o'clock position. The extremely faint tighter star was at the 10 o'clock position. 90 degree angle. Main was yellow; other was red. The third star was about 4 or 5 times the distance. Haas showed only one pair. I checked the software. Ah, it was a triple. C seemed blue-white to me. Visible for me at low power but with a big gun. Might be too tough for someone with a small OTA. I was happy: I got the A, B, and C. Cool!

Lots of neat field stars with apparent doubles. For example, to the south, I noted a wide faint pair with HD 288342.

Went for another look. C was maybe 5 or 6 times the AB split. Maybe C was yellow.

Spotted another pair with Tycho 117-840-1. At a 45 degree. Wider than the HD stars but less than H V 100 C!

And then Tycho 130-746-1! Same sep as A and B of 59.

I wondered where the second heating pad sheet was. It was not in the dew delta case. Maybe it was in the paperwork case?

Started checking off targets immediately in the book!

Selected Otto Struve 124 aka HR 2099. Slewed with the computer. I was enjoying not typing SAO numbers or coordinates into the hand controller...

Nothing obvious. A fantastic field though... A big triangle. Nope...

Checked Haas's notes. Wait, what?! Half an arc second?! In a small telescope? Are you nuts?! She also noted it was a binary! Checked SkyTools. ­¡Ay carumba! 

The software showed it to be currently 0.3". A fast-mover with a 140 year period. We were at the apistron... But not for me. No way. Lame.

Next? Struve 840 aka HD 41580. A triple.

Very short hop!

Oh, nice. But faint... Very nice, easy, wide. Orange and white or blue-white, orange is dimmer by about one magnitude. Orange was above for me (west).

Faint triangle to the NNE. Neat star field, lots going on.

SkyTools showed C was 0.4" separation so off limits. It also noted the magnitudes 2.5 different. A big difference.

The sticky stuff was working. I thought it might be flopping all over or falling off. I think it's a little tacky so it seems to be staying put.

Nothing had blown my socks off...

10:14. 840 was near a cluster, NGC 2141, about a degree away. I panned around but nothing caught my eye.

Another nip of lovely island dark rum (a discovery from way back).

Why do those goofballs push into the rev limiter. They are lucky to have them...

Next target from Sissy: Struve 855 also known as HR 2174.

Oh! Nice! Finally, a good one! Fantastic. A great double. Yellow and blue and grey. Yellow at the top. Blue, B, was at the 6:30 position. Three to four times the AB distance was C. Nearly empty field. 29" to 118" according to ST3P. 5.7 and 6.9. ST3P said 8.9 for C. Seemed much dimmer. The hover over said 9.6. That's better. East through west, almost in a straight line. West was still up for me. Cool. A showpiece one. 

Haas reported "white and greenish." Uh huh. She showed the class for A and B stars as spectral A. That'd be white.

Panned to another part of the field, to the south-west.

I smelled wood smoke. Nice.

10:31. Found HD 41809 [or STF 846]. Nuts. Really faint pair. White/grey. Mags 8 through 10. About a third of the separation. ST3P said 12.9". Nice. Nice!

Checked the whole sky. Orion was done. I was ready to go to Leo. Ready to cancel... Used Regulus. No issues, flipping over. Off target a bit but I corrected and synced. Moved the BIGdoc chair.

10:38. On viewing alpha Leonis, I noted the elongated dipper shape, upside-down, so that put west to the 10 o'clock position.

Upper back and neck was a little tense. Pushed the shoulders back. Sat up straight. I kept catching myself hunching.

Chose 3 Leo [aka H IV 47]: a "delicate double." Didn't see anything at first. Oh! Crazy. Bright star with a tiny companion. Barely perceptible star to the 4 o'clock position. Yellow and no colour. Dim dot. Mags 5.7 and 10.6. Wow. Fun. But tough.

Made a note to transfer all the smartphone photos.

The air was cool. I remembered thinking about this last night, bringing the heater out to the tent. Setting it on a board in the "warm room."

