Sunday, May 22, 2022

AIR day 14

The following is a blog post from the Astronomer-In-Residence (AIR) web site, reproduced here. Text and images used with permission.

Day 14 blog entry.

Sunday 22 May 2022. Ask Me Anything

Still raining. Hopefully it would clear up for the afternoon, during the planned the Ask Me Anything event. Slept till 9:00 AM and the rain stopped an hour later.

Headed to the Killarney Provincial Park Observatory domes and tidied up.

Had a good look at the huge planisphere by Celestial Teapot Designs. It's twice the diameter of any that I have! I noticed that meteor showers are indicated on the date dial, that's unique. And it looked like every Messier object is shown, marked in blue.

After lunch, I marked the close positions on both observations. Takes some of the guesswork out of turning the dome before closing the clamshell.

Marisa arrived in advance of our session. I noted her astro-themed backpack! She said the Subaru provided a bunch of gear to the park staff. I explained the significance of the logo.

Around 1:30, as I was reviewing email and text messages, the Kchi Uninterruptible Power Supply started squawking. Oh oh. And power went out. Immediately, the maintenance area generators fired up. Unplugged my laptop to not burden the UPS and saved my files.

Received visitor Christine during the Ask Me Anything.

We talked about dark sky preserves like Killarney. They themselves use appropriate lighting within the park. They reach out to the local towns and cities about their light management plans. And they educate all on the importance of reducing light at night.

We discussed meteor showers at length. I consulted the reminder items in my phone calendar. The only major active one at the moment was the eta Aquarids. It peaked back on May 5, would conclude on the 28th, could produce 65 per hour, and was from debris left behind Halley's comet. One didn't need to necessarily look directly at the constellation; I recommended just looking at the whole sky, perhaps from a reclining chair. The Perseids runs 17 Jul to 24 Aug, should peak on 12 Aug could produce 100 per hour. From Comet 109P/Swift–Tuttle. The best meteor showers though were in the winter! Why not organise a party with friends?!

I mentioned both the American and International meteor organisations:

Finally, we talked about winter camping in a Yurt so to enjoy long winter nights. I gave her a copy of The Evening Sky Map and encouraged her to dust off her telescope.

Marisa herself asked a bunch of questions.

What is a UPS? We used one in each observatory to keep the telescopes going in the event of a power failure and to allow a graceful shutdown. Handy.

Are there motors in a telescope mount? There could be. Our use them. The 10-inch telescope rides on a Losmandy G-11 mount which has one motor, called a "clock drive." It essential operates like a 24-hour clock, turning the telescope to rotate the opposite direction as the Earth turns. The 16-inch 'scope on the other hand had two motors, one to counter-act the Earth's rotation, and the other for up and down motion. They can also be commanded to drive at fast rates as it is a Go-To mount.

We wrapped another day-time astronomy event.

Finally, I found a spot for the USB hub on the 16-inch 'scope so I affixed with self-adhesive Velcro patches. Tidied the cables again. Very neat.

3:39 PM. I heard the big generator shut down. Woo hoo, power's back! Charged up computers and phones! Caught up on messages, including a text from my cousin in Michigan.

Closed up shop and considered dinner. How about bammed spaghetti? Yes!

I examined all the weather tools and it looked like it was going to clear after midnight. That's hard-core but I thought let's take advantage. I considered an imaging run of the Milky Way, tracked with my home-made barn door tracker but wimped out. Instead, I opted for a simpler star trails imaging running, facing south-east. From 1 AM to 3 AM, it would be clear and without any moonlight. OK.  Prepared a packing list and reviewed my astronomy blog for exposure details.

Weird. The clouds predicted by all the tools from 8 PM to midnight did not show up. So I headed out at 11 PM to did some visual astronomy.

I used star hopping techniques to view galaxies NGC 5371 (aka NGC 5390), NGC 5350, NGC 5354, and NGC 5353. The later 3 faint fuzzies are part of the Hickson 68 galaxy cluster in Canes Venatici. Some of these are targets in the RASC Deep-Sky Gems observing certificate program. And before I knew it, it was approaching 1 AM.

Set up my DSLR on the tripod with fisheye lens set to f/5.6. Secured the intervalometer. And started shooting 35 second exposures with a 5 second gap. Number of shots? Infinity. Headed to bed and set an alarm for 3 AM. Nightie night!

The Astronomer-In-Residence program is coordinated by the Allan I Carswell Observatory (AICO) at York University with the Killarney Provincial Park Observatory (KPPO).

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