Sunday, May 09, 2021

short session (Blue Mountains)

Saturday 8 May 2021, 9:57 PM. In GBO, the Warm Room, the two heaters were on, it was toasty.

Had a lot of gear for the occultation—that happened on Friday night, above clouds. I was not planning to do any astrophotography tonight. Too tired. Sore back. Sore knee. From all the maintenance stuff and bumpy lawn. Not sleep shifted.

Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To

Lots of layers on.

As the GBO computer had died, I needed to use my netbook to drive the Paramount. Had not done it for a while. Fished the serial cable through the counter port. Connected my old Prolific USB-serial adapter, IDed the port (COM5), started TheSky6, powered up the mount, opened the roof, configured the COM port in TS6, connected, and homed. Good! 

10:05 PM. Minimised the Bisque app, started SkyTools 3 Pro, red mode, found my prepared list with 33 targets, switched to visual mode from photographic, changed location, set date/time, chose the 16-inch RC, reset the filters.

Venus was gone. Mercury would set at 10:30 PM. gamma Sex was setting. Switched to Real Time mode. Location wrong, instrument wrong. Ugh. Reset everything. HD 79552 or STF 1327. Yep. A "view again" object. Opened the Interactive Atlas. Moved it to the external monitor. Opened the eyepiece simulator and put it on monitor 2. Turned on the constellations. Activated the ASCOM control, TheSky controlled option... Connected. Good!

The list jostled. Where did the HD star go? No matter. Chose γ Sex and slewed. Aubrey said "Slew aborted." Huh? Why? Tried a slew in TheSky. It seemed to be working fine. I noticed the blinking X was not showing in SkyTools. Did I not ordinarily see it? Right-clicked near M44, the Beehive. Tried a slew command again from ST3P and it seemed to work. Grabbed the 55mm Plössl and headed to the 'scope. Caps off. Was working OK. Took the 10mm Tele Vue to the refractor. 

Focused on both instruments but nothing showed. Checked TS6. It was way off. Weird. Checked date, time, location, etc. All appeared fine. Slewed to M44 from the official app. It moved to the target. That was good. Bad seeing.

Tried Algieba, gamma Leonis, in SkyTools. It worked. Looked fine in refractor, peanut-shaped. Split in big gun. Separation: 4.5 arc-seconds. Golden stars. Off a bit but visible in the refractor and I was able to easily centre with the joystick.

Rhonda came into the Warm Room, startling me. Crikey. She had a look then went for a walk.

Tony texted me and I viewed my phone under the red film of the faulty computer. We talked about me taking it home to my workshop. There's a light burnt out on one side...

Checked the sep. and position of gamma Sex. Yowzers. No way. Too low.

Next. Σ1327. From the RASC Observer's Handbook, the Coloured Doubles list. Slewed. Looked OK. Everything seemed to be working fine now. Ah... couldn't figure out the field. I knew north was up (more or less). Pointing as off. Software issues pissing me off.

SkyTools updated the real-time list and what I was lookin' at disappeared. Grrr.

Turned down the heater.

Hunted. An arc of three stars. Couldn't figure out the field... Had another look. Manually solved it. Determine I needed to move the mount left.

10:42. Got it! Finally landed on target. Yellow, orange, and orange? Or was C blue? Faint star to the north. NE according to ST3P. Three or four, five, times the distance, in line, another star. Orange colour. Hard time getting the colour. Bluish or greenish? Coming and going. Neat field stars. Roughly a circular shape to the SE. A few field stars. Looked for notes in the observing list. Nope. Loaded Lumpy and looked up my Cancer star. The logged colours matched my current impressions.

Rhonda gave a distant early warning before returning to the Warm Room, thank the Universe.

C and D are 2.2". I really wanted to get them... But would the poor seeing allow it?

Told rho about η (eta) Aquarid meteor shower.

We went to the observatory floor. We talked about star colours. Additive colour models. Proximity of different colour points. The psychology. Perception. Rhonda headed to the house.

Once again, inconclusive. I could not split C and D. I wondered if they were oriented at a 45 degree angle to A-B-C. A and B were at roughly at an 11 o'clock alignment. So that meant that north was down and left. I thought C and D were north-south. SkyTools showed different. D mag 11, C 10.2. I needed perfect seeing at the current power. I went to higher power but it made the view too soft. Too much. Had the 10mm in the RC16. Pretty high magnification. No joy.