The next suggestion from the doubles book showed OΣΣ102. I couldn't remember what that designation meant. I looked it up by coordinates in ST3P. HD 82906 was at that mark. Added. Checked the info. Right, STTA102.

Doubles everywhere! 

Nice. Faint. White and orange... in an L-shape with a very faint star. Oriented SW to NE, nearly perfectly. Had to switch to the Interactive Atlas to spot the faint star. The GSC 827-317 was mag 13.2 (poor quality). "Pearly white?" Just white and orange.

7 Leo nearly (already observed, 2 years ago).

Pair beyond that. With SAO 98665 (huh, already logged).

Question: how do you keep your drink warm in cold conditions...? First world problems.

Yawned. It felt late. It was only 11 o'clock!

Added and slewed HD 86133 aka STF 1399 aka SAO 81101. Nice! Yellow and blue. Very wide. Easy. Nothing earth-shattering. Stingray shape below with the tail curving up. Haas noted "peach white" and "silver." Huh?!

Thought about hard candy. Did I have any?

Shot the rig, painted in red light.

telescope and mount working

motorola e6, f/2, 1/4 of a second, 4mm, ISO 3200.

Idea 1: An empty box that I use for active eyepieces with a heater in it, right beside the telescope.

Idea 2: A new layer, or level, below the triangle tray. Unused space. Suspend something there.

The heater pad in the eyepiece case wasn't helping me per se as I don't normally go to it, once my regulars are out.

For a long time I've thought about affixing heating pad to the bottom of the triangle tray. Let it heat the try. Made a note to try that.

Idea 3: Infrared heating!?

Southern neighbour's backyard light kept triggering. It was super-bright and very annoying. Lots of light trespass.

Dropped the screen brightness to half.

What now?

Searched for the next Haas target. No A listed in the software; had to choose the Primary Star option. HD 89619 for STF 1426. Nothing... Wait... Very tight. Cool. Three mags different? Light orange stars. Outliers above and below, random GSC stars. I spotted the C star, attractively close. The B was in tight. I did not see it. 

11:20. I wondered what the temperature was. Made a note to bring out the portable weather station.

Increased magnification to get the tight pair. 36mm, 20mm, 9mm.

11:30. I thought I saw two equal stars at the 1 o'clock orientation. Hover showed 7.3 and 8.3, straight up and down. C was at the 2:30 o'clock. Wow. A and B touching, barely a black line. Not a great view in the Nagler.

Had another look. Yep. Two stars. The upper one was fainter by a touch. Yep.

Checked the book. One. One?! Haas said the separation was 0.90". Crazy! SkyTools said 1.0". Kookie.

ST3P said it was a quad but D was mag 15.

Did a big jump to move further along on Leo.

Struve 1500. Dropped back to low power. Wide. Orange and... The book said 1.4". What? Wrong double...

I had stumbled onto LDS 330 aka HD 95741! White and orange. In a neat pattern. A group of stars that reminded me a bit of Auriga. ST3P said the second star was mag 13. No. That's a catalogue error. Nice pair.

I was east of the original target...

A crazy neighbour decided to do some construction, pounding nails. OK, it's the weekend, but still. It's crazy late. Dumbass.

Panned around. Zoomed in. I wondered if they were at a 2 o'clock orientation. Another extremely tight pair and I couldn't split 'em. Inconclusive.

Break time. Warm up time. Plus the handyman was driving me nuts. I headed inside for some hot chocolate. I turned off tracking and headed inside.

Sunday 21 March 2021, 1:00 AM. Looked at the sky. Boötes, Virgo. Oh, Corvus!

Viewed double S 634. aka HD 105913. Somewhat tight. White and blue. Quite different. Two magnitudes different, I thought. West was to the 1 o'clock. I noted a little arc of stars on the left (south-east). A couple of faint field stars. Left star, a Tycho star, 6095-288-1 was 12.5. Good. And this target was low so extincted! Nice. Haas reported "an exactly equal mix of yellow and orange." Not for me. She said wide at 83x. Tighter for me at 55x.

Tried for Burnham 920 or HR 4661. Oh my. Lower! OTA was nearly horizontal. Two airmasses. I was looking through all the Newmarket muck. Lost. Went back to the last, synced. Tried again. Nope. Oh, Haas said 1.8". But ST3P said 0.6"! With a 175 year period. So it was doomed for failure. I wondered if they were oriented left-right but the magnitudes was reversed. Empty field. Quit that one. [ed: According to ST3P, getting tighter.]

full orbit diagram from SkyTools for BU 920

1:21. Next. Higher and a bit left. Oh, wicked! Really cool. Car headlights, equal white stars, with a star well above, C, very dim, blue. C was more above the right-hand star. B was also noted as VV Crv, a variable. A and B oriented NW to SE. Fun! Another showpiece target. HR 4821, STF 1669, HIP 61910, and HD 110317.

SkyTools showed a star below and left but that's an error. [ed: Reported.]

Done with Corvus.

On a whim, tried for galaxy NGC 4565. Slewed. Nothing visible. Dang. Sky was too bright for galaxies... to be fair, for Finest NGC objects.

Panned around a bit in Collinder 256 but it's too big.

1:41. Added Struve 2029 in CrB. Thought the motion weird. Cancelled it from the software. Oops. Wrong constellation. Not Corona. I wanted Coma! Crown, head, whatever...

Slewed to a target in Coma Berenices. Cancelled it! Wrong side of the meridian.

Let's try STT 266 or HD 117190. Slewed. Lost. Lost in space.

Went to Arcturus to sync.

1:49. The star didn't look round. Marked it to re-observe.

Looking for a good one to finish on. STF 1737. Short slew to the next. HD 116206. SAO 100534, HIP 65205.

Saw a triangle. Wow. Interesting. Very dim. Yellow and orange star. B was up and left. Big diamond shape was attractive. Top of the diamond was west. B was south-west of A. B was tight and much dimmer. Haas reported white and blue.

Checked the local weather conditions by Oregon. The portable unit was on the triangular tray. 32% relative humidity. 0.0° Celsius air temperature. 12:54. Time was wrong, still on standard time. Date OK. Rain tomorrow and pressure dropping. That part wasn't right.

Σ1838 in Boötes. SAO 101009, HIP 70386, HD 126246. Simple pair. Toward the string of stars on the far right hand side, with HD 126187, to the north. 6.8 and 7.6. I thought they were the same. Attractively close. Equal in colour. Blue-white.

One more.

Struve 1850. aka HR 5415, HD 127067, SAO 83374, HIP 70786. Wide attractive pair. First impression was that they were the exact same colour. Aimed toward Tycho 2014-160-1. Upper star was a bit dimmer. SkyTools said 7.1 and 7.6. Fun. 25" apart. Haas said "mildly unequal."

Started the shutdown. Noted on parking that the Dec scale showed 92°. Er, not 92, 88. The bottom or downward one. Was that negative or positive? I should mark that on mount... Anyhoo, not 90 on the button. Was that due to the collision? Was that why the pointing was off? [ed: Thought I should check the polar alignment. Could the mount drive itself out of alignment?!]

Noticed the red LED blinkies were off. Weird. Those new batteries died? I pressed the mode button and they came on! All's well. Oooh... The unit times out! Interesting.

Closed the tent differently this time, the observing section roof, by a parallel action. I zipped up the screen a bit, then the inner flap a bit, standing in the same position. Faster.

I carried gear up the driveway and to the front door. Quiet, peaceful, relaxed...

I heard a Barred Owl! To the north, about a block away. Again! 


A very good night after a fright. Lots of doubles with some really good ones. I also proved to myself that Lunar X is visible in daylight. I was thrilled to learn that the smartphone can provide images in RAW DNG format. No aurora after many checks. No computer crashes, due to static anyway. Learned how I need to augment my mount toolkit. Used a heating pad sheet effectively for the first time. Good conditions, very good transparency.

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