Slewed to Bode's, for Rhonda. Two-In-The-View in the refractor. When my phone finally woke up, I pinged rho. I spoke, "I have two lovely faint fuzzies for you." Google thought I said "I have two lovely pink fuzzies for you." Sheesh. Rhonda replied, "omw."

I shared that the Big Dipper, the host asterism, was straight up. "This is the best view you're gonna get. Like it or lump it." We took in the refractor view. Luke warm.

Oh my. Rhonda spotted a train of satellites. We went to the Observing Pad for a Good sight line. We saw about 20 to 30 satellites moving from the north-north-west through north to fade out in Cassiopeia. I thought of the caller from late Friday night.

We saw a good meteor. It came from behind us. Must have been an Aquarid. That was serendipitous.

11:14. We returned to the GSO Ritchey-Chrétien telescope. Then I centred on the edge-on The Cigar Galaxy and we examined it in the large OTA. Averted vision showed the middle of M82 was traversed with dark bands. I thought it quite good. We switched to M81. I'm never really been bowled over with canted Messier 81. Soft, diffuse. Visually. Good photographers can pull out structure.

[ed: I should have interesting factoids handy.]

Rhonda was cold. I pulled up the weather page. No wind. No direction. Wait a minute. Everything reported by the David weather station was blank. Oh... The battery in the roof-top ISS was dead; only when the Sun was out hitting the solar panel did we receive exterior data.

I enjoyed a cherry Nibs string. 

Slewed to the Owl (Messier 97, M97). Big. But no detail. No obvious eyes. Not satisfying. What?! It was right overhead. I was expecting a much better view! We talked about morphology, respectful names for planetaries, etc. Asked for any requests. How about a neat double. I showed Cor Caroli. She liked it.

Rhonda called it quits. I suggested a quick check for aurora. Nope.

I thought about my winter coat... But I was feeling so sore and tired, I didn't think it worth it...

11:41. Next? Canes Venatici? Decided to skip tight doubles. Or peculiar DSOs. I felt cold. Turned the ceramic heater up a bit. 17 Com? No. Too tight. 

What about Alula Borealis aka nu? From the View Again list. Going down... With a backwards L in the field. That was neat! 18mm was in the big 'scope. West was down and left for me. Fire trucking wild. B. Yep. I saw a faint star inline. Oh. Only a double. Remarkably different. Over six magnitudes different. Primary was yellow. Secondary was a dull yellow. Very distant field star that was blue. Fantastic double! Pulled the telescope report from ST3P: I was at 181 power. Huh. Struve 1524. Seven arc-seconds. Field star was at 8 o'clock; B was at 4. Wide, easily split. But so faint compared to the A star. A little bit of goodness.

Tried for target in Corvus. Lots of hits at Cupcakes; maybe I was using a small instrument?

Knee was sore.

Oops. Went to wrong star.

Sunday 9 May 2021, 0:00 PM. Another View Again target. Did not see anything in the 101mm Tele Vue. 81 Leo. Yellow and blue stars in the RC16. Very different in magnitude. Very wide at 181x. Noticed star GSC 1437-727 to the NW, then further out 1737-1401, almost in a straight line. No problem with A and B. B was at 11 or 10 o'clock. Easy. Saw the faint one... Formed an L. NE. Flick off! SkyTools said it was magnitude 15.4! Wow. Was the transparency really good. Left the deck to dig out the B star in the small OTA...

Heard helicopters in Clarksburg. Bright lights. Felt new... Lake of foliage?

I did see it in the refractor. But it was one of those peculiar situations where it disappeared in the blind spot of the left eye. I had to force myself to look right of the primary to make the secondary of 81 Leonis appear.

Above, to the north. I also noted the faint GSC stars.

Really tired. Not in the mood for more. That's it, I decided. Performed a graceful shutdown... Went to the floor to quickly close out things. 

12:14 AM. Rapidly closed out the Warm Room.

Looked down to Thornbury and Clarksburg from the deck. Helicopter still going. Weird.

Creaked and moaned into bed.

Short session but I was happy to get some View Again doubles split. Good to see a meteor. Good to briefly enjoy dark skies.

